Novelist and travel writer, Pico Iyer says, “We travel, initially to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and to learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate.
So be mindful of who we are, where we are going, what we are bringing with us and what we leave behind. Each and every day get up and ask yourself, why the hell not?
Be fearless. Be independent. Be bold. Out dream yourself and just go."
Girls – as in grandmothers, mothers, daughters, aunts, and nieces – are more likely than ever to "just go" and explore the world together.
That, according to multiple research reports that indicate an increasing number of women are seeking new adventures at home and abroad. Here are five to consider:
This global adventure travel company has recently launched a series of women-only expeditions in Morocco, Iran and Jordan, encouraging female empowerment and showcasing the traditions and routines of local women in each destination.
The itineraries, guided by female tour leaders, are designed to break the barriers of traditional tourism in these locations, offering a deeper understanding of female culture in each of three Middle Eastern nations. For example, travelers will have the option to visit a traditional hammam with local women in Morocco, spend time with a female shepherd in Jordan and experience the nomadic life of rural people in Iran.
Travel makes women feel on top of the world. - Trafalger*
As boomers check destinations and experiences off bucket lists, they are often eager to include other family members in their adventures. This, in part, has contributed to the significant rise in multigenerational travel. At active travel companies like Country Walkers, more women are joining their well-curated trips, often in the company of sisters, daughters and nieces. Immersive guided and self-guided walking and hiking adventures are possible in destinations from Iceland and Ireland to Zambia and New Zealand. The Travel Together program means a helpful consultant will coordinate the various needs, interests and requirements of family members. You’ll also garner savings when six or more join a guided walking adventure.
She believed she could, so she did. The vast majority of women believe traveling has made them more independent. - Trafalger*
In response to a significant increase in women booking their trips as well as requests for more cycling, walking, trekking and responsible wildlife tours, the 40 year old company has added itineraries they believe will help women of all ages and interests to push their own personal boundaries. Consider trips to China, Myanmar, Iran, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and beyond. The departures, which will include four to sixteen travelers, will be led by local female guides, creating more career opportunities for women across the globe.
Chebeague Island Inn, Chebeague, ME.
For those family members eager to reconnect or celebrate a special life event, a getaway to this island inn might fit the bill. It will be easy to unplug and focus on good conversation around a beach bonfire or while sipping a glass of wine aboard a classic schooner as your group sets sail in Casco Bay. Dine on fresh seafood and local ingredients harvested from the island farm or the garden behind the inn. Take in a yoga class on the lawn, ride bikes to the General Store for lunch or set out on island trails for a breath of fresh air.
Recent research revealed that when planning a trip, adventure outweighed luxury by 20% among the women surveyed. So why not channel your inner cowgirl, and gather the gals for a ranch-style getaway. From horseback riding and hiking to fishing and cattle rustling, a trip to the wide open spaces is sure to inspire the wild hearts in your group. If rustic isn’t right up your alley, there are plenty of ranch destinations where gourmet meals, yoga and spa treatments as well as luxury accommodations are on the menu.
* Award winning travel company, Trafalgar, recently conducted a survey of over 1,000 U.S. women to discover how travel both empowers and inspires women. The study illuminates all of the reasons #SHEGOES – with nearly three quarters of American women believing that travel makes them stronger and regardless of what’s happening in the world today – 86 percent of women continue to travel unafraid.
May what matters most inspire your family’s future travel plans.
Here are five ideas to consider:
Small feet splashing in the surf. First tracks through powder. A really big tug on the fishing line as you float a scenic Montana River. Climbing to the top of the hill through personal pedal power. Those are the moments that bring joy to parents as they watch their children and grandchildren experience a rush of adrenalin and the unexpected thrill of a new experience. Make plans to see the sparkle in their bright eyes today.
Whether it’s a milestone birthday, an anniversary, a wedding, a new family member or your clan’s good health, there is reason to celebrate in the months ahead. Modern day cruise itineraries are designed to help you put a plan in motion. Whether you choose to cruise the Caribbean islands, the wilds of Alaska, the coast of California or in more exotic waters, there is something for every age group to experience every day and a way to toast to your collective good fortune every night.
