If you don’t have children of your own or yours have left the nest, it’s still possible to experience the joys of travel through the eyes of a child.
Plan a trip to any of these five places with a niece, nephew, grandchild or young cousin and you’ll forever be a rock star relative:
Tap into the graceful tradition of tea. Here are five special places to consider:
Alice’s Tea Cup. NY, NY. One family’s affection for sharing stories over a steaming cup of fragrant, fresh tea spawned these three neighborhood refuges for tea lovers. Children of all ages are happily perplexed by the nearly overwhelming list of specialty teas as well as temptations like fresh-baked blueberry, raspberry and pumpkin scones,
Eco-inspired families are trading in their rental cars for the chance to tour their vacation destinations from the seat of a bike. This energy savvy transportation mode not only saves dollars but adds a healthy fitness component to any holiday outing.
Here are 15 places where you can cruise with confidence:
Portland, Ore –
This super-bike friendly city is widely recognized as being a two- wheel trend setter. Get to know the City of Roses by taking advantage of the Kimpton Hotel Monaco’s Carless Vacation package. You’ll arrive from the airport via free light rail passes and then embark on an historic city tour led by Pedal Bicycle Tours. The Green Seal certified hotel offers complimentary bikes. Contact: 1-503- 222-0001; www.monaco-portland.com.
San Diego, CA –
Cruise along the flat and car-free pathways of Mission Beach or take in the scenic views on Coronado Island, along San Diego Bay or in the Gaslamp District. Whether you have young children or older kids looking for a mountain bike adventure, this seaside SoCal destination is a biker’s paradise. Contact: 1-866-425-2925; www.hikebikekayak.com.
Lake Placid, NY-
Enjoy wooded trails and scenic byways between villages in the Adirondack region of northern New York State. With a treasure trove of outdoor recreational opportunities and stunning mountain vistas, you and your family will enjoy the views from the seat of your bikes. Choose a rugged mountain bike, a road bike or tandems and be sure to bring plenty of water. Contact: www.PlacidPlanetBicycles.com; 518-523-4128
Chicago, IL –
Get off the tourist beat and on to the quiet neighborhood streets, city parks and beautiful beaches that keep Windy City residents happy and eager to become the nation’s most bike friendly city by 2015. Or hop on a cruiser for tours that include a glimpse of Oprah’s house, the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Old Town Historic District and the Lakefront. There are wheel-based options for family members of all ages and fitness levels. Contact: 1-312- 915-0995; www.bobbysbikehike.com
Tallahassee, FL -
Follow the abandoned rail bed of the historic Tallahassee-St. Marks Railroad to the town of St. Marks and the confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla rivers. The Florida State Park Service maintains the 19-mile paved trail, deemed accessible for family members of all ages and abilities. Contact: 1-850-224-7461; www.greatbicycle.com.
Summer Remix. Keystone, CO.
This Rocky Mountain resort offers guests year round fun. During the spring and early summer, get ready for mountain biking, along with snow tubing, a terrain park for snowboarders and skiers, and an open rail jam event. Families can also look forward to snow cones, face painting and family-style dining in River Run. Or, head to higher ground and enjoy a meal at 11,640 feet where the Summit House offers a full menu. From Memorial Day through the summer, weather permitting. Contact: 877-204-7889; www.keystoneresort.com.
River Dance Lodge. Coeur d'Alene, ID
With the cozy River Dance Lodge as your base camp, hop on disc-brake Marin bikes and explore miles of national forest where you’ll find pathways suitable for every age group and skill level. Experienced riders may choose to take on the Coolwater Ridge Trail. Get ready for a thrill ride during which you’ll descend 1500 feet in just seven miles. Later float the nearby river or spend the afternoon hiking the hillsides. Ask about summer specials. Contact: 208-765-0841 ;www.riverdancelodge.com/Summer-Idaho-Vacations
Finger Lakes. Central New York.
Spin aside the crystal clear water, that, along with the Erie Canal and Lake Ontario, provide for outdoor adventure and breathtaking views. Named for the eleven pristine lakes that spread like fingers across central New York, the Finger Lakes provide 9,000 square miles of outdoor adventure where bike paths are plentiful. Don’t miss Letchworth State Park, known as the “the Grand Canyon of the east.” There the Taughannock Falls features a breathtaking 215 foot drop, making it larger than Niagara Falls. Biking maps and suggested itineraries are available. Contact: www.fingerlakes.org/things-to-do/outdoor-fun/hike-and-bike.
