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Ten Ways to Manifest Happier Holidays  

Lasting memories matter more than the latest gadget or this year’s  trendy ensemble.

An increasing amount of research tells us that families are eager for more shared experiences and deeper connections. They are ready to trade the pile of presents for resort, plane, and train reservations that translate into laugher, adventure and stories to last a lifetime. In short, happier holidays.

Here are ten ideas we hope will make it onto your holiday wish list. 

Kingsmill Resort

Kingsmill Traditions. Williamsburg, VA

Celebrate the holiday season with a memory making stay at the Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, VA. a destination where beauty, tradition and Southern hospitality serve as your backdrop.

From a Thanksgiving package rich with all the delectable trimmings to a Christmas Traditions stay during which your family will delight in your own stockings, a decorated tree with lights, plus cookies and milk for Santa, expect festive activities designed to deeply engage your clan. Resort guests who opt for the Christmas Town package have easy access to the popular Busch Gardens holiday pageantry. (The package includes complimentary shuttle service.)

if you love the holiday lights then the Grand Illumination package might be for you. You’ll be there to see Colonial Williamsburg aglow in the seasonal spirit and have access to musical performances and an impressive fireworks display. While immersing yourselves in the holiday fun, be sure to make time to explore all that this family-friendly resort has to offer including an expansive fitness center, spa and indoor pool.

Make a plan:  800-832-5665:

ft hh red tree w snowflakes princess plaza

Holiday Happenings at the Princess. Scottsdale, AZ

Consider this Scottsdale, AZ resort your family’s holiday headquarters if you enjoy sunshine, golf, spa services, tennis and so much more.  With a full range of active pursuits from which to choose, you and the clan can look forward to mixing in the magic of the season to each day at play.

From November 20, 2014 to January 4, 2015, the “Christmas at the Princess” festival glistens with holiday splendor featuring a four-story musical tree, the desert ice skating rink made with real ice, a magical snowfall, luxury rink-side fire pits, Kringle’s Korner, carolers, a Nativity Garden set to music and a new carousel. The magic continues with a ride on the Princess Express Train to see two million Lagoon Lights featuring beautiful swans floating on the water, 14-foot poinsettias, a pirate ship, rocking horse, a menorah, dreidels, toy soldiers, Santa fishing and 150 sparkling trees making up the candy cane forest.

Do you live in or near Scottsdale?

“Christmas at the Princess” is open to the public and special overnight holiday vacation packages are available. The Magical Memories package includes overnight accommodations, a skating session for two adults and two children, express VIP access to the Princess Express Train and a $10 donation to Cox Charities.

Make a plan: (866) 540-4495;

Longboat key

Healthy Holidays at The Resort at Longboat Key Club. Sarasota, FL.

Have you every thought about passing on the decorated cookies and cakes and making health and wellness your holiday focus? It can happen at this sprawling 410-acre beachfront playground where new programs are designed to help the entire family focus on an active and fit lifestyle.

With two championship golf courses, 20 award-winning tennis courts, a Mind & Motion studio (think yoga, Pilates, spinning), pools, hot tubs and a newly renovated spa combine to create a memorable family holiday destination.   

Younger kids, ages five to twelve, can tap into the fun offered by the Loggerhead Kids Club. Adults can opt for one of several Wellness packages that include fitness classes, nutritional counseling, personal training, spa services and a sampling of golf, tennis, kayaking and beachfront yoga. 

Farm-to-table dining and special attention for those with specific dietary requirements, combine to insure your healthy approach to the holidays will include fresh and appealing selections.

With so much to do, don’t forget to make time to relax on the beach!

Make a plan:

clazy u

Holidays on the C Lazy U Ranch. Granby, CO

Destress by the fire or strap on the skis and set off for the hills.  Create fresh tracks via horseback in the new fallen snow or practice your horsemanship in the heated indoor arena. Head to a nearby resort for a day of downhill fun or play hockey on the ranch pond.  The options are yours. And there are plenty of them. 

Thanksgiving at the ranch honors the tradition of family gathering and the sharing of stories. You’ll dine on plenty of turkey and delectable trimmings and enjoy evening entertainment.

During Christmas week, you’ll have your own sweet smelling tree to enjoy as well as the opportunity to join in the decorating fun as guests gather in the lodge to adorn the lodge tree with festive trimmings.  With the cracking fire as a backdrop, gather round the piano for Christmas carols. Keep one eye out the window as Santa is known to arrive via horse drawn sleigh to share a little holiday cheer. 

