The Four Seasons Resort Lanai, on the unspoiled Hawaiian island of Lanai, has recently introduced Love Lanai, a series of tours, classes, and authentic culinary events.. Through Love Lanai, guests are able to experience the island’s unique living environment and cultural-historical legacy that spans nearly 1,000 years of Hawaiian residency and a diverse cultural heritage.

Family vacation experiences that are a part of the new collection include a guided sunrise hike of Puupehe; Hoolauna, where guests can learn more about the rich variety of Hawaiian crafts; and Aina Ahiahi Hawaiian Dinner, complete with Hawaiian specialties in an intimate setting, reminiscent of a family dinner in a Lanai home.

Consider family golf options while on the scenic island.

 

Published in Family Travel Blog

Make family travel memories in the year ahead.

Here are five great family vacation destinations to consider: 

Grand Canyon Lodges El Tovar

Northern Arizona. 

The Grand Canyon National Park is celebrating a big birthday in 2019.  So why not join the in the centennial celebration? Millions visit this wonder of the world each year to marvel at  the mile-deep gorge, exploring by foot, on a mule, or capturing the vast beauty with a camera or the mind’s eye. Stay on the South Rim where year round access is possible and you’ll have access to ranger programs, dining options and stunning views. Explore other regions in northern Arizona for hiking, biking and a history lesson along Route 66. Take in the stunning beauty of Monument Valley, the Petrified National Forest and the picturesque red rocks of Sedona. Pose for a photo while standing on a corner in Winslow, ride horseback at a guest ranch or rent a houseboat on Lake Powell. 

Contact: www.VisitArizona.com; www.NPS.gov/GCNP ; www.GrandCanyonLodges.com.

 Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, NY. 

Hear it roar. And feel the mist. But, don’t worry.  Ponchos are provided when you board the iconic tour boat, the Maid of the Mist, to feel the power of the historic falls. Formed some 12,000 years ago, Niagara Falls, straddling the US border with Canada,  has long been a magnet for explorers and adventurers, as well as honeymooners travelers. By day, explore the area from multiple angles, via lush nature trails, a water-skimming jet boat or high-flying helicopter. 

Inside the Niagara Falls State Park, visit the Observation Tower for a panoramic view of the three main falls - American, Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls. Each night, the park offers an illumination of the Falls, along with seasonal fireworks. 

Contact: www.NiagaraFallsUSA.com

Bahamas

The Bahamas. 

You’ll find lavish resorts in a bustling enclave or quiet getaways on tiny spits of sand, all just 50 miles off the coast of Florida. Choose your preferred sun-drenched environment from among 700 islands, embraced by crystal clear water and the world’s third largest barrier reef. Visions of snorkeling, diving, salt water fly fishing, ecotours, horseback riding, kayaking or just relaxing on soft sandy beaches will provide plenty to compel your family to plan a visit to this breathtaking archipelago. Contact: www.Bahamas.com.

 Nashville

 Tennessee.

The Volunteer state is within a day's drive of 65 percent of our nation's population. There, in Tennessee, you’ll find natural beauty, great music and vibrant communities ladled with a dose of Southern hospitality. Enjoy the 800-square mile wonderland that is the Great Smokey Mountain National Park for hiking, horseback riding, and fishing. Add a musical note to your trip with a stop by Graceland to see how the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley lived and worked.

Spend time in Music City USA, otherwise known as Nashville, to discover the rich origins of country music. Visit the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to learn  how folk, gospel music and front-porch jamming evolved into the sounds we know today.

Nature-loving families may want to consider a hike on the John Muir Trail in the Cherokee National Forest. It’s a relatively crowd-free portion of the state that's said to look much the same as it did in Muir's day. 

Contact: www.TNVacation.com.  

Michigan

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  

A four-season playground for nature lovers, Michigan’s UP nudges up against three Great Lakes - Superior, Huron and Michigan. That said, water and beach activities are plentiful with kayaking, sailing and fishing as warm weather staples. Inland, visitors venture along rivers that feed the Great Lakes, explore old-growth forests and fly fish small streams. 

From the Porcupine Mountains, just a few miles from the shores of Lake Superior and considered one of Michigan’s most wild landscapes, adventurers can hike from a summit to the shore in one day. During the winter months, snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing are popular pursuits. Contact: www.Michigan.org

Published in Top Stories

Golf is a great activity for the whole family and there is no better place to test your skills on the links than Scottsdale, AZ.  

A number of Scottsdale’s most popular courses offer programs and junior golf academies designed specifically for young athletes.

Most offer full instruction for beginners to advanced players, including swing analysis, rules and etiquette, sportsmanship, on-the-course training, and games and prizes.

Here are just a few area courses that cater to young golfers.

EAGLE MOUNTAIN GOLF CLUB: SUMMER JUNIOR GOLF CAMPS


Eagle Mountain’s three-day Junior Golf Camps include four hours of instruction per day and are geared toward kids 8 and older. The Jr. Mountain Club Card (additional fee), enables camp participants to play an hour after twilight all summer long for only $10 ($25 for an accompanying adult).

GRAYHAWK GOLF CLUB – JUNIOR GOLF CAMP


From full swing to putting and chipping to bunkers, Grayhawk’s golf instruction is communicated using fun games and competition. Students learn all the basic mechanics of the golf swing as well as the proper etiquette of the game. The program is open to kids from 8 to 16 years old.

