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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.

Contact: lowell.edu; flagstaffarizona.orgwestinlapalomaresort.com

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.

Contact: nps.gov/nabr/index.htm

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.

Contact: furnacecreekresort.comnps.gov/deva

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.

Contact: hiltonwaikoloavillage.comifa.hawaii.edu

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.

Contact: visitcostarica.com

Ranch at Emerald Valley

Give the guys in your life the gift of travel.

Here are five ideas to consider: 

The Ranch at Emerald Valley, Colorado Springs, CO.

Visitors to this high mountain, luxury outpost in the Pike National forest can team up with man’s best friend ( Reba, the fly fishing dog ) for an afternoon of casting for trout in one of two lakes on the secluded property. Later, give Reba a rest while exploring the surrounding area on horseback or hike to nearby lookout points. Challenge friends and family on the archery range or fireside for a masterful game of chess.  Share stories while enjoying  fresh, gourmet fare at the dinner table, in the hot tub or around the cozy fire pit. It's all part of the Broadmoor's Wilderness experience which also includes Cloud Camp and a Fishing Camp. 

Contact: www.Broadmoor.com.

Fly Fishing Adventure, Jackson Hole, WY.

Catch the attention of fly-fishing enthusiasts with the promise of an overnight fishing trip on the South Fork of the Snake River.  The extraordinary experience includes a two-day float through some of the most coveted, trout-rich water in the western United States.  As the sun sets on the initial day, anglers arrive at the South Fork Hilton, a fully outfitted camp tucked in the pines with a steep, canyon wall as backdrop. The overnight includes a deluxe dinner, tall tales and roasted marshmallows around a campfire. Participants rest up for the next day’s action in cozy platform tents. Day two promises stunning scenery, 16 miles of braided waters and the option to expand the adventure while wading gravel bars and maneuvering up productive side channels.

Contact: www.WorldCastAnglers.com;  www.WyomingTourism.org. 

Big League Tours.

Are the men in your life fans of Fenway?  Are they eager to cheer inside Wrigley Field? If the idea sounds like a home run, then a Big League Tour might be a perfect fit for your favorite baseball fan.  Word is tour participants hang out with MLB players, get on to the field, inside the dugouts and catch a batting practice in venues that continue to infuse allegiance to the game. Tours and vacation packages make it possible to hear the crack of the bat in your Dad’s favorite cities or an entire region.

Contact: www.BigLeagueTours.com 

Zion Adventure.  Springdale, UT.

Send your guy to the slots where he can take on the famed canyons on his own or with a guide. The Narrows, a 16-mile corridor, can be hiked in one rigorous day, but most recommend an overnight or the Bottom Up hike that enables hikers to see some of the most stunning aspects of the canyon in four to six hours. Either way, Dad will thank you for the opportunity to experience the splendor of the twisting slots, where carved sandstone rises to the bright, blue western sky.

Contact:  www.zionadventures.com; www.nps.gov/zion.  

Bob Bondurant Performance Driving School – Phoenix, AZ.

Channel your guy's need for speed with a visit to this premier performance-driving academy. He’ll get the chance to sharpen everyday driving skills, learn skid control or don a fire suit and helmet and hit the track for some high octane track time. Learning the Bondurant Method, crafted by Bob Bondurant as a way to train pros as well as daily commuters, promises to shape drivers into capable and confident roadsters while having the time of their lives. Contact: www.Bondurant.com;

Four Seasons hikers

Take a hike — and take the whole family with you.

Here are five scenic destinations to consider:

1. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

For jaw-dropping beauty, lace up and explore the jagged peaks of the magnificent Teton Range hear Jackson Hole. Trails that hug the shores of String, Leigh and Trapper lakes are ideal for families. With little elevation gain, the flat terrain provides ample opportunity to photograph the Tetons reflected in the water, wade into the shallow lake and picnic along the shoreline where the views will astound your entire crew.

http://www.fourseasons.com/jacksonhole/

2. Tackle a Colorado 14er.

The Centennial State is home to dozens of 14,000-foot peaks that beckon residents and visitors alike. Whether you make it to the summit or simply relish the high-altitude views, several of the trails are viable for adventuresome and fit families.

At 14,060 feet, Mount Bierstadt is both the closest peak to Denver and considered among the most approachable. Plan to arrive early, hydrate well and be off the mountain by midday to avoid dangerous thunderstorms that can roll in quickly.

