Lynn O'Rourke Hayes

Lynn O'Rourke Hayes

Kids and their parents know it’s cool to be smart.

Here are five places that will supercharge your family’s brainpower.

Exploratorium. San Francisco, CA. 

More than 600 exhibits housed on 3.3 acres will encourage every member of the family to see the world differently. The 40-year-old, 21st century learning lab encourages creativity and “tinkering” as a means of expanding our perceptions. Young children and toddlers are engaged by shadow, light, bubbles and color as a means of exploration and discovery. Kids can create a marble machine, study plankton populations, or check out an “upside down world” at a new location on Pier 15.

Contact: (415) 528-4444;

The Living Planet Aquarium. Draper, UT.  

This home to underwater adventure was created by a marine biology major turned biochemist, who was inspired to share the mysteries of the seas with children in his land-locked home state of Utah, The popular Living Planet Aquarium will reboot in a new and expanded location in December. When the doors reopen, kids can learn all about sharks, rays, seahorses, piranha and Gentoo penguins in an interactive environment.

Contact: 801-355-FISH (3474); 

Explora Children’s Museum.  Albuquerque, NM.

How do you make a green chile pepper appear black? Find out during a visit to this family-friendly museum that mixes art and science to spur creativity and discovery within the worlds of physics, math, biology and beyond.  Kids can also use their own bodies to study the concepts of ratio and proportion in the Math Moves exhibit. 

Contact: (505) 224-8300;

The Dalí Museum. St. Petersburg, FLA

Plan a family visit to the 66,450-square-foot permanent home of the most comprehensive collection of Salvador Dali’s works in the world. Enjoy the priceless collection of masterpieces, paintings, photographs, watercolors and books. 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. Beginning in January, 2014, the museum will host an expansive exhibit of the work of Andy Warhol.  Children under five are admitted free.  

Contact: 1-800-442-DALI (3254);;

Baltimore Aquarium Family Travel

National Aquarium.  Baltimore, MD. 

Did you know that an octopus has a highly developed brain and is a master of camouflage?  Collect the details before you check out Black Tip Reef, a coral filled exhibit replicating Indo-Pacific underwater landscapes. The kids will love their visit with bottlenose dolphins where they’ll also observe training, feeding and playtime with trainers. Before days’ end discover the importance of jellyfish, observe sharks in an open tank and see more than 500 exotic species in an Atlantic Coral Reef Exhibit.

Contact: 410-576-3800;

Spa stays provide healthy options for multigenerational bonding, parent-child getaways or the chance to catch up with adult siblings in a relaxing environment.

Here are five destinations to consider:

Miraval Resort & Spa, Tucson, AZ 

Gather the clan for a multigenerational spa-centered trip to this desert oasis where yoga and meditation classes are paired with inspiring life balance lectures. Embark on early morning guided hikes into the desert, learn life lessons during an equine immersion and cast off your fears during the Desert Tightrope session. Relax by the pool or in the hot tub before and after spa treatments that might include hot river stones or ginger lime salt scrubs.

For those interested in a glimpse of the future, sessions with psychic Maggie Garbarini are offered monthly.  Healthy, locally sourced meals and a juice bar provide sustenance for your endeavors.

Contact: 800-232-3969; Miraval Life in Balance

Guerlain spa New York Waldorf

Auriga Spa, Capella Pedrigal Resort. Cabo San Lucas, MX.

Check into one of 96 rooms or suites on 24 sundrenched acres. Then tune in to the rhythm of nature with a new series of spa offerings at this stunning 10,000 square foot spa overlooking the sea.  Signature treatments and other spa amenities, including welcome drinks and foot baths, are aligned with the lunar cycle. For example, during the Full Moon, treatments are designed to assist guests in rising to their full potential.

Josephina, a local healer, uses traditional herbs and rituals to maximize the healthy energy within the spa.  Further connect while relaxing at one of several pools, strolling on the beach, participating in cooking classes and dining on fresh seafood at the Cliffside El Farrallon, as waves crash upon the rocks below.

Contact: 877-247- 6688;   

Well & Being at Willow Stream Spa. Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.

Check in with a loved one and then check out the innovative treatments and programs ranging from Aerial Hammock Yoga to Grotto waterfall hydrotherapy. With a focus on whole health transformation, nutrition and indigenous ingredients, you can get scrubbed, wrapped, rubbed, purified and acupunctured while learning new tips and strategies for healthier and more energetic living. Later, enjoy dive in movies or fish in one of three onsite lagoons.

