Choose a ranch vacation to learn horsemanship in an authentic  setting, explore pristine wilderness areas, fish wild and scenic rivers and relax in Western style.

Here are five destinations to consider: 

ft Winter at The Home Ranch

The Home Ranch, Clark, Colo.

A visit to this mountain retreat near Steamboat Springs, involves decision making. Will you choose rocking on the porch, listening to the rustle of Aspen leaves, multiple massage sessions or curling up by the stone fireplace with your favorite book while the kids sharpen skills in the corral under the watchful eyes of resident wranglers? (The children and teen programs will keep the youngsters in your group plenty busy.)

Or, you can join the family for fly fishing on a private stretch of the Elk River, (it's Orvis-endorsed) morning hikes, afternoon trail rides, day-long outings into nearby wilderness areas, yoga classes and post-dinner music, barn dances and star gazing. During the winter months, snow shoeing, Nordic and downhill skiing and horseback and sleigh rides are all possible.

You’ll enjoy exceptional cuisine, fine wines and well-deserved slumber in the comfort of cozy lodge rooms or rustic yet well-appointed cabins, tucked within a tree studded landscape. Pack your schedule with active pursuits or relax your week away. Either way, it’s all included. 

Contact: www.HomeRanch.com.

Westgate River Ranch, River Ranch, Fla. 

You'll be just an hour from Orlando but feel a world away when you arrive at the largest dude ranch east of the Mississippi. Situated on 1,700 acres of wilderness in Florida's cattle country, the ranch offers a menu of lodging options that include glamping-style tents, lodge rooms and two-bedroom cabins. Opt for horse and pony rides, airboat excursions, miniature golf, nature hikes and zip lining. You'll want to take in the Saturday night rodeo, campfires, cookouts, hayrides and a weekly street party.

Contact: www.wgriverranch.com

Latigo Ranch FamilyTravel.com

Latigo Ranch, Kremmling, Colo. 

Choose your season and relish the peace and tranquility you'll find at this historic ranch. With never-ending views along the Continental Divide, choose from snowshoeing, tubing, cross-country skiing and fat biking in pristine winter conditions. The summer months offer top-notch horseback riding on over 200 miles of trail, cattle drives, hiking and mountain biking for the active members of your family. For those eager to relax, settle in on the porch for a card game, in a meadow or near a crackling fire with a book or puzzle at the ready.

Contact: www.LatigoTrails.com

Lone Mountain Ranch, Big Sky, Mont.

Just a stone’s throw from Yellowstone National Park’s northwest border, in the shadow of Lone Peak, you’ll find a cluster of hand-built cabins. Authentic and luxurious, the historic accommodations, tucked creekside, in the pine trees or in meadows,  help visitors conjure the days when the property was a working cattle ranch, operating in untamed country.

Then, like now, the region is home to stunning vistas, and abundant wildlife including grizzlies, black bears, bison and wolves.  In the company of guides or on your own,  adventurers have the  chance to fish Blue Ribbon trout streams and explore the last best place via horseback, Nordic and downhill skis, snowshoes and on the many hiking trails in the area. 

Contact: www.LoneMountainRanch.com  www.VisitMT.com 

White Stallion

White Stallion Ranch, Tucson, Ariz. 

Family-owned and -operated, this working cattle ranch is known for award-winning service, exceptional riding opportunities and a family-friendly atmosphere. Ride amid towering saguaros and enjoy moonlit bonfires, hay rides, fat tire biking, cowboy entertainment, astronomy shows, Western dance lessons and a weekly rodeo where family members can admire the roping, barrel racing and steer wrestling skills of local wranglers.

Contact: www.whitestallion.com

Resource: www.DudeRanch.org

Published in Top Stories

“That was so easy!",  I remarked to my son Ted as we slipped onto the chairlift just after noon. 

We had left our home in Phoenix just that morning, with a vague notion that we might be able to fit in a half day of skiing. 

And we did!  

The skiing options out of Salt Lake City are so numerous it is difficult to choose a final destination. With only a weekend ahead we decided to try out Alta and Snowbird, two resorts that came wildly recommended by our snow loving friends. 

And of course , the dynamic combo has been ranked the No. 1 resort in the country by SKIING Magazine for four years running.

On Our Way

After an easy flight on Southwest, we collected our bags and had only to walk ten paces to make our final arrangements to head up the canyon. We had secured reservations with Canyon Transportation before our departure and were quickly loaded in a van and were on our way. The chatty driver was well armed with the lowdown on Utah skiing and restaurant suggestions that came in handy later in the day.

We were able to check in early at our home for the weekend, Snowbird’s flagship Cliff Lodge and Spa, before taking the handy shuttle a mile up the road to the base of Alta. 

