Plan ahead for your National Park family vacation. (The best lodging fills quickly.)
Choose from these historic gems to add a layer of history to your outdoor adventure:
Many Glacier Hotel, Glacier National Park
There are few places on the planet as stunning as Glacier National Park. And one could argue that the historic Many Glacier Hotel is the ideal venue from which to appreciate the vast and astonishing landscape. Located on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake with jagged peaks as backdrop, the iconic hotel was built by the Great Northern Railway in 1914 to lure tourists to the Wild West. Today, visitors from around the world find their way to this northwestern corner of Montana, eager to see the disappearing glaciers, hike aside azure-colored lakes and to catch a glimpse of resident wildlife.
This secluded, five-story hotel offers visitors a window into the past with old-world style guest rooms and a Swiss Alpine theme. While dedicated to honoring its historic roots, the 214-room gem has undergone a multi-million dollar renovation that included remodeling rooms, updating furniture and lighting and restoring the dining room to historic standards.
Also included was the return of the “missing staircase”.
Once part of the grand lobby, sharing space with soaring beams of Douglas fir and a massive fireplace, the original double helix staircase stretched from the lake level of the hotel to the lobby. It was removed in the mid-’50s to make way for a gift shop.
As part of the recent remodel, the magnificent spiral staircase has been restored to its former glory.
In addition to world-class hiking, Red Bus tours, boat cruises, horseback rides, and evening ranger programs, are offered in an unparalleled lakeside setting, Contact: www.VisitMontana.com www.GlacierNationalParkLodges.com
Yellowstone National Park – Old Faithful Snow Lodge.
Built in 1999, recycled timbers were used in the construction of this lodge that offers easy access to the Old Faithful geyser and the wealth of natural resources that attract visitors each year from around the world. Accommodations include lodge rooms and cabins with wildlife and park themes. America’s first national park, established in 1872, Yellowstone spreads into Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, and is home to abundant wildlife including grizzly bears, wolves, bison, and elk. Check out the hot springs and geysers and experience a ride in the historic yellow touring cars that add to the historic park experience. The grand Old Faithful Inn recently underwent renovations and also welcomes guests eager to see the geyser’s faithful performance.
The Oasis at Death Valley, Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is the lowest, driest, hottest place on earth. True. And, all the more reason you’ll be mesmerized by the unexpected luxury found within the Oasis at Death Valley. The historic Inn at Death Valley, tucked within a true oasis-like setting, offers updated and stylish accommodations, fine dining, and spa services, all a welcome contrast to a day spent exploring amid salt flats, mud hills, and volcanic craters. A recent multi-million dollar renaissance of the 1920s gem means you will now enjoy sweeping views while sipping morning coffee or evening cocktails on the shaded outdoor terraces. The inviting dining and bar areas have been updated yet retain their historic charm, and are further enhanced by the owners world-class collection of renowned paintings of the era. You’ll want to plan time for the historic, one of a kind spring fed pool, where lush landscaping, cabanas, a pool bar and a café invite relaxation.
Come nightfall, be sure to look up. You’ll be in awe of what it means to stand in designated Dark Sky country. It’s one of the few places in the U.S. where you can see the Milky Way with the naked eye.
Take note: Twenty-two, new dreamy casitas will open within the Oasis later this year.
El Tovar, Grand Canyon National Park
Find inspiration in this National Historic Landmark hotel, perched just steps from the world’s grandest canyon. Completed in 1905 by the Fred Harvey Company, now the Xanterra Travel Collection, to accommodate tourists arriving to this wonder of the world, El Tovar provides a history-rich lodging experience on the south rim of canyon. Charles Whittlesey, Chief Architect for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway, designed the hotel, to be a cross between a Swiss chalet and a Norwegian Villa, a result he believed would appeal to the elites of the era. Today, El Tovar retains its elegant charm offering guest rooms and suites that reflect the colorful history of the property and its global appeal to visitors that have ranged from Theodore Roosevelt and Albert Einstein to Sir Paul McCartney.
