While students find intellectual challenge in the formal classroom, here are five places where families can expand their knowledge through experience:

Denver Museum of Science & Nature. Denver, CO.

Through film, lectures, demonstrations and hands-on activity, your family will learn about ancient Egyptian civilization through clues scientists share from their mummy research. Tap into the latest information about our universe and our place in it through a Space Odyssey exhibit. Gain a greater understanding of Native American cultures. Plus, discover how precious gems are recovered from mines and the role they play in various cultures. All this, plus a permanent discovery zone where hands -on fun provides interactive educational opportunities for the youngest explorers. Contact: 303-322-7009; www.dmns.org.

Musical Instrument Museum. Phoenix, AZ.

This unique museum enables families to see and experience more than 3000 instruments and artifacts from around the world. Live performances, family-friendly festivals and a wide array of lectures and classes are available. Check out the Steinway piano on which John Lennon composed “Imagine” as well as the instruments of Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana and George Benson. Wireless head-sets allow guests to see and hear exhibits throughout the museum. Kids will enjoy the Experience Gallery where they can touch, play and hear instruments from far away cultures. Contact: (480) 478-6000; www.TheMim.org. 

The Alamo. San Antonio, TX.

Located in downtown San Antonio, more than 2.5 million people visit each year to learn why it was suggested we “Remember the Alamo!”. Representing three centuries of history, families can learn the roles played by David Crockett, Sam Houston and James Bowie as they tour the 4.2 acre complex where beautiful gardens provide a backdrop for the old mission and exhibits detailing the Texas revolution and the state’s colorful history. Admission is free. Contact: 1-866-769-8419; www.thealamo.org

Glaciers and Climate Change.

Trek to Alaska, our largest state, but at number 49 among the last to join the union. Here you can team up with one of many companies that will introduce you to the mysteries of glaciers and how our changing climate is affecting them and the surrounding areas. Tours offer the opportunity to dog sled, hike, and ice climb all while learning about regional geology and geography and its importance to the rest of the world. Contact: www.flyk2.com; www.travelAlaska.com.

Monterey Bay Aquarium. Monterey, CA.

Founded in 1984, this world-renowned organization’s mission is to inspire conservation of the world’s oceans. Through a variety of interactive activities and exhibits designed for young children and families, your crew will learn about the delicate balance that exists in our seas today. The youngest visitors will be drawn to the 40-foot-long touch pool for an up close look at curious creatures like sea stars, urchins, kelp crabs and abalones. Contact: (831) 648-4800; www.MonterayBayAquarium.org

Published in Family Travel Blog

Holidays are a time of tradition.

Customs like family get-togethers (think road trips and crazy airports), gift-giving, and special meals can be the source of joy, goodwill—and stress.

Despite what holiday movies and myths promise, the season brings with it a variety of experiences and feelings—some wonderful and some not-so-wonderful. But while stress is a common problem during the holidays, you can take steps to make sure that it doesn't ruin the season for you.  

The untold story

Greeting cards depict a certain scenario—a blissful, heartwarming snapshot. They leave out the less-than-picturesque aspects of the season, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), such as:

+ Budgeting for gifts—especially for kids who may not understand how much things cost.

+ Stress about taking time off from work.

+ Balancing social commitments.

+ Tension between family members.

+ Long-distance traveling—and travel problems.

+ Sadness, loneliness or grief.

Although these sentiments may not make it into your annual holiday letter, they are a normal part of the season.

Bring back the good cheer

Here are some tips from the APA for healthful ways to cope with the stress of the season:

Have reasonable expectations. Unreasonable expectations for the season can lead to disappointment if your holiday dreams don't come true. It can also lead to a kind of post-holiday let-down, according to Mental Health America (MHA).This year, instead of buying into all of the holiday hype, expect things to be both enjoyable and hectic—and know that you can't control it all.

Plan around stress. If you know that certain people or situations tend to stress you out, it's OK to avoid them. You don't have to grit your teeth and fake it, and you don't have to make a scene, either.

Instead, focus on planning things that you find fun and relaxing with people you want to spend time with.

Focus on what's really important. Keep sight of why you're celebrating in the first place. If you can't afford fancy gifts or gourmet meals, that's OK.

Help kids keep perspective, too. Let them know what to expect in terms of gifts and activities, and help them shift their focus to what's truly valuable. Consider volunteering at a local charity to help reinforce that message.

Take care of yourself. Good physical health can help you have energy when you need it. Start by eating well. It's OK to indulge in small servings of special foods, but don't use the holidays as an excuse to binge. Also, try to get some exercise every day—it's a great stress-buster. And make sure to get enough sleep.

