Heading into the back country, to your favorite national park or recreation area? Before you go, give your skills, gear and local intel a tune up. You’ll want to play it safe when heading into the great outdoors with your family.
Here are six ideas to consider:
Learn about Mountain Lions
Mountain lion attacks on people are rare. Yet, recently, interactions have increased. Experts believe the shift is due, in part, to humans moving closer to lion habitat, an increase in deer populations (their prey), and more hikers, bikers and runners sharing trails with lions.
If you venture into lion country, experts recommend exploring in groups and making plenty of noise to avoid a surprise. Carry a walking stick and keep children close at all times. Should an encounter occur, do not run. Stay calm. Pick up any children and talk firmly as you slowly back away. Do everything you can to loom large, raising your arms, opening a coat while not blocking a lion’s escape route. If the lion acts aggressively, fight back with rocks, sticks or what ever you can find without getting low or turning your back.
Hiking, climbing and camping in many parts of the country mean a snake encounter is possible. Make sure kids know to steer clear of anything that resembles a snake. According to the University of Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, more than half of those bitten intentionally provoked the snake in some way. Stay on hiking trails and keep hands and feet away from wood and rock piles, deep grass or crevices. Carry a flashlight and wear shoes after dark. "Time is tissue," experts say. So if a bite does occur, call 911 and seek medical attention immediately.
Be bear aware
Your goal during a hiking, fishing or camping experience is to avoid getting up close and personal with a bear. So while making plans, inquire about recent bear activity at your intended destination. Research shows that bear spray is effective, so have yours at the ready and know how to use it. Travel in groups of three or more and sing, tell stories, or take turns shouting “Hey, bear!” to let wild creature know you are in the area. Hike during daylight hours, stay on trails and avoid berry patches and animal carcasses. Look for signs of bear activity including scat, tracks or overturned rocks. When camping, keep your tent and spaces clean and free of odors. (Remind the kids that stashing candy bars in sleeping bags is not a good idea.) Don't sleep in clothes you cooked in. Be sure to hang food and trash away from sleeping areas or in bear-proof containers.
Don't let lightning strike
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more than 400 people are struck by lightning each year in the U.S. Teach the kids that "when thunder roars, go indoors." When planning an activity, have a safety plan and know where you will meet should a storm develop. Watch for darkening skies, flashes of lightning and shifting and strengthening wind patterns. If you hear thunder, even at a distance, it is time to move to a sturdy building or hard-topped metal vehicle with windows closed, advises NOAA. Stay away from tall, isolated trees, utility polls or open areas. Avoid wires and metal fencing. Wait for 30 minutes after the last thunderclap to move outside. If someone is struck by lightning, call 911 and get immediate medical attention.
Do the Stingray Shuffle
If you are headed to the beach, be sure the whole family practices the Stingray Shuffle before plunging into the sea. Stingrays bury themselves under a thin blanket of sand for protection. By shuffling into the water, you'll create a vibration and the creature will be alerted and will move off in a different direction. Stingrays are also most active at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., prime beach time, so ask the lifeguard or your resort's front desk about stingray activity before splashing into the surf. Should a sting occur, use hot water to clean the wound and seek medical attention. The Stingray City sandbar, home to the Southern Stingray, is a popular attraction in the Cayman Islands.
Stay warm and dry
Whether you get caught in a downpour, lost on the trail, or stay in the boat too long, getting too cold and too wet is something to avoid. It is helpful to remember the acronym COLD to avoid hypothermia: Cover, Overexertion, Layers and Dry. It's especially important to keep heads, hands and feet covered. Avoid overexertion that will cause sweating. The combination of wet clothes and cold temperatures will cause the loss of body heat. Dressing in loose fitting layers, with silk, wool or polypropylene closest to the body, is best for retaining body heat. And of course, stay dry whenever possible and remove wet clothing at the earliest opportunity. Know that children (and older adults) chill more quickly and need one more layer in the same conditions. Shivering, the body's natural attempt to warm itself, is a first sign of hypothermia. Bright red, cold skin and a weak cry are the first signs of hypothermia in an infant.
If winter’s dreary weather has you down, take action. Vacation time?
Here are five ideas to consider.
1. Make a plan.
We all like to look forward to an adventure. And research shows that by planning ahead, more families will actually take much-need vacations and thus reap a multitude of personal and professional benefits. By crafting a strategy in advance you’ll have your pick of departures, the best cabins on a cruise ship and more options in popular resort areas. While you are at it, scan the year ahead and be the first to claim vacation days around existing holidays and school breaks, creating a future stretch for relaxation and enjoyment. Knowing good times are on the horizon will help wash the winter blues away.
2. Embrace a new winter sport and then dine in style.
Perhaps this is the year to push beyond the local sledding hill and expand your winter sports experiences. Lace up the skates, strap on the snowshoes, learn how mushers round up their sled dogs or consider an ice climb. Go downhill, cross-country, into the back-country and then warm up in a steaming hot spring. Skate ski to dinner served in a yurt or ride aboard a horse-drawn or snowcat sleigh headed to a cozy cabin where you and your family can savor supper served fireside.
Visit Beaver Creek and plan to dine at Beano's Cabin. During the winter months you'll have fun traveling through Beaver Creek's iconic aspen groves during a 20-minute open air sleigh ride pulled by a snowcat. Blankets and tarps are on board but be sure to dress warmly.
Tucked into an on-mountain meadow at the base of Larkspur Bowl, this luxurious log hideaway is elegant in a mountain kind of of way, yet comfortable with kids.
Upon arrival, tuck your warm wraps away and relax in the inviting, cozy environment where a fire is blazing, conversation is swirling and mouths are watering with the prospect of what is to come in this popular and top rated Colorado dining spot.
An open kitchen make it fun to watch the pros in action as they prepare gourmet, five-course meals comprised of traditional Colorado fare. (We sampled the elk and the venison. Both divine.) Take a look at the lengthy wine list and know that a sommelier is on hand to help with your selection. (It's nice to know someone else will be driving the sleigh home.) It's a most delicious and memorable way to end a perfect day on the slopes.
3. Connect with family and friends.
Geographic spread, busy careers and school and sports schedules make it more difficult than ever to spend time with the people who matter most. Check in with your clan and craft a plan to celebrate an upcoming birthday, anniversary, or to honor a family member’s special achievement, acknowledging the kind of touchstones that can be a meaningful part of a family’s legacy. At the same time, who needs an official event to enjoy the company and support of your loved ones?
Take advantage of last minute travel deals and vow to focus on the joys of winter together.
4. Seek the sun.
Visit Curtain Bluff, a laid back, but luxurious, family-owned resort in Antigua for an all-inclusive experience that offers extensive water sports including water skiing, deep sea fishing, snorkeling, paddle-boating, tennis, yoga, and sailing. As the kids burn off energy with the Cee Bee kids club, relax in a hammock you’ll find tucked within the palm trees. Spend an afternoon at the spa where open air massages provide a perfect end to sports-filled day.
Closer to home, consider Southern California’s iconic Hotel Del Coronado, nestled on a wide stretch of sand with easy access to the water and a host of sea side activities. Get out your boogie board, take surfing lessons or watch Navy seamen from the nearby Coronado Island base train along the beach.
According to a recent survey commissioned by
Enterprise Rent-A-Car, an increasing number of travelers plan to completely disconnect and turn their time off into an escape from the pressures of their jobs and other responsibilities. Whether you stay close to home or plan an exotic family getaway, taking a vacation from news reports, social media alerts and a never ending stream of emails can reduce stress and provide more time to pursue activities you enjoy.
Plan a snowy getaway with your family.
Here are five escape-worthy spots to consider:
The Sebastian, Vail, CO.
Splurge on a ski vacation and let the resort pros make sure your high altitude holiday goes off without a hitch. The Sebastian’s amenities-on-demand program can deliver ski and snow essentials to your room along with an energy-filled breakfast. Order up an extra pair of toasty socks, hand warmers for the kiddos or another round of sunscreen. Guests can also arrange to have a steaming bubble bath drawn prior to a return from the slopes.