The Homestead Resort. Hot Springs, Virginia.
Active families looking for a getaway will enjoy the Unlimited Activities package at this iconic resort. In addition to mountain biking, expend energy kayaking, canoeing, gorge hiking, horseback riding, fly fishing and skeet shooting in the beautiful countryside.
NorthstarResort. Near the North Shore of Lake Tahoe.
Choose from among more than 100 miles of trails for downhill and cross-country mountain bikers providing great views of the surrounding mountain vistas. Cycling fans might want to plan their getaway to enjoy the annual Tour de Nez. Modeled after legendary European Kermesse races, which incorporate professional cycling into 100-year-old festivals, the spectator-friendly Tour de Nez has grown to be an important stop on the professional cycling circuit and a fan favorite. Check the web site for dates. Contact: www.NorthstarAtTahoe.com.
Brac Reef Resort. Cayman Brac.
Take a break from your dive holiday at this all-inclusive resort and explore the island on two wheels. You’ll see herons and other exotic sea birds, have the chance to explore caves or stop to check out the amazing sunsets, or other sandy beach spots. Bike rentals are complimentary. Contact: www.BracReef.com.
Block Island, Rhode Island.
Relish ocean views that rival Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket but enjoy the laid back vibe of this scenic wonder that somehow stays under the radar as a tourism destination. Mostly flat, smooth, paved roads make it possible for two-wheeling tourists to enjoy this wonderland the Nature Conservancy deems one of the “Last Great Places” in the Western Hemisphere. You’ll also enjoy fresh seafood, walking on crescent beaches and learning about the local history. Contact: (877) 545-1864; www.GreatFreedomAdventures.com
Join the growing number of active families choosing international, self-guided bike trips. Itineraries include cruising the coast of Turkey or checking out the castles of the Loire Valley. A good choice for clans interested in a less scripted and lower-priced adventure, travelers can still expect luggage transfers, lodging and some meals to be included in the trip price. The Colorado-based, family-owned company offers global cycling tours in more than 20 countries on five continents. Ask about discounts and specific trip recommendations for children. Contact: 1-800-685-4565; www.ExperiencePlus.com.
Go with a guide or chart your own course as you explore the rail-trails of eastern Washington, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and on to the Montana border. Level, paved and pristine pathways make for stress-free but scenic family cycling. Up the adventure quotient by mixing in a day kayaking, rafting or fishing on local rivers. Stop by a hot spring or consider a side hike. Contact: 800-451-6034; www.silverbiketours.com; www.VisitIdaho.org.
Tuscan Family Biking.
Meet a four-legged truffle detective. Savor gelato in San Gimignano. Look forward to olive oil, fine wine and feasting on homemade pizza as you pedal through Tuscany with your family. Cruise past vineyards, cypress trees and iconic landmarks that make working your way up to the scenic hill towns worth every rotation. Savor a gourmet picnic on a working farm. Visit charming villages, take watercolor lessons and steep yourselves in Italian art history. This is how memories are made. Contact: 800-462-2848; www.Backroads.com
Resource: Reserve quality, family-friendly bikes and accessories in more than dozens of North American cities through www.Rentabikenow.com.
Join your family in a Northwest coastal adventure. Explore the craggy coastline, the beauty of the saltwater beaches, play a round a golf or spot a tufted Puffin. Here are five ideas to consider:
Bandon Dunes, ORE.
With Oregon’s rugged Pacific coastline as a backdrop, a family holiday or reunion at this seaside resort provides a top-notch experience for avid golfers in the group as well as an extensive menu of other on-property and nearby options. Upon check-in, ask about the mapped trail system that winds through sand dunes to vistas of the ocean and the resort’s four golf courses. Expect to enjoy whale watching, horseback riding, fishing, sea kayaking and kite surfing. Birders will be excited to know hundreds of species nest in the area, including the tufted puffin. Golf lessons, including those for Juniors, are available.
Contact: 1-800-742-0172; www.BandonDunesGolf.com.
Visit the complex landscape that is protected within the Olympic National Park & Forest. For bird watching, including the most significant habitat for bald eagles in the lower 48, beach combing, hiking and fishing, there are few destinations where families will find more beauty and opportunity to bond with nature.
