Lynn O'Rourke Hayes

Lynn O'Rourke Hayes

My life is noisy.

Until now, I never thought much about it. Sure, I live with a little traffic rumble, the occasional helicopter humming overhead, and ambulance sirens wailing in the distance — but the volume never really registered.

Until I visited Yellowstone National Park in winter.  

National Park Service
I’d always resisted a wintertime outing to our nation’s first national park. I’m passionate about outdoor adventure, but truth be told, I am increasingly nature’s fair-weather friend. I don’t like to be cold.

But, on this January day, I quickly learned that it’s better to layer up and lean in to Old Man Winter than miss out on all Yellowstone has to offer in this season less traveled.

The lush silence was enough to make me want to whisper, to stifle random commentary, and to just be in this pristine wonderland. The crunch of boots on packed snow, the gurgle of a stream under broken ice, the sudden burst of a geyser: Each decibel took on a rich quality in the absence of the everyday din.

Wildlife in winter

NPS

 “Stop!” 
“Look! A wolf!”

This, from one of my traveling companions, as we lumbered along the snow-covered road inside the cozy snow coach. Our merry band of nature lovers was bound for Old Faithful Snow Lodge, named for the park’s famous geyser. It’s one of two lodging options inside the park boundaries that are available during the winter months; the other is Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.

We had spent much of the day in the expansive Lamar Valley, often called the American Serengeti for its wide swath of landscape where elk and buffalo roam, as well as the occasional wolf.

According to our guide, it offers the visitor’s best chance of catching a glimpse of the elusive gray wolf — canis lupus — especially in winter. Aided by spotting scopes and the advantage provided by my long camera lens, I scanned the open space and far hillsides for the most treasured of sightings.

Wolf history - then and now

We had entered the park on the north side, crossing under the iconic Roosevelt Arch. Twenty years ago to that very day, Jan. 12, 2015, a horse trailer reportedly came in under the same arch, transporting the first 8 of 31 gray wolves from Canada.

While this would mark the official reintroduction of wolves into the park after a seven-decade absence, it was both the welcome result of careful planning and preparation — and the continuation of a complex battle between environmentalists, on the one side, and ranchers, farmers, and outfitters on the other. Many within the latter group believe wolves are a threat to their way of life and to livestock.

“It is difficult to be enthusiastic about the increase in the wolf population when their existence is a threat to your livelihood,” explained Tom Swanson, a third-generation Montana rancher whose cattle graze just 35 miles north of the park border.  

According to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, proponents of the wolf reintroduction hoped to eventually build the population to 300. Current estimates, which have far exceeded expectations, put 80 wolves in the park, 450 in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and as many as 1,700 in the Northern Rockies.

On our expedition, we were thrilled to see one.

Our guide nudged the snow coach onto the side of the road, as our group maneuvered to capture images with our cameras while hoping to stow the memory in our mind’s eye for future reference. 

With the icy Firehole River as a buffer, the burly male appeared unfazed by our presence a mere 50 yards away. We watched in awe as he stepped in and out of the river, intermittently feasting on an elk carcass splayed on the far bank, as a handful of ravens hung back, hoping to sneak a few scraps. 

No doubt we would have treasured this late afternoon sighting on any given day. But somehow, given the anniversary, it felt like a gift.

A unexpected eruption


The next morning, our group opted to pop on cross-country skis and slide our way to a backcountry gem: the Lone Star Geyser. Yellowstone contains nearly 10,000 geysers, which are approximately one half of the world’s hydrothermal features. 

“It only erupts every three hours or so,” explained our guide, as we set off from the trailhead. “So don’t be disappointed if we get there and there’s no action. Either way, you’ll enjoy the scenery.”

We swooshed the two and a half miles along the trail, gliding atop a few inches of fresh snow and aside a different stretch of the Firehole River. Along the way, our naturalist pal, Emily, shared her bounty of knowledge, identifying small tracks leading into and out of the forest. 

Then, with the geyser area in sight, I could hear Lone Star sputter before shooting a plume of steam some 40 feet into the air.