Team up with the adventure concierge to plan a moonlight snowshoe adventure and ice-skating for the older kids while the littlest one plays in the Tykes Room. Should the kids need a break from the mountain they can also opt for hosted crafts in the Upper Lobby where creating hand puppets, finger knitting and experimenting with snow slime are possibilities. Should grown-ups need a break, the hospitality team is on hand to make restaurant reservations and scout for a babysitter.
Basecamp Hotel, South Lake Tahoe, CA.
Clever and cool, your kids will love the cozy options available at this boutique hotel, where exploring the local mountain community is encouraged. The Great Indoor Family Room sports a King bed for the grownups, adjacent to a wall tented room featuring bunk beds, a faux campfire, a picnic table and camp chairs. Designed as an alternative to a cookie cutter hotel, owners have repurposed “under-appreciated” buildings and infused them with “soul”. Happy hour includes homemade soups and stews. No surprise: s’mores are served nightly.
The National Park Inn. Mt. Rainer National Park.
Leave your technology behind and immerse yourselves in the beauty of this majestic setting in the Park’s Longmire Historic District. Check in to one of 25 rooms in the two-story lodge. Relax in the lounge and sip hot cocoa near the massive stone fireplace while enjoying stories of the day and making plans for the next. Visit the general store, a circa 1911 log cabin, for access to cross-country and snowshoeing rentals and other goodies.
You’ll find it difficult to emerge from the cozy lodge warmed by a roaring fire or your cabin crafted from indigenous materials. But when you do, choose from cross country and snowshoe trails that run deep into the woods or sunlit downhill runs on the slopes of Mount Timpanagos. Founded my film maker and conservationist Robert Redford, the resort offers family-friendly pottery, beading and printmaking classes in the Art Shack, winter fly-fishing and dining menus with an emphasis on organic and locally sourced ingredients.
Devil’s Thumb Ranch. Tabernash, CO.
Stay in a cozy cabin or opt to sleep in the High Lonesome Lodge where ranch guests steep in expansive views of the Continental Divide and the Ranch Creek Valley while channelling the pioneering spirit of early homesteaders. The centerpiece of the lodge is a reconstructed Civil War-era barn. Choose from 31 guest rooms and four suites, each with private outdoor patios and Adirondack-style rockers. Grab the binoculars to catch a glimpse of wildlife roaming on this 6,000 acre expanse of Colorado beauty or set out on the Nordic trails for an up-close view of winter scenes.
If you are looking for adventure and comfort on your next vacation consider a “luxpedition.”
Cycle through Europe or Asia and rest your legs in luxury hotels. Reach the trails of the Alps by river cruise and train. Or explore the wilds of South America while enjoying fine dining. Here are 11 trips that bring together some of the best active experiences and accommodations in the world
Visit the Awasi Patagonia Lodge with Surtrek and explore in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park with a personal guide, selecting from excursions such as hiking to panoramic views, horseback riding beneath the towering spires or taking in the icebergs from Grey Glacier.
On Sojourn Bicycling & Active Vacations’ new tour in France, explore the dramatic landscape of the Alps by bike and stay in luxury accommodations. Start at the picturesque lake in Annecy, ride a Tour de France climb and finish at the foot of Mont Blanc in Chamonix, resting at a Relais & Chateau hotel.
Camp in style on a classic Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu in Peru. After acclimatizing in luxury accommodations in Cusco, enjoy hot showers, fine cuisine in a portable dining tent, a cot to sleep on and excellent service during the guided trek through spectacular Andean scenery to the Inca ruins.
Ride nearly 1,800 miles across South Korea and Japan on TDA Global Cycling’s newest hotel-to-hotel tour, the Journey to the East. Pedal through modern cities and over lonely mountain roads, past temples, volcanoes, hot springs and heritage sites.
At Wyoming’s 25,000-acre Red Reflet Ranch, spend the day riding horses, shooting, herding cattle and learning the ropes. Once the work is done, sit down to a gourmet meal made of beef from the ranch’s butcher shop and produce grown in its garden before retiring to a luxury chalet.
On a new itinerary from Riviera River Cruises, cruise through the Rhine Gorge to Switzerland, then travel by train into the Alps, climbing over jaw-dropping precipices aboard the famed Glacier Express. In Zermatt, explore the trails on foot or ride a cog railway to 10,000 feet.
Cast for big brown and feisty rainbow trout in Argentine Patagonia with Frontiers and stay in the new Alumine River Lodge, which offers comfort and unparalleled access to the Pilolil Canyon and numerous tributary rivers and spring creeks.
: On a new trip with Tourissimo and Ride & Seek, cycle the hallowed gravel strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany through rolling hills covered with vineyards and quaint medieval villages, and enjoy the food and wines of one of Italy’s finest culinary regions.
Rent a luxurious mountain home in Montana’s exclusive Moonlight Basin community and ski Big Sky Resort’s 5,800 acres of steep and deep terrain. A stay at Moonlight Basin also provides access to the private Moonlight Lodge, and Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking on snowy trails.
Cycle from Bangkok to Phuket, Thailand, with Grasshopper Adventures and take in the Gulf of Thailand, Khao Sok National Park and the Andaman Coast from the saddle, then rest at a four-star hotel, a golf resort and a beachside resort.
Explore wild and wooded Siberia on a MIR Corporation trip in winter, when Lake Baikal freezes hard enough to travel over its surface. Dash through the taiga on a traditional troika ride, race teams of sled dogs and sweep across the frozen lake by hovercraft to sacred Olkhon Island.
Record numbers of theme park visitors are preparing for thrilling and memorable experiences this year.
According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions’ IAAPA Global Theme and Amusement Park Outlook Report (2017 to 2021), more than 398 million people are expected to take part in the fun in the months ahead.
Roller coasters are a big part of what’s new this season, and an abundance of new rides and experiences—more than 70 according to the IAAPA compilation—include water slides, kiddie rides and new themed lands.
According to park guest surveys, roller coasters remain the top-rated ride of interest to park guests, and new coasters deliver big thrills.
With 12 roller coasters, four giant swings, four towering rides and, many more unique experiences to excite visitors, parks across the country are ready for a season filled with fun.
Family entertainment centers are a segment of the attractions industry that continues to grow and expand, offering an array of experiences from golf and go-karting to ziplines and trampolines.
These traditionally smaller destinations provide a mix of activities designed for parents, grandparents and kids to experience together.
Families can also soak up the fun at dozens of water parks, with many water slides and water attractions making a splash all season long.
