Lovebirds at The Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Ga.
The Little Lovebirds package is crafted to treat your family to a special weekend in February. Stay in a luxurious, two-bedroom suite with private balconies, talk about how to spend your $100 culinary credit in the Piedmont Grille, and make good use of four tickets to the Birds of Prey exhibit at Callaway Gardens. After a busy day, the whole clan can relax with a complimentary, family-friendly movie while the grown ups enjoy champagne and strawberries and youngsters savor s’mores and milk. Wrap up a wonderful weekend with a soothing couples massage for adults and sweet cupcake manicures and pedicures for the little ones. Contact: www.CallawayLodgeandSpa.com.
Feel the Love in Loveland, Colo.
Visit the nation’s Sweetheart City for a Valentine’s Day treat. Check out the free, family-friendly
Loveland Fire & Ice Festival where you’ll find red and white twinkling lights, ice sculptures, carousel and horse-drawn carriage rides, a kid’s zone and fireworks. Be on the look out for giant red hearts adorned with love notes dangling from lamp posts. If you bring your own valentine’s ready to mail, volunteers will cheerily hand stamp them with an endearing message of local love. Contact: https://lovelandfireandice.com/; www.VisitLovelandco.org
What better city than Paris, France?
Share the season of love with your family in a city known for its romantic ambience. The American-born founder of Paris Perfect has personally designed, vetted or renovated more than 90 apartments in desirable locations within the City of Lights. She’ll help choose the right location for you and your family and then adorn your getaway with a sweet sampling of market and walking tours, language lessons, gallery suggestions and other insider tips. Contact: ParisPerfect.com
Sip and savor the experience at the Riverplace Hotel, Portland, OR.
This 84-room, waterfront hotel is a great home base for families visiting the City of Roses. After a day exploring, a family-friendly happy hour makes it possible for grown-ups to sample local wines and craft beers while the kiddos sip on Italian sodas or other seasonal drinks. During February, kids can get creative at the make-your-own-Valentines station and craft their own heart-felt messages. Later, the Bedtime Butler comes knocking, offering Conversation Hearts and other Valentine’s treats as well as books, movies and bath toys for the kids, and nightcap options for adults. Also possible: a kid’s campout kit, which includes a tent, nightlight, teddy bear and sleeping bag. Contact: http://www.riverplacehotel.com/)
Love + Sun at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, Phoenix, AZ.
Combine family fun with a date night for parents and it’s a match. Available February 12 and 13, 2016, the package includes resort credits, discounts at the Wildfire Golf Club and Revive Spa and Sweetheart passes for up to two children per guest room. The passes provide access for youngsters, ages 4 through 12 to their own gala each evening where seasonal crafts, games, treats and movies are part of the fun. Meanwhile, the grownups can let love bloom at the spa or during a candlelit dinner. Under the Southwestern sun, the whole gang can enjoy the 1,600-foot lazy river, waterslides and tennis courts. Contact: http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/phxdr-jw-marriott-phoenix-desert-ridge-resort-and-spa
Tubac Golf Resort & Spa, a luxurious and tranquil vacation destination in Arizona's Southwest desert, is a family-friendly gem.
Set on the historic 500-acre Otero Ranch in the Santa Cruz River Valley, the Spanish Colonial architecture and lush grounds are enhanced by magnificent views of the Tumacacori and Santa Rita mountain peaks.
Hike, play golf, sample wonderful food, explore the local art community and spend time at the spa.
Until now, I never thought much about it. Sure, I live with a little traffic rumble, the occasional helicopter humming overhead, and ambulance sirens wailing in the distance — but the volume never really registered.
I’d always resisted a wintertime outing to our nation’s first national park. I’m passionate about outdoor adventure, but truth be told, I am increasingly nature’s fair-weather friend. I don’t like to be cold.
But, on this January day, I quickly learned that it’s better to layer up and lean in to Old Man Winter than miss out on all Yellowstone has to offer in this season less traveled.
The lush silence was enough to make me want to whisper, to stifle random commentary, and to just be in this pristine wonderland. The crunch of boots on packed snow, the gurgle of a stream under broken ice, the sudden burst of a geyser: Each decibel took on a rich quality in the absence of the everyday din.
