Lynn O'Rourke Hayes

Lynn O'Rourke Hayes

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:

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.


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:   

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,


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.


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.


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 experiences this year.

According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions’ IAAPA Global Theme and Amusement Park Outlook Report (2017 to 2021), more than 398 million people are expected to take part in the fun in the months ahead. 

Roller coasters are a big part of what’s new this season, and an abundance of new rides and experiences—more than 70 according to the IAAPA compilation—include water slides, kiddie rides and new themed lands. 

According to park guest surveys, roller coasters remain the top-rated ride of interest to park guests, and new coasters deliver big thrills.

With 12 roller coasters, four giant swings, four towering rides and, many more unique experiences to excite visitors, parks across the country are ready for a season filled with fun.

Family entertainment centers are a segment of the attractions industry that continues to grow and expand, offering an array of experiences from golf and go-karting to ziplines and trampolines.

These traditionally smaller destinations provide a mix of activities designed for parents, grandparents and kids to experience together. 

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

Discover family fun here: 




Calgary Zoo opens Panda Passage exhibit for its two new adult pandas and two panda cubs. Panda Passage enhances the habitat that formerly housed the zoo's Komodo dragons and rhinoceroses.


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.


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. 


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.



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 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.


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.

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.

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.

Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park premieres a new steel roller coaster “Hang Time.” The ride towers 150 feet over the park’s boardwalk area, and ride experience includes inversions, midair suspensions, and twisting dives along the track. “Hang Time” will send riders up a vertical lift hill and down into a 15-story, 96-degree drop that gives the illusion the track has disappeared. Opens now.

Legoland California Resort in Carlsbad has opened Legoland Castle Hotel, a three-story, 250-room hotel. Accommodations range from 20 suites to guestrooms themed to knights, princesses and more. The park also opens “Lego City Deep Sea Adventure” submarine ride. Up to 12 passengers board one of eight real submarines as they explore an imaginative underwater ocean world. Open.

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. 

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.

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.

Universal Studios Hollywood debuted Kung-Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest in the DreamWorks Theatre. The immersive experience will be the first to use interior projection mapping technology including seven 4K projectors, 360-degree surround sound and physical effects including wind and water, raging rapids and the characters from King-Fu Panda.

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.


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. Toy Story land


Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark in Orlando introduced Ray Rush, a new family raft slide which launches riders through enclosed tubes, a translucent sphere, and an open halfpipe slide shaped like a manta ray. 

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

Wild Adventures in Valdosta adds “Megabugs! Adventure Encounters,” a new interactive area including more than 70 exhibits featuring big insects and arachnids.


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


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


Aquatica San Antonio debuts the Taumata Racer, and high-speed, 375-foot racing water slide including a 180-degree turn and tunnel. Now open.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Urban Air Adventure Park, a trampoline park for all ages and fitness levels, opens two new locations in Killeen and Tyler.


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.

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.

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.


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.


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.

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.



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.


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.


Holiday Park in Haßloch opens the Maya the Bee indoor zone with experiences celebrating one of the park’s most popular characters.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


Are you headed to a guest or dude ranch soon?

Or perhaps you'd like to ride horses while in a western mountain town?

Get ready to ride with these tips offered by Germonimo Trail Guest Ranch. 

Dude ranch tips for horseback riding

There are plenty of reasons to find your way to Jackson Hole, a gateway to natural beauty and native wonders. And if you are about to enter the wild world of parenthood, there is no better place for a babymoon.

Find out why this couple made their way to the verdant mountain valley. 



Expecting a bundle of joy?

Then, take time now to enjoy being a twosome before your new son or daughter arrives.

Here are five ideas for experiencing a Babymoon.  

Jackson hole Four Seasons Spa

1. Linger in luxury.

You’re about to share your life with a lttle one. So why not treat yourself to a luxururious stay in Wyoming’s Teton Mountains?  

At the Four Seasons Jackson Hole, the four-night Pampering Package includes spa time specially designed for parents-to-be as well as daily breakfast and the chance to unwind in a spectacular mountain setting.  

Nearby, Grand Teton National Park trails hug the scenic shores of String, Leigh and Trapper Lakes.  With little elevation gain, the flat terrain provides ample opportunity to photograph the jagged peaks reflected in the water, wade into the shallow lake and picnic along the shoreline. 

