Spending time outside matters. 

This revelation, underscored in a  study by the Girl Scout Research Institute ("More Than S'mores"), doesn't surprise me. 

Outside matters for kids FamilyTravel.com

The report suggests that girls who spend time outside regularly surpass their peers who spend less time in fresh air in environmental stewardship, they readily seek more challenges and are better problem-solvers. 

Other findings include:

Spending time outdoors in nature is different from playing or learning inside.

Here’s how . . .

Outdoor spaces support physical play. Unlike most indoor environments, the outdoors offers open space where children are able to be messy, make noise, and move in more physically intense ways.

This allows them to develop their movement capability and confidence—both of which create foundations for physically active lifestyles and general health (Little & Wyver, 2008; SPARC, 2009).

Time in nature promotes attention restoration.

Spending time in nature (even just a walk in a park) has been shown to improve concentration and creative reasoning among children and adults, including those with attention deficits (Atchley, Strayer, & Atchley, 2012; Taylor & Kuo, 2009; Berman, Jonides, & Kaplan, 2008).

Nature provides novelty and challenge, which enhance leadership.

Outdoor experiences often place girls in new physical, psychological, and social situations that motivate curiosity and foster a sense of discovery. Authentic challenges in nature (think . . . starting a fire in the rain or negotiating a set of whitewater rapids) require girls to become more self-aware and to cooper- ate, communicate, and solve problems more effectively (Rickinson et al., 2004).

For me and for my children, outdoor experiences have always been healthy, enriching and expansive in every way.

Our favorite family vacations have included river rafting, hiking, fly fishing, and camping. 

What role does outside activity play in your family?

Published in Family Travel Blog

Mineral hot springs offer the chance to soak in healing waters and to learn about their ancient origins. Here are six places where you and your family can warm up in the water:

1.Steamboat Springs, CO.

In the late 1880s fur trappers passing through this Colorado enclave, heard an odd noise resembling a steamboat. They were pleasantly surprised to find more than 150 geothermal steamy, bubbling springs that today soothe tired muscles après ski or after a long days’ hike. The centrally-located Old Town Hot Springs offers swimming pools, a full-service fitness center and a waterslide for the kids. Just seven miles from town, the Strawberry Park Hot Springs offers a unique experience, with hand-built stone pools of varying temperatures, tepee changing rooms and a natural and serene environment. Note: Children are welcome during the day. Once the sun goes down, you must be 18 or older and clothing is optional.

Contact: (970) 879-0342; www.StrawberryHotSprings.com. (970) 879-1828; www.SteamboatHotSprings.com.

 2. Thermopolis, Wy

Visit the world’s largest mineral hot spring in this western town where the whole family can swim, slide, soak and steam inside or outdoors. See the mineral-formed rainbow terraces and other natural creations as well as the local buffalo herd at the Hot Springs State Park. Learn how paleontologists work, participate in a real dig or wander through the museum at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. Don’t miss the 108 foot Supersaurus stretching overhead.

Contact: 1 (877) 864-3192; www.Thermopolis.com.

3. Glenwood Springs, CO.

Royals, presidents and Ute Indians have all found these steamy pools to provide great respite from the rest of the world. Two blocks long, the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool complex includes a kiddy pool with water slide, a diving pool and a therapy pool. Relax in the warm waters and enjoy the Rocky Mountain scenery. Later, step next door to the Yampah Spa & Vapor Caves for a natural sauna in rock caves. Spend the night in nearby geothermal-heated hotel rooms.

Contact: (970) 945-6571; www.hotspringspool.com.

4. Calistoga, CA

The Palisade Mountains provide a picturesque backdrop to a day spent relaxing in this comfortable, family-run spa in Napa Valley. Warm up in an 80-foot-long lap pool, a 90-degree kiddie pool with a waterfall or the 100-degree pool. The steamy therapy pool is for adults only. Mud baths, massages and a fitness facility are also available. A multi-generational favorite, rooms with kitchenettes make a family overnight easy to handle.

