Give the guys in your life the gift of travel.
Here are five ideas to consider:
The Ranch at Emerald Valley, Colorado Springs, CO.
Visitors to this high mountain, luxury outpost in the Pike National forest can team up with man’s best friend ( Reba, the fly fishing dog ) for an afternoon of casting for trout in one of two lakes on the secluded property. Later, give Reba a rest while exploring the surrounding area on horseback or hike to nearby lookout points. Challenge friends and family on the archery range or fireside for a masterful game of chess. Share stories while enjoying fresh, gourmet fare at the dinner table, in the hot tub or around the cozy fire pit. It's all part of the Broadmoor's Wilderness experience which also includes Cloud Camp and a Fishing Camp.
Fly Fishing Adventure, Jackson Hole, WY.
Catch the attention of fly-fishing enthusiasts with the promise of an overnight fishing trip on the South Fork of the Snake River. The extraordinary experience includes a two-day float through some of the most coveted, trout-rich water in the western United States. As the sun sets on the initial day, anglers arrive at the South Fork Hilton, a fully outfitted camp tucked in the pines with a steep, canyon wall as backdrop.
The overnight includes a deluxe dinner, tall tales and roasted marshmallows around a campfire. Participants rest up for the next day’s action in cozy platform tents. Day two promises stunning scenery, 16 miles of braided waters and the option to expand the adventure while wading gravel bars and maneuvering up productive side channels.
Contact: www.WorldCastAnglers.com; www.WyomingTourism.org.
Big League Tours.
Are the men in your life fans of Fenway? Are they eager to cheer inside Wrigley Field? If the idea sounds like a home run, then a Big League Tour might be a perfect fit for your favorite baseball fan. Word is tour participants hang out with MLB players, get on to the field, inside the dugouts and catch a batting practice in venues that continue to infuse allegiance to the game. Tours and vacation packages make it possible to hear the crack of the bat in your Dad’s favorite cities or an entire region.
Zion Adventure. Springdale, UT.
Send your guy to the slots where he can take on the famed canyons on his own or with a guide. The Narrows, a 16-mile corridor, can be hiked in one rigorous day, but most recommend an overnight or the Bottom Up hike that enables hikers to see some of the most stunning aspects of the canyon in four to six hours. Either way, Dad will thank you for the opportunity to experience the splendor of the twisting slots, where carved sandstone rises to the bright, blue western sky.
Bob Bondurant Performance Driving School – Phoenix, AZ.
Channel your guy's need for speed with a visit to this premier performance-driving academy. He’ll get the chance to sharpen everyday driving skills, learn skid control or don a fire suit and helmet and hit the track for some high octane track time. Learning the Bondurant Method, crafted by Bob Bondurant as a way to train pros as well as daily commuters, promises to shape drivers into capable and confident roadsters while having the time of their lives. Contact: www.Bondurant.com; www.VisitPhoenix.com.
Take a hike — and take the whole family with you.
Here are five scenic destinations to consider:
1. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.
For jaw-dropping beauty, lace up and explore the jagged peaks of the magnificent Teton Range hear Jackson Hole. Trails that hug the shores of String, Leigh and Trapper lakes are ideal for families. With little elevation gain, the flat terrain provides ample opportunity to photograph the Tetons reflected in the water, wade into the shallow lake and picnic along the shoreline where the views will astound your entire crew.
Contact: wyomingtourism.org; http://www.fourseasons.com/jacksonhole/
2. Tackle a Colorado 14er.
The Centennial State is home to dozens of 14,000-foot peaks that beckon residents and visitors alike. Whether you make it to the summit or simply relish the high-altitude views, several of the trails are viable for adventuresome and fit families.
At 14,060 feet, Mount Bierstadt is both the closest peak to Denver and considered among the most approachable. Plan to arrive early, hydrate well and be off the mountain by midday to avoid dangerous thunderstorms that can roll in quickly.
