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;
Take a break from work, school and routine. Add a healthy dose of sunshine or snow, or better yet, both, as a quick-fix remedy for those eager to explore. Here are eight great ways to recharge.
Road Trip. If you’d like to cover some country with your kids consider teaming up with the folks at Tracks & Trails. They create custom, self-drive RV vacation packages that take the guess work out of an adventure-filled road trip. Specializing in the western U.S. and Canada as well as Florida, these travel pros make all the National Park and activity reservations and chart your itinerary from start to finish. You’ll receive your own “Adventure Kit” chock full of detailed maps and travel tips as well as suggested family-friendly hikes, points of interest and outings along your route.
Contact: (800) 247-0970; www.tracks-trails.com
Volunteer in the Virgin Islands. Give back during your beach holiday and receive a $100 resort credit. Stay at the Westin St. John Resort & Villas and everyone benefits when you join the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park for a day of beach cleaning and trail maintenance. Junior guests receive a free sports bottle or tippy cup when checking in to the resort. Later the containers will be filled with free beverages. The Westin Kids Club also offers a full range of outdoor activities as well as arts and crafts and movies. Teens have their own special place to convene, a 1,200 square foot Teen Center where young people can make plans to enjoy water sports, watch movies or play volley ball on the beach.
Contact: 888.627.7206; www.westinresortstjohn.com
Barbados Bound. With 3000 hours of sunshine each year and an average temperature in the mid-80s, sun-seeking families will find plenty to smile about when visiting this 166 square mile destination in the Caribbean. Expect history, culture, food, music, beautiful beaches and the chance to see Hawksbill and Leatherback turtles. Book the Take me to Barbados package and receive one free when staying for five nights. Also, children 16 and under stay and eat free at participating hotels. This and other value-added packages are available through travel agents. American Airlines has nonstop service from Dallas-Fort Worth to Grantley Adams International Airport in Bridgetown, Barbados.
Beech Mountain, NC. Visit “Eastern America’s Highest Town” . The resort, which rests at 5,500 feet, offers 13 runs and two terrain parks on 95 acres, as well as views of four different states. If slope-side skiing or snowboarding wear out the younger bunch, head to the free youth sledding hill, sponsored by the Town of Beech Mountain for the benefit of those 12 and under. Check out the tubing park and the 7,000 square foot ice skating rink for more winter weather fun. Receive two free lift passes with a three night stay. Some restrictions apply. In summer, hike, bike and enjoy the natural beauty.
South Beach, FL. After a full day splashing in the surf, what could be more fun than building a tented fort in your hotel room? Loews provides extra in-room sheets plus flashlights so kids can get creative once they’ve emptied the sand from their shoes. As part of their Sundown Survival Kit for Kids, junior guests can also take advantage of movies and enjoy a milk and cookie nightcap. Youngsters will also want to visit SoBe Scoops, a retro ice cream parlor, decked out in vintage style and offering old-time favorites like rock candy, candied apples and crème soda. Kids can invite their parents to join them at SushiSkool, where the whole family can learn how to roll sushi and maneuver chopsticks. The resort also offers camps for kids of all ages, healthy menus and swanky Kidbanas by the pool. Pets are welcome too.
Contact: 1-800-235-6397; www.loewshotels.com/en/Miami-Beach-Hotel
Aruban Holiday. Enjoy family travel specials at this all-inclusive resort where meals, snacks, resort activities and the Kids Club are all included in your rate. The whole clan will also enjoy an Aruban Beach Party featuring live entertainment, festive music and local food. Enjoy snorkeling, sailing, kayaking, tennis, pool play or building sand castles on the white sand beach.
Contact: 1-800-858-2258; www.occidentalhotels.com/grand/Aruba.asp
Big Bear Mountain. Southern California’s Big Bear Mountain sees plenty of the big white flakes during the winter season, bringing smiles to the faces of skiers and snowboarders who always want to make tracks during the snowy season. During the off years, the resort has top notch snowmaking systems providing quality snow for thousands of skiers and snowboarders in the region. Who knew you could enjoy mountain life just two hours from Downtown Los Angeles?