The friendly crew at the Alta Ski Shop and Demo Center were quick to help us gather the right gear so we could head quickly out the door. I’m not sure I’ve ever observed better use of every square inch within a retail operation. Had we forgotten a hat, socks or sunscreen we were covered. And I was even able to sip a latte from their espresso bar while filling out the rental forms. 

After a fabulous blue bird afternoon, we were joined by my son Alex who took a break from his collegiate studies at USC to spend time with me and his brother on the slopes. We made plans to check out the other side of the mountain! 

The next day was spent exploring the slopes of Snowbird and we weren’t disappointed. During our hot tub review session, we determined that Snowbird definitely feels like the more sophisticated cousin to it’s traditional relative, Alta. And depending on your mood or company you may prefer one over the other. Within our trio, we found lots to like about both venues over our holiday weekend. 

And thanks to a combined ticket to both mountains you don’t have to choose. With the dual mountain pass, skiers have access to nearly 5,000 acres of the famous Utah powder.  

About Alta 

They say Alta has “soul” and when you arrive, somehow you instantly know what they mean. It is peaceful and quiet. For skier’s only, you won’t hear the scraping of boarders moving down the hill behind you. 

Located 33 miles from the airport, and covering 2200 acres with 54 runs, the resort truly has something for everyone. The variety of terrain, breathtaking alpine scenery and superb snow conditions combine to create a unique setting for an unforgettable outdoor experiences for skiers of every age and ability.

We were able to ride lifts that provided runs with through-the-trees excitement for the boys as well as more intermediate terrain for me, yet still meet at the bottom.

While riding the lift we were told about the Ski With A Ranger program. You’ll learn about the natural world and mountain culture of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest during an enjoyable complimentary 45-minute guided program down friendly terrain Saturdays, Sundays and holidays at 1:30 p.m. Ask about the meeting spot.  

For the little ones 

The Alta Children's Center provides a unique atmosphere, blending warm, personal attention with creative educational activities. The children play and learn in various environments designed to make fun and education come together. A special area is dedicated to meet the needs of infants. 

Under private ownership of Redwood Preschool, Inc., the Center is a state- licensed facility for children from ages three months- twelve years old. The Center is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Reservations are encouraged. 

The Alf Engen Ski School has programs that allow every child to have the best possible learning experience in a spectacular mountain playground. The ski school offers Ski Adventures to children from ages four- through early teen, of all skill levels. Alta's goal is to give children the skills for a lifelong enjoyment of skiing. Participants can choose a two-hour adventure, an all day mini adventure that combines skiing, lunch and childcare, or an all-day adventure that includes lunch. The all day Mountain Explorers offers five hours of skiing and lunch to children from ages seven- early teens that are competent skiers.

For deals and details:

www.alta.com  

Ski Snowbird

About Snowbird 

In addition to four lodges and 10 restaurants, Snowbird offers the Snowbird Mountain School, night skiing and snowboarding, a world-renowned children's program, snowmobile tours, snowshoe tours, tubing, ice skating, swimming pools, live music, movies, shopping, conference facilities and more.

Snowbird's luxurious Cliff Spa offers a full complement of pampering treatments as well as yoga and fitness classes. I can assure you that my massage at the end of the day was worth every penny.

You won’t find anything like the Snowbird Terrain Park, on the Alta side of the mountain. Accessed by the Baby Thunder lift, kids of all ages will enjoy this area dedicated to tabletops, hits, spines, jumps and rails of every shape and size. Snowbird’s  Superpipe is located on the Big Emma run and is accessed by the Mid Gad or Gadzoom lifts. An intermediate park near the Big Emma Superpipe offers features and rails for skiers and riders looking to improve their terrain park skills.

Averaging 500 inches of near perfect powder a year, Snowbird boasts an aerial tram, that transports 125 people 2,900 vertical feet in approximately six minutes. 

Other options include 10 chairlifts, including three high-speed detachable quads and seven doubles, plus two rope tows. While the resort is noted for its expert terrain, and there is plenty of it, I was impressed with the friendly and expansive beginner areas and Mineral Basin, all of which provide plenty of options for those not headed to the Olympic trials. 

Snowbird’s original Peruvian lift was replaced with a new high-speed quad. At the top of the lift, a 600 foot tunnel with a magic carpet  provides easy access to the popular Mineral Basin making it easier still for skiers and snowboarders to access this intermediate terrain. 

Still, I found Snowbird more challenging than Alta and was quick to send my sons off to take advantage of the testing terrain. I enjoyed the sunny day on intermediate cruisers and made the most of a significant amount of powder still present from a recent storm. When we met at the end of the day they were exhausted yet elated from the full out effort required for the expert runs they chose. After hearing the first few accounts of their air-borne adventures I was glad we had parted ways earlier in the day.   

Before catching our ride down the mountain with Canyon Transportaton, we were able to take advantage of the locker room and showers available to guests of the Cliff Lodge on check out day.  