3. Shenandoah National Park.
More than 500 trails snake through this National Park in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, just 75 miles from Washington, D.C. Access family-friendly trails via the 105-mile long Skyline Drive, a historic National Scenic Byway that traverses the park. The highway also offers 75 scenic overlooks to stop and appreciate the region’s natural beauty. The 3.5-mile Lewis Springs Fall Loop is popular with families and offers scenic views and waterfalls. The Stony Man Summits and lower cliffs is the same length, offering stunning vistas with only 500 feet of elevation change.
4. Southern California’s Backbone Trail.
Not far from the Hollywood action you’ll find the 68-mile Backbone Trail, extending the length of the Santa Monica Mountains. Choose from a handful of day hike options. Try the Ray Miller Trail, accessed through Point Mugu State Park.
Scenic views of Ventura County can be seen from the 6-mile loop trail, starting at the trailhead off Yerba Buena road. Either way, you’ll be worlds away from the urban hustle.
5. Canyonlands, Utah.
For long views, sunny days and unique land formations, consider a hike into the history-rich Canyonlands. It’s a photographer’s dream landscape, so keep your camera handy as you choose among short strolls, longer day hikes or more strenuous outings.
The 2-mile Grand View Point trail offers panoramic views of the Island in the Sky Mesa. To learn about how the Anasazi lived in the area, consider the Aztec Butte Trail, where some of their rock structures are still visible.
Contact: utahscanyoncountry .com/index.html
It's a day every father dreads.
Because it is inevitable, because there is little we can do about it, it looms like a specter on our already difficult parenting journey. Despite our best efforts, there is no avoiding the cultural influence and messages on the sides of busses, on billboards, in pop songs, in movies…even in schoolyard chatter. And, knowing it's coming, we prepare.
Still there is no disguising the cringe on that fateful day when she finally asks the question…
"Daddy, can we go to Disneyland?"
And though you've prepared for this moment, you still cringe and quickly wonder how you might avoid the interminable lines, gum on your shoes, and refrains of "It's a Small World" echoing in your head for months after.
Now I once worked with a couple of people who had worked at Disneyland as part of a college program, and they both testified with great fervor that it was the most amazing professional experience of their lives. Of course "The Disney Way" is legendary in management circles. But I still imagined some sort of indoctrination ceremony, maybe with someone in a mouse suit handing out cups and saying in that distinctive, high-pitched Mickey voice, "Heh heh, here kids, have some Kool-Aid."
But parents of small children, listen to me, for I have been to the mountaintop (the Matterhorn, of course) and I have seen Disneyland, and you should not be worried about a thing!
That's right, reluctant mouseketeers, I have visited the Happiest Place on Earth and have left it able to say "Happiest Place on Earth" without a trace of cynicism. I am encouraging you to embrace the mouse. Disney is da bomb and I am a convert! Before I dole out some advice on how to make your Disney experience the best it can be, let me tell you what I think makes this place so amazing.
Disney's purpose statement is "We make people happy." That's great and all, but who among us isn't jaded by the pervasive corporate practice of treating its purpose statement like a bumper sticker, sort of regretting it's out there once they've sold it out for the sake of quarterly earnings. But when you are at Disneyland, you genuinely have the sense that every single "cast member" (never say employee at Disney) loves their job and truly delights in making every single person they see happy.
Our daughter, Piper, celebrated her 9th birthday at the park and was given a big button to wear that proclaimed that fact. Now, clearly the 5000 or so park employees that said "happy birthday" were trained to say so to anyone bearing the button. But it doesn't even matter; their enthusiasm and joy is so warm and authentic that even my inner cynic was left in awe. Even dancers in the parade bent down to smile and wish her happy birthday, without missing a step.
And I think it does Disney a disservice to call it an amusement park, thereby classing it with those operations where daddy's worst fears are all realized. Because, every flower is real (even the ones that are part of a ride or show); not one single piece of gum could be found on the bottom of a shoe or elsewhere; loose trash is unheard of; you encounter all sorts of really good street entertainment just about everywhere you wander; and even when waiting in long lines you are entertained, so that you don't feel as if you're waiting. It just generally gives the sense of a place that opened long enough ago to have worked the kinks out but not so long that it has run down or the employees have gotten jaded. But Disney has been there 58 years!
