Lynn O'Rourke Hayes

Lynn O'Rourke Hayes

There’s no denying that a theme park vacation is at the top of many children’s list of travel wishes. Unfortunately for grandparents, that can mean long lines, overcrowded parks and high expenses, all without much time for genuine family bonding. While amusement and theme parks are an easy, go-to solution for family vacations, there are other magical travel options that can offer exposure to new activities, interaction with nature, and discovery of culture and history outside of most families’ normal comfort zones.

The term ‘dude ranch’ typically brings to mind images of cowboys and cattle drives, a la the popular 1991 comedy, “City Slickers.” While dude ranches still evoke those same memories and are rooted in American tradition, they are much, much more. There is a broad spectrum of guest ranches across North America, ranging from rustic, no-frills working ranches to luxury resort-style ranches.

From valleys complete with untouched Rocky Mountain backdrops to desert sunsets across the Southwest, you can find DRA-accredited ranches throughout the Western U.S. in Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nebraska and South Dakota, as well as in California, Arkansas and Canada.

Dude ranches are the original, all-inclusive destination for families. Located in some of the most breathtaking areas of the U.S. (and Canada), dude ranches can handle any request, from horseback riding and fly fishing to yoga and cooking classes to zip lining, mountain biking, white water rafting, hiking and much more. Ranches are ideal places for kids and families to re-discover each other, without the typical distractions of TV, phones, computers and electronic games, families spend time together reconnecting with each other the old-fashioned way - by talking!  

When was the last time your family actually sat through an entire dinner with no outside distractions?  That is exactly what happens at a dude ranch. You get to know each other again and share all the activities that everyone participated in that day.

If you want to give your grandchildren the gift of memories that will last a lifetime look no further than a dude ranch vacation where there are no lines, no hassles and all the freedom a child could imagine.

For more information connect with The Dude Ranchers Association

The Dude Ranchers Association is a member of the FamilyTravel.com Grandparent Travel Collection.

If you love baseball, these iconic spots belong on your roster:

Cactus League, Peoria, AZ   

For the chance to run the bases, take the field with a player, announce a batter and other memorable experiences, head to this Valley of the Sun hot spot for kid-friendly (ages 8 to 12) baseball fun. The Peoria Sports Complex, home to the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres, is celebrating the season by adding a number of fan appreciation days.

Ask about Peoria Packs, available for purchase on Family Fun Days. Bring a gently used children’s book and you’ll be eligible for the promotional Pack which includes four lawn tickets, hot dogs, sodas and snacks for $48. Special prices are also available for larger families. Stay at the nearby historic and family-friendly Wigwam Resort for pre and post game golf, pool time, spa and lawn games. Stay three or more nights to receive a twenty percent discount off the lowest rates.

Contact: www.CactusLeague.com ;  www.PeoriaSportsComplex.com www.WigwamResort.com.   

Cactus League, Scottsdale, AZ.

Every spring, since 1947, this Southwestern town is abuzz as baseball fans flock to catch their favorite teams warm up for the regular season. The Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies get in the groove at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick where kids are sometimes allowed to run the bases after the game.

Nearby, watch the San Francisco Giants in style inside Scottsdale Stadium where you can catch the action from patio-style seating under the Arizona sun. Ask about free trolley rides and a wide range of packages designed to lure sports fans. Now through March. Contact: www.CactusLeague.com; https://www.experiencescottsdale.com/event/spring-training

Grapefruit League, Florida.

Beaches and baseball make for a winning combination. That’s what family travelers will find when they head south to watch their favorite players and prospects showcase their pre-season skills during Spring Training in Florida. Catch the Philadelphia Phillies in family-friendly Clearwater or be there as the Minnesota Twins make it happen in Ft. Myers. The Atlanta Braves are part of the magic underway at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World where a roving emcee asks fans to guess the attendance for the chance to win prizes.  The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches offers an immersive, up-scale experience, enabling fans to move through training fields and workout facilities before heading in to the 6,400 seat ballpark.