“What perfect timing!” hooted one member of our group. 



And when I didn’t think the day could get any better, the sun peeked through the clouds and a rainbow appeared, arcing across the mist spewed by the steaming eruption. Seriously. 

Oh, and the cold?

When it comes to Yellowstone, Old Man Winter knows how to warm a girl’s heart.

IF YOU GO: www.VisitMt.comYellowstone Lodges. 

LEARN MORE ABOUT YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

There’s a lot to love about Britain.

From Shakespeare to shepherds pie … from Pink Floyd to Harry Potter. England, Scotland and Wales are home to a mix of historic heroes and happening haunts. And, in 2019, Globus and Cosmos are inviting travelers to see, taste and hear the brilliant experiences waiting for them in “Undiscovered Britain” with a series of nine tours – most new – that take travelers on cobblestones less traveled.

Harry potter

“Everyone knows that Great Britain is great place to learn about the royals, but it’s also the birthplace of the Rolling Stones,” said Scott Nisbet, president and CEO of the Globus family of brands. “Throughout history, it has served as the inspiring backdrop for fiction, fantasy and unimaginable art. With our new ‘Undiscovered Britain’ tours, we’re helping travelers see and experience the nooks and crannies of England.” 

 

THE BRITISH INVASION

  • Liverpool (The Beatles)
  • Bath (Tears for Fears)
  • Edinburgh (Idlewild)
  • Glasgow (Simple Minds)

BANGERS & MASH & MORE

  • Dundee (Dundee Cakes)
  • Northern England (Shepherds Pie)
  • Wales (Welsh Lamb)
  • Isle of Mull (Fish & Chips)

CHEERS!

  • Glengoyne (Scottish Whisky)
  • Exeter (Sherry)
  • Glasgow (Gin)

SUPER BLOKES

  • Cardiff (Dr. Who)
  • Glenfinnan (Harry Potter)
  • Edinburgh (Sherlock Holmes)
  • Chester (King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table)

FAVORITE FIGURES

  • Liverpool (John Lennon)
  • Stirling (Sir William Wallace)
  • Shrewsbury (Charles Darwin)
  • Stratford – Upon - Avon (William Shakespeare)

Tours spotlighting more of Great Britain in 2019 include:

 

GLOBUS:

  • Britain Uncovered
  • Hidden Treasures of Southern England
  • Scottish Escape
  • Bonnie Scotland
  • Scottish Highlights & Islands

COSMOS:

  • British Highlights
  • Scottish Outlander Adventure

COSMOS LITE:

  • England Explorer
  • Scotland Explorer

 Book early & SAVE! Save 10% on a 2019 Globus Europe vacation when booking now through November 27, 2018. For details, click here.

Take advantage of the years when your family travel plans are not limited by school holidays and summer vacation.

Travel with your toddlers! You'll expand their world and plant the seed of adventure early. (And have fun in the process.)

Here are a handful of ideas to consider:  

Resort pool

Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa, St Lucia.  

At this Caribbean Resort, children will learn about their destination through activities designed for each age group.  The SCOUTS program – Seeing, Crafting, Observing, Understanding, Tasting, St. Lucia) is infused in the fun you’ll find headquartered within the 50,000 square foot Cocoland Kidz Club. Expect youngsters  to access a mini zipline and rock wall, a petting zoo and plenty of water play. Three of five resort pools cater to kids and include a lazy river and a zero entry splash pool. Savvy youngsters can order colorful slushies and fruity drinks at their own swim up bar. When parents opt for a night on their own, kids can enjoy their own Pirates Night or Movie Night on the Splash Lawn.

Contact: www.cbayresort.com

 for resort

FDR Resort, Jamaica.

 There is nothing like an afternoon splashing in the surf and building sand castles to wear out an active toddler. At the FDR Resort in Runaway Bay, Jamaica, once Junior goes down, a Vacation Nanny is available to sit by his side, while you enjoy an afternoon playing golf, scuba diving or exploring by kayak.  Check in to this all-inclusive seaside getaway, and meet your CPR-trained Vacation Nanny who will assist you and your family in having the most relaxing time possible. Trained in child care and housekeeping, this professional staff member’s goal is to fill in where needed, whether by looking after youngsters in the pool, or making sure the kids’ favorite snacks are on hand in the room.  Contact:  www.fdrholidays.com.

 loews miami

Loews Miami Beach Hotel, Miami Beach, FL. 