Reduce the stress of daily life through endorphin-releasing adventures paired with wellness promoting activities that will manifest happy memories as well as healthy habits. Unplug and learn to meditate. Take a yoga class together. Spend the day at the spa. Paddle across the lake. Go for a family run or hike through the red rock canyons in Sedona.
Perhaps the best we have to give is our time. So plan now to share your wealth with those you hold dear. Plan a getaway with the grandparents, a romantic holiday with your spouse, a weekend with the cousins, and the best Spring Break ever with the kids. Meet your college friends and their families for the big game. Embrace the idea of hanging out with theme park princesses or in a world of wizards while it still matters. Create a shared experience that will last for a lifetime.
Share the bounty with others. Volunteer vacations enable parents to model their most deeply held values while demonstrating compassion for others who share our place on the planet. Develop new talents, brush off rusty skills and make a difference as a family. For a day, a weekend, or longer, help build a house, teach someone to read, uncover artifacts or improve an endangered habitat.
Many resorts and hotels, like the Andaz at Peninsula Papagayo in Costa Rica, offer the option to give back to the local community during your own holiday getaway. You may also want to consider including a less fortunate friend or family member in your next vacation. As they say, love makes the world go round.
Contact: https://papagayo.andaz.hyatt.com www.SandalsFoundation.org www.Habitat.org ReadGlobal.org.
Warm up with a sun-drenched and relaxing family getaway. From Costa Rica to California to the Caribbean, these experiences will tempt you to begin packing....right now.
Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagaya.
Seamlessly integrating the Peninsula’s vibrant landscape with the amenities of a contemporary eco-luxury hotel, the Forbes Five-Star luxury, 182-room resort has recently reopened, revealing the results of an imaginative $35 million renovation.
Tap into the “pura vida” lifestyle (it's for real) and choose from a long list of adventure, spa, fitness and wellness opportunities served up in a relaxed and welcoming indoor-outdoor environment. Access kayaks, paddleboards and jet skis from the beach or relax by one of several pools that overlook the volcanic sand beach areas.
For a family-friendly introduction to the exotic fauna and flora of Costa Rica take a guided tour of the Trail of the Giants, a scenic adventure that showcases the region’s birds, monkeys, iguanas, butterflies and giant trees while providing jaw dropping views of the resort’s Arnold Palmer golf course and the Pacific Ocean. The Kids For All Seasons club features a kid-sized pool and junior lounge chairs as well as a range of immersive programs to entice the youngest guests.
Hotel del Coronado, San Diego, California
A family favorite, this iconic Victorian gem is the crown jewel of one of the most popular beach vacation spots in the United States. The long, wide stretch of sand provides easy access to the water and thus the perfect home base for your family’s seaside activities. Get out the boogie boards, issue a beach volleyball challenge, take surfing lessons, learn the secrets of mermaid fitness or join a clambake. Top-notch children’s and teen programs and spa options are also available. You’ll create your own family history in this legendary beach destination.
Set sail with Royal Caribbean.
You’ll find plenty of family adventure onboard the megaships headed for the sun-drenched Caribbean waters. Snap a selfie with your favorite Dreamworks characters or test your skills on the rock-climbing wall. Go ashore and enjoy water sports and cultural outings. Push your limits on the longest zip line over water, test your skills on the Flow Rider surf simulator and take in high-diving, and acrobatic performances at an outdoor AquaTheatre. There is entertainment for every age group, an array of dining options to suit every taste and the option to relax by the pool with your favorite book. Check for special savings on last minute departures. Contact: www.RoyalCaribbean.com.
Del Mar, CA.
Immerse your family in Old World, Mediterranean-inspired luxury when you check into the family-friendly, 249-room Fairmont Grand Del Mar. Lounge aside one of four heated pools, check out the equestrian center, sign up for a guided hike into the adjacent canyon preserve, or consider a mother-daughter spa treatment. Get in the swing of things on the Tom Fazio-designed golf course or pile into the free shuttle for a day at the beach.
For an extraordinary dining experience, indulge in an adults-only evening at Chef William Bradley’s Addison, Southern California’s only five-star, five-diamond restaurant. It's an experience you will long remember and be eager to tell your foodie friends about.
