Lynn O'Rourke Hayes

Lynn O'Rourke Hayes

Set within the turquoise waters and world renowned coral reefs surrounding Key Largo, Florida, the Ocean Reef Club's OR SEA Diving Camp offers families an opportunity to discover the wonders of the world-famous Carysfort Reef, once navigated by famous undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau.

This weeklong camp gives junior divers, ages 12 to 17, the chance to become PADI certified with lessons hosted by experienced instructors on the waters of the Atlantic. Participants will explore local ship wrecks and beautiful undersea life. Though Ocean Reef Club is a private, member-owned community, the camp is open to non-members. Check for updated schedules and pricing.

Many camps at Ocean Reef Club offer overnight options for an additional cost, which includes dinner, evening activities and accommodations in dormitory-style housing with their peers. Parents are invited to partake in the summer fun while the little ones are enrolled in camp with well-appointed accommodations at the oceanfront Inn available (children can also stay with parents). Parents will enjoy access to the many activities and facilities that Ocean Reef Club members enjoy, including dive trips through on-site Cristal Clear Charters.

Home to two state parks, a national park, and a national marine sanctuary, Key Largo boasts some of the most fascinating botanical scenery in the state of Florida.

For more information: www.OceanReef.com.

The sound disturbed me on some primal level. Deep, mournful, incessant. Mother cows calling out for their young calves. Separated by fencing, the pairs would not be reunited until the day’s branding ritual was completed.

I remember that Saturday like it was yesterday, the day I attended my first neighborhood branding. New to Montana, everything about the process was unfamiliar.

These exhibits, tours and thrill rides will make for fun and adventure-filled family travel memories.  Here are five to consider:

1.Indiana Jones Exhibit, Montreal, Canada.

The National Geographic Society and Canadian production company X3 have teamed up (with the cooperation of George Lucas) to create the 10,000 square foot, Indiana Jones Adventures in Archaeology interactive exhibit. Premiering now through September 18, 2011 at the Museum of Science in Montreal, kids of all ages will be mesmerized by the wealth of enchanting items that make up the expansive collection. See your favorite Indy film props and set designs made available by Lucas Films. Embark on an interactive tour that explores the compelling myths of the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant. Children will enjoy the interactive quest game that tests their skills while they move throughout the exhibition. Consider opting for the handheld multimedia guide that allows visitors to skip sections and spend more time where their interest is most intense.

Contact: www.indianajonestheexhibition.com; www.tourisme-montreal.org.

2. The Ride. New York, NY.

Board the super-sized tour bus, which uses stadium-style seating facing the sidewalk, to provide participants with a wide angle view of the streetscape. During its first summer season, expect high-energy tour guides, street performers, and plenty of surprises. The 4.2 mile, 75 minute trip, which showcases the pulsing city from Times Square to Grand Central to Central Park, is part theatre, part comedic improv and part informational tour. The experience continues to evolve and on any given day may include jugglers performing on the sidewalk or a “businessman” who suddenly breaks into song and dance while standing on the street corner. The Ride departs from the Marriott Marquis at Times Square.

Contact: 866-299-9682; www.experiencetheride.com.

3. Disney’s California Adventure, Anaheim, California.  Fans of Disney movie heroine Ariel will want to check out the Voyage of the  Little  Mermaid at Disney’s California Adventure theme park. Its opening in Paradise Pier was part of a five year, $1.1 billion expansion of this park that includes other new attractions and an evening program. The musical, underwater adventure begins when guests board a car resembling a large clam shell. The adventure is inspired by the major scenes and popular songs from the movie.

Contact: (714) 781-4400; http://disneyland.disney.go.com/

4. Alabama Adventure, Bessemer, Alabama.

This southern, family-friendly theme park features super-soaker BuzzSaw Falls. Cool off as you plunge five stories through a watery chute and finish with a splash that drenches riders and watchers. The theme park offered a prize to the consumer who came up with the best name for the new ride. The winner chose to remain anonymous and the prize, which includes full season pass privileges, has been donated to the local Ronald McDonald house. Ask about the park’s concert series and the Family Four pack savings.

Contact: 205-481-4750; www.AlabamaAdventure.com.

5. Holiday World, Santa Claus, Indiana.

Junior theme park goers were the focus of $5.2 million worth of new projects at this 100-acre Midwestern Park. Visit Splashland where body slides, shallow pools and other water play facilities will delight toddlers and young school age children. A  sleigh ride, Rudolph’s Round-up, located in the park’s Christmas area, is custom designed for young children to ride with older park goers. Also: free Wi-Fi hot spots throughout the park.

