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.

Visit Alaska in 2014

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.

Contact: www.travelalaska.com

float the grand canyon in 2014

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.

Contact: www.oars.com/grandcanyon;

cruise the carib in 2014

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.

Contact: www.Galveston.com

Take an african safari in 2014

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.

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. 

Contact: Bahamas.com.

Ski Keystone with kids 2014

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.

Contact: www.Colorado.com. www.VisitMontana.com. www.SunValley.com, www.VailResorts.com

 

Published in Destinations

Furnace Creek Resort

Put Death Valley National Park and the Oasis at Death Valley (formally the Furnace Creek Resort) on your family vacation list and you’ll return home amazed by the sometimes startling natural wonders, astounding vistas and western charm you’ve discovered.

From our country’s low point at Badwater to neighboring mountains rising more than 11,000 feet from the desert floor, the local landscape will leave you and your family forever changed by the beauty of its memory.

You’ll also have loads of fun exploring via jeep, horseback, bike, golf cart and horse-drawn wagon.

 

fc colorful beauty shot of buildings

The family-friendly and historic Oasis at Death Valley Resort is an ideal vantage point from which to explore Death Valley National Park, a land of striking contrasts.

fc color texture beauty shot desert

This sparsely populated landscape is rich in natural beauty. Rolling sand dunes provide color and texture amid a dramatic silence. Death Valley is the largest national park outside Alaska. 

fc pool at ranch

Providing contrast to the desert surroundings, families enjoy time in the spring-fed swimming pools. The Ranch at Furnace Creek offers accommodations in a casual, family-like setting on western-themed grounds, a nod to its origin in the 1800s as a working ranch.

fc deathvalleyencampment

Visions of California gold-hued riches fueled the intrepid explorers who crossed the rugged terrain of Death Valley aboard wagon trains in 1849. Each November, modern day travelers can relax in comfort while learning about the hardships the early pioneers endured.

Guests at both the Oasis at Death Valley and the Ranch at Furnace Creek can take part in the annual 49ers Encampment that celebrates the historic trek with gold panning, a western art show, music , a “pampered pet” parade and the colorful arrival of a wagon train and riders on horseback.

fc better photographer

Vast salt flats create a cracked mosaic across the desert floor providing mesmerizing photographic opportunities. Badwater,  17 miles south of the resort, is the lowest spot in the Western Hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level.

fc dantes view

From Dante's viewpoint, more than 5,000 feet up in the Black Mountains, you can see across most of 110-mile-long Death Valley. About an hour from the Inn at Furnace Creek, the vista provides a unique overview of the sites you might choose to explore more closely. 

fc pool

Built in 1927, the historic 66-room lodge sits aside a mineral stream that meanders across the property and warms the swimming pool to a comfy 85°F. 

fc treelined road

This scenic pathway on the Oasis at Death Valley property provides shaded cover for hikers, bikers and those who enjoy a horse-drawn wagon ride. 

fc stables

Kids ( and their parents ) love exploring the unique region via horseback. 

fc road view

The resort, ( pictured in the distance ) is located in a desert oasis where mountain run-off from the Funeral Mountains flows. The average high temperature in November is 76ºF with very little humidity. The park averages less than two inches of rain per year.

fc score card 2

At 214 feet below sea level, the rolling 18-hole, par 70 course is the world’s lowest elevation golf course. Palm  trees frame the fairways and majestic mountains provide arresting vistas throughout the course.  Water comes into play on nine holes and multiple sets of tees provide a challenge for every member of the family.

fc palm trees with view

IF YOU GO: 

www.OasisatDeathValley.com

www.nps.gov/deva/index.htm

Photos by Lynn O'Rourke Hayes

 

 

Published in Resorts

More hotels are catering to large families. Here are five places that offer space and services for your clan:

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. Orlando, FL.

As many as six can comfortably stay in themed suites at this Disney Resort.  Your clan  will be immersed in décor featuring favorites like Finding Nemo, Cars and The Little Mermaid.  The suites include a bedroom with a double bed, a table that cleverly transforms into a double bed and a double sleeper sofa.  A kitchenette and two bathrooms add to the family appeal. Finding Nemo fans will appreciate the expansive pool with state-of-the-art underwater speakers. Contact: 407- 938-7000; https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/art-of-animation-resort/

Residence Inn by Marriott.

Check into a two-bedroom suite that also includes a pull out sofa and six people can rest comfortably. Three bathrooms, a full kitchen, plus free hot breakfast each day means families choose to cook or head downstairs as the day gets underway.  A grocery delivery service and Wi-Fi are also complimentary.  Pets are welcome.