Fifteen teams tune up for fans in thirteen locations throughout the Sunshine State. Check the web sites for game schedules and to learn more about apps that can help plan your visit. Contact: www.floridagrapefruitleague.com  

National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY.

This iconic sports shrine traces the history and cultural significance of the game through 50,000 square feet of memorabilia and interactive exhibits. Learn about the men and women who have made their mark on the field, test your trivia skills and get inspired by the feats of the greatest who played the game. Youngsters under 12 and their families can visit the museum’s Sandlot Kids' Clubhouse for interactive, youth-focused experiences. Extra innings overnights in the museum are also possible. Each year, during the last weekend in July, nearly 20,000 fans flock to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame Induction ceremony.

Contact: http://baseballhall.org.

Big League Tours. Are you a fan of Fenway? Have you been to Coors Field or Miller Park? If the mere thought makes you smile, a Big League Tour might be a perfect fit for your family. Word is you’ll hang out with MLB players, get on to the field, inside the dugouts and catch a batting practice in the venues that continue to infuse allegiance to the game. Tours and vacation packages make it possible to hear the crack of the bat in your favorite cities or an entire region.

Contact: www.BigLeagueTours.com

Field of Dreams, Dyersville, IA.

“If you build it, he will come.” The oft-repeated line is one of the most famous in movie history and you and your family can be a part of it. Make your way to traditional Iowa farm country where reality mixes with fantasy to make dreams and movies that star Kevin Costner come true. Bring your own gear and play catch on the century-old farm that boasts the world-famous baseball diamond. Learn more about the book behind the movie and the curve balls thrown by Mother Nature during filming.

Www. www.Dyersville.org ;  www.FODMoviesite.com 

Considering an extended road trip? A global adventure? A train trip? Or an RV outing with the kids or grandkids?  There is no time like the present to explore the world with your family! 

Here are a few family travel trends to consider as you tinker with your plan:

Multigenerational travel continues to strengthen.

While technology may make it easier for modern and mobile families to stay in touch, there is no substitute for building sand castles on the beach, snuggling with the grandkids on the porch swing or giggling through game night around the table.

That’s why an increasing number of extended families choose to spend long weekends, holidays or “milestone moments” together in a vacation-style setting. Destinations, resorts, cruise ships and even theme parks continue to add programs and packages that make it easier to plan a grand getaway.

Short-term rental properties, complete with kitchens, multiple bedrooms and space for kids to play are also popular for large family groups.

Contact: Airbnb.com; www.NCL.com; www.Beaches.com;  www.Vacatia.com .

There's an emphasis on experience.

From backcountry challenges and wild river runs to history-rich walking tours and cultural immersions, the trend toward outings that deliver a meaningful and memorable experience continues. Look for travel brands to offer more personalized, transformative experiences, intended to inspire even the youngest adventurer and his or her parents. Expect more opportunities to learn from, dine with and hear songs and stories from locals in your next destination.

Contact: https://www.broadmoor.com/the-wilderness-experiences; www.Oars.com;  www. Intrepid.com; www.UrbanAdventures.com.

Digital Detox.

Whether you travel deep into a national park where the signal soon fades or simply close the lid on a technology box provided by the resort, families are voting to turn off the tech and tune in to each other. While the idea may cause short term consternation, reports from families who have gone cold turkey on tech are encouraging.

Once liberated from the lure of Insta stories and sports scores, the generations are free to converse about the adventures at hand. Whether you journey to Siberia, a nearby resort, or your favorite backcountry escape, connecting with nature and those you hold dear will provide a healthy does of energy for the year ahead.

Contact: http://travelvisionjourneys.com/tour/chile; http://www.mircorp.com/trip/siberian-winter-escapade; www.NPS.gov.

A family of foodies.

More families are making food part of the fun on family getaways. They are shopping at farmer’s markets, picking apples in the orchard, tasting local honey at the beekeeper’s shop and seeking fresh, palate-pleasing options for each meal of the day. They are introducing young explorers to distinctive local fare and encouraging the kids to sample new tastes and textures. Expect more cooking classes for every age group.