Wildlife in winter “Stop!” “Look! A wolf!”
This, from one of my traveling companions, as we lumbered along the snow-covered road inside the cozy snow coach. Our merry band of nature lovers was bound for Old Faithful Snow Lodge, named for the park’s famous geyser. It’s one of two lodging options inside the park boundaries that are available during the winter months; the other is Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.
We had spent much of the day in the expansive Lamar Valley, often called the American Serengeti for its wide swath of landscape where elk and buffalo roam, as well as the occasional wolf.
Spotted: a fox diving for his dinner. (Photo: Lynn O’Rourke Hayes)
According to our guide, it offers the visitor’s best chance of catching a glimpse of the elusive gray wolf — canis lupus — especially in winter. Aided by spotting scopes and the advantage provided by my long camera lens, I scanned the open space and far hillsides for the most treasured of sightings.
Wolf history - then and now
We had entered the park on the north side, crossing under the iconic Roosevelt Arch. Twenty years ago to that very day, Jan. 12, 2015, a horse trailer reportedly came in under the same arch, transporting the first 8 of 31 gray wolves from Canada.
While this would mark the official reintroduction of wolves into the park after a seven-decade absence, it was both the welcome result of careful planning and preparation — and the continuation of a complex battle between environmentalists, on the one side, and ranchers, farmers, and outfitters on the other. Many within the latter group believe wolves are a threat to their way of life and to livestock.
“It is difficult to be enthusiastic about the increase in the wolf population when their existence is a threat to your livelihood,” explained Tom Swanson, a third-generation Montana rancher whose cattle graze just 35 miles north of the park border.
According to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, proponents of the wolf reintroduction hoped to eventually build the population to 300. Current estimates, which have far exceeded expectations, put 80 wolves in the park, 450 in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and as many as 1,700 in the Northern Rockies.
On our expedition, we were thrilled to see one.
Our guide nudged the snow coach onto the side of the road, as our group maneuvered to capture images with our cameras while hoping to stow the memory in our mind’s eye for future reference.
With the icy Firehole River as a buffer, the burly male appeared unfazed by our presence a mere 50 yards away. We watched in awe as he stepped in and out of the river, intermittently feasting on an elk carcass splayed on the far bank, as a handful of ravens hung back, hoping to sneak a few scraps.
No doubt we would have treasured this late afternoon sighting on any given day. But somehow, given the anniversary, it felt like a gift.
A unexpected eruption
The next morning, our group opted to pop on cross-country skis and slide our way to a backcountry gem: the Lone Star Geyser. Yellowstone contains nearly 10,000 geysers, which are approximately one half of the world’s hydrothermal features.
“It only erupts every three hours or so,” explained our guide, as we set off from the trailhead. “So don’t be disappointed if we get there and there’s no action. Either way, you’ll enjoy the scenery.”
We swooshed the two and a half miles along the trail, gliding atop a few inches of fresh snow and aside a different stretch of the Firehole River. Along the way, our naturalist pal, Emily, shared her bounty of knowledge, identifying small tracks leading into and out of the forest.
Then, with the geyser area in sight, I could hear Lone Star sputter before shooting a plume of steam some 40 feet into the air.
A magical moment. (Photo: Lynn O’Rourke Hayes)
“What perfect timing!” hooted one member of our group.
And when I didn’t think the day could get any better, the sun peeked through the clouds and a rainbow appeared, arcing across the mist spewed by the steaming eruption. Seriously.
Oh, and the cold?
When it comes to Yellowstone, Old Man Winter knows how to warm a girl’s heart.
Hit the slopes in Beavercreek where every generation of your family will have a grand time.
Kids reign supreme in this Rocky Mountain resort where plenty of ski-in, ski-out lodging simplifies the ground game.
Consider the Osprey where the closest chair is a mere 26 paces from the door. The popular ski-school offers programs for kids of all ages. A magic carpet and junior-sized gondola make it easy for newbies to practice their skills on the slopes. Ask about Ski Girls Rock, inspired by Olympian Lindsey Vonn and designed to instill confidence in girls seven to 16 through sports.