Contact: (800) 331-3131: ResidenceInn.com.

Omni Kid's Fantasy Suites.

Families checking into some Omni hotels will  enjoy accommodations that provide extra space as well as colorful décor, toys, games and other amenities designed to thrill young travelers. For example, the Omni Mount Washington Resort serves up a 1,250 square foot environment that includes a master suite as well as two separate rooms designed for  children. In Boston, the Freedom Trail suite includes a children’s sleeping nook with colonial style costumes to inspire historical play. Ask and the kids will receive a milk and cookie delivery before bed time.

Contact: 800-843-6664; www.OmniHotels.com.

Homewood Suites by Hilton.

With more than 300 hotels to choose from families can check into one or two bedroom suites, some of which sleep up to eight.  Expect a full complimentary breakfast, free Wi-fi, an onsite convenience store plus free grocery shopping services. If your packing strategy was flawed, not to worry. Laundry services are available at most locations. Current and retired military families receive a 15 percent discount.

Contact: 1-800-445-8667;HomewoodSuites.com.

Fisher Price Family Suites. Riviera Maya, MX.

The Karisma seaside resorts offer oversized suites developed in partnership with Fisher-Price toys. A private, queen-sized bed is separated by a sliding door from a sleeping area for the kids that includes a double and single sofa bed. Take advantage of a toy lending library plus games  targeted to specific interests (think music or space) and age groups. Leave your kiddie gear at home; the resort makes available everything from cribs to bottle warmers.

Contact: 1-888-280-8810; www.karismahotels.com.

Published in Resorts

Do you strive to raise citizens of the world? As you and your children begin to navigate the planet together, sharing your knowledge, while teaching them to make their own way, will create confidant and compassionate travelers for the future.

Here are a five tips for empowering the next generation of explorers:

1. Preparation breeds confidence.

Involve your kids in the travel planning and decision making process from the earliest age possible. Show them maps, books, web sites and pictures. Stoke their curiosity by discussing the nearby and faraway places you hope to visit now or in the future. When you or other friends or family travel for business or pleasure, make a point to show your children the destinations on a map and discuss geographic and cultural points of interest that will help build their growing understanding of the world.

2. Knowledge is power.

When planning your own journey, chart a road trip using your favorite mapping technology and share the information with the kids. If they are old enough, encourage them to create a suggested routing and to offer options for stops along the way. If you will be flying, show the kids how to navigate the booking process and then check in for a flight on line. Consider making each child responsible for their own boarding pass. (For younger children perhaps printing an extra as back up is a wise decision.) Provide each child with an itinerary and discuss the details before you depart. Talk about preparing for and moving through airport security.

3. Bestow Responsibility.

Discuss your travel plans and encourage your children to create a packing list early. Talk about the importance of having the right gear for an adventure trip or the proper attire for a city visit. Then, encourage them to pack their own belongings. As soon as possible, give them responsibility for making sure their bag makes it from home to the car, train or plane. Discuss the importance of having proper identification inside and outside of their bags and retaining baggage tags once a bag is checked to your destination.

4. Communication is key.

Before leaving home, make sure the whole family understands how you will navigate to your destination. Visiting a city? Make sure your crew has the hotel address and phone number at hand. If you will be traveling to or through a crowded venue like an airport, a theme park or shopping mall, be sure to have a clearly defined plan should someone lose their way. Use the buddy system or rooms designated for families when visiting public restrooms.

Consider bestowing each member of the family with a cell phone and instructions for use. Should challenges occur, share your problem solving skills and solutions with the children. Without propagating fear, encourage your children to be aware of their surroundings at all times.

5. Go local.

Research your destination before departure and discuss how the places you will visit might be different or similar to your own home. Seek out tour operators and lodging options that share your travel sensibilities.

Once you arrive, burrow into the culture and make a point to learn about how and where the locals live, work and play. Visit local farmer’s markets.

Skip the chains and seek out locally-owned eateries, shops and lodging. Seek out volunteer possibilities. If the language is not your own, learn at least a few key phrases and practice them before and during the visit.

In the end, education and experience breed understanding, acceptance and confidence.

Bon voyage!

 

Published in Family Travel Blog

 Do you strive to raise citizens of the world? As you and your children begin to navigate the planet together, sharing your knowledge, while teaching them  to make their own way, will create confidant and compassionate travelers for the future. 