Contact: 1-877-Go-Family; www.HolidayWorld.com.

Generic_120x60

Each year, AAA predicts that millions of Americans will travel this holiday weekend. While this three-day stretch often serves as a grand opportunity to spend quality family time, how often, during our road trip or beach time, do we recall and honor the origin of Memorial Day?

Here, find some background about the origin and birthplace of this important day:

On May 5, 1868, the Grand Army of the Republic established Memorial Day or Decoration Day as the national day to decorate the graves of the Civil War soldiers with flowers. Major General John A. Logan appointed May 30 as the day to be observed. Arlington National Cemetery had the first observance of the day on a grand scale. The place was appropriate as it already housed graves of over 20,000 Union dead and several hundred Confederate dead. Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant presided over the meeting.

The center point of these Memorial Day ceremonies was the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion. Speeches were followed by a march of soldiers' children and orphans and members of the GAR through the cemetery strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves. They also recited prayers and sang hymns for the dead.

Even before this declaration, local observances were being held at various places. In Columbus, Miss., a group of women visited a cemetery on April 25 1866, to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers and the Union soldiers who fell at the battle of Siloh.

Many cities in the North and the South claim to be the first to celebrate Memorial Day, but Congress and President Lyndon Johnson officially declared Waterloo in New York as the 'birthplace' of Memorial Day in 1966. It was said that on May 5, 1866, a ceremony was held there to honor local soldiers and sailors who fought in the Civil War. Businesses were closed for the day and residents furled flags at half-mast. It was said to be the first formal, community-wide and regular event.

In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by Congress, who designated the last Monday in May as the day for its observance. Many states observe separate Confederate Memorial Days. Mississippi observes it on the last Monday of April, Alabama on the fourth Monday of April, Georgia on April 26, North and South Carolina on May 10 and Louisiana and Tennessee on June 3. In Tennessee, the day is named as 'Confederate Decorations Day' while Texas observes 'Confederate Heroes Day' on January 19. In Virginia, Memorial Day is better known as 'May Confederate Memorial Day.'

However, you choose to mark the day, let us honor those who sacrificed for our freedom.

 I had the good fortune to join the inaugural sailing of the Carnival Magic, a vessel spawned by industry giant Carnival Cruise Lines.

Venice..............

Yes, that mesmerizing Italian city was the launching point for the freshly-minted, 3,690 passenger Carnival Magic.

And, no surprise, there was plenty of magic from the start. The nine-night cruise got underway with a traditional and enthusiastic naming ceremony during which Lindsey Wilkerson, a childhood cancer survivor, was bestowed the title of “godmother”. The champagne-filled event highlighted Carnival’s commitment to St. Jude’s Research Hospital.

With such formalities handled, it was time to explore the ship and find out for myself why sailing the open seas has become an increasingly popular option for travelers of all ages.

Given that I was new to this cruise ship game, I brought along a trusty companion. Colleen Horan, my long time friend and college roommate, was on board to help me solve this maritime mystery.

Sure, there were plenty of family members, friends and relatives who were eager for the assignment. But in the end, I thought I would share at least eleven reasons why collecting cruise vacation intel with your college roommate is a grand strategy:

1. Sharing is simple.

Checking into our cabin, we already knew that sharing the smaller-than-our-bedrooms-at- home space would not be a problem. Back in those college days, we shared far less fancy digs and managed just fine. And whatever we were lacking in our new sea-faring space, was more than compensated for by the cheery folks who came knocking at our door to deliver morning coffee, croissants, fresh towels, or whatever our hearts desired at any time of the day.

2. Knowing nods.

As we strolled from deck to deck with sun glasses firmly in place, we didn’t need full sentences to fully communicate about the people, places and events (like the hairy chest contest) we were observing. A knowing nod, or a slight giggle said it all.

3. The right answer.

Each night, as we dressed for dinner in our cabin, it was dining decision time. Would it be the beautiful new Italian Cucina del Capitano, the sushi bar or the trendy Red Frog Pub? Perhaps the Prime Steak house? While we pondered those culinary options, we often traded clothes and jewelry. And when we posed that all important question: “Does this look ok?" , we always got the right answer.

4. Happy sampling.

We were each happy to sample each others food or wine and innately knew the meaning of a “taste”, unlike say, a teenaged boy.

