Who doesn’t love the sunny days you’ll find in Southern California?
And if you check in to the oceanfront Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel, halfway between San Diego and Los Angeles, you can expect the ultimate family beach vacation. It’s one where the kids are having fun, mom and dad are relaxed and you all connect while experiencing #bucketlist adventures.
Your clan can learn how to catch a wave, fly a kite on the beach, build sand castles or toast s’mores over an outside fireplace on your guestroom patio. Later, glimpse a Blue whale in its natural habitat, witness a pod of stampeding dolphins, or report a Garibaldi sighting while snorkeling in the Pacific.
The resort’s Beach Butlers offer personalized services so parents can enjoy a stress-free day under the sun. Services include setting up beach chairs, umbrellas and towels, offering and assisting with food and beverage service and providing transportation to and from the beach on the complimentary beach shuttle.
Forgot the sunscreen? Not to worry. Beach butlers are also fully equipped with sunscreen and tanning lotion.
Seeking the next level of relaxation? The Ritz-Carlton Spa offers a full menu of services including massage, facials and body treatments. Choose from a selection of treatments designed to soothe, recharge and rejuvenate the body, mind and spirit. The Spa also offers wellness classes including yoga and Pilates.
Fun for the Family
The Eco-Adventure Center is dedicated to showcasing Southern California’s natural wonders. Fifteen excursions showcase the local surroundings and are led by expert naturalists. Families can learn about the blue whales on a whale watching adventure, discover the native fish and underwater creatures on a snorkel excursion, or experience riding the waves during a body boarding activity.
The resort features great dining, two outdoor swimming pools, two whirlpools, a playground area, basketball court, ping-pong table, and tennis courts. Throughout the summer, poolside movies are presented every Thursday evening and a selection of children’s movies is available for in room viewing.
In their book 101 Best Outdoor Towns (The Countryman Press) Sarah Tuff and Greg Melville provide a list of great places for visiting, playing – and perhaps staying.
Most of the towns make for great family travel destinations. You’ll find tips on where to bunk for the night, rent great gear, find local favs and often affordable dining spots.
Here are five of my favorites:
1. Livingston, MT –
Oozing western charm, this historic town is home to fly fishing enthusiasts, writers, artists and mountain lovers. As the scenic backdrop for many Hollywood movies, Livingston is a popular stop over for families heading into Yellowstone Park just 60 miles to the south. One of the country’s most important professional rodeos takes place here over the Fourth of July holiday. Contact: www.LivingstonMontana.com; www.VisitMT.com.
2. Taos, NM -
Nestled against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this artsy town is steeped in Native American history. Enjoy galleries, great Southwestern food as well as hiking, kayaking, down hill and cross country skiing. The adobe architecture and stunning light also make it a photographer’s paradise. Contact: www.TaosChamber.com.
3. McCall, ID –
The 5,500 acre glacial Payette Lake is the summer centerpiece in this mountain enclave of fewer than 3,000 full time residents. Surrounded by miles of pristine wilderness the whole gang will enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, rafting and paddling. Once the more than 300 inches of annual snow begins to fall, head to Brundage Mountain Resort or Tamarack Resort for some family friendly skiing. Contact: www.McCallChamber.org.
4. Girdwood, AK –
Strap on crampons and hike the glacier or enjoy the mid-summer blueberry festival. This funky and fun town just 40 miles south of Anchorage offers year-round outdoor excitement. Plan now for winter heli-skiing, snow cat and dog-sledding trips led by Iditarod veterans. Contact: GirdwoodAlaska.com
5. Peterborough, NH –
Here mountain climbers, hikers, paddlers and skiers are proud of their high energy crossroads and their well-known home town peak Mount Monadnock. At 3165 feet, the pinnacle provides stunning views that compete only with the picturesque town’s winding roads, churches and taverns that are right out of a Currier & Ives print. Trails of nearly every length lead out of town. Contact: www.TownofPeterborough.com
Traveling with multiple families can add up to loads of holiday fun. Proper planning for family trips can go along way toward keeping friendships and expectations intact.
Here are six tips to consider:
Give careful consideration to the families and friends with whom you choose to share your precious vacation time. Parents you know from the sidelines of the soccer field might show different colors in a holiday setting away from your hometown. Consider hosting a planning party to discuss specific destinations and before making final plans.
