What’s not to love about a carousel? For many of us, the mere throught of hopping aboard a painted horse or other fanciful creature brings a smile to our faces. For a charming mix of music, whimsy and history, here are five to consider:
Located in the city’s 23-acre riverfront park, this vintage-style carousel was lovingly created as a community project. Dozens of locals families worked to prepare the site, even carve and hand paint the horses. With old-fashioned organ music as the backdrop, families now enjoy seasonal celebrations including breakfast with Santa. The gift shop offers handcrafted ornaments, books and gifts to providing continuing support for the community treasure. Contact: www.salemcarousel.org.
North Tonawanda, NY.
Visit the one-of-a-kind Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, housed in the original factory building where you can ride two antique carousels and delve into their history. The largest of the pair is 40 feet in diameter, with hundreds of lights and 36 hand carved horses, some dating to the late 1890s. Rotating at 6.5 revolutions per minute, the carousel was originally intended as a thrill ride for adults. The “kiddie carousel” in the Children’s Gallery was created in the 1940s for the junior set to ride without the help of adults. It has been completely restored. Ask about carving and restoration demonstrations and other family events scheduled throughout the year. Contact: www.carrouselmuseum.org
The centerpiece of the permanent exhibit called Carousel Wishes and Dreams is one of the three oldest surviving Dentzel menagerie carousels in the world. This revolving gem was originally installed in 1917 at the Broad Ripple Park. After the building in which it was housed collapsed, the animals were salvaged, restored and eventually lowered through the roof to its new home on the fourth floor of the expansive Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Contact: www.childrensmuseum.org/carousel
Westerly, Rhode Island.
Built in 1876 and a National Historic Landmark, families can climb aboard what many believe to be the oldest flying horse carousel in the country. Once part of a traveling carnival, the charming carousel in Watch Hill features hand-carved horses suspended from chains. Thus, as the speed increases they seem to “fly”. Each horse has a leather saddle and a tail and mane crafted from real horse hair. Revelers can reach for the brass ring near the end of the ride. If you are lucky enough to grab it, you’ll win a token for a free ride. Contact: www.visitrhodeisland.com/what-to-do/amusements/458/flying-horse-merry-go-round/
Santa Ana, California.
Kids learn about environmental conservation and preservation when they climb about this eco-minded carousel at the Santa Ana Zoo. Rather than hand-carved horses, the Conservation Carousel is comprised of endangered species. After circling aboard this unique ride, kids receive a collectible educational card with information about at risk creatures. The zoo, founded in 1952, is located on a 20-acre urban oasis. A request from its original benefactor means you will find 50 monkeys in residence at all times. Contact: www.SantaAnaZoo.com.
Do you have a favorite carousel?
Just because you’ve become a parent doesn’t mean you have to stay put. Here are five ways to take a family vacation with wee ones:
Consider an all-inclusive. At Beaches Resorts in Jamaica and Turks & Caicos, the youngest travelers are cared for by certified nannies, caregivers with more than 2000 hours of experience and training in child safety. Toddlers enjoy beach and pool activities, puppet shows, face painting, treasure hunts and visits with Sesame Street characters. Parents of newborns to two year olds can enjoy uninterrupted beach time or a quiet dinner for two knowing their babies are cared for in a fully equipped nursery where child development specialists will look after their every need. Just in case, a nurse is available 24 hours a day. Contact: 1-888-BEACHES; www.Beaches.com.
Flight time. Book flights off peak for less crowded conditions and book early for the best choice of seats. Children under two are safest when buckled into a car seat so plan accordingly. Family preboarding may sound appealing, however, settling in early can mean considerable extra time in tight quarters before take-off. Consider sending one family member onboard early to organize seating arrangements and then board with the baby closer to departure. And of course, take time to research current TSA restrictions. Their web site offers videos regarding travel with kids of various ages. Contact: www.TSA.gov.
Take a cruise. Vacationing aboard a cruise ship provides a wide range of options for parents with young children. Many ships offer comprehensive children’s programs, providing parents a chance to enjoy their own shipboard activities. On board Disney’s Wonder and Magic ships, tykes from three months to three years can check in to the Flounder's Reef Nursery, a Little Mermaid-themed daycare center. Character visits, shows, pools and arcade centers offer family fun. Contact: (800) 951-3532; www.DisneyCruise.com.
