Volunteer vacations enable parents to model their most deeply held values while demonstrating compassion for others who share our place on the planet. Develop new talents, brush off rusty skills and make a difference as a family.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Choose from volunteer experiences in India, Costa Rica, Thailand and other destinations where sustainable, locally run community, environmental and educational projects will expand your family’s view of the world. Trained travel advisors share information about each country and specific projects to insure a suitable match. Find a trip working with kids, the environment or wildlife that will blend well with the ages, interests and levels of experience within your family group. Contact: 800-985-4852; www.i-to-i.com.
Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. Cortez, CO.
Channel the Indiana Jones vibe and assist professional archeologists on excavation sites and in the lab as the quest to uncover mysteries surrounding the ancient Anasazi and Pueblo cultures continues. Ask about Family Archeology Weeks during which kids learn to make fire and sharpen skills needed for fieldwork. Pair your volunteer experience with one of a handful of educational adventure trips offered in the region by the same outfit. Contact: 800-422-8975; www.crowcanyon.org
Learn about community-based tourism through this cross-cultural exchange that includes home-stays, family-style meals, exploration, adventure and time with locals in indigenous communities. Your trip will be fully-supported by a North American guide but you and your family members will have plenty of time to engage in service activities that range from building schools to assisting with the need of the moment in Peru, Guatamala, Kenya, India and beyond. Create a custom trip or join a scheduled outing. Contact: 206-383-9828 www.crookedtrails.com.
Those of us who love words were thrilled a poet was asked to participate in the Inaugural ceremonies. Richard Blanco became the fifth poet to read at a Presidential inauguration. Reports emphasized he was the youngest, first Latino, openly gay poet to act as an inaugural poet.
With the magnificent McDowell Mountains as a backdrop, families relish this oasis in the desert.
By day, keep cool within the 6000 square foot Sonoran Splash complex, featuring a zero deck area for the youngest set. Kids wade right into the water, just like at the beach.
Hit the slopes in Beavercreek where every generation of your family will have a grand time.
Kids reign supreme in this Rocky Mountain resort where plenty of ski-in, ski-out lodging simplifies the ground game.
Consider the Osprey where the closest chair is a mere 26 paces from the door. The popular ski-school offers programs for kids of all ages. A magic carpet and junior-sized gondola make it easy for newbies to practice their skills on the slopes. New this year is Ski Girls Rock, inspired by Olympian Lindsey Vonn and designed to instill confidence in girls seven to 16 through sports.
Apres-ski, access family-friendly music, complimentary warm chocolate chip cookies and the chance to take a few spins around the Village ice skating rink. Don't miss the Buckaroo Bonanza Bunch, a children’s theater story time at The Ranch. This complimentary, fun, and Wild West-themed theater group puts on a quick-paced show ideal for ages 3-6.
I don’t know why knowledge of this problem eluded me for so long. But I distinctly remember the moment, more than a decade ago, when it came front and center.
You might think I was deep in the African bush.
I was sitting in a coffee shop in Bozeman, Mt. when a young man shared with me his passion for raising money to help others have access to safe and clean water.
“Water?"I recall asking. I’d helped raise money for food, clothes, schools, books and medicine in the past.
But water? Truthfully, I am embarrassed to admit I hadn’t really thought about it.
And, you know how when you learn a new word, suddenly that letter combo seems to pop up everywhere? Well that is how it was for water.
In short order I learned that more than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes. Nearly all deaths, 99 percent, occur in the developing world – in places like Haiti.
And that lack of access to clean water and sanitation kills children at a rate equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every four hours.
Now I can hardly fathom that of the 60 million people added to the world's towns and cities every year, most move to informal settlements (i.e. slums) with no sanitation facilities. And women and girls spend the most time collecting water.
In today’s world, how is it possible that 780 million people lack access to an improved water source; approximately one in nine people.
I now understand that the water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.
The next time you take a shower consider that an American taking a five-minute rinse-off uses more water than the average person in a developing country slum uses for an entire day.
Then consider that 2.5 times more people lack water than live in the United States.
And what does this say about our culture?
More people have a mobile phone than a toilet.
So recently I raised some money for Water.org. (co-founded by Matt Damon) And you can too.
Even if it is only ….one drop at a time.
PS: And if this water crisis was not on your radar before, just know, that now you are in the global loop when it comes to this five letter word.
Ready to relax? Maybe unplug?
Visit this laid back, but luxurious, family-owned resort in Antigua for an all-inclusive experience that includes extensive water sports including water skiing, deep sea fishing, snorkeling, paddle-boating, tennis, yoga, and sailing.