CAMELBACK GOLF CLUB – SUMMER JUNIOR CAMP


All juniors work with PGA-certified Instructors to improve their game through balance, stability, coordination, power and speed. Full-day camps for ages 9 to 16 and half-day camps for ages 7 to 15 are available. Camps feature a 6:1 student-to-teacher ratio and include 9 holes of golf daily.

MCCORMICK RANCH GOLF CLUB – SUMMER JUNIOR GOLF ACADEMY


Golfers age 6 to 17 receive individualized instruction in swing techniques and course strategy, as well as the rules and etiquette of the game. Junior golfers involved in the Golf Academy also receive reduced green fees and range rates to perfect their skills.

MCDOWELL MOUNTAIN GOLF CLUB – JUNIOR GOLF PROGRAM


McDowell Mountain Golf Club’s beginner (ages 8 and under) and intermediate (ages 9 to 13) clinics include fun games, drills and instruction that focus on the full swing, short game and putting. High school prep and college prep programs also are available.

TROON NORTH GOLF CLUB – TROON FAMILY GOLF PROGRAM


This exciting program is available every day of the year! Golfers 15 years of age and younger receive complimentary instruction when taking a lesson with a paying adult, golf for free after 3 p.m. when playing with a paying adult, and enjoy complimentary Callaway rental clubs all day.

GAINEY RANCH GOLF CLUB – JUNIOR TEES PROGRAM


For families that love to golf, Gainey Ranch Golf Club offers “Junior Tees,” special tee locations that are designed to provide children 12 and younger the opportunity to play a yardage-friendly round on a par-72 course. Plus, when playing with a paid adult, children 15 and younger can play the course for free! And for guests at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa, all rounds after your first (at full price) can be enjoyed for 50 percent off! 

 

Published in Destinations

To begin, the name — Death Valley National Park — doesn’t immediately conjure visions of a lively holiday. And you’ve heard: It’s the lowest, driest, hottest place on earth. All true. But here, in one of the world’s most dramatic desert landscapes — a place of shifting sand dunes, multi-hued rock formations, and hidden canyons — you’ll wake before dawn to watch the rugged mountains turn pink with the sunrise. Then, come nightfall, you’ll marvel at star-filled skies as the desert wind rustles the palms. And you’ll wonder why it took so long to find your way here.

wild flowers in death valley

Full of Life

Death Valley has earned its “dry” reputation thanks to an average annual precipitation of fewer than 2 inches. In fact, no rain fell at all in 1929 or 1953.

Yet, Death Valley is full of life. From autumn into spring, the weather is positively heavenly. The occasional winter rainstorm ushers in vast fields of wildflowers. And a remarkable range of creatures, both great and small, have either adapted to summer’s harsh conditions or find refuge in the area’s diverse habitats. Not merely barren desert, the park also encompasses spring-fed natural oases, pinyon-juniper woodlands and even pine forests. With so much to see and do, the intrepid explorer should determine a base camp. Just a stone’s throw from the national park visitor center, The Oasis at Death Valley, comprised of the historic Four Diamond Inn at Death Valley and The Ranch at Death Valley, provides a well-situated solution with unexpected luxury. It’s a true oasis-like setting, with modern accommodations, fine dining and spring-fed pools, a welcome contrast to a day spent exploring salt flats, mud hills and volcanic craters.

Many Death Valley National Park visitors venture to this remote region 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas to marvel at the stark desert beauty and escape into the beautiful silence of the park’s vast expanses. But given that it is the land of stark contrast, why not create your own itinerary with a nod to the exotic landscape?

Mix in a massage under the Oasis’s date palms with a summit of the Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes. And pair a soak in the Inn’s healing waters with a mountain bike ride out Skidoo Road. Follow a jeep tour to a ghost town and enjoy a glass of fine wine, sipped al fresco on the terrace, as the sun sets in the valley below. You get the idea.

Wondering where to begin? 

ghost towns

Ghost Towns

After the 1848 discovery of gold in California, the valley experienced more than a century-long mining boom. Most pioneers set out on a quest for gold and silver but were met with a notable lack of success. The only long-term profitable ore to be found in the region was borax, which was transported out of Death Valley with the famous 20-mule teams.

Today visitors can explore the once bustling towns of Chloride City, Gold Point, Panamint City and Ballarat, among others. Peer into abandoned mines, and step inside the old saloons, post offices and abandoned houses and imagine what life must have been like for these hearty Westerners.

family golf Oasis at Death Valley

Tee it Up

Bring your A-game (and your camera) to the lowest golf course in the world, The Furnace Creek Golf Course at Death Valley, at 214 feet below sea level. The hazards here include coyotes that like to fetch golf balls (you are allowed a free drop) and the perplexing fact that balls don’t travel as far below sea level. Recent renovations on Death Valley’s 18-hole, par-70 course addressed water conservation and transitioned 15 acres of maintained turf to desert with low-water-use native plantings. But the improvements didn’t make the course any easier. So, should the top-rated links humble you, look forward to the smile-inducing, 19th-hole grill and bar, complete with a drive-through for golf carts.

Scout for Wildlife

Remarkably, more than 400 animal species are native to the park, including dozens of reptiles, 51 different mammals and even six kinds of fish. You never know what you’ll see, so keep your eyes open for roadrunners zooming across the highway and coyotes feeding on fallen fruit in the date palm groves of the Inn at Death Valley.