As we headed toward Salt Lake’s airport, I was happy to have had the time away with the boys. And, I could have used one more massage.

For deals and details: 

www.snowbird.com

www.skiutah.com

Published in Ski

Take part in a family fly-fishing adventure and you’ll wake up in some of the country’s most pristine places. 

Here are a handful of fabulous places to consider: 

fly fish world cast anglers

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

For an extraordinary angling experience, consider an overnight trip on the South Fork of the Snake River. On day one, you’ll hone your skills floating through some of the most coveted water in the western United States.

Later, as the sun sets, arrive at the South Fork Hilton, a fully-outfitted camp ,tucked in the pines with a steep canyon wall as backdrop. The overnight includes a deluxe dinner, tall tales, roasted marshmallows around a campfire, and a good night’s rest in cozy platform tents.

The second day promises stunning scenery, 16 miles of braided waters and the opportunity to expand the adventure wading around gravel bars and up side channels. The trip is ideal for a multigenerational outing. 

Contact: worldcastanglers.comwyomingtourism.org

Western Montana

Stunning scenery, diversity of waterways, plentiful fish and an enthusiastic community of guides combine to make Montana a top notch base camp for your fly-fishing adventure. Spend a day on the Madison River with Joe Dilschneider, owner of Ennis, MT-based TroutStalkers and your family members will go home with more than basic casting skills. You’ll learn to “match the hatch”, fish pocket water from a raft and how to maximize a day on the famed Madison River. A day on the Yellowstone River, a long stretch of blue-ribbon trout habitat or nearby spring creeks will also make for great memories. 

Formed by the confluence of the Gallatin, Jefferson and Madison rivers at Three Forks, the mighty Missouri River flows 700 miles across Montana, and is considered one of the most productive trout fisheries in the west. 

The small town of Craig is among the numerous launch points from which families explore this storied river. Expect a picturesque landscape, trophy trout and the opportunity to imagine Lewis and Clark navigating the same waters.

Contact: visitmt.com www.Troutstakers.com

fly fish North Carolina

Jackson County, North Carolina

With more than 3,000 miles of trout streams and 1,100 miles of hatchery-supported trout waters in the mountains alone, North Carolina is a fly-fishing haven.  Home to the nation’s only designated fly-fishing trail, the Western North Carolina Fly-Fishing Trail takes anglers to 15 prime spots in the Great Smoky Mountains to cast a line. Expect a variety of options from wide-open rivers to small, secluded streams. The heart of the trail, the Tuckasegee River, or the “Tuck” as it’s known by locals, is the county’s largest body of water. Designed by two outdoorsmen and fly-fishing guides, the trail is an ideal way for fly-fishers of all skill levels and ages to learn the art of fly-fishing.

Contact: www.Flyfishingtrail.comhttps://www.discoverjacksonnc.com/outdoors/

Fly fish Cumberland Valley

Cumberland Valley, Pennsylvania 

The Letort Spring Creek, Big Spring Creek and Yellow Breeches Creek, two classic limestone spring streams and one freestone stream are considered “hallowed waters” and have enticed fly fishers to the area since the 1800s.  Enthusiasts can expect to cast for brook, brown and rainbow in the local streams where a variety of riparian ecosystems provide diverse fly-fishing opportunities. Consider a stay at the Orvis-endorsed Allenberry Resort where fly-fishing packages are offered. The Valley is also home to the Pennsylvania Fly- Fishing Museum. 

Contact:  more: www.VisitCumberlandValley.comwww.Allenberry.com

Sun Valley, ID

Sun Valley, Idaho

This mountain town is perhaps best-known for its famous ski slopes. But the region’s gold-medal waters make for yet another reason to nudge Sun Valley higher on your family vacation list. You’ll be on the hunt for rainbow, brown, brook and cutthroat trout on Silver Creek, the Big Lost and the Wood rivers as well as in pristine mountain lakes.

Tap into the town’s vibrant cultural scene or strap on skates for a whirl around the ice rink at the -famed Sun Valley Lodge.

Contact: visitsunvalley.comsilver-creek.com

Published in Top Stories

Canada, America’s neighbor to the North, offers families a wide range of vacation opportunities. You'll find history, culture and extraordinary natural beauty. And polar bears. 

Here are five regions to consider: 

Visit Calgary - family travel.com

Alberta  

 Home to super star national parks Banff and Jasper and more than 600 lakes, this massive western province is an outdoor adventurer’s dream destination. As it’s flag advertises, visitors can expect snowy mountains, golden plains, evergreen forests and endless blue skies. All that, plus more than 300 days of sunshine each year, enabling great days on hiking trails and ski slopes.

Canada’s fastest growing city, Calgary, a beneficiary of a cattle and oil boom, offers visitors plenty including the famous Calgary Stampede as well as the Heritage Park Historical Village where period clad staff spin tales of frontier life on the Canadian Prairies. Further north, along the North Saskatchewan River, Edmonton serves as the provincial capital and is considered the cultural soul of the region. Expect galleries, theatre, live music and shopping. 