Discover family fun here:
Calgary Zoo opens Panda Passage exhibit for its two new adult pandas and two panda cubs. Panda Passage enhances the habitat that formerly housed the zoo's Komodo dragons and rhinoceroses. calgaryzoo.com
Canada’s Wonderland in Vaughan opens two new rides and an expanded play and splash area for children. “Lumberjack” is a thrill ride that takes guests to heights of 75 feet on two swinging-axe pendulums, propelling them in 360-degree loops. “Flying Canoes” is an interactive family ride that allows passengers to control their adventure on two-person canoes that rotate around a circuit. In addition, Splash Island’s children’s pool in Splash Works will double in size and feature several new interactive spray features. canadaswonderland.com
La Ronde in Montreal debuts Carnaval en Folie, a new family zone where colors and sounds re-create the festive atmosphere of the fairs and carnivals of yesterday. The Carnaval en Folie zone will include three new rides: the “Toubillon” carousel, the “Petite Roue” Ferris wheel, and “Tour du Fou,” a high-flying merry-go-round. laronde.com/fr/larondef
KidZania, the interactive entertainment destination for kids opens in Guadalajara. Children can role-play in more than 100 real-life occupations, explore the kids’ city and have fun, while learning through realistic role-play designed specifically for children ages 2-14. guadalajara.kidzania.com/es-mx
Topgolf opens its second Alabama location in Huntsville. The 53,000-square-foot venue will feature climate-controlled hitting bays for year-round play, a chef-driven food and beverage menu, music, private rooms for corporate and social events, and more than 200 high-definition televisions. Now open. topgolf.com/us/huntsville
Topgolf opens its third Greater Phoenix location in Glendale. The 65,000-square-foot, three-level venue includes up to 3,000 square feet of private event space and climate-controlled hitting bays that can host up to six players at one time. topgolf.com/us/glendale
Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach debuts a 29,000-square-foot Pacific Visions expansion. The new area includes an immersive 300-seat interactive theater, art gallery, and additional exhibition space for live animals. aquariumofpacific.org
California’s Great America in Santa Clara opens “RailBlazer,” a new roller coaster featuring a 90-degree drop, three inversions, and dynamic rotations throughout the ride. Guests straddle the coaster’s single track giving them an unobstructed view of the ground and sky during the off-road adventure-inspired ride. cagreatamerica.com
Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim debuts Pixar Pier, a transformed land where guests will enjoy newly themed attractions, foods, and merchandise representing beloved Disney Pixar stories. The experience includes the “Incredicoaster” themed after “The Incredibles” film, and neighborhoods based on “The Incredibles,” “Toy Story,” and “Inside Out.” Opens June 23. disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog
Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park premieres a new steel roller coaster “Hang Time.” The ride towers 150 feet over the park’s boardwalk area, and ride experience includes inversions, midair suspensions, and twisting dives along the track. “Hang Time” will send riders up a vertical lift hill and down into a 15-story, 96-degree drop that gives the illusion the track has disappeared. Opens now. knotts.com
Legoland California Resort in Carlsbad has opened Legoland Castle Hotel, a three-story, 250-room hotel. Accommodations range from 20 suites to guestrooms themed to knights, princesses and more. The park also opens “Lego City Deep Sea Adventure” submarine ride. Up to 12 passengers board one of eight real submarines as they explore an imaginative underwater ocean world. Open. legoland.com/california
SeaWorld San Diego opens “Electric Eel,” the park’s third roller coaster. The 150-foot-tall ride features a triple-launch with accelerations of more than 60 mph. Now open. seaworld.com/san-diego
Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia introduces “CraZanity,” a towering pendulum attraction that seats riders in an outward-facing circle and speeds up to 75 mph as it swings 172 feet in the air. The park’s Drop of Doom tower also gets a new virtual reality element, “DC Superheroes Drop of Doom VR”. Riders don headgear allowing them to join characters battling villains, all while plunging 85 mph down a 400-foot tower. sixflags.com/magicmountain
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo debuts “Harley Quinn Crazy Coaster.” The ride’s two trains seat 32 riders face-to-face as they speed past each other in a dueling adventure. The figure-eight coaster turns riders upside down 12 times. sixflags.com/discoverykingdom
Universal Studios Hollywood debuted Kung-Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest in the DreamWorks Theatre. The immersive experience will be the first to use interior projection mapping technology including seven 4K projectors, 360-degree surround sound and physical effects including wind and water, raging rapids and the characters from King-Fu Panda. universalstudioshollywood.com
Waterworld Concord introduces “Splashwater Island,” a four-story water play structure with more than 100 features. Guests will ascend ladders and splash down more than nine water slides. waterworldcalifornia.com
Quassy Amusement & Waterpark in Middlebury opens its Category 5 Rapids slide complex featuring three water slides at its Splash Away Bay water park. The largest of the slides is named “Torrent” featuring a funnel design sending riders up its walls and oscillating to create a weightless sensation before flushing out riders. Open. quassy.com
Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark in Orlando introduced Ray Rush, a new family raft slide which launches riders through enclosed tubes, a translucent sphere, and an open halfpipe slide shaped like a manta ray. aquaticabyseaworld.com/en/orlando
Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Lake Buena Vista opens “Toy Story Land” featuring characters Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and Slinky Dog. Toy Story Land features two new attractions: the “Slinky Dog Dash” family roller coaster and “Alien Swirling Saucers,” a flying saucer ride. disneyworld.disney.go.com/destinations/hollywood-studios/toy-story-land
Legoland Florida Resort in Winter Haven introduces “The Great Lego Race,” an attraction that is created by transforming the “Project X” roller coaster into a virtual reality experience that takes riders through a rollicking race. Donning virtual reality headsets and using Bluetooth technology the ride synchronizes virtual visuals with the roller coaster’s twists, turns, drops and climbs, creating an all-new experience. legoland.com/florida
SeaWorld Orlando debuts “Infinity Falls,” the world’s tallest river rapid ride. Each raft will twist and turn through a lush jungle environment as guests experience up to Class IV river rapids. A unique vertical elevator lifts each raft for a dramatic launch into the river, 40 feet below. seaworld.com/orlando/rides/infinity-falls
Topgolf opens its second South Florida location in Doral. The 65,000-square-foot venue features golf games using microchipped balls that instantly score themselves, showing players the accuracy and distance of their shots instantly on a television screen in their hitting bay. topgolf.com/us/doral
Universal Studios Florida opens “Fast and Furious – Supercharged” which immerses guests in the popular franchise, complete with authentic cars and characters from the movies. Now open. universalorlando.com
Great Wolf Resorts opens its first Georgia property in LaGrange. Great Wolf Lodge Georgia features indoor water slides, a giant tipping bucket, wave pool, lazy river, and a family raft ride. Additional family-focused attractions outside the water park include the “MagiQuest” interactive adventure game and the indoor Great Wolf Adventure Park. Open. greatWolf.com/Georgia
Six Flags Over Georgia near Atlanta opens “Twisted Cyclone,” a hybrid roller coaster that goes from a 75-degree initial drop to three inversions at 50 mph. The coaster train, modeled after a classic 1960s sports car, combines a traditional wood coaster structure with a steel track. sixflags.com/overgeorgia/attractions/newfor2018
Wild Adventures in Valdosta adds “Megabugs! Adventure Encounters,” a new interactive area including more than 70 exhibits featuring big insects and arachnids. wildadventures.com
Roaring Springs, the water park in Meridian, adds three new water slides in its new Bearfoot Bay expansion. Open. roaringsprings.com
Great Wolf Resorts opens in Chicago’s northern suburb of Gurnee. The company’s 17th resort, Great Wolf Lodge Illinois features indoor water slides, a giant tipping bucket, wave pool, lazy river, and a family raft ride. Additional family-focused attractions outside the water park include the “MagiQuest” interactive adventure game and the indoor Great Wolf Adventure Park. GreatWolf.com/Illinois
