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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 .”
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Plan a snowy getaway with your family.
Here are five escape-worthy spots to consider:
The Sebastian, Vail, CO.
Splurge on a ski vacation and let the resort pros make sure your high altitude holiday goes off without a hitch. The Sebastian’s amenities-on-demand program can deliver ski and snow essentials to your room along with an energy-filled breakfast. Order up an extra pair of toasty socks, hand warmers for the kiddos or another round of sunscreen. Guests can also 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 and ice-skating for the older kids while the littlest one plays in the Tykes Room. Should the kids need a break from the mountain they can also opt for hosted crafts in the Upper Lobby where creating hand puppets, finger knitting and experimenting with snow slime are possibilities. Should grown-ups need a break, the hospitality team is on hand to make restaurant reservations and scout for a babysitter.
Basecamp Hotel, South Lake Tahoe, CA.
Clever and cool, your kids will love the cozy options available at this boutique hotel, where exploring the local mountain community is encouraged. The Great Indoor Family Room sports a King bed for the grownups, adjacent to a wall tented room featuring bunk beds, a faux campfire, a picnic table and camp chairs. Designed as an alternative to a cookie cutter hotel, owners have repurposed “under-appreciated” buildings and infused them with “soul”. Happy hour includes homemade soups and stews. No surprise: s’mores are served nightly.
The National Park Inn. Mt. Rainer National Park.
Leave your technology behind and immerse yourselves in the beauty of this majestic setting in the Park’s Longmire Historic District. Check in to one of 25 rooms in the two-story lodge. Relax in the lounge and sip hot cocoa near the massive stone fireplace while enjoying stories of the day and making plans for the next. Visit the general store, a circa 1911 log cabin, for access to cross-country and snowshoeing rentals and other goodies.
You’ll find it difficult to emerge from the cozy lodge warmed by a roaring fire or your cabin crafted from indigenous materials. But when you do, choose from cross country and snowshoe trails that run deep into the woods or sunlit downhill runs on the slopes of Mount Timpanagos. Founded my film maker and conservationist Robert Redford, the resort offers family-friendly pottery, beading and printmaking classes in the Art Shack, winter fly-fishing and dining menus with an emphasis on organic and locally sourced ingredients.
Devil’s Thumb Ranch. Tabernash, CO.
Stay in a cozy cabin or opt to sleep in the High Lonesome Lodge where ranch guests steep in expansive views of the Continental Divide and the Ranch Creek Valley while channelling the pioneering spirit of early homesteaders. The centerpiece of the lodge is a reconstructed Civil War-era barn. Choose from 31 guest rooms and four suites, each with private outdoor patios and Adirondack-style rockers. Grab the binoculars to catch a glimpse of wildlife roaming on this 6,000 acre expanse of Colorado beauty or set out on the Nordic trails for an up-close view of winter scenes.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) protects and preserves significant and inspirational places around the world. Locations carrying the important designation of World Heritage site, provide an impressive history lesson as well as a virtual tour of many of the world’s most meaningful places.
Here are six you and your family won't want to miss:
The French city’s old town is an island – the Grande Ile – circled by canals and the River Ill. Families can get a unique view of this historic enclave by paddling a canoe through the canals, including the chance to maneuver through a lock with the help of a trusted guide from Adventures by Disney and AmaWaterways. You can’t miss the city’s Gothic cathedral which rises high above Strasbourg and was said to be the world’s tallest building until 1874. Climb 320 steps to a viewing platform for a bird’s eye view. And be sure to spend time inside the cathedral, taking note of the historic stained glass windows that survived many war-torn years. Also of interest is the world’s largest astronomical clock. Considered a Renaissance masterpiece, it was assembled by a team of artists, mathematicians, and technicians, and also shows signs of the zodiac, equinoxes, and leap years.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
Family members who have seen the Tomb Raider films will particularly enjoy exploring the Angkor Archeological Park, unfolding deep within the Siem Reap province. While hundreds of archeological and artistic temples and ancient structures remain, the most familiar (it’s on the Cambodian flag) is Angkor Wat. Built in the 12thcentury to honor Vishnu, a Hindu God, the temple's bas relief galleries inform modern visitors of life in ancient times. Also of note is the remarkable water system, including moats, canals and reservoirs, that once provided water and crop assistance for the thriving communities. Visitors arrive via river cruises on the Mekong or a stop in Siem Riep where lodging and tours are plentiful. Contact: VikingCruises.com; TourismCambodia.com.
Amalfi Coast. Italy.
Nirvana for artists, photographers and foodies, the picturesque coastal area offers a sensual mix of cultural, natural and historic wonders. While the small communities were once only accessible by mule, modern day train travel makes it easy to visit the enchanting towns that spill toward the sea from their steep and craggy origins. During the warmer months, sail boats dot the watery landscape and boat taxis provide additional access. Contact: RailEurope.com; AmalfiCoast.com.
Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia.
This iconic structure, comprised of interlocking concrete shells, anchors one of the world’s most famous harbors. Visually stimulating and home to a menu of family-friendly performances and programs, the architectural trendsetter debuted in 1973. Whether you take in a walking tour and observe the opera house glinting in the sunlight or aglow after nightfall, you’ll appreciate its artistic vibe and global significance. Contact: SydneyOperaHouse.com.
Machu Picchu. Peru.
Make your way to this extraordinary archeological site just as the Incas did. Choose from two or four day treks along the Inca Trail that culminate in stunning views of the “lost city” where palaces, terraces, walls and plazas cling to the mountainside. It was not until 1911, that a Peruvian guide led Yale Professor Hiram Bingham to the ancient site on the eastern slopes of the Andes. Mysteries remain as to how the Incas were able to construct the complex more than 500 years ago and why it was abandoned not long after. Train trips are also available from Cusco. Contact: www.AustinAdventures.com; www.FamilyAdventures.com.
Taos Pueblo. Taos, NM.
Continuously inhabited for more than 1000 years, this remarkable community remains a pristine example of Native American culture, tradition and architecture. UNESCO makes note of the Pueblo Indians’ ability to retain meaningful and long held traditions despite pressure from the outside world. Close to 1900 Pueblo Indians still live, full or part time within the community, in homes made of adobe bricks, vigas and latillas. Take a walking tour of the area and uncover a rich history, view native arts and crafts and observe a way of life rarely glimpsed in our otherwise high-tech world. Contact: (505 )758-1028; www.TaosPueblo.com; http://www.nps.gov/history/worldheritage/taos.htm
If you are looking for adventure and comfort on your next vacation consider a “luxpedition.”
Cycle through Europe or Asia and rest your legs in luxury hotels. Reach the trails of the Alps by river cruise and train. Or explore the wilds of South America while enjoying fine dining. Here are 11 trips that bring together some of the best active experiences and accommodations in the world
Visit the Awasi Patagonia Lodge with Surtrek and explore in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park with a personal guide, selecting from excursions such as hiking to panoramic views, horseback riding beneath the towering spires or taking in the icebergs from Grey Glacier.
On Sojourn Bicycling & Active Vacations’ new tour in France, explore the dramatic landscape of the Alps by bike and stay in luxury accommodations. Start at the picturesque lake in Annecy, ride a Tour de France climb and finish at the foot of Mont Blanc in Chamonix, resting at a Relais & Chateau hotel.
Camp in style on a classic Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu in Peru. After acclimatizing in luxury accommodations in Cusco, enjoy hot showers, fine cuisine in a portable dining tent, a cot to sleep on and excellent service during the guided trek through spectacular Andean scenery to the Inca ruins.
Ride nearly 1,800 miles across South Korea and Japan on TDA Global Cycling’s newest hotel-to-hotel tour, the Journey to the East. Pedal through modern cities and over lonely mountain roads, past temples, volcanoes, hot springs and heritage sites.
At Wyoming’s 25,000-acre Red Reflet Ranch, spend the day riding horses, shooting, herding cattle and learning the ropes. Once the work is done, sit down to a gourmet meal made of beef from the ranch’s butcher shop and produce grown in its garden before retiring to a luxury chalet.
On a new itinerary from Riviera River Cruises, cruise through the Rhine Gorge to Switzerland, then travel by train into the Alps, climbing over jaw-dropping precipices aboard the famed Glacier Express. In Zermatt, explore the trails on foot or ride a cog railway to 10,000 feet.
Cast for big brown and feisty rainbow trout in Argentine Patagonia with Frontiers and stay in the new Alumine River Lodge, which offers comfort and unparalleled access to the Pilolil Canyon and numerous tributary rivers and spring creeks.
: On a new trip with Tourissimo and Ride & Seek, cycle the hallowed gravel strade bianche (white roads) of Tuscany through rolling hills covered with vineyards and quaint medieval villages, and enjoy the food and wines of one of Italy’s finest culinary regions.
Rent a luxurious mountain home in Montana’s exclusive Moonlight Basin community and ski Big Sky Resort’s 5,800 acres of steep and deep terrain. A stay at Moonlight Basin also provides access to the private Moonlight Lodge, and Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking on snowy trails.
Cycle from Bangkok to Phuket, Thailand, with Grasshopper Adventures and take in the Gulf of Thailand, Khao Sok National Park and the Andaman Coast from the saddle, then rest at a four-star hotel, a golf resort and a beachside resort.
Explore wild and wooded Siberia on a MIR Corporation trip in winter, when Lake Baikal freezes hard enough to travel over its surface. Dash through the taiga on a traditional troika ride, race teams of sled dogs and sweep across the frozen lake by hovercraft to sacred Olkhon Island.