Contact: www.TravelAlberta.com.

British Columbia 

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Inside Passage. It’s that scenic chain of channels, bays and islands that create Canada’s diverse Pacific coastline. It’s popular with kayakers, whale watchers, birders,boaters and adventurers. 

You’ll also want to put the cities of Vancouver and Victoria on your radar. Located on the edge of wilderness, both urban areas offer hip dining with fresh seafood and farm to table offerings as well as and museums of interest to every age group. Don’t miss the scenic drive from Vancouver to the mountain ski town of Whistler via the Sea-to-Sky Highway. Along what is also known as Highway 99, you’ll pass sheer rock faces, waterfalls, fjords, alpine forests and the snow-capped Coast Mountains. 

Contact: www.HelloBC.com 

Churchill Manitoba FamilyTravel.com

Manitoba 

If you yearn to see polar bears in the wild, Churchill, in northern Manitoba is the place to be. Located on the migration route between the bear dens and their feeding grounds, the town is ground zero for those who want the chance to learn about and glimpse the animals in their native environment.

Tundra buggies transport visitors into the vast landscape outside of town  to photograph and observe the seal hunters. Helicopter tours are also possible. Slot the destination onto your list for viewing the northern lights and  Beluga whale watching in the summer months. 

 Contact: www.TravelManitoba.com 

PEI family travel.com

Prince Edward Island  

Published in 1908, the novel Anne of Green Gables, has played a major role in drawing tourists to Canada’s smallest province.

Today, literary fans make their way to P.E.I to see the sites portrayed in the book and to learn more about is author Lucy Maud Montgomery. Visit the old farmhouse, where much of the famous novel was set and take part in activities at the Green Gables Heritage Place that include ice-cream making demonstrations, safe races, hiking on nature trails, carriage rides and tours offered by rangers dressed as characters from the book. 

Contact: www.TourismPEI.com

Yukon

Yukon  

This fabled territory, wild, mountainous and sparsely populated, attracts adventuresome souls eager for wide open spaces, outdoor adventure and quirky bits of history.

Make your way to Dawson City, at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers, to learn about the gold rush days and the great stampede of treasure seekers who hastened north in search of fortune. Visit the Dawson City Museum and stop by the Robert Service Cabin during the summer months for daily poetry readings. Hiking, fishing, cycling, canoeing and dog sledding are among the popular activities in the region. Contact: www.TravelYukon.com

Published in Top Stories

During National Park Week and all year long, it's a great idea to explore our national treasures.

There's so much to learn and so much to do. This list will help you get started whether you are interested in history, nature, active pursuits, beautiful drives, the back country or urban adventures.

This is the day to #findyourpark!

 

  1. Go climbing
  2. Write poetry
  3. Be an urban hiker
  4. Visit a National Heritage Area
  5. Dance
  6. Learn about climate change
  7. Discover a culture new to you
  8. Experience silence
  9. Walk through a doorway of a historic house
  10. Find inspiration in the story of a Civil Rights leader
  11. Go on a ranger-led tour #RangersPointingAtThings
  12. Hug a tree
  13. Make a memory
  14. Earn a Jr. Ranger badge
  15. Relax on the banks of a scenic river
  16. Celebrate innovation
  17. Find life in a desert
  18. Get inspired by a First Lady
  19. Stand on a mountaintop
  20. Bring a kid to a park
  21. Paddle a water trail
  22. Take a photo that matches a historic one #retrogram
  23. Try something new
  24. Channel your inner Bill Nye – become a citizen scientist
  25. Walk a historic main street
  26. Find your park in Spanish #EncuentraTuParque
  27. Explore a cave
  28. Go green
  29. Brush up your national park trivia skills
  30. Scout a park, boys and girls!
  31. Make art in a park
  32. Celebrate Native American heritage
  33. Come sail away
  34. Take a picnic and dine al fresco
  35. Be bear aware
  36. Hit the road
  37. Enlighten yourself at a historic lighthouse
  38. Go biking
  39. Explore Asian American and Pacific Islander culture in America
  40. Feel the sand between your toes
  41. Share your story
  42. Learn about endangered species
  43. Join us
  44. Follow NPS on social media
  45. Follow the footsteps of a woman who made history
  46. Get in the know about H2O
  47. Bee pollinator friendly
  48. Get VIP status
  49. Catch a wave
  50. Immerse yourself in a living history program
  51. Hit record
  52. Get prehistoric
  53. Improve your health – get a park Rx
  54. Use your free active military pass
  55. Get reel – visit a park featured in your favorite movie
  56. Join a trail clean-up
  57. See the sea
  58. Discover a traditional tribal cultural practice
  59. Let Elmo and Murray be your guides
  60. Mail a postcard
  61. Discover history around you
  62. Make new friends
  63. Raft down a river
  64. Pay your respects at a national cemetery
  65. Pick a POTUS
  66. Take a mini-cruise
  67. Plan ahead and prepare
  68. Walk nature's treadmill
  69. Pose for a family photo in a park 
  70. Recognize women who made history
  71. Reflect on our most difficult stories
  72. Stamp your park passport
  73. Ride on a historic carousel
  74. Run
  75. See history from a different perspective
  76. Renew your spirit
  77. See how NPS helps transform your community
  78. Go fish
  79. See the starry, starry night
  80. Make a splash
  81. Share a #tbt park photo
  82. Discover the beauty of our nation's other public lands
  83. Sleep outside
  84. Spread the love – thank a park volunteer
  85. Plan the best field trip ever
  86. Visit our international sisters
  87. Trash your trash
  88. Find a monument and decode history
  89. Travel the Underground Railroad
  90. Use the buddy system!
  91. Visit for free on our 99th birthday
  92. Wander an American battlefield 
  93. Watch wildlife
  94. Take a deep breath
  95. Go wild – experience wilderness
  96. Use a national park lesson plan
  97. Play
  98. Take a sunrise selfie
  99. Celebrate the beauty of our national treasures!
Published in Explore

