Does your family travel in an RV?
Visitors to Death Valley National Park now have options thanks to the Furnace Creek Ranch.
The Fiddler’s Campground offers 35 RV sites (but no hook-ups). Located at The Ranch, the Furnace Creek RV Park offers 26 full-hookup RV sites and can accommodate RVs up to 50 feet.
Guests enjoy swimming in the nearby spring fed pool, laundry and shower facilities, complimentary wireless internet and easy access to restaurants.
For those who like to spend time on the links, the Furnace Creek Golf Course is directly adjacent to the Campground. As the lowest elevation course in North America, it’s one for your bucket list.
Both sites provide the perfect jumping off place to enjoy Death Valley National Park and the extraordinary night sky.
Put Death Valley National Park and the Oasis at Death Valley (formally the Furnace Creek Resort) on your family vacation list and you’ll return home amazed by the sometimes startling natural wonders, astounding vistas and western charm you’ve discovered.
From our country’s low point at Badwater to neighboring mountains rising more than 11,000 feet from the desert floor, the local landscape will leave you and your family forever changed by the beauty of its memory.
You’ll also have loads of fun exploring via jeep, horseback, bike, golf cart and horse-drawn wagon.
The family-friendly and historic Oasis at Death Valley Resort is an ideal vantage point from which to explore Death Valley National Park, a land of striking contrasts.
This sparsely populated landscape is rich in natural beauty. Rolling sand dunes provide color and texture amid a dramatic silence. Death Valley is the largest national park outside Alaska.
Providing contrast to the desert surroundings, families enjoy time in the spring-fed swimming pools. The Ranch at Furnace Creek offers accommodations in a casual, family-like setting on western-themed grounds, a nod to its origin in the 1800s as a working ranch.
Visions of California gold-hued riches fueled the intrepid explorers who crossed the rugged terrain of Death Valley aboard wagon trains in 1849. Each November, modern day travelers can relax in comfort while learning about the hardships the early pioneers endured.
Guests at both the Oasis at Death Valley and the Ranch at Furnace Creek can take part in the annual 49ers Encampment that celebrates the historic trek with gold panning, a western art show, music , a “pampered pet” parade and the colorful arrival of a wagon train and riders on horseback.
Vast salt flats create a cracked mosaic across the desert floor providing mesmerizing photographic opportunities. Badwater, 17 miles south of the resort, is the lowest spot in the Western Hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level.
From Dante's viewpoint, more than 5,000 feet up in the Black Mountains, you can see across most of 110-mile-long Death Valley. About an hour from the Inn at Furnace Creek, the vista provides a unique overview of the sites you might choose to explore more closely.
Built in 1927, the historic 66-room lodge sits aside a mineral stream that meanders across the property and warms the swimming pool to a comfy 85°F.
This scenic pathway on the Oasis at Death Valley property provides shaded cover for hikers, bikers and those who enjoy a horse-drawn wagon ride.
Kids ( and their parents ) love exploring the unique region via horseback.
The resort, ( pictured in the distance ) is located in a desert oasis where mountain run-off from the Funeral Mountains flows. The average high temperature in November is 76ºF with very little humidity. The park averages less than two inches of rain per year.
At 214 feet below sea level, the rolling 18-hole, par 70 course is the world’s lowest elevation golf course. Palm trees frame the fairways and majestic mountains provide arresting vistas throughout the course. Water comes into play on nine holes and multiple sets of tees provide a challenge for every member of the family.
IF YOU GO:
Photos by Lynn O'Rourke Hayes
Quick, what's the difference between a big resort hotel and the Wizard of Oz's Emerald City?
Answer: A story.
The wizard's creator, L. Frank Baum, was a frequent visitor to Coronado, California, and the town's beating heart, the Hotel del Coronado ("The Del" to the locals). His visits were so frequent, in fact, that his editor arranged for the rental of a separate house—off of "The Del" property—so that he might get away from the perpetual distraction of the hotel and get some writing done. The hotel and his whimsical experiences there clearly influenced his imaginings of Oz; some of Baum's illustrations of the Emerald City even look suspiciously like the iconic Queen Ann-style hotel.
