Diving is a great way to discover the world and what lies beneath the surface. 

From Bonaire and Grand Cayman to Yap and Palau, Family Dive Adventures and Kids Sea Camp provide education about the underwater world and the tools needed to become safe, confident divers. In the last 15 years, the company has certified more than 5,400 kids. Children and their parents will learn about coral reefs, sharks, manta rays and the latest in global marine conservation during Kids Sea Camp weeks.

Join other families during organized group trips or customize your own getaway.

Find out more: familydivers.com

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

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,

places to play in and pray in,
where nature may heal and bring strength to
body and soul.
-John Muir

Think you know New York?

Think again. There's tons to discover in the Big Apple beyond the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and the Plaza Hotel.

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My teenage daughter and I took four days this week to explore the city and find the best lodging, dining, tours, and shows -- all the ones that aren't yet famous, but should be.

1) Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Until recently, you might not have heard of Jessie Mueller. Believe me when I say I am not surprised that has changed. This young actor/singer made the earth move under our feet with her portrayal of Carole King. The supporting performers help her bring Carole's world to life and will have you tapping your toes to songs like "Locomotion" and "Take Good Care of My Baby"; you'll sway to ballads like "So Far Away" and "You've Got a Friend."

2) The baby gorillas at the Bronx Zoo. You might not have young kids. You might not even be that into zoos. Let me tell you: Go to the Bronx Zoo this summer and see the gorillas. The babies are cuter than humans, I swear. The mamas are so relatable, with the way they cuddle their infants and try everything to get them to sleep. And the rest of the zoo? A cool, green, gorgeous enclave that supports theWildlife Conservation Society. Heaven.

3) The Tryp Hotel. OK. We all know that New York hotels have tiny rooms with even smaller bathrooms. That's why you must check out the Tryp. Our room with two beds was bigger than a lot of NYC apartments, with hardwood floors, big windows, and a gigantic walk-in shower. The hotel is near Penn Station, an easy walk to Times Square, and right on the subway line.

4) Walks of New York Tours. Sure, you've probably been to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Broadway, and Eataly. But you haven't done them with Walks of New York. This small tour company, newly arrived in New York from Italy, hosts fun, educational tours where you really learn something. We spent two and a half hours wandering around the Met with co-owner Jason, who's an encyclopedia in human form. Best of all, the tours are small, with a max of 12 people and plenty of opportunities to ask questions.

5) Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill. Love Billie Holiday? Love clubs? Want to have the ultimate Broadway experience? Head to Circle in the Square to see Audra McDonald in this one-woman show about Billie Holiday's life, all set one evening in a club, in front of a microphone, during one of the great "Lady Day's" sets. McDonald made history with her sixth Tony win for her performance in this show. Insider's tip: Spring for the table seating. You'll be mere feet from the star (who interacts with the audience), and you'll get free champagne.

6) E.T.C. Custom Events. Don't want a group tour? Or want a tour customized to your specific wishes, with your own guests? Contact Evan Levy at E.T.C. and tell her what interests you and your family or group. We joined her and one of three sisters who owns Argosy Books, a midtown shop chock-full of rare books, prints, and maps. My Alice-loving daughter was thrilled by the Lewis Carroll theme. Next time, we're planning to try a historical tour of Central Park.

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7) Capizzi Pizza. Holy pizza, Batman. On our last night in New York, we stayed in our room at the Tryp to watch the Tony awards. We searched the internet for quality New York pizza that would deliver - and boy, did we score. The pizza at Capizzi is charred from the wood fire oven and topped (if you like) with thick-cut pepperoni and Italian sausage. It was the perfect end to an off-the-beaten-path New York trip. - FT

We feel fortunate to be in some grand company.

Thanks to enthusiastic band of readers and friends we were voted into the top THREE on USA TODAY'S Ten Best Family Travel Bloggers list.

Our adventure and outdoor focus, combined with a commitment to provide healthy, smart and off-the-beaten path family travel options, is a passion we hold dear.

Thanks to those of you who took the time to vote for us.

And thanks for being a part of FamilyTravel.com and for your own commitment to family and travel!

You can see more here!

Once a year, around the second week of June, my younger daughter revels in being an only child.

Her older sister, an astronaut wannabe, heads to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, where thousands of her peers engage in simulated missions and try out what it feels like to bounce around in zero gravity. She's sure she's the luckiest kid on earth.

But my 13-year-old? She knows she's got it made.

Do you love to hike?

Taking to the trails is a great way to introduce youngsters to the benefits of fresh air and the natural world.

Here are five hikes to enjoy together:

There is plenty of family fun to be found in mountain towns during the summer. Cool temperatures. Hiking, biking and family fly fishing abound. 

Ready to rodeo in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.?

Your whole crew will enjoy witnessing the American tradition where the rough and tough iconic cowboy meets good, old-fashioned family fun.

Check out these epic mountain towns while you are in the mood for high altitude fun.

It is reported that nearly 90 percent of Americans love ice cream.

Whether in our home town or on the road, a trip to the local sweet shop is often on the itinerary.

If you and your family are in the majority, consider incorporating the cool confection into your next holiday.

Here are nine places where ice cream takes center stage: 

Salt & Straw, Portland, OR.

 Billed as  “farm-to-cone ice cream”, the delectable and creative flavors regularly result in lines out the door, as patrons debate their new favorite concoction. Launched by cousins Kim and Tyler Malek, the pair uses local, sustainable and organic ingredients to deliver hand-made, small batches of Goat Cheese Marionberry Habanero, Cinnamon Snicker Doodle and Double Fold Singing Dog Vanilla.