Contact: (480) 585-4848  

Chaa Creek Spa Family Travel

The Lodge and Spa at Chaa Creek.  San Ignacio, Belize.

Tucked within a 365-acre private rainforest paradise in the picturesque foothills of the Maya Mountains, Chaa Creek and its hilltop spa provide a natural setting to explore indigenous relaxation and healing rituals.  As tropical birds serenade nearby, settle in for mineral rich mud treatments or locally sourced herbal wraps. Don’t miss the onsite Blue Morpho Butterfly Farm and the medicine trail where you’ll learn more about the native plants that provide globally significant remedies. 

Contact: (877) 709-8708; .

Sit on a dock. Watch the waves roll in.

Here are five ways you can take a bay vacation.

1 Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.

The largest estuary in the United States is 200 miles long and bordered by the Susquehanna River on the North and the Atlantic Ocean on the south. Visitors to Maryland and Virginia will find their way to the bay for kayaking, sailing, windsurfing and feasting on the region’s famous blue crabs, oysters and clams. Stay in Annapolis — home of the U.S. Naval Academy as well as restaurants, shops and museums — or in one of dozens of small, historic towns that dot the shoreline.


Bay of Fundy, Canada.

You’ll find this stretch of water on the northeast end of the Gulf of Maine between the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Known as home to the highest tidal range in the world, you’ll learn about what it means when the seawater flow from one tide cycle equals the combined flow of the world’s freshwater rivers. Expect a dramatic coastline with scenic hiking trails, national and provincial parks, lighthouses and cozy harbors. Visit museums and artist studios and feast on a bounty of local seafood.

Contact: 1-800-895-1177;

San Francisco Bay.

What is being called the world’s largest light sculpture now shines nightly above the famous bay that shelters one of the country’s most exuberant cities. As part of a 75th anniversary celebration, the 1.8-mile west span of the Bay Bridge has been dressed up with 25,000 LED lights that will entertain locals and visitors for the next two years. The public art installation, designed by Leo Villareal, can be turned on and off from his laptop and gives new life to the span that has long played second fiddle to the flashier Golden Gate Bridge nearby. The free light show is visible from boat tours, parks and restaurants along the shoreline.


Biscayne Bay, Florida.

 In 1513, Juan Ponce de Leon sailed into what he called a “bright, great bay.” He would certainly be in awe of how the region has developed. The largest estuary on the coast of southeastern Florida is now home to the Port of Miami and Biscayne National Park, and it is a popular location for sailing, boating, snorkeling, fishing, sunbathing and swimming. A visit to this sunny destination offers families the chance to blend the best that nature has to offer with the big-city vibe and variety of Miami.


Half Moon Bay, California.

This small California enclave is an ideal spot for a relaxing getaway. Appreciate the surf crashing on a craggy coastline. Visit the historic main street for shopping, galleries and restaurants where nearby farms showcase their fresh offerings. The state’s magnificent redwood forest is a short drive away. There, you and your family can hike and picnic under the canopy of awe-inspiring trees. Stay in small seaside inns or more luxurious cliff-side digs.


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Where will you venture this year?

What sounds appealing? A warm, sandy beach? An active, alpine adventure? Here are seven ideas to consider as your family plans for the year ahead.

1. Consider Costa Rica.

More than a quarter of this Central American country is composed of natural and conserved territory, making it an extraordinary destination for nature lovers. Surfers give the richly diverse nation top marks as do adventure lovers who visit the small country for river rafting, hiking, biking, canopy tours and volcano watching.

Families can take advantage of wildlife or culturally-focused volunteer vacations, clan-friendly resorts and beachside boutique accommodations. Pura vida, the local’s friendly attitude and approach to life, provides a hospitality-rich backdrop.


Visit Alaska in 2014

2. Amazing Alaska.

Still America’s last frontier, our 49th state offers year round adventure for families.  Scope for whale tails while cruising the Inside Passage, celebrate more than 100 years of sled dog racing on the Iditarod Trail or explore the far reaches of Denali National Park. Learn about Alaska’s native culture, hike and bike in the backcountry or make wildlife watching the centerpiece of your adventure. A favorite among anglers, wade the state’s rivers and streams and you’ll return home with amazing fish stories and pictures to prove your prowess.  A free vacation planner is available to help get you started.


float the grand canyon in 2014

3. Float The Grand Canyon.

Whether you travel by raft or dory, for a few days or a few weeks, the majesty of the Grand Canyon may well provide a transformative experience, as it does for many visitors.  This national treasure stretches 277 miles across northern Arizona, and plays host to more than five million visitors each year.  From your craft on the Colorado River, geologically diverse canyon walls rise as high as 9,000 feet toward the western sky. Hike the side canyons, plow through storied rapids, relax on sandy beaches and revel in the grandeur of one of nature’s finest accomplishments. You’ll want to go back for more.