Contact: colorado.com14ers.com

3. Shenandoah National Park.

More than 500 trails snake through this National Park in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, just 75 miles from Washington, D.C. Access family-friendly trails via the 105-mile long Skyline Drive, a historic National Scenic Byway that traverses the park. The highway also offers 75 scenic overlooks to stop and appreciate the region’s natural beauty. The 3.5-mile Lewis Springs Fall Loop is popular with families and offers scenic views and waterfalls. The Stony Man Summits and lower cliffs is the same length, offering stunning vistas with only 500 feet of elevation change.

Contact: nps.gov/shen/index.htm

4. Southern California’s Backbone Trail.

Not far from the Hollywood action you’ll find the 68-mile Backbone Trail, extending the length of the Santa Monica Mountains. Choose from a handful of day hike options. Try the Ray Miller Trail, accessed through Point Mugu State Park.

Scenic views of Ventura County can be seen from the 6-mile loop trail, starting at the trailhead off Yerba Buena road. Either way, you’ll be worlds away from the urban hustle.

Contact: nps.gov/samo/planyourvisit/aboutthebbt.htm

5. Canyonlands, Utah.

For long views, sunny days and unique land formations, consider a hike into the history-rich Canyonlands. It’s a photographer’s dream landscape, so keep your camera handy as you choose among short strolls, longer day hikes or more strenuous outings.

The 2-mile Grand View Point trail offers panoramic views of the Island in the Sky Mesa. To learn about how the Anasazi lived in the area, consider the Aztec Butte Trail, where some of their rock structures are still visible.

Contact: utahscanyoncountry .com/index.html

Family Travel outside

(Who knew camping could be so comfortable? Photo: KOA)

Modern campers are eager to reconnect with nature, spend more time with family and friends and explore new territory.

If you are inclined to camp, here are five ideas to consider.

1. Get in to the back country. For the purest connection to nature, make your way off the beaten path. Hike, paddle or float into a pristine location where your family can learn or hone wilderness skills. Choose a destination suitable for the ages and abilities of your crew. Encourage each person to take responsibility for the adventure, whether that be early research, carrying a small pack, collecting kindling or serving as master storyteller around the fire.

Contact: backcountry.comnps.gov

2. Connect at the campground. KOA, the world’s largest system of open-to-the-public family campgrounds, has evolved since its inception in 1962. Choose your camping style and destination from among 485 locations in North America and access tent sites, RV hookups, cabins, playgrounds and a range of recreational facilities. Then, let the fun begin.

Contact: koa.com

3. Go glamping. If staking a tent is not your idea of fun, glamping, or glamorous camping, might be for you. The walls may be canvas, but the experience is anything but ordinary. High-thread-count bedding, luxury furnishings, fine dining and uncommon outings often led by top-notch guides define the experience in locales around the world.

Contact: glamping.com

4. Sleep in a yurt. Snooze to the sound of the tumbling Trinity River as it winds its way past the resort near Big Flat, Calif. The 30-foot Pacific Yurt is set amid the Trinity Wilderness Area where bird-watching, fishing, hiking and canoeing await. Enjoy road and mountain biking or check out local music festivals. Learn about the organic coffee grown on-site and enjoy a fresh cup as the morning sun warms the day.

Contact: strawhouseresorts.com

5. There’s no place like home. Family camping can help stir a deep and lifelong interest in the natural world. Therefore, early, positive experiences matter. Discuss the details and set clear expectations. For the youngest set, consider an overnight in the backyard or nearby park. That way, if the weather or unforeseen forces create a kink in your plans, warm and dry shelter is nearby.

Award-winning university student, photographer and FamilyTravel.com contributor Chase Guttman, enjoys traveling with his family and capturing special memories with his camera.

Here, he shares tips that may inspire the budding shutterbugs in your clan.

  1. 1. Be adventurous.
  2. “Veer off the beaten path. Take the road less traveled,” advises Guttman, who has visited more than 40 countries and 45 US states. “Try to compose images that portray the essence of the culture you're experiencing. By thinking outside the box, you can put a fresh spin on a frequently photographed subject or destination. Don't be afraid to stretch out of your comfort zone and experiment.”