Six Flags Great America in Gurnee adds the world’s largest loop coaster, the park’s 16th roller coaster. The 100-foot-tall ride features 32 face-to-face seats and takes daring riders through several 360-degree revolutions. Open. sixflags.com/greatamerica/attractions/newfor2018
Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus adds two new thrills for kids celebrating the Swahili word for elephant. The “Tembo Falls” water slide complex features eight junior slides including twisters, helix, mini-bowl and two racing slides and “Tembo Tides” will have a junior wave pool featuring spray features for younger children. holidayworld.com
Adventureland in Altoona opens Bernie’s Barnyard, an area created specifically for the park’s youngest guests with kiddie rides, a playground, arcade games, and more. adventurelandresort.com
Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville adds two new rides. “Scream Xtreme” will have riders soaring and spinning high above the park, and closer to the ground the new family ride “Rock ‘n Roller” will leave passengers of all ages dizzy. kentuckykingdom.com
Palace Playland in Old Orchard Beach opens the “Sea Viper” roller coaster. palaceplayland.com
Six Flags America in Upper Marlboro debuts a new centerpiece for its Hurricane Harbor Water Park, “Wahoo River.” The themed adventure river will have seven water action zones complete with water arches, geysers, surging waves, waterfalls, and tipping buckets. Open. sixflags.com/america
Six Flags New England in Agawam debuts “Harley Quinn Spinsanity,” a colossal swing ride that reaches up to 70 mph and spins riders up to 147 feet in the air. sixflags.com/newengland
Topgolf opens its first Minnesota location in Brooklyn Center, near downtown Minneapolis. In the 65,000-square-foot venue, guests can enjoy self-scoring golf games using microchipped balls that instantly show players the accuracy and distance of their shots on a television screen in their hitting bay. topgolf.com/us/minneapolis
Valleyfair in Shakopee opens “Delirious” in its nostalgic Route 76 area. The 70-foot looping thrill ride, which features a train that races around the inside of the track, completes 10 revolutions in less than a minute. valleyfair.com
Silver Dollar City in Branson debuts the “Time Traveler” roller coaster, the world’s fastest, steepest and tallest spinning roller coaster. The ride features a 10-story, 90-degree vertical drop and three inversions: a dive loop, a vertical loop, and a zero-G roll along more than a half mile of track. Now open. silverdollarcity.com/timetraveler
Six Flags St. Louis opens “Typhoon Twister,” in its Hurricane Harbor water park. The hybrid zero-gravity water slide and wave wall sends up to four people barreling down an enclosed 54-foot drop in a cloverleaf raft. sixflags.com/stlouis
Topgolf opens its first Missouri location in Chesterfield. Guests can enjoy point-scoring golf games using microchipped balls that instantly score themselves, showing players the accuracy and distance of their shots instantly on a TV screen in their hitting bay. topgolf.com/us/st-louis
Worlds of Fun in Kansas City introduces “Nordic Chaser,” a new family ride. Guests of all ages will board mini-ships that rotate around a circuit, providing the sensation of rising and falling along ocean waves. Now open. worldsoffun.com
Diggerland in West Berlin, introduces The Rugged Riders and Farm Tractors, bringing to the park a fleet of more than 25 rides guests can drive, ride and operate themselves. The construction theme park for families also announced the Soaring Eagle Zip Line, Ventrac Tractors and Elevation Station – a scissor lift ride – set to open this season. diggerlandusa.com
Six Flags Great Adventure & Safari in Jackson opens “Cyborg Cyber Spin,” an anti-gravity gondola ride that spins on three separate axes. Twenty-four riders sit with their feet dangling as they twist and turn and are propelled up to seven stories above the ground. sixflags.com/greatadventure
Topgolf opens its second New Jersey location in Mount Laurel. The 65,000-square-foot venue features microchipped golf balls that score themselves, providing players with instant feedback on each shot’s accuracy and distance. topgolf.com/us/mount-laurel
Darien Lake in Darien Center opens the new “Tantrum” roller coaster taking riders up a 98-foot/90-degree vertical lift with a 97-degree drop reaching up to 52 mph rushing through features including an Immelman turn and tilted loop finish. Open. darienlake.com
The Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom in Lake George introduces “Pandemonium,” which takes 24 riders at a time on a ride that lifts, spins, and tilts at all angles. At sundown the ride’s colorful light package will illuminate the sky, providing a unique after dark experience. sixflags.com/greatescape
Splish Splash Water Park in Calverton opens two new water slides. On the Riptide Racer four guests simultaneously race head first on mats and get drenched as they sail down. Bombs Away features two dueling 300-foot slides perched from a 50-foot tower, combining the anticipation of the AquaLaunch capsule and visual impact of looping translucent fiberglass as guests await the floor to drop from beneath their feet. splishspash.com
Carowinds near Charlotte debuts Camp Snoopy, a newly expanded kids’ section featuring new rides, and a climb-and-play area, “Beagle Scout Acres.” Camp Snoopy will feature five new rides: “Camp Bus” that lifts guests into the air and lowers them back down to the ground; “Peanuts Trailblazers” puts guests behind the wheel of a Jeep-like vehicle on a small, round speedway; “Kite Eating Tree” sends a kite vehicle up and down a tree; “Pig Pen’s Mud Buggies” rotates around the popular Pig Pen character while bouncing on a bumpy ride and “Woodstock Whirlybirds” an oversized spinning bird’s nest. carowinds.com
Cedar Point in Sandusky opens “Steel Vengeance,” a 200-foot-tall hybrid roller coaster featuring a 90-degree initial drop and a Twisted Snake Dive, a maneuver that puts the train into a half-barrel roll, lets it hang upside-down momentarily, before turning back to the direction of travel, just shy of a complete roll. Now open. cedarpoint.com
Oaks Amusement Park in Portland debuts a new roller coaster that features a 72-foot vertical lift, a heartline roll, 97-degree loop, and top speeds of 45 mph. The public is helping the park name the new ride through a name-the-coaster contest. Now open. oakspark.com
Sesame Place in Langhorne debuts the “Oscar’s Wacky Taxi” ride. The wooden-steel hybrid family roller coaster has a bright yellow, taxi cab-inspired train featuring Oscar the Grouch. sesameplace.com/philadelphia
Dutch Wonderland in East Lampeter Township opens its first suspended roller coaster named Merlin’s Mayhem featuring a 60-foot rise and two helix turns, making it the park’s tallest ride. dutchwonderland.com
The Boardwalk at Hersheypark in Hershey opens two water rides. “Breakers Edge Water Coaster” seats four riders on in-line rafts and rockets them through splash-filled hills, tight turns, and sweet thrills perfect for the whole family. On the “Whitecap Racer” guests ride on a mat through turns and tunnels as they sail down six colorful racing lanes. Open. hersheypark.com
Thomas Town at Kennywood will open at the suburban Pittsburgh area park in West Mifflin. The addition will feature four new family rides based on the characters from the beloved children’s series, “Thomas the Tank Engine.” The rides include "Cranky’s Drop Tower," "Harold’s Helicopters," "Firefighting Flynn," and "The Convoy," as well as new shows, gift shop, play area, party pavilion and games. Open. kennywood.com
Topgolf opens its first Pennsylvania location in Pittsburgh in the summer. The 65,000-square-foot venue features point-scoring golf games using microchipped balls that instantly score themselves, showing players the accuracy and distance of their shots on a television screen in their hitting bay. topgolf.com/us/pittsburgh
Waldameer Park and WaterWorld in Erie opens two new family-friendly rides. “Balloon Race” in Kiddieland sends riders spinning around and gliding up and down in colorful hot-air balloons, while the “CannonBowl” single- or double-tube water slide has drops, twists, and turns before it sends riders spinning around in a giant bowl. waldameer.com
Nashville Shores in Hermitage adds a new Aqua Park on Percy Priest Lake. Designed by Wibbit Sports, the on-the-water play area features monkey bars, action towers, wiggle bridges, a balance slide, and jump. nashvilleshores.com
Aquatica San Antonio debuts the Taumata Racer, and high-speed, 375-foot racing water slide including a 180-degree turn and tunnel. Now open. aquaticasanantonio.com
Cinergy Entertainment Group opens a new location in Edinburg in summer. The new entertainment center features cinemas, bowling, multi-level laser tag, elevated ropes course, game floor, escape rooms, premium food offerings, full-service bar, multiple event rooms, reserved ticketing, luxury recliner seating, and the Cinergy Epic auditorium. cinergy.com
Crayola Experience opens its fourth location in Plano. Located at The Shops at Willow Bend the magic of Crayola comes to life in a one-of-a-kind attraction is where color, chemistry, and technology magically combine to create a colorful adventure for a child’s imagination. crayolaexperience.com/plano