4. Cruise the Caribbean. 

Now rated fourth in the country in cruise traffic, the addition of Galveston as an important point of departure, offers sea-faring travelers expanded opportunities.  Four cruise companies – Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Disney and Princess – offer itineraries ranging from four to eight nights on board ships bustling with activity and entertainment.

Cruise companies eager to lure parents with young children as well as multigenerational clans, provide a smorgasbord of kid-thrilling options ranging from wave machines and super slides to teen lounges and zip lines. Deals abound, particularly for those with flexible dates.


Four Seasons Serengeti

5. African Safaris. 

Multigenerational families celebrating a “milestone moment” are among those seeking the excitement and adventure found on safari.  And more tour operators, eager to capture this growing segment of the market, are creating itineraries that cater to both ends of the age spectrum. The chance to observe a lion stalking his prey, a wildebeest migration or to learn the customs of the Masaii people are experiences more families are putting at the top of their lists.

Contact:;; ;

6. The Bahamas.

You’ll find grand resorts in a bustling enclave as well as small getaways on tiny spits of sand just 50 miles off the coast of Florida.  Choose your preferred environment from among 700 islands surrounded by crystal clear water and the world’s third largest barrier reef. Visions of snorkeling, fishing, ecotours, horseback riding, boating or just relaxing on soft, sandy beaches will provide plenty to compel your family to consider a visit to this breathtaking archipelago. 


Ski Keystone with kids 2014

7. Get some altitude!

Are you ready to embrace winter sports? 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 sleigh headed to cozy cabin where you and your family can savor supper served fireside.



Furnace Creek Resort

Put Death Valley National Park and the Oasis at Death Valley (formally the Furnace Creek Resort) on your family vacation list and you’ll return home amazed by the sometimes startling natural wonders, astounding vistas and western charm you’ve discovered.

From our country’s low point at Badwater to neighboring mountains rising more than 11,000 feet from the desert floor, the local landscape will leave you and your family forever changed by the beauty of its memory.

You’ll also have loads of fun exploring via jeep, horseback, bike, golf cart and horse-drawn wagon.

fc colorful beauty shot of buildings

The family-friendly and historic Oasis at Death Valley Resort is an ideal vantage point from which to explore Death Valley National Park, a land of striking contrasts.

fc color texture beauty shot desert

This sparsely populated landscape is rich in natural beauty. Rolling sand dunes provide color and texture amid a dramatic silence. Death Valley is the largest national park outside Alaska. 

fc pool at ranch

Providing contrast to the desert surroundings, families enjoy time in the spring-fed swimming pools. The Ranch at Death Valley offers accommodations in a casual, family-like setting on western-themed grounds, a nod to its origin in the 1800s as a working ranch.

fc deathvalleyencampment

Visions of California gold-hued riches fueled the intrepid explorers who crossed the rugged terrain of Death Valley aboard wagon trains in 1849. Each November, modern day travelers can relax in comfort while learning about the hardships the early pioneers endured.

Guests at both the Oasis at Death Valley and the Ranch can take part in the annual 49ers Encampment that celebrates the historic trek with gold panning, a western art show, music , a “pampered pet” parade and the colorful arrival of a wagon train and riders on horseback.

fc better photographer

Vast salt flats create a cracked mosaic across the desert floor providing mesmerizing photographic opportunities. Badwater,  17 miles south of the resort, is the lowest spot in the Western Hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level.

fc dantes view

From Dante's viewpoint, more than 5,000 feet up in the Black Mountains, you can see across most of 110-mile-long Death Valley. About an hour from the Inn, the vista provides a unique overview of the sites you might choose to explore more closely. 

fc pool

Built in 1927, the historic 66-room Inn sits aside a mineral stream that meanders across the property and warms the swimming pool to a comfy 85°F. 

fc treelined road

This scenic pathway on the Oasis at Death Valley property provides shaded cover for hikers, bikers and those who enjoy a horse-drawn wagon ride. 