Young families will increasingly seek out cities like Tucson, recently designated North America’s first UNESCO World City of Gastronomy, where hometown resorts take pride in their on-site, organic gardens and serve up fresh and thoughtful fare at every meal.

Contact: www.HaciendadelSol.com ; www.VisitTucson.com ; www.LocalHarvest.org .

Going Solo.

More and more parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and family friends are embarking on adventures with their favorite young people. Expect more cruise ships, tour operators, resorts and ranches to extend the welcome mat to adults traveling with kids on their own. Be on the look out for group family tables, "family cocktail parties", special departures and the waiving of single supplements.

Contact: www.Intrepid.com; www.DudeRanch.org  

Now is a good time.

Family travel is no longer relegated to a few weeks in the summer or the official Spring Break. Expect more families with pre-school age children, homeschoolers, parents with flexible and location-independent work options and those who consider a family trip the best kind of education possible, taking to the road when the timing best suits them. Off peak travel provides the modern and mobile clan the option to find better deals, fewer crowds, more availability and that most satisfying, serendipitous experience that often manifests on the road less traveled.

There are few places on the planet as stunning as Glacier National Park.  And one could argue that the historic Many Glacier Hotel is the ideal venue from which to appreciate the vast and astonishing landscape with the grandkids.

Located on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake with jagged peaks as backdrop, the iconic hotel was built by the Great Northern Railway in 1914 to lure tourists to the Wild West. Today, visitors from around the world find their way to this northwestern corner of Montana, eager to see the disappearing glaciers, hike aside azure-colored lakes and to catch a glimpse of resident wildlife.

This secluded, five-story hotel offers visitors a window into the past with old-world style guest rooms and a Swiss Alpine theme.  While dedicated to honoring its historic roots, the 214-room gem has undergone a multi-million dollar renovation that included remodeling rooms, updating furniture and lighting and restoring the dining room to historic standards.

Also included was the return of the “missing staircase”.

Once part of the grand lobby, sharing space with soaring beams of Douglas fir and a massive fireplace, the original double helix staircase stretched from the lake level of the hotel to the lobby. It was removed in the mid-’50s to make way for a gift shop.

As part of the recent remodel, the magnificent spiral staircase has been restored to its former glory.

There is plenty to do for every age group. In addition to world-class hiking, Red Bus tours, boat cruises, horseback rides, and evening and Junior Ranger programs, are offered in an unparalleled lakeside setting.

Other Glacier National Park Lodge accommodations include: 

The new Cedar Creek Lodge and Conference Center blends the comfort of a mountain lodge with modern style at the gateway to Glacier National Park in Columbia Falls.

Swiftcurrent Motor Inn & Cabins, located just one mile from Many Glacier Hotel, provides 95 rustic cabin and motor inn rooms in a hiker’s paradise.  

The Lake McDonald Lodge, a classic Swiss chalet style lodge, is located 10 miles inside Glacier National Park’s west entrance on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, nestled on the shores of the largest lake inside the park.

Also, Rising Sun Motor Inn and Cabins and Village Inn at Apgar.  

For more information: www.GlacierNationalParkLodges.com

Glacier National Park Lodges is a member of the FamilyTravel.com

Grandparents Travel Collection.

If you would like additonal assistance planning or booking a family trip, we can help.

 

The Oasis at Death Valley, situated in a lush oasis surrounded by the vast and arid desert of Death Valley National Park, California is just 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada and 275 miles northeast of Los Angeles, California.

This property hosts two hotels – the historic, 4-diamond, 66 room Inn at Death Valley (formerly The Inn at Furnance Creek) and the more family oriented 224 room Ranch at Death Valley (formerly The Ranch at Furnace Creek).

Located adjacent to the Death Valley National Park Visitors Center, The Ranch at Death Valley is the perfect home base from which to explore this amazing park with the grandkids.