Every season offers a fresh opportunity to put your world in perspective by simply standing at the edge of this visual extravaganza. From your cozy digs, set out for hiking, photographing, journaling and people watching.
Lake Yellowstone Hotel, Yellowstone National Park
Captivating views of Yellowstone Lake are best appreciated from this elegant hotel’s Sun Room, where classical music performances enchant guests of all ages most evenings during the summer season. The lyrical sounds of a string quartet often serve as a delicious backdrop as guests, in multiple accents and languages, share their experiences of the day and plans for tomorrow. First opened in 1891, in an era when guests arrived by stagecoach, the Grand Old Lady of the Lake was restored to her Colonial Revival heritage during a multi-million dollar renovation completed in 2014. A National Historic Landmark, the Lake Yellowstone Hotel update refreshed guest rooms, the dining room, bar, public spaces and redesigned the deli. Walking tours of the hotel are offered for those interested in learning more about the history, hardships, and idiosyncrasies of this National Park treasure.
Zion Lodge, Zion National Park.
Peace and refuge. That’s what the name Zion means. And in this beautiful Southern Utah park, filled with shifting and photographic opportunity, you’ll find plenty of both. Bike, stroll or cycle through 146,000 acres of uninterrupted beauty, punctuated by colorful cliffs and canyons as well as diverse plant and animal life. i Later choose from more than 200 miles of trails for hiking before relaxing beneath the park’s massive sandstone walls. The lodge, the only in-park lodging, features historic cabins with private porches as well as motel-style rooms with balconies or porches.
Maybe you’ve never heard of Snowbasin or Powder Mountain, two ski resorts a short drive east of Ogden, Utah.
But what about the Winter Olympics (you know, this year, the ones in PyeongChang)? You’ve heard of them, right? Back in 2002, Snowbasin hosted the downhill, super-G, and combined events for the Salt Lake City games.
And Powder’s claim to fame: It’s the largest ski resort in Utah, in terms of skiable acres (8,464) and the eighth largest ski resort in America, when measured by slope length.
Powder and Snowbasin are, as my dad likes to say, two peas in a pod because they’re in the same valley. But they are very different peas. One is more corporate, the other counter-culture. They look different and feel different, but they have the same sublime snow, plus Utah’s legendary outdoorsy vibe.
Looking for Powder Mountain and Snowbasin
If you can find them, that is. It’s a challenge for these resorts to compete with the flashier Park City area mountains. They’re not as close to Salt Lake City and they don’t have the million-dollar marketing budgets. This lack of hype could lead you to believe you’re in the middle of nowhere, when, in fact, you’re somewhere really special.
Which pretty much describes how I felt when we checked into our little place overlooking the Pineview Reservoir in Huntsville, Utah, about halfway between Snowbasin and Powder Mountain. It was surrounded by snowcapped mountains and seemed almost desolate, even though we were here at the height of ski season.
Of course, “Where are we?” also applied to our lives. When you’re constantly on the move, you wake up on some mornings and ask yourself, “Which state am I in, again?” Then you look out the window and see mountains and snow, and you say, “Oh, Utah.”
Riding up Powder Mountain
You can’t quite see Powder Mountain — or “PowMow” as the locals call it — from our place. The resort is accessible from nearby Eden by a narrow, winding road. A sign ominously warns motorists that chains are “required” during ski season, but on the day we drove up to PowMow, the roads were completely clear.
By the way, it’s true that this has been one of the worst ski seasons in memory as far as snow goes. No matter where we’ve visited — Colorado’s Wolf Creek, Purgatory, Crested Butte or Eldora — the snow has been uniformly disappointing. I wondered what a place that modestly calls itself Powder Mountain might be able to offer.
More than I thought, it turns out. Powder Mountain is enormous, but it also keeps its snow like a reservoir holds water. It breaks ski resort traditions in many ways. First, you drive up to the base and then ski down, like Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia. It also emphasizes quality over quantity, limiting lift ticket sales to 1,500 per day. This, the resort promises, ensures the lowest skier density of any major ski resort in North America.
