Small towns offer charm, history and an opportunity for adventure.
Here are five communities east of the Mississippi with special experiences of interest to families on vacation.
This college town is home to more prizewinners than any other community – as in Pulitzers, Nobels and Medals of Honor. The leafy enclave offers miles of bike paths, canals for paddling and festivals for every season. The university’s extraordinary cultural offerings include an art museum best known for their Chinese collection and impressive theatre known to showcase pre-Broadway productions. Take a walking tour, shop in Palmer Square and visit the free Einstein Museum to learn more about another of the town’s bright lights.
Contact: www.VisitPrinceton.com; www.PrincetonTourCompany.com.
Work up an appetite kayaking, windsurfing or sailing on the Chesapeake Bay before an evening feast of the region’s famous crabs. Home to the U.S. Naval Academy, this history-rich state capital offers charming restaurants, shops, museums, lighthouses and the opportunity to enjoy watching water-worthy vessels, large and small, slip out to sea. Contact: 888.302.2852; VisitAnnapolis.org.
Revel in the old world charm of this small coastal village, where you’ll walk in the footsteps of Blackbeard the pirate, an early resident of the area. Amble along cobblestone streets, past clapboard houses, art galleries and colorful eateries before heading out for a kayak tour on the waters where the buccaneers once battled. Feed the local herd of ponies, likely descendants of Spanish mustangs, before spending the day on a pristine 16-mile stretch of protected beach.
Contact: 252-928-6711; ocracokevillage.com
Do you favor Phish Food or Chunky Monkey? Schedule a family taste test when you tour the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory in this scenic New England town. Take a sled dog tour, find out how apple cider is made or consider a stroll on the five-mile long Stowe Recreation path.
Check into the Trapp Family Lodge and Resort to enjoy their 2,400 acre natural wonderland, where hiking, rock climbing, cross country skiing and snowshoeing are tailored to family travelers.
Contact: GoStowe.com; TrappFamily.com.
Brunswick, ME Visit this small fishing village where artists and writers have found inspiration for decades. Winslow Homer painted his famous seascapes nearby and Harriet Beecher Stowe crafted Uncle Tom’s Cabin in town. Each year, the Brunswick Outdoor Arts Festival keeps the creative vibe alive offering theatre, music and crafts. Enjoy riverside views from the paved Androscoggin Bicycle and Pedestrian Path enroute to the 150-year old Topsham Fair where family fun includes animal pull events, crafts and harness racing. Contact: 888-624-6345; VisitMaine.com; topshamfair.net
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!
As nature parades her fall colors, share the glory with your family. Here are ten spectacular places where the crisp air will invigorate every member of your crew:
1.Purity Spring Resort. East Madison, NH.
Check in to this family-owned getaway and enjoy apple picking, country fairs, and antique shopping in the picturesque White Mountains of New Hampshire. The kids will love racing through the Sherman Farms corn maze and exploring nearby hiking, mountain biking and sunset paddling on the Saco River; all with spectacular fall colors as your backdrop. Grab your cameras and visit nearby covered bridges and waterfalls. Contact: 800-373-3754: www.purityspring.com.
2.South Carolina Upcountry.
Choose from a wealth of scenic side trips off Highway 11, the 112- mile long Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway. Ride a zip line through the changing colors and picnic near Campbell’s Bridge, South Carolina’s only remaining covered bridge. Kayak at Paris Mountain State Park then stop for homemade fudge or visit local apple orchards. Don’t miss Devils Fork State Park for wildlife watching and to marvel at the half-dozen waterfalls that spill into Lake Jocassee. Contact: www.greenvillecvb.com; www.theupcountry.com; www.scenic11.com.
3. Oregon Orange.
Enjoy the changing hues as you and your family explore the 44-mile trail that winds through Oregon’s National Wild and Scenic Rogue River Canyon. The pathway, originally carved by miners, offers respite along the way in the form of five historic lodges that enable trekkers to explore by day and relax in comfort come nightfall. What’s more, your gear will be transported via river raft during the four-day, three-night outing, enabling hikers to catch a ride when weary and to enjoy the scenery with only a camera and binoculars to weigh down your packs. Contact: 1-800-336-1647; www.wildrogue.com
4. Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. Arkansas.
Visit Ozark country for purple, gold, orange and red fall colors set against stunning sandstone bluffs. Make time for horseback riding, a rock climbing challenge, hiking, archery, family games, elk viewing, and skeet shooting. The whole family will enjoy time in the petting zoo. Family cabins make for a cozy retreat at day’s end. Ask about discounts for four or more. Contact : 800-480-9635; www.horseshoecanyonranch.com.