Consider the Kalaloch Lodge as a cozy home base. Serving up rustic yet charming accommodations, the Lodge offers tremendous views of the Pacific as well as the opportunity to spot puffins, sea otters, seals and a long list of other sea birds. Tap into rich history by asking about the dozens of shipwrecks that have occurred in the area.
Contact: 888-896-3818; www.OlympicNationalParks.com.
Four Seasons, Seattle, WA.
Venture off to high-energy Pike’s Place Market where the kids will be amused by the famous ,fish-flinging market crew. Stroll the waterfront, visit the original Starbucks and tour the Seattle Art Museum. It’s all within a few minutes walking distance from the luxurious hotel, which offers stunning views of Elliott Bay and Puget Sound. The hotel’s Kids in the City package insures in-room movies, pint-sized bathrobes, and age-appropriate welcome amenities. If needed, book a second, adjoining room at half price. Kids will also have the sweet opportunity to join the chef in the pastry kitchen to craft their own cotton candy. Contact: 1 -206 -749-7000; www.fourseasons.com/Seattle.
San Juan Islands, WA.
Hop the ferry from Seattle and explore the San Juan Islands. The destination is comprised of three islands; Orcas, Lopez and San Juan, each with its own distinctive character. An outdoor family’s paradise, your active crew can choose from hiking, road and mountain biking, kayaking, sailing and scanning the sea for the more than 85 orca whales that make their home in this northwest sanctuary. Hike to waterfalls, snack on local produce at farmer’s markets, and enjoy regional creative endeavors at local art galleries.
Contact: 888-468-3701; www.VisitSanJuans.com.
Explore sand dunes, coastal forests, estuaries, and trout rich rivers as you sample the delights of the Oregon coast with the kids. The Forest extends from the coastal town of Tillamook to Coos Bay. Dine on local seafood served up in casual settings. Hike on more than 200 miles of low elevation trails, making it more appealing to both the junior and senior members of your family. Consider camping along the way at one or more of 40 developed campgrounds. The sea breeze and overhead stars are complimentary. Contact: http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/siuslaw/ 541-750-7000 For campsite reservations: 1-877-444-6777;
Mineral hot springs offer the chance to soak in healing waters and to learn about their ancient origins. Here are five places where you and your family can enjoy the warm water.
1.Steamboat Springs, CO.
In the late 1880s fur trappers passing through this Colorado enclave, heard an odd noise resembling a steamboat. They were pleasantly surprised to find more than 150 geothermal steamy, bubbling springs that today soothe tired muscles après ski or after a long days’ hike. The centrally-located Old Town Hot Springs offers swimming pools, a full-service fitness center and a waterslide for the kids. Just seven miles from town, the Strawberry Park Hot Springs offers a unique experience, with hand-built stone pools of varying temperatures, tepee changing rooms and a natural and serene environment. Note: Children are welcome during the day. Once the sun goes down, you must be 18 or older and clothing is optional.
2. Thermopolis, Wy
Visit the world’s largest mineral hot spring in this western town where the whole family can swim, slide, soak and steam inside or outdoors. See the mineral-formed rainbow terraces and other natural creations as well as the local buffalo herd at the Hot Springs State Park. Learn how paleontologists work, participate in a real dig or wander through the museum at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. Don’t miss the 108 foot Supersaurus stretching overhead.
Contact: 1 (877) 864-3192; www.Thermopolis.com
3. Glenwood Springs, CO.
Royals, presidents and Ute Indians have all found these steamy pools to provide great respite from the rest of the world. Two blocks long, the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool complex includes a kiddy pool with water slide, a diving pool and a therapy pool. Relax in the warm waters and enjoy the Rocky Mountain scenery. Later, step next door to the Yampah Spa & Vapor Caves for a natural sauna in rock caves. Spend the night in nearby geothermal-heated hotel rooms.
Contact: (970) 945-6571; www.hotspringspool.com
4. Calistoga, CA
The Palisade Mountains provide a picturesque backdrop to a day spent relaxing in this comfortable, family-run spa in Napa Valley. Warm up in an 80-foot-long lap pool, a 90-degree kiddie pool with a waterfall or the 100-degree pool. The steamy therapy pool is for adults only. Mud baths, massages and a fitness facility are also available. A multi-generational favorite, rooms with kitchenettes make a family overnight easy to handle.