 Here are a five tips for empowering the next generation of explorers:

1. Preparation breeds confidence.

Involve your kids in the travel planning and decision making process from the earliest age possible. Show them maps, books, web sites and pictures. Stoke their curiosity by discussing the nearby and faraway places you hope to visit now or in the future. When you or other friends or family travel for business or pleasure, make a point to show your children the destinations on a map and discuss geographic and cultural points of interest that will help build their growing understanding of the world.

2. Knowledge is power.

When planning your own journey, chart a road trip using your favorite mapping technology and share the information with the kids. If they are old enough, encourage them to create a suggested routing and to offer options for stops along the way. If you will be flying, show the kids how to navigate the booking process and then check in for a flight on line. Consider making each child responsible for their own boarding pass. (For younger children perhaps printing an extra as back up is a wise decision.) Provide each child with an itinerary and discuss the details before you depart. Talk about preparing for and moving through airport security.

3. Bestow Responsibility.

Discuss your travel plans and encourage your children to create a packing list early. Talk about the importance of having the right gear for an adventure trip or the proper attire for a city visit. Then, encourage them to pack their own belongings.  As soon as possible, give them responsibility for making sure their bag makes it from home to the car, train or plane. Discuss the importance of having proper identification inside and outside of their bags and retaining baggage tags once a bag is checked to your destination. 

4. Communication is key.

Before leaving home, make sure the whole family understands how you will navigate to your destination. Visiting a city? Make sure your crew has the hotel address and phone number at hand. If you will be traveling to or through a crowded venue like an airport, a theme park or shopping mall, be sure to have a clearly defined plan should someone lose their way. Use the buddy system or rooms designated for families when visiting public restrooms.

Consider bestowing each member of the family with a cell phone and instructions for use. Should challenges occur, share your problem solving skills and solutions with the children. Without propagating fear, encourage your children to be aware of their surroundings at all times.

5. Go local.

Research your destination before departure and discuss how the places you will visit might be different or similar to your own home. Seek out tour operators and lodging options that share your travel sensibilities.

Once you arrive, burrow into the culture and make a point to learn about how and where the locals live, work and play.  Visit local farmer’s markets.

Skip the chains and seek out locally-owned eateries, shops and lodging. Seek out volunteer possibilities. If the language is not your own, learn at least a few key phrases and practice them before and during the visit.

In the end, education and experience breed understanding, acceptance and confidence.

Bon voyage!

Published in Plan

A Colorado clan takes time ( too little as it turns out ) to explore

Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain National

Park from their base camp -- YMCA of the Rockies.

"Man, this place has everything!"

Our 8-year-old, Piper, was agog only halfway through our two-day experience at YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park Center. My marketeer wife wondered aloud why, with so much free stuff, they don't bill it as all-inclusive. "Hmm, I will have to inquire," she answered herself. 

This Y's Estes Park Center has been connecting youth and families with nature for over 100 years, longer than the adjacent Rocky Mountain National Park has been a national park. And though it borders both the park and it's gateway tourist town, Estes Park, it is easy enough to overdose on activity without ever leaving the 800-plus acre grounds of the Y. Of course I don't recommend missing the incomparable majesty of Rocky Mountain National Park (thankfully, many Y activities are actually forays into the park), and even the most trap-shy tourist would find something worth seeing in Estes Park. So the solution is obvious. Give yourself more than the two and a half days we allotted for this adventure. 

Of Dog Pulls and Choo Choos

 As check in at the Y wasn't till the afternoon, we spent part of our first day exploring events in town. The parking lot of the Visitor's Center was host to the 25th (yes, 25th!) annual Dog Weight Pull. It's just like it sounds, like a tractor pull, but for dogs. Genuine canine competition.

For inside fun we let loose our inner dorks at the Estes Park Conference Center, joining enthusiasts at the Rails of the Rockies model train show. Train fans are serious about their choo choos. 

Y Wouldn't You? 

Finally leaving the hustle and bustle of the tourist town, we drove 10 minutes out of Estes Park to the vast and peaceful grounds of the Estes Park Center of YMCA of the Rockies.

Dropping our bags in our cozy cabin felt like coming home again. I suppose I expected "rustic" in all the sense those quotation marks imply, but with a kitchen you could actually cook and store food in, cushy furniture, wrap-around deck with a killer view, and…wait for it…wifi!,  I would upgrade the description to  "rustic chic". Some units also have fireplaces (we would have loved one) and TVs (we loved not having one). 