Share the burden. Accept help from friends and family when you have taken on too many tasks. If you're feeling stressed, talk about it with people who care about you. The holidays are a great time to strengthen relationships with those you're closest to.

Jingle-jangled nerves

When you're busy with seasonal tasks you may not notice that you feel stressed until you're overwhelmed.

According to MHA, possible signs of too much stress include:

Getting headaches.

Drinking excessively.

Overeating.

Having trouble sleeping.

Feeling angry, irritable or easily frustrated.

Feeling overwhelmed or burned out.

Having problems concentrating or remembering things.

Feeling nervous or anxious.

Feeling helpless or hopeless.

Too much stress isn't good for your body, so it's important to pay attention to these signs. If you have coping strategies that are good for you, now's the time to use them. But be wary of unhealthful responses—such as drinking too much alcohol or overeating—and try to replace them with healthier ones.

If you're still feeling overwhelmed, talk with a doctor.

 

Published in Wellness + Spa

Eager to ski, board or simply enjoy a little high altitude R&R as part of your family travel plan?

Getting to the slopes of Colorado is easier with new rail and flight offerings to get travelers straight to the slopes, skipping pesky traffic, rental car headaches and more.

The Winter Park Express Train, which reopened in January 2017, has expanded service to select “First Fridays” of every month. In 2019, the train will run every weekend from January 4 through March 31, 2019. 

With the revival of the Winter Park Express Ski Train and the new commuter rail line from Denver International Airport to Denver's Union Station, visitors from throughout the country and across the globe can use train travel for the entire trip from flight to Winter Park.

Discounted tickets are sold on a first come first served basis.

With one-way tickets and service on Saturday and Sunday make it a day trip, a weekend-long trip or an extended vacation. Customize your length of stay at Winter Park Resort and get as much skiing/riding in as you'd like. 

Here's a look at the Winter Park Express schedule:

  • Depart Union station at 7:00 am
  • Arrive to Winter Park at 9:00 am
  • Depart Winter Park at 4:30 pm
  • Arrive to Union station at 6:40 pm

Sounds like a plan!

 

Once a year, around the second week of June, my younger daughter revels in being an only child.

Her older sister, an astronaut wannabe, heads to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, where thousands of her peers engage in simulated missions and try out what it feels like to bounce around in zero gravity. She's sure she's the luckiest kid on earth.

But my 13-year-old? She knows she's got it made.

Published in Family Travel Blog

For an update on ash, lava, steam and smoke, visit a volcano. These five destinations provide a multifaceted opportunity to get outside and learn more about planet Earth.

1 Arenal Observatory Lodge, Costa Rica.

Wake to a chorus of tropical wildlife on this volcanic wonder. The majestic centerpiece of a rich rainforest setting can be observed from most guest rooms, the dining room and an expansive deck. Horseback riding, biking and hiking trails wind through old lava fields and soft jungle trails where howling monkeys, slithering snakes, butterflies and colorful birds beckon visitors. The last major eruption of Arenal took place in 1968. Austin Lehman Adventures offers great family tours to the region. 

Contact: www.austinlehman.com

2 Mount St. Helens, Washington.

 On March 20, 1980, an earthquake of 4.2 magnitude reawakened this volcano, leading to the May 18 collapse and eruption. Today, families visiting the National Volcanic Monument can learn more about the geologic and biologic history of the area though interpretive talks, walks and theater presentations. Hiking, biking and helicopter tours also provide an expansive view of the region’s recovery. Ask about the Music on the Mountain series scheduled for this summer at the Johnson Ridge Observatory. 

Contact: fs.usda.gov/detail/mount sthelens/home?cid=stelprdb 5160336 

3 Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

  Accessible only by float plane or boat, this remote park is located on the Alaskan Peninsula near Kodiak Island. Spanning nearly 5 million acres, the protected region is the site of the Novarupta volcano’s 1912 eruption, considered to be the 20th century’s most powerful and heard as far away as Juneau. Today, visitors come to observe the dense population of brown bears and to fish for trophy rainbow trout, salmon and Dolly Varden trout that run in Katmai’s streams and rivers. During the summer months, meals and lodging are available at Brooks Lodge, a popular spot for bear viewing. The National Park Service also staffs a visitor center and offers interpretive programs. 

Contact: nps.gov/katm/index.htm 

4 Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii.

The historic Volcano House reopens this summer after a recent renovation, offering families the opportunity to wake to a magnificent sunrise over one of the world’s most active volcanoes. The only lodging option within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii Island, the hotel rests on the rim of Kilauea caldera with a view toward Halemaumau crater. Learn about active volcanism, the region’s biological diversity and Hawaiian culture through driving and walking tours as well as the Junior Ranger program. Ask about helicopter and boat tours. 