Visit friends and family. Do you have cousins, siblings or college pals with children the same ages as yours? Plan a visit to their town or invite them to yours. Peruse the local Convention and Visitor’s Bureau site for suitable outings and deals. Check promotions from Groupon and similar ventures for half or reduced-price offers. Venturing out with folks who share similar interests, restrictions and nap requirements can provide a sense of well-being for all. Too many young children under the same roof might be overwhelming. Consider spending the night in spacious accommodations that will support various sleep schedules and meal times. Contact: www.ResidenceInn.com.
Visit the zoo. Build a trip around an outing to a well-known establishment like the San Diego Zoo or our National Zoo in Washington DC or visit one nearby your own home. Stroll through lush grounds with your family and enjoy the sights and sounds of wildlife in a safe environment. Investigate educational programs and tours including animal encounters, overnights and backstage passes. Contact: (619) 231-1515; www.sandiegozoo.org; nationalzoo.si.edu
Each time I embark on an air travel trip I am reminded of what an adventure it can be. And I’m a grown-up! I marvel at the challenges faced by parents of young children today. Getting through the security check point with diaper bags, strollers, toys, snacks, gear can be daunting.
If boarding a flight with the kids is part of your travel plan, here are a few tips to help you avoid snags in the system:
Print boarding passes in advance. Confirm flight departure times. Remind older children to bring their IDs and have yours ready. Arrive at the airport with time to spare.
TSA’s 3-1-1 program means:
Don’t forget your passports.
Will you be spending time on the beach in Mexico or skiing Whistler in Canada? Don’t forget. Passports are now required.
It is important stay hydrated when traveling. But water bottles are not permitted through the security line. Rather than buy high-priced water bottles in the airline gate area, bring an empty bottle through security and fill up at the drinking fountain. It’s more eco-friendly too.
Pack your snacks.
Airlines rarely serve complimentary food on board. So avoid expensive airport and onboard dining options by packing healthy and familiar food for the flight. By keeping everyone fed in a timely manner you’ll avoid cranky kids and parents.
Talk with your children about how you will spend your time on board. Then be sure to pack the books, art projects, ipods, games and other technology necessary for the flight.
The rules continue to evolve and seem to vary slightly by destination and change regularly. So before you head to the airport check the TSA website for the latest updates. Resources: www.TSA.gov; www.travel.state.gov.
Backpacks or roller bags for all.
Children like taking responsibility for their own gear. Ask everyone to carry as much as possible in their own backpack or carry –on. It’s good practice and lightens the load for the adults.
Different country, different rules. Shoes on? Shoes off? Computers out or in? Review country and airport guidelines before departure. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when moving through security in another country.
re you ready for a getaway?
Plan your own classic American holiday. Here are fun-filled ideas to help you create an iconic family vacation:
Take a Road Trip.
A concept often parodied on television and in the movies, the family road trip continues to be a source of fun and happy memories for clans across the country. Play games, sing songs, tell stories along the way. Access the American Automobile Association’s plentiful and user-friendly information on road conditions, weather, deals, discounts, and gas prices. They can also help with roadside assistance, travel planning and maps.
Contact: 1 (800) 332-6119; www.AAA.com.
Make your way to the Mountains.
Fill your lungs with pine scented air. Raft the rivers, wonder at the wild life or travel by horseback into the backcountry. A visit to a mountain destination like Jackson, WY will offer you and your family the best of the great outdoors paired with a glimpse into our western heritage. Take in the rodeo, a cowboy cookout, visit the hot springs and the Grand Teton National Park.
Contact: 1 (888) 838-6606; www.jacksonholewy.com.
Head to the Beach.
You may have a family favorite or build sand castles on the beach closest to home. However, if you are looking for a new sandy spot, consider the annual list created by coastal expert Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, Director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research. For the last 20 years, “Dr. Beach” has used 50 criteria, including water, sand quality, safety and environmental management, to rank seaside playgrounds. Beaches in New York, Florida, California, Hawaii and North Carolina top the lists. Contact: www.DrBeach.org.
Relax at the lake.
With more than 1,000 miles of shoreline, Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks is a family favorite. In addition to boating, swimming, fishing and a wide range of water sports, generations of lake lovers enjoy hiking in the nearby state park, biking, mini-golf and water parks as well as access to plenty of restaurants, music and other kid-friendly attractions.
In Montana, Whitefish Lake is a family favorite. With Glacier National Park in the neighborhood, you can't go wrong.