Make a plan: 

Grand Lake CO

Celebrate Winter Holidays in Grand County Colorado.

Just 67 miles from Denver, this historic region offers plenty of adventure for families seeking a snowy, scenic and active holiday.  

Grand County is home to some of the country’s most family-friendly ski resorts. Example: Winter Park Resort has been offering family-style skiing since 1940, and now offers nearly 3,000 acres of winter fun and Ski Granby Ranch specializes in the intimate family experience.

Does your family love snowmobiling? The community of Grand Lake is known as Colorado’s snowmobile capital, for the wealth of trails available in the area, Kremmling, on the east side of Rabbit Ears Pass, is known for their vast accumulation of the white stuff and is also popular with snowmobilers.

And while in the region, you’ll want to help Rocky Mountain National Park celebrate their 100th year of providing a meaningful blend of conservation and access to one of the country’s most pristine landscapes.

Make a plan:

Boston Harbor Hotel – Boston, Ma.  

 Pack your bags with warm scarves, hats and gloves and head to the Boston Harbor Hotel for an engaging, 

wintry experience.  This architectural treasure celebrates the season by opening the city’s most picturesque ice-skating rink right under the iconic archway along the Boston Harbor waterfront.  Local Bostonians and hotel guests alike can take in the views while gliding across the rink before heading inside to warm up with hot cocoa and s’mores.  In between practicing skills on the ice, families can shop the city’s holiday markets, stroll through Stone Zoo’s annual light show, and partake in countless other New England winter traditions. The Ice skating rink is open November 22, 2014 through mid-March 2015.

Make a plan:

Beaches Resort. Turks and Caicos. 

Let someone else do the work while everyone enjoys an all-inclusive, seaside holiday getaway.  A great destination for multigenerational families, there is a  something for every one to do in a relaxed yet active island setting surrounded turquoise blue water. 

Busy parents will be happy to know that the youngest travelers are cared for by certified nannies, caregivers with more than 2000 hours of experience and trained in child safety and nutrition.  Toddlers enjoy beach and pool activities, puppet shows, face painting, treasure hunts and visits with Sesame Street characters. Parents of newborns to two year old can enjoy uninterrupted beach time, sailing, snorkeling or a quiet dinner knowing their little ones are cared for in a fully equipped nursery where child development specialists will look after their every need. Trained nannies are also available to care for children with special needs.  Just in case, a nurse is available 24 hours a day.

Make a plan:  1-888-BEACHES;

Inn at Loreto

Santa Fe, NM.

Members of every generation appreciate the sense of tradition and the reverent quality of the festivities that envelope this centuries old city at holiday time. You’ll enjoy visiting the historic Plaza where small white lights create an engaging glow, listening to music that often fills the night air and strolling down Canyon Road where farolitos or luminarias line the narrow streets. Shop for last minute gifts of local art and native crafts.  Nearby, the snow-draped Sangre de Cristos provide the opportunity for the family to pop on their skis and enjoy a day on the slopes. 

Make a plan: (505) 955-6200; 

Hershey Park Christmas. Hershey, PA. 

The sweet magic of the holidays will envelop your family as you enjoy a sea of twinkling lights, listen to holiday concerts, visit with Hershey characters (they’ll be all dolled up for the holidays) and hop aboard the Twilight Express. Don’t miss a visit with Santa’s reindeer or a chance to share breakfast or lunch with Santa. Be sure to take part in Hershey Sweet Lights, the Holiday Drive-Thru Spectacular. You’ll cruise through two miles of wooded wonderland, aglow with dozens of colorful and animated seasonal displays.

Make a plan:  1-800-HERSHEY;


Plan volunteer travel.

During the season of giving, consider including volunteerism in your existing plans or commit to incorporating the strategy into future itineraries. The non-profit organization, Together For Good, helps families give back to underprivileged children and teens in challenged areas of the world in several ways.  They’ll provide detailed information and connections to enable your clan to incorporate social responsibility into a cruise shore excursion or resort stay.  Assistance in organizing a trip focused solely on helping those less fortunate is also possible. 

Make a plan:


Happy Holidays!

mb swimming  floating

Did you know you can camp in one of the top family and beach vacation destinations on the East Coast?

The oceanfront resort of Myrtle Beach, SC is famous for miles of white sandy beaches, water sports, fantastic golf courses, amusement and water parks. You’ll also find great shopping and a wealth of dining options.