It’s time to put a family vacation on the calendar.

Here are five ideas to consider: 

1. Moab, Utah. 

Sample the wonders of red rock country during a four day, multi-sport trip that includes an off-road Hummer Safari through a fantasyland of slick rock and a two day, river rafting adventure with an overnight of pampered beach camping on the banks of the Colorado River. Other nature based itineraries include longer rafting components, jet boating, stand up paddle boarding, hiking, mountain biking, hot air ballooning. rock climbing, canyoneering and horseback riding amid jaw dropping scenery. Many outings are suitable for adventurers as young as five.

Contact: www.MoabAdventurecenter.com.

2. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

 Visit the all-inclusive Grand Sirenis Punta Cana Resort for bronze colored beaches amid a beautiful coconut grove. Families will appreciate child-focused pools, and a kids club as well as plenty of non-motorized water sporting fun. The whole family will want to explore the onsite ancient Mayan ruin, the nearby nature trails and to discover the wonder of the world’s second largest coral reef system. Book now through May 2 for up to a  20 percent discount on getaways that take place through October 2019.

Contact: 

www.sirenishotels.com

3. American Prairie Reserve, Montana. 

Using an innovative model, The American Prairie Reserve, a Montana-based non-profit, is in the midst  of stitching together a 3.5 million-acre nature reserve on the plains of Montana. Once completed, the Reserve 

will provide a continuous land area, collaboratively managed for wildlife and recreation. It will be the largest of its kind in the Lower 48 states. 

Meanwhile, a campground and cabins, opening in late spring 2019, provide access to hiking, mountain biking, fishing, wildlife watching and night-sky viewing far from city lights. Prices start at $15 for tent camping per night.  Contact: www.AmericanPrairie.org.

4. Denver, CO. 

If your kids love drawing on your driveway or sidewalk at home you wont want to miss Denver’s 17th Annual Chalk Art Festival. Be there for the free, two-day painting extravaganza during which hundreds of artists contribute their talent to turn the streets of Larimer Square, the Mile High City’s oldest and most historic block, into a colorful outdoor museum. 

The festival takes its inspiration from street painting traditions that originated in 16th century Renaissance Italy when artists began transforming asphalt into canvas. June 1-2, 2019. 

Contact: www.larimerarts.orgwww.Denver.org.  

5. Galapagos Islands.  

Cruise through this legendary archipelago aboard a  Smart-Voyager-certified catamaran.

Visit Santa Cruz, Santiago, Isabela, Rabida, and San Cristobal islands while on the lookout for blue footed boobies and   the other unique species of wildlife that inspired Darwin and contributed to science’s understanding of life. 

Explore moon-like lava terrain, walk through lush forests teeming with birdlife, and snorkel in crystal waters where sea lions frolic . Contact: www.Surtrek.com

 
Published in Top Stories

Yes, it’s the best time to go. Plus, the golf and stars and flowers, oh my!  

Ranch at Death Valley In winter, this well known hot spot miraculously morphs into a desert paradise. And when you visit the Oasis at Death Valley —with its AAA Four Diamond Inn at Death Valley and family-friendly Ranch at Death Valley — you’ll discover a place transformed. If people know one thing about Death Valley, they know that it’s hot. Fry an-egg-on-the-pavement hot (although don’t try that, because it makes a mess).

Death Valley is officially the toastiest place on the entire planet, thanks to a scorching day back in 1913 when temperatures reached 134 degrees, the highest ever recorded anywhere on the globe. And with 21 days over 120, this past July in Death Valley was the hottest month all-time at a single location. The second hottest month? The previous July in Death Valley.