Family groups often choose to share a beach house, condo or cabin. That can mean divvying up expenses, transportation, room assignments, cleaning and cooking. Be sure to have a clearly defined plan before your holiday gets underway to avoid misunderstandings about how time and resources will be allocated. If you sense close quarters could be uncomfortable, suggest staying in a resort or hotel where individual rooms will provide each family more time on their own.
With a covey of kids under roof, bringing along helping hands can save sanity. Your favorite neighborhood teen might jump at the chance to help out in exchange for a few dollars and the opportunity to experience your chosen destination. Trade time off during the day for evening duty, so that grown ups can enjoy a quiet dinner or a night on the town.
Not everyone’s parenting style is in sync. Before departure, consider discussing issues ranging from bedtime and use of technology to strategies for handling mealtime and household chores with the other parents. Then share expectations with your family before the fun begins. If your children typically make their beds, minimize TV time and eat what they are served, it can be awkward if their travel pals are watching cartoons while waiting for a parent to create a custom waffle and squeeze special orange juice.
Plan private time.
No matter how much you are enjoying your vacation buddies, carve out private time with your own family as a group and individually. Whether you take walks on the beach, shop, grab a sandwich or visit a local museum on your own, don’t head for home without catching up with your clan. You’ll be glad you made the special effort once your regular routine resumes.
Do it right.
With proper planning and care, you'll be having so much fun, you'll be planning the next adventure as you migrate back home.
While students find intellectual challenge in the formal classroom, here are five places where families can expand their knowledge through experience:
Denver Museum of Science & Nature.
Denver, CO. Through film, lectures, demonstrations and hands-on activity, your family will learn about ancient Egyptian civilization through clues scientists share from their mummy research. Tap into the latest information about our universe and our place in it through a Space Odyssey exhibit. Gain a greater understanding of Native American cultures. Plus, discover how precious gems are recovered from mines and the role they play in various cultures. All this, plus a permanent discovery zone where hands -on fun provides interactive educational opportunities for the youngest explorers. Contact: 303-322-7009; www.dmns.org.
Musical Instrument Museum. Phoenix, AZ.
This unique museum enables families to see and experience more than 3000 instruments and artifacts from around the world. Live performances, family-friendly festivals and a wide array of lectures and classes are available. Check out the Steinway piano on which John Lennon composed “Imagine” as well as the instruments of Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana and George Benson. Wireless head-sets allow guests to see and hear exhibits throughout the museum. Kids will enjoy the Experience Gallery where they can touch, play and hear instruments from far away cultures. Contact: (480) 478-6000; www.TheMim.org.
The Alamo. San Antonio, TX.
Located in downtown San Antonio, more than 2.5 million people visit each year to learn why it was suggested we “Remember the Alamo!”. Representing three centuries of history, families can learn the roles played by David Crockett, Sam Houston and James Bowie as they tour the 4.2 acre complex where beautiful gardens provide a backdrop for the old mission and exhibits detailing the Texas revolution and the state’s colorful history. Admission is free. Contact: 1-866-769-8419; thealamo.org
Glaciers and Climate Change.
Trek to Alaska, our largest state, but at number 49 among the last to join the union. Here you can team up with one of many companies that will introduce you to the mysteries of glaciers and how our changing climate is affecting them and the surrounding areas. Tours offer the opportunity to dog sled, hike, and ice climb all while learning about regional geology and geography and its importance to the rest of the world. Contact: www.flyk2.com; travelAlaska.com.
Monterey Bay Aquarium. Monterey, CA.
Founded in 1984, this world-renowned organization’s mission is to inspire conservation of the world’s oceans. Through a variety of interactive activities and exhibits designed for young children and families, your crew will learn about the delicate balance that exists in our seas today. The youngest visitors will be drawn to the 40-foot-long touch pool for an up close look at curious creatures like sea stars, urchins, kelp crabs and abalones. Contact: (831) 648-4800; www.MonterayBayAquarium.org
Pair history with exploration when you and the family check into a storied hotel inspired by an American president.
Here are five to consider:
1. The Jefferson, Washington D.C.
Get comfortable in this 95-room, famed hotel and learn about the epicurean, intellectual, farmer, inventor and president it was named for.