Apres-ski, access family-friendly music, complimentary warm chocolate chip cookies and the chance to take a few spins around the Village ice skating rink.
Since 1938, the 501(c)3 non-profit, National Ski Patrol (NSP), has dedicated itself to providing service and safety to the outdoor community. As the preeminent authority for serving the outdoor recreation industry, NSP provides the highest quality Outdoor Emergency Care education and credentialing care to safety services providers. Ski and Snowboard Patrollers keep both you, and the mountain safe. Next time you see them on the mountain or ride with them on a chair lift, stop and talk with them. They're friendly people willing to share their knowledge of the resort with you. They can even give you some tips on great gear and where might be a good place for you to ski and ride based on your ability level. Check out these Safety Tips written to give you some snowsmarts and in collaboration with the NSP Safety Team. For more information on our Team members, please visit nsp.org.
BE SNOWSMART! PLAY IT SAFE!
Since 1938, the National Ski Patrol has been advocating safe practices on the slopes so that skiers and snowboarders like you, can enjoy the most out of the mountain terrain. So, to share the message of how to have fun, while staying safe, NSP developed the slogan "Be Snowsmart! Play It Safe!"
What does "Be Snowsmart! Play It Safe" mean? Well, while it can mean a multitude of things depending on what situation you're in and what terrain you're on, the basis of it can be summed up in 3 key points.
1) Prepare for conditions.
Knowing what type of terrain you and your equipment can handle is extremely important when playing it safe. To be Snowsmart, know your ability level and where that appropriate terrain is on the mountain.
2) Reduce your risk of injury.
To reduce the risk of injury, always wear a helmet. Helmets can reduce your risk of head injury by 35-50%. You can avoid risk of injury in other ways too, including tuning your equipment, skiing with a friend, being aware of other skiers and riders on the slope and being aware of your surroundings and on mountain signage.
3) Prevent emergency situations.
Situations on the mountain can quickly turn into emergencies without warning. Unexpected weather changes, backcountry and side country skiing areas, and getting down the mountain with an injury are just a few factors that may turn into emergencies if you are not prepared. Preparing for situations such as these can help tremendously and can be as simple as being aware of weather forecasts, carrying a reliable communication device while on the mountain, snowboarding with a friend, and knowing how to contact Ski Patrol.
These safety tips are just part of being snowsmart! Before you even head out the door you need to have a few things lined up, like what you are going to wear and knowing how to dress for conditions outside.
Having the right equipment is important too. Borrowing is not the best idea, but renting is a great way to try different gear and see what you like before spending money on purchasing your own skis, board, boots, poles, and helmet. The National Ski Patrol highly recommends wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding, but encourages those participating in the sports to realize that helmets do have limitations and are not a complete answer for slope safety. Check out this helmet fact sheet from the National Ski Areas Associationto get more information on the benefits of wearing a helmet.
In addition to the proper use of helmets, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) has developed Your Responsiblity Code to help snow sports enthusiasts avoid injury and make their experience as safe and enjoyable as possible.If you're adventuring in the backcountry you must be knowledgeable in avalanche safety and the equipment used to help keep you safe; NSP provides information and classes on backcountry avalanche safety.
Family travel can play a strong role in the education you offer to your children and grandchildren.
Here are six ideas to consider:
1. Reflect your values.
The travel choices you make can send a strong message to your loved ones about what matters most to you. Consider the bucket list as a thoughtful and deliberate reflection of your own values, hopes and dreams. So before you begin listing desired destinations, ask yourself what aspects of the world - geographically, spiritually and culturally - you want to share with your children, grandchildren and perhaps other friends and family members.
2. Identify Priorities and Passions.
Are you a nature, history or art lover? Do you want your children or grandchildren to learn how to ski, photograph or scuba dive? Do you hope to share your love of baseball or botany with the next generation? Will volunteer vacations or heritage tours be an important part of your mix? Take time to consider these ideas that will expand your family’s horizons and weave them into your travel plan.