Schulman’s Movie Bowl Grille adds a 6,000-square-foot location in Denison featuring dine-in movie theaters, 24 Brunswick bowling lanes, an interactive arcade and amusement center, multi-level high-definition laser tag center, full-service restaurant, and a 100,000-square-foot mixed-use retail center. moviebowlgrille.com
Sea Life Aquarium and Legoland Discovery Center opens at the Shops at Rivercenter in downtown San Antonio. The complex consists more than 65,000 square feet of interactive and educational attraction space. sanantonio.legolanddiscoverycenter.com
Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio opens “Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster,” a single-rail coaster that features a 90-degree drop, zero-G roll, and a 180-degree stall. sixflags.com/fiestatexas
Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington debuts “Harley Quinn Spinsanity,” a 24-seat gondola-style ride that delivers a combination of negative and positive gravitational forces as it twists and rotates on three separate axes in a continuous movement. sixflags.com/overtexas
Topgolf opens its 11th Texas location in Pharr, in the Rio Grande Valley. The 55,000-square-foot venue features self-scoring golf games using microchipped balls that score themselves, showing players the accuracy and distance of their shots instantly on a television screen in their hitting bay. topgolf.com/us/pharr
Urban Air Adventure Park, a trampoline park for all ages and fitness levels, opens two new locations in Killeen and Tyler. urbanairtrampolinepark.com
Busch Gardens Williamsburg debuts “Battle for Eire,” a virtual reality attraction featuring a fierce fairy warrior named Addie who leads riders on an adventure through her homeland of Ireland. Addie’s goal is to rescue the Heart of Eire, which represents the magic of Ireland, with a little help from park guests. seaworldparks.com/buschgardens-williamsburg
Kings Dominion near Richmond debuts “Twisted Timbers,” a hybrid roller coaster featuring a 109-foot barrel-roll drop, three loops, and 20 airtime moments. The 3,351 feet of steel track make some maneuvers possible that were previously unimaginable on a traditional wooden coaster. Now open. kingsdominion.com
Ocean Breeze Waterpark in Virginia Beach opens a new family raft water ride with a patriotic theme. Riders board four-person tubes at the top of a 70-foot platform before sliding into a dark, enclosed tunnel with a series of unpredictable twists, turns, and drops that lead to a thrilling and refreshing splashdown. oceanbreezewaterpark.com
Seattle’s Space Needle, one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks, is undergoing a 360-degree "spacelift." The new look includes a breathtaking, multi-level, floor-to-ceiling glass viewing experience. With nothing between guests and the view but seamless glass panels and innovative inclined glass benches, visitors will experience the intense feeling of floating on air above the beautiful Seattle landscape. The renovation includes the world's first and only glass rotating floor, lounge and unique dining experience. spaceneedle.com
Noah’s Ark Waterpark in Wisconsin Dells opens a new water slide named “Raja – The World’s Largest King Cobra.” Riders will race side-by-side on tubes from six stories up along more than 335 feet of twists and turns at speeds up to 30 mph, concluding with a 37-foot plunge into the mouth of a massive snake. noahsarkwaterpark.com
Sky Zone opens a new 22,000-square-foot trampoline park in Greenfield. Guests experience “Freestyle Jump,” “Foam Zone,” “Sky Slam,” and “Sky Hoops,” as well as “Ninja Warrior Course,” a “Challenge Zone” that includes jousting pits and an aerial ladder, “Free Climb,” a climbing wall and “Fusion Dodgeball,” a new take on a classic backyard game that uses a trampoline court system as its venue. skyzone.com/greenfield
Walibi in Wavre debuts a new family-friendly roller coaster. At its adjacent water park, Aqualibi the park opens a 700-square-meter aquatic playground for children. walibi.com/belgium/be-en
Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen introduces “Winter in Tivoli,” the historic amusement park’s first winter-season celebration in its 175th anniversary. Operating Feb. 2-25, the park opens an ice-skating rink, shops, and restaurants. Select park rides will operate during the event as well. “Chess – The Musical” will play in the Tivoli Concert Hall. tivoli.dk/en
Holiday Park in Haßloch opens the Maya the Bee indoor zone with experiences celebrating one of the park’s most popular characters. holidaypark.de/en
Legoland Deutschland Resort in Günzburg introduces “The Great Lego Race,” a ride transforming the “Project X” roller coaster into a virtual reality experience that takes riders through a rollicking race. Donning VR headsets and using Bluetooth technology the ride will sync the virtual visuals with the roller coaster’s twists, turns, drops and climbs, creating an all-new experience. legoland.de/en
Alton Towers in Staffordshire opens the “Wicker Man” wooden roller coaster, the park’s first new coaster since 2013 and the U.K.’s first new wooden roller coaster since 1997. The coaster will tower nearly six stories (57.57 feet/17.7 meters) over the park and include a fire-like element. Now open. altontowers.com
Blackpool Pleasure Beach in Blackpool, England, opens “Icon,” a coaster that propels thrill-seekers forward at high speeds at the start of the ride and at a second point halfway through the two-and-a-half-minute experience. blackpoolpleasurebeach.com/icon
Legoland Discovery Centre opens at the Arena Birmingham in Birmingham, England, featuring play areas and adventures including Miniland, an interactive city made of Lego bricks, a 4-D cinema, creative workshops with a master Lego builder, and “Kingdom Quest,” an interactive chariot ride. birmingham.legolanddiscoverycentre.co.uk
Peppa Pig World in Ower, Hampshire, England, debuts two new rides. “The Queen’s Flying Coach Ride” takes families on a tour around the newly extended part of Peppa Pig World and “Grampy Rabbit’s Sailing Club” which takes guests along a new water route to discover Pirate Island. paultonspark.co.uk/attractions/peppa-pig-world
Furuvik in Furuvik debuts “Spökjakten,” a dark ride that lets guests compete and collect points by scaring ghosts and other creatures. The park also opens Furuvik Havshotell, a 28-room seaside hotel and restaurant inspired by traditional yacht clubs and classic American boardwalk culture. furuvik.se/english
Liseberg in Gothenberg opens the “Valkyria” dive coaster featuring a vertical 50-meter drop. The ride climbs then pauses at the peak of the life hill briefly before plunging vertically into an underground tunnel at a speed of 105 kph. liseberg.com/en/home
Little Big City in Beijing is a new family attraction that features interactive, handcrafted miniature locations. It depicts iconic buildings and streets of Beijing city to scale along with special effects and cutting-edge multimedia technology to bring the world class city’s colorful history to life. The attraction also includes more than 6,500 miniature “locales,” created in detail from extensive historical research. merlinentertainments.biz/little-big-city
Universal Studios Japan in Osaka debuts “Final Fantasy XR Ride,” a virtual reality roller coaster. The attraction, based on the "Final Fantasy" video game franchise invites guests to don virtual reality headsets as they board airships to explore various "Final Fantasy" worlds. usj.co.jp/e
Legoland Malaysia Resort in Johor Bahru introduces “The Great Lego Race,” a ride transforming the “Project X” roller coaster into a virtual reality (VR) experience that takes riders through a rollicking race. Donning VR headsets and using Bluetooth technology the ride synchronizes the virtual visuals with the roller coaster’s twists, turns, drops, and climbs, creating an all-new experience. legoland.com.my
KidZania, a “mini-city” that allows children to role-play in more than 100 real-life occupations, opens in Heredia. From board member to baker and doctor to truck driver, kids can try their hand at real-life occupations. kidzania.com
Sharks continue to fascinate kids of all ages. Here are five ways to plan a family trip that incorporates sea-faring adventure and facilitates a greater understanding of our oceans and the creatures that live in the sea.
1. Summer of Shark, Princess Cruises.
If your crew is known to binge on the annual Shark Week programming, you’ll want to join the cruise line’s Discovery at SEA program, offered in partnership with the Discovery Channel, for a fully immersive experience honoring the great finned creatures. Expect elevators, restaurants and other public spaces decked out in shark style as well as themed events, culinary offerings and other shark-centric festivities.
Children and teens can head to the newly designed Camp Discovery where age-appropriate shark-themed activities will be underway, including shark face painting, the crafting of shark clay models and shark inspired jewelry. For those seeking more of an adrenaline rush, ask about the shark diving and whale shark encounters available during some sailings.