Contact: 866-822-5772; www.calistogaspa.com.

 5. Rio Grande Village, TX.

Soak in the scenery as well as the warm water within Big Bend National Park. Look for painted pictographs on the cliff walls as you enjoy the one mile loop hike past historic buildings and the area where various Indian groups lived and traveled. The large hot spring on the bank of the Rio Grande River gushes with steamy water that fills the foundation of an old bathhouse creating a popular natural hot tub. Contact: (432)477-2251; www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/soakinthesprings.htm

6. Salmon River, Idaho.

Ask your river guides to make time for a stop at several hot springs that dot the banks or side channels of both the Middle Fork and the Main Salmon River. The steamy waters provide a warming alternative to a day of spray as you paddl your way through these scenic waters. Contact:  www.Far-Away.com

Published in Wellness + Spa

 

Mineral hot springs offer the chance to soak in healing waters and to learn about their ancient origins. Here are five places where you and your family can enjoy the warm water. 

Strawberry Hot Springs has three main pools of varying temperatures to delight all visitors.

1.Steamboat Springs, CO.

In the late 1880s fur trappers passing through this Colorado enclave, heard an odd noise resembling a steamboat. They were pleasantly surprised to find more than 150 geothermal steamy, bubbling springs that today soothe tired muscles après ski or after a long days’ hike. The centrally-located Old Town Hot Springs offers swimming pools, a full-service fitness center and a waterslide for the kids. Just seven miles from town, the Strawberry Park Hot Springs offers a unique experience, with hand-built stone pools of varying temperatures, tepee changing rooms and a natural and serene environment. Note: Children are welcome during the day. Once the sun goes down, you must be 18 or older and clothing is optional.

Contact: (970) 879-0342; www.StrawberryHotSprings.com
(970) 879-1828; www.SteamboatHotSprings.com


2. Thermopolis, Wy

Visit the world’s largest mineral hot spring in this western town where the whole family can swim, slide, soak and steam inside or outdoors. See the mineral-formed rainbow terraces and other natural creations as well as the local buffalo herd at the Hot Springs State Park. Learn how paleontologists work, participate in a real dig or wander through the museum at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. Don’t miss the 108 foot Supersaurus stretching overhead.

Contact: 1 (877) 864-3192; www.Thermopolis.com


3. Glenwood Springs, CO.

Royals, presidents and Ute Indians have all found these steamy pools to provide great respite from the rest of the world. Two blocks long, the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool complex includes a kiddy pool with water slide, a diving pool and a therapy pool. Relax in the warm waters and enjoy the Rocky Mountain scenery. Later, step next door to the Yampah Spa & Vapor Caves for a natural sauna in rock caves. Spend the night in nearby geothermal-heated hotel rooms.

Contact: (970) 945-6571; www.hotspringspool.com


4. Calistoga, CA

The Palisade Mountains provide a picturesque backdrop to a day spent relaxing in this comfortable, family-run spa in Napa Valley. Warm up in an 80-foot-long lap pool, a 90-degree kiddie pool with a waterfall or the 100-degree pool. The steamy therapy pool is for adults only. Mud baths, massages and a fitness facility are also available. A multi-generational favorite, rooms with kitchenettes make a family overnight easy to handle.

Contact: 866-822-5772; www.calistogaspa.com


5. Rio Grande Village, TX.

Soak in the scenery as well as the warm water within Big Bend National Park. Look for painted pictographs on the cliff walls as you enjoy the one mile loop hike past historic buildings and the area where various Indian groups lived and traveled. The large hot spring on the bank of the Rio Grande River gushes with steamy water that fills the foundation of an old bathhouse creating a popular natural hot tub.