3. Identify places.
Americans get low marks for knowledge of geography. Begin with a good map or atlas and consider studying the globe an important part of your family travel education. While your list will most certainly change over the years, think about which destinations you hope to visit while your children are in the nest and beyond? And, when it comes time to involve the children in creating the bucket list, remember that kids don’t know what they don’t know. Certain theme parks and resorts will likely be on their radar screens. But they may not be aware of the glories of Yellowstone or Yosemite or the historical significance of Gettysburg or Montpelier.
4 About the money.
Choosing to make travel a priority is a decision that may require foregoing other luxuries or experiences. But the quality bonding time and lifelong memories are sure to be worth it. Consider creating a travel savings account. Opt for travel related gifts for birthdays, graduations and holidays. Encourage the children to establish their own travel fund. Saving for a specific trip can be an important part of the overall experience.
5. About the time.
Whether you begin by tossing up a tent in the backyard or strategizing to experience a safari in Africa, there is no time like the present to begin planning family travel. As children get older, their schedules become more complicated by their own commitments. Take advantage of school breaks. Consider off-season adventures when you will experience fewer crowds and lower prices, even if it means missing a few days of class. Is a month, summer or year abroad on your family wish list? If, so, begin the research now.
6. And now.
You’ve planned and prioritized. Now, have fun. Take pictures. Repeat.
Escape the bright lights of the city and introduce your family to the night sky. Here are five places to experience a star-filled landscape:
1. Arizona skies. Expect stellar stargazing as well as the chance to tour the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, which was the first city to be designated a Dark Sky City by the International Dark-Sky Association. See the telescope via which Pluto was discovered in the 1930s and peer through the century-old Clark Telescope. Head south to Tucson, often noted as the astronomy capital of the world. Check in to the Westin La Paloma, where families can learn about the celestial world in the foothills of Arizona’s Santa Catalina Mountains. A “cosmic concierge” will provide an educational preamble while you enjoy fireside s’mores. Bolstered by your new information and the fresh night air, go forth to identify the sea of constellations above.
2. Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah. Home to some of the darkest skies in the country, this scenic landscape was the first to receive the International Dark Sky Park certification. Massive natural bridges form star-filled windows through which you can observe the skies as the Pueblo people did some 800 years ago. Among the most spectacular sights is the river of Milky Way brilliance observed rising over Owachomo Bridge.
3. Death Valley National Park, Calif. The park’s 3.4 million-acre expanse and the region’s clean, dry air combine to provide an ideal vantage point for observing shooting stars, meteor showers and constellations galore. The conditions have earned the park Gold-Tier Dark Sky status. The area shares a strong commitment to avoid light pollution and keep the night sky visible. Stay at the Ranch at Furnace Creek and join the Las Vegas Astronomical Society for Star Parties on selected evenings.
4. Waikoloa, Hawaii. Relax on the beach by day and learn about the Pacific sky after the sun sets. This Hawaiian island is home to one of the world’s most important observatories and inspires the hotel’s interactive kids’ camps. During Cosmic Night, your youngsters will gather with astronomers for educational stories of the night sky. Each week, they’ll also have the option to join “A Camping We Will Go” and can learn to pitch a tent, stargaze, play flashlight tag and sample s’mores.
5. Costa Rica. Discovered by Magellan in the 1520s, his namesake dwarf galaxies are best observed mid-December through April. And Costa Rica, the home of pura vida, is one of the few places in the Northern Hemisphere where it’s possible to view the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. Visit the Arenal volcano region for stunning vistas or relax in a jungle resort, where guided walks through lush flora and fauna are paired with observations of the night sky.
Fly rod in hand, I eased into the cool waters of the storied Madison River. My son, Ben, was just steps behind me, eager to wet his line. Despite my felt-bottomed shoes, I faltered slightly, slipping off the rounded, moss-covered rocks below my feet.
“Here, take my hand,” Ben said softly behind me. “I’ll help you.”
Steadied by his strength – at 6′ 3″, he now towers over me – we pushed forward against the rippling current.Mothers with children older than mine had long presaged it would happen like this: a fast-forward blur of growth spurts, sporting events, back-to-school nights and prom dates. And now Ben is holding me upright as we wade into braided waters under the wide Montana sky, a vast expanse we both love.