5. Spa time? YES!

There was no negotiating about spending time at the onboard spa. We were definitely making that a priority.

6. Talking in circles.

We could endlessly circle the deck-top jogging track, part of the ship’s uber-hip Sport Square activity area, and never run out of things to talk about.

7. Off duty. We could enjoy great meals or snacks at virtually every time of the day and neither of us had to cook…or clean up.

8. Water babes.

We both looked approvingly at the bright and shiny WaterWorks, a colorful water play area overlooking the main pool deck. (Reported to be one of the largest at sea.) In our youth, we were both water-friendly, swim team members. Had it been just a little bit warmer, we would have taken on the 312-foot-long Twister or the gotta-scream-as-you-circle-your- way down DrainPipe.

9. Free birds.

We could stay up late and gossip. Or sleep in. Why? No one needed a ride, extra money, an instant answer or our opinion about anything. We were free to revert to our inner teenaged selves.

10. It's all good.

When headed off the ship for shore excursions, (to great places like Dubrovnik, Rome and Vatican City, Taormina, and Cinque Terra) we could shop, explore, photograph, dine, sample, chat, hike, observe or return together….or not. Because that’s what life-long friends can do.

11. Memories old and new.

Throughout the adventure, from Venice to Barcelona, we could laugh heartily at each other’s jokes, remember the good ole days (when our stomachs were flatter) and be extraordinarily grateful for the amazing day before us.

For more information about planning your own cruise, visit www.Carnival.com or contact your travel agent.

On your next holiday, stay somewhere surprising. Here are a hand full of out of the ordinary options:

Kokopelli's Cave Bed & Breakfast, Farmington, NM.

Not far from the Four Corners where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah converge, you’ll find this underground sanctuary, originally created as a one-of-a-kind office for a geologist. Expect plenty of creature comforts including a waterfall-style shower and Jacuzzi tub. Southwestern style furnishings fill the 1650 square foot haven carved into sandstone 70 feet below the surface. Breakfast items, including oatmeal, fresh fruit and muffins, are provided. You’ll also find plenty in the cave fridge to create a picnic style lunch, assuming you’ll be exploring the surrounding area. Bring your own grill-friendly food and enjoy cooking on the balcony while enjoying sweeping views of the surrounding mountains. The cave entrance is a ten minute hike from the parking area. Recommended for children eight and older.

Contact: 505-860-3812; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. (their website is under development) 

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.

No oxygen masks required when you check in to stay inside this refurbished Boeing 727 fuselage. Located in the jungle, minutes from the Manuel Antonio National Park, the whole family will enjoy the unique lodging that once served as transport for South Africa Air. The aircraft now rests atop a 50 foot pedestal, offering magnificent views of the treetops and ocean in the distance. Kids will love telling their friends about relaxing on the deck and communing with the local residents that include toucans, squirrel monkeys and sloths. Sleeps six in two air-conditioned bedrooms.

Contact: 1 (866) 854-7958; www.costaverde.com/727.html 

Big Bay Lighthouse, Big Bay, and MI.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this lighthouse is run by three avid preservationists eager to share local history. Their goal is to maintain the romance of an era when mariners relied on the skill of a Light Keeper to bring them safely through this challenging stretch of Michigan coastline. Today visitors enjoy the peaceful solitude of the pristine location on Lake Superior. Hiking, biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are available on 40 acres of trails. A full breakfast is included. For safety reasons, children must be 16 or older.

Contact: (906) 345-9957; www.Bigbaylighthouse.com. To discover other lighthouses that welcome overnight guests visit: www.USLHS.org

Houseboat Holiday, Boston MA.

Book the 58-foot Cuckoo’s Nest house boat docked in Boston’s Charlestown Navy Yard to begin your floating holiday. Fall asleep to the sounds of waves gently lapping in the harbor. Relax on the roof top sun deck then hop aboard a free shuttle bus, water taxi, or water shuttle and head into the city for sightseeing and dinner. Children and pets are welcome. Explore houseboat getaway options in Baltimore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Contact: 413-652-1400; www.SleepAfloat.com

Mary Jane’s Farm. Moscow, ID.

Check into a stylish wall tent on Mary Jane Butters’ farm and the worries of the world will melt away. Gather your own eggs for breakfast. Pick vegetables you’ll enjoy for lunch. Visit the library housed in a barn. Burn calories helping out with farm chores. Relax in the outdoor living room area nestled in a grove of plum trees. Go for a hike or play cards or board games. Later get clean in the outdoor tub or showers.