So Death Valley comes by its sizzling reputation honestly. But that’s only during summer. In winter, Death Valley miraculously morphs into a desert paradise. And when you visit the Oasis at Death Valley — with its AAA Four Diamond Inn at Death Valley and family-friendly Ranch at Death Valley — you’ll discover a place transformed.

During winter, average temperatures range from the mid-60s to the low 70s with overnight lows frequently dropping into the upper 30s. Those cooler conditions combine with clear, sunny days to make winter the perfect season to get explore Death Valley National Park. When the most of the country is shivering, you can be basking in warm, dry days with endless sun.

Here are a few special ways you can enjoy winter and spring in Death Valley.

Mountain in Death Valley

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park 

Hit the Trail

With even the day’s lowest temperatures hovering around 100 or more, you shouldn’t even think about hiking at lower elevations in Death Valley National Park during summer. But winter weather provides the perfect conditions to follow trails into the park’s canyons and see its incomparable geology.

You’ll find easy-to-reach trailheads near the resort along Badwater Road, including the classic hike into Golden Canyon, just five minutes away. But many visitors miss the much less crowded trek that explores nearby Desolation Canyon. It’s an easy-to-follow cross-country route (just look for the footprints) that leads into a canyon, which gradually narrows and reaches colorful formations similar to the brilliantly hued Artist’s Palette (farther south off Badwater Road along Artist’s Drive).

Stargaze

See stars like you never have before at Death Valley, a Gold Tier International Dark Sky Park

Gaze at the Sky

Except at higher elevations, you won’t see any trees at Death Valley. But what you will see is sky — and lots of it.

If you love photography, winter offers optimal shooting conditions. Storms from the Pacific Coast send billowing clouds out over the desert that create an impressive backdrop for pictures of Death Valley’s expanses. The low-angle winter light also helps reveal details in the landscape that harsher sun conditions wash out, and things get especially dramatic when the clouds leave 11,049-foot-high Telescope Peak, the highest point in the park, covered in snow.

After dark, Death Valley boasts some of the best stargazing anywhere in the world. The dry desert air and distance from sources that spew light pollution helped Death Valley earn prestigious designation as a Gold Tier International Dark Sky Park from the International Dark-Sky Association.

Even if you don’t have high-end optics of your own (although basic binoculars enhance viewing), during events with park rangers and local astronomy associations you can gaze into the universe through high-powered telescopes. For example, the Las Vegas Astronomical Society holds complimentary star parties at the Ranch at Death Valley.

Golf

Golf the lowest elevation golf course in the world at the Furnace Creek Golf Course at Death Valley

Shoot Your Lowest Round Ever (That’s a Guarantee!)

In most of the country, frigid winter weather forces golfers to take a hiatus. After all, a green certainly isn’t green when it’s covered by snow.

But for golfers, winter is prime time in Death Valley.

Many visitors are surprised to discover that Death Valley, the driest spot in North America, actually has a golf course. But thanks to a highly efficient irrigation system, water sourced from nearby natural springs, and tough Bermuda grass that can withstand the area’s weather extremes and salty soil, the Furnace Creek Golf Course at Death Valleyis a duffer’s delight.

Add to your bragging rights at the world’s lowest elevation golf course, a par-70, 18-hole circuit that’s 214 feet below sea level. As unique as the experience may be, Furnace Creek Golf Course is no mere novelty. A beautifully designed and challenging layout, Furnace Creek earned honors as one of America’s toughest courses from Golf Digest. And don’t expect your drives to carry as far: The heavier, low elevation air means that you’ll surrender distance on your shots.

Inn Pool Sunset

The pools at The Inn and The Ranch are both naturally spring-fed, and consistently 87 degrees year-round

Swim in a Real Oasis

If temperatures in the 30s or 40s hardly sound appealing for a swim, the cool winter nights create ideal conditions for one of the most sublime experiences awaiting guests at both the Inn at Death Valley and the Ranch at Death Valley. Both of these lodging choices have pools filled by natural springs that deliver water that stays in the 80s, even on the chilliest nights. The contrast between the balmy pool and the cold air is positively heavenly. The inn’s historic pool has been beautifully restored, and if you need a little warm-up after a dip, get toasty in front of one of two wood-burning fireplaces along the deck.

A rare “super bloom” event covering large expanse of the desert valley floor with wild flowers, dominated by the golden yellow of desert gold flowers (also known as desert sunflowers or Geraea canescens) in Death Valley National Park in California. The Amargosa mountains rise over the valley in the background.