Contact: 909.866.5766; www.bigbearmountainresorts.com
Limelight Lodge, Aspen, CO. Join your college-aged kids and take part in the Limelight Lodge’s Insider Tracks tours, designed for experiences skiers. Professional adventure specialists will show those with intermediate to advanced ski or board skills, the local take on the four mountains that make up Aspen and Snowmass. Participants will find the best powder and the secret chutes along with tips on how to make the most of a day on these famed Rocky Mountain slopes. Back at the lodge, enjoy homemade granola, a soak in the hot tub, a family dinner and the use of multi-lingual computer stations. Ask about the Ski Free package which includes up to two lift tickets per day in the room rate. Pets are welcome. During the summer months, hike into the hills, stroll through town, catch the latest at local museums, check out the mountain biking trails and be on the look out for Hollywood stars who like to relax in the mountains just like you.
Contact: 1- 800-433-0832; www.LimelightLodge.com
My wife Denise and I, along with our twin girls Dominique and Danielle, escaped the New York City metro area for a few July days of relaxation at The Sagamore on Lake George at Bolton Landing in the Adirondacks. Our destination was bout a 4-hour drive straight up the New York State Thruway and the Northway.
The Sagamore is a 70-acre, 350-room year-round luxury resort located on a private island in the heart of the Adirondacks and has something for everyone. Whether it's activities you want or peace and serenity, you will have plenty to choose from at The Sagamore. When it comes to vacationing along Lake George, there is The Sagamore and then there is everyplace else.
The following is how our family of four spent our time at The Sagamore. Hopefully it will give you an idea of what is offered and what to expect on a typical day.
We arrive a little after 3:00. Our lodge consisted of two rooms, two televisions, a terrace with a view of Lake George, a fireplace, a kitchen, air conditioning and a spacious bathroom. A wraparound sofa makes for comfortable television viewing, so much so that Denise has placed it on her "things to get" list when we get back home.
The accommodations met all our needs as it offered enough room to stretch and relax and allowed late sleepers peace and privacy. A kitchen is a must when traveling with children since they seem to get hungry and thirsty at most any hour. The fireplace was a treat and something we don't get to enjoy at home. I particularly liked the terrace overlooking Lake George, as it was the perfect place to enjoy a morning coffee or an evening glass of wine.
As Denise and I unpack, the girls get busy putting on their bathing suits. They want to go in the outdoor pool. I remind them that there is not an outdoor pool, only an indoor pool, and if they want to go swimming out doors they'll have to do so in the lake. They are unfamiliar with lake swimming, having developed their fins in pools, bays, and oceans. They are excited about the venture. I then tell them if they want to go swimming, they'll have to help with the unpacking. They agree and immediately attack the suitcase and start placing the clothes in the drawers. I proceed to bring the rest of the stuff in from the car. The Sagamore offered their help but I hate having others do for me when I can do just as well. Yes, even on vacation. Note: If your children offer to unpack the clothes, let them watch TV instead because they will put all their stuff in the top drawers and all your stuff in the bottom drawers. You may think it cute to watch them help with the chores but by the second day you've had enough bending to the bottom drawer to find matching socks. Do it yourself and you'll be guaranteed the top drawer. It'll be worth the effort.
We head to the lake with pail and shovels. The swimming area was small and enclosed by a deck and was right beside the boat dock. I was somewhat disappointed by the offering. There was not many beach chairs available right in front of the swimming area and for a parent that can be a big problem. I had to sit down a ways and was a bit of a struggle to keep a close eye on my 7-year-olds. There is always a lifeguard present, plus my girls are strong swimmers, so I really had no worry at all, but you still would like to have them right in front of you.
After a few hours they were looking for new adventure. When I asked what they had in mind, they declared, "The indoor pool!" So on this beautiful summer day in the Adirondacks, we head inside for the indoor pool. They enjoyed this as much as the lake. In the corner was a whirlpool, which they both loved. Many hotels and resorts we've visited do not allow children to go into the whirlpool so this was a big treat for them. In addition to that, there was a ping pong table and a shuffleboard to enjoy.