Contact: 888-750-6004; www.MaryJanesFarm.org.

Whether you know it as the “Main Street of America” or the “Mother Road” as John Steinbeck labeled the byway in his prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, there is no doubt that Route 66 has consistently caught and held the imaginations of intrepid travelers who seek freedom, adventure and a slice of Americana.

Through Pixar’s film, Cars, a new generation of road trippers were introduced to the iconic roadway that stretches from Chicago, Ill to Santa Monica, CA.

The next time your family yearns for the magic of the open road, relive the glory days along Arizona’s continuous stretch of Route 66.

Here are a few suggested stops:

Winslow, AZ.

While standing on “The Corner” in this quaint, old railroad town you’ll be reminded of the 1972 tune Take It Easy, music that made both the town and the Eagles famous. Check into the historic La Posada hotel and enjoy train watching, outstanding food and a visit to the nearby Petrified Forest.

Contact: www.winslowarizona.org

Flagstaff, AZ 

This gateway to the Grand Canyon celebrates its Route 66 history with an annual celebration that includes vintage cars, arts and crafts and musical tributes to the Mother Road . Visit The Museum Club, built in 1931, a classic roadhouse famous for their extraordinary taxidermy collection. Classic hotels from the mid-century still line Rt 66 as it winds through the center of town.

Contact: www.flagstaffarizona.org/ 

Williams, AZ 

Local shopkeepers have brought this town’s colorful history back to life with sassy saloons, ghost-ridden bordellos, cowboy gunfighters and ice cream parlors all eager to serve travelers a taste of Route 66 hospitality. Kids will enjoy the historic Grand Canyon train trip to the South Rim which includes old-time musicians and an occasional “hold-up” by the local outlaws. Don’t worry. The U.S. Marshall arrives just in the nick of time.

Contact: www.TheTrain.com ; www.WilliamsChamber.com

Seligman , AZ  

Recognized as the community that inspired the movie Cars and as the birthplace of Route 66, this railroad town is full of historic gems. Thanks to the work of residents and fans of The Mother Road, the well-preserved quirky shops, restaurants and iconic signage make this a popular stop. Don’t miss the landmark Snow Cap Drive-In for tasty burgers, root beer floats and some good-natured funny business from the crew behind the counter. Contact: www.seligmanarizona.org

Kingman, AZ 

Visit the Route 66 Museum in the Powerhouse Visitor’s Center and then grab a bite at Mr.D’s Route 66 Diner. It is worth the trip to nearby Oatman where wooden boardwalks and vintage saloons are reminders of a by-gone boomtown era when gold hid in the hills. Kids will thrill to the sight of wild burros that still roam the streets, descendants of those that assisted the early day miners. Expect daily shootouts on Main Street when costumed cowboys strut their stuff for visiting tourists.

Contact:  www.KingmanTourism.org

For more history and suggested Route 66 itineraries visit the National Scenic Byways site at www.byways.org/explore/byways/2489/itinerary/59554

Each time I embark on an air travel trip I am reminded of what an adventure it can be!

And I’m a grown-up! I marvel at the challenges faced by parents of young children today. Getting through the security check point with diaper bags, strollers, toys, snacks, gear can be daunting.

If boarding a flight with the kids is part of your travel plan, here are a few tips to help you avoid snags in the system: 

Be prepared.

Print boarding passes in advance. Confirm flight departure times. Remind older children to bring their IDs and have yours ready. Arrive at the airport with time to spare.

Remember 311.

TSA’s 3-1-1 program means:

  • Liquids, aerosols and gels must be in containers three ounces or less.
  • Items must be in a one quart, clear plastic zip-top bag.
  • Only one zip-top bag per traveler.

Don’t forget your passports.

Will you be spending time on the beach in Mexico or skiing Whistler in Canada? Don’t forget. Passports are required. 

Drink up.

It is important stay hydrated when traveling. But water bottles are not permitted through the security line. Rather than buy high-priced water bottles in the airline gate area, bring an empty bottle through security and fill up at the drinking fountain. It’s more eco-friendly too.  

Pack your snacks.

Airlines rarely serve complimentary food on board. So avoid expensive airport and onboard dining options by packing healthy and familiar food for the flight. By keeping everyone fed in a timely manner, you’ll avoid cranky kids and parents. 