Coronado still retains much of what attracted Baum (not the least of which is its own, amazing story), and it has also developed an even richer offering of experiences, accommodation, dining choices, and activities that (fortunately for his editor) didn't exist in Baum's day. And because families have always been such a part of the Coronado story, much of that new growth is still family-friendly.
The crown jewel of Coronado is, of course, the Hotel Del Coronado.
Before it was completed in 1877 there was little more than dust and scattered tufts of pampas grass. But the dreams and vision that brought forth the grand hotel spread outward, and shortly the whole island was transformed into the lush, green, and (relatively) tranquil community you see today.
A stroll through the exquisite Coronado neighborhoods is a hint of the island's military presence on its north side. Many current and former navy personnel have homes here, and that military precision shows in the beautifully kept homes and immaculate landscaping (you could bounce a quarter off the lawns). But perhaps a better way to stroll the area around the Hotel Del is to tag along with Coronado Touring for a truly fun and fascinating walking tour. The grand and historic feel of the Hotel Del suggests a great story all its own, and a couple of hours with Coronado Touring confirms it.
You'll even see "The Oz House", Mr. Baum's former "off-site" residence. If you can do this early in your Coronado visit, you'll then see the place with a sense of wonder you might otherwise miss (how else would you know about the secret message in the sand dunes?).
The walking tour begins in the Glorietta Bay Inn, which is itself significant in the story, as it's principle building was the home of Coronado's greatest benefactor and "savior" of the Hotel Del dream, John Spreckels. The Glorietta is a terrific option to the Del Coronado, as you are just across the street from the Del but can choose from luxurious and historic rooms in Spreckels's original house or more modern and affordable rooms of various sizes throughout the rest of the hotel. The entire property is immaculately kept and the friendly staff clearly take their cue from, Claudia, the Glorietta's gregarious and hospitable manager.
The vivid and fascinating history of the island lends a richer tone to everything else you experience afterward. Just a few blocks from the Hotel Del, Clayton's Coffee Shop could be just a nifty 50's-themed diner (albeit with great food and sumptuous milkshakes), but now it feels like a time machine and you wouldn't be surprised to see Mr. Baum himself at the counter reading the day's paper over a coffee and apple pie.
Two more blocks along Orange Avenue will find you transported back to that golden age of theatre at the incredibly restored Village Theatre and two blocks back on Orange Avenue from Clayton's will satisfy that old fashioned summer yen for handcrafted ice cream at the Moo Time Creamery.
And of course many of the shops at the Hotel del Coronado itself recapture that historic feel, like at Spreckels Sweets & Treats, where you can get (among loads of other things) the same fudge or saltwater taffy that Frank Baum undoubtedly sampled.
But while Coronado Island certainly honors its rich history, it has grown up nicely with terrific contemporary offerings. Head south along the narrow peninsula (Coronado is technically not an island) where you'll find the contemporary and luxurious Loews Coronado Bay Resort one of Parents Magazine's "10 Best Family Beach Resorts".
The sheer luster in the recently refurbished interior betrays the many family-oriented amenities, including poolside movies (at just one of the three pools!), a dedicated kids' activity desk, and rides in one of their authentic Venetian gondolas. And it's just a short walk or free shuttle to the quiet Silver Strand State Beach, which might seem like your own private beach, relative to crowds at Coronado Beach.
Further along Orange Avenue from the Hotel Del on the north side of the Island you'll find a host of shops, restaurants, and activities surrounding the Ferry Landing. Nearby the Ferry Landing is the sumptuous Coronado Island Marriott Resort, with exquisite views over the bay to the beautiful San Diego skyline, rejuvenating spa treatments, a private water taxi across the bay for guests, and a lush pool and outdoor restaurant that you may find difficult to leave to explore Coronado.
But explore you must, for no matter where you stay, your own Coronado story is waiting to be written.
"Coronado: The Queen of Fairyland"
And every day her loveliness,
Shines pure, without a flaw;
New charms entrance our every glance,
And fill our souls with awe!