It was getting late and our stomachs were calling for dinner. We returned to the room to shower and dress, which for some reason always takes much longer than I allot for. The clock was nearing 8:45. Lucky for us, Sagamore's Mr. Brown's Pub serves food till 11:00 PM. Mr. Brown's is extremely nice, clean, and child friendly, not at all like the pubs I'm familiar with back home. And the view from the terrace over-looking the lake was lovely. We all ate very well.
Back at the lodge, we lay back and fall asleep to the Yankees vs. the Power Puff Girls. I want to watch the Yankees. Dominique and Danielle want the Power Puff Girls. What did we decide? Well, I had to find out if the Yankees won from the next morning's newspaper.
I overslept and missed the 7:00 AM fitness walk. Each morning there is offered a 3 ½ mile fitness walk "at an invigorating pace" through Green Island and into the town of Bolton. Somehow I managed to miss the 7:00 AM fitness walk each day. I think it had something to do with wanting to sleep instead. There is a second 3 ½ mile fitness walk "at an invigorating pace" later in the day, which I made sure to miss too. I'm 45 and a one-time athlete and I can't bring myself to the realization that walking actually is exercise. I still see myself in my youth of running for miles with the wind blowing through my hair. Sadly, those days are behind me (both the running and the hair.) Yes, I know I should start exercising again and a walk "at an invigorating pace" would probably be a great way to start. Next year when I come back to the Sagamore, I'm going to take those 3 ½ mile A.M. walks. Really I will. I have it written down in my "What To Do Next Year" diary.
I did get up for breakfast, though. Danielle and I quietly got dressed and let mom and Dominique continue their sleep. We were very pleasantly greeted by the hostess and led to our table in the Sagamore Dining Room. The view of Lake George was calming and peaceful. The food from the Adirondack buffet was both plentiful and delicious. What I liked most about the breakfast was they served till 11:00 A.M. Denise likes to start her day slowly and not having to rush to breakfast each morning is a welcome relief. On vacations I usually have to bring a tea and a pilfered danish back to the room for Denise since she rarely makes it to breakfast, but with servings till 11:00 at the Sagamore Dining Room this wasn't necessary. Plus, even if 11:00 A.M was too early, Denise could have taken advantage of the room service.
After breakfast, Danielle and I checked back with the two sleepers just to make sure they were up and about. When they were ready to head for breakfast, Danielle and I went to play a round of miniature golf. I attempted to pass down my vast miniature golfing knowledge to my daughter but she was in too much of a rush to hit and rehit and run on to the next hole. My plea of patience and timing were met with "I know," "C'mon," and "Hurry up!" I suggested she wait for her ball to stop rolling before hitting again but she would have none of it. By now it was obvious to me that while I was in charge at breakfast, Danielle was in charge at miniature golf. She was making the rules and I thought it best to let her.
Nearby the mini golf were six championship tennis courts and one indoor court. Also inside was a racquetball court. I was angry with myself for not bringing my racquets until I remembered that I don't play either game.
We peaked in the game room and Danielle quickly felt my pockets for quarters. I had none but she made sure I saw the change machine. Cashing in the singles I had, I gave her a fistful of quarters and watched as she ran to the nearest auto racing video game. In the game she was hitting more trees and guardrails than missing but it didn't seem to bother her. She just wanted to go fast and heaven help anything that got in her way. Using up her allotment of quarters, Danielle and I headed back to the room to meet up with Denise and Dominique. The twins wanted to go to "Great Escape and Splashwater Kingdom", an amusement park/water park, about 20 minutes away. It was on our list of things to do so we loaded the girls into the car and head out to Great Escape. On the way to Great Escape, we drive through the town of Lake George, which includes lots of shops, restaurants, hotels, water activities, and shops? Touristy, but clean. There were a lot of shops there, too. Did I mention the shops?