This oceanfront resort, the recipient of a recent $50 million redesign, offers a bounty of family enticements via the Loews Loves Kids program. Families can choose to enjoy the benefits of direct beach access (which makes castle building a breeze) or head to the zero entry pool where pop fountains add to the vacation vibe.  Celebrate in style by spending the day with access to a SOAK cabana where air conditioning, flat screen TVs,  private butler service and rooftop terraces will convince the kids they’ve reached VIP status. Take a pizza-making class together or take advantage of Family Happy Hour during which time kids can enjoy complimentary lawn games while parents sip cocktails, join in or cheer them on.

Contact: www.LoewsHotels.com/MiamiBeach

 Atlantis

Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas. 

For families that check into The Coral, the resort’s recently revamped, family-centric tower, a new level of luxury awaits. Compare notes with the Kids Concierge and in a flash, the dreams of mini-travelers (and their parents) will soon be a reality. From scheduling family swims with the dolphins to registering for Sea Squirts, an interactive marine program where youngsters can feed baby stingrays, sharks and schools of fish, the concierge is on hand to help create itineraries and smooth any bumps on the path to a memorable vacation. Ask about helping the Atlantis Aquarists guide Green Sea Turtle hatchlings to the sea.

Contact: www.AtlantisBahamas.com

hike with toddlers REI

Kids on the Trail. 

Getting kids outside early and often is likely to instill a lifetime love of nature.  Visit a local trail and watch as your child explores with wonder, turning over rocks and observing small animals and birds. Choose a loop trail or plan a scavenger hunt. Bring along a picnic and plenty of water or juice so that the whole family stays hydrated. After a few close-to-home practice rounds, include nature walks and hiking in your family vacation travel plans. In time, you’ll be scaling heights.  

Contact: www.childrenandnature.orgwww.Trails.com; www.NPS.gov.

One of Boston’s most beloved holiday traditions – the annual Teddy Bear Tea at the Bristol – returns to Four Seasons Hotel Boston for the 21st year. More than a holiday event, Teddy Bear Tea is a special community benefit initiative of Four Seasons Hotel Boston, teaching young guests the spirit of charity. Guests are invited to bring a teddy bear to donate at Teddy Bear Tea, with Four Seasons gifting all collected bears to local organisations that benefit children in need.

Four Seasons Boston Holiday Tea

According to Bill Taylor, Regional Vice President and General Manager, "tens of thousands of bears have been donated to local charities in the New England community during the holiday season.”

Teddy Bear Tea has one seating every day from the December 1 to 23. Tea begins at 3:15 pm, with a special reading from a local Boston celebrity at 4:00 pm. The event concludes each day at 5:00 pm. Tickets are USD 80 per adult and USD 43 per child with a bear to donate, or USD 48 per child without a bear.  The celebrity readers vary each day and are not announced in advance.

Making Reservations

Reservations are open to the public now by calling  +1 (617) 351 2037.

When the school bell rings, must family travel plans come to end?  

Here are five ways to keep your family vacation dreams on track while school is in session. 

know your options

Know your options.  

Scan the school, sports and activity calendars to assess windows of opportunity. Will your children participate in multiple sports, school theatre productions or volunteer activities? Pair those results with your work and personal calendars for the best picture possible.

If you have multiple children in different schools, do their holiday and other school vacation times match up?  Do any family members have milestone birthdays, reunions or anniversary celebrations in the works that you won’t want to miss?

Once you’ve reviewed commitments and calendars you are ready to plan.

Plan a family vacation Familytravel.com

Advance planning.-

Research reveals that by planning ahead, more families will actually take much-needed and longer vacations and thus reap a multitude of personal and professional benefits.