Most of the park’s animals are nocturnal, so venturing out at dawn or near sunset when animals are active is your best bet. The park’s scattered water sources, including Darwin Falls, draw a wide range of animals. Carry a small pair of wide-angle binoculars. When possible, choose a spot that offers a wide view and stay put. 

Swim and Soak

Back at the Inn, built on the grounds of a natural spring in 1927, a million gallons of fresh glacial water flow out of the ground daily. The naturally heated Travertine Springwater, a comfortable 84 degrees year-round, fills swimming pools at the resort and at the nearby Ranch at Furnace Creek. Because the water is continually replaced with fresh spring water, there’s no need to chemically treat the pools. 

Explore by Jeep

Rent a Jeep, load up, and learn about the local geological and mining history as you wind through Titus Canyon, a 27-mile-long gorge through the Grapevine Mountains. Expect door scraping narrows when you encounter rock walls — hundreds of feet tall and only 20 feet apart — before rising via ribbon-like switchbacks. Along the way you’ll see American Indian rock art and learn about the early miners, lured to the region by the prospect of riches.

family travel Inn at Death Valley

Strap on Your Hiking Boots

Stop by the National Park Service visitors center to learn about hikes within the park, for any fitness level. We love the colorful Mosaic Canyon and Badwater Basin salt flats, the lowest place in North America. Other options include an easy (albeit sandy and rocky), 1-mile round-trip up a canyon to Natural Bridge, the largest of the park’s natural bridges. Consider a hike along the rim of a volcanic crater just over an hour northwest of your base camp. Six hundred feet deep and a half-mile across, Ubehebe Crater looks like something you might find on the moon. It formed around 2,100 years ago as magma flowing upward from deep within the earth met pockets of groundwater, setting off a powerful volcanic steam eruption.

Be sure to practice safe hiking (bring plenty of water) in this rugged terrain. Ranger-led hikes, such as the 7-mile Death Valley Paleontology Tour that leads to Pleistocene-era fossils, are also available in season.

Explore on Two Wheels

With hundreds of miles of both paved and dirt roads, road and mountain biking are popular within Death Valley National Park during the winter months. Visitors can bring their own or rent mountain bikes at the Inn or the Ranch. Either way, resort staff members can suggest tried-and-true scenic rides and safety tips.

Marvel at the Amazing Night Sky

With its desert-clear air and miles-from-anywhere location, the expansive night sky at Death Valley is ablaze with stars. Because it has some of the darkest night skies in the country, it is designated a Gold Tier International Dark Sky Park, the highest level awarded. Don’t miss the ranger-led astronomy tours offered throughout winter. 

Go Hollywood

It’s been said that Death Valley National Park is like a different planet. Apparently, George Lucas agreed. Rather than attempt to create a galaxy far, far away, he chose to film both “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” and “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi” in the national park.

Explore the otherworldly terrain that helped to inspire these classic films when you head to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Desolation Canyon, Golden Canyon, Dante’s View and Artist’s Palette to stand where Luke Skywalker contemplated the Force in 1977. 

Wonder at the Wildflowers

The wildflower bloom demonstrates the life that springs forth from late fall and winter rains in this 3.3 million-acre park. Each year’s display varies with the intensity of the bloom and the timing of the flowers’ appearance.

But it is not uncommon to see Desert Gold and Brown Eyed Evening Primrose or Notched Leaf Phacelia appear in mid-January or earlier. The full impact of the revitalization becomes most apparent between February and March but sometimes continues until June at higher elevations.

Change doesn’t come quickly in Death Valley National Park. Geological time remains the standard, human impacts are minimal, and the landscape is seemingly eternal. The coyotes continue to howl on the flats, yet a resounding silence prevails.

But change?

Once nourished by the vast, unexpected beauty and the startling contrasts, the change within will be yours to define.

 If you go

The Oasis at Death Valley (formerly Furnace Creek Resort) sits in a lush oasis surrounded by the vast and arid desert of Death Valley National Park, California —just 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas and 275 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

The resort includes two hotels: the historic Four Diamond Inn at Death Valley, with 66 newly refurbished rooms and 22 all-new casitas and the more family-oriented, 224-room Ranch at Death Valley. Learn more at oasisatdeathvalley.com or call 844-236-7916.

Published in Destinations

If you love baseball, these iconic spots belong on your roster:

Cactus League, Peoria, AZ   

For the chance to run the bases, take the field with a player, announce a batter and other memorable experiences, head to this Valley of the Sun hot spot for kid-friendly (ages 8 to 12) baseball fun. The Peoria Sports Complex, home to the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres, is celebrating the season by adding a number of fan appreciation days.

Ask about Peoria Packs, available for purchase on Family Fun Days. Bring a gently used children’s book and you’ll be eligible for the promotional Pack which includes four lawn tickets, hot dogs, sodas and snacks for $48. Special prices are also available for larger families. Stay at the nearby historic and family-friendly Wigwam Resort for pre and post game golf, pool time, spa and lawn games. Stay three or more nights to receive a twenty percent discount off the lowest rates.

Contact: www.CactusLeague.com ;  www.PeoriaSportsComplex.com www.WigwamResort.com.   

Cactus League, Scottsdale, AZ.

Every spring, since 1947, this Southwestern town is abuzz as baseball fans flock to catch their favorite teams warm up for the regular season. The Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies get in the groove at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick where kids are sometimes allowed to run the bases after the game.