Besides Disney's flawless operation, there is one more reason I, Daddy, was able to enjoy the experience as much as I did: We managed to hit the park just after most school spring breaks, so the crowds were moderate.For even more, visit the park during historic slow times (see advice below).
And so, without further ado, sit on down, have some Kool-Aid, and listen to these ten essential pieces of advice to make your Disneyland experience the happiest it can be.
1. Go when it's slow — Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure are adjacent but separate parks. Don't miss either one. Go when the crowds are light (like weekdays, January thru March) and for at least two days. Save money by doing one park per day (instead of a "park hopper"). Buy online beforehand for small discounts.
2. Stay close by — Unless you've got a big budget, stay close to the park but not in it. There are loads of lodging options around the park that achieve your parking, sleeping, and dining requirements without the Disney price tag. But if you've got the money? Enter the Disney fantasy bubble and never have to burst it during your whole stay.
3. Get a smartphone app — We used the free and popular Mousewait for checking wait times for rides, entertainment schedules, bathrooms near you, restaurant choices, and other resources. Familiarize yourself with it before you go.
4. Plan your day(s) so you're not spending time in the park figuring out what you might want to do. (Or if you can, save brain cells and go with seasoned Disney veterans like we did. We were just along for the ride, as it were.) Of course a good plan begins with a good night's rest and a hearty breakfast outside the park beforehand.
4. Bring your own food — but if eating at park restaurants, eat lunch before 11 or after 1pm and dinner before 6pm to miss the waves of humanity.
6. Bring two backpacks — Carry Pack One with you. Put Pack Two in a locker ($7 - $9 per day for unlimited access).
Pack One contains:
- Sunscreen, glasses, hats
- Park maps (get at the entry gate or around the park)
- Park tickets (you must have them to re-enter the park)
- Fully charged phones/cameras
- Jackets and such if weather requires. Otherwise leave backup clothes in the other pack.
- As little else as as possible so you're not lugging too much weight around or having to deal with a fat pack on rides.
Pack Two in the locker contains:
Meals (you have to use the picnic area just outside the park)
Cool weather clothes and/or Splash Mountain reserves
Crap Treasures you accumulate during the day
7. Establish a lost kid strategy and randomly test them on the procedure a couple of times during the day.
8. Avoid the lines when possible — Hit the most popular rides early (like Radiator Springs Racers in California Adventure or Space Mountain in Disney) and use fast passes for lines over 40 minutes. While holding a place in your first line, consider sending one adult for Fastpass reserved seating for the nighttime fireworks or light shows. Note in your planning which rides do and do not use Fastpasses. Familiarize yourself with how Fastpass works beforehand.
9. Use in-park transportation — These are essentially rides unto themselves anyway, but with the added bonus of saving your poor feet.
10. Buy “treasures” toward the end of the day — This not only serves as a "cooling off period" for the "ooh! Mommy, I need that right now!" conniption fit, but it also saves you lugging things around all day.
Family golf offers youngsters the chance to develop skills in a sport that can be played for a lifetime.
Here are seven places where your crew can tee it up together.
1. Kingsmill Resort. Williamsburg, VA.
Families can play three championship caliber 18-hole courses that offer rolling hills, tree-lined tracks and coastal play along the James River. Children 7-16 can sign up for Junior Golf Camps that teach fundamentals while making sure youngsters enjoy the game. They'll experience play on courses designed by legendary players including Arnold Palmer and Curtis Strange. The family-friendly resort also offers hiking, biking, Segway tours, and fishing as well as organized kids activities.
Contact: 800.832.5665; www.Kingsmill.com.
2. Marriott Golf Resorts.
A yearlong series of one-day family golf events is under way at 32 Marriott golf destinations around the world. The sixth annual International Family Golf Festival encourages family members of all experience and age levels to join. Free golf instruction, clinics, interactive games and the chance to win prizes are all part of the program. Families can play at no charge after 3 p.m. as part of Marriott’s Kids Golf-4-Free program. Children staying at the J.W. Marriott San Antonio Hill Country also have access to instruction as part of the TOURAcademy Junior Golf Camps program. Check the website for festival dates and locations.