This was more than a casual weekend. He had called to suggest we meet for a few days of mother-son fly-fishing, an interest we have happily shared since his boyhood. After, we would head to the big celebration. In less than a week, he would marry a wonderful young woman.
It was no surprise he chose this landscape for our special time together. Gratefully, it was our way. It was our comfortable, common ground.
Both photos on this page are courtesy of Lynn O’Rourke Hayes
The Great Outdoors Getting outside is one important way that my three boys and I have bonded. While we’ve shared countless extraordinary experiences, the times we treasure most are those where the wind sings through the trees, wildlife crosses our paths and jagged peaks provide a purple-hued backdrop. And just maybe, a little “weather” makes the adventure a bit more sporting.
Such outings – for a day, a week and sometimes longer – sustained and tightly stitched the fabric of our family. But it is seemingly more difficult today for parents and children to find their way to nature.
What’s in the Way? Ask anyone with more than four or five decades tucked under his or her belt about favorite childhood memories and you are likely to hear about games of Kick the Can, Capture the Flag, and Hide and Seek. Or perhaps we’ll tell tales of lopsided tree forts, crafting boats to float downstream or capturing crawdads in the creek.
We were comfortable outside.
Yet today it is reported that kids eight to 18 years old devote an average of seven hours and 38 minutes to entertainment media on any given day. That’s more than 53 hours a week. Adults’ demanding careers, concerns about “stranger danger,” tangled traffic and easy access to technology combine to keep kids inside. Further, structured activities, from music lessons to team sports, designed to keep youngsters “competitive” leave little room for carefree, outdoor discovery.
It’s no surprise that the natural world therefore feels a little “unnatural.” All the more reason to make a nature-based family holiday a top priority.
Why It Matters It’s good for your health.
The stress, distractions and constant stimulation of modern life sap our energy. Fortunately, a slew of scientific studies confirms a leafy, green remedy. Time in nature – hiking, paddling, camping, star gazing – not only helps us relax but has a significant positive impact on the overall health of the next generation.
Regular time outside results in significant improvements to an expanding list of modern-day parental concerns. Obesity is perhaps the most visible, but the list includes attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning challenges, creativity, and mental, psychological and emotional wellbeing.
In short, spending time in nature makes us feel better.
To wit, Richard Louv, author of the groundbreakingLast Child in the Woods and chairman of the Children & Nature Network, shares a story that begins with an issue of San Francisco magazine. He describes a “vivid photograph of a small boy, eyes wide with excitement and joy, leaping and running on a great expanse of California beach, storm clouds and towering waves behind him.”
Offers Louv: “A short article explains that the boy was hyperactive, he had been kicked out of his school, and his parents had not known what to do with him – but they had observed how nature engaged and soothed him. So for years they took their son to beaches, forests, dunes, and rivers to let nature do its work.”The photograph was taken in 1907. And the boy was the incomparable nature and landscape photographer Ansel Adams.
It’s good for your future.
If we expect our children to care for our world, isn’t it our responsibility to make proper introductions and then nurture relationships with forests, rivers, parks and mountaintops? It would be understandably difficult for a tech-savvy generation to commit to caring for wild places they hardly know. In fact, a 2006 study by Wells and Lekies suggests that youngsters’ participation in nature-based activities before the age of 11 is the most effective way to ensure their interest in caring for the environment they will inherit.
A Landscape for Life When it comes to planning family travel, as purveyors and participants we have options. We can make sure that our children know the sound of streams tumbling over well-worn stone, are able to identify the hoot of an owl or marvel at the sound of their own voices echoing within steep, canyon walls.
In doing so, perhaps they learn how to tap into the mysterious and healing power of the natural world. And thus, should they seek the comfort of common ground, they will know the way.
Lynn O'Rourke Hayes is the Editor of FamilyTravel.com and a founding member of the Family Travel Association's Board. Find out more about the FTA Spotlight Series and share your thoughts about Family Travel