Contact: (432)477-2251; www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/soakinthesprings.htm


 

Published in Hike

Located nearly 7,000 feet above sea level in Colorado’s Northern Rockies, this picturesque town boasts six mountains and nearly 3,000 acres of luscious ski- and board-friendly terrain. You won’t find jagged peaks. Rather, they’re oversized “hills,” as I heard one visitor call them, coated with an abundance of champagne powder—the dry, smooth snow for which the Rockies are renowned—and backed by a 75-year Olympic heritage. The combination of rugged authenticity and serious skiing makes for one of the most extraordinary resort destinations on the planet

Never far from its ranching roots, Steamboat Springs, CO remains solidly linked to a western tradition that sets it apart, in a most refreshing way, from other mountain resorts that dot the Rocky Mountain landscape. Fur-swaddled tourists are few and far between. This is a town where ranchers, clad in boots and brand-boasting belt buckles, still go about their business. It’s a laid-back landscape.

 steamboat

I made my first trek to Steamboat while still in college. My only prior ski experience had been on small slopes, the kind commonly found in the Midwest. For me, this Rocky Mountain high country was the big time. The bright western sunshine and the thrill of the famously fluffy powder were exhilarating. I remember thinking: “This is perfection.”

Decades later, Steamboat is still perfect; a perfect vacation destination for families, winter or summer.  

Winter Activities in Steamboat

According to local Yampa Valley ranchers, the true measure of a Routt County winter’s severity is determined by how high the snow piles up against their four fence wires. Steamboat enjoys more than its fair share of “three-wire winters.” As Sureva Towler writes in her book, The History of Skiing at Steamboat Springs, “By January or February of a typical winter, snow will cover the third fence wire, usually thirty inches high.” Four-wire winters, generally more than 35 inches at the resort’s mid-mountain location, are not uncommon. That is very good news for those who like to strap on the skis and experience the legendary white stuff.

Families First

Steamboat wrote the book on children and family programs, and the resort area continues to innovate. While holding armloads of accolades from magazines and Web sites, its leading edge position has been solidified by providing an array of deals over the past few decades where kids and grandkids fly, ski, rent and/or stay free.

Not wanting to rest on their laurels, the resort added a technological twist to its family-friendly programming with the Mountain Watch program. My friends with young children, who sampled the program during an early visit, described the concept as “Star Wars meets Big Brother.”

Now more commonly used to relieve parent angst, the Steamboat Mountain Watch uses wristband-tracking devices to allow the grownups to keep tabs on their children. By scanning your own watch at kiosks located around the resort, you can zero in on your child’s location on the mountain or know they are tucked safely inside the Kid’s Vacation Center.

“We were able to enjoy our time and have peace of mind just knowing where our son and daughter were,” explained my friends. “When we met at the end of the day, we could ask specific questions about the places we knew they visited while we were relishing a long-awaited day on the slopes.”

Olympic Style Skiing

Steamboat has produced more winter Olympians that any other town in North America, a record 69 and counting. In fact, Steamboat sent more athletes to recent Olympic Games than many small countries. Your kids can hear the story and gather inspiration straight from 1964 Olympic Silver medalist Billy Kidd. He serves as the Steamboat Ski Area’s Director of Skiing and is often available on the mountain.

Those who want a little instruction can also opt for Family Private ski or board lessons. Offered for a half or full day, the whole gang can learn together. Instructors will customize your family clinic to meet the specific needs and goals of your group. I’m told it works best if all participants share a similar level of expertise. Children must be in first grade or older to participate.

Once you’ve brushed up on your skill set, you will be ready to learn the secret of Steamboat: “the goods are in the woods!” If you are game for glade skiing—which involves skiing through trees, rather than on an open slope—this is the place to be, even if you are not a black diamond daredevil. There is a perfect pitch for every ability. I was happy with the tame terrain off the Sunshine Express, while my boys went for the steeper stuff.

Hot Springs Give Steamboat Steam

We took a break from the slopes to visit one of the more than 150 geothermal springs that give Steamboat its name. In the late 1880s when fur trappers were passing through the area, they heard an odd noise they thought sounded like a steamboat. They were pleasantly surprised, much as today’s visitors are, to find the steamy, bubbling springs that soothe tired muscles après ski or after a long days’ hike.