We made it to Great Escape and planned on spending a few hours. Five hours later the girls still wanted more but we had to say no. Imagine that: parents saying "no" to their children. It's so "last century." Anyway, an hour and a half after we put our foot down and said we had to go, we finally left. The girls had a great time, as did the parents. The rides were exciting, clean, and safe and the staff all friendly. On the way back to Sagamore, we passed a drive-in movie theater. I hadn't been to a drive-in movie since I hid in the trunk to see a "Planet of the Apes" marathon decades ago. (Good gosh, was that really that...long... ago?) If we had time later in the week, I would try to get us to the Drive-in.
On the ride back I could tell we were all good and tired so to make things easy I decided to make it a pizza pie night. We stopped in Bolton right outside Green Island and the Sagamore and picked up a pizza to bring back to the room. While waiting for the pizza, we walked across the street for some Ben and Jerry's.
Ice cream before pizza? Sure, why not? We're on vacation!
Once back at the room we ordered a movie and sat back with our pizza. We all ended up falling asleep in front of the TV.
I overslept and missed the 7:00 A.M. fitness walk, the one with the 3 ½ hour fitness walk "at an invigorating pace." I missed the one offered later in the day as well. Danielle and I made it to breakfast and I taught her how to place the napkin on her lap when dining at such a swell restaurant. After breakfast, we went back to the room just as Denise and Dominique were making their way to for their morning meal. We decided to meet an hour later by the lake. Meanwhile, Danielle and I strolled the grounds. I was taken by the Sagamore landscape and gardens. I checked on more than one plant for its nametag, taking a mental picture of how it would look around our house at home. I lied to myself more than once, thinking, "Yeah, I'll plant this exact garden on the north side of the house as soon as I get back." I really believed it at the time. We met up with the other half of the family and made plans for the afternoon. At 12:30, we would enjoy a buffet lunch while cruising the lake on The Morgan, Sagamore's replica of a 19th century touring vessel. Until then, the girls and I would go back to the game room while Denise would scout out the Fitness Center and Spa for an afternoon of relaxation.
The Morgan was a delightful experience. Casual and relaxing, the cruise was smooth and the food plentiful. With a running narration, one learns much of the history of the area as well as enjoying its beauty. Lake George spread wide surrounded by the rolling Adirondacks made for an idyllic trip on a perfect day. The girls were excited to see some of the locals jumping from the rocks into the lake. The girls waved and the kids waved back. I imagined how absolutely gorgeous the ride must be with the autumn foliage later in the year. It really was an eyeful. As we returned to dock an hour and a half later, I was able to view the Sagamore from a distance for the first time and fully appreciate its magnificence. It really stands out like a jewel amidst the trees.
Upon our return, the girls were itching to get back into the water while Denise had her eyes set on a relaxing body massage. I grabbed a book and the girls theirs suits as we made it back to the lake. We left Denise in the room as she leafed through the wide selection of massages and treatments offered at the spa. She would find us later.
While Denise was at the spa, the girls and I filled our time at the lake swimming and building castles in the sand. The girls became interested in a boy fishing off the dock and were offered a few casts. Without immediate results, the girls quickly became bored and were soon doing cannonballs back into the lake. The lake was busy with activity as I watched plenty of water skiing, parasailing, kayaking, boating, and scuba divers heading out for the day. All this is available at the Sagamore but I was very content in simply sitting back and enjoy my girls enjoying their youth. While they built a castle in the sand, I finally got some time to read my book, which was soon resting on my belly as I took a much un-needed nap.
Two hours later, the girls and I found Denise enjoying a Pina Colada on The Veranda over looking Lake George. She had the Swedish Massage and from the relaxed look on her face, I could tell it worked. She highly recommended it, but I'm not the type who likes to be touched. She can't believe I don't like massages. "I would have one every day if I could," she murmurs.
I ordered a Cream and Kaluha for myself and a couple Shirley Temples for the girls. My Cream and Kaluha was so delicious I was able to convince myself that it was good for me. I think the girls enjoyed the calm too as we softly talked about school, summer plans, and favorite cartoons. I asked if they wanted to try some shrimp, oysters, clams, or sushi from the raw bar but they decided to stick to the bowl of peanuts on the table.