PowMow’s runs are broad and gentle. Even the black diamond slopes — the most difficult ones — have a bluish tint, meaning they are not heart-stoppingly scary. Also, the average skier is, as my middle son would say, a dude. I’m talking jeans, last decade’s snowboard, long beard, and a headset playing the Grateful Dead. PowMow’s unofficial, somewhat revolutionary motto is “Powder to the People.”
And here’s something else you normally won’t find at an American ski resort: A snowcat, the kind used for grooming slopes, utilized instead to transport skiers from one ridge to another.
I didn’t have to imagine what this place would be like with good snow, because Powder Mountain had the best snow I’ve skied on all year. That’s what you get when you create a ski resort at the top of the Wasatch Mountain Range. Lots and lots of snow that sticks to the ground when everyone else has gone to the beach.
On the fixed-grip chairlift, a guy from Houston told us about the last powder day at PowMow, and I could swear those were tears in his eyes. Here, the snow is something like a religion.
Chasing Olympic dreams at Snowbasin
Snowbasin may share a valley with PowMow, but in many ways, feels like it’s on another continent. Sure, the snow is still great (I base this on two visits, one in February and the other in late March). But the slopes here are a little more serious.
There are two Olympic downhill runs. Have you ever stood at the top of a downhill run? Just take the Allen Peak Tram to the top and take a peek down Grizzly, the start of the men’s downhill course. It starts with a wall of snow that you basically plunge down, reaching speeds of 70 miles per hour. Even the slightest miscalculation can send you careening off the slope and to to the hospital. I made careful turns down that black-diamond slope until I reached the bottom.
Speaking of Olympics, Salt Lake City is making a bid for the 2030 games, which has the folks at Snowbasin excited. They can already envision the athletes coming back to the top of Allen Peak and competing again. That would be something.
Snowbasin is known for two other things: First, its base lodge is among the nicest in the west. It looks more like one of those upscale ranches in Wyoming than a ski lodge, with soaring ceilings, 360-degree fireplaces and gourmet food. And second — and this may come as a surprise — it offers some of the longest and most family-friendly runs I’ve ever been on. Try Elk Ridge, accessible from the Strawberry Gondola, for some pure carving pleasure.
Ah, and the views! Both Snowbasin and Powder Mountain have incredible vistas of the reservoir or of Ogden and Salt Lake City. But on a clear day, from the top of the Allen Peak, it’s said that you can see all the way to Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming.
I’m glad we landed here now, as the Olympics are underway. I can’t think of a more perfect time, or place.
You can read more about Christopher Elliott's family travel adventures at Away Is Home.
Crested Butte is Colorado's most serious ski resort. Seriously challenging, seriously scary -- and seriously fun.
The mountain's almost-vertical, double black diamond runs, most of them accessible from a T-bar lift, are in a class by themselves. (A T-bar? Haven't seen one of those in years.) These slopes will put the fear of God in you even if you're a lifelong skier.
And yet, the fun is serious, too. A series of much more forgiving blue and green runs are available for your kids, and there's no shortage of things to do in town, none of which involve you staring into a snowy abyss.
"I'm not going there"
Although Crested Butte is only a few miles over Italian Mountain from Aspen, Colorado's most high-profile ski area, it might as well be on a different planet. People don't come here to be seen, and there are no paparazzi tracking the few celebs who venture over the hill.
Instead, everyone is here to ski.
As soon as we picked up our lift tickets, we headed straight to the mountain.
We'd already skied two resorts in Southern Colorado, some of which presented us with challenging terrain. But this was different. Really different. After a warm-up run on the Red Lady Express, which has a lot of mellow runs perfect for families, we headed over to the Silver Queen Express, a quad that services some of Crested Butte's steepest terrain.
The last few hundred feet of Silver Queen are almost pure vertical, and you get the sense that coming down might be a chayllenge.