Hawk’s Cay Resort, Duck Key, FL.
While some parts of this popular family resort may still be recovering from hurricane damage, guests eager to return to this sunny stretch in the Florida Keys can take advantage of up to 30 percent discounts for stays in resort villas. The Can’t Wait Rate includes access to Coral Cay, the kid’s activities center, where a putting course, the wet and wild Pirate Ship pool and a long list of other activities will be available. The spa, boat ramp and Angler & Ale waterfront restaurant will also be open. Families can also check out the dolphin research facility, learn to stand up paddleboard, go fishing or explore the underwater world with a snorkel. Sounds like a great family vacation!
Wrap those travel dreams and savor the gift of experience, knowledge and memories that last a lifetime.
Here are five ideas to consider:
Let the trade winds sweep your cares away when you explore the islands of French Polynesia aboard a four-masted sailing yacht. A great getaway to experience with your teens, adult children or extended family, Windstar sailing ships deliver explorers to an island paradise where blue lagoons and pristine coral reefs provide epic snorkeling, scuba diving and Jet Ski options. Kayak and paddleboard off the back of the ship’s sports deck. Learn about local cultures during hiking, kayaking and museum-centric shore excursions. Later, relax on a small island (motu) where you can sip coconut drinks, listen to the nimble sounds of a ukulele drifting in the distance and cool off in the sapphire-colored sea.
For those who relish the white stuff, the gift of travel to Colorado Ski Country will be a high altitude hit. At more than 21 resorts throughout the state, kids under various ages are offered the opportunity to ski free. For example, kids under five always ski free at Arapahoe, Aspen Snowmass and Loveland. Steamboat's Kids Ski Free and Grandkids Ski Free programs enable children 12 and younger to ski free the same number of days as their parent/grandparent with the purchase of a 5-or-more day adult lift ticket. Other resorts offer lift ticket deals as well as lodging, lesson and gear discounts.
Choose a ranch vacation and you’ll have the opportunity to learn horsemanship in an authentic and scenic setting. Opt to ride in open meadows, on mountain trails or in the sun-drenched, desert southwest. Will your family members choose to participate in a real cattle drive? Are you up for a horse pack trip into the backcountry? Will your youngsters be eager to learn the skills required for team penning and other arena games? Or will you be happy to relax during daily trail rides and around the campfire come nightfall. The options are yours at working dude ranches and guest ranches across the country.
Are you a fan of Fenway? Have you been to Yankee Stadium 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. Pair a tour with a trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, NY. to learn more about the history and cultural significance of the game through memorabilia and interactive exhibits.
Celebrate our freedom and the beauty of our land with a visit to one or more of our 392 national parks. With so many historical and natural wonders to discover, consider heading to the National Park Service’s web pages, specifically designed to help regular and first time visitors plan a meaningful trip. There you research park activities as well as camping, back country, lodging and educational options. Across America, each day there are special events, institute and field schools as well as volunteer opportunities. Check for fee free days and Junior Ranger programs for the kids.
Satisfy your cultural curiosities while experiencing Avalon Waterways' Active Discovery itineraries offered on Europe's Danube and Rhine Rivers.
Cruise as a clan and choose from activities that include paddling a canoe on the river, bike tours, exploring an ice cave, meeting with monks at the monastery and learning how to milk a cow and mow grass with a scythe. You’ll engage with locals, play golf or view the winding waterway after a guided hike to a hilltop. It will be an action packed family gathering aboard a Suite Ship.
After a day of exploring, convene for creative cuisine made from ingredients procured from small farms and local producers. It's part of the Colorado company's effort to offer healthful dining experiences at every turn.
Among the many benefits of your active river adventure: you’ll only have to unpack once.
Looking for luxury?
Here are five dreamy destinations that are sure to please:
Four Seasons Resort Lanai, Lanai City, HI.