2. Cancun, MX.
Swimming with the largest fish in the sea is a thrill worth seeking. Whale sharks reach lengths of 40 feet and can weigh 15 tons. Despite their imposing presence, the gentle creatures peacefully share the warm seas with visitors who arrive via boat from the shores of nearby Cancún. Two at a time, along with a guide, you'll don a life jacket or wet suit and fins before jumping in for a swim with these plankton-slurping vegetarians. No touching is allowed (the mega-fish are considered a "vulnerable species") but you can swim alongside as they thrust forward their supersize square jaws and begin filtering everything in their path like a water-born vacuum cleaner.
Contact: cancun.travel; solobuceo.com.
3. Atlantis Resort. Paradise Island, Bahamas.
Slip, slide and walk among sharks at this expansive island resort where families have access to141 acres of adrenaline-pumping water play. Head for the Leap of Faith slide at the top of the Mayan Temple, plop in an inner tube and hang on for the ride. You’ll twist and turn through a tunnel, dropping almost 60 vertical feet, before emerging in a clear, acrylic tube deep within a shark-filled lagoon. For those who want to stay dry, panoramic windows offer views of Hammerheads, Reef Sharks and barracudas. The more adventuresome can don specially designed underwater helmets and walk with the sharks inside their exhibit.
4. Cabo San Lucas, MX.
Join the trip to Cabo Pulmo to experience 300 species of fish, 200 marine invertebrates as well as Bull Sharks in what is called the world’s most “robust and healthy marine reserve”. For the more adventuresome (and those over 15) consider the Cabo Shark dive that includes swimming with silky, blue, smooth hammerhead and mako sharks. The organization’s founder and professional shark dive guide, Jacopo Brunetti, is an Italian marine biologist, PADI scuba instructor, and a shark behavioral expert. His goal is to encourage shark viewing and diving as an eco-sustainable activity.
Learning to scuba dive is a great way to learn about sharks and other creatures of the deep blue sea. Tom and Margo Peyton, co-owners of Family Dive Adventures, advise families to choose family-friendly destinations where the water is warm, clear and there is no current. They often recommend Bonaire, Grand Cayman and St. Lucia for beginners and early diving practice. The company provides group and custom dive trips and has certified more than 5,500 children during the last two decades. Ask about Kids Sea Camp, during which children and their parents learn about sharks, manta rays and the latest in global marine conservation. Contact:
Resource: Check out the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week programming for a massive menu of documentaries, videos, shark cams, virtual dives and “fintastic” facts. Contact: www.Discovery.com.
Novelist and travel writer, Pico Iyer says, “We travel, initially to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and to learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate.
So be mindful of who we are, where we are going, what we are bringing with us and what we leave behind. Each and every day get up and ask yourself, why the hell not?
Be fearless. Be independent. Be bold. Out dream yourself and just go."
Girls – as in grandmothers, mothers, daughters, aunts, and nieces – are more likely than ever to "just go" and explore the world together.
That, according to multiple research reports that indicate an increasing number of women are seeking new adventures at home and abroad. Here are five to consider:
This global adventure travel company has recently launched a series of women-only expeditions in Morocco, Iran and Jordan, encouraging female empowerment and showcasing the traditions and routines of local women in each destination.
The itineraries, guided by female tour leaders, are designed to break the barriers of traditional tourism in these locations, offering a deeper understanding of female culture in each of three Middle Eastern nations. For example, travelers will have the option to visit a traditional hammam with local women in Morocco, spend time with a female shepherd in Jordan and experience the nomadic life of rural people in Iran.
Travel makes women feel on top of the world. - Trafalger*
As boomers check destinations and experiences off bucket lists, they are often eager to include other family members in their adventures. This, in part, has contributed to the significant rise in multigenerational travel. At active travel companies like Country Walkers, more women are joining their well-curated trips, often in the company of sisters, daughters and nieces. Immersive guided and self-guided walking and hiking adventures are possible in destinations from Iceland and Ireland to Zambia and New Zealand. The Travel Together program means a helpful consultant will coordinate the various needs, interests and requirements of family members. You’ll also garner savings when six or more join a guided walking adventure.
She believed she could, so she did. The vast majority of women believe traveling has made them more independent. - Trafalger*
In response to a significant increase in women booking their trips as well as requests for more cycling, walking, trekking and responsible wildlife tours, the 40 year old company has added itineraries they believe will help women of all ages and interests to push their own personal boundaries. Consider trips to China, Myanmar, Iran, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and beyond. The departures, which will include four to sixteen travelers, will be led by local female guides, creating more career opportunities for women across the globe.
Chebeague Island Inn, Chebeague, ME.
For those family members eager to reconnect or celebrate a special life event, a getaway to this island inn might fit the bill. It will be easy to unplug and focus on good conversation around a beach bonfire or while sipping a glass of wine aboard a classic schooner as your group sets sail in Casco Bay. Dine on fresh seafood and local ingredients harvested from the island farm or the garden behind the inn. Take in a yoga class on the lawn, ride bikes to the General Store for lunch or set out on island trails for a breath of fresh air.
Recent research revealed that when planning a trip, adventure outweighed luxury by 20% among the women surveyed. So why not channel your inner cowgirl, and gather the gals for a ranch-style getaway. From horseback riding and hiking to fishing and cattle rustling, a trip to the wide open spaces is sure to inspire the wild hearts in your group. If rustic isn’t right up your alley, there are plenty of ranch destinations where gourmet meals, yoga and spa treatments as well as luxury accommodations are on the menu.
* Award winning travel company, Trafalgar, recently conducted a survey of over 1,000 U.S. women to discover how travel both empowers and inspires women. The study illuminates all of the reasons #SHEGOES – with nearly three quarters of American women believing that travel makes them stronger and regardless of what’s happening in the world today – 86 percent of women continue to travel unafraid.
Maybe you’ve never heard of Snowbasin or Powder Mountain, two ski resorts a short drive east of Ogden, Utah.
But what about the Winter Olympics (you know, this year, the ones in PyeongChang)? You’ve heard of them, right? Back in 2002, Snowbasin hosted the downhill, super-G, and combined events for the Salt Lake City games.
And Powder’s claim to fame: It’s the largest ski resort in Utah, in terms of skiable acres (8,464) and the eighth largest ski resort in America, when measured by slope length.
Powder and Snowbasin are, as my dad likes to say, two peas in a pod because they’re in the same valley. But they are very different peas. One is more corporate, the other counter-culture. They look different and feel different, but they have the same sublime snow, plus Utah’s legendary outdoorsy vibe.
Looking for Powder Mountain and Snowbasin
If you can find them, that is. It’s a challenge for these resorts to compete with the flashier Park City area mountains. They’re not as close to Salt Lake City and they don’t have the million-dollar marketing budgets. This lack of hype could lead you to believe you’re in the middle of nowhere, when, in fact, you’re somewhere really special.
Which pretty much describes how I felt when we checked into our little place overlooking the Pineview Reservoir in Huntsville, Utah, about halfway between Snowbasin and Powder Mountain. It was surrounded by snowcapped mountains and seemed almost desolate, even though we were here at the height of ski season.
Of course, “Where are we?” also applied to our lives. When you’re constantly on the move, you wake up on some mornings and ask yourself, “Which state am I in, again?” Then you look out the window and see mountains and snow, and you say, “Oh, Utah.”
Riding up Powder Mountain
You can’t quite see Powder Mountain — or “PowMow” as the locals call it — from our place. The resort is accessible from nearby Eden by a narrow, winding road. A sign ominously warns motorists that chains are “required” during ski season, but on the day we drove up to PowMow, the roads were completely clear.
By the way, it’s true that this has been one of the worst ski seasons in memory as far as snow goes. No matter where we’ve visited — Colorado’s Wolf Creek, Purgatory, Crested Butte or Eldora — the snow has been uniformly disappointing. I wondered what a place that modestly calls itself Powder Mountain might be able to offer.