"OK, kids," I said to my two boys, ages 13 and 15. "Playtime's over."
Skiing down Triangle, a single black diamond run, demanded our full attention. But after a fresh snowfall, the mountain face was manageable. Then my middle son, Iden, made a turn and headed for the trees -- rated the most difficult terrain -- lured by ungroomed boulder-size moguls and cliff-like steepness, and ...
"I'm not going down there," his older brother declared.
Fortunately, you can change your mind and live to tell the tale. We pivoted on our skis and came down International, another black diamond run.
Wendy saves the day.
The next day we met up with Wendy Fisher, a former Olympic athlete and X-Games competitor who offers ski clinics to people who might find the mountain a little intimidating. Yeah, that would be us.
After just one trip down an easy run, Fisher diagnosed our problem: We were leaning too far back on our skis, which tires you out quickly and limits your ability to control your skis, especially on the steeps.
Fisher is part mountain guide, part storyteller, part instructor. She has an encyclopedic knowledge of Crested Butte, is happy to regale you with stories of the 1992 Winter Olympics, and is eager to offer tips on improving your form. Iden, the fastest skier in our group, learned how to regain control even when zipping down the hill. Fisher showed Aren, our most cautious skier, how to relax a little and enjoy his runs.
And me? Well, I had years and years of bad habits to overcome. I tend to ski with both my legs glued together. In German, it's called "wedeln." Fisher showed me how to trust my equipment, keep my legs apart, and let gravity do more of the work.
Thanks to Fisher, we spent the next few days skiing every open run -- yep, even those seriously hard black diamonds. Thanks, Wendy.
About that fun ...
There's much more to Crested Butte than its legendary slopes. After two days of intense skiing, we got off the mountain and headed into town. We met up with Nel Burkett, curator of the Crested Butte Heritage Museum, who took us on a walk through the historic downtown and then offered a brief tour of the museum. It's funny, but when I asked the kids what they remembered, they said, "That's the town where all the buildings burned down." True, more than a few buildings on the tour had burned to the ground at some point in history.
Crested Butte has a fascinating history as a coal mining town and a center for environmental activism, and there's still an interesting mix of money and idealism here. You can find impressive, million-dollar mansions in the hills, but you can also run into a few old-timers who live more modestly. And you can visit shops and hole-in-the-wall restaurants that remind you more of a college town like Berkeley, Calif.
Speaking of restaurants, there are more than a few tasty choices here. Our favorites included Teocalli Tamale, with its generous burritos and a library of palate-blowing hot sauces. And there's Secret Stash, which claims to have the best pizza in the world. Who am I to disagree? For a more formal dining experience, try the Magic Meadows Yurt, which involves a brisk snowshoe walk through the woods to a backcountry cabin heated by a wood-burning stove, with live music and a five-course meal prepared by a private chef.
At the end of the day, we always found ourselves out in the snow and cold. Crested Butte is one of the coolest places in Colorado, thanks to high mountains that pull freezing air into the valley. On a clear, subzero night, trudging through the fresh powder, we looked up and marveled at a thousand stars bracketed by dark mountains.
Crested Butte may be a serious resort, but at that moment I couldn't wipe the grin off my face. I think it was frozen in place.
One of the hottest trends in travel is EAT vacations. We’re not talking about tours with celebrity chefs. Rather, families are looking for trips that provide memorable Experiences, real Adventure and Transformative moments.
Here are five ideas that may fit the bill.
1. Discover Palau.
Located in the westernmost corner of Micronesia, Palau, an archipelago of more than 586 islands, consistently ranks as one of the world's best dive destinations. Pay off for the lengthy travel time includes 1,450 species of fish, 500 species of coral as well as rare sharks and stingrays.
You may have heard about the opportunity to snorkel amidst the moon and golden jellies of Jellyfish Lake. For now, the lake is closed to snorkelers while the environment recovers from complications of drought. It is still possible to hike around the 12,000-year-old marine lake where scores of gelatinous creatures waft through the water following the arc of the sun.
