Archive for the ‘U.S. Travel’ category

6 Extraordinary Experiences for Families at the Four Seasons

July 20th, 2014

Do something new and exciting on your next vacation. Stray from the annual family trip to the beach and make memories that will last forever with a once-in-a-lifetime adventure at a Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts. The Extraordinary Experiences program at Four Seasons located across the globe allows families and travelers alike a chance to do something they’ve never done before. Exercise with Olympic athletes, fly above a national park or ride off into the sunset on your own horse. Here are just six of the many experiences that families can sign up for at the Four Seasons.

Row Like a Pro
At the Four Seasons Hotel Boston, visitors can race down the Charles River in a rowboat besides an Olympic athlete. Enjoy a custom-designed rowing uniform and join in on the Head of the Charles Regatta two-day rowing event. The private, two-hour row experience will easily leave lasting impressions. After working up an appetite, enjoy a private gourmet lunch and bonding session with your Olympic guide.

The Row Like a Pro experience is available Sept. 7, 13, 21 and 28, 2014. Call 617-338-4400 to book.

Glacier Tee-Off
If you’ve got a budding golfer in the family, or a husband or wife who loves to get on the green, give them a chance to experience the game in a whole new way. The Glacier Tee-Off experience at the Four Seasons Resort Whistler allows guests to tee off from a mountaintop. Enjoy a round on one of three championship courses before joining your own personal PGA pro on a helicopter ride to the 19th hole, located 8,000 feet above the ground. Enjoy snacks and beverages before teeing off and seeing how far you can send the biodegradable golf balls into the incredible environment that surrounds you.

The Glacier Tee-Off experience is available now through Oct. 15, 2014. Call 604-935-3400 to book.

Cowboy for a Day
Slide on your boots, grab your hat and head to the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale for a ride into the Wild West. The Cowboy for a Day experience offers guests a chance to learn how to rope, shoe, groom and saddle horses from Country Music Television’s very own Rocco Wachman. Get outfitted in custom gear, including a hat, belt buckle and boots and ride through the Scottsdale and Rio Verde region. At the end of the day, sit by the campfire for dinner and listen to stories of the Old West.

The Cowboy for a Day experience is available by reservation only. Call 480-513-5039 to book.

Train with an Olympic Athlete
Think you have what it takes to be on the Olympic volleyball team? Spend a day with two-time Olympian and gold medalist Todd Rogers at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara and test your skills. Face off in a friendly match before enjoying a beach picnic with your new coach, catered by the hotel. Participate alone or with the whole family.

The Train with an Olympic Athlete experience is available upon Todd Rogers schedule. Call 805-565-8291 to schedule and book.

Meet NBA Star Hakeem Olajuwon
Shoot hoops with legendary NBA player Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon. Named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history, Olajuwon will teach guests of the Four Seasons Houston the secrets to making a basket every time. Play on the court of the Houston Toyota Center and tour the facilities. Afterwards, sit down for a private lunch before visiting The West Mansion, Olajuwon’s business headquarters for DR34M.

The Meet NBA Star Hakeem Olajuwon experience is available now through Sept. 31, 2014. Call 713-650-1300 to book.

Soar Above the Wild
Experience the great outdoors in a whole new way with the Soar Above the Wild experience at the Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole. Board a luxurious Bell 407 helicopter and fly high above Yellowstone National Park. The Resort’s in-house biologist will be your tour guide, describing and pointing out wildlife, hot springs, waterfalls and more below. During the summer, guests can even land and take a tour of the park via SUV.

The Soar Above the Wild experience is available by reservation only. Call 307-732-5000 to book.

For more information on the Extraordinary Experiences at the Four Seasons Hotels, see the chain’s website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Classic vs. Contemporary: Poconos Resorts for Families

July 19th, 2014

I’ve always been a beach girl. Growing up, summer day trips consisted of driving to the Jersey Shore. It never meant a hike in the mountains or a canoe trip down the Delaware River. Luckily though, this past week I was able to spend a night in the Poconos and experience the quiet environment and outdoor adventure that comes with the territory.

While in the area, I visited two family-friendly resorts, both of which offered fun for all ages, yet each was unique in its own way. With historical charm spread throughout the entirety of the classic Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, and modern, contemporary (and luxurious) touches at the Bushkill Inn & Conference Center, it could be difficult to choose which to book for your mountain getaway. Either way, a stay in the Poconos is sure to please everyone in the family and is something every beachgoer (like me) should see at least once in their life.

Upon entering the grounds of the Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, which was built in 1911, families will find a 27-hole golf course, tennis courts, a beach volleyball court, large green areas for lounging, fire pits for campfires and a grand, double-door entrance lined with a porch that stretches in both directions and can seat many during sunsets. Inside, black and white photos of legendary actors and celebrities like Jackie Gleason decorate the walls and the fireplace, leather chairs and dark wood floors give it a traditional mountain resort feel. Parents will fall in love with the décor and the easiness of the entire property (all of which is walkable) and kids will enjoy swimming in the indoor pool or the Delaware River; learning how to shoot an arrow during the archery lesson; or cooking S’mores over the campfire each night. The simplicity of the inn adds to its charm and families can’t go wrong with the Shawnee Inn.