As you wander around the expansive grounds, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back to when the site was established as a working ranch. Yet, you’ll enjoy the amenities of modern civilization, like quiet, clean rooms, a spring-fed (87 degrees warm) swimming pool, large grass lawns, and sports courts.   For the golfers in the group you’ll have stories to tell after a round on the family-friendly 18-hole golf course – the lowest elevation course in the world. Be sure to take pictures when you stop for a bite and a beverage at the turn. You’ll all get a chuckle out of the drive-thru-in-your-cart snack shop.

Share stories from your day exploring sand dunes, canyons and look out points, around the community fire pits. The kids can dispense of excess energy playing tennis, basketball, volleyball and horseshoes.

The youngest members of your group will smile when they see the playground that’s just their style. Consider horseback rides and carriage tours from the Furnace Creek Stables or rent a Jeep from Farabee Jeeps to explore the park. And come nightfall, enjoy an amazing night sky, one of the few places in North America you can admire the Milky Way with the naked eye.

The Ranch at Death Valley is a great family basecamp when visiting Death Valley National Park.

Since 1901, the Grand Canyon Railway has been taking people on a fabled journey into the heart of one of the seven natural wonders of the world. For those fortunate to have traveled on this iconic train, the Grand Canyon Railway is more than just a mode of transportation: It’s a trip back in time to what many consider the most awe-inspiring place on Earth.

With surprises around every corner, it’s fun for every age group. The adventure begins soon after the sheriff wins a show-down with the town’s scoundrels Board the historic train in Williams for the two-hour trip to the iconic Grand Canyon National Park.

The train provides the luxury of relaxing instead of driving and the ability to enjoy the views of the Ponderosa pines and sage-brush-dotted fields.

The grandkids (and grown-ups) will like the guitar-playing and singing cowboys who pause long enough to allow the faux train robbery by the dastardly Cataract Creek Gang to steal the show. Conveniently, the train pulls into the park aside the historic El Tovar Hotel, a legendary place for lunch and, remarkably, just steps from the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

Packages can include one night at the park’s Maswik Lodge North, which provides your family a day to explore the canyon’s wonders on your own, and a return trip departing at 3:30 p.m. for another night in Williams.

For more information visit thetrain.com or call 844-843-8724.

Heading to New York City with the family?

If so, one great way to keep everyone entertained is by taking your family members to a play, musical, or concert. When perusing shows in the city, your first decision would be whether you want to see a show on Broadway or off Broadway. The advantage of Broadway shows is that the production value is higher; however, this greater value is reflected in the ticket cost. Off-Broadway shows, however, offer variety at far lower prices.

Plan ahead for your National Park family vacation. (The best lodging fills quickly.)

Choose from these historic gems to add a layer of history to your outdoor adventure:  

Many Glacier Hotel, Glacier National Park

There are few places on the planet as stunning as Glacier National Park.  And one could argue that the historic Many Glacier Hotel is the ideal venue from which to appreciate the vast and astonishing landscape. Located on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake with jagged peaks as backdrop, the iconic hotel was built by the Great Northern Railway in 1914 to lure tourists to the Wild West. Today, visitors from around the world find their way to this northwestern corner of Montana, eager to see the disappearing glaciers, hike aside azure-colored lakes and to catch a glimpse of resident wildlife.

This secluded, five-story hotel offers visitors a window into the past with old-world style guest rooms and a Swiss Alpine theme.  While dedicated to honoring its historic roots, the 214-room gem has undergone a multi-million dollar renovation that included remodeling rooms, updating furniture and lighting and restoring the dining room to historic standards.

Also included was the return of the “missing staircase”.

Once part of the grand lobby, sharing space with soaring beams of Douglas fir and a massive fireplace, the original double helix staircase stretched from the lake level of the hotel to the lobby. It was removed in the mid-’50s to make way for a gift shop.

As part of the recent remodel, the magnificent spiral staircase has been restored to its former glory.