- L. Frank Baum
WHEN TO GO:
The locals are spoiled in San Diego, and even during what they call "June Gloom", the weather is pleasant (if not fully sunny till noon). That said, the best months for weather are June through September. You'll find better deals and smaller crowds outside those months.
THINGS TO DO:
You'll find plenty to keep the whole family busy on Coronado, but here are number of things to consider in your itinerary:
- Gooey fun: After dinner S'mores on the beach at Hotel Del Coronado.
- Haute Culture: and evening at the impressive Lamb's Players Theatre
- Discovery: Kayak tour with a state park naturalist at Loew's Coronado Bay Resort.
- Gluttony: The indescribable decadence of the Hotel Del Coronado Crown Room Sunday brunch.
- Toodling: Pedal the family around the island on a 4-person surrey bike, available at your hotel or shops around town.
- Learning: Get the full and fascinating story on the island at the Coronado Museum of History & Art http://coronadohistory.org/.
Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa
Glorietta Bay Inn
Hotel del Coronado
Loews Coronado Bay Resort
It's a day every father dreads.
Because it is inevitable, because there is little we can do about it, it looms like a specter on our already difficult parenting journey. Despite our best efforts, there is no avoiding the cultural influence and messages on the sides of busses, on billboards, in pop songs, in movies…even in schoolyard chatter. And, knowing it's coming, we prepare.
Still there is no disguising the cringe on that fateful day when she finally asks the question…
"Daddy, can we go to Disneyland?"
And though you've prepared for this moment, you still cringe and quickly wonder how you might avoid the interminable lines, gum on your shoes, and refrains of "It's a Small World" echoing in your head for months after.
Now I once worked with a couple of people who had worked at Disneyland as part of a college program, and they both testified with great fervor that it was the most amazing professional experience of their lives. Of course "The Disney Way" is legendary in management circles. But I still imagined some sort of indoctrination ceremony, maybe with someone in a mouse suit handing out cups and saying in that distinctive, high-pitched Mickey voice, "Heh heh, here kids, have some Kool-Aid."
But parents of small children, listen to me, for I have been to the mountaintop (the Matterhorn, of course) and I have seen Disneyland, and you should not be worried about a thing!
That's right, reluctant mouseketeers, I have visited the Happiest Place on Earth and have left it able to say "Happiest Place on Earth" without a trace of cynicism. I am encouraging you to embrace the mouse. Disney is da bomb and I am a convert! Before I dole out some advice on how to make your Disney experience the best it can be, let me tell you what I think makes this place so amazing.
Disney's purpose statement is "We make people happy." That's great and all, but who among us isn't jaded by the pervasive corporate practice of treating its purpose statement like a bumper sticker, sort of regretting it's out there once they've sold it out for the sake of quarterly earnings. But when you are at Disneyland, you genuinely have the sense that every single "cast member" (never say employee at Disney) loves their job and truly delights in making every single person they see happy.
Our daughter, Piper, celebrated her 9th birthday at the park and was given a big button to wear that proclaimed that fact. Now, clearly the 5000 or so park employees that said "happy birthday" were trained to say so to anyone bearing the button. But it doesn't even matter; their enthusiasm and joy is so warm and authentic that even my inner cynic was left in awe. Even dancers in the parade bent down to smile and wish her happy birthday, without missing a step.
And I think it does Disney a disservice to call it an amusement park, thereby classing it with those operations where daddy's worst fears are all realized. Because, every flower is real (even the ones that are part of a ride or show); not one single piece of gum could be found on the bottom of a shoe or elsewhere; loose trash is unheard of; you encounter all sorts of really good street entertainment just about everywhere you wander; and even when waiting in long lines you are entertained, so that you don't feel as if you're waiting. It just generally gives the sense of a place that opened long enough ago to have worked the kinks out but not so long that it has run down or the employees have gotten jaded. But Disney has been there 58 years!
Besides Disney's flawless operation, there is one more reason I, Daddy, was able to enjoy the experience as much as I did: We managed to hit the park just after most school spring breaks, so the crowds were moderate.For even more, visit the park during historic slow times (see advice below).