It’s a lush island of contrast, where sea-faring activities and land adventures compete for your attention. Paring a family-friendly attitude with well-crafted luxury, your family will feel right at home amid the towering pines, tropical flowers and brightly-hued birds on the property. Spend the day at the beach where surfing, snorkeling, kayaking and turtle watching are on the itinerary. Play a round of sunset golf on the stunning, oceanside, Jack Nicklaus Signature Manele Golf Course, head out for a snorkel and sail adventure, or find your way to Shipwreck Beach in a high-clearance Jeep. Spa time, archery, clay shooting, hiking, horseback riding and off-roading are also options. Your youngsters will want to tap into the Kids for All Seasons program, where hula and ukulele lessons, story telling and lei making add to the holiday memories. Contact: www.FourSeasons.com/Lanai
Fairmont Grand Del Mar, Del Mar, CA.
What does it take to be named the Top Luxury Hotel in the US in the 2017 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards? Find out when you check into the family-friendly, Mediterranean -inspired resort. Lounge aside one of four, heated pools, check out the equestrian center, sign up for a guided hike into the adjacent canyon preserve, or consider a mother-daughter spa treatment. Get in the swing of things on the Tom Fazio-designed golf course or pile into the free shuttle for a day at the SoCal beach. Do yourself a favor and indulge in an adults-only evening at Chef William Bradley’s Addison restaurant, Southern California’s only five-star, five-diamond eatery. Contact: www.fairmont.com/san-diego/
Sugar Bay Resort & Spa, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Plan an all inclusive family getaway and enjoy stunning sea views, casual or fine dining programs and activities that are sure to have the kids falling into bed with a smile each night. There’s a half-day, kids program for youngsters ages four to twelve, water sports, tennis, mini golf, eco-tours, sailing and shopping. Scout for tropical fish while snorkeling or take your turn in a kayak. Stop into the spa for the treatment of your choice and enjoy a daily workout in the fitness center. Ask about current specials for those who book soon. (Temporarily closed due to hurricane damage. We wish them well.) Contact: https://sugarbayresortandspa.com
Regent Seven Seas, Alaska.
Are you eager to sample the wild beauty of our 49th state? The cruise includes unlimited shore excursions, the heart of any Alaskan adventure, and promises glaciers, mountains, historic ports and wildlife viewing. Relax in the on-board Canyon Ranch Spa or settle in for enriching lectures about the region. The Club Mariner program provides special activities and experiences for children. Ask about special youth pricing. : www.RSSC.com/Alaska
Turtle Inn, Placencia, Belize.
A holiday trip to this Central American outpost offers an extraordinary bounty of experiences packed into a short time frame. This trip offers a chance to explore ancient caves, get immersed in Mayan culture and kayak through freshwater lagoons. You can also snorkel above the second largest barrier reef in the world, hang out with spider monkeys, loggerhead turtles, toucans and kingfishers, and watch the sunset. End your trip at the Francis Ford Coppola-owned, 25-room, seaside refuge where you will fall fast asleep to the sweet song of the natural world in your thatched-roof bungalow. Contact: www.CoppolaResorts.com/TurtleInn; www.TravelBelize.org
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 & Arthttp://coronadohistory.org/.
Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa
Glorietta Bay Inn
Hotel del Coronado
Loews Coronado Bay Resort
In the Owens-Thomas House, one of the great, historic homes in Savannah, a tour of the 1819 property begins in the slave quarters, perhaps the most interesting part of the household, because of the remnants of the “haint” blue wall and ceiling colorings, the largest example of such paint known to exist in the country.
When restorers were peeling away the many decades of construction and reconstruction to get to the base, they discovered the walls and ceiling of the rooms had originally been painted haint blue, a mix of indigo, lime and buttermilk.
This was an important discovery because the slaves, remembering their African history, knew that evil spirits, called hinques, could be kept away by barriers of water. So, they re-created such barriers using haint blue pigment, which the African slaves believed had the same spiritual qualities as basic water.
On St. Simons Island, about a 90 minute drive south of Savannah, try to find the First African Baptist Church, built in1869 by former slaves of the area’s plantations, and to this day attended by the descendants of slaves. One of the distinctive features of the small church are the windows, which are haint blue – the congregation is still trying to keep away the evil spirits
I was told, although I didn’t attend a service to confirm, that the congregation still speaks Gullah, a creole language that preserves African linguistic and cultural references.