It’s also considered the “Camping Capital of the World!”

With warm sea breezes blowing and water temperatures around 80 degrees, a seaside camping adventure in Myrtle Beach provides the best of a sought after resort destination at rates you’ll want to write home about.

Camp Myrtle Beach

Choose from six family-friendly camping locations that offer amenities to suit your camping style ranging from hook-ups for your RV or a place to pitch your tent.

No RV?

Not ready for the full camping experience?

Then the cottage or villa rental units might be the perfect fit for your family. You’ll have the option to enjoy all the facilities and amenities of the campground, and then retreat to the comfort of your fully furnished rental property for the evening.

There will be no shortage of onsite activities to entice your clan. Look forward to swimming pools and hot tubs, fishing from a pier or on the lake, water parks with lazy rivers, bike paths and evening hayrides.  Stay active with an afternoon of basketball, volleyball, bocce ball or miniature golf.

ft myrtle beach two chairs

Is this the year to try something new?

Sure, those roadside motels and inns are convenient. But perhaps its time to transform your road trip from the northern climes to the sunny south, into its own adventure.

Consider this: the oceanfront resort of Myrtle Beach, SC is famous for miles of white sandy beaches, water sports, fantastic golf courses, amusement and water parks. And there are plenty of fresh, new attractions that will tempt the most seasoned traveler.

Sound compelling?

You’ll also find great shopping and a wealth of dining options. That’s why it is considered the “Camping Capital of the World!”

There’s so much to do, you’ll be tempted to stay put for weeks.

Camp Myrtle Beach

Warm sea breezes and water temperatures make a seaside camping adventure in Myrtle Beach a must do. You’ll find a sought after resort destination at rates you’ll want to write home about.

And it’s easy to get comfortable in Myrtle Beach. Choose from six family-friendly camping locations that offer amenities to suit your camping style ranging from hook-ups for your RV or a place to pitch your tent.

No RV?

Not ready for the full camping experience?

Then the cottage or villa rental units might be the perfect fit for your family. You’ll have the option to enjoy all the facilities and amenities of the campground, and then retreat to the comfort of your fully furnished rental property for the evening.

mb swimming  floating

There will be no shortage of onsite activities to keep you busy. Look forward to swimming pools and hot tubs, fishing from a pier or on the lake, water parks with lazy rivers, bike paths and evening hayrides.  Stay active with an afternoon of basketball, volleyball, bocce ball or miniature golf. 

Visitors also like to take a break from the beach and paddle a kayak or canoe across one of many picturesque lakes. And the kids often go home with new friends made while enjoying the landscaped playgrounds and recreation areas.

From the “trees to the sea”, each of the six campgrounds offers its own blend of family-friendly amenities:

Lakewood Camping Resort

Myrtle Beach KOA

Myrtle Beach Travel Park

Ocean Lakes Family Campground

Pirate Land Camping Resort

Willow Tree Resort


No matter how you choose to stay, you’ll enjoy sunny days in a fun-filled beach destination and warm nights under a star-filled sky.

ski switzerland

My first published piece of "journalism" was a review of a Warren Miller ski movie. 

Since that day, many snowy runs ago, a Warren Miller filmfest has remained a great way to gear up for another season on the slopes.

This year, No Turning Back, will get the adrenaline pumping for plenty of ski enthusiasts. Filmed in Montana, Switzerland, France, and Japan, you won't want to miss this chance to feel the powder on your brow, even before you slap on those skis for the first time this season.

Are you ready? 

Glimpse a preview here.

Where the wild things are Lynn O'Rourke Hayes

As a child I loved to curl up with a good story. I still do. A good book can transport us to magical places and encourage exploration.

Here are five places with stories to tell and the characters that bring them to life: 

 A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, Winnipeg, Manitoba. 

 A century ago, a Canadian soldier launched a literary legacy when he adopted a black bear cub and named it after his hometown of Winnipeg. The soldier took the cub across the pond and eventually donated it to the London Zoo, where Winnie became the inspiration for the well-loved character. Today, Winnipeg’s Pavilion Gallery Museum houses a permanent collection of Winnie the Pooh artifacts and memorabilia, including a painting by the book’s original illustrator.



Louisa May Alcott, Concord, Mass. 