Guests who want to experience the springs can choose from two facilities. The centrally-located Old Town Hot Springs offers swimming pools, a full-service fitness center and a waterslide for the kids. We ventured just seven miles from town, to the Strawberry Park Hot Springs. This venue offers a unique experience, with hand-built stone pools of varying temperatures, tepee changing rooms and a natural and serene environment. Children are welcome during the day. Once the sun goes down, you must be 18 or older and clothing is optional.  

Summer Activities in Steamboat

When the warm, western sun once again reveals the fence lines, the games change. Steamboat has received nearly as much acclaim for its summer beauty and vitality as for its world famous snow.

  • Strawberry Hot Springs has three main pools of varying temperatures to delight all visitors.

Our warm weather visits have included fly-fishing,, hiking, rafting, attending Steamboat’s famous rodeo and simply admiring the colorful hot air balloons that often dot the sky.

On Thunderhead Peak

Hopping on the Steamboat gondola to the top of Thunderhead Peak makes it easy for the whole family to explore the area by mountain bike, hike along the nature trails, or just relax and take in the breathtaking views.

  • Strings in the Mountains presents Music on the Green, a free concert in Yampa River Botanic Park weekly during the summer.

The gondola operates daily from mid-June through Labor Day. Uphill operations run from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Mon. to Sat., and 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Sun. (weather permitting), with the last downhill trip at 4:30 p.m.

With small kids or less able family members in tow, try the Vista Nature Trail. It’s a one-mile, handicapped-accessible loop that begins near the top of the gondola. A wide, graded, gravel path meanders for the first half-mile then turns into a traditional hiking trail for the second half-mile.

Mountain Biking on the Slopes

Steamboat’s mountain bike trail network has gained an international reputation, but you don’t need to be an expert to enjoy many of the more than 50 miles of trails at the ski area and countless more in the nearby wilderness areas. If you don’t have your own bike, rentals are readily available. The Steamboat Mountain Bike School offers private and semi-private clinics for those looking to improve their bike handling skills throughout the summer.

Camping and Wilderness Areas

With more than 1,000 square miles of public lands, including Routt National Forest several Colorado State Parks and two wilderness areas surrounding Steamboat Springs, the area is nirvana if you love getting into the backcountry for hiking, camping and adventure.

There also are plenty of options for day hikes and excursions. We loved our outing to the easily accessible Fish Creek Falls; the breathtaking 280-foot waterfall spills just four miles from downtown.

Steamboat barn on FamilyTravel.com

Something About That Barn

Years ago when I left Steamboat after my champagne powder initiation, I returned to my college dorm room with a treasured Steamboat poster depicting two skiers on horseback making first tracks in front of a picturesque, western-style barn.

Nearly three decades later, I walked into my son’s college dorm room. We had never skied Steamboat together, yet he had the same poster on his wall.

We weren’t the only two taken by the beauty of this famous Steamboat landmark. Shot in 1973 by Minneapolis–based photographer, Gerald Brimacombe, the Steamboat Barn poster features Rusty Chandler and Jo Semotan riding, skis shouldered, in front of the Barn. You will see the Barn poster on the walls of the Stanley Hotel in Steven King’s miniseries version of The Shining. It also made SKI Magazine’s list of the Top 100 Ski Photographs, and variations on the image are featured on much of the resort area’s promotional materials.

Getting There

Steamboat Springs is located 157 miles northwest of Denver, and visitors to this mountain Mecca can fly into the mile-high city and drive, or take advantage of increasing nonstop jet service offered from Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Newark/NYC, New York-JFK, New York-LaGuardia or Salt Lake City on American, Continental, Delta, Northwest and United Airlines. All service is direct into the Steamboat/Hayden Airport (HDN), 22 miles/35kms from the ski area..

For first-timers and returning visitors alike, the Steamboat tourist site www.steamboat.com is a great resource.

                                             Get Your Gear Here!

Published in Adventure