5. Spectacular Sedona.
Marvel at the splendor of the season in Northern Arizona, savoring the rich, visual treat from a Pink Jeep, a helicopter or a hot air balloon. With the Red Rocks of Sedona providing their own rich hues, take advantage of world class hiking amidst shimmering aspen leaves, check out canyon petroglyphs and shop for local arts and crafts. Stay at the pet friendly Bell Rock Inn and enjoy studio accommodations where families can spread out, cook in and enjoy a warming fireplace on a cool Autumn evening. Contact: 877-444-8044 www.arizonatourismcenter.com.
6. Southern Utah.
Pile into the car for a Fall foliage road trip that includes brilliant color set against the backdrop of some of our country's most stunning national parks. Travel along Utah State Route 143, a recently designated Scenic Byway. Also known as the Patchwork Parkway, the path runs from Parowan through Brian Head to Panguitch and commemorates a time when pioneer travelers used handmade quilts as protection from the winter cold. The region includes Cedar Breaks National Monument, Zion and Bryce National Parks, as well as lava fields, historic and petroglyph sites. Take advantage of scenic overlooks and pull out to view aspen stands. Contact: 1 (800) 354-4849; www.ScenicSouthernUtah.com.
7. Leavenworth, WA. Celebrate Fall at the Washington State Autumn Leaf Festival tucked in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. The kids will enjoy a Main Street parade, clowns, a climbing wall and air trampolines. The town's longest running festival also features Bavarian brass bands and other musical entertainment for all ages. Contact: 509-548-5807; www.autumnleaffestival.com.
8. Canadian Color.
Visit New Brunswick for spectacular fall foliage and family fun. The Miramichi River region is home to the elusive Atlantic salmon and a popular haunt for fishing enthusiasts. Doaktown's Fall Frolic festival includes a lumberjack contest as well as home tours, quilt shows, and canoe runs. Stop by the Atlantic Salmon Museum and the historic Doak House to see how early settlers to the area lived. 1 (506) 365-1105; www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca; www.Doaktown.com.
9. Empire State Beauty.
See New York State's fabulous Fall foliage from aboard a unique vessel. Get comfortable on the Esperanza Rose, an elegant 65-foot wooden boat offering leaf peepers dinner and lunch cruises on the waters of Keuka Lake. Or consider viewing the colors while traveling through century -old canal locks and passing through historic towns aboard vintage water craft. Take part in the non-profit and education focused Sam Patch and Mary Jemison Cruises and you and the family will learn about the legendary Erie Canal and adjoining Genesee River, the development of which many consider to be an engineering wonder. Contact: 315-595-6618; www.esperanzaboat.com ; 585-662-5748; www.samandmary.org.
10. Rocky Mountain Wonderland.
Glimpse Colorado's golden aspen leaves by taking advantage of a Fall bike packages that includes rooms in Breckenridge, rental bikes and a free shuttle ride to the top of a mountain pass so you and the family can enjoy a downhill cruise and stunning Fall scenery. Or change saddle strategies and appreciate the beauty of Fall in the Rocky Mountains on horseback. Beaver Creek-based one and two hour trail rides or a three hour picnic ride will provide the family the chance to enjoy the crisp mountain air and time to wander through the splendid aspen stands. Contact: (888)906-6303;www.breckenridge.com; 1(970)845-7770 www.vailhorses.com/
Learn to sail or relax and let the wind ( and your ship’s captain ) set your course. Spending time on the water gives family travelers a chance to reconnect and see the world from a different point of view.
Here are seven ways to set sail with your family on board:
1.Out The Front Door. Beautiful resorts like the Palau Pacific Resort, in Micronesia, offer colorful sailboats for the use of their guests. Relax on the beach, then invite one of your family members to share time on the water. (Go ahead. Race! ) This enchanting 160-room resort opened in 1984 on the site of a WW2 Japanese Seaplane base. Abiding by Palauan law, it was constructed no higher than the tallest coconut tree on the property and provides a picturesque, natural setting for a family holiday. Plan to spend time at the spa, snorkel, dive, kayak, hike nature trails and of course, sail! Contact: www.palauppr.com.
2. Hop on a Maine Schooner. Uniting their passion for historic windjammers with delectable food and top side fun, this “mom and pop” entrepreneurial pair (mom is the gourmet chef, pop is on deck) will share their love for the Maine coast with you and your family aboard the J&E Riggin. Book three, four or six day outings. Pitch in or chill out – the choice is yours. Contact: 1-800-869-0604; www.MaineWindJammer.com.