I can recall staying up all night reading Little Women. Today we can visit the home of this novelist who crafted a compelling story around the relationships within her own family. You’ll take a guided tour and get a glimpse into how the Marche family lived in the home known as Orchard House. Many of the family’s treasures remain in the well-preserved structure, including family china and photographs. You’ll find out why the Alcotts kept daily diaries and visit Louisa’s bedroom where the shelf desk, upon which she wrote Little Women, still remains.



Zane Grey’s America. 

 Best-selling novelist and avid angler Zane Grey created robust stories detailing the life and culture of the American West. Through titles like Call of the CanyonRiders of the Purple Sage and The Thundering Herd, Grey’s tales of frontier character and romance inspired many to explore new country. His books involve every state west of the Missouri River except North Dakota. Visit his birthplace in Zanesville, Ohio, a town founded by his mother’s ancestors. You can also visit a replica of his Arizona cabin (the original burned in a 1990 wildfire), which served as his home base while exploring and writing.



Where the Wild Things Are. 

My boys loved this book!

Why not use this creative tome as the centerpiece of a wild and wonderful weekend with the kids? Read Maurice Sendak’s book, then visit your local zoo or wildlife park, or walk through a nearby forest and discuss the adventures of young Max, the main character. Top off the weekend by streaming the Spike Jonze movie of the same name. The whole family will enjoy the mix of real actors, computer animation and live puppeteering, the combination of which brings the story to life. Let the wild rumpus begin! Contact:

Jack London, Glen Ellen, Calif. 

Channel the adventuresome spirit of one of the planet’s most inspired writers as you explore more than 26 miles of hiking, horseback and cycling trails across 1,400 acres in the stunning Sonoma Valley. Visit the stone barn and the home where London wrote his page-turners. The author of Call of the Wild and White Fang was laid to rest on this landscape that nurtured his creativity and drive. It is is now a National Historic Landmark.


Do you have a favorite literary location?

ft blog rosebud ts  6-5-2011 11-20-22 am

It's National Public Lands Day. 

Take advantage of our country's extensive natural beauty!

Commit to the #leaveitbetter philosophy and help preserve

our national treasures for centuries to come. 



Photo: Montana's Beartooth wilderness. Lynn O'Rourke Hayes


You won't want to miss the bold hues and striking silhouettes shared by celebrated glass artist Dale Chihuly’s stunning artistic extravaganza underway at the Denver Botanical Garden.

Expect a boatload of brightly colored glass baubles afloat amidst the garden’s lily pads, a 30-foot neon tower, and red glass reeds rising up with the prairie grass. The world-renowned, Venice-trained artist’s work is on view now through November 30, 2014.


Discover more about Denver here!


I recently spent some time rediscovering Denver.

And oh how things have changed in recent years! 

No longer a Western outpost, the Mile High City is now an internationally recognized community of arts, culture, and culinary adventure. 

Here are a few family favorites:

Crawford Hotel Union Station Lynn O'Rourke Hayes

Union Station.

Recently opened, this historic transportation center has been reinvented as a social gathering place that also houses bike, taxi, rail and bus lines connecting the city center to outlying areas. Stay onsite, in one of the Crawford Hotel’s rail-themed guest rooms and choose from an array of dining options and shops including the Tattered Cover, a famed indie bookstore.

The station’s Grand Hall is a vibrant scene where visitors play shuffleboard, enjoy a snack, conversation and the parade of people passing through. 


The Crawford Hotel

The Crawford Hotel.

The trendy hotel's unbeatable downtown location within the Union Station, combines unique historic elements with up to the minute amenities and top notch service. 


chihuly denver

Denver Botanic Gardens.

Bold hues and striking silhouettes amaze families who visit celebrated glass artist Dale Chihuly’s stunning artistic extravaganza underway within the 24-acre urban oasis. Expect a boatload of brightly colored glass baubles afloat amidst the garden’s lily pads, a 30-foot neon tower, and red glass reeds rising up with the prairie grass. The world-renowned, Venice-trained artist’s work is on view now through November 30, 2014. Contact:  Denver Art Museum Lynn O'Rourke Hayes

Indulge in Art.

From art classes and kid-focused camps to clever “create and takes”, the Denver Art Museum welcomes families into the artistic fold. Family backpacks are available for use during a visit, chock full of art making tools, games and puzzles. Kids will also enjoy the Mile High city’s extensive public art program. Don’t miss a photo op with Blue Bear, a 40-foot playful sculpture that depicts the creature peering into the Colorado Convention Center.


Linger Lynn O'Rourke Hayes

Foodie Fun.