Visit a National Park.
Celebrate our freedom and the beauty of our land within one of our 392 national parks. With so many historical and natural wonders to discover, consider heading to the National Park Service’s web pages, specifically designed to help regular and first time visitors plan a meaningful trip. There you research park activities as well as camping, back country, lodging and educational options. Across America each day there are special events, institute and field schools as well as volunteer opportunities. Check for fee free days and Junior Ranger programs for the kids.
Get Sporting at the Wintergreen Resort. Wintergreen, VA.
Parents can join their kids for group golf lessons and then head to the course to refine their skills. This is a family-friendly resort on the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains and offers up a range of easily accessible sporting options. With 45 holes of championship golf as a cornerstone, families can enjoy a holiday that includes a children’s program at The Treehouse, hiking, fly-fishing and an award-winning tennis program.
Contact: 800-926-3723; www.wintergreenresort.com
Port Aransas, Texas Offers a Reasonably-Priced Beach Vacation during These Economic Times
Many families in Texas (and beyond) enjoy vacationing in Port Aransas, as the island on the southeast part of the state offers a truly economical trip for families of any size.
Historically, Port Aransas (referred to as “Port A” by Texans) has been one of the state’s top beach destinations. Not as far south as South Padre, Port Aransas is approximately 4 hours from Austin/ Central Texas so the distance is drive-able for most (which is appealing for many families). The island offers quite a few options for family accommodations. An ideal location to park your family for a visit is at Port Royal, situated out of town on Highway 361.
Located on the more secluded beach, the walk from condo to beach spot is a quick jaunt over the boardwalk (close enough for a quick bathroom trip while on the beach). Another option I highly recommend is Beachgate, which is located on the busy public access beach. Beachgate III, the most recently-renovated building on property, is the best bet. You have several options, depending on the size you need. You can reserve just one condo, which is 2 bedroom/2 bath, and can sleep up to 8 people (2 king beds, 2 futons and an air mattress). Also, you can reserve two condos on the same floor, which are adjoining, and you have 4 bedrooms/4 baths. This option is ideal for multiple families traveling together or a family reunion. There are 4 floors in Beachgate III (2 condos per floor).
You’ll find a lot of benefits to both locations for a family vacation. You can drive up, park your car, and not get back in until it’s time to leave (a huge plus for us families with young kids!). Both condo properties have fully stocked kitchens and plenty of space to entertain, including spacious dining areas and living rooms. I recommend bringing all your food and drinks and feeding your family in your condo. That way, you have plenty of food, snacks and drinks to take down to the beach with you, as well.
If you’re at Port Royal, it will be a 20-minute roundtrip to the grocery store in Port Aransas. When your troops get tired of the beach, you also have the option of swimming in the two Beachgate pools, which are great for young kids because they are fairly small and shallow. There are also hot tubs next to each pool. My kids enjoyed hanging out on the beach all day and finishing up the evening in the pool. At Port Royal, you’ll find this a perfect spot for off-season, also. We visited in February and, although we could not enjoy the beautiful palm-tree lined pool, we could certainly enjoy the three hot tubs alongside the pool area. Each one is large enough for a family to enjoy.
Highlights of Port Royal:
1. Quiet section of the beach and very peaceful during off-season.
2. Beautiful pool area with slides, hot tubs and poolside dining (in the summer). 3. Spacious and modern condo unit that could easily sleep a family of six. 4. DSL plug-in Internet access.
Highlights of Beachgate:
1. Easy access to the beach (no boardwalk or dangerous streets to cross with kids)
2. Large renovated condos with full kitchen, dining area, living area and 2 bedrooms with king bed in each. Each bedroom and living room has a flat-screen cable TV. 3. The property offers an array of different sizes and styles of accommodations, from large condos to small suites. 4. For those of us that work while on vacation, there’s high-speed wireless Internet in each condo.
A few important points to consider:
1. At Port Royal, each condo is individually owned. Therefore, you can’t be sure what type of unit you will end up with unless you’ve been there before and can request a certain unit. Some will be more modern and comfortable than others, depending on the furniture, furnishings and kitchen. They have 1, 2 & 3-bedroom condos.
2. If you like a busy beach, you’ll prefer Beachgate. If you like a more peaceful location on the beach, you’ll prefer Port Royal, which is at marker #68.