Contact: 1-866-536-7972; nps.gov/havo/index.htm 

5 Yellowstone National Park.

The landscape that became America’s first national park in 1872 experienced the first of three volcanic eruptions 2.1 million years ago. More than 640,000 years have passed since the most recent blowup. Although not currently erupting, the molten rock beneath the surface of the park is active and has recently caused the closure of roads near the most famous geysers. Visit this wonderland to learn more about what bubbles below and to see the herds of bison, elk, grizzly bears and wolves that make this park so popular. 

Contact: nps.gov/yell/index.htm; 1-866-439-7375

 

Published in Explore

family travel segue fun segway fun

Segue into adventure by booking one of the more than 200 Segway tours operating around the world. Introduced by American Dean Kamen in 1999, the company announced hopes the electric powered, human transporter would change the way we worked, lived and traveled. Here are five places you can take a guided tour aboard an emissions-free, two-wheeled Segway:

1.       Washington DC.

Hop aboard your Segway for a unique tour of our nation’s capital. Consider enjoying the sweet smells and picturesque views of the popular National Cherry Blossom festival from your transporter. Or sign up for “The Lost Symbol” tour and get an insider’s take on the sights and sounds described within Dan Brown’s novel of the same name. Your tour guide will be a member of Washington DC’s oldest Mason lodge and will lead you through a maze of more than 20 historic monuments and memorials including the White House, The Scottish Rite House of the Temple and the Smithsonian Museums on the Mall. Contact: 202.682-1980; www.capitalsegway.com/

2.       Los Angeles, CA.

Cruise along the beaches of Santa Monica and Venice, people watching from the comfort of your Segway. Take time for a photo stop, capturing the sea-faring surfers, the volley ball matches on the sand and the street performers entertaining on the sidewalk. Wind your way through the canals of Venice, tuning in as your guide lists the famous films that have been made in the area. Enjoy the Southern California sun and the laid back atmosphere of these famed beach communities. Riders must be 12 and over and weigh 100 lbs or more. Contact: 310.395-1395; www.segway.la

3.       San Juan, PR.

Experience an alfresco tour of Puerto Rico’s capital, a city rich in Spanish culture and history. Glide through “The Walled City” and learn why the Spaniards built a series of forts and walls to protect their treasures. The sightseeing tour also includes visits to the Darsenas Square, the Governor’s Mansion and other significant sites in the area. Young people will also enjoy the Fortifications Tour, which provides an inside glide through the San Felipe del Morro Fort. Built in 1540, this hefty fortress offers dungeons, tunnels, lookouts and ramps to intrigue the curious traveler. Contact: 787-598-9455; www.SegwayToursPR.com

4.       Daytona Beach, FL.

Choose to ride at sunset or when the sun is high in the sky. Either way, you’ll enjoy the sea breeze, people watching and the views along the “World’s Most Famous Beach”. Learn about the famous boardwalk, the clock tower, the city’s racing history and enjoy a stop by some of the city’s local hot spots. You’ll get a 30 minute orientation before hitting the streets aboard your high-tech transporter. Contact: 386-239-7158; www.daytonasegsonthebeach.com

5.       San Francisco, CA.

Enjoy the hills of scenic San Francisco the easy way. Wind your way through Fisherman’s Wharf and the Dungeness crab stands. Check out Ghirardelli Square, the Municipal Pier and Aquatic Park. Catch a glimpse of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Don’t miss the National Maritime Museum and listen up as your guide fills you in on the historic ships that have sailed into the harbor. Before long, your crew will be turning heads as you glide through Little Italy on your eco-friendly, self-balancing transporter. Contact: 415-474-3130; www.electrictourcompany.com.

Note: Most tours require children to be 12 years of age, weigh 100 pounds and be accompanied by an adult. Safety instructions and gear are provided.

 

Published in Family Travel Blog

No matter where your travels take you, new mobile apps can lighten the load and add to the fun.

Here are five to consider:

Postcards On The Run.

Published in Travel Tips
Are you among the nearly 21 million people who took a multigenerational trip in the last year?

Here are five reasons why gathering the clan matters and how you can

make it happen sooner rather than later:

1 Today’s families are spread far and wide.

That means more effort is required to maintain and nurture family bonds. Spending relaxed, quality time with your extended family enables the generations to gain important insights into family history. Traveling off-season can provide savings.

During the summer, consider a family friendly beach resort in the Caribbean or in Hawaii where everyone can meet on the sand or by the pool for stories and water sports.