More than I thought, it turns out. Powder Mountain is enormous, but it also keeps its snow like a reservoir holds water. It breaks ski resort traditions in many ways. First, you drive up to the base and then ski down, like Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia. It also emphasizes quality over quantity, limiting lift ticket sales to 1,500 per day. This, the resort promises, ensures the lowest skier density of any major ski resort in North America.
PowMow’s runs are broad and gentle. Even the black diamond slopes — the most difficult ones — have a bluish tint, meaning they are not heart-stoppingly scary. Also, the average skier is, as my middle son would say, a dude. I’m talking jeans, last decade’s snowboard, long beard, and a headset playing the Grateful Dead. PowMow’s unofficial, somewhat revolutionary motto is “Powder to the People.”
And here’s something else you normally won’t find at an American ski resort: A snowcat, the kind used for grooming slopes, utilized instead to transport skiers from one ridge to another.
I didn’t have to imagine what this place would be like with good snow, because Powder Mountain had the best snow I’ve skied on all year. That’s what you get when you create a ski resort at the top of the Wasatch Mountain Range. Lots and lots of snow that sticks to the ground when everyone else has gone to the beach.
On the fixed-grip chairlift, a guy from Houston told us about the last powder day at PowMow, and I could swear those were tears in his eyes. Here, the snow is something like a religion.
Chasing Olympic dreams at Snowbasin
Snowbasin may share a valley with PowMow, but in many ways, feels like it’s on another continent. Sure, the snow is still great (I base this on two visits, one in February and the other in late March). But the slopes here are a little more serious.
There are two Olympic downhill runs. Have you ever stood at the top of a downhill run? Just take the Allen Peak Tram to the top and take a peek down Grizzly, the start of the men’s downhill course. It starts with a wall of snow that you basically plunge down, reaching speeds of 70 miles per hour. Even the slightest miscalculation can send you careening off the slope and to to the hospital. I made careful turns down that black-diamond slope until I reached the bottom.
Speaking of Olympics, Salt Lake City is making a bid for the 2030 games, which has the folks at Snowbasin excited. They can already envision the athletes coming back to the top of Allen Peak and competing again. That would be something.
Snowbasin is known for two other things: First, its base lodge is among the nicest in the west. It looks more like one of those upscale ranches in Wyoming than a ski lodge, with soaring ceilings, 360-degree fireplaces and gourmet food. And second — and this may come as a surprise — it offers some of the longest and most family-friendly runs I’ve ever been on. Try Elk Ridge, accessible from the Strawberry Gondola, for some pure carving pleasure.
Ah, and the views! Both Snowbasin and Powder Mountain have incredible vistas of the reservoir or of Ogden and Salt Lake City. But on a clear day, from the top of the Allen Peak, it’s said that you can see all the way to Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming.
I’m glad we landed here now, as the Olympics are underway. I can’t think of a more perfect time, or place.
You can read more about Christopher Elliott's family travel adventures at Away Is Home.
Crested Butte is Colorado's most serious ski resort. Seriously challenging, seriously scary -- and seriously fun.
The mountain's almost-vertical, double black diamond runs, most of them accessible from a T-bar lift, are in a class by themselves. (A T-bar? Haven't seen one of those in years.) These slopes will put the fear of God in you even if you're a lifelong skier.
And yet, the fun is serious, too. A series of much more forgiving blue and green runs are available for your kids, and there's no shortage of things to do in town, none of which involve you staring into a snowy abyss.
"I'm not going there"
Although Crested Butte is only a few miles over Italian Mountain from Aspen, Colorado's most high-profile ski area, it might as well be on a different planet. People don't come here to be seen, and there are no paparazzi tracking the few celebs who venture over the hill.
Instead, everyone is here to ski.
As soon as we picked up our lift tickets, we headed straight to the mountain.
We'd already skied two resorts in Southern Colorado, some of which presented us with challenging terrain. But this was different. Really different. After a warm-up run on the Red Lady Express, which has a lot of mellow runs perfect for families, we headed over to the Silver Queen Express, a quad that services some of Crested Butte's steepest terrain.
The last few hundred feet of Silver Queen are almost pure vertical, and you get the sense that coming down might be a chayllenge.
"OK, kids," I said to my two boys, ages 13 and 15. "Playtime's over."
Skiing down Triangle, a single black diamond run, demanded our full attention. But after a fresh snowfall, the mountain face was manageable. Then my middle son, Iden, made a turn and headed for the trees -- rated the most difficult terrain -- lured by ungroomed boulder-size moguls and cliff-like steepness, and ...
"I'm not going down there," his older brother declared.
Fortunately, you can change your mind and live to tell the tale. We pivoted on our skis and came down International, another black diamond run.
Wendy saves the day.
The next day we met up with Wendy Fisher, a former Olympic athlete and X-Games competitor who offers ski clinics to people who might find the mountain a little intimidating. Yeah, that would be us.
After just one trip down an easy run, Fisher diagnosed our problem: We were leaning too far back on our skis, which tires you out quickly and limits your ability to control your skis, especially on the steeps.
Fisher is part mountain guide, part storyteller, part instructor. She has an encyclopedic knowledge of Crested Butte, is happy to regale you with stories of the 1992 Winter Olympics, and is eager to offer tips on improving your form. Iden, the fastest skier in our group, learned how to regain control even when zipping down the hill. Fisher showed Aren, our most cautious skier, how to relax a little and enjoy his runs.
And me? Well, I had years and years of bad habits to overcome. I tend to ski with both my legs glued together. In German, it's called "wedeln." Fisher showed me how to trust my equipment, keep my legs apart, and let gravity do more of the work.
Thanks to Fisher, we spent the next few days skiing every open run -- yep, even those seriously hard black diamonds. Thanks, Wendy.
About that fun ...
There's much more to Crested Butte than its legendary slopes. After two days of intense skiing, we got off the mountain and headed into town. We met up with Nel Burkett, curator of the Crested Butte Heritage Museum, who took us on a walk through the historic downtown and then offered a brief tour of the museum. It's funny, but when I asked the kids what they remembered, they said, "That's the town where all the buildings burned down." True, more than a few buildings on the tour had burned to the ground at some point in history.
Crested Butte has a fascinating history as a coal mining town and a center for environmental activism, and there's still an interesting mix of money and idealism here. You can find impressive, million-dollar mansions in the hills, but you can also run into a few old-timers who live more modestly. And you can visit shops and hole-in-the-wall restaurants that remind you more of a college town like Berkeley, Calif.
Speaking of restaurants, there are more than a few tasty choices here. Our favorites included Teocalli Tamale, with its generous burritos and a library of palate-blowing hot sauces. And there's Secret Stash, which claims to have the best pizza in the world. Who am I to disagree? For a more formal dining experience, try the Magic Meadows Yurt, which involves a brisk snowshoe walk through the woods to a backcountry cabin heated by a wood-burning stove, with live music and a five-course meal prepared by a private chef.
At the end of the day, we always found ourselves out in the snow and cold. Crested Butte is one of the coolest places in Colorado, thanks to high mountains that pull freezing air into the valley. On a clear, subzero night, trudging through the fresh powder, we looked up and marveled at a thousand stars bracketed by dark mountains.
Crested Butte may be a serious resort, but at that moment I couldn't wipe the grin off my face. I think it was frozen in place.
One of the hottest trends in travel is EAT vacations. We’re not talking about tours with celebrity chefs. Rather, families are looking for trips that provide memorable Experiences, real Adventure and Transformative moments.
Here are five ideas that may fit the bill.
1. Discover Palau.
Located in the westernmost corner of Micronesia, Palau, an archipelago of more than 586 islands, consistently ranks as one of the world's best dive destinations. Pay off for the lengthy travel time includes 1,450 species of fish, 500 species of coral as well as rare sharks and stingrays.