In addition to world-class hiking, Red Bus tours, boat cruises, horseback rides, and evening ranger programs, are offered in an unparalleled lakeside setting, Contact: www.VisitMontana.com   www.GlacierNationalParkLodges.com

Yellowstone National Park – Old Faithful Snow Lodge.

Built in 1999, recycled timbers were used in the construction of this lodge that offers easy access to the Old Faithful geyser and the wealth of natural resources that attract visitors each year from around the world.   Accommodations include lodge rooms and cabins with wildlife and park themes. America’s first national park, established in 1872, Yellowstone spreads into Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, and is home to abundant wildlife including grizzly bears, wolves, bison, and elk. Check out the hot springs and geysers and experience a ride in the historic yellow touring cars that add to the historic park experience. The grand Old Faithful Inn recently underwent renovations and also welcomes guests eager to see the geyser’s faithful performance.

Contact: www.YellowstoneNationalParkLodges.com   

The Oasis at Death Valley, Death Valley National Park

You’ve heard.

Death Valley National Park is the lowest, driest, hottest place on earth. True. And, all the more reason you’ll be mesmerized by the unexpected luxury found within the Oasis at Death Valley. The historic Inn at Death Valley, tucked within a true oasis-like setting, offers updated and stylish accommodations, fine dining, and spa services, all a welcome contrast to a day spent exploring amid salt flats, mud hills, and volcanic craters. A recent multi-million dollar renaissance of the 1920s gem means you will now enjoy sweeping views while sipping morning coffee or evening cocktails on the shaded outdoor terraces. The inviting dining and bar areas have been updated yet retain their historic charm, and are further enhanced by the owners world-class collection of renowned paintings of the era. You’ll want to plan time for the historic, one of a kind spring fed pool, where lush landscaping, cabanas, a pool bar and a café invite relaxation.

Come nightfall, be sure to look up. You’ll be in awe of what it means to stand in designated Dark Sky country. It’s one of the few places in the U.S. where you can see the Milky Way with the naked eye.

Take note: Twenty-two, new dreamy casitas will open within the Oasis later this year.  

El Tovar, Grand Canyon National Park

Find inspiration in this National Historic Landmark hotel, perched just steps from the world’s grandest canyon. Completed in 1905 by the Fred Harvey Company, now the Xanterra Travel Collection, to accommodate tourists arriving to this wonder of the world, El Tovar provides a history-rich lodging experience on the south rim of canyon. Charles Whittlesey, Chief Architect for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway, designed the hotel, to be a cross between a Swiss chalet and a Norwegian Villa, a result he believed would appeal to the elites of the era.  Today, El Tovar retains its elegant charm offering guest rooms and suites that reflect the colorful history of the property and its global appeal to visitors that have ranged from Theodore Roosevelt and Albert Einstein to Sir Paul McCartney.  

Every season offers a fresh opportunity to put your world in perspective by simply standing at the edge of this visual extravaganza. From your cozy digs, set out for hiking, photographing, journaling and people watching.

Contact: www.GrandCanyonLodges.com; www.VisitArizona.com.

Lake Yellowstone Hotel, Yellowstone National Park

Captivating views of Yellowstone Lake are best appreciated from this elegant hotel’s Sun Room, where classical music performances enchant guests of all ages most evenings during the summer season. The lyrical sounds of a string quartet often serve as a delicious backdrop as guests, in multiple accents and languages, share their experiences of the day and plans for tomorrow.  First opened in 1891, in an era when guests arrived by stagecoach, the Grand Old Lady of the Lake was restored to her Colonial Revival heritage during a multi-million dollar renovation completed in 2014. A National Historic Landmark, the Lake Yellowstone Hotel update refreshed guest rooms, the dining room, bar, public spaces and redesigned the deli. Walking tours of the hotel are offered for those interested in learning more about the history, hardships, and idiosyncrasies of this National Park treasure.

Contact: www.YellowstoneNationalParkLodges.com; www.TravelWyoming.com.

Zion Lodge, Zion National Park.