Taking time to create a thoughtful bucket list can make it easier to plan for meaningful vacations, those that are a deliberate reflection of your values, hopes and dreams. So before you begin listing desired destinations, ask yourself what aspects of the world - geographically, spiritually and culturally - you want to share with your family.

By crafting a strategy in advance and executing early, you’ll have more flight options, your pick of tour departures, the best cabins on a cruise ship and more options in popular resort areas.

Busy families have a hard time planning a family vacation.

A day here. A week there?

It’s no secret that holiday weeks and Spring Break in popular destinations can be pricier than at other times of the year. So does it make sense to snag a few days from the school calendar to learn and experience the world outside the walls of the classroom?

That’s a decision only parents can make given the requirements of individual schools, the temperaments and needs of each child and the cost benefit analysis of each opportunity. If you do decide to travel while school is in session, you’ll find fewer crowds, better prices and expanded options. 

Get outdoors with the kids

The vacation mindset.

The true value of a family vacation has less to do with boarding a snazzy cruise ship or checking in to a faraway resort. It’s more about the quality of a shared experience. So when time is short, make the most of the hours you do have available and put your plan on the calendar.

Go fishing, hiking or horseback riding for a day. Visit a water or theme park.   Spend the night at a nearby hotel. Camp in a state park or even your own backyard and enjoy the mini- getaway. 

family sabbatical 

A family sabbatical.

For those who would like to travel deeper, learn a new language, immerse in a culture or simply see the world with the kids while they can, a longer adventure may fit the bill. Consider spending the months ahead planning a lengthy holiday – weeks, months or even a year - with the kids. Consider an adventure that may involve road schooling, financial reconfiguration, the disposition of some belongings and some rigorous map study. Many who have chosen this path, report that the transformative experience was well worth upsetting the family apple cart. 

Some bucket lists take years to complete but McHenry County’s Ultimate Autumn Bucket List can be done in one weekend. Families, couples and individual visitors alike can enjoy international ski jumpers, an afternoon at an apple orchard, get lost in a corn maze or find the best of the season at one of our many produce farms.

For a truly ultimate experience, the Norge Ski Club, one of the top learning centers for Olympic ski jumping in the USA, hosts the 33rd Annual Norge Autumn Ski Jump and Food Truck Festival on September 22nd and 23rd. Five jumps from beginner to advanced are available year-round since skiers can even jump without snow. Fans are encouraged to bring their cow bells and appetite while they watch ski jumpers from around the world compete on the 70-meter hill.

Royal Oak Farm Orchard has the country’s first maze composed entirely of mature apple trees. Named “Amaze-N-Apples,” it is planted with 3,000 apple trees in 4+ acres where you wander through 1.5-miles of walking trails while picking from nine different varieties of apples. After finding your way out, the bakery offers fresh apple cider doughnuts or shop for beautiful fall décor or Christmas gifts at the Country Gift Store. The farm has over 17,000 apple trees including 30 varieties of apples in the u-pick apple orchard along with pre-picked apples, pumpkins, giant pumpkins, gourds and squash for purchase.

All Seasons Orchard has everything for a day of family fun with more than 30 different activities. Visitors can pick apples or pumpkins, explore the 10-acre corn maze or play in the barnyard. Other activities include a jumping pillow, pedal kart races, pig races, magic shows, Bunny Village and there’s even a zip line. Apple cider and caramel corn are great for the ride home.

The annual Autumn Drive in Woodstock is held October 19 – 21 where residents offer antiques, crafts, food and fun. Local farms open their barns to offer fall produce, honey, jams, soaps and vinegar.

Richardson Adventure Farm in Spring Grove has become an annual destination offering more than 30 activities. The World's Largest Corn Maze features 9 - 10 miles of trail winding through 28 acres of live corn. The maze is created from 4 smaller mazes with dedicated in and out paths. Multiple checkpoints throughout the maze and three bridges help find your bearings along with as map for a challenging and fun experience.