Contact: 866-822-5772; www.calistogaspa.com
5. Rio Grande Village, TX.
Soak in the scenery as well as the warm water within Big Bend National Park. Look for painted pictographs on the cliff walls as you enjoy the one mile loop hike past historic buildings and the area where various Indian groups lived and traveled. The large hot spring on the bank of the Rio Grande River gushes with steamy water that fills the foundation of an old bathhouse creating a popular natural hot tub.
Contact: (432)477-2251; www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/soakinthesprings.htm
For some, venturing off the road most traveled doesn’t come easy. Here are several programs designed to help you get where you and your family really want to go: beyond the beaten path.
Lodging and Learning Programs
This is your chance to journey into the wild. But you won’t have to go it alone!
The Yellowstone Association, the official educational partner of the National Park Service founded in 1933 to foster the public’s understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of Yellowstone National Park and its surrounding ecosystem, provides programs almost year-round that enable parents and children to delve deeper into this amazing natural environment.
During the winter, small groups head out with guides, on foot, skis, snowcat or snowmobiles. They’ll learn more about the first national park in the United States and the wildlife that lives within the park's boundaries.
You can choose to head out at sunrise to catch the wolves in action or observe the bison warming themselves near the spouting geysers. Another program takes visitors on cross country skis deep into the interior of the park for a glimpse of reclusive wildlife and vistas seen by few. Yet another group sets off into the Northern Range, where the bears are most plentiful.
Each evening, adventurers return to the hotel or lodge and can participate in spirited educational sessions led by the Park Service before a welcoming soak in the hot tub.
During the spring, summer and fall, additional four- to six-day programs highlight the best each season brings forth.
Choose the Trails Through Yellowstone program and hike throughout the park with an expert guide who will provide insight into the habitat and teach explorers how to travel safely in grizzly country.
Sometimes tucking yourselves into the trees is just what the doctor ordered. Turn off the phones. Say no to texting and twittering. Bring out the board games. Listen to the quiet.
Here are few places that may feel just a little like paradise:
At Brooks Lake Lodge, the vast Wyoming wilderness is right outside your door. High mountain lakes, miles of hiking and horseback trails and magnificent views will enhance your experience. One and two bedroom rustic but restored cabins are nestled among the Spruce and Pine trees of the Pinnacle Mountains. Enjoy the sweet smell of the forest from under your goose down comforters. (307) 455-2121; www.BrooksLake.com;
Wheeling, West Virginia.
For more than twenty years my family has spent Thanksgiving weekend in the some of the 50 family cabins at Oglebay Resort. A central meeting point for our clan, the rustic but comfortable cabins are the perfect home base from which to enjoy a 1700 acre wonderland. Sit by the fire or head out for hiking, golf, fishing, a petting zoo, and horseback riding. During the season, don’t miss the extraordinary holiday light show. (800)624-6988 www.oglebay-resort.com;
For that quiet getaway, visit the Forest Houses tucked in the trees in the spectacular Oak Creek canyon. With the stream running just below, and the majestic red rocks in view, the beauty is extraordinary. Hike, fish and explore the art, culture and backcountry of this popular southwestern destination. (928) 282-2999; www.ForestHouseResort.com;
Big Sky, Montana.
Located in the heart of Big Sky, there are few better places for relaxation than on the banks of the Gallatin River. The Rainbow Ranch Lodge accommodations combine the rustic rugged west with a taste of sophistication. Fish, hike, or explore nearby Yellowstone National Park. (406) 995-4132; www.RainbowRanchBigSky.com.
Red River, New Mexico.
The red river winds through this 38 acre respite from the fast pace of life. Choose from among 23 cabins tucked within fir, spruce and aspen trees at the Tall Pines Resort. Hike, fish and explore the pristine area. Then return to cook dinner, picnic style, on your outdoor grill. (800) 573-2241; www.tallpineresort.com
High Sierra Camp, Sequoia National Monument, CA
Rest easy in your cozy canvas bungalow after a day exploring California's Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Dine on three delectable meals served in an al fresco dining pavilion. Sink into your plush-top mattress and feather pillow and dream the night away. Whether you bunk with your honey, a girl friend or the whole family, book three nights and get the fourth night free. www.sequoiahighsierracamp.com