Nearby, watch the San Francisco Giants in style inside Scottsdale Stadium where you can catch the action from patio-style seating under the Arizona sun. Ask about free trolley rides and a wide range of packages designed to lure sports fans. Now through March. Contact: www.CactusLeague.com; https://www.experiencescottsdale.com/event/spring-training

Grapefruit League, Florida.

Beaches and baseball make for a winning combination. That’s what family travelers will find when they head south to watch their favorite players and prospects showcase their pre-season skills during Spring Training in Florida. Catch the Philadelphia Phillies in family-friendly Clearwater or be there as the Minnesota Twins make it happen in Ft. Myers. The Atlanta Braves are part of the magic underway at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World where a roving emcee asks fans to guess the attendance for the chance to win prizes.  The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches offers an immersive, up-scale experience, enabling fans to move through training fields and workout facilities before heading in to the 6,400 seat ballpark.

Fifteen teams tune up for fans in thirteen locations throughout the Sunshine State. Check the web sites for game schedules and to learn more about apps that can help plan your visit. Contact: www.floridagrapefruitleague.com  

National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY.

This iconic sports shrine traces the history and cultural significance of the game through 50,000 square feet of memorabilia and interactive exhibits. Learn about the men and women who have made their mark on the field, test your trivia skills and get inspired by the feats of the greatest who played the game. Youngsters under 12 and their families can visit the museum’s Sandlot Kids' Clubhouse for interactive, youth-focused experiences. Extra innings overnights in the museum are also possible. Each year, during the last weekend in July, nearly 20,000 fans flock to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame Induction ceremony.

Contact: http://baseballhall.org.

Big League Tours. Are you a fan of Fenway? Have you been to Coors Field or Miller Park? If the mere thought makes you smile, a Big League Tour might be a perfect fit for your family. Word is you’ll hang out with MLB players, get on to the field, inside the dugouts and catch a batting practice in the 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 favorite cities or an entire region.

Contact: www.BigLeagueTours.com

Field of Dreams, Dyersville, IA.

“If you build it, he will come.” The oft-repeated line is one of the most famous in movie history and you and your family can be a part of it. Make your way to traditional Iowa farm country where reality mixes with fantasy to make dreams and movies that star Kevin Costner come true. Bring your own gear and play catch on the century-old farm that boasts the world-famous baseball diamond. Learn more about the book behind the movie and the curve balls thrown by Mother Nature during filming.

Www. www.Dyersville.org ;  www.FODMoviesite.com 

Published in Explore

Make sure you’ve got a plan in place when Spring fever hits.

It’s time to plan your getaway. Here are five ideas to consider:

 1. Denver.

If you are seeking sun during your Spring vacation, count on Denver to deliver. With more than 300 days of sunshine, a vibrant food and cultural scene and abundant outdoor activities, there is something for everyone if your gang. Explore the city’s historic districts and emerging neighborhoods via the free bike-sharing system, visit the legendary Tattered Cover bookstore and enjoy a casual snack while people watching in the revitalized Union Station. Take in a free festival, a sporting event or a music happening. At the downtown aquarium, kids can feed stingrays, swim with the sharks, see a mermaid show, become a marine biologist for a day or even spend the night amid the marine life. Stay at the centrally located Kimpton Hotel Born, next to Union Station, for easy access to the airport and the vibrant LoDo district.

Contact: www.VisitDenver.org; https://www.ihg.com/kimptonhotels/

Butterfly Wonderland

2. Scottsdale, AZ.

Plan a spring trip to this sunny Southwestern city and your biggest challenge will be finding time for all the activities you’ll find appealing. Expect hiking and biking trails, jeep rides and horseback outings in the Sonoran desert. Relax by a pool or enjoy a lazy river float. You’ll want to stop by the Butterfly Wonderland and the new aquarium as well as the Contemporary Art museum and the Museum of the West. And if you visit during March, you’ll feel the heat generated by baseball fever as fans gather to watch their favorite teams warm up for the regular season.

Contact: www.ExperienceScottsdale.com ; www.CactusLeague.com.

Keystone with kids Familytravel.com

3. Keystone, CO.

Spend your spring getaway on the slopes of this Rocky Mountain resort, offering 3,000 acres of easy-to-expert terrain on three impressive peaks. From the friendly Reception Center and up-front parking reserved for families, to the hundreds of red wagons spread throughout the property to ease the transport of little ones plus gear, Keystone, a Vail Resort, is committed to making mountain time memorable for you and your clan. The Kidtopia program offers a range of activities for children including giant snow forts, arts and crafts, ice-skating, and scavenger hunts, as well as culinary and musical events. Stay two nights in resort lodging and kids 12 and under ski and ride free. Ask about private ski and boarding lessons for family groups. Contact: www.KeystoneResort.com .

legoland

4. Carlsbad, CA.

Visit this seaside town where beach time pairs perfectly with outings to theme parks, the zoo and shopping. Go SoCal and take SUP or surf lessons or check out the local skate park. Be sure to make time for a trip to LEGOLAND where the family will be entertained by more than 60 rides, shows and attractions including the popular LEGO Star Wars Miniland model display. You’ll also want to check out the Sea Life Aquarium, home to more than 5,000 living creatures.   Kids can learn about ocean life through play zones and quiz trails.