When not diving, snorkeling or kayaking through the turquoise waters tap into the country's considerable WWII history that incudes sunken ships and planes.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
Fans of the Tomb Raider film series 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 12th century 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.
Choose your backcountry.
For an EAT trifecta, establish a pure connection with nature, off the beaten path. Hike, paddle or float into a pristine location where your family can learn or hone their wilderness skills. Choose a destination suitable for the ages and abilities of your crew. Encourage each person to take responsibility for the adventure whether that is early research, carrying a small pack, collecting kindling or serving as master storyteller around the fire.
For the youngest set, get started with an overnight in the backyard or a nearby park. That way, should the weather or unforeseen forces create a kink in your plan, warm and dry shelter is nearby.
Contact: www.Backcountry.com; www.NPS.gov ; www.Huts.org
The Dalí Museum. St. Petersburg, FLA
The budding artist in your clan will be transformed by a visit to this 66,450-square-foot museum that houses the most comprehensive collection of Salvador Dali’s works in the world. Enjoy the priceless collection of masterpieces, paintings, photographs, watercolors and books sure to inspire the whole family.
Younger children will enjoy the “Dillydally with Dali” program offered daily, which includes puzzles, games, story hour and creative expression. Be there on the first Saturday of the month, for Breakfast With Dali, a morning that includes a junior-focused tour, followed by a buffet breakfast. Children under five are admitted free.
Boundary Waters Canoe Trips. Ely, MN.
Ease your canoes into the pristine water and look forward to peaceful days of paddling amidst a sparsely populated, one million-plus acre expanse of wilderness. Listen to the waves lapping against the shoreline and the haunting lullaby offered by local loons as you drift to sleep in one of 2,000 secluded campsites that dot the lake region. Wake to the sounds of birds chirping in the birch trees and enjoy breakfast over a campfire. Then set out to explore more of the 1,500 miles of canoe routes that crisscross the waterways.
So you want to dive the Great Blue Hole near Ambergris Caye, in Belize.
Scuba enthusiasts are eager to dive this large submarine sinkhole once explored by Jacques Cousteau. Located near the center of Lighthouse Reef, the Great Blue Hole is part of the large Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a World Heritage site.
Experienced divers have the opportunity to see remarkable limestone formations as well as several species of shark in the crystal waters. The dive destination is 60 miles from Ambergris Caye and for those of us who get sea sick it be a treacherous crossing. But worth it.
Working with an experienced and reputable outfitter is essential. Las Terrazas Resort is a family-friendly condo-style hotel adjacent to the White Sands Dive Shop, where Professional Association of Diving Instructors-certified (PADI) owner Elbert Greer will ensure your dive experience is top-notch.
Contact: www.lasterrazasresort.com; www.whitesandsdiveshop.com; www.travelbelize.org
Want to kiss a giraffe?
You’ve probably never asked yourself that question. But yes, you can, as my kids discovered on a recent visit to Kenya.
Head over to the Giraffe Centre just outside Nairobi, more formally known as the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, a breeding center of the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe.
Our whirlwind tour of two Kenyan wildlife attractions took place in a single morning, the ideal day trip if you happen to be in Nairobi for a day or two. If nothing else, it’ll allow your family to appreciate the conservancy efforts being made in Africa, or just to get in touch with your wilder side.
What giraffe saliva feels like
Here’s how the Giraffe thing works: You pay the $9.65 admission to the center, and that gets you close — very close — to these rare giraffe. A guide will offer you a pellet. It’s not for you, it’s for the giraffe. Open your hand and one of these gentle creatures will swoop down and gobble up the pellet.
My daughter, who can follow basic instructions when she wants to, decided to cooperate. She’s only 10 and fairly short. The Rothschilds must have looked like monsters to her. Good call.
After a few false starts (she dropped the pellet and the annoyed giraffe retreated into the sky) she made contact with tallest terrestrial animal on earth. Specifically, with the animal’s long, gray tongue.