Contact: jwsanantonio.com; marriottgolf.com
3. Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Kids can make their way to the junior tees on three nine-hole tracks in a resort town where sun-drenched golf attracts professionals and part-time players. Youngsters age 15 and younger play free with a paying adult. Junior clubs, lessons and course activities are also available. Take a break from play to ride a gondola around the lake, take a two-wheeled spin through the nearby greenbelt or cool off in the water playground. Send your clubs directly to the pro shop via Shipsticks.
Contact: 480-444-1234; www.scottsdale.hyatt.com; www.shipsticks.com
4. Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, N.C.
The largest golf resort in America, Pinehurst sports junior tee markers and scorecards on all but one of eight courses. During the summer and holiday weeks, course No. 8 is reserved for families after 5 p.m. Ask about family clinics and free rentals for juniors.
Contact: 1-800-487-4653; pinehurst.com
5. Hershey, Pa.
Warm up on the miniature course before heading to the nine-hole Spring Creek Golf Course or the Hershey Country Club. Ask about family golf packages that include accommodations, play and sunset admission to Hersheypark. In addition to golf and theme park fun, consider a visit to ZooAmerica, a chocolate-theme spa experience or relaxing time by the pool.
Contact: 1-800-437-7439; hersheypa.com
6. Resort at Squaw Creek, Olympic Valley, Calif.
Your clan can swing away on the resort’s Robert Trent Jones-designed course as part of the family golf program. Play a quick and no-stress round on the front nine from the family tees, located just 150 yards from the green. Kids can spend time in the Mountain Buddies program enjoying active pursuits while grown-ups take time for a full 18 holes.
Contact: 530-583-6300; squawcreek.com.
7. Oasis at Death Valley Resort. Furnace Creek, CA. At 214 feet below sea level, the rolling 18-hole, par 70 course scores points as 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. Located at Death Valley National Park.
Award-winning photographer and FamilyTravel.com contributor Chase Guttman, enjoys traveling with his family and capturing special memories with his camera. Here, he shares tips that may inspire the budding shutterbugs in your clan.
1. Be adventurous.
“Veer off the beaten path. Take the road less traveled,” advises Guttman, who has visited dozens of countries and 45 US states. “Try to compose images that portray the essence of the culture you're experiencing. By thinking outside the box, you can put a fresh spin on a frequently photographed subject or destination. Don't be afraid to stretch out of your comfort zone and experiment.”
2. Get closer.
“When you create a feeling of intimacy and connection with your subject, you’ll capture stunning portraits,” advises the New York City native. “Every face tells a unique story. Wrinkles map out a life of hardship and piercing eyes offer a peak into a person’s emotional state. In essence, portraiture allows you to unveil your subject's world for all to see.”
3. It's in the details.
"Zero in on essential details that will tell a larger story about the people or destination you're capturing. Be aware that what you leave out of the frame can be as important as what you include,” advises Guttman. "With focus, you can effectively squeeze an exciting visual experience within the rectangular shaped frame.”
4. Head towards the action.
As illustrated in many of his favorite images, Guttman explains that “By diving into the middle of the action you’ll capture an array of energy and emotion. Local markets, sporting events, and festivals offer unique insights into people’s daily lives."
“No matter what camera you have in hand," he adds, "you can paint dynamic and visually arresting action shots by clicking the shutter while moving your body at the same pace as the moving object you're trying to capture.”
5. Plan ahead.
“It helps to be in the right place at the right time,” advises Guttman. “Early morning conditions offer unique advantages for photographers. Wildlife is more likely to be active and visible. A tranquil atmosphere makes water reflections more pristine, and you'll have a better chance to capture dawn’s magical mist and dew. Also, early morning and evening lighting provide the best opportunities to create stupendous landscape and cityscape shots.
Chase Guttman has a long list of awards associated with his work including Young Travel Photographer of the Year, a Grand Prize in National Geographic’s International Photography Contest for Kids, and an Emerging Photographic Talent by the Young Photographer’s Alliance. to name a few His work has been exhibited at the Royal Geographical Society in London and he was included as a Top Ten Travel Photographer in the New York Institute of Photography's latest book. Check out Chase's amazing work and his book on Drone photography! at ChaseGuttman.com