Contact: www.VisitCarlsbad.com .

family travel new york city

5. New York City.

Make your break all about the big city vibe during a trip to the Big Apple. Take in a Broadway play, choose from a long list of top-notch museums and sample cuisine in Little Italy and Chinatown. Head to Central Park for a tour in an iconic carriage, rent bikes or boats, or roller blade along the paved pathways. Visit the carousel, the botanical garden and the zoo. You’ll want to spend time in the High Line, a beautiful, car-free respite from the busy street scene below. It’s a family-friendly, linear park with views of the city, music and performances underway. Consider a visit to the Statue of Liberty and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum where an interactive exhibit provides first hand stories from people who came through Ellis Island.

Contact: www.NYCGO.com

 

 

Published in Destinations

Silicon Valley draws me like a powerful magnet, with its Mediterranean climate, irresistible culture of innovation and iconic technology brands that have defined a generation. It pulls in my whole family, which, like many Americans, lives in a world defined by Apple, Facebook and Google.

But, if you’re coming to San Jose, Calif., to see these companies, you might short your circuits. Sure, you can drive by the campuses of these tech giants and take a selfie of the Android statue at Google or next to the “One Infinite Loop” sign at Apple. You can buy merchandise at a gift shop or stop by the Apple store and pick up a new iPad. But tech tourism, as a recent article in the local newspaper noted, isn’t exactly encouraged by the secretive Silicon Valley companies.

If you visit San Jose, as we recently did, and if you look hard enough, you might discover even more than you expected — a place with a fascinating history of entrepreneurship and a forward-looking culture like no other. And in the process, you might also discover why tech companies don’t want to become tourist attractions.

I didn’t have to ask my kids, ages 10, 12 and 15, if they wanted to see Silicon Valley. I knew they did. My oldest son, Aren, is our resident techie, who can figure out how to do anything on a computer and is a fan of the TV show Silicon Valley. My younger kids are avid users. Did they want to see the Facebook campus? You bet.

It didn’t happen.

Elliott family at Google

We wandered aimlessly around the Google campus in triple-digit temperatures, looking for the Android sculpture, until they begged me to return them to our air conditioned rental car. A contact at Facebook, who held out the promise that we could get on the campus, canceled at the last minute. The closest we got to becoming bona fide tech tourists was parking in a guest spot at One Infinity Loop and visiting the Apple store. When we tried to see the company’s headquarters, the receptionist almost laughed at us and said unless we knew someone, this was as far as we could go.

Well, so much for that.

The experience pushed us to make the best of the situation — you know, to innovate. And we did.

As it turns out, there are two museums where technology and discovery are celebrated. One is the Tech Museum of Innovation in downtown San Jose, an interactive science and technology center that offers a look into the soul of Silicon Valley. Every exhibit here, from the medical imaging equipment to the nanotechnology displays, oozes with futuristic flair. It made the kids ask themselves about the future, not the present. What will life be like down the road? What part do I play in it?

My 10-year-old daughter, who already has her eye on medical school, spent a good half hour “dissecting” an digital cadaver on a new machine that is meant for biology students.

For a look back at what made Silicon Valley great, you have to check out the Computer History Museum in nearby Mountain View. It’s dedicated to preserving the technology that too often finds itself in a landfill — obsolete gadgets that were important stepping stones to the smartphones and tablets we use today. The museum is home to the largest collection of computing artifacts in the world, including computer hardware, software, documentation, ephemera, photographs, oral histories, and moving images.

My oldest son and I were mesmerized by the vintage computers and the exhibits that explained their place in computer history when we visited. The two younger kids? Not so much. They only seemed interested in the latest and greatest, when it comes to technology. But that, too, offered a glimpse into what makes Silicon Valley tick.

Actually, I’ve known about this place for a long time. I spent a memorable summer working for my uncle’s coffee factory in Mountain View. On our lunch break, we would watch planes take off from Moffett Field. I don’t recognize the place now, but I do recognize the people. There’s a certain attitude that I call standoffish optimism. Instead of “What have you done for me lately?” they ask, “What can you do for me in the future?”

Nowhere is this future focus on display more than the campus of Stanford University, where we ended our tour of Silicon Valley. Stanford is a master-planned university with its imposing Art Deco, Spanish and Greek revival buildings. My son and I spent hours wandering the campus — we were fortunate enough to have found accommodations at the Clement Hotel, just across the street from Stanford — and had a chance to meet and talk to students.

I don’t think the folks we met would be offended if we said they seemed preoccupied, as if a part of them was here in the present and another part was off in the future, thinking about the next thing. Students experimented with drones and futuristic toys on the Quad. It felt a little like Starfleet Academy.

It was then that I realized why Silicon Valley’s most influential tech companies don’t want to become tourist traps. Innovation isn’t confined to a single institution or company. It is all around you in San Jose, Mountain View and Palo Alto. Maybe it’s something in the air or a contagion that has infected the population. That can’t ever become a tourist attraction, and it’s why Silicon Valley will always be the world’s most elusive tourist attraction.

If you go…

Where to stay

There’s no location more central than the Fairmont San Jose, a luxury property just across the street from the Tech Museum of Innovation. If you’re staying a few more days, check in at the Staybridge Suites in San Jose, which is really close to the airport and has excellent laundry facilities. And for a real upscale experience, try the all-inclusive, all-suites Clement Hotel in Palo Alto.