And so, without further ado, sit on down, have some Kool-Aid, and listen to these ten essential pieces of advice to make your Disneyland experience the happiest it can be.
1. Go when it's slow — Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure are adjacent but separate parks. Don't miss either one. Go when the crowds are light (like weekdays, January thru March) and for at least two days. Save money by doing one park per day (instead of a "park hopper"). Buy online beforehand for small discounts.
2. Stay close by — Unless you've got a big budget, stay close to the park but not in it. There are loads of lodging options around the park that achieve your parking, sleeping, and dining requirements without the Disney price tag. But if you've got the money? Enter the Disney fantasy bubble and never have to burst it during your whole stay.
3. Get a smartphone app — We used the free and popular Mousewait for checking wait times for rides, entertainment schedules, bathrooms near you, restaurant choices, and other resources. Familiarize yourself with it before you go.
4. Plan your day(s) so you're not spending time in the park figuring out what you might want to do. (Or if you can, save brain cells and go with seasoned Disney veterans like we did. We were just along for the ride, as it were.) Of course a good plan begins with a good night's rest and a hearty breakfast outside the park beforehand.
4. Bring your own food — but if eating at park restaurants, eat lunch before 11 or after 1pm and dinner before 6pm to miss the waves of humanity.
6. Bring two backpacks — Carry Pack One with you. Put Pack Two in a locker ($7 - $9 per day for unlimited access).
Pack One contains:
- Sunscreen, glasses, hats
- Park maps (get at the entry gate or around the park)
- Park tickets (you must have them to re-enter the park)
- Fully charged phones/cameras
- Jackets and such if weather requires. Otherwise leave backup clothes in the other pack.
- As little else as as possible so you're not lugging too much weight around or having to deal with a fat pack on rides.
Pack Two in the locker contains:
Meals (you have to use the picnic area just outside the park)
Cool weather clothes and/or Splash Mountain reserves
Crap Treasures you accumulate during the day
7. Establish a lost kid strategy and randomly test them on the procedure a couple of times during the day.
8. Avoid the lines when possible — Hit the most popular rides early (like Radiator Springs Racers in California Adventure or Space Mountain in Disney) and use fast passes for lines over 40 minutes. While holding a place in your first line, consider sending one adult for Fastpass reserved seating for the nighttime fireworks or light shows. Note in your planning which rides do and do not use Fastpasses. Familiarize yourself with how Fastpass works beforehand.
9. Use in-park transportation — These are essentially rides unto themselves anyway, but with the added bonus of saving your poor feet.
10. Buy “treasures” toward the end of the day — This not only serves as a "cooling off period" for the "ooh! Mommy, I need that right now!" conniption fit, but it also saves you lugging things around all day.
What’s not to love about a carousel? For many of us, the mere throught of hopping aboard a painted horse or other fanciful creature brings a smile to our faces. For a charming mix of music, whimsy and history, here are five to consider:
Located in the city’s 23-acre riverfront park, this vintage-style carousel was lovingly created as a community project. Dozens of locals families worked to prepare the site, even carve and hand paint the horses. With old-fashioned organ music as the backdrop, families now enjoy seasonal celebrations including breakfast with Santa. The gift shop offers handcrafted ornaments, books and gifts to providing continuing support for the community treasure. Contact: 503-540-0374; salemcarousel.org.
North Tonawanda, NY.
Visit the one-of-a-kind Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, housed in the original factory building where you can ride two antique carousels and delve into their history. The largest of the pair is 40 feet in diameter, with hundreds of lights and 36 hand carved horses, some dating to the late 1890s. Rotating at 6.5 revolutions per minute, the carousel was originally intended as a thrill ride for adults. The “kiddie carousel” in the Children’s Gallery was created in the 1940s for the junior set to ride without the help of adults. It has been completely restored. Ask about carving and restoration demonstrations and other family events scheduled throughout the year. Contact: www.carrouselmuseum.org
The centerpiece of the permanent exhibit called Carousel Wishes and Dreams is one of the three oldest surviving Dentzel menagerie carousels in the world. This revolving gem was originally installed in 1917 at the Broad Ripple Park. After the building in which it was housed collapsed, the animals were salvaged, restored and eventually lowered through the roof to its new home on the fourth floor of the expansive Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Contact: www.childrensmuseum.org/carousel
Westerly, Rhode Island.