Onboard entertainment.

Talk with your children about how you will spend your time on board. Then be sure to pack the books, art projects, ipods, games, headsets and other gear necessary for the flight. 

Stay informed.

The rules continue to evolve and seem to vary slightly by destination. So before you head to the airport check the TSA website for the latest updates. Resources: www.TSA.govwww.travel.state.gov

Backpacks or roller bags for all.

Children like taking responsibility for their own gear. Ask everyone to carry as much as possible in their own backpack or carry –on. It’s good practice and lightens the load for the adults.

Stick together. 

Family members can get separated during the crazy process of going through crowded security lines. Let TSA representatives know you are traveling as a family if they try to steer you to apart. If you do lose sight of one another, plan to meet at a designated spot on the other side.

Be Polite.

Make sure the kids (and the grown-ups) are aware that while moving through the security line, it is not the time for jokes or silliness. An ill-timed, kooky comment ( no matter how innocent the intent ) can cause unexpected and unpleasant consequences.

International travel.

Different country, different rules. Shoes on? Shoes off? Computers out or in? Review country and airport guidelines before departure. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when moving through security in another country.

Have a great time!

#GoFarGrowClose

                                                                               

Eco-inspired families are trading in their rental cars for the chance to tour their vacation destinations from the seat of a bike. This energy savvy transportation mode not only saves dollars but adds a healthy fitness component to any holiday outing.  

Here are 15 places where you can cruise with confidence:

Portland, Ore –

This super-bike friendly city is widely recognized as being a two- wheel trend setter. Get to know the City of Roses by taking advantage of the Kimpton Hotel Monaco’s Carless Vacation package. You’ll arrive from the airport via free light rail passes and then embark on an historic city tour led by Pedal Bicycle Tours. The Green Seal certified hotel offers complimentary bikes. Contact: 1-503- 222-0001; www.monaco-portland.com.

San Diego, CA

Cruise along the flat and car-free pathways of Mission Beach or take in the scenic views on Coronado Island, along San Diego Bay or in the Gaslamp District. Whether you have young children or older kids looking for a mountain bike adventure, this seaside SoCal destination is a biker’s paradise. Contact: 1-866-425-2925; www.hikebikekayak.com.

Lake Placid, NY-

Enjoy wooded trails and scenic byways between villages in the Adirondack region of northern New York State. With a treasure trove of outdoor recreational opportunities and stunning mountain vistas, you and your family will enjoy the views from the seat of your bikes. Choose a rugged mountain bike, a road bike or tandems and be sure to bring plenty of water. Contact: www.PlacidPlanetBicycles.com; 518-523-4128

Chicago, IL –

Get off the tourist beat and on to the quiet neighborhood streets, city parks and beautiful beaches that keep Windy City residents happy and eager to become the nation’s most bike friendly city by 2015. Or hop on a cruiser for tours that include a glimpse of Oprah’s house, the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Old Town Historic District and the Lakefront. There are wheel-based options for family members of all ages and fitness levels. Contact: 1-312- 915-0995; www.bobbysbikehike.com

Tallahassee, FL -

Follow the abandoned rail bed of the historic Tallahassee-St. Marks Railroad to the town of St. Marks and the confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla rivers. The Florida State Park Service maintains the 19-mile paved trail, deemed accessible for family members of all ages and abilities.  Contact: 1-850-224-7461; www.greatbicycle.com.

Summer Remix. Keystone, CO.

This Rocky Mountain resort offers guests year round fun. During the spring and early summer, get ready for mountain biking, along with snow tubing, a terrain park for snowboarders and skiers, and an open rail jam event. Families can also look forward to snow cones, face painting and family-style dining in River Run. Or, head to higher ground and enjoy a meal at 11,640 feet where the Summit House offers a full menu. From Memorial Day through the summer, weather permitting. Contact: 877-204-7889; www.keystoneresort.com.

River Dance Lodge. Coeur d'Alene, ID

With the cozy River Dance Lodge as your base camp, hop on disc-brake Marin bikes and explore miles of national forest where you’ll find pathways suitable for every age group and skill level. Experienced riders may choose to take on the Coolwater Ridge Trail. Get ready for a thrill ride during which you’ll descend 1500 feet in just seven miles. Later float the nearby river or spend the afternoon hiking the hillsides. Ask about summer specials. Contact: 208-765-0841 ;www.riverdancelodge.com/Summer-Idaho-Vacations

Finger Lakes. Central New York.