After touring the grounds to see the mind-boggling array of activities available (many only in the high summer season), we stopped for dinner in the cafeteria with 1,400 thronging teens, pre-teens, and a few bedraggled handlers. The air, thick with hormones, and bad perfume, brought back a flood of summer-camp memories. Unfortunately, so did the all-you-can-eat buffet food. But hey, it's camp, and if you get desperate, you're just 5-10 minutes from dozens of restaurants in town. 

We started taking bites of the activities elephant with our remaining time that first night with a visit to the indoor pool, which was perfect for sapping the last of our day's energy.

ymca rockies

So Much To Do, So Little Time  

Day 2 was a whirlwind of activity. Here is our list from that epic day:

Breakfast in the cafeteria

Wildlife Detectives: an hour program learning about the nature of and inter-relationship of the area's wildlife. Half inside, half outside.

Broom ball: poor man's (and uncoordinated man's) hockey on the camp's frozen pond.

Ice skating: on the pond with free skate rentals.

Lunch in the cafeteria (maybe we'll eat dinner in town)

Putt putt golf: "Elk Duds" are a natural hazard here. Play on.

Hike: One of many at the edge of the grounds. Tons more outside the grounds. 

A Spot of Grownup Time

As we'd decided to grab dinner in town, we took advantage of a bit of extra time beforehand to visit, get this, the "family friendly" Snowy Peaks Winery. Grownups belly up to a $3 wine tasting flight while enjoying grownup talk with the proprietors. This is unusually possible because of their "No Wine-ing Zone" for the kids, who are welcome to free tastings of cider (non-alcoholic, naturally).

Sheer genius. 

Since the kids were such champs at the winery, and we had an oven back at the cabin, we ran by Village Pizza for some take 'n' bake. After devouring that manna from Heaven, we were fortunate that the kids (who had napped in the car) dragged our old bones out again to the camp's indoor rollerskating rink. They were playing Abba.

Ah, memories. 

After crashing hard that night and sleeping in the next morning, we were able to finish our stay strong with more roller skating, a course in proper hiking preparedness, and a visit to the amazing Crafts Center. So, with mementos of their own making in hand, we were able to persuade the kids to hop in the car and depart the Y.

"I wish we could stay longer here," Piper said.

Success is when you leave with them wanting more.  

ymca Rockies Family vacation

IF YOU GO   

Accommodation

YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Center is open and quite busy year-round.* But it's peak season of activities, pleasant weather, and guests is summer. Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park also peak at this time. Given this trio, you would not find yourself getting bored in the summer with a weeklong stay. Lodging is discounted in the off season, when there is still tons to do in and out of the camp. We think, with the countless free and cheap activities, that the lodging prices are a great deal. The great range of lodging and programs also makes the Y great for youth and corporate retreats, family reunions, and multi-family vacations. 

Be Prepared  

At 8,000 feet at the foot of the Continental Divide, temperatures can be very warm during the day and frigid at night. Sun in the day can also quickly turn to rain or even snow (even in summer!), so bring layers and a pack to carry them. Always have hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, and other sunblock; it takes just 15 minutes to burn in the thin Rocky Mountain air.

Drink more water than you think you need and slow your pace or the low oxygen air will unpleasantly slow it for you. Bring your camera and binoculars to catch the breathtaking views and abundant wildlife. 

*Note: YMCA of the Rockies has another, much larger camp on the other side of Rocky Mountain National Park called Snow Mountain Ranch, which is more winter-centric than Estes Park Center.

Published in Gather

 El Tovar on edge of Grand Canyon FamilyTravel.com

This winter, get cozy with the kids in a great American lodge. Sit by the fire, share stories and enjoy a winter family vacation. Here are five to consider:  

Devil’s Thumb Ranch. Tabernash, CO.

Stay in a cabin or the lodge and get cozy near one of 45 flickering fireplaces. Enjoy local specialties in the lodge dining room where a three-story, three-hearth fireplace, comprised of hand-stacked stones, warms winter visitors. Grab the binoculars to catch a glimpse of wildlife roaming on this 6,000 acre expanse of Colorado beauty or set out on the Nordic trails for an up-close view of winter scenes. From now through May, stay two nights and get the third night free. Pet friendly. Contact: 970-726-5632; www.devilsthumbranch.com

Skytop Lodge. Skytop, PA

For junior boarders and skiers, this lodge in the Poconos offers crowd-free, gentle slopes on which to learn. Kids as young as three can enroll in ski school. Dog mushing, tobogganing, sledding, ice-skating and cross-country skiing add to the active pursuits available on this sprawling 5,000-acre estate.  Later, stretch out in the indoor pool or bubbling hot tub and get ready for game night. Contact: 800 -345 -7759; www.Skytop.com

Timberline Lodge, Mount Hood, OR.