Built in 1876 and a National Historic Landmark, families can climb aboard what many believe to be the oldest flying horse carousel in the country. Once part of a traveling carnival, the charming carousel in Watch Hill features hand-carved horses suspended from chains. Thus, as the speed increases they seem to “fly”. Each horse has a leather saddle and a tail and mane crafted from real horse hair. Revelers can reach for the brass ring near the end of the ride. If you are lucky enough to grab it, you’ll win a token for a free ride. Contact: 401-348-6007; www.visitrhodeisland.com/what-to-do/amusements/458/flying-horse-merry-go-round/
Santa Ana, California.
Kids learn about environmental conservation and preservation when they climb about this eco-minded carousel at the Santa Ana Zoo. Rather than hand-carved horses, the Conservation Carousel is comprised of endangered species. After circling aboard this unique ride, kids receive a collectible educational card with information about at risk creatures. The zoo, founded in 1952, is located on a 20-acre urban oasis. A request from its original benefactor means you will find 50 monkeys in residence at all times. Contact: 714-836-4000; www.SantaAnaZoo.com.
Do you have a favorite carousel? Share below!
Beaches and boardwalks.
Introduce the family to your favorite walkway or discover an historic seaside fun zone together. Here are five to consider:
Atlantic City Boardwalk. Atlantic City, NJ. Stroll along this historic promenade, considered the oldest and longest boardwalk in the country. Since the first wooden planks were placed in 1870, the walkway has served as the centerpiece of this resort city. Today, families can ride bikes in the morning hours, sample an endless menu of confections, and wander through the arcade halls and museums. Adjacent to the famed Boardwalk is Steel Pier, home to a flashy amusement park sure to appeal to kids of all ages. Call to request a free visitor’s guide or download yours from the website. Contact: 888-AC-VISIT (228-4748 ); www.atlanticcitynj.com.
Myrtle Beach Boardwalk. Myrtle Beach, SC. The recent addition of this 1.2 mile walkway has added a new vibrancy to this beach town. Expect plenty of dining options, shopping, and music as well as views of the sea and intermittent green spaces for picnics or play. Kids will enjoy the weekly carnival that promises face painters, bounce houses, balloon artists and stilt walkers. Other summer fun on the boardwalk includes fireworks displays, live bands, acrobats and fire shows. Contact: 1-800-356-3016; www.visitmyrtlebeach.com.
Ocean Front Walk. Venice Beach, CA. Rollerblade, bike or simply stroll along this scenic stretch of boardwalk where beachfront beauty combines with surf-culture commerce to create an eye-popping array of colorful activity. Expect farmer’s market–style jewelry and art as well as aura readers, tattoo artists and intermittent performances by jugglers, human statues and magicians. Stop for breakfast or lunch in any of the beach front cafes and keep your eyes peeled for your favorite celeb. Contact: www.VeniceBeach.com
Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk. Rehoboth, Delaware. Visit this family-friendly beach community for a relaxing seaside getaway. The recently spruced-up boardwalk, first built in 1873, has not lost its celebrated vintage vibe. After a day on the wide expanse of beach, sample sweets from Dolle’s Salt Water Taffy, ride the Jolly Trolley and make time for the kids to enjoy the retro Funland amusement center where rides, shooting galleries, pinball machines and arcade games may offer a glimpse of the kind of fun you enjoyed as a child. Contact: (302) 227-6181; www.rehobothboardwalk.com
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Santa Cruz, CA. Offering affordable family fun since 1907, this west coast boardwalk features free summer entertainment as well as the chance to hop aboard two rides that proudly claim National Historic Landmark status. The 1924 Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster promises to thrill. Look to the Looff Carousel with its retro ring toss for chill. Take a break from games, mini golf and laser tag to look toward the sea. You are likely to see dolphins, sea lions and otters swimming offshore. Contact: 831-423-5590; www.BeachBoardwalk.com
Mothers and daughters deserve time away from the fray.