There was much activity all about but very serene as well. Everyone seemed busy pursuing fun at a casual pace, and we kept ourselves busy simply watching their pursuit. After an hour of people watching, Denise suggested we go back to the room to clean up and plan for dinner. I wanted to stay until I saw an ascot. Denise thought that to be a fine idea. A few minutes later we spotted one on an elderly and very proper gentleman and we then gathered our things and headed back to the room.
Denise and I considered going for some elegant dining at The Trillium, offering Contemporary American Cuisine and a world class wine selection. Children must be 7 years of age to dine at this outlet and jackets and collared shirts are required for gentlemen 13 years of age and older. The girls just made the cutoff mark, but they seemed to have gained a second wind and were back to running on all cylinders of activity.
We decided to go back to Mister Brown's Pub for the relaxed and casual atmosphere.
After dinner, we took a walk into town for more Ben and Jerry's. The girls got a taste of the Cookie Dough ice cream from the other night and were eager to get back for more. I couldn't really blame them.
It's our last day. I woke up in time for the 7:00 AM fitness walk, the one with the 3 ½ hour fitness walk "at an invigorating pace," but decided not to go. Instead I made myself a cup of coffee and watched the rising sun from the terrace. Much to my surprise, Dominique and Danielle were soon awake, followed by Denise. As they slowly greeted the day, I quickly packed up as much as I could. Left were just a few odds and ends I could get to after breakfast. We went together for our final breakfast and before I could remind the girls the proper way to place the napkin on their lap, they had already done so. They were really getting the hang of the Sagamore.
After breakfast we went on a Surrey ride, a leisurely 15-minute ride around the island in a horse-drawn carriage. We met a couple from Ohio who were just arriving. They too were impressed with the beauty, elegance, and serenity supplied by the Sagamore. We told them they would surely enjoy their stay.
As Denise was checking out, I leafed through a brochure of the Sagamore. Though I felt our days were busy and full, I saw that there was much more the Sagamore had to offer. Their nearby award-winning 18-hole Donald Ross-designed golf course is of championship quality. Their fitness center and exercise classes are popular and always in use, but never crowded. There are many many water sports and activities nearby, ranging from scuba diving the depths of Lake George to parasailing high above it. There are tennis courts, hiking trails and bike trails, horseback riding, a Chef for a Day program, yoga classes, and a huge spa to meet your every need.
The Sagamore also offers a children's activity group called the Teepee Club where children can create puppets, jewelry and crafts, or play miniature golf, go swimming, go on a picnic, meet other children, go on a scavenger hunt, nature walks and so much more. And they can play in the 18-foot teepee. There is a half/day morning program (9AM - noon), a full day program (9AM - 4PM) and an evening program (5PM- 9PM). So if you need free time to play a round of golf, a game of tennis, to get that massage, or to try parasailing, The Teepee Club is a great escape for you and the kids.
It is hard not to become spoiled by all that is offered at The Sagamore. Everything is first rate and top of the line. Of course, the price will reflect that. When it comes to the finest at Lake George, it's The Sagamore.
For more information, check out their website at www.thesagamore.com.
Unspoiled natural places, authentic cultural experiences and distinctive communities draw travelers from around the world to America’s “last great place” ; Montana.
What’s not to like about a town that serves up 300 days of sunshine, boasts an average annual temperature of 82 and continues to land on one “Best Place” list after another? That's Tucson.
It’s not surprising that this gem in the desert is tipping the population scale at close to one million people. Arizona’s second largest city, Tucson has had the collective good sense to hold on to its Wild West charm and rugged good looks while attaining status as a new sophisticate, boasting world class art, novel cuisine and luxury spas and resorts.
I am among the city’s legion of fans. For starters, how could anyone not be impressed with the neighborhood? Tucson is in a saguaro-strewn desert basin circled by five mountain ranges—the Santa Catalinas and Tortolitas to the north; the Rincons to the east; the Santa Ritas to the south; and the Tucson Mountains to the west. And if that weren’t bounty enough, three national parks lie just outside the city limits: Saguaro National Parks East and West, and the Coronado National Forest in the Catalina Mountains.