After a national park visit (Both Grand Teton and Yellowstone are in the neighborhood) or a stroll through the charming shops and galleries of this mountain town, relax by the alpine resort’s pool or find your way to the Ascent Lounge. Settle in with refreshing craft cocktails and mocktails before dining at The Handle Bar. 


Windstar Cruising on

2. Take a bucket list trip.  

As your family (not to mention your belly) expands, the trips on your bucket list may shift positions as you redefine priorities. Peruse your list of current dream destinations and make reservations before the baby arrives. The islands of Tahiti, where the trade winds will sweep your cares away, are a top choice for many seeking a romantic holiday. Before late night nursing begins, board a four-masted sailing yacht and relax amid blue lagoons and pristine coral reefs. As a Windstar guest, you’ll spend a day on a small island (motu) where it’s possible to sip coconut drinks, wade into the sapphire-colored sea and nap as the lilting sounds of a ukulele fade in the distance. Later, enjoy a romantic dinner for two under billowing sails and moonlit skies. 


Fairmont Bermuda

3. Babymoon in Bermuda  

Pillows may never matter as much as they do during pregnancy. That’s why Bermuda’s Fairmont Southampton includes your choice of extra pillows as part of its Babymoon package. Located on nearly 100 acres on the south shore of the mid-Atlantic island, you’ll be welcomed by colorful bougainvillea, swaying palms and special treats sure to satisfy current cravings. Look forward to strolling along pink sand beaches and relaxing through a prenatal massage in the Willow Stream Spa. 


Enchantment on

4. Energize at Enchantment  

With the spectacular red rocks of Sedona’s Boynton Canyon as  backdrop, this Southwestern resort’s onsite spa is described as “a sanctuary where you can journey inside, back to the quiet, rooted spaces of your soul” , setting the scene for a relaxing getaway with your partner before the excitement of parenting gets underway. Choose from an assortment of treatments crafted for guests who are expecting a child. A nutritionist is also available to provide tips on nourishing the pregnant and post-pregnant body as well as the newest addition to the family.  Take to the local trails and tap into the energy vortexes that are said to offer rejuvenation.


Unplug Babymoon

5. Unplug.  

With your doctor’s permission, go off the grid. Leave the lists that accompany your busy life behind and turn away from television news, sports scores and pesky political punditry.  Tune in to nature, each other and the quiet that you know is temporary. Read books, play cards, tell stories, linger over dinner and enjoy your special time together. Stroll through the woods or along the beach. Dig your toes in the sand or swing in a hammock. Journal, take a nap, then another nap and relish the special time for two. 

Note: Check with the Center for Disease Control for updates on the Zika Virus, considered to be a concern for pregnant women. At the moment, the destinations within this article are Zika-free. 

Sharks continue to fascinate kids of all ages. Here are five ways to plan a family trip that incorporates sea-faring adventure and facilitates a greater understanding of our oceans and the creatures that live in the sea. 

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1. Summer of Shark, Princess Cruises.

If your crew is known to binge on the annual Shark Week programming, you’ll want to join the cruise line’s Discovery at SEA program, offered in partnership with the Discovery Channel, for a fully immersive experience honoring the great finned creatures. Expect elevators, restaurants and other public spaces decked out in shark style as well as themed events, culinary offerings and other shark-centric festivities. 

Children and teens can head to the newly designed Camp Discovery where age-appropriate shark-themed activities will be underway, including shark face painting, the crafting of shark clay models and shark inspired jewelry. For those seeking more of an adrenaline rush, ask about the shark diving and whale shark encounters available during some sailings.


 Swim with whale sharks 

2. Cancun, MX.

Swimming with the largest fish in the sea is a thrill worth seeking. Whale sharks reach lengths of 40 feet and can weigh 15 tons. Despite their imposing presence, the gentle creatures peacefully share the warm seas with visitors who arrive via boat from the shores of nearby Cancún. Two at a time, along with a guide, you'll don a life jacket or wet suit and fins before jumping in for a swim with these plankton-slurping vegetarians. No touching is allowed (the mega-fish are considered a "vulnerable species") but you can swim alongside as they thrust forward their supersize square jaws and begin filtering everything in their path like a water-born vacuum cleaner. 



3. Atlantis Resort. Paradise Island, Bahamas.

Slip, slide and walk among sharks at this expansive island resort where families have access to141 acres of adrenaline-pumping water play. Head for the Leap of Faith slide at the top of the Mayan Temple, plop in an inner tube and hang on for the ride. You’ll twist and turn through a tunnel, dropping almost 60 vertical feet, before emerging in a clear, acrylic tube deep within a shark-filled lagoon. For those who want to stay dry, panoramic windows offer views of Hammerheads, Reef Sharks and barracudas. The more adventuresome can don specially designed underwater helmets and walk with the sharks inside their exhibit.