fc stables

Kids ( and their parents ) love exploring the unique region via horseback. 

fc road view

The resort, ( pictured in the distance ) is located in a desert oasis where mountain run-off from the Funeral Mountains flows. The average high temperature in November is 76ºF with very little humidity. The park averages less than two inches of rain per year.

fc score card 2

At 214 feet below sea level, the rolling 18-hole, par 70 course is the world’s lowest elevation golf course. Palm trees frame the fairways and majestic mountains provide arresting vistas throughout the course.  Water comes into play on nine holes and multiple sets of tees provide a challenge for every member of the family.

fc palm trees with view


Photos by Lynn O'Rourke Hayes

Get the latest on what's happening at one of our favorite Southern California resorts.

An epidemic.

That is what health and medical experts call the rising number of children and teens who fall into the obese or overweight category.

More than one third of our country’s children are at early risk for diseases most often associated with adulthood. That means high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even stroke. The financial impact of this trend is a sobering $14 billion per year in direct health care costs alone. The psychosocial consequences can plague these children academically and socially.

During National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and all year long, you can make a difference. Set a good example. Spread the word about the importance of eating sensibly, avoiding tobacco and embracing an active lifestyle.

When making weekend or travel plans include active pursuits. Hike, bike, kayak or ride horseback.

If you love history or theatre you will enjoy seeing important events in our nation’s past come to life.

It is also a great way to share stories of the past with the kids.

For example, the 49ers Encampment will soon get underway in Death Valley, CA. 

A yoga practice can be an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

Many resorts and destinations  offer special programs and classes to entice families to participate in this beneficial practice.

Check out these places where you can get your om on: 

1. Sandos Caracol Eco Resort & Spa.  Riviera Maya, MX.

This seaside all-inclusive resort is organized into three zones, one of which is designed for families. An aqua park, kids club and water sports center provide plenty of compelling activities for young travelers of all ages. Complimentary mini yoga takes place near one of the property’s preserved cenotes, a location deemed sacred to the Mayan people. The classes are designed to encourage youngsters to recognize their roots in the earth and to maintain that connection to the natural world.

Contact: 1 (866) 336-4083; 

2. Yoga For The Peaceful. Crested Butte, CO.

This family-owned business, located on Crested Butte’s eclectic main street offers a range of yoga classes in a cozy studio that is a reflection of the local community.  Green and offering support to local grassroots organizations, you will also find a small boutique and news about local happenings, retreats and workshops. 

Contact: 970- 349-0302;

3. JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa. Scottsdale, AZ.

Have you or your family members experienced yoga in a teepee? You’ll get your chance when you check into this historic, 427-room Scottsdale resort. Located in the foothills of Mummy Mountain, you’ll channel a peaceful Native American vibe during your practice. Later, enjoy the desert vistas, hop on a mountain bike or take in a nature hike before cooling off in one of the property’s picturesque pools.

Contact: 1-480-948-1700;

4. Life Path Spa. Canandaigua, NY

The combination of fresh air and gentle, slow-paced Hatha Yoga is an ideal way to start the day during a family getaway. The Yoga on the Dock classes take place at water’s edge in Bristol Harbour on Canandaigua Lake. While in residence, enjoy guided nature walks where views of waterfalls and lakes will inspire as well as fitness classes and traditional spa services.

Contact: 585-919-6221;

5. Ocean Club Resort. Providenciales, Turks & Caicos Islands.

The white sand beaches of Grace Bay will serve as your launching point as you embark on one of the hottest new fitness trends on the planet. Trading your yoga mat for a stand-up paddleboard means you’ll be putting your core muscles to work as you breathe in the salty sea air and perform poses, balancing against the gentle rocking of the sea. Warmed by the sun, you’ll welcome the occasional splash into the turquoise waters as you and the gang practice downward dogs and forward bends afloat.

Contact: 1-800-457-8787; 

6. New to Yoga?

More than 2,000 yoga studios across the country are willing to help you and your family get started by offering one week of free classes.  Choose to partake at home or in a new destination.

Either way, the program, offered by the Yoga Health Foundation as part of the National Yoga Awareness Campaign, is designed to introduce more people to the health and wellness benefits of the practice.


Looking for yoga gear?

In her book Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure, writer Patricia Ellis Herr relates the adventures and lessons learned as she and her young daughter summited 48 of New Hampshire’s highest peaks. Your goals might be a little less lofty, but here are five ways you and your family can enjoy peak experiences:

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