3. Darwin’s Destination. Have you seen the blue-footed boobies? If not, set sail through the Galapagos Islands where the water and islands are teeming with exotic and colorful wildlife. It’s a trip of a lifetime. Contact: 1-800-941-8010; www.BoundlessJourneys.com
4. Turkish Delight. Wander through small coastal villages. Explore hidden rock coves, wooded inlets and magnificent ruins from the Roman, Greek, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Guests explore the coast and learn from local guides. This 15-day adventure is hand-crafted by ROW founder, Peter Grubb, and provides active exploration on the Aegean Sea and Lycian Shore. Departures: June, September, October. Contact: 800-451-6034; www.RowInternational.com
5. On Your Own. Sail from Tortola , St. Martin , St. Lucia , Canouan , Belize , Baja or the Bahamas and enjoy relaxing days on tranquil seas. The Moorings provides sea worthy vessels, enabling families to sail on their own or hire a crew. Contact: 1-888-952-8420; www.moorings.com.
6.Small ship. Big luxury. Board a small ship and set sail for the Mediterranean, Greek Isles, Caribbean, Costa Rica, or through the Panama Canal. Windstar Cruises operates three sailing yachts known for their pampering without pretense and their ability to visit the hidden harbors and secluded coves of the world’s most treasured destinations. Best for older children. Contact: 1-800-258-7245; www.windstarcruises.com.
7. Great Lakes Getaway. Spend a few hours or a few days aboard a charming, but floating “bed and breakfast”. Sailing from Traverse City, Michigan, you’ll enjoy the grandeur of the Great Lakes from a majestic sailing vessel. Contact: 1-800-678-0383; www.TallShipSailing.com
When I’m traveling on my own or with family, I always learn something. That’s part of the thrill for me.
In an era where politics and history are playing an important role, why not fold the notion into your travel planning.
Here are a few places where you and your clan can learn about some of the people and events that shaped our nation.
Mount Rushmore, SD -
Tucked within the Black Hills of South Dakota, Mount Rushmore is among the more famous monuments in the country. The whole family will
enjoy seeing the faces of four of the most important presidents -George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln -ever to hold the office, carved into rock for the ages. Hiking, biking, wildlife and other tourist sites are nearby.
Contact: www. www.nps.gov/moru/; 1 (800) 732-5682.
Monticello, the mountaintop home of Thomas Jefferson is the only home in America on the elite World Heritage List of the United Nations. There are numerous tours available including one designed for children ages 6 to 11. The 30-minute tours feature hands-on opportunities and a glimpse of what life was like for the children who lived at Monticello in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
Contact: www.Monticello.org; 1(434) 984-9822.
In this historical city, known as the birthplace of democracy, the whole family can stand on the ground where the Liberty Bell first tolled and the Constitution and Declaration of Independence were signed. Visit Independence Hall, see the famous bell, George Washington’s chair, and check out the Betsy Ross house. Take in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Constitution Center.
Contact: www.philadelphiausa.travel; (215)636-3300.
Stop by for the Peanut Festival and get to know the town made famous by former President Jimmy Carter. Visit his boyhood farm, shop for antiques and learn about his Nobel Prize winning programs. Ride the SAM shortline excursion train.
Contact: www.PlainsGeorgia.com; (229) 824-5373.
Hyannis, MA – With miles of beautiful beaches and bike paths to explore, visitors will enjoy this community known by many as home to the Kennedy family, a clan famous for decades of political involvement. The picturesque coastal haven served as the backdrop for the now famous images of President John F. Kennedy sailing the local waters with his young family. Contact: www.Hyannis.com; 1 (877) 492-6647.
On your next holiday, stay somewhere surprising. Here are a hand full of out of the ordinary options:
Kokopelli's Cave Bed & Breakfast, Farmington, NM.
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.