Resort, Relaxation and a Midwestern Discovery
I was visiting St. Simons Island, staying at the beautiful and historic King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort, expecting a couple of days of purely leisure activity, i.e., doing nothing and eating well.
The resort was located on a quiet stretch of Atlantic beach. During mid-day, when the tide had ebbed, I could look out at the ocean and see sandbars in the shallow waters. In the evening, the sandbars disappeared and so did the beach, as the strong incoming tide arrived with waves crashing at the gates of the property.
Watching the tide was the most activity I wanted to experience – other than eating!
I had heard the resort had brought in a new executive chef, Jason Brumfiel, an American who had honed his craft in England, and was intent on shaking up the menu – mixing the Southern tradition of the hotel kitchen with more international creations. And quite frankly, he had me at my first lunch, a delectable crab-mac-cheese that was much more complicated than the simple name implies.
I thought I was going to be settled in at the King and Prince, eating and lounging away, but the hotel had arranged a trolley tour of the island – and there went my respite. For a place as small as St. Simons Island, only 12 miles long and three miles wide, it had a long and fascinating history from pre-Revolutionary War days right up through the World War II.
Part of it all was the King and Prince itself, which had started out in 1935 as a seaside dance club, but in 1941 with the addition of guest rooms became the King & Prince Hotel. The change came just in time for the onset of the World War II, and the U.S. Navy took over the property for war time training, coast watching and housing British experts in the new but arcane science of radar.
If I didn’t spend all my waking or comatose hours at the King and Prince during my three days there, it’s actually the resort’s fault because it arranged for me to take a tour of the island with a new company, Saint Simons Colonial Trolley Tours that had just bought its first vehicle.
The owners, a Midwesterner and his father-in-law, who was a transplanted local, decided running a trolley service would be a fun thing to do. On my day on the trolley, the Midwesterner, was just gearing up for the summer season, and was uncharacteristically bubbling over with enthusiasm.
There’s a lot to see on this tour – two hours worth of crisscrossing the island, but what caught my interest was post-Civil War emancipation, which continued to affect life and progress on the island.
At one time, 14 plantations (mostly growing cotton) covered the island and there are still slave quarter ruins or in one case, a slave quarter building that has been rehabbed for mercantile purposes, still standing in places on the island. The slaves working the plantations were treated as badly as elsewhere except for some noticeable benevolence. One plantation called Retreat had a slave hospital.
The hospital was conceived by Anna Matilda who married Thomas Butler King, the owner of Retreat Plantation. After the Civil War, the Retreat Plantation withered away, but the property remained in the King family until in 1926, when it was sold to the Sea Island Company. The majestic road to Retreat, lined with old oaks, can still be seen on the grounds of the Seal Island golf course. So, serenely beautiful is the line of oaks, couples often get married in the shade of the trees. I liked it so much I went to the local bicycle rental shop, got myself a cruiser with the big wide handlebars and rode my way back to the oaks so I could get a few pictures.
On St. Simons Island, you might find yourself on Neptune Road or at Neptune Park. The word Neptune had nothing to do with the Roman God, but was the name of a slave owned by the King family of Retreat Plantation. He was Neptune as a slave, but Neptune Small as a Freedman.
The reason he is so remembered on the island was because of his dedication. When the Civil War broke out, he accompanied Captain Lord King into service until the captain’s death at the Battle of Fredericksburg. He found the captain’s body on the battlefield and took it all the way back to Georgia for burial. Then he accompanied Lord King’s younger brother with his service in the war.
As a reward, the King family gave Small some property on their plantation where he built his home. In the following decade, after Small had passed away, a portion of that well-located and now valuable property was sold to the city of St. Simons where it was turned into the park that bears his name.
Now, here’s the part of St. Simons’ history that really caught my attention and made me give up the days when I should have been relaxing at the beach or the pool. First, I had wanted to trace the history of the former slaves, which was why I ended up at the First Baptist Church, but I also wanted to see the properties that were given to the former plantation slaves.
When General William Tecumseh Sherman led the Union army through Georgia on his famous March to the Sea, he issued Special Field Orders No. 15 to provide arable land to the black Freedmen (former slaves). This was sometimes known as the 40-acres-and-a-mule policy and it specifically allocated lands in the islands south of Charleston.