“This year’s corn maze theme celebrates the Illinois Bicentennial, honoring the 200th anniversary of the state’s founding,” said Wendy Richardson, family owner. “Once we settled on a theme, the design came naturally.” The maze features the Mississippi River, Lake Michigan, Navy Pier, Chicago skyscrapers, the state capitol and Abraham Lincoln dominates the center, along with symbols of Illinois agriculture with a barn, silo, tractor, row crops, apple trees and pumpkins.

Other activities include: 700' Zip Line, 50' Observation Tower, ORBiting! (Ride Inside a Giant, 11' Ball), Live Pig Races, Jumping Pillows, Giant Slides, Pedal Carts, Wagon Rides, Pumpkin Patch, Picnic Areas and Campfires (by reservation) with plenty of free parking.

Stades Farm and Market has been known for more than 40 years as a “farmtastic” theme park plus farm-fresh veggies and seasonal treats like cider donuts and pumpkin pie.

Von Bergens Country Market is an experience for the whole family with fresh autumn produce, pumpkin patch and activities for the kids, including getting their photo taken on the big red chair.

Tom’s Farm Market in Huntley offers evening fun with the “spook free” Moonlight Corn Maze and Hayride. Families bring flashlights and enjoy a night of exploring, bonfires and refreshments like s’mores, hot apple cider and hot chocolate.

“In addition to the farms and myriad mazes, there are so many fall festivals taking place in McHenry County,” according to Kristine Austin, a spokesperson for Visit McHenry County. “From the Johnny Appleseed Festival where you can meet Johnny himself, to the Huntley Fall Fest, Harvard Balloon Fest, Lake in the Hills Summer Sunset Festival, Oktoberfest at Crystal Lake Brewing, Cary Main Street Fest, Richmond WineWalk, Woodstock Ale Fest, Cider Festival, and Wilmot Mountain Fall Fest, McHenry County has the ultimate autumn bucket list and we invite people to start checking it off!”

Road trippers can explore the autumn foliage. The McHenry County Conservation District is home to over 24,000 acres of woodlands, prairies, wetlands, ponds, creeks and rivers that come to life in autumn. There are 30 public sites where visitors can hike, bike, boat, fish, camp and enjoy watching wildlife.

For those hunting (or bobbing) for apples, pumpkins or simply a laid-back, colorful place to be, McHenry County is exceptionally beautiful this time of year.

Bucket list challenge accepted?

Tap into the family-friendly experiences recently launched within the 83 JW Marriott hotels around the world. 

Crafted for children ages 5 to 12, Family by JW centers around three kid-friendly themes – creativity, activeness, and culture. These pillars infuse orginal programming created in partnership with cultural icons like the Guggenheim Museum and The Joffrey Ballet as well as resources within each local community. 

 

Expect family vacations with interactive cooking classes led by culinary experts during which budding foodies will help prepare and sample nutritious cuisine reflecting the culture of the destination.  In New York and beyond, the JW Marriott has teamed with the Guggenheim to engage young guests with activity guides and experiences that explore art, architecture and culture.

Piper at the Guggenheim

 

The Joffrey Ballet collaborated on suggested in-room exercises and stretches to help families wake up in the morning  and wind down each evening during their stay. A new in-room dining menu features  healthy, family-style dining options to share at meal time. Contact: 

www.jwmarriott.com/family.

At the turn of the century, America's wild bison - which at one time numbered 60 million - had dwindled to about two dozen animals. Strong, sturdy and resilient, they’ve made a comeback, thanks to public and private conservation efforts, 

On the range, in refuges and national parks, this symbol of our wildlife heritage is magnificent to observe.

Here are five places where you and your family members can snap a shot of this American icon – with a zoom lens:

Custer State Park, South Dakota.

Each year the public is invited to hear the thunder of hooves and photograph the moment as experienced riders roundup a herd of some 1,300 buffalo during the state’s Buffalo Round Up and Arts Festival. Considered a critical management tool in maintaining a healthy herd, the buffalo are corralled and then tested, branded and sorted. The event includes a pancake feed, Western and Native American entertainment and the chance to peruse the fine art and crafts offered by more than 150 vendors.