Ooh and Ahh at Wildflowers

From mid-February to mid-April, when the conditions are right, Death Valley is painted with an explosion of color from a carpet of wildflowers. Golden evening primrose, notch-leaf phacelia, sand verbena, purple mat, gravel ghost, and brown-eyed evening primrose brush the arid landscape in Easter egg colors — especially the expansive fields of desert gold for which Death Valley is famous. To appreciate the diversity of blooms, get out of your car and walk. You’ll be rewarded with a spread of color blanketing the desert floor — perfect for Instagram moments.

How to Explore

The Oasis at Death Valley in Furnace Creek is situated in a lush oasis surrounded by the vast and arid desert of Death Valley National Park — just 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas and 275 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The resort encompasses two hotels — the historic AAA Four Diamond, 66-room Inn at Death Valley and the family-oriented, 224-room Ranch at Death Valley. The entire resort is undergoing a complete renaissance with an extensive renovation to be completed in the fall of 2018. The resort includes natural spring-fed pools, an 18-hole golf course, horse and carriage rides, world-renowned stargazing, and is surrounded by Death Valley National Park’s main attractions. For information and reservations, visit The Oasis at Death Valley or call 800-236-7916. Oh and kids eat free, yep, they do!

Oh and kids eat free, yep, they do!To discover a world of unfogettable experiences available from Xanterra Travel Collection and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.

Published in Destinations

When it comes to making travel plans, the options can be overwhelming. 

Five intrepid family travel experts add to the mix with their top picks for a memorable winter season adventure. 

White Key Villas FamilyTravel.com

Go for a Greek Getaway. 

"People tend to stay close to home with kids. But, I firmly believe in opening their hearts and minds early with further flung travel,” explained Becca Hensley, an Austin-based parent and travel and lifestyle writer.  “That doesn't mean you shouldn't have support though. You'll manage to relax, spoil yourself and hang with the family in style if you book a villa with Greek-owned, White Key Villas.”

“They're congenial and involved--and they love kids and catering to families,” adds Hensley.  “With more than 200 handpicked villas to choose from,  in destinations from Paros to Patmos, the homes are all privately owned, and vary in size and orientation. Costing the same as villas in Hawaii or the Caribbean, the Greek villas come with outstanding staff support, VIP experiences, and special treats for children.” Contact: www.whitekeyvillas.com; www.BeccaHensley.com

 Quebec City

Chill in Quebec City, Canada

“Unlike many Americans, most Canadians seem to enjoy winter — even celebrate it, “observes Rainer Jenss, founder and CEO of the Family Travel Association, an organization that advocates for 

  travel as an important part of every child’s education.“That’s why I have often packed up the car and driven north of the border with my kids — to take advantage of all the festivities in a frigid, but fun wintertime destination,” explained Runs, father of two and a New York resident.  “Winter Carnival, held every year in early February, has what every kid loves: parades, snow sculptures, shows, skating. and plenty of hot chocolate. It’s also culturally rich, since French is the predominant language, adding another dimension to the getaway for Americans .” 

Contact: https://www.quebecregion.com/en/www.FamilyTravel.org.

 duderanch.org vista verde familytravel.com

Winter on the Ranch 

Vista Verde, a Colorado guest ranch,  is a winter wonderland for families with kids of all ages, advises Nancy Schretter,  the Founder & Managing Editor of the Family Travel Network. “There are so many fun things to do there - from snow tubing and cross-country skiing to snowmobiling, snowshoeing and fat tire biking in the snow. They also have a great kids program.” 

“We went horseback riding along snow-packed trails and riding in a one-horse open sleigh ... something I always wanted to do,” added Schretter, who writes about travel from her home in Virginia. 

Downhill skiing and snowboarding are available at nearby Steamboat Ski Resort and one of the ranch's vehicles will take families there, notes Schretter. 

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

 Costa Rica cloud forest

Consider Costa Rica 

“it’s my favorite destination for families who love nature and wildlife,” explains LiLing Pang the Co-founder and CEO of Trekaroo.com, an independent family travel community.

“This Central American country is safe and easy to negotiate even for those who do not speak Spanish. In a week, you could be bird watching and zip-lining in the Monte Verde cloud forest, surfing and boogie boarding along the white sand beaches of the Guanacaste region, and watching playful monkeys and sloths in the rainforest,” offers the California-based mom and entrepreneur. December through May is the dry season in Costa Rica, adds Pang, which makes exploring that much easier. 

Contact: www.VisitCostaRica.com ; www.trekaroo.com 

Susan Pohlman. FamilyTravel.com

Always Italy 

“Italy is a great family destination any time of the year,” suggests Susan Pohlman, a mother of two, who’s award-winning book 

'Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought Our Family Home, chronicles her family’s adventures during an unexpected sabbatical in the small town of Nervi, near Genoa, Italy. 

“Italians are all about family, so we felt welcomed at every turn,” explains Pohlman. “The food, the rich culture and history and the extraordinary landscape make for a great family experience in every season.” 