Located in Oregon’s Mount Hood National Forest, this magnificent lodge was built at the height of the Great Depression by unemployed craftspeople hired by the Federal Works Progress Administration.  Located 60 miles east of Portland, the well-crafted lodge has long served as the centerpiece of this mountain playground. Take a guided, moonlit snowshoe tour, experience Snowcat skiing or simply relax in the historic lodge and enjoy the extraordinary views. Ask about weekday, ski-free deals. Contact: (800).547-1406; www.timberlinelodge.com/ 

El Tovar – Grand Canyon National Park, AZ.

Open since 1905 and registered as a national Historic Landmark, this charming, 78-room lodge is just steps from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Take in a nature talk, go for a mule ride or hike the famed trails that criss-cross down and through the park.  Marvel at the extraordinary beauty of snow falling onto the multi-colored rock walls and into the canyon below. Contact: 928-638-2631; www.GrandCanyonLodges.com

The Whiteface Lodge. Lake Placid, NY.

Located in the heart of the Adirondacks, this woodland lodge is spacious, with modern amenities.  At the same time, it serves up rustic, with stone chimneys, antler chandeliers and handcrafted Adirondack furnishings. Nightly family bonfires, a skating rink, cross-country and downhill skiing, snowshoeing and indoor swimming programs, provide plenty to keep an active family engaged. A complimentary kids club makes it easy for the adults to take advantage of the full service spa on site. Contact: 800-903-4045; www.thewhitefacelodge.com

Published in Lodges & Inns

 

Life is full of adventure!

If you are looking for a little inspiration, a few words to urge you into action, you've come to the right place. 

Enjoy these adventure quotes!

Published in Travel Tips

 

What are single parents looking for when planning family travel? Like most parents, they want minimal stress and maximum time together.

Here are five possibilities: 

1. Consider a farm vacation.

Slow down at Feather Down Farm, one of three working farms in the United States and 50 in Europe that welcome families interested in learning about sustainable farm practices, healthy eating and life with chickens, goats and lambs. A parent might head out for a hike or settle in with a book, while the kids learn to churn butter or collect eggs for breakfast. Visit the Honesty Shop where family members can peruse local produce and other items, sign up for what looks interesting and perhaps craft a dinner from their purchases. Spacious tents, with authentic detail, offer a private room for adults as well as a cozy “cupboard bed” where kids can tuck away for the night.

Contact: 716-226-6323; www.featherdown.com

2 International adventure.

Single mom Michelle Kingsley O’Neill and her triplet sons spent a month exploring Ecuador and brushing up on their Spanish skills. With a rental home on the beach in the coastal town of Olon as their home base, the family of four took language classes and enjoyed side trips to Cuenca and other sites of interest. They also sampled local cuisine and learned to surf and zip-line. The result? With high school on the horizon, O’Neill agreed to the boys’ request for home-schooling the following year so they could fit more travel into their education plan.

Contact: www.ecuador.travel; www.theseagardenhouse.com

3 An all-inclusive deal.

Single parents checking into the all-inclusive AAA Five Diamond Grand Velas Resorts in Riviera Maya and Riviera Nayarit will have the single supplement fee waived when traveling with their children. In addition, one child will stay at a 50 percent discount. Expect a state of the art kids’ club and airport transfers, as well as day and evening beach, eco and sporting activities that will engage adults and children throughout their seaside vacation.

Contact: 1-888-323-4294; rivieramaya.grandvelas.com

4 Ride the rails.

Train excursions provide one parent traveling with kids a relaxed and stress-free opportunity to enjoy one another’s company. On board Via Rail, Canada’s premier passenger rail service, kids will love visiting the panoramic dome in the Skyline or Park car for a unique vista. They also can join other junior explorers for movies and games. With discounts available for children, choose from cross-country adventures or itineraries that offer some gorgeous scenery.

Contact: 1-888-842-7245; www.trainpackages.ca

5 Ranch relaxation.

Adventuresome parents eager to share their passion with the next generation will welcome a stay at this secluded guest ranch in central Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. Choose from activities that include fishing in the Salmon River, an overnight pack trip, swimming in a pool fed by hot springs, cycling and river floats. Evening children’s programs enable mom or dad to carve out quiet time or join in weekly barbecues, while the kids enjoy new friendships. The ranch is open mid-June through mid-September.