Introduce the kids to the world’s best street food at Linger, a trendy establishment that overlooks the city.  The founders circled the globe in search of the fare that defines regions from Mumbai to Manhattan. Built in an old mortuary, the quirky interior is made up of cleverly recycled items including tables constructed from rail cars, formaldehyde bottles for water service and specials printed on toe tags.  


Little Man Ice Cream

Sweet Treat

Pair your visit to Linger with a stop at the adjacent giant milk can for a sweet treat. The original Little Man ice cream shop is a local favorite known for their quality confections and the owners' community minded spirit.


Denver Lynn O'Rourke Hayes

Bikes Abound.

Denver’s environmental focus and commitment to reduced obesity and affordable transportation are just a few of the reasons the city supports an extensive bike share program. Residents and visitors alike can pick up a bright red bike at any B-station, and ride to their destination. When it is time to move on to the next museum, park or restaurant, grab another bike and go. The Cherry Creek bike path, a 15- mile path along the creek, provides a great way to see the sites and the city skyline while avoiding traffic.



For information check out

 Loews San Diego FamilyTravel.comWhen the temperatures creep toward triple digits, those of us who make sunny Scottsdale our home, often hightail it to our breezy, beachfront neighbor to the West. 

You don’t have to be a desert dweller to appreciate San Diego’s year round appeal!  

Here are six places we like to stay and think you will too:  

Visit San Diego

1. The Hotel del Coronado, California 

We’ve loved our visits to the Del! The iconic hotel, with its signature red and white Victorian architecture, sits on a wide, sandy stretch of beach, a perfect blend of old and new. Since the doors opened in 1888, the Hotel Del has played host to celebrities, dignitaries, and reunions of every sort.

Family members will love the spa, the teen and kids club, beach volleyball and an assortment of seaside activities, Get out your boogie board, take surfing lessons or watch Navy seamen from the nearby base train along the beach. 

2. Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina 

 This 17-story, 429-room hotel offers views, views and views. Kids love the water wonderland where slides are plentiful and everyone has a splashing good time in the heated outdoor pools and hot tubs. 

The proximity to sea-faring fun is a plus too. The expansive marina provides easy access to kayaks, fishing trips, sailboats, jet skis and whale watching excursions. The adults will want to check out the eco-savvy spa and enjoy a waterfront cocktail while the youngsters look forward to sundown s’mores. 

La Jolla Beach and Tennis

3. La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club

 Another family favorite, this iconic hotel offers oceanfront guestrooms and suites that make managing the clan’s vacation time a breeze. Do have hungry teens and toddlers? The mini kitchenettes solve that challenge. And with beachfront access, comped WiFi and a great location, everyone is happy.

I once enjoyed a great girlfriend getaway at this sunny spot, making great use of the 14 championship courts.  You’ll also want to plan for a romantic evening at The Marine Room where award-winning cuisine will provide the perfect topper to a terrific day.

4. L’Auberge Del Mar 

 You deserve to treat yourself, right? So if a luxury beach stay is on your bucket list, this plush spot is sure to please. The sea-salty air will envelope you upon arrival in the open-air lobby.  Make your way to your lavishly appointed guest room where you’ll find it challenging to choose between lounging by the pool, an afternoon at the spa or time on the tennis court. 

Loews Coronado

 5. Loews Coronado 

 Loews knows how to make kids and families feel welcome. With their handy location by the Bay, you can take advantage of movies and marshmallow roasts by the pool, as well as a comprehensive kids camp and well stocked game room. Youngsters can opt in for yoga classes and ride bikes along the water’s edge.

Eager for a day at sea? No problem! There are sailboats for hire. 

 6. Residence Inn San Diego Downtown 

 Are you looking for a family-friendly downtown option?  You can’t go wrong with Residence Inn where one and two bedroom suites make it simple for the family to spread out and get comfortable.  It also makes it easy to manage meal and snack time. Access a complimentary full breakfast before your day’s excursions and know that an in-room, completely outfitted kitchen (plus a grocery shopping service) means the gang will have options a plenty.  And of course, when it comes to pool time, you’ll head out to enjoy the sparkling water and steamy Jacuzzi.  


This post was sponsored by TripAdvisor and

ranch vacations

Ranch vacations are a great way for families to learn new skills, seek adventure and relax in the great outdoors. In the next few days we'll be sharing stories from our exploration of some of Colorado's best guest ranches.

Stay tuned!

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