What to do

On the Stanford campus, check out the Cantor Arts Center. Don’t miss the exhibition on corporate design, which influenced Silicon Valley in so many ways. For a day of fun, head over to California’s Great America in Santa Clara, which has a mind-boggling selection of roller coasters, each one scarier than the one before. Don’t forget the Winchester Mystery House, which set a standard for Silicon Valley eccentricity that this place has tried to live up to.

Where to eat

Head over to San Pedro Square Market, San Jose’s urban center, for a selection of the best restaurants in town. We had a memorable pizza from Pizza Bocca Lupo — just like the kind you get in Naples, Italy.

Published in Destinations

I recently spent some time rediscovering Denver.  And, my how things have changed in recent years! No longer a Western outpost, the Mile High City is now an internationally recognized community of arts, culture, and culinary adventure. 

Here are a few family favorites:

Union Station Denver

Union Station.

Recently opened, this historic transportation center has been reinvented as a social gathering place that also houses bike, taxi, rail and bus lines connecting the city center to outlying areas. Stay onsite, in one of the Crawford Hotel’s rail-themed guest rooms and choose from an array of dining options and shops including the Tattered Cover, a famed indie bookstore.

The station’s Grand Hall is a vibrant scene where visitors play shuffleboard, enjoy a snack, conversation and the parade of people passing through. 

Contact:  http://unionstationindenver.com 

Crawford Hotel Denver

The Crawford Hotel.

The trendy hotel's unbeatable downtown location within the Union Station, combines unique historic elements with up to the minute amenities and top notch service. 

Contact: TheCrawfordHotel.com.   

art museum

Indulge in Art.

From art classes and kid-focused camps to clever “create and takes”, the Denver Art Museum welcomes families into the artistic fold. Family backpacks are available for use during a visit, chock full of art making tools, games and puzzles. Kids will also enjoy the Mile High city’s extensive public art program. Don’t miss a photo op with Blue Bear, a 40-foot playful sculpture that depicts the creature peering into the Colorado Convention Center.

Contact: denverartmuseum.org; www.artsandvenuesdenver.com/public-art  

Linger Denver

Foodie Fun.

Introduce the kids to the world’s best street food at Linger, a trendy establishment that overlooks the city.  The founders circled the globe in search of the fare that defines regions from Mumbai to Manhattan. Built in an old mortuary, the quirky interior is made up of cleverly recycled items including tables constructed from rail cars, formaldehyde bottles for water service and specials printed on toe tags.  

Contact: LingerDenver.com 

Sweet Treat

Pair your visit to Linger with a stop at the adjacent giant milk can for a sweet treat. The original Little Man ice cream shop is a local favorite known for their quality confections and the owners' community minded spirit.

Bikes Abound.

Denver’s environmental focus and commitment to reduced obesity and affordable transportation are just a few of the reasons the city supports an extensive bike share program. Residents and visitors alike can pick up a bright red bike at any B-station, and ride to their destination. When it is time to move on to the next museum, park or restaurant, grab another bike and go. The Cherry Creek bike path, a 15- mile path along the creek, provides a great way to see the sites and the city skyline while avoiding traffic.

Contact: https://denver.bcycle.com/home.aspx

For information check out www.VisitDenver.com.

Published in Destinations

At home on the open range, self-reliant and hard working, the American Cowboy remains an iconic figure.  With spurs jangling and hat tipped against the wind, he continues to symbolize the free-thinking, rugged individualism that, in part, defines the American West and much of our country’s history.

The first cowboys or vequeros came from Mexico in the late 1500s, hired to move cattle into what is now Texas and New Mexico. In the centuries that followed, the cowboy played a crucial role in the development of the West.  Working hard for low wages, breaking trail through dangerous country and enduring long, lonely days and nights sleeping under the stars, cowboys helped establish the new frontier.

Despite fewer numbers and changes in ranch management, the cowboy’s work still must be done. Throughout the West, you’ll find men and women on horseback, protected by hats, chaps and boots, riding into the far reaches of the backcountry to round up errant cattle, mend fences and doctor a sick calf.  You’ll also find them on the rodeo circuit showing off their skills, often including tricks of their trade passed down through the centuries.

For many who are part of today’s Baby Boomer generation, childhood play might have meant donning a pretend holster, hat and cowboy boots before heading out, fully outfitted for a Wild West adventure. Then came watching Roy Rogers and Dale Evans on television and perhaps catching a John Wayne movie on the weekend.

Yet, free time for modern day kids is more likely to include high tech pursuits ranging from globally-themed video games to text-heavy “conversations” with friends or organized athletic pursuits.

“Unplugging from our busy lives can benefit everyone. “ That, according to Tyler Beckley who owns and operates the Three Bar Ranch in Cranbrook, BC and coordinates the efforts of the Spur Alliance, a group of ten, like-minded guest ranches in the West.  “We see what it means for families when the kids are able to run free, there is little focus on time or technology and adults and children are able to connect with animals, nature and each other. “

For those interested in savoring the rich flavor of the old West and tapping into the compelling culture of the cowboy, the options remain plentiful. Even if the name “Trigger” doesn’t ring any bells, grab your boots and a bandana and hit the trail. Here are five places to consider:  

Santa Fe: Cowboys Real and Imagined.

The storied Santa Fe Trail comes to an end in the heart of Santa Fe, NM, just steps from modern day museums, shops and galleries. What was once a challenging, 900-mile trade route brought many a weary cowboy into town. There, he would tie his horse to the hitch rail and seek refreshment, grateful for a break from the dusty trail where rattlesnakes, weather and the threat of Native American attack kept him on high alert.

