When I was a kid, my mom would retain her sanity each summer by sending me off on a 10-day YMCA backpacking trip with a bunch of strangers (which, by the way, I highly recommend for all you over-protective parents out there). Not only did these hiking trips get me out of the house and into the mountains, they also taught me life-long lessons about ecology, weather, navigation, and self-reliance. So do your kids a confidence-building favor and take them hiking this summer—they’ll forgive you in the end.
Adding a culinary twist to your cultural exploration, can provide the whole family with a fulfilling experience. Here is a sampling of mouth-watering ideas to consider:
Learning about a food’s origin and the many ways it can be prepared, can turn a curious green vegetable into something of grand interest. Visit this northern California town to discover all things asparagus . The annual festival offers music, amusement rides for kids, Tyson the skateboarding bulldog, a full lineup of canine entertainers performing amazing dog tricks and of course recipes, competitions, tastings and talk about the vegetable of honor. Check web site for dates.
Contact: 209-644-3740; www.AsparagusFest.com.
New Orleans, LA.
The kids will learn about more than just local cuisine when the family ventures to this coastal city that continues to survive against the odds. Snack on tasty beignets for breakfast. Savor po’boys or gumbo for lunch. Stroll through the French Quarter or visit the Children’s Museum to restore your appetite for dinner. Then sample from the wealth of Cajun or creole-style seafood that will be served with a smile in this friendly southern city. The adventuresome in your group might opt for alligator on a stick. Enjoy the flavorful food with the sound of local jazz as your backdrop.
Teach the kids about super foods while sharing the amazing history of the Andes people. This country is home to grain-like and nutrient-rich quinoa and purple spuds, both considered sacred and said to have been cultivated for Incan royalty. The color in the anti-oxidant laden potatoes comes from the same enzyme that gives blueberries their healthy hue. Mix these Peruvian diet staples in to your menu when planning a trek on the Inca trail enroute to Machu Piccu.
Artichokes in Albuquerque, NM.
Some go straight for the heart. Others enjoy dipping the leaves in tasty sauces. Learn how to eat artichokes every which way at the Artichoke Cafe, a charming dining spot set in this southwestern city’s historic east downtown neighborhood. Gather additional local intel by visiting the National Hispanic Cultural Center as well as the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Taste the local New Mexican cuisine, combining native chiles, corn, beans and squash, at one of many restaurants you’ll find in Old Town, Albuquerque’s 300 year old city center.
Eat Local. Experience Global.
Large U.S. cities are often home to cultural enclaves where small, family owned restaurants dish up healthy servings of authentic favorites, combined with a bit of history from the homeland. When traveling to cities like New York, Chicago, San Francisco or Miami seek out dining options in Little Italy, Chinatown or Little Havana. There you can introduce the family to more than just a good meal.
Take a break from work, school and routine. Add a healthy dose of sunshine or snow, or better yet, both, as a quick-fix remedy for those eager to explore. Here are eight great ways to recharge.
Road Trip. If you’d like to cover some country with your kids consider teaming up with the folks at Tracks & Trails. They create custom, self-drive RV vacation packages that take the guess work out of an adventure-
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.
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.
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
Hotels are expanding their luxury services for animals to ensure that your beloved canine companion can sleep and dine in style.
An increasing number of upscale lodging establishments gain guest loyalty by throwing a bone to Bob.
“Oh, yes. Bob,” said Sue, who with her husband, Derrick, was telling a story to another couple. Barely within earshot, I heard them continue. “Well, he needs plenty of room or he gets cranky,” she said.
“It’s important that he be able to stretch his legs. He doesn’t like to be cramped,” said Derrick. “And he’s a finicky eater … and frankly, he doesn’t get along well with others.”
An aging uncle? A distant cousin?
No. Bob is their beloved greyhound dog. And there’s nothing too good for Bob.
My friends Sue and Derrick don’t go anywhere without Bob. Hotels, restaurants, parties, resorts. If Bob isn’t welcome, they simply don’t go.
Fortunately, for this Arizona couple, much of the world now sees it their way.
It’s a Dog’s World
An increasing number of lodging establishments are not only posting a welcome sign for your pooches, but they are going out of their way to ensure your pet is comfortable and cozy.
Upscale hotel chains like Loews Hotels and Starwood’s W Hotels, have expanded their system-wide commitments to include guests’ canine companions. With perks ranging from toys at check-in to doggie turndown service, pets have plenty to wag their tails about.
So when you get the urge to enjoy life’s luxurious locations, you won’t have to go alone. Here are a few of the places where your four-legged friends will be appreciated.
My son Ted and I recently spent the night at The Curtis hotel in downtown Denver. A pop culture hotspot, The Curtis features colorful themed rooms and floors, which are all about fun. And if the humans are having a good time, why not include the shaggy set and let the good times roll. The hotel has installed the city’s largest doggie door, allowing pets like Bob and his pals to slip into the lobby in style. He’ll bunk on the “pet-friendly” 8th floor—which is Sci-Fi themed, where images from Star Wars, Alien, Godzilla and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman adorn the halls. www.thecurtis.com
In sunny Los Angeles, The Beverly Hills Hotel, offers a Canine Connoisseur program, with bone-shaped cookies personalized by hand with your pet’s name, as well as doggie beds, bowls and the hotel’s signature hot pink tennis balls. Rooms start at $495 per night. www.thebeverlyhillshotel.com
After a long day of shopping in fashionable Milan, you’ll have no worries. The Hotel Principe di Savoia has a room service menu just for pets featuring tasty treats made out of beef, chicken or veal, served cooked to order or tartar. The hotel also offers vegetable croquettes. (Of course, there is room service for you as well.) . www.hotelprincipedisavoia.com
Headed to Paris with your puppy? The elegant Hotel Le Meurice offers complimentary pet baskets for dogs (and cats), with personalized and custom-designed bowls and name tags, and specific menus and food options—all arranged prior to your arrival. The hotel’s staff members will also be pleased to take your dog for a stroll in the Jardin des Tuileries while you are out and about the streets of Paris. www.lemeurice.com
At the Long Beach Lodge on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, pets are welcomed into beach-front guest rooms or rain-forest cottages. And when those paws get wet and sandy from a feisty romp on the world famous surfing beach, there will be warm towels, special treats and a cozy bed—size small, medium or large—waiting for your treasured friend in seaside accommodations. “Our guests enjoy staying at the Long Beach Lodge with their dogs and having the opportunity to explore the beaches and nearby trails,” explains Sara Holland, a spokesperson for the resort. “We have no weight restrictions and so big dogs—even two big dogs—are welcome to enjoy the beautiful surroundings with their owners.” www.longbeachlodgeresort.com
One of the earliest adopters of the pet-friendly phenomenon, the Cypress Inn is in the pet-friendly enclave of Carmel, Calif. Owned by actress and animal advocate Doris Day, the Mediterranean-style establishment is a short stroll from the beach and offers pet sitting plus suggestions for outings with your canine companion. . www.cypress-inn.com.
With so many hoteliers now eager to please the four-legged crowd and their loyal owners, Doris must be proud.