Certainly the natural beauty and conducive-to-almost-everything climate continues to attract weather-weary folks from other parts of the country. But among the city’s most appealing aspect is its authenticity.
The city’s Old Pueblo has a long and complex history that blends the cultures of the earliest Anglo frontiersmen, Native American peoples and Spanish explorers. That history and its remnants provides a richly textured backdrop for the natural playground that beckons outdoor adventurers as well as the modern-day amenities that lure other segments of today’s travelers.
So when you decide to visit Tucson, the hardest part will be narrowing your list of possibilities. As you begin to plan, know that it may be your first trip, but it won’t be your last.
Start by spending time on the Tucson Convention and Visitor’s Bureau’s very thorough Web site, www.visittucson.org. There, you will find a wealth of information, including money saving deals and packages, and can request a visitor’s guide. You will also find information about the Tucson Attractions Passport ($15), which provides 2-for-1 offers and discounts to major attractions.
The first decision to make is where to stay. The options are all enticing: downtown historic hotel, rustic guest ranch, luxurious bed-and-breakfast, or world-class spa, golf and tennis resort. Which will it be? This time!
With the kids in tow, any of these resorts are good family-friendly choices:
Two of the world’s best-known spas are in Tucson. These relaxing enclaves may be best enjoyed when the youngsters are occupied elsewhere.
Guest ranch stays make for great family vacations and are an ideal way to sample the Tucson landscape.
Like much of Arizona, Tucson is an athlete and nature lover’s nirvana. There is a whole collection of people, from professional baseball players to serious cyclists, who make this desert oasis their home base for winter training. With so many ups and downs to keep the heart rate pumping, and so little rain in the forecast, you can count on staying in shape during your holiday.
From urban walks in town (take a walk through the University of Arizona campus!) to rugged canyon outings, you could strap on your boots every day of the year and never run short of trails to try. If you must choose one place to start, Sabino Canyon tops my list. For sheer beauty, a chance to see wildlife and plenty of easy to follow trails, this is a winner. And, no matter where you stay, you’ll likely find great hiking options out the front door. Ask for nearby suggestions. Also check www.localhikes.com.
My cycling friends concur: Tucson is a great place ride. With so many mountain trails and well-marked bike paths, it’s not surprising that Bicycling magazine has ranked Tucson as one of the country’s best bike-friendly cities. One example of the local attitude: free bicycle valet parking at Tucson special-events.
If you have even the slightest interest in birding, you will be mesmerized by the plentiful and colorful species that migrate through Southern Arizona. I saw my first Vermillion Flycatcher on a Tucson golf course. Rather than focus on my son’s tournament, I spent the day transfixed by these red-chested beauties as they darted in and out of the trees. Young children delight in the plentiful array of hummingbirds hovering near brightly colored desert plants and feeders.
You could spend a week, a month, even a year playing the more than 40 beautiful municipal, public and private golf courses in Southern Arizona. Most are family-friendly and welcome junior players on the links. You’ll find desert courses (locals call it “target golf”) or more traditional links style courses. If your focus will be tee to green, be sure to check the CVB and resort hotel Web sites for the multitude of packages available. Also note, as the temperatures rise, greens fees fall considerably.
Don’t Miss Sightseeing The Anza Trail
Learn about the significant Spanish and Mexican influence on the region through a tour of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. Anza, an intrepid explorer, led a party of 240 colonists on an expedition from Mexico to found a mission near the San Francisco Bay. The Anza Trail is a 1,200-mile marked route, beginning in Southern Arizona. While this could be a vacation program in itself, you can pick and choose from the many interesting stops on the trail. There are numerous, itineraries to consider. For suggestions: www.arizonaguide.com
San Xavier del Bac Mission
This amazing white, historic structure is often referred to as the “Sistine Chapel of North America.” With delicate paintings on the walls and ceiling and beautiful architectural lines, San Xavier del Bac is a favorite among photographers visiting the area. My children and I enjoy visiting churches during our travels, particularly in historic areas, and this stop was no exception. It remains a Catholic parish serving the Tohono O’odham community for whom it was first established in the late 1600s. www.sanxaviermission.org
Arizona Sonora Desert Museum
I’ve visited this remarkable museum many times, with and without my boys, and would welcome any opportunity to return. This is a great way to introduce children (and adults) to the magnificence of the Sonoran desert and all of its inhabitants. With a world wide reputation in the scientific community as its cornerstone, the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum serves as a zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden in one stop.
Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the more than 300 animal species (including mountain lions, snakes and Gila monsters ) and 1,200 kinds of plants. Check the Web site in advance to find out about special events for the day and children’s programs you will want to schedule into your visit. www.desertmuseum.org
Pima Air & Space Museum
The largest aviation and space museum west of the Rocky Mountains, Pima gets votes from my boys for the more than 250 aircraft on display, from Wright Brothers–style antiques to space exploration vehicles. www.pimaair.org
Center for Creative Photography
For photography lovers, the Center for Creative Photography is a must-see stop. Located on the University of Arizona campus, this museum holds contemporary works of nearly every major North American, 20th-century photographer, including images by Ansel Adams and Alfred Stieglitz. And it’s free. www.creativephotography.org
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
Whether expecting your first child or your fifth, those days and months before the new baby arrives can be hectic. So why not plan a relaxing and romantic getaway so that parents can greet the new family member with renewed vigor.
Here are five places to enjoy a Babymoon:
1. Baby Me.
Expectant parents who book the Baby Me package at one of 12 W Hotels, will be treated to a copy of Bump it Up, Amy Tara Koch's pregnancy style bible for the chic mommy-to-be. You’ll also garner a pair of Baby Mocs and a cotton Onesie for the new arrival. Craving a little something to snack on? Order delectable goodies from the “Womb Service” menu. Mom-to-be can also relax with a bump-friendly massage designed to relieve tired muscles and sluggish circulation. Contact: 888-625-4988; www.whotels.com.
2. Relax at Biscuit Hill.
Take time for yourselves in Texas Hill Country. Stay at this charming bed and breakfast nestled in a wooded hillside and overlooking a picturesque lake. Tuck your toes into microwaveable, herb-filled slippers designed to provide relief for the expectant mom’s aching feet. Enjoy fruit, chocolate, sparkling juices and a spa bath tote filled with soothing products to take home. Relax by the fireplace or the cozy outdoor sitting area. Contact: 888-998-9909; www.biscuithill.com/babymoons.htm
3. Little Palm Island Resort & Spa.
Off the Florida Keys. For the ultimate pre-baby holiday, get cozy in an oceanfront, thatched-roof bungalow within this luxurious, 5 ½ acre resort only accessible by seaplane or boat. Enjoy his and hers spa gifts and treatments. Then meet for an 80 minute couple’s massage. Relish in the television, telephone-free environment where the only sounds that may interrupt your rest are waves lapping outside the door or birds chirping overhead. Contact: 1(800)343-8567; http://www.littlepalmisland.com/LittlePalmIsland_BabymoonPackage.aspx
4. Canadian Seaside Getaway. Just 20 minutes from downtown Victoria, observe whales, seals and otters frolicking in the ocean from your perch at Amore By The Sea. Relish your stay within this award-winning bed and breakfast where elegant rooms, fine linens, jetted tubs, fireplaces and the quiet ambience combine with luxurious spa treatments, rich chocolates, and specialty lotions and soaps to relax and prepare parents-to-be for the arrival of their new baby. Contact: 1 (888) 828-4397; www.amorebythesea.com/index.html
5. Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa. Birmingham, AL.
While future Dad explores the Robert Trent Jones Trail and the inherent championship golf, Mom-to-be might indulge and relax within the resorts sprawling, 12,000 sq.ft. European Spa. The “Baby Love” massage will restore her energy enough to take in a night on the nearby town. Before heading for home, enjoy an afternoon by the pool, and doze to the rhythmic pulse of the signature waterfalls and fountains.1-888-236-242; www.marriott.com