The city of Santa Fe  has celebrated this beloved aspect of their local history with a multi-faceted exhibit, Cowboys, Real and Imagined, at the New Mexico History Museum.

Drawing on photos and artifacts from its extensive collections as well as loans from more than 100 individuals and museums, Cowboys, Real and Imagined sought to answer the question: Who is a real cowboy?

“One of the reasons the cowboy myth has been so pervasive and long-lasting is because anybody could become a cowboy of sorts,” said guest curator B. Byron Price, director of the Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of Art of the American West at the University of Oklahoma and director of the University of Oklahoma Press.

In its search for an answer, Price said, the exhibit discovered that cowboy “is a verb, an adjective, a noun, an adverb.”

The interactive cowboy extravaganza offered plenty for visitors to see, touch and hear from recreations of a saddle shop to cowboy movie nights. Popcorn, a palomino horse character,  offered his take on the cowboy story in kid-friendly language. Children had the opportunity to try on cowboy costumes and participate in hands-on activities.

The annual family-friendly Wild West Weekend, (check the web site for dates) features cowgirls and cowboys in full dress, music, saddle and boot makers, plus cowboy cooking and roping demonstrations.

Contact: (505) 476-5100;  www.nmhistorymuseum.org  

Cody, Wyoming

Cowboy culture is alive and well in this Wyoming town, founded in 1896 by Colonel William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Thanks to the legendary showman’s traveling Wild West shows, Cody was once bestowed and now retains the title of  Rodeo Capital of the World more than a century after he put an entertaining twist on the skills local cowboys used in their daily endeavors. The Cody Stampede Rodeo attracts topnotch talent and also serves up classic rodeo entertainment, parades and a craft fair.

Each year, from June 1st through August 31st, Cody’s night rodeo, the longest running in the country gets underway at 8:00pm. Operating for more than 60 years, expect fan favorites including riding, roping, and bull and bronc exhibitions.

The musically inclined will want to tune it to Dan Miller and his "Empty Saddles Band" at the historic Cody Theatre across from the famed Irma Hotel. The Cowboy Music review offers up music, comedy and poetry throughout the summer months.

Also outside the Irma, catch a nightly Wild West street performance where the good guys and bad guys battle it out to the delight of visitors.

Make your way to Old Trail Town on the original site of Cody City to see 26 authentic frontier buildings dating back to 1879.

The onsite Museum of the Old West features artifacts that offer insight into how trappers, frontier folks and cowboys lived in the era as well as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids’ “Hole in the Wall” cabin and the gravesites of mountain men including Jeremiah “Liver Eating” Johnston. (Contact: www.YellowstoneCountry.org.)

Livingston, MT

Once home to the likes of Calamity Jane and her cohorts, Livingston, MT rests on the outside edge of a lazy eastward bend in the legendary Yellowstone River. Just fifty miles north of Yellowstone Park’s Gardiner Gate entrance, the former railroad town’s main street and historic buildings still stand as a testament to the ways of the old west. Their authentic turn-of the century charm cast the town as the perfect backdrop for movies like A River Runs Through it and The Horse whisper.

Today, the region’s cowboys still mix it up with local artists, writers and visitors, all of whom pay homage to the area’s blue-ribbon fly fishing and the rugged Bridger, Crazy, Absaroka and Gallatin Mountain Ranges that beckon many into the backcountry.

Each year over the Independence Day holiday, top-ranked PRCA cowboys and cowgirls gather for the Livingston Roundup, one of the country’s top paying rodeos. The festivities kick off with an old-fashioned parade, complete with tossed candy, costumed Shriners, themed floats and crusty wranglers pulling mule-trains along the parade route. 

After three sold out nights of barrel racing, team roping and bronc riding, the festivities come to an end on July 4th when fireworks light up the western sky and a patriotic sound track gets the flags waving.

Extend your experience with a stay on a nearby guest ranch or the historic Chico Hot Springs Resort.

Contact: 406.222.0850;  www.VisitMT.com; www.livingston-chamber.com/rodeo.html; www.MtnSky.com.  

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

Oklahoma City, OK.

Founded in 1955, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum has shared its extraordinary western art and artifacts collection as well as a wealth of history with more than 10 million visitors from around the world.

The stories told through the works of famed artists Frederic Remington, Charles M. Russell and James Earle Fraser combine with interactive history galleries to illuminate the enduring legacy of the American cowboy, rodeos, western performers and the region’s frontiersmen.

“There is nothing more American than the American cowboy,” explains Don Reeves, the Curator and McCasland Chair of Cowboy Culture at the museum. “People can really relate to the Code of the West and everything the cowboy stands for. We get a lot of young families in the museum who talk about integrating those values into their lifestyle.”

Throughout the year, families can enjoy the Children’s Cowboy Corral and interactive exhibits. Over Memorial Day weekend, the annual Chuck Wagon Gathering & Children’s Cowboy Festival gets underway. Expect authentic cowboy grub served from a chuck wagon as well as stagecoach and covered wagon rides, weaving and roping demonstrations and a range of western stage entertainment.

Contact: 405-478-2250; www.nationalcowboymuseum.org   

Visit a Dude Ranch.

Mountain Sky Guest Ranch

High-profile families flock to Big Sky Country where there are more buffalo than paparazzi.