On St. Simons Island, Freedmen were given property and they and their families through the generations continued to live on those lands for more than 100 years. Then came the real estate boom at the start of 2000s and developers washed ashore on St. Simons offering bundles of cash to buy out those now valuable plots of land that had been in African-American families for decades and decades.
The pressure to sell must have been intense because many families put up signs on their front yards, saying, in effect, “stay away, we are not selling out.” They were saved when the real estate market collapsed in the Great Recession.
However, with the country’s economy stabilizing, it appears the developers have returned and I noticed some of those “keep away” signs are back up on front yards.
One odd effect of the real estate boom years is that if you travel through neighborhoods in the central island, you’ll see small, old homes bordering big, new homes. In the end, a kind of neighborhood integration resulted.
IF YOU GO:
Getting There: Like most tourists, I drove to St. Simons Island from Savannah, which can take 90 minutes on the Interstate, or a bit longer if you drive scenic coastal Route 17 and stop in Darien, which also boasts historic sites. www.cityofdarienga.com
Where To Stay: My wife and I stayed at the historic King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort, which sits on a quiet stretch of beach, not far from the little tourist town at St. Simons Pier. A new executive chef, Jason Brumfiel, has really livened up the menu. The property continues to renovate, with a new pool area. www.kingandprince.com
Things To Do: Two recommendations: take the Saint Simons Colonial Island Trolley Tour, which gave a great introduction to the island (www.saintsimonstrolley.com); and to get a little closer to things, rent a bike or kayak at Ocean Motion Surf Co. (www.stsimonkayaking.com).
Where will you venture this year?
What sounds appealing? A warm, sandy beach? An active, alpine adventure? Here are seven ideas to consider as your family plans for the year ahead.
1. Consider Costa Rica.
More than a quarter of this Central American country is composed of natural and conserved territory, making it an extraordinary destination for nature lovers. Surfers give the richly diverse nation top marks as do adventure lovers who visit the small country for river rafting, hiking, biking, canopy tours and volcano watching.
Families can take advantage of wildlife or culturally-focused volunteer vacations, clan-friendly resorts and beachside boutique accommodations. Pura vida, the local’s friendly attitude and approach to life, provides a hospitality-rich backdrop.
Contact: www.visitcostarica.com; AustinAdventures.com.
2. Amazing Alaska.
Still America’s last frontier, our 49th state offers year round adventure for families. Scope for whale tails while cruising the Inside Passage, celebrate more than 100 years of sled dog racing on the Iditarod Trail or explore the far reaches of Denali National Park. Learn about Alaska’s native culture, hike and bike in the backcountry or make wildlife watching the centerpiece of your adventure. A favorite among anglers, wade the state’s rivers and streams and you’ll return home with amazing fish stories and pictures to prove your prowess. A free vacation planner is available to help get you started.
3. Float The Grand Canyon.
Whether you travel by raft or dory, for a few days or a few weeks, the majesty of the Grand Canyon may well provide a transformative experience, as it does for many visitors. This national treasure stretches 277 miles across northern Arizona, and plays host to more than five million visitors each year. From your craft on the Colorado River, geologically diverse canyon walls rise as high as 9,000 feet toward the western sky. Hike the side canyons, plow through storied rapids, relax on sandy beaches and revel in the grandeur of one of nature’s finest accomplishments. You’ll want to go back for more.
4. Cruise the Caribbean.
Now rated fourth in the country in cruise traffic, the addition of Galveston as an important point of departure, offers sea-faring travelers expanded opportunities. Four cruise companies – Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Disney and Princess – offer itineraries ranging from four to eight nights on board ships bustling with activity and entertainment.
Cruise companies eager to lure parents with young children as well as multigenerational clans, provide a smorgasbord of kid-thrilling options ranging from wave machines and super slides to teen lounges and zip lines. Deals abound, particularly for those with flexible dates.