2. Get closer.

When you create a feeling of intimacy and connection with your subject, you’ll capture stunning portraits,” advises the New York City teen. “Every face tells a unique story. Wrinkles map out a life of hardship and piercing eyes offer a peak into a person’s emotional state. In essence, portraiture allows you to unveil your subject's world for all to see.”

3. It's in the details.

"Zero in on essential details that will tell a larger story about the people or destination you're capturing. Be aware that what you leave out of the frame can be as important as what you include,” advises Guttman. "With focus, you can effectively squeeze an exciting visual experience within the rectangular shaped frame.”

4. Head towards the action.

As illustrated in his image above, Guttman explains that “By diving into the middle of the action you’ll capture an array of energy and emotion. Local markets, sporting events, and festivals offer unique insights into people’s daily lives."

“No matter what camera you have in hand," he adds, "you can paint dynamic and visually arresting action shots by clicking the shutter while moving your body at the same pace as the moving object you're trying to capture.”

5. Plan ahead.

It helps to be in the right place at the right time,” advises Guttman. “Early morning conditions offer unique advantages for photographers. Wildlife is more likely to be active and visible. A tranquil atmosphere makes water reflections more pristine, and you'll have a better chance to capture dawn’s magical mist and dew. Also, early morning and evening lighting provide the best opportunities to create stupendous landscape and cityscape shots.

Award-winning photographer, Chase Guttman has earned numerous accolades including being named Young Travel Photographer of the Year. He won a Grand Prize in National Geographic’s International Photography Contest for Kids, and was named an Emerging Photographic Talent by the Young Photographer’s Alliance.  His work has been exhibited at the Royal Geographical Society in London and he was included as a Top Ten Travel Photographer in the New York Institute of Photography's latest book.

Learn more at ChaseGuttman.com

candle vigil

Sending love and support to all who have lost loved ones

 in Orlando in recent days. 

Row Adventures

Many grandparents will hit the road with grandchildren this summer. If you’re thinking of a similar trip, here are five ideas to consider:  

1. Choosing a destination. 

Would the kids like to see the Golden Gate Bridge or to send selfies with the Statue of Liberty as backdrop? Maybe a sandy beach, a cozy mountain cabin or a river rafting adventure are more up their alley? Get input from the kids on a destination that intrigues them.

Then, depending on the number and the ages of the grandkids coming along, be sure it is a location you can handle without additional adult support. Check the weather forecast shortly before departure and be sure everyone is properly prepared.

Contact: sanfrancisco.travelnycgo.com; www.Row.com; www.AcqualinaResort.com

2. Meet with the parents before departure. 

Sure, you know your grandkids. But make sure you are up to speed on any food allergies and preferences, anxieties about travel, the need for a certain stuffed animal at bedtime or a teen’s recent breakup.

Will the kids have their own money to spend and should it be monitored? Talk through family rules about TV and social media. Cover the final itinerary with the parents to uncover any additional insights they might have for making the trip as stellar as possible.

3. Set clear expectations. 

Consider discussing the itinerary and the rules in a group phone or video chat. If the children are old enough, talk about bedtime, dining decisions and safety measures so it will be clear who is in charge.

If you’ll be traveling with older children, get clarity on guidelines regarding social media, phone and computer time and options for independent outings.

4. Plan for alone time. 

Depending on the length of your trip, a little alone time may be in everyone’s best interest. Many dude ranches, resorts and cruise ships have safe and compelling programs for children of every age group that make independent time possible and appealing.

While the youngsters are in camp, on a ride or a tour especially designed for their age groups, the grandparents can recharge their own batteries. Later, there will be even more to share over dinner or at bedtime.

Contact: latigotrails.comroyalcaribbean.comscottsdaleprincess.com

5. Share stories. 

Preserve memories. Traveling with your grandchildren provides an opportunity for you to get to know one another without the filter of their parents. Use the time to share your knowledge, interests and expertise and to learn more about their priorities. Your adventures can serve as conversation-starters.

Be sure to take plenty of pictures and consider journaling during your time together, recording scraps of conversation and your observations about the trip. Once you’ve returned home, keep the connection by sharing photos, a scrapbook from the trip or discussing aspects of the adventure that mattered most to you.

There is plenty of family fun to be found in mountain towns during the summer. Cool temperatures. Hiking, biking and fly fishing abound.