What does giraffe saliva feels like? Glad you asked. In order to find out, I grabbed a pellet and offered it to the nearest animal. It gratefully accepted, leaving a generous amount of warm, thick, translucent substance behind. It felt a little sticky.
What does it taste like? Ask this woman, who was part of a delegation of American travel agents in town for a convention. Brave soul.
She did not reveal any details of this intimate moment to the group. Then again, we were so shocked by it, no one could say a word.
But it’s settled: You can kiss a giraffe.
Elephants, mud and a cautionary tale of getting too close
At the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Kenya’s famous elephant orphanage, you can get close to one of nature’s cutest creations: baby elephants. The trust helps rescue and raise mostly elephant and rhino orphans. Guides parade the babies into a large viewing area, where the orphans receive milk, water and leafy vegetation.
But the question isn’t if can you get close, but do you want to. With signs like this, the kids had second thoughts, understandably.
Just to be clear, the elephants didn’t look dangerous at all. On the contrary, they were adorable. Maybe a little messy, rolling around in all that red mud, but still adorable.
Can we stay on the topic of messy for a moment.
Elephants can squirt water over long distances. You probably know where this is going, right? Now scroll to the top of this story and look at my daughter’s shirt. Notice anything? Yep, nailed by a baby elephant. I got splattered, too. Those pachyderms can spit!
But, awwww. How could you stay mad at something like this?
Like the Giraffe Centre, the Sheldrick Trust is doing this for a good cause — in this case, offering hope for the future of Kenya’s threatened elephant and rhino populations against poachers, loss of habitat and human conflict. That’s well worth the $7 contribution to get into the orphanage.
If you don’t have the time or resources for an African safari, this day trip may be the next best thing. Your kids are guaranteed to see giraffe, elephant, rhino and other species in an almost-natural environment.
A week before we visited Yosemite National Park, Alex Honnold became the first person to free-climb the near-vertical 3,000-foot face of El Capitan. And just a day before we arrived, two other climbers — Leah Pappajohn and Jonathan Fleury — scaled Yosemite’s El Capitan without clothes.
And by “we” I mean, my 10-year-old-daughter and my sons, ages 12 and 15.
Great timing, huh?
Unfortunately, Honnold was long gone by the time we arrived at the foot of “El Cap.” Fortunately, Pappajohn and Fleury were. I didn’t know how I would have explained that one to the kids. (“But Dad, they’re still wearing ropes, right? So they’re not totally naked.”)
That’s Yosemite National Park in the summer. Always something to do, always something to see. I’m just reporting the bare facts.
For us, Yosemite meant taking in the iconic sights, but also wandering through the amazing sequoia groves with the help of an expert guide. If you’re thinking of coming to the park during peak season, you need to know about the “insider” way we avoided the crowds.
A visit with “El Cap”
I know what you’re thinking. Yosemite in June. But isn’t everyone there?
Yes, but it’s still an enormous park, which at 1,189 square miles is about the same size as the state of Rhode Island. An insider will know where to go to avoid the crowds, and that insider is a private guide from the Yosemite Conservancy, a nonprofit that supports this national park.
Pete, our conservancy guide, knew the best spots to see the famed El Capitan, the shortcut to Bridalveil Falls, the perfect meadow to stop for a picnic. He even knew the best place to see the climbers scaling the north face. While a line of cars waited on the other side of the park, we used his insider knowledge to save time and see the best places.
The main attractions, of course, were “El Cap” and Half Dome, the two monoliths. If you’ve never been to the foot of these landmarks, let me tell you, there’s no way to adequately describe them. The only thing that comes close is a photo, and only famed photographer Ansel Adams captured what I would consider their essence — the shadows, the smooth granite face and the elegant shape that inspired countless tourists from around the world and a clothing line or two.
There’s a meadow in the Yosemite Valley, right off Northside Drive near the raging Merced River, where you can watch the brave climbers challenging “El Cap”. Bring a powerful pair of binoculars so you can see them inch their way up the vertical face. Not to be melodramatic, but my two youngest kids, who are known to be a little chatty, were stunned into silence. This was some rock.