Kids will get a kick out of the free and fun “Where’s Tommy?” tour of the capital city. Begin the adventure in the Beaux Arts-style hotel’s cozy library before making your way to eight locations where Thomas Jefferson is remembered. Document your arrival at each location by posting on Instagram. Return to the hotel and you’ll be rewarded with a treat, compliments of the chef, as well as a Thomas Jefferson bobblehead doll for completing the tour. Pets are welcome, too.
Notice the lobby sky light that was uncovered in a recent renovation.
2. The President Abraham Lincoln hotel, Springfield, Ill.
Learn about the 16th president during your stay in the home of Lincoln’s presidential library and museum. Visit the well-regarded center featuring exhibits, artifacts, theatrical presentations and guest speakers of interest to the whole family.
Hop on the Springfield Trolley for easy access to more historic sites offering insight into the iconic leader’s contributions to the American story. Then, turn back the clock and imagine life more than 150 years ago while visiting New Salem, a re-creation of Lincoln’s 19th-century frontier village.
3. US Grant hotel, San Diego.
Located in the city’s historic Gaslamp Quarter, the grand hotel was renovated by our 18th president’s son Ulysses S. Grant Jr. Enjoy classic architecture combined with modern decor for a relaxing and luxurious family getaway.
Take note of the hotel’s $6.5 million collection of artwork, created by world-renowned artists from various backgrounds. The sculptures, ironwork, murals and paintings express the cultural landmark’s blend of history and modern approach to hospitality. Enjoy nearby shopping, and the famed Southern California beaches and amusement parks are just a short drive away.
4. McKinley Grand Hotel, Canton, Ohio.
This boutique, independent hotel is the ideal home base from which to learn about our 25th president. Visit the William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum for interactive, hands-on science exhibits, a planetarium and a historical library.
The permanent McKinley Gallery display chronicles the path of a leader who was teaching in a country school when the Civil War broke out. Born in 1843, he served 14 years in the U.S. House before becoming president. A second term was cut short by his death at the hands of an assassin.
Family travelers can also visit the nearby Pro Football Hall of Fame.
5. The Roosevelt, New Orleans.
Book the Family Fun package and create a memorable family getaway in the Big Easy.
This historic 504-room hotel was first officially named to honor President Theodore Roosevelt in 1923 and recognize his efforts to build the Panama Canal, an event that served the city of New Orleans well.
For a brief time, the landmark hotel operated under a different moniker. Then, 10 years ago it closed for a $145 million restoration after Hurricane Katrina and reopened, once again, as The Roosevelt.
Just steps beyond the old-world grandeur of the hotel. you’ll find the famed French Quarter, shopping, museums, galleries and, of course, music.
Tubac Golf Resort & Spa, a luxurious and tranquil vacation destination in Arizona's Southwest desert, is a family-friendly gem.
Set on the historic 500-acre Otero Ranch in the Santa Cruz River Valley, the Spanish Colonial architecture and lush grounds are enhanced by magnificent views of the Tumacacori and Santa Rita mountain peaks.
Hike, play golf, sample wonderful food, explore the local art community and spend time at the spa.
Ready to go?
Get in on the snow action this winter. Here are five ways you and your family can enjoy the ski season.
1. Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Once a rugged, Western outpost popular with extreme skiers, the resort now offers plenty of beginner and family-friendly terrain. Expect new lifts and on-mountain dining experiences as well as lodging options that offer a range of packages full of pre- and post-ski amenities. Avid skiers and boarders can explore new territory with the Golden Ticket. Bring your season pass from any other resort for discounts.
Contact: 1-888-333-7766; jacksonhole.com; www.FourSeasons.com.
2. The Mountain Collective.
Why settle for spending all your time on one mountain when you can access 11 of the world’s top winter destinations with a value pass? Ski two days at Alta/Snowbird, Aspen/Snowmass, Jackson Hole, Mammoth Mountain, Ski Banff-Lake Louise/Sunshine, Stowe, Sun Valley, Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, Taos, Thredbo and Whistler Blackcomb, with discounts available for additional days. The pass is $399 for adults and $99 for children 12 and younger. Supplies are limited.
3. Vail, Colo.
The Sebastian is a Rocky Mountain winter wonderland. Its amenties-on-demand program delivers ski and snow essentials to your room along with an energy-boosting breakfast. Order an extra pair of toasty socks, hand warmers for the kids or another round of sunscreen. Guests can arrange to have a steaming bubble bath drawn prior to a return from the slopes.