 Peace and refuge. That’s what the name Zion means. And in this beautiful Southern Utah park, filled with shifting and photographic opportunity, you’ll find plenty of both. Bike, stroll or cycle through 146,000 acres of uninterrupted beauty, punctuated by colorful cliffs and canyons as well as diverse plant and animal life. i Later choose from more than 200 miles of trails for hiking before relaxing beneath the park’s massive sandstone walls. The lodge, the only in-park lodging, features historic cabins with private porches as well as motel-style rooms with balconies or porches.

Contact: www.zionlodge.com; www.VisitUtah.com.

Embark on a journey of discovery and understanding when you and your family visit the destinations and landmarks that play a part in the American civil rights story.

Here are five to consider:

Rosa Parks Museum, Montgomery, Alabama.

"In 1955, when I was arrested... I had no way of knowing what the future held,” observed the woman who would become known as the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement when this museum was named in her honor. Set in front of the bus stop where the historic moment took place, the Rosa Parks Museum features a video reenactment of her refusal to give up her seat to a white man and other interactive presentations. A children’s wing provides age appropriate history lessons for youngsters.

Contact: www.VisitingMontgomery.com

Alexandria, VA.

Rising on the banks of the historic Potomac River, Alexandria, founded in 1746, is steeped in African-American history. Visit the city to seek an   understanding of civil rights from colonial times to the Civil War, illuminated by a compelling collection of sites. Originally the segregated library for Alexandria's African American residents, the Black History museum documents the local and national African American experience through exhibits, speakers and interactive programs. Visit the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center to learn about those enslaved at nearby Mount Vernon. This exhibit explores the household furnishings, art works, archaeological discoveries, documents, and demonstrates how closely intertwined the lives of the Washington family members were with those they enslaved. Walking tours of Old Town Alexandria, offered by Manumission Tour Company, provide additional insight by sharing little-known stories from the era of slave trade.

Contact: VisitAlexandriaVA.com

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Washington DC.

Families can seek ongoing inspiration from the words and work of clergyman and civil rights leader, Dr. King, through a visit to this monument in Potomac Park. Sixteen quotes extracted from his eloquent messages of love and tolerance can be found along the granite wall facing the Tidal Basin. Site tours and Junior Ranger badge activities are available and can help extend the experience for children.

Contact: http://www.nps.gov/mlkm/learn/kidsyouth/

Natchez, MS.

The story of slavery and African-American culture in Natchez is one of the most complex threads of the city’s multi-faceted history. Visitors can delve into the past at the Museum of African American History & Culture on Main St. Consider a double-decker bus tour (hop on and hop off at various locations) that launches at the Natchez Visitors Center and rolls through the Southern town, passing by many of the most significant landmarks. Narration is provided from the point of view of two slaves who lived during the difficult era when slave trading at local slave markets was a part of daily life.

Contact: www.VisitNatchez.org.

The National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, TN.

The museum complex includes the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated as well as the building where James Earl Ray fired the shot. The museum seeks to open a dialogue about a history that spans the dark era of slavery through the modern Civil Rights Movement. A family guide is offered to assist adults in discussing the sensitive topics and events that are addressed within the museum.  

Contact: www.civilrightsmuseum.org

Our sincere thanks to these organizations that help make it possible for us to share quality family travel ideas and inspiration.

Xanterra Travel Collection

 One company providing countless ways to experience the unforgettable. 

Troutstalkers - Montana Outfitter & Fly Shop  

Based in Ennis, MT, Troutstalkers offers guided day and overnight trips on the Madison, Big Hole, Beaverhead, Ruby, Yellowstone, Missouri, the Gallatin and beyond.

Dude Ranchers Association

Representing more than 100 of the best dude ranch and guest ranch vacation experiences. 

Monograms  

Offering all-in-one vacation packages that provide the freedom of independent travel without going it alone. 

ShipSticks + ShipSkis  

Ship Sticks and Ship Skis make shipping your golf clubs and your ski gear quick, easy, and hassle-free.

 

 Photo: The Oasis at Death Valley casitas - lohayes

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