Circling the sequoia grove
The rocks aren’t the only big things in Yosemite. There are also enormous, thousand-year-old sequoias, and the best place to see them is a secluded grove called Tuolumne Grove. It’s a 2½-mile hike down into the grove, but well worth it. Among the attractions: a dead sequoia you can walk through, a massive fire-red sequoia named Big Red, and a California redwood felled by lightning and hollowed on the inside that the kids can walk through.
Pete explained the fascinating history of these trees — how they used to be common in North America until climate change forced them to retreat to a few isolated pockets, how some of the trees are up to 2,000 years old, and how they create their own ecosystem that’s home to a variety of beetle, millipede and spider species.
Visitors to Yosemite probably know there are redwoods here, but if they don’t know about Tuolumne, it’s unlikely they’ll ever visit. This is one of the smaller and least-trafficked of the groves, yet it is also one of the most visually arresting. Standing next to one of these giants, you feel a lot like you do when you’re at the foot of Half Dome or “El Cap.” There’s an almost reverent attitude you see in the other visitors, even the kids. It’s as if they innately know that these trees are among the last of their kind and must be respected.
Impressed as I was with the silencing effect that Yosemite had on my otherwise boisterous kids, it couldn’t last. On the drive back to the Rush Creek Lodge, the conversation turned to an unanswerable question: Will the nude climbers ever return? Also, why weren’t they arrested for indecent exposure? (Apparently, there’s no law against it in the national parks. Who knew?) And just as suddenly as the quiet had descended on our group, it all evaporated into laughter.
Timing is everything.
If you go…
Where to stay
If you want to avoid the traffic and long waiting lists for a campground in the park, check out Rush Creek Lodge, a new hotel on the east end of the park. Go to their poolside barbecue for dinner, which is the best value this side of the national park.
Where to eat
If you’re heading into the park, pick up a few sandwiches at Rush Creek’s general store. For dinner, we found a respectable Mexican dinner at Cocina Michoacana in nearby Groveland.Cover your eyes, kids! I think I see two nudes ascending El Capitan!
It’s that time of year when we review recent adventures and plan for the year ahead.
Here are five ideas to inspire your family’s travels:
Travel for adventure.
Stoke your family’s passion for new experiences with Lindblad Expeditions and partner, National Geographic, through their recently launched Global Explorer’s program. Designed to inspire the next generation of global stewards, kids will hike up volcanoes; snorkel with sea lions; walk among giant tortoises, all while learning how to read maps, populate a field notebook, and build storytelling and observation skills. Celebrating 50 years of exploration, Lindblad launched the program in the Galapagos Islands and will expand to Alaska in 2018.
Travel to relax.
Check in to a luxury resort where the mesmerizing view, impeccable service and options for family fun will be enough to lower your blood pressure. At the Four Seasons in Jackson Hole, WY, slumber at the gateway to world-class skiing, hiking, fly-fishing and two of the most breathtaking National Parks in our portfolio of national treasures. Take advantage of the heated pool, top-notch spa and fine dining. Grown ups can plan a day touring local art galleries while youngsters are engaged by the smart kids program.
Travel with the whole family.
With busy careers and geographic spread, it can be challenging for the generations to spend time together. Group vacations can offer a workable solution. Cruises, all-inclusive resorts and resort rentals provide easy to predict pricing as well as built-in activities for every age group. Tour companies like Thomson Family Adventures specialize in crafting compelling itineraries that appeal to multiple generations, including departures for parents and adult children. Book spacious condos with resort rental site Vacatia and you’ll have the option to make payments and split the bill with family members using Flexpay.
Travel to learn.