5. African Safaris.
Multigenerational families celebrating a “milestone moment” are among those seeking the excitement and adventure found on safari. And more tour operators, eager to capture this growing segment of the market, are creating itineraries that cater to both ends of the age spectrum. The chance to observe a lion stalking his prey, a wildebeest migration or to learn the customs of the Masaii people are experiences more families are putting at the top of their lists.
Contact: FamilyAdventures.com; AustinAdventures.com; Wilderness-Safaris.com ; www.FourSeasons.com/Serengeti
6. The Bahamas.
You’ll find grand resorts in a bustling enclave as well as small getaways on tiny spits of sand just 50 miles off the coast of Florida. Choose your preferred environment from among 700 islands surrounded by crystal clear water and the world’s third largest barrier reef. Visions of snorkeling, fishing, ecotours, horseback riding, boating or just relaxing on soft, sandy beaches will provide plenty to compel your family to consider a visit to this breathtaking archipelago.
7. Get some altitude!
Are you ready to embrace winter sports? Perhaps this is the year to push beyond the local sledding hill and expand your winter sports experiences. Lace up the skates, strap on the snowshoes, learn how mushers round up their sled dogs or consider an ice climb. Go downhill, cross-country, into the back-country and then warm up in a steaming hot spring. Skate ski to dinner served in a yurt or ride aboard a horse-drawn sleigh headed to cozy cabin where you and your family can savor supper served fireside.
Our table in the cocktail lounge is conveniently situated with a clear view of the promenade. Offering more promise than the yellow brick road, the wide, tiled pathway leads from the nearby hotel towers to the main lobby, then beyond to restaurants, shops and casinos. People watching has rarely been so compelling.
Thigh high leather, flowing caftans, plunging necklines, sparkling jewels and hair piled high; the women, from teens to aging beauties, have clearly taken their time to prepare for the evening ahead. Smiling, and exuberant, they chat enthusiastically, clicking by in Sarah Jessica Parker inspired footwear.
And the men.
They too have taken time to style. Strolling tall in designer duds, tan and bright eyed, they are eager to enjoy all this glittering resort has to offer.
It brings out the peacock in all of us. Whether you choose to strut your stuff in the celebrity infused restaurants and casinos or on the beach with the kids, you’ll find plenty of bright spots to color your stay.
Created by hotel luminary Sol Kerzner and designed after the mythical lost Continent of Atlantis, this is where tropical chill meets Vegas vim and vigor. You’re on Paradise Island, a glistening gem in the Bahamas, that sun-drenched archipelago known for both palm-strewn island getaways and cruise ship landing zones.
Making a plan.
Given the Atlantis resort’s grand scale, you will want to do some pre-trip research. Gather notes from friends who’ve been there and peruse the web site to determine the home away from home that will best suit you and your fellow travelers. Choices range from the relaxed ambience of the Beach and Coral Towers, to the iconic Royal Towers and the condo-style accommodations offered at The Reef.
You’ll want to consider the chic luxury and contemporary vibe enjoyed by those who check into the suites at The Cove. The 600 room, adult’s only digs are located on the north end of the property, directly on Paradise Beach. Guests get comfortable at the Blackjack tables on the pool deck and enjoy music crafted by a live DJ. For an extra special treat, reserve a cabana that offers flat screen TVs, couches and a bar plus breezy access to the pool and the ocean.
With the kids.
From the perspective of many, Atlantis is one giant theme park. Yet few resorts have a more imaginative and expansive kids and teen activity program. Daily themed adventures include discovering the mysteries of Atlantis, visiting a fish hospital and enjoying outdoor games and activities of all kinds. The newest addition to the program is AKA or Atlantis Kids Adventures, a high-style, 8,000-square-foot mecca for kids where culinary lessons, Lego –inspired crafts, a mini castle, outdoor adventures and theater play make heading back to school seem ….well, they’ll think about that later.
Teens enjoy time at Club Rush where they can surf the net, dance the night away, watch movies or play their favorites on Game Cube or X-Box. Teens also enjoy the pottery studio and climbing wall.
Parents can plan a night out while their kids, ages 3 to 12 have fun during their own” evening escape”. The program offers themed activities each night of the week including Willy Wonka Wednesday, Pajama Party Friday and Pizza and Coketails Saturdays.