As the kids burn off energy after another delicious meal, relax in a hammock you’ll find tucked within the palm trees. Spend an afternoon at the spa where open air massages provide a perfect end to a sports-filled day.
Movie magic and travel combine for family fun in Virginia with The Lincoln Movie Trail.
“LINCOLN,” directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day-Lewis, was shot in its entirety in Virginia at sites in Richmond and Petersburg.
The state tourism office has created a self-guided trail and interactive Web site to help your family’s movie and history buffs visit the actual film locations as well as restaurants, bars and shops that were favorites of the stars and crew.
The trail experience includes special “LINCOLN” movie tours by Segway, trolley and guided walking tours.You can also stay at The Jefferson Hotel and dine at the same restaurants as the “LINCOLN” stars.
Visit www.Virginia.org/LINCOLN to learn more about The Lincoln Movie trail.
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. Despite their seemingly docile ways, don’t ignore ranger warnings. This large, grass-eating creature has been known to charge the too close for comfort curious tourist.
Snap a shot of this American icon – with a zoom lens:
1.Wildlife Expeditions, an educational outreach program of Teton Science Schools, a nonprofit organization, provides year-round wildlife viewing and natural history interpretation to those interested in a close-up, ethical view of Greater Yellowstone’s wild animals in their natural habitat. Experienced biologists use their knowledge and skills to locate bison as well as elk, deer, moose, bighorn sheep, and coyotes amongst the towering Teton Mountains.
Contact: 1 (888) 945-3567; www.wildlifeexpeditions.org.
2. The National Bison Range, 40 miles north of Missoula, MT, sprawls across 18,000 acres on one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the nation. Established in 1908, it is a scenic home to hundreds of bison as well as 200 species of birds and other native wildlife.
Contact:1( 406)644-2211; http://bisonrange.fws.gov.
3. Yellowstone National Park is home to approximately 3,500 bison, many the descendants of the few who survived near-extinction. Weighing up to 2,000 pounds, 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: Yellowstone National Park; 1 (307) 344-7381; www.nps.gov/yell.
4. Terry Bison Ranch, Cheyenne, WY: This family friendly ranch offers bison viewing year round in an environment dubbed “the west the way you want it” by its owners. A popular reunion spot, families can spread out into eight cabins, 17 bunkhouse rooms, as well as RV sites on the 27,000 acre spread. Home to nearly 3000 bison, the ranch also features train rides, horseback riding, a restaurant and a Trading Post.
Contact: (307) 634-4171; http://www.terrybisonranch.com.
5. Established in 1901, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, in Indiahoma, OK, maintains a bison herd of approximately 600 animals. The 59,020 acre Refuge provides habitat for additional large native grazing animals, including Rocky Mountain elk, and white-tailed deer. Texas longhorn cattle also share the Refuge rangelands as a cultural and historical legacy species. More than 50 mammal, 240 bird, 64 reptile and amphibian, 36 fish, and 806 plant species thrive on this important refuge.
Contact: 1 (580) 429-3222; www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/oklahoma/wichitamountains/refhist.html;
Segue into adventure by booking one of the more than 200 Segway tours operating around the world. Introduced by American Dean Kamen in 1999, the company announced hopes the electric powered, human transporter would change the way we worked, lived and traveled. Here are five places you can take a guided tour aboard an emissions-free, two-wheeled Segway:
1. Washington DC.
Hop aboard your Segway for a unique tour of our nation’s capital. Consider enjoying the sweet smells and picturesque views of the popular National Cherry Blossom festival from your transporter. Or sign up for “The Lost Symbol” tour and get an insider’s take on the sights and sounds described within Dan Brown’s novel of the same name. Your tour guide will be a member of Washington DC’s oldest Mason lodge and will lead you through a maze of more than 20 historic monuments and memorials including the White House, The Scottish Rite House of the Temple and the Smithsonian Museums on the Mall. Contact: 202.682-1980; www.capitalsegway.com/
Cruise along the beaches of Santa Monica and Venice, people watching from the comfort of your Segway. Take time for a photo stop, capturing the sea-faring surfers, the volley ball matches on the sand and the street performers entertaining on the sidewalk. Wind your way through the canals of Venice, tuning in as your guide lists the famous films that have been made in the area. Enjoy the Southern California sun and the laid back atmosphere of these famed beach communities. Riders must be 12 and over and weigh 100 lbs or more. Contact: 310.395-1395; www.segway.la
Experience an alfresco tour of Puerto Rico’s capital, a city rich in Spanish culture and history. Glide through “The Walled City” and learn why the Spaniards built a series of forts and walls to protect their treasures. The sightseeing tour also includes visits to the Darsenas Square, the Governor’s Mansion and other significant sites in the area. Young people will also enjoy the Fortifications Tour, which provides an inside glide through the San Felipe del Morro Fort. Built in 1540, this hefty fortress offers dungeons, tunnels, lookouts and ramps to intrigue the curious traveler. Contact: 787-598-9455; www.SegwayToursPR.com
Choose to ride at sunset or when the sun is high in the sky. Either way, you’ll enjoy the sea breeze, people watching and the views along the “World’s Most Famous Beach”. Learn about the famous boardwalk, the clock tower, the city’s racing history and enjoy a stop by some of the city’s local hot spots. You’ll get a 30 minute orientation before hitting the streets aboard your high-tech transporter. Contact: 386-239-7158; www.daytonasegsonthebeach.com.