Here are five places where the girls can just have fun:
Mothers and daughters can tee it up on a spectacular course, ranked as one of the country’s top ten. Also noted as a “women friendly” course, the golf club at The Boulders Resort in Carefree, AZ offers a picturesque desert environment in which to work on your game together. The Fore Ladies program begins on a Friday evening with a short game intro provided by an LPGA instructor. The remainder of the weekend includes further instruction on full-swing, putting and course etiquette followed by nine holes of golf on the Jay Moorish-designed course each day. Later, relax in the Resort’s full-service Golden Door Spa or by the pool.
Contact: 480-488-9028; 866-397-6520; www.TheBoulders.com.
Marine loving moms and daughters will want to take advantage of the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa’s Dolphin Tale Package. Expect two tickets to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of Winter, the now famous dolphin whose inspirational story was turned into a book and film, a cool tote bag, and a copy of the book “Winter’s Tale”. Later, head to the beach or relax in your room where a full kitchen, an outdoor balcony and sea side view make sharing time together extra special. Your stay helps fund the Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s program to help feed and care for winter and her friends.
Contact: 1-800-233-1234; www.clearwaterbeach.hyatt.com.
St. John, British Virgin Islands.
Gather the girls and test your sea-faring skills in an Island Hopping Scavenger Hunt. With your very own Boating Butler as your secret weapon, you’ll learn about the regional island geography and wildlife as you cruise through the pristine waters of the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. While at the resort, check out the Westin Kids Club and newly opened Teen Center. Available now through December 31, 2012. at Contact: (340) 714-6070; www.westinresortstjohn.com
Ojai, CA. A family favorite, this elegant resort has welcomed guests since the 1920s. Located in the shadow of the Topa Topa Mountain range in the eclectic town of Ojai, the Five Diamond Ojai Valley Inn & Spa has much to offer mothers and daughters seeking time together. The artistic pair will enjoy a day spent in the Artist Cottage where the Artist in Residence can assist adults and children of all ages in the pursuit of creativity. Explore silk scarf painting, collage and mobile making, drawing, water color and mixed media. Ask about packages.
Contact: (855) 697-8780; www.ojairesort.com
Yoga and Surfing South of the Border.
Join award-winning outfitter Mountain Travel Sobek for seaside yoga, massages, horseback riding, snorkeling and surfing in Todos Santos, MX, a charming artist colony brimming with galleries and unique dining opportunities. Or head to the beaches of Mexico and Costa Rica with Three Jewels Retreats for an upscale approach to yoga, surf lessons, stand up paddle boarding, dining on locally-sourced meals and afternoon siestas. Contact: MtnSobek.com; www.ThreeJewelsRetreats.com
Beverly Hills, CA. Good news for the girls: The Beverly Hilton, in Beverly Hills and illustrious home of the Golden Globe Awards, has just launched a girls getaway package.
How can we resist?
The ladies are escorted to their penthouse suite where chocolate covered strawberries and champagne await their arrival. Complete with a direct private line to the concierge, the days are filled with options: a private luxury transfer to Rodeo Drive to pick up any must-haves; a day at the iconic Aqua Star Pool in one of the exquisite poolside cabanas with a fresh fruit platter, a Beverly Hilton private label sun care kit, magazines, facial mister and mojitos for all; and a round of treatments in the AQUA STAR SPA at The Beverly Hilton. Contact: www.beverlyhilton.com/ or call Beverly Hilton VIP Reservations at 310.285.1306 .
For low-cost and high-flying fun, set the sky ablaze with the colors and shapes of your choice.
Here are five places where you and your family can go fly a kite:
Stand Up Paddle surfing (SUP) is considered an ancient form of surfing, traced to early days in Polynesia. More recently, in the 1940s, surf instructors on Waikiki beach in Hawaii are said to have used the skill to allow them a better view of their students. Today, families can indulge in the sport at many resorts and recreation areas. Here are five to consider:
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.