A family trip is one of the best educational tools available. From guided tours in faraway places, to your own take on a local museum, you are sure to return home with new insights. Visit The National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Smithsonian’s newest and only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. The centerpiece exhibit, which explores the complex story of slavery and freedom, may provide a pathway for discussing current events. Gain new insight into our national tragedy during a heart-wrenching tour of New York’s 911 Museum. Learn about animal behaviors at a nearby zoo or animal park. In short, discovery adds to the magic of travel.
Contact: www.911Memorial.org; www.AZA.org; https://www.si.edu/museums/african-american-history-and-culture-museum
Use the bounty of easy access apps to make the most of your travel time and resources. Organize your details with Tripit. Make Gasbuddy your reliable, road trip pal. If your well-crafted plans go awry, know that HotelTonight can help track down a last-minute place to stay. And turn to GateGuru for airport security and restaurant intel should your family be faced with delayed flights or a long layover. Search Oh, Ranger! Parkfinder, by destination and activities to find great places to play in our parks and public lands. Then share your experience with friends and family via Postagram, which will deliver a photo and message via snail mail.
Contact: Tripit.com; GasBuddy.com; HotelTonight.com; GateGuru.com www.Sincerely.com/Postagram.com; www.ohranger.com.
Award-winning photographer and FamilyTravel.com contributor Chase Guttman, enjoys traveling with his family and capturing special memories with his camera.
Here, he shares his tips that may inspire the budding shutterbugs in your clan.
Give the guys in your life the gift of travel.
Here are five ideas to consider:
The Ranch at Emerald Valley, Colorado Springs, CO.
Visitors to this high mountain, luxury outpost in the Pike National forest can team up with man’s best friend ( Reba, the fly fishing dog ) for an afternoon of casting for trout in one of two lakes on the secluded property. Later, give Reba a rest while exploring the surrounding area on horseback or hike to nearby lookout points. Challenge friends and family on the archery range or fireside for a masterful game of chess. Share stories while enjoying fresh, gourmet fare at the dinner table, in the hot tub or around the cozy fire pit. It's all part of the Broadmoor's Wilderness experience which also includes Cloud Camp and a Fishing Camp.
Fly Fishing Adventure, Jackson Hole, WY.
Catch the attention of fly-fishing enthusiasts with the promise of an overnight fishing trip on the South Fork of the Snake River. The extraordinary experience includes a two-day float through some of the most coveted, trout-rich water in the western United States. As the sun sets on the initial day, anglers 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 and roasted marshmallows around a campfire. Participants rest up for the next day’s action in cozy platform tents. Day two promises stunning scenery, 16 miles of braided waters and the option to expand the adventure while wading gravel bars and maneuvering up productive side channels.
Contact: www.WorldCastAnglers.com; www.WyomingTourism.org.
Big League Tours.
Are the men in your life fans of Fenway? Are they eager to cheer inside Wrigley Field? If the idea sounds like a home run, then a Big League Tour might be a perfect fit for your favorite baseball fan. Word is tour participants hang out with MLB players, get on to the field, inside the dugouts and catch a batting practice in venues that continue to infuse allegiance to the game. Tours and vacation packages make it possible to hear the crack of the bat in your Dad’s favorite cities or an entire region.
Zion Adventure. Springdale, UT.
Send your guy to the slots where he can take on the famed canyons on his own or with a guide. The Narrows, a 16-mile corridor, can be hiked in one rigorous day, but most recommend an overnight or the Bottom Up hike that enables hikers to see some of the most stunning aspects of the canyon in four to six hours. Either way, Dad will thank you for the opportunity to experience the splendor of the twisting slots, where carved sandstone rises to the bright, blue western sky.
Bob Bondurant Performance Driving School – Phoenix, AZ.
Channel your guy's need for speed with a visit to this premier performance-driving academy. He’ll get the chance to sharpen everyday driving skills, learn skid control or don a fire suit and helmet and hit the track for some high octane track time. Learning the Bondurant Method, crafted by Bob Bondurant as a way to train pros as well as daily commuters, promises to shape drivers into capable and confident roadsters while having the time of their lives. Contact: www.Bondurant.com; www.VisitPhoenix.com.