5. San Francisco, CA.
Enjoy the hills of scenic San Francisco the easy way. Wind your way through Fisherman’s Wharf and the Dungeness crab stands. Check out Ghirardelli Square, the Municipal Pier and Aquatic Park. Catch a glimpse of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Don’t miss the National Maritime Museum and listen up as your guide fills you in on the historic ships that have sailed into the harbor. Before long, your crew will be turning heads as you glide through Little Italy on your eco-friendly, self-balancing transporter. Contact: 415-474-3130; www.electrictourcompany.com.
Note: Most tours require children to be 12 years of age, weigh 100 pounds and be accompanied by an adult. Safety instructions and gear are provided.
It is Fall getaway time and Colorado’s color-soaked leaves are begging to be explored 10 different ways this fall. Cast a line in waders next to autumn gold, soar through fiery red treetops on a zip line, take a leisurely scenic drive or saunter through the forest on horseback to experience Colorado’s mesmerizing fall foliage.
Below are the top 10 ways leaf peepers can witness nature’s artistic wonder this fall season in Colorado.
Settle into a saddle on a guided horseback ride in Steamboat Springs to experience Colorado’s fall frontier just like the cowboys. Amble through the Routt National Forest along timeless American West trails popping with vibrant golden, red and orange leaves.
Begin this aspen-laden ride west of Pueblo on Colorado 96. The Frontier Pathways route climbs into the Wet Mountains and descends into the Wet Mountain Valley, passing aspens blazing in autumn color along the way.
Travel through the scenic San Juan Mountains aboard the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Between Durango and the historic mining town of Silverton, this locomotive allows passengers to experience color-drenched aspens that line the free-flowing Animas River and ascend the rugged collection of mountain peaks and striking canyon scenery.
With a summit at 12,095 feet, Independence Pass connects Aspen – a city named for the quintessential Colorado tree – and Twin Lakes, the largest glacial lake in Colorado and is open during early fall. Independence Pass is rife with stunning autumn colors popping on both sides of the pass and ringed with five 13,000-foot peaks.
Fruita’s dirt trails and challenging single tracks wind along huge flattop mesas allowing mountain bikers to discover panoramic views of valleys sprinkled with glowing yellow leaves.
Fall’s cooler climate and artist’s palette of nature’s colors make for an ideal time to take to the air. Float above pockets of fall foliage speckled along the Front Range’s peaks and valleys and throughout Rocky Mountain National Park. Take in colorful views on a hot air balloon ride with Fair Winds in Boulder.
Leaf peep the quaking aspens nestled in Telluride’s box canyon while sailing through the trees. The first and only free public transportation of its kind in the U.S., this gondola connects riders between Telluride and Mountain Village, giving passengers an ever-changing view of the crimson and golden leaves along the way.
Fall’s crown jewel is nestled along Kebler Pass, where a massive aspen cluster of interconnected roots wows hikers with brilliant fall hues. The radiant yellow and red leaves on Kebler create a textured denseness that is unique to this area. Take the hiking trails Kebler Wagon Trail #606 and Dyke Trail #838 for even more leaf peeping opportunities.
The landscape of fiery red, orange and golden leaves will shift as guests soar through autumn-tinted treetops and above deep valleys on one of 14 zip lines throughout the state. Thrill seekers will feel the rush and crisp autumn air as they glide over changing scenes at Zip Adventures near Vail.
Carbondale lies in the heart of the Roaring Fork Valley, home to some of the finest rivers for trout fishing, especially from mid-September to mid-October. The deep blue waters starkly contrast the foliage-lined banks bursting with deep scarlets and golds. Tranquility and a wide variety of water types await fly-fishers this fall with Roaring Fork Anglers.