Contact: 208-774-3544; idahorocky.com; www.duderanch.org

Published in Gather

ft branding boot ts 6-11-2011 1-17-00 pm

Family ranch vacations blend outdoor fun with unplugged relaxation. Round up your clan and consider these destinations for a plum western good time:

1. Ranch at Rock Creek, Philipsburg, Mont. Spend the night in a Trapper Tent, a half-cabin, half-luxury canvas tent, nestled within 6,000 acres of rugged Montana wilderness. If you prefer four solid walls, choose the Granite Lodge or log homes on the property. Families may opt for fly-fishing on private trout ponds and Rock Creek, horseback riding, clay shooting, paintball, hiking and mountain biking. Later, sit a spell in the ranch’s Silver Dollar Saloon where karaoke, billiards, big-screen movies and bowling will entertain your crowd. Plumb tuckered out? Choose a riverside or mountain getaway spot where you’ll find a hammock, blankets, pillows, snacks and a little peace and quiet. Enjoy your nap, cowboy style. Contact: 406-859-6027; www.theranchatrockcreek.com; www.frontierstravel.com.

2.Flying E Dude Ranch, Wickenburg, AZ.  With 20,000 acres to ride and roam there is seldom a day without sunshine. The Flying E Dude Ranch is a working cattle ranch and the ideal place to take a step back in time.Enjoy delicious home cooked meals, great horses and a comfortable place to relax at the end of the day.Open Nov 1 to April 30.  www.flyingeranch.com  888-684-2650.

3. Hacienda Santa Ines. Cartago, Costa Rica. The children can feed the lambs and piglets before a family breakfast of fresh farm eggs and other culinary delights plucked from the organic garden and greenhouse. Here, in the Tres Rios mountains, your family will enjoy the essence of rustic farm life in a luxurious environment amidst flower-laden lawns, lagoons and stables. Ride Fresian horses, swim in the pool, and ride ATVs throughout the 300- acre working ranch and farm. Play paintball, help milk the cows or enjoy the spa. With only 11 guest rooms, you’ll enjoy a peaceful holiday or perhaps your own family reunion. Contact: www.haciendasantaines.com.

4.Three Bars Cattle & Guest Ranch, Cranbrook, BC, Canada.  Visit the Three Bars GuestRanch, The Adventure Ranch of the Canadian Rockies, where you will experience the ultimate horseback riding vacation. Located just south of Banff National Park, Three Bars Ranch offers diverse activities program, providing something for everyone. Voted Canada’s #1 Dude Ranch 2011.  www.ThreeBarsRanch.com  877-426-5230.

5. Greenhorn Creek Guest Ranch, Quincy, CA.  A truly all inclusive guest dude ranch vacation, this ranch is the perfect location for family vacations, reunions, weddings, corporate and business retreats, meetings, special events, equine guided education and so much more. Serving up true western hospitality.  www.greenhornranch.com  800-334-6939

7. Hideaway Ranch and Retreat, Bluff Dale, Texas. Kids can help crack the case of the Buffalo Gulch Bank Robbery by finding clue boxes around the 155-acre ranch. The reigning super sleuth will earn an honorary sheriff’s badge. More fun can be had in this Erath County location by swimming in the big stock tank, fishing, enjoying family picnics and wagon pulls, horseback riding and learning archery. Choose from rustic or more modern cabins in the woods throughout the ranch.

Contact: 1-866-609-4433; www.thehideawayranch.com

8. Creek Ranch, Lake Hatchineha, Fla. This family-owned ranch is one of the few of its size that remain in the bustling state of Florida. Just an hour from Orlando yet a world away, you’ll find wetlands-style bird-watching and the chance to ride horses across the ranchland as well as an airboat across Lake Hatchineha. Families ride bikes, hop aboard jeep tours, play boccie ball, learn skeet shooting or to explore the chain of lakes that begins just beyond your cabin door.  

Contact: 863-307-9627; creekranch.net.

9. Hunewill Circle “H” Guest Ranch, Bridgeport, CA.  Hunewill Ranch is a family owned and operated cattle and guest ranch located near Yosemite National Park in the beautiful Bridgeport Valley. Horseback riding and cattle work are featured attractions for a vacation experience suited to families, singles, or couples.  www.hunewillranch.com  760-932-7710

You'll find 52 more ranch vacation ideas here!

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