Easy to access, graced with gorgeous beaches and a laid-back vibe, the Riviera Maya is one of the best places in Mexico to vacation with kids. Family-friendly resorts abound here, and after a recent visit, I’ve added one more to my short list: Grand Palladium Riviera Maya. What sets this all-inclusive property apart from others in the region is its brand-new kids’ programming, dubbed Play at Palladium with Raggs — an outstanding experience from start to finish.
Raggs is a TV series aimed at the toddler-to-preschool set, featuring an affable dog of the same name and a band of canine pals. The backstory is sweet: As a single mom in the late 1980s, ad executive Toni Steedman dreamed up the character for her young daughter, spinning tale after tale about Raggs and friends. Through years of persistence, she parlayed her creation into a TV series that launched in Australia in 2006, then began airing in select American PBS and Telemundo markets in 2012.
Raggs is the face of family programming at Grand Palladium Riviera Maya, and also at other Palladium resorts in Punta Cana, Jamaica and Puerto Vallarta. He and his entourage hang out where the kids are, mingling and engaging them in the fun. Not all young guests are familiar with the show, but that won’t matter: Every kid I saw was smitten with puppy love, totally into the theme and eager to interact with the characters.
The weekly schedule includes a surf-themed dance party on Monday nights, a Wednesday character breakfast and a Friday-night pirate show with plenty of audience participation. Kids also love the daily pop-up shows throughout the property. I caught one of these spontaneous events by the family pool, and even parents in the water were bopping to the super-catchy songs (just try to get them out of your head).
For me, the character breakfast was the highlight. Many all-inclusives tack on a fee for events like this, but at Grand Palladium it’s part of the package. Tables are decked out with balloons and coloring supplies; a steady rotation of tunes from the show gets people into the spirit; and Raggs, along with companions Trilby and Pido, visits each table to say hi and pose for photo ops.
I heard a lot of excited squeals as kids got a peek at the food buffet. The attention to detail is simply amazing — every single dish has a canine twist, and edible works of art are everywhere (my favorite: tiny poodles crafted from broccoli and cauliflower florets). Who could resist playful dog-eared pancakes, mini smoothies themed for each character, or dough-wrapped sausages fashioned into puppy shapes?
The Raggs crew also headlines the complimentary Baby Club (ages 0-3) and Mini Club (ages 4-12). Signage out front introduces kids to the five dogs; their faces beam from murals all over the buildings; and the characters come by every day for storytime, games and other activities. Little ones get a special Raggs T-shirt when they check in.
They do get a chance to see episodes of the TV show, but don’t worry about excess screen time — it’s limited and not a huge factor in kids’ programming. Parents can purchase Raggs merchandise at multiple points throughout the resort. There’s no hard sell, though; it’s all low-key and pressure-free.
By the end of a week’s stay, kids have become fast friends with Raggs and company, and I overheard one or two sweet-talking their parents into a return trip just to play with the pups. After the Friday pirate show during my visit, one adorable toddler was in tears because she didn’t want Raggs to go. If that isn’t a thumbs up, I don’t know what is.
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Editorial Note: Ciao Bambino was part of a media trip to experience the Grand Palladium Riviera Maya and Play at Palladium With Raggs. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Lisa Frederick.
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