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!
There is plenty of family fun to be found in mountain towns during the summer. Cool temperatures. Hiking, biking and family fly fishing abound.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Steamboat Springs has a very strong western tradition, which even the youngest residents celebrate.
There was a time when my middle son, Alex, would don his small cowboy hat, grab an unsuspecting stuffed animal and practice calf roping in the living room. Swinging his imaginary rope, he would nab the stuffed toy, drop on one knee and throw his hands in the air. Success!
Today I was reminded why they call one of my favorite sports “fishing”.
And not “catching”.
It was a beautiful day in the Vail Valley and my son Alex and I headed out for a morning of “Walk and Wade” fly-fishing with a guide from Gore Creek Fly Fishermen.
Do you strive to raise citizens of the world? As you and your children begin to navigate the planet together, sharing your knowledge, while teaching them to make their own way, will create confidant and compassionate travelers for the future.
Here are a five tips for empowering the next generation of explorers:
1. Preparation breeds confidence.
Involve your kids in the travel planning and decision making process from the earliest age possible. Show them maps, books, web sites and pictures. Stoke their curiosity by discussing the nearby and faraway places you hope to visit now or in the future. When you or other friends or family travel for business or pleasure, make a point to show your children the destinations on a map and discuss geographic and cultural points of interest that will help build their growing understanding of the world.
2. Knowledge is power.
When planning your own journey, chart a road trip using your favorite mapping technology and share the information with the kids. If they are old enough, encourage them to create a suggested routing and to offer options for stops along the way. If you will be flying, show the kids how to navigate the booking process and then check in for a flight on line. Consider making each child responsible for their own boarding pass. (For younger children perhaps printing an extra as back up is a wise decision.) Provide each child with an itinerary and discuss the details before you depart. Talk about preparing for and moving through airport security.
3. Bestow Responsibility.
Discuss your travel plans and encourage your children to create a packing list early. Talk about the importance of having the right gear for an adventure trip or the proper attire for a city visit. Then, encourage them to pack their own belongings. As soon as possible, give them responsibility for making sure their bag makes it from home to the car, train or plane. Discuss the importance of having proper identification inside and outside of their bags and retaining baggage tags once a bag is checked to your destination.
4. Communication is key.
Before leaving home, make sure the whole family understands how you will navigate to your destination. Visiting a city? Make sure your crew has the hotel address and phone number at hand. If you will be traveling to or through a crowded venue like an airport, a theme park or shopping mall, be sure to have a clearly defined plan should someone lose their way. Use the buddy system or rooms designated for families when visiting public restrooms.
Consider bestowing each member of the family with a cell phone and instructions for use. Should challenges occur, share your problem solving skills and solutions with the children. Without propagating fear, encourage your children to be aware of their surroundings at all times.
5. Go local.
Research your destination before departure and discuss how the places you will visit might be different or similar to your own home. Seek out tour operators and lodging options that share your travel sensibilities.
Once you arrive, burrow into the culture and make a point to learn about how and where the locals live, work and play. Visit local farmer’s markets.
Skip the chains and seek out locally-owned eateries, shops and lodging. Seek out volunteer possibilities. If the language is not your own, learn at least a few key phrases and practice them before and during the visit.
In the end, education and experience breed understanding, acceptance and confidence.
If you don’t have children of your own or yours have left the nest, it’s still possible to experience the joys of travel through the eyes of a child.
Plan a trip to any of these five places with a niece, nephew, grandchild or young cousin and you’ll forever be a rock star relative:
If you are looking for a great summer road trip, consider this iconic drive inside one of America's most stunning National Parks.
Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road was completed in 1932 and is a spectacular 50 mile, paved two-lane highway that bisects this magnificent Montana park east and west.
Lake Winnipesaukee. Wolfeboro, NH.
This spring-fed lake has served as the center of New England family holidays for decades. Surrounded by three mountain ranges, the wooded shoreline and numerous islands make for great picnicking, sunning and simply relaxing on or near the water. Visit local museums, enjoy community theatre or stroll along the beach with an ice cream cone. 1-800-516-5324; www.wolfeboroonline.com.