You may have heard about the opportunity to snorkel amidst the moon and golden jellies of Jellyfish Lake. For now, the lake is closed to snorkelers while the environment recovers from complications of drought. It is still possible to hike around the 12,000-year-old marine lake where scores of gelatinous creatures waft through the water following the arc of the sun.
When not diving, snorkeling or kayaking through the turquoise waters tap into the country's considerable WWII history that incudes sunken ships and planes.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
Fans of the Tomb Raider film series will particularly enjoy exploring the Angkor Archeological Park, unfolding deep within the Siem Reap province. While hundreds of archeological and artistic temples and ancient structures remain, the most familiar (it’s on the Cambodian flag) is Angkor Wat. Built in the 12th century to honor Vishnu, a Hindu God, the temple's bas relief galleries inform modern visitors of life in ancient times.
Also of note is the remarkable water system, including moats, canals and reservoirs, that once provided water and crop assistance for the thriving communities. Visitors arrive via river cruises on the Mekong or a stop in Siem Riep where lodging and tours are plentiful.
Choose your backcountry.
For an EAT trifecta, establish a pure connection with nature, off the beaten path. Hike, paddle or float into a pristine location where your family can learn or hone their 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 is early research, carrying a small pack, collecting kindling or serving as master storyteller around the fire.
For the youngest set, get started with an overnight in the backyard or a nearby park. That way, should the weather or unforeseen forces create a kink in your plan, warm and dry shelter is nearby.
Contact: www.Backcountry.com; www.NPS.gov ; www.Huts.org
The Dalí Museum. St. Petersburg, FLA
The budding artist in your clan will be transformed by a visit to this 66,450-square-foot museum that houses the most comprehensive collection of Salvador Dali’s works in the world. Enjoy the priceless collection of masterpieces, paintings, photographs, watercolors and books sure to inspire the whole family.
Younger children will enjoy the “Dillydally with Dali” program offered daily, which includes puzzles, games, story hour and creative expression. Be there on the first Saturday of the month, for Breakfast With Dali, a morning that includes a junior-focused tour, followed by a buffet breakfast. Children under five are admitted free.
Boundary Waters Canoe Trips. Ely, MN.
Ease your canoes into the pristine water and look forward to peaceful days of paddling amidst a sparsely populated, one million-plus acre expanse of wilderness. Listen to the waves lapping against the shoreline and the haunting lullaby offered by local loons as you drift to sleep in one of 2,000 secluded campsites that dot the lake region. Wake to the sounds of birds chirping in the birch trees and enjoy breakfast over a campfire. Then set out to explore more of the 1,500 miles of canoe routes that crisscross the waterways.
Warm up to the wonders of winter adventure. Here are five, high energy family travel ideas to consider:
1. Juneau, AK.
Visit this world-class winter destination and trade long lines and crowded restaurants for endless views and pristine solitude.
Pop on your skis and put things in perspective as you glide across Mendenhall Glacier Lake. With a massive glacier as your backdrop, your whole family will enjoy speeding across the flat terrain while taking in some of the most majestic scenery imaginable. Check out the groomed Nordic trails at Eaglecrest, a community-owned ski resort on Douglas Island just minutes from Juneau.
The most adventuresome families will find challenging terrain and untouched routes along with insider knowledge through experienced heli-skiing operators in the area.
2. Yellowstone National Park.
Discover the magic of our first National Park cloaked in her winter finery. New snowfall serves as the perfect backdrop for a Nordic adventure to a steaming backcountry geyser, a snowshoe around Old Faithful or wildlife viewing in the Lamar Valley. Venture to and from your overnight at the Snow Lodge via snow coach, stopping enroute to observe animals on the move, icy waterfall formations and the evening alpenglow on the mountains. Guided adventure and snowmobile tours are available.
3. Winter Park, CO.
Explore more than 60 miles of groomed trails on skate skis when you visit this family favorite in the Colorado Rockies. In addition to making the most of free skiing lessons offered by the Nordic Center at the YMCA of the Rockies’ Snow Mountain Ranch, expect good times ice skating, playing broomball, tubing, sledding, and creating arts and crafts. Get cozy for story time, with hot chocolate and s’mores by the fire. Contact: www.ymcarockies.org. www.visitGrandCounty.com ; www.Colorado.com.
4. McCall, ID.
Bring your favorite furry friends for a day of outdoor fun in this forested mountain town located two hours north of Boise. Dogs are welcome on Nordic trails in several locations throughout McCall, where views of Payette Lake are paired with fresh air and contagious enthusiasm for adventure. At Jug Mountain Ranch, discover the Lyle Nelson Nordic & Snowshoe Trail system, designed by the local Olympian. Skate ski tracks for all abilities send explorers through open meadows and pine scented forests. Fido will enjoy romping through the snow as you and the family navigate trails at the Tamarack Resort, where lessons and guided tours are also available.
5. Kingfield, ME.
Explore more than 80 miles of trails via cross-country skis or on snowshoes in the backcountry of western Maine. Enjoy your off-the-grid adventure by day and then relax in a comfortable hut over night where a warm bed and tasty meals await. Considered “boutique hostels”, the huts, run by a non-profit organization, feature state of the art green energy systems that generate and store their own power. Make tracks from hut-to-hut on your own or with a guide. Contact: www.mainehuts.org
A great read for kids to go with your winter adventures!
Winter months provide the opportunity to enjoy festivals and gatherings that celebrate all things icy and cold.
Here are five places where you can chill out with carvers, climbers and history makers:
Ouray, CO –
This southwestern Colorado mountain town, known for its picturesque jagged peaks, is home to one of the country’s premiere ice festivals. Competitors of all levels, climbing companies and spectators gather for the event and the opportunity to demo the latest ice tools, apparel and gear. Family members can access dozens of interactive and educational climbing clinics through out the festival. For many, the highlight is watching the world’s best ice and mixed climbing experts battle for the top prize.
The Annual Whitefish Winter Carnival kicks off with the coronation of a king and queen, followed by a Penguin Plunge (a hole is cut into Whitefish Lake and participants take a dip to raise funds for charity). Visitors are welcomed by mountain men, penguins and Viking divas, otherwise known as the costume-clad volunteers who share stories and point the curious toward the old-fashioned Main Street parade, an ice sculpting contest, a kid’s carnival, a pie social and a pancake breakfast. You can also expect a torch-light ski parade, ski-joring, cross-country ski races, and a figure skating demonstration. The festivities are open to the public and most are free.
Washington Crossing Reenactment, Bucks County, PA.
George Washington’s daring 1776 Christmas Day crossing of the Delaware River and defeat of the opposing troops in Trenton is considered an important turn of events in the Revolutionary War. This historic scene is reenacted twice during December, as thousands gather on the banks of the Delaware River to garner a glimpse of the past. Witness participants, clad in Continental military dress, listen to “George Washington’s” inspiring speech, before he leads them across the icy river in replica Durham boats.
Stowe, VT -
The Annual Stowe Winter Carnival offers a seasonal wonderland of family fun. Expect kooky sporting events, ice carving competitions, ski movies, Kids Carnival Kaos and Snowgolf and Snowvolleyball tournaments. Tour the Northern Vermont town, while watching professional ice carvers manifest clever Ice creations throughout the village. The Vail Resorts Epic Pass now offers unlimited, unrestricted access to Stowe Mountain Resort.
Contact: ; www.stowewintercarnival.com
Aspen, Co –
With a nod to the town’s Nordic heritage, local Aspenites began celebrating the popular winter festival, Wintersköl in 1951. Surrounded by the peaks of the Elk Mountains, visitors celebrate the “toast to snow” with four days of festivities including a quirky canine fashion show, torchlight ski parades, a soup cook-off as well as broomball and fat biking competitions. Make time for downhill and cross-country skiing as well as shopping, dining and spa time.