Contact: https://www.travelsouthdakota.com/things-do/events/custer-state-park-buffalo-roundup  

Yellowstone National Park, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

America’s first national park is the only place in the United States where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times. 

 Home to approximately 3,500 bison, many are the descendants of the few who survived near-extinction.   Social animals that often form herds often directed by older females, they are most active during the day. Pay attention to ranger warnings and keep your distance as bison are agile, strong swimmers, and can run 35 miles per hour. Despite their burly build and weighing up to 2,000 lbs., hey can jump over objects about 5 feet high and have excellent hearing, vision, and sense of smell. You’ll likely spot them in the Lamar and Hayden Valleys. Also, be on the look out near Pelican Valley, the Lower Geyser Basin and in Gibbon Meadows. Contact: www.nps.gov/yell.   

The National Bison Range, Mission Valley, Montana.

Established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt, this historic Range sprawls across 18,000 acres and is one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the nation.  Today, visitors witness a diverse ecosystem of grasslands, Douglas fir and ponderosa pine forests, riparian areas and ponds. In addition to herds of bison, the Range supports populations of Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep as well as coyotes, mountain lions, bears, bobcat and over 200 species of birds.  Stop by the visitors center to learn about hiking, scenic drive, photography and fishing opportunities as well as f Information about current wildlife sightings and flowers in bloom,

Contact: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/National_Bison_Range/visit/visitor_activities.html

Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris, Jackson Hole, WY.  

This guide-owned and operated organization provides year-round wildlife viewing and natural history interpretation to those interested in a close-up view of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s wild creatures in their natural habitat. Offering half day to multi-day safaris, as well as photo safaris, the experienced guides use their knowledge, passion and skills to locate bison as well as elk, deer, moose, bighorn sheep and bears in one of the most beautiful landscapes in the country.

Contact:  http://jacksonholewildlifesafaris.com

Terry Bison Ranch, Cheyenne, WY.

This family-friendly ranch offers bison viewing year round on a 27,000-acre spread that stretches into Colorado. A popular reunion spot, families can spread out into eightcabins, 17 bunkhouse rooms, as well as RV and tent sites. Home to nearly 3000 bison, the ranch also features train rides, horseback riding, a restaurant and a Trading Post.

Contact: http://www.terrybisonranch.com.

Are you planning a family vacation with the kids?

The Grandkids?

Or the whole gang? 

We've got trip ideas, destinations to consider and an extra dose of inspiration...... just in case you need it!

Record numbers of theme park visitors are preparing for thrilling and memorable new 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 2018 will see many 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 and kids to experience together. 

Families can also soak up the fun at dozens of water parks, with many new water slides and water attractions making a splash all season long.

Discover what's new here: 

NORTH AMERICA 

CANADA

Alberta

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

Ontario

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

Quebec

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 

MEXICO

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

UNITED STATES 

Alabama

Top Golf

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

Arizona

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

California

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 May 18. knotts.com

Legoland California Resort in Carlsbad opens Legoland Castle Hotel, a three-story, 250-room hotel (now open). 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 debuts 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. Opens summer.  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

Connecticut

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 Toy Story land Familytravel.com

Florida

Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark in Orlando introduces 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. Opens. 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

Georgia

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

Idaho

Roaring Springs, the water park in Meridian, adds three new water slides in its new Bearfoot Bay expansion. Open. roaringsprings.com

Illinois

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

Indiana

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

Iowa

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

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

Maine

Palace Playland in Old Orchard Beach opens the “Sea Viper” roller coaster. palaceplayland.com

Maryland

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

Massachusetts

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

Minnesota

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

Missouri

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

New Jersey

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 LineVentrac 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 

Six Flags

 

New York

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

North Carolina

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

Ohio

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

Oregon

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

Pennsylvania

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

Tennessee

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

Texas

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

Virginia

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

Washington

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

Wisconsin

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

EUROPE

Belgium

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

Denmark

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

Germany

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

Great Britain

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

Sweden

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

ASIA

China

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

Japan

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

Malaysia

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

LATIN AMERICA

Costa Rica

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

 

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