Team up with the adventure concierge to plan a moonlight snowshoe adventure or ice skating.
Contact: snow.com; thesebastianvail.com
4. Keystone, Colo.
The ground game can be one of the most challenging aspects of skiing with youngsters. But Keystone is committed to making your mountain vacation memorable for the entire family.
It offers a recently renovated reception center, parking reserved for families as well as hundreds of red wagons throughout the property to ease the transport of little ones plus gear.
The Kidtopia program offers a range of activities for children including snow forts, arts and crafts, and music. Stay two nights in resort lodging and kids 12 and younger ski and ride free. Ask about private lessons for family groups.
5. Mount Rose-Ski Tahoe, Nev.
Families will certainly appreciate the more than $1 million worth of enhancements that were finished on the mountain in the off-season. Climb aboard the newly christened Wizard Chairlift for access to beginner-friendly terrain and the Enchanted Forest Family Zone. Also, Nevada’s Heavenly Mountain Resort will celebrate its 60th anniversary this season with special packages, free concerts and pop-up mobile DJs on snowcats.
TIPS FROM THE NATIONAL SKI PATROL
Since 1938, the 501(c)3 non-profit, National Ski Patrol (NSP), has dedicated itself to providing service and safety to the outdoor community. As the preeminent authority for serving the outdoor recreation industry, NSP provides the highest quality Outdoor Emergency Care education and credentialing care to safety services providers. Ski and Snowboard Patrollers keep both you, and the mountain safe. Next time you see them on the mountain or ride with them on a chair lift, stop and talk with them. They're friendly people willing to share their knowledge of the resort with you. They can even give you some tips on great gear and where might be a good place for you to ski and ride based on your ability level. Check out these Safety Tips written to give you some snowsmarts and in collaboration with the NSP Safety Team. For more information, please visit nsp.org.
Since 1938, the National Ski Patrol has been advocating safe practices on the slopes so that skiers and snowboarders like you, can enjoy the most out of the mountain terrain. So, to share the message of how to have fun, while staying safe, NSP developed the slogan "Be Snowsmart! Play It Safe!"
What does "Be Snowsmart! Play It Safe" mean? Well, while it can mean a multitude of things depending on what situation you're in and what terrain you're on, the basis of it can be summed up in 3 key points.
1) Prepare for conditions.
Knowing what type of terrain you and your equipment can handle is extremely important when playing it safe. To be Snowsmart, know your ability level and where that appropriate terrain is on the mountain.
2) Reduce your risk of injury.
To reduce the risk of injury, always wear a helmet. Helmets can reduce your risk of head injury by 35-50%. You can avoid risk of injury in other ways too, including tuning your equipment, skiing with a friend, being aware of other skiers and riders on the slope and being aware of your surroundings and on mountain signage.
3) Prevent emergency situations.
Situations on the mountain can quickly turn into emergencies without warning. Unexpected weather changes, backcountry and side country skiing areas, and getting down the mountain with an injury are just a few factors that may turn into emergencies if you are not prepared. Preparing for situations such as these can help tremendously and can be as simple as being aware of weather forecasts, carrying a reliable communication device while on the mountain, snowboarding with a friend, and knowing how to contact Ski Patrol.
These safety tips are just part of being snowsmart! Before you even head out the door you need to have a few things lined up, like what you are going to wear and knowing how to dress for conditions outside.
Having the right equipment is important too. Borrowing is not the best idea, but renting is a great way to try different gear and see what you like before spending money on purchasing your own skis, board, boots, poles, and helmet. The National Ski Patrol highly recommends wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding, but encourages those participating in the sports to realize that helmets do have limitations and are not a complete answer for slope safety. Check out this helmet fact sheet from the National Ski Areas Associationto get more information on the benefits of wearing a helmet.
In addition to the proper use of helmets, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) has developed Your Responsiblity Code to help snow sports enthusiasts avoid injury and make their experience as safe and enjoyable as possible.
If you're adventuring in the backcountry you must be knowledgeable in avalanche safety and the equipment used to help keep you safe; NSP provides information and classes on backcountry avalanche safety.
Find out more from the National Ski Patrol.
Life is full of adventure!
If you are looking for a little inspiration, a few words to urge you into action, you've come to the right place.
"You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of shore." – Christopher Columbus