From Ted Turner and Dennis Quaid to the recent arrival of singer John Mayer, Montana offers

a chance to unplug from a pressure-filled existence and enjoy the wide open spaces. Local

guest ranches, such as Mountain Sky in vista-rich Paradise Valley, treat all their guests like

celebrities, according to general manager Yancy Arterburn. “Whether they choose to sit on the

porch reading a book or load the kids into helicopter for a day of private fly fishing or

Yellowstone sightseeing, we just want everyone to have a good time.” 

Contact: visitmontana.com; 1-800-548-3392; www.mtnsky.com

Hunewill Ranch

Established in 1861 by Napoleon Bonaparte Hunewill and his wife Esther, the Hunewill Ranch, is the oldest working guest ranch in California and home to 1200 head of cattle, 190 horses, and an assortment of llamas, goats, and sheep. “The fact that we are one of the oldest continuously owned family cattle ranches in the American West means our guests have the benefit of all that history. We are the real deal,” explains Betsy Hunewill, the great, great granddaughter of the founder, who was known as “NB”.

“Some of our guests show up wound pretty tight,” adds Hunewill, “but by the time they leave they are different people.” It makes perfect sense. Guests have the option to disconnect from their daily stressors and enjoy outdoor adventures on the eastern edge of Yosemite National Park in the shadow of the Sierra Nevadas. Days begin with a cool morning breakfast ride through a lush meadow.

Later guests can saddle up and help move cattle, fly fish, watch as young foals or yearlings are worked in the corral, or explore a corner of the 26,000 acre expanse on which five generations of Hunewills have shared their western ways. Riding programs are crafted to match the skill and interests of each rider, explained Hunewill. Wranglers have designed games to help beginners learn horsemanship, activities that Hunewill says are as enjoyable for adults as they are for the youngsters. Following a home-style dinner in “NB”’s original Victorian ranch house, families gather for talent night, square dancing, stories around a campfire or a little roping practice before retiring to their comfortable cottage-style accommodations.

“We get a lot of repeat guests and many families have been coming generation after generation,” said Hunewill. “One mom recently told me she had offered to take the kids to a popular theme park. But the kids insisted on returning to the ranch. It’s kind of neat to hear that.”

Contact: www.BestDudeRanches.com ; www.Hunewillranch.com www.DudeRanch.org 

Happy trails to you until we meet again. Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then. Who cares about the clouds when we're together? Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather. Happy trails to you 'till we meet again.   Dale Evans – 1950.

Published in Adventure

Whether you know it as the “Main Street of America” or the “Mother Road” as John Steinbeck labeled the byway in his prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, there is no doubt that Route 66 has consistently caught and held the imaginations of intrepid travelers who seek freedom, adventure and a slice of Americana.

Through Pixar’s film, Cars, a new generation of road trippers were introduced to the iconic roadway that stretches from Chicago, Ill to Santa Monica, CA.

The next time your family yearns for the magic of the open road, relive the glory days along Arizona’s continuous stretch of Route 66.

Here are a few suggested stops:

Winslow, AZ.

While standing on “The Corner” in this quaint, old railroad town you’ll be reminded of the 1972 tune Take It Easy, music that made both the town and the Eagles famous. Check into the historic La Posada hotel and enjoy train watching, outstanding food and a visit to the nearby Petrified Forest.

Contact: www.winslowarizona.org

Flagstaff, AZ 

This gateway to the Grand Canyon celebrates its Route 66 history with an annual celebration that includes vintage cars, arts and crafts and musical tributes to the Mother Road . Visit The Museum Club, built in 1931, a classic roadhouse famous for their extraordinary taxidermy collection. Classic hotels from the mid-century still line Rt 66 as it winds through the center of town.

Contact: www.flagstaffarizona.org/ 

Williams, AZ 

Local shopkeepers have brought this town’s colorful history back to life with sassy saloons, ghost-ridden bordellos, cowboy gunfighters and ice cream parlors all eager to serve travelers a taste of Route 66 hospitality. Kids will enjoy the historic Grand Canyon train trip to the South Rim which includes old-time musicians and an occasional “hold-up” by the local outlaws. Don’t worry. The U.S. Marshall arrives just in the nick of time.

Contact: www.TheTrain.com ; www.WilliamsChamber.com

Seligman , AZ  

Recognized as the community that inspired the movie Cars and as the birthplace of Route 66, this railroad town is full of historic gems. Thanks to the work of residents and fans of The Mother Road, the well-preserved quirky shops, restaurants and iconic signage make this a popular stop. Don’t miss the landmark Snow Cap Drive-In for tasty burgers, root beer floats and some good-natured funny business from the crew behind the counter. Contact: www.seligmanarizona.org

Kingman, AZ 

Visit the Route 66 Museum in the Powerhouse Visitor’s Center and then grab a bite at Mr.D’s Route 66 Diner. It is worth the trip to nearby Oatman where wooden boardwalks and vintage saloons are reminders of a by-gone boomtown era when gold hid in the hills. Kids will thrill to the sight of wild burros that still roam the streets, descendants of those that assisted the early day miners. Expect daily shootouts on Main Street when costumed cowboys strut their stuff for visiting tourists.

Contact:  www.KingmanTourism.org

For more history and suggested Route 66 itineraries visit the National Scenic Byways site at www.byways.org/explore/byways/2489/itinerary/59554

Published in Destinations
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