4. Cabo San Lucas, MX.

Join the trip to Cabo Pulmo to experience 300 species of fish, 200 marine invertebrates as well as Bull Sharks in what is called the world’s most “robust and healthy marine reserve”. For the more adventuresome (and those over 15) consider the Cabo Shark dive that includes swimming with silky, blue, smooth hammerhead and mako sharks. The organization’s founder and professional shark dive guide, Jacopo Brunetti, is an Italian marine biologist, PADI scuba instructor, and a shark behavioral expert. His goal is to encourage shark viewing and diving as an eco-sustainable activity.


Family Dive trips

5. Family Dive Trips.

Learning to scuba dive is a great way to learn about sharks and other creatures of the deep blue sea. Tom and Margo Peyton, co-owners of Family Dive Adventures, advise families to choose family-friendly destinations where the water is warm, clear and there is no current. They often  recommend  Bonaire, Grand Cayman and St. Lucia for beginners and early diving practice. The company provides group and custom dive trips and has certified more than 5,500 children during the last two decades. Ask about Kids Sea Camp, during which children and their parents learn about sharks, manta rays and the latest in global marine conservation. Contact: 

Resource: Check out the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week programming for a massive menu of documentaries, videos, shark cams, virtual dives and “fintastic” facts. Contact:

Numerous studies suggest that spending time in nature is beneficial for our mental and physical health.  

Here are five ways to ease the stress of daily life and savor the solace of open spaces.   


Consider forest bathing.

The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku is not exercise or jogging on a forest path. Rather, the idea is to bathe in the calming powers of the natural world by ingesting the sights, smells and sounds of the forest atmosphere through our senses. There is no need to travel long distances or acquire any special gear. The idea is to find a park, garden or tree-filled location and let your senses be your guide. Relax, wander and enjoy. For those who would appreciate a guided experience, resorts like The Lodge at Woodloch in the Poconos and Oregon’s Salishan Resort offer a tailored option for their guests.


Soul charley

Take a hike. Nye, MT. 

 The six-mile round trip hike to Sioux Charley Lake in Montana’s Beartooth Mountains, provides of visual feast of nature’s bounty. The initial views include tumbling waterfalls through a canyon-walled section of the Stillwater River known locally as “the washtubs”. The river braids and the canyon widens as hikers move toward the Beartooth peaks, ambling through forest and meadows dotted with wildflowers. The lake area or intermittent rock outcroppings provide the perfect setting for a family picnic, quiet reflection, drawing or journaling.


boundary waters canoe trip

Paddle through peaceful waters. Ely, MN

 Ease your canoes into the pristine waters of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) and look forward to peaceful days of paddling amidst a sparsely populated, one million-plus acre expanse of wilderness. Listen to the waves lapping against the shoreline and the haunting lullaby offered by local loons as you drift to sleep in one of 2,000 secluded campsites that dot the lake region. Wake to the sounds of birds chirping in the birch trees and enjoy breakfast over a campfire. Then set out to explore more of the 1,500 miles of canoe routes that criss-cross the waterways.


chaa creek

Explore ecosysems in Belize.

 Experience the calming effects of nature within this Central American gemwhere rainforests and expansive barrier reefs are a part of the 87 distinct types of ecosystems. Snorkel and dive in coastal areas or go inland for dense greenery and the chance to see colorful native birds. Stay at the Lodge at Chaa Creek for early morning bird watching tours, to visit the Blue Morpho Butterfly Farm and for medicine trail tours where you’ll learn about the native plants that provide globally significant remedies.


rei camping

Camp in the backcountry.

For the purest connection to nature, make your way off the beaten path. Hike, paddle or float into a pristine location where your family can learn or hone their wilderness skills. Choose a destination suitable for the ages and abilities of your crew. Encourage each person to take responsibility for the adventure whether that be early research, carrying a small pack, collecting kindling or serving as master storyteller around the fire. For those families that want to go deep into a National Park but aren’t ready for rugged, REI offers an alternative. Oversized tents are outfitted with cots, comfy bedding, floor coverings and lighting. Community areas offer a gathering place for families with hammocks and covered dining areas. 


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