Spin aside the crystal clear water, that, along with the Erie Canal and Lake Ontario, provide for outdoor adventure and breathtaking views. Named for the eleven pristine lakes that spread like fingers across central New York, the Finger Lakes provide 9,000 square miles of outdoor adventure where bike paths are plentiful. Don’t miss Letchworth State Park, known as the “the Grand Canyon of the east.” There the Taughannock Falls features a breathtaking 215 foot drop, making it larger than Niagara Falls. Biking maps and suggested itineraries are available. Contact: www.fingerlakes.org/things-to-do/outdoor-fun/hike-and-bike.

The Homestead Resort. Hot Springs, Virginia.

Active families looking for a getaway will enjoy the Unlimited Activities package at this iconic resort. In addition to mountain biking, expend energy kayaking, canoeing, gorge hiking, horseback riding, fly fishing and skeet shooting in the beautiful countryside.

NorthstarResort. Near the North Shore of Lake Tahoe.

Choose from among more than 100 miles of trails for downhill and cross-country mountain bikers providing great views of the surrounding mountain vistas. Cycling fans might want to plan their getaway to enjoy the annual Tour de Nez. Modeled after legendary European Kermesse races, which incorporate professional cycling into 100-year-old festivals, the spectator-friendly Tour de Nez has grown to be an important stop on the professional cycling circuit and a fan favorite. Check the web site for dates. Contact: www.NorthstarAtTahoe.com.

Brac Reef Resort. Cayman Brac.

Take a break from your dive holiday at this all-inclusive resort and explore the island on two wheels. You’ll see herons and other exotic sea birds, have the chance to explore caves or stop to check out the amazing sunsets, or other sandy beach spots. Bike rentals are complimentary. Contact: www.BracReef.com.

Block Island, Rhode Island.

Relish ocean views that rival Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket but enjoy the laid back vibe of this scenic wonder that somehow stays under the radar as a tourism destination. Mostly flat, smooth, paved roads make it possible for two-wheeling tourists to enjoy this wonderland the Nature Conservancy deems one of the “Last Great Places” in the Western Hemisphere. You’ll also enjoy fresh seafood, walking on crescent beaches and learning about the local history. Contact: (877) 545-1864; www.GreatFreedomAdventures.com

Global Biking.

Join the growing number of active families choosing international, self-guided bike trips. Itineraries include cruising the coast of Turkey or checking out the castles of the Loire Valley.   A good choice for clans interested in a less scripted and lower-priced adventure, travelers can still expect luggage transfers, lodging and some meals to be included in the trip price. The Colorado-based, family-owned company offers global cycling tours in more than 20 countries on five continents. Ask about discounts and specific trip recommendations for children. Contact: 1-800-685-4565;  www.ExperiencePlus.com.

Spokane, WA.

Go with a guide or chart your own course as you explore the rail-trails of eastern Washington, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and on to the Montana border. Level, paved and pristine pathways make for stress-free but scenic family cycling. Up the adventure quotient by mixing in a day kayaking, rafting or fishing on local rivers. Stop by a hot spring or consider a side hike. Contact: 800-451-6034; www.silverbiketours.com; www.VisitIdaho.org.

Tuscan Family Biking.

Meet a four-legged truffle detective. Savor gelato in San Gimignano. Look forward to olive oil, fine wine and feasting on homemade pizza as you pedal through Tuscany with your family. Cruise past vineyards, cypress trees and iconic landmarks that make working your way up to the scenic hill towns worth every rotation. Savor a gourmet picnic on a working farm. Visit charming villages, take watercolor lessons and steep yourselves in Italian art history. This is how memories are made. Contact: 800-462-2848; www.Backroads.com

 Resource: Reserve quality, family-friendly bikes and accessories in more than dozens of North American cities through www.Rentabikenow.com.

This beautiful hotel, The Danieli, was my sanctuary for the first leg of a European adventure.

It was an ideal home base for exploring the City of Love, one filled with mystery and excitement around every corner. Exploring on foot, by gondola, speed boat and water bus. It's  all part of what makes this an extraordinary place to visit.

There are 409 picturesque bridges spanning 150 canals, enabling easy access to the 117 tiny islands upon which this city remains afloat.

Here, within Venice, and in my hotel, dozens of movies have been filmed. Among them, The Tourist, featured Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp.

Is Venice on your bucket list? 

Page 36 of 42