Contact: www.cheapcaribbean.com; www.GoHawaii.com

2 Sharing resources has rewards.

Grandparents, aunts, uncles and godparents have the opportunity to bond with the next generation while giving weary parents a break and a chance to rekindle their relationship.

More hotel companies are reaching out to families of all compositions to help them plan a meaningful holiday. Preferred Hotels launched a website to help families find the right destination and activities.

Contact: www.preferredfamily.com

3 The natural cure. Plan a multigenerational trip around camping, hiking, biking or fishing. Unplug from technology and tune in to the sounds of nature. Encourage the experienced to share outdoor skills that will serve youngsters for a lifetime. Any of nearly 400 national parks would serve as a grand classroom.

Contact: www.nationalparks.org ; www.childrenandnature.org

4 Active children can be great motivators for aging relatives.

Plan a vacation that enables young people to help their less agile relatives get moving.

Many adventure-travel companies specialize in making sure every member of the family receives the right dose of adrenaline from the day’s activity. Ready, set, go!

Contact: 1-800-575-1540; www.austinlehman.com;  www.TrekTravel.com 

5 Show appreciation.

Did a member of your family serve in the military or provide some kind of public service? Honor their commitment by making a family visit to a memorial, battlefield, museum or other historical site that might encourage the sharing of his or her individual experience.

Exploring our nation’s capital together will provide an interesting context for any personal stories that might unfold.

Contact:  www.washington.org 

Check out our Grandparent Travel Collection for more ideas on how and where to

travel with the grandkids!

Published in Gather

Nothing says summer like ice cream.

And perhaps that’s why an entire month is dedicated to savoring its sweetness.

Thanks to celebrity chef Todd English you and your family can create classic vanilla ice cream at home ( Think tasty staycation! ). Check out the recipe lifted from his most recent cookbook, Cooking in Everyday English!

Published in Family Travel Blog

For a day, a weekend or a week, leave civilization behind and challenge yourselves on the whitewater. Take the rustic approach and camp along the river’s edge. Or float by day and snuggle in at the lodge overnight.

Here are five places where the rivers are wild and scenic:

Rogue River Lodge-based Wilderness Rafting:   One of the most famous rivers in the American West, the Rogue flows through a large Wilderness area as it winds from Oregon’s Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. It’s the only wilderness rafting trip where you can raft by day and sleep in remote lodges at night! Fun, intermediate rapids, warm water and a green-forested canyon make the Rogue River the perfect natural playground. Combine the trip with a visit to Crater Lake National Park and/or the Oregon Shakespeare festival. Three- and four-day trips depart weekly May to September. Contact: 800-451-6034; www.rowadventures.com/rogue-river-rafting-oregon.html

Adventure on the Stillwater, Red Lodge, MT. Join guide Marek Rosin on a trip down the family-friendly Stillwater River as it winds its way through a one-sided canyon that once served as home for the Crow Indians. Relax in a raft or pop into an inflatable kayak. Run the scenic river near the charming town of Red Lodge, Montana, then take time to explore the river’s source in the majestic Beartooth-Absoraka Wilderness. Contact: 800-897-3061; www.AdventureWhitewater.com

Middle Fork Mastery, Sun Valley, ID -This is no ordinary river adventure. Families will bond on the river while enjoying fly fishing, rafting, kayaking and hiking along the famed Middle Fork of the Salmon River. On your personalized vacation enjoy unexpected luxuries including massage in your chalet tents enhanced by carpets and elevated beds. Dine on organic seasonal fare prepared by a top Sun Valley chef. The outfitter’s American Safari concept promises five star services in a superb natural setting. Contact:   1-832-755-7661; www.far-away.com.  

Salt River Treat. Near Fountain Hills, AZ. Enjoy the surprising contrast of stunning Sonoran desert beauty as you float south via your raft, kayak or tube on the Salt River. Saguaro cactus stand guard along the shoreline, hawks soar overhead. Richly hued canyon walls rise from near the water’s edge. During the winter months bunk in at the charming Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch, a family run operation that recalls the western charm often depicted in cowboy film. Saddle up at the ranch and explore the nearby landscape. Contact: 1 (480) 984-2194; www.SaguaroLakeranch.com

British Columbia Waterways. If you and your family are looking for a remote river experience, consider the pristine waterways of British Columbia. Choose from hundreds of rivers including the Tatshenshini, the powerful Stikine, the Gataga or the historic Campbell River on Vancouver Island. Teeming with fish and wild-life rich, expect natural bounty. The British Columbia Outfitters Association provides information about trips available in the region. Contact: www.BCROA.com.

Published in Explore
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