Contact: www.Italia.it;  www.SusanPohlman.com 

Published in Top Stories

Now anyone can learn from the best adventure photographer in the world.  Professional climber, and Free Solo co-director, Jimmy Chin, now offers online classes through the Masterclass platform.

In his class, Chin will teach the essential photography skills he used to capture breathtaking images from the harrowing peaks of Tibet to the unforgiving Antarctic tundra. 

As one of the world's most prolific adventure photographers, Jimmy Chin demonstrates an unparalleled mastery of both extreme exploration and visual storytelling. His success is defined by his ability to fold this natural passion into his art, with photos from his harrowing expeditions worldwide appearing on the cover of National Geographic and The New York Times Magazine, and featured in Adventure, Outside, Men's Journal, ESPN Magazine, as well as The North Face and Patagonia catalogues. Chin's work has earned him awards from Photo District News (PDN), Communication Arts, and the American Society of Magazine Editors.

In 2015, Chin took his career to the next level by producing his first feature-length documentary, Meru, which won the coveted Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and was on the 2016 Oscar shortlist for Best Documentary. He built on that momentum with his second film, Free Solo, which critics hailed as one of 2018's best documentaries. 

Jimmy Chin

"Throughout my life, I've been fortunate enough to see and experience a world that most people believe is out of grasp," says Chin. "My hope is to prove to students that they, too, can marry a passion for adventure with their professional pursuits. I want to bring people into my world of photography and inspire them to overcome their greatest challenges, regardless of their level of experience."

In his MasterClass, Chin takes a holistic approach to teaching his style of photography, walking students through the full creative process from finding inspiration to post-production. Employing the help of his friend and mentor, Conrad Anker, Chin takes students on location for a photoshoot in the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. He also shares exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and strategies from past shoots to remote locations across the globe, demonstrating the real-world challenges and solutions associated with capturing unforgettable shots in nature.

The class is designed for photographers at every level, blending lessons in creative decision-making and leadership with more technical processes such as selecting photos and post-processing. Chin's students will walk away with a deeper understanding of shooting outdoors, ultimately taking their photos to new heights – both literally and figuratively.

What better skill to add to your family travel toolbox?

Chin's class is available at www.masterclass.com/jch. Enrollment for the class is $90 for lifetime access, or $180 per year for the All-Access Pass, which grants unlimited access to all new and existing classes.

Published in Top Stories

The freedom to explore the world around us is something to savor.

Here are five reasons to be grateful for family travel:  

1. Travel broadens our perspective. 

Whether you travel to the next county or around the world, moving out of your comfort zone or everyday routine will enhance your family’s understanding of our world. Appreciate the language, dress, recreational and culinary differences and similarities of your fellow global citizens when you venture into new territory. Make an effort to see the view through the eyes of others. And observe how a friendly smile is welcome currency in nearly every corner of the world.

Contact: www.Intrepidtravel.com

2. Travel builds character.

Travel provides parents and grandparents the opportunity to model what matters most.  Will you exhibit patience when the line snakes around the corner, your hotel room is not ready, or the restaurant server accidentally spills a drink on your table? Delayed flights, weather changes, poor service or a rocky road help all of us learn to live in the moment, share resources, manage unexpected consequences and see the bright side of the occasional travel mishap. How the adults respond to challenging scenarios will influence the developing character of young adventurers.  

Contact: www.TSA.gov.

3. Travel serves up nature’s bounty. 

A super moon rising over the mountain tops, eagles lofting in a barren tree, the gentle mist from a nearby waterfall, the crunch of the trail under hiking boots. Awe-inspiring experiences in the natural world are nurturing to the youngest of souls. Make time to travel to nature preserves, national parks, deep canyons and shimmering lakes, where dark skies allow the starry expanse to light your world.  

Contact: www.NPS.gov;www.Wildernesstravel.comwww.DarkSkies.org.

4. Travel is inspiring and educational.  

Feed your children’s natural curiosity through travel. Do they yearn to learn more about art, history or science? Is there a burgeoning chef, musician or engineer in your midst? How about a language immersion class? Are your kids curious about other religions, cultures or lifestyles? Whether you opt for magnificent museums, nature’s classroom or immersive experiences, expand their knowledge (and your own) by exploring new ideas together.

Contact: www.RoadScholars;www.Globeaware.orgwww.nationalgeographice.com

5. Travel enhances connection.

Leave the laundry, homework and to-do lists behind and reconnect in a cozy cabin, on a blustery beach or on a small ship at sea.  Keep technology and the news of the day to a minimum and enjoy each other’s company and conversation. Take walks in the woods, listen to the birds sing, the owls hoot and the wind whistle. Remind yourselves that the best things in life are free. You’ll return home knowing your time well spent will last longer than the latest gadget or a trendy fashion item. Because time flies, be “glad you did” rather than “wishing you had.” 

Published in Top Stories
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