Ready to rodeo in Steamboat Springs, Co.?

Your whole crew will enjoy witnessing the American tradition where the rough and tough iconic cowboy meets good, old-fashioned family fun.

Check out these epic mountain towns while you are in the mood for high altitude fun.

Livingston MT

In their book 101 Best Outdoor Towns (The Countryman Press) Sarah Tuff and Greg Melville provide a list of great places for visiting, playing – and perhaps staying.

Most of the towns make for great family travel destinations. You’ll find tips on where to bunk for the night, rent great gear, find local favs and often affordable dining spots.

Here are five of my favorites:

1. Livingston, MT –

Oozing western charm, this historic town is home to fly fishing enthusiasts, writers, artists and mountain lovers. As the scenic backdrop for many Hollywood movies, Livingston is a popular stop over for families heading into Yellowstone Park just 60 miles to the south. One of the country’s most important professional rodeos takes place here over the Fourth of July holiday. Contact: www.LivingstonMontana.com; www.VisitMT.com

2. Taos, NM -

Nestled against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this artsy town is steeped in Native American history. Enjoy galleries, great Southwestern food as well as hiking, kayaking, down hill and cross country skiing. The adobe architecture and stunning light also make it a photographer’s paradise. Contact: www.TaosChamber.com.

3. McCall, ID

The 5,500 acre glacial Payette Lake is the summer centerpiece in this mountain enclave of fewer than 3,000 full time residents. Surrounded by miles of pristine wilderness the whole gang will enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, rafting and paddling. Once the more than 300 inches of annual snow begins to fall, head to Brundage Mountain Resort or Tamarack Resort for some family friendly skiing. Contact: www.McCallChamber.org.

4. Girdwood, AK

Strap on crampons and hike the glacier or enjoy the mid-summer blueberry festival. This funky and fun town just 40 miles south of Anchorage offers year-round outdoor excitement. Plan now for winter heli-skiing, snow cat and dog-sledding trips led by Iditarod veterans. Contact: GirdwoodAlaska.com

5. Peterborough, NH

Here mountain climbers, hikers, paddlers and skiers are proud of their high energy crossroads and their well-known home town peak Mount Monadnock. At 3165 feet, the pinnacle provides stunning views that compete only with the picturesque town’s winding roads, churches and taverns that are right out of a Currier & Ives print. Trails of nearly every length lead out of town. Contact: www.TownofPeterborough.com

Family travel

Traveling with multiple families can add up to loads of holiday fun. Proper planning for family trips can go along way toward keeping friendships and expectations intact.

Here are six tips to consider:

Choose wisely.

Give careful consideration to the families and friends with whom you choose to share your precious vacation time. Parents you know from the sidelines of the soccer field might show different colors in a holiday setting away from your hometown.  Consider hosting a planning party to discuss specific destinations

and before making final plans.

Sharing.

Family groups often choose to share a beach house, condo or cabin.  That can mean divvying up expenses, transportation, room assignments, cleaning and cooking. Be sure to have a clearly defined plan before your holiday gets underway to avoid misunderstandings about how time and resources will be allocated. If you sense close quarters could be uncomfortable, suggest staying in a resort or hotel where individual rooms will provide each family more time on their own.

Bring reinforcements.

With a covey of kids under roof, bringing along helping hands can save sanity. Your favorite neighborhood teen might jump at the chance to help out in exchange for a few dollars and the opportunity to experience your chosen destination. Trade time off during the day for evening duty, so that  grown ups can enjoy a quiet dinner or a night on the town.

Style matters.

Not everyone’s parenting style is in sync.  Before departure, consider discussing issues ranging from bedtime and use of technology to strategies for handling mealtime and household chores with the other parents. Then share expectations with your family before the fun begins.  If your children typically make their beds, minimize TV time and eat what they are served, it can be awkward if their travel pals are watching cartoons while waiting for a parent to create a custom waffle and squeeze special orange juice.

Plan private time.

No matter how much you are enjoying your vacation buddies, carve out private time with your own family as a group and individually. Whether you take walks on the beach, shop, grab a sandwich or visit a local museum on your own, don’t head for home without catching up with your clan. You’ll be glad you made the special effort once your regular routine resumes.

Do it right.

With proper planning and care, you'll be having so much fun, you'll be planning the next adventure as you migrate back home.

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