No oxygen masks required when you check in to stay inside this refurbished Boeing 727 fuselage. Located in the jungle, minutes from the Manuel Antonio National Park, the whole family will enjoy the unique lodging that once served as transport for South Africa Air. The aircraft now rests atop a 50 foot pedestal, offering magnificent views of the treetops and ocean in the distance. Kids will love telling their friends about relaxing on the deck and communing with the local residents that include toucans, squirrel monkeys and sloths. Sleeps six in two air-conditioned bedrooms. Contact: 1 (866) 854-7958; www.costaverde.com/727.html
Big Bay Lighthouse, Big Bay, and MI.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this lighthouse is run by three avid preservationists eager to share local history. Their goal is to maintain the romance of an era when mariners relied on the skill of a Light Keeper to bring them safely through this challenging stretch of Michigan coastline. Today visitors enjoy the peaceful solitude of the pristine location on Lake Superior. Hiking, biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are available on 40 acres of trails. A full breakfast is included. For safety reasons, children must be 16 or older. Contact: (906) 345-9957; www.Bigbaylighthouse.com. To discover other lighthouses that welcome overnight guests visit: www.USLHS.org.
Houseboat Holiday, Boston MA.
Book the 58-foot Cuckoo’s Nest house boat docked in Boston’s Charlestown Navy Yard to begin your floating holiday. Fall asleep to the sounds of waves gently lapping in the harbor. Relax on the roof top sun deck then hop aboard a free shuttle bus, water taxi, or water shuttle and head into the city for sightseeing and dinner. Children and pets are welcome. Explore houseboat getaway options in Baltimore, Annapolis and Philadelphia. Contact: 413-652-1400; www.SleepAfloat.com.
Mary Jane’s Farm. Moscow, ID.
Check into a stylish wall tent on Mary Jane Butters’ farm and the worries of the world will melt away. Gather your own eggs for breakfast. Pick vegetables you’ll enjoy for lunch. Visit the library housed in a barn. Burn calories helping out with farm chores. Relax in the outdoor living room area nestled in a grove of plum trees. Go for a hike or play cards or board games. Later get clean in the outdoor tub or showers. Contact: 888-750-6004; www.MaryJanesFarm.org.
First time casters and veteran anglers enjoy the natural places that enable a fly fishing vacation. Test your tippet deep in the wilderness or perfect your back casts on the resort lawn.
Gather your gear. Then enjoy the beauty and art of fly fishing:
LL Bean Outdoor Discovery School. Freeport, ME or Columbia, MD. The knowledgeable instructors at LL Bean can jump start your family into the wonderful world of fly fishing with their one or two-day introductory courses. You’ll learn about fly-tackle, delve into knot tying, fly tying, and fish-food identification, then move outside to practice casting skills in a nearby pond. Continue the analysis and improvement at home once you’ve viewed their video of your newly acquired skill. Contact: LL Bean experts are available for fishing advice on their hotline between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m EST every day; 1-800-347-4552. For class registration: (888)-552-3261); www.llbean.com/outdoorsOnline/odp/courses/flyfishing/fly-fishing-essentials1-maine.html
Painting the picture. Nye, Montana. If not casting color onto a canvas, Tom Wolfe can be found throwing a line streamside somewhere in the Montana backcountry. Mixing his love of painting with a passion for wild places, Wolfe paints through the winter in his log cabin tucked in the Absaroka foothills. Then, when spring melts into summer, he happily leads week- long pack trips or day excursions into to some of the best trout fishing water in America. When not teaching the kids how to tie a fly, he might be working on a watercolor of your family’s high altitude adventure. Contact: 406-328-4694: www.TomWolfeArt.com.
Chetola Resort. Blowing Rock, NC. The only Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing lodge in North Carolina has plenty to offer the entire family. Pack a rod for a half day trip to “The Refuge” on Boone Fork Creek, a destination deemed ideal for beginners and families. When not casting a line, check out the children’s camp, a heated indoor pool, fitness center and nearby rafting and golf. Contact: (800) 243-8652; www.Chetola.com.
Match the Hatch. Livingston, MT. Spend a day on the Yellowstone River with Eric Adams and your family members will go home with more than basic casting skills. His educational background in ecology means you’ll learn to “match the hatch”, fish pocket water from a raft and how to maximize a day on the famed Yellowstone River or nearby spring creeks. You are sure to enjoy time on the Yellowstone, the longest stretch of blue-ribbon trout habitat in the nation. Contact: 406.223.2488; www.MontanaFlyFishingGuides.com
Fishing on the Farm. Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN. With two ponds and a stream on site, plus more than 700 miles of fishable trout streams in the neighboring Great Smoky Mountain National Park, this gem of a property offers the novice or experienced fly fishing family the opportunity to enjoy great water as well as a sea of additional activities. Horseback riding, mountain biking, cooking schools, the Farmhouse Spa and charming accommodations on 4,200 pastoral acres, combine to create a picturesque haven for a gathering clan. Contact: (800) 648-4252; www.BlackberryFarm.com.