Contact: 971-271-8168; www.SaltandStraw.com.

Velvet Ice Cream’s Ye Olde Mill. Utica, OH.

This 99-year-old, family-owned spot celebrates the month with activities that include 99-cent cone day, music from a barbershop quartert, magicians, clowns, tastings and a special sundae celebration. Pets even get in on the action during the 4Paws Dog Show

The company, fittingly located in Licking County, churns out more than 5 million gallons of ice cream each year on the 25-acre grounds of Ye Olde Mill where visitors can tour the ice cream and milling museum. The playground, picnic area and catch-and-release fishpond are popular with families. 

Contact: www.VelvetIceCream.com

Mount Rushmore National Memorial. SD.

Thomas Jefferson is well known for service to his country, efforts that included writing the Declaration of Independence and serving as President of the US.  But few know he is considered to be the first to craft an ice cream recipe.  Xanterra Parks and Resorts serves the same vanilla recipe that Jefferson offered his guests at a state dinner held at Monticello home.  Monumental scoops of “TJ’s Ice Cream” are available throughout the summer at the Memorial Team Ice Cream shop.

Contact: www.nps.gov/moru; www.mtrushmorenationalmemorial.com

Little Man Ice Cream. Denver, Co.

Visit this Coney Island inspired creamery for hand-made and locally sourced taste treats, crafted within a 28-foot tall silver cream can. In addition to providing an experience for their local customers, Little Man is committed to a Scoop for Scoop program. For every scoop of ice cream purchased, the organization provides a scoop of rice or beans to those less fortunate in developing parts of the world.

Contact: www.littlemanicecream.com 

Birchwood Dairy, Abbotsford, BC.

Koralee Teichroeb, author of Everything Goes With Ice Cream, taps the 150-acre Birchwood Dairy as her go-to spot for the creamy confection. “This little neighborhood farm and dairy sells the best homemade ice cream ever,” declares the frozen treat aficionado. Visitors can take a farm tour or enjoy petting small farm animals before enjoying a scoop of Candy Cane or Caramel Wave.

Contact: http://www.birchwooddairy.com/

Waterbury, Vt. – 

Two guys named Ben and Jerry have turned their mail order ice cream business into this state’s number one tourist attraction. The kids will have fun outside engaging in fun activities that include spin art, a tie-dye tent, temporary tattoos and a playground. Inside they will be mesmerized by the “cow to cone” process. Everyone’s favorite focus seems to be taste testing. Don’t miss the ice cream graveyard where has-beens and wanna-be flavors are given their due with colorful grave markers.

Contact: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory Tours; 1 (802) 882-1240; www.BenJerry.com

Fairbanks and Denali, AK

If the urge for ice cream strikes in between animal sightings, camping, climbing, biking and  kayaking, head straight to Hot Licks for some premium cream. Launched more than 20 years ago by two brothers from Boston, Hot Licks offers locally inspired flavors including Aurora Borealis (local blueberry and cranberry purees swirled into vanilla ice cream), Alaska Birch Walnut (local birch syrup and California walnuts) and Nanook Nosh (vanilla, melted milk chocolate and caramel.)

Contact: www.HotLIicks.net; :1- (907) 479-7813

Fort Lauderdale, FL -- 

At the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa you can enjoy in-room ice cream sundae service. During July ( National Ice Cream Month ) you can go overboard with free toppings. Watching your calories? Indulge in a 50- minute ice cream pedicure, customized to your taste. Will it be vanilla, kiwi or mango? 

Contact:  www.marriottharborbeach.com; 1 (800) 222-6543.

 San Antonio, TX

After a stroll on the Riverwalk or a visit to the Alamo, indulge in a cool, refreshing ice cream sundae for your feet!  At the luxury Watermark Hotel and Spa you can climb into the chair for a 50-minute ice cream pedicure treatment that promises to nourish, relax and beautify your legs and feet. Your special take home gift: more ice cream.

Contact: 1 (866) 605-1212; www.watermarkhotel.com.

Spending time outside matters. 

This revelation, underscored in a  study by the Girl Scout Research Institute ("More Than S'mores"), doesn't surprise me. 

Outside matters for kids FamilyTravel.com

The report suggests that girls who spend time outside regularly surpass their peers who spend less time in fresh air in environmental stewardship, they readily seek more challenges and are better problem-solvers. 

Other findings include:

Spending time outdoors in nature is different from playing or learning inside.

Here’s how . . .

Outdoor spaces support physical play. Unlike most indoor environments, the outdoors offers open space where children are able to be messy, make noise, and move in more physically intense ways.

This allows them to develop their movement capability and confidence—both of which create foundations for physically active lifestyles and general health (Little & Wyver, 2008; SPARC, 2009).

Time in nature promotes attention restoration.

Spending time in nature (even just a walk in a park) has been shown to improve concentration and creative reasoning among children and adults, including those with attention deficits (Atchley, Strayer, & Atchley, 2012; Taylor & Kuo, 2009; Berman, Jonides, & Kaplan, 2008).

Nature provides novelty and challenge, which enhance leadership.

Outdoor experiences often place girls in new physical, psychological, and social situations that motivate curiosity and foster a sense of discovery. Authentic challenges in nature (think . . . starting a fire in the rain or negotiating a set of whitewater rapids) require girls to become more self-aware and to cooper- ate, communicate, and solve problems more effectively (Rickinson et al., 2004).

For me and for my children, outdoor experiences have always been healthy, enriching and expansive in every way.

Our favorite family vacations have included river rafting, hiking, fly fishing, and camping. 

What role does outside activity play in your family?

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