3. The exterior is less appealing than the interior at both (I’d always rather have a nicer interior than exterior, if I had to choose). But the condo we were given at Port Royal was beautiful and modern. Beachgate III is nicely renovated.
4. Don’t forget plenty of sunscreen, buckets and shovels for the beach. You’d rather not have to purchase these items onsite.
My top two suggestions on your family vacation to Port Aransas are: Fins Grill & Icehouse is a relaxed restaurant if you enjoy eating right on the water. The grill has laid-back options such as appetizers, seafood and burgers. You can ask for a table outside that puts you right on the back patio, overlooking the bay. From here, you can watch the boats come and go out of the marina.
During your stay, make sure and rent a golf cart dune buggy from Coastal Ed’s in town. Coastal Ed is a great guy and very helpful. Your kids will love riding the dune buggy on the beach and around town. Coastal Ed’s has open-air carts (versus others that will be more closed) and is gas-powered vs. battery-powered.
You’ll have a great day cruising the beach in your bright yellow ride!
Port Royal Ocean Resort
6317 State Hwy. 361,
Port Aransas, TX 78373
Beachgate CondoSuites & Resort
2000 On the Beach Dr., Port Aransas, TX 78373
Fins Grill & Icehouse
420 W. Cotter, Port Aransas, TX
Coastal Ed’s Coastal Cruisers & More
513 N. Alister St.,
Port Aransas, TX 78373 361-749-7001
Marika Flatt has been a freelance travel writer since 2002, writing for publications such as GoodHousekeeping.com, Austin Lifestyle magazine, Austin Woman magazine, ChickVacations.com and Plate & Vine. She lives with her husband and 3 children (who love to travel) in Austin, Texas.
Toddlers are travelers too. Your pint-sized family member just needs the right destination or activity to embrace his or her energy and curiosity.
Check out these places that embrace the junior set:
Disneyland. Anaheim, CA. Risk humming the song for weeks, but consider It’s a Small World, a family favorite first designed for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Climb aboard a boat that will cruise slowly past more than 100 dolls and animals dressed in international garb. Hear the well-known song in five languages. Young visitors will also enjoy Goofy’s Playhouse, Casey Jr. Circus Train and Big Thunder Ranch. The Disney web site allows parents to search for age-appropriate attractions, enabling strategic planning. Search the site for discounts and special packages.
Contact: (714) 781-4565; http://disneyland.disney.go.com
Club Med. Opt for quality time with the kids, paired with time to relax and recharge. Toddlers get the chance to play with other two and three years old in the Petit Club Med where they engage in age-appropriate water play, and indoor and outdoor games and crafts. Meanwhile, parents can relax on the beach, play tennis, kayak or unwind in the spa. When the sun goes down, babysitting services are available. Children’s club availability varies by Club Med locations.
Contact: 1-888-932-2582; www.clubmed.us
Visit the Zoo. Washington DC. Featuring more than 2,000 animals and a bounty of intriguing sights and sounds, young children will be amazed at the world that surrounds them. The Smithsonian National Zoological Park, often referred to as the National Zoo, is home to the exciting Giant Panda as well as two recent litters of lion cubs. Tucked within Rock Creek Park on more than 160 acres, the zoo is both walking and stroller friendly. Admission is free but parking can be challenging and pricey. Consider adding to the adventure by arriving via the Metro train.
Contact: 202-633-4800; http://nationalzoo.si.edu/
FDR Resort. Jamaica. There is nothing like an afternoon splashing in the surf and building sand castles to wear out an active toddler. At the FDR Resort in Runaway Bay, Jamaica, once Junior goes down, a Vacation Nanny is available to sit by his side, while you enjoy all the resort has to offer. Check in to this all-inclusive seaside getaway, and meet your Vacation Nanny who will assist you and your family in having the most relaxing time possible. Trained in child care and housekeeping, this professional staff member’s goal is to fill in where needed, whether by looking after youngsters in the pool, or making sure the kids’ favorite snacks are on hand in the room.
Contact: 1-800-654-1337; www.fdrholidays.com
On The Trail. Getting kids outside early and often is likely to instill a lifetime love of nature. Visit a local trail and watch as your child explores with wonder, turning over rocks and observing small animals and birds. Choose a loop trail or plan a scavenger hunt. Bring along a picnic and plenty of water or juice so that the whole family stays hydrated. After a few close-to-home practice rounds, include nature walks and hiking in your travel itineraries. In time, you’ll be scaling heights.