With more than 141 acres of water rides and pools, you may have to schedule time to simply relax on the three miles of Atlantic Ocean beaches. From the Mayan Temple to the ominous Power Tower to fun-filled Splashers Island, water play lovers up the tempo with 18 adrenaline-pulsing slides for kids of all ages. Pop on board your own luxury inner tube or grab a partner and ride the waves and rapids in the Current.
Lounge around your choice of 11 different pools. Twist and turn through tunnels and emerge in an acrylic tube deep within a shark-filled lagoon. And don’t miss the seven-acre saltwater swimming and water-sports area known as Paradise Lagoon where you’ll find snorkeling gear, kayaks, and pedal boats available for rent.
Whether you were a Flipper fan or have more recently come to admire these playful creatures you will want to take part in what is happening within Dolphin Cay. Home to a pod of bottlenose dolphins rescued following Hurricane Katrina, this 14-acre habitat is the scene of Trainer for the Day programs, shallow and deep water encounters and the chance to experience the speed and agility of the animals up close and personal.
Because Atlantis is home to more than 50,000 marine animals representing 250 species, your opportunities continue. Get to know friendly sea lions. Later snorkel amid the sunken ruins and artifacts of the lost city of Atlantis in the Ruins Lagoon where brilliantly colored tropical fish and spotted rays will keep you company.
Sports enthusiasts will enjoy the six lighted clay and hard-surface tennis courts, a four-lane lap pool and an expansive fitness facility that includes all the bells and whistles. Check out the menu of classes that includes spinning, yoga and kickboxing. For those who enjoy time on the links, plan to tee it up on the private Tom Weiskopf-designed 18 hole championship Ocean Club Golf Course, located a complimentary shuttle ride away.
World class dining.
With 21 restaurants and 19 bars and lounges from which to choose, your options for culinary exploration are many. Grab a bite while lounging at the pool or enjoy a family-style meal with the kids.
Allow the Atlantis celebrity chefs to bestow their special brand of epicurean delight. Choose from Chef Bobby Flay’s award-winning Mesa Grill where you will thrill to the taste of his award-winning Southwestern cuisine. Unique dishes like Bahamian Spiced Chicken Skewers with Yogurt Cilantro Sauce, Crispy Squid and Cracked Conch Salad with Orange-Chipotle Vinaigrette, and Bahamian Lobster Tail with Red Chile-Coconut Sauce and Green Chile Rice will keep your mouth watering long after the last bite.
Classic gourmet French cuisine is on your menu thanks to the extraordinary experience offered by legendary Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Café Martinique, originally made famous by its appearance in the 1965 James Bond classic, Thunderball, now recreated for Atlantis guests. Expect outstanding fare amidst old world ambience.
Just off the casino floor and steps away from Aura, you’ll enjoy the fine work of famed Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s in his acclaimed restaurant, Nobu. Enjoy an unusual and delectable twist on traditional Japanese fare.
Spending the day at the beach won’t hinder your plan for finding plenty of casino time. The expansive 50,000 square foot state of the art environment includes more than 850 slot machines, 90 game tables plus baccarat, roulette, Caribbean stud poker and black jack. Wagering on major sporting events and the racetrack action plus regular special events and tournaments will keep gaming enthusiasts thrilled by the action. Guests also enjoy lively music, often provided by local calypso or salsa bands. Oddly enough, you won’t be gambling elbow to elbow with the locals. For Bahamian residents, it is illegal.
After sun down.
Look forward to an evening mesmerized by the luxury and ambience of Aura, a 9,000-square-foot Jeffrey Beers-designed nightclub, and the sister to popular Las Vegas night club PURE. As the DJs spin the latest, guests enjoy dancing the night away or watching the scene unfold from banquette seating that surrounds the illuminated glass dance floor. You’ll also find two bars, two VIP sections and a private VIP Parlor. The casino below can be accessed by a grand staircase.
Also popular is the Atlantis Theatre featuring current Hollywood feature films and the Joker’s Wild Comedy Club spotlighting stand up acts from around the world. You may want to plan your stay around the performance of popular artists including the likes of Lady Antebellum, Rihanna, Carrie Underwood, the Jonas Brothers and Taylor Swift.