At the Bushkill Inn & Conference Center, opened in 2012, the modern entrance, with its sleek colors and textures, caught my eye immediately. Guestrooms can sleep up to eight and all have mini-fridges and free Wi-Fi, not to mention a TV embedded in the bathroom mirror. With complimentary amenities lining the hotel’s property, such as paddleboats, a large pond for fishing, basketball and tennis courts, a sand volleyball court, archery area, a playground and its indoor and outdoor pools (which are right next to each other, making a sudden storm nothing to worry about), families will have everything they need to have fun. Plus, the Inn is just minutes from the popular hiking area, Bushkill Falls (“The Niagara of Pennsylvania”) and kids can enjoy S’mores by the fire pits, ice cream socials in the rec room and movie nights. For those families who want to enjoy outdoor activities and return to luxury accommodations for a good night’s sleep, the contemporary Bushkill Inn might be for you.

Regardless of where you stay in the Poconos, enjoy the outdoors and its beauty, which can be seen and experienced at both the classic and contemporary resorts. And if you’ve never been there before, expand your horizons like I did — you (and your family) won’t regret it.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

Driving the Road to Hana in Maui

July 17th, 2014

Across the globe, there are a handful of drives that are considered some of the most beautiful in the world, such as driving the Ring of Kerry in Ireland, driving along the PCH in California from Los Angeles to San Francisco, driving along Italy’s famed Amalfi Coast, and, as I discovered recently, driving the Road to Hana.

While visiting Maui to check out family-friendly hotels, I couldn’t help but hear about the Road to Hana. Some visitors walk around the island in T-shirts proclaiming: “I survived the Road to Hana.” When asked, locals say, “Hana? Yes! Do the drive! I make the drive at least once a month. Leave early and pack a lunch, drink and snacks. Wear a swimsuit!” Meanwhile, some visitors may add, “Bring Dramamine for car sickness” and “It’s a loooong day. We didn’t get back to the hotel until 9 p.m.”

The Road to Hana is, in fact, a road to the town of Hana, located on the remote North Shore. The road follows the steep coastline, beneath the Haleakala volcano and the rainforest with rivers and waterfalls overflowing to the ocean. The drive actually passes Hana and ends at Kipahulu Valley’s Haleakala National Park, where the seven pools await.

Along the drive, you’ll spot numerous waterfalls, black and red sand beaches, caves, bamboo forests, swimming holes and countless fruit stands and homemade banana bread shops. There are no signs marking any of the scenic signs; instead, locals know the road by mile markers. To best navigate the road, purchase a Road to Hana CD for the car at any hotel or gas station and get a narrated guide that will tell you some of the best places to stop. (To really find the hidden gems, ask locals which mile markers they recommend visiting, as they may know of less crowded pools, waterfalls and beaches.) My favorite stops were at Waianapanapa State Park, where I buried my toes in soft black sand beaches and jumped into pools in caves, and then in Kipahulu Valley, where a 90-foot waterfall is visible from the road and is just steps away for those who want to take a dip in its pool.

The road to Hana began as a road built by islanders brick by brick using volcanic rock in 1926. It wasn’t paved until 1962 and today includes more than 600 curves and 54 bridges. Some curves are slight while many near the bridges require a bit of maneuvering and 10 miles per hour speeds. Bridges are one lane, so approach slowly and make way for oncoming cars. When curves become too much, you may need to beep before going around a blind bend, to be sure no one else is coming at your direction. Yes, this road is this crazy!

If you want to experience the entire island and its climates, follow the recommendation by the locals who say to continue along the road on the South Shore. This portion of the road begins with an unpaved road, so rental car companies will tell you not to drive along this route and will not service you if you get into trouble. While the road was extremely bumpy in some areas, it wasn’t something I found taxing. Locals told me to look up at the mountain before driving the route. If it was raining on the mountain, then I should turn around, but if it wasn’t, I was good to go. I eventually learned that rain would have turned the dirt road into mud, so it was good advice. Along this drive, the views of the ocean were even more spectacular, and then I arrived in the desert. The lush rainforest and rain I experienced in the morning was long gone on this side of the island in the afternoon, as I passed cattle and goat ranches.

The road eventually becomes paved again, and drivers will climb up the side of Haleakala, passing a cute winery that offers wine tastings, and to the entrance of the National Park, if time allows for a visit to the volcano’s overlooks.

If you want to drive the route, it’s best to leave early in the morning, by 7 a.m., to allow for plenty of time for stops and slow routes. Ask your hotel for a picnic lunch or stop at a store and get a cooler with ice, drinks and lunch, as there are not many places to stop of meals and those offering food will charge more. Bring towels and wear swimsuits and shoes that can handle climbs on rocks if you’d like to enter pools or trails.

–Lissa Poirot

Taking the San Andreas Fault Jeep Tour with Kids

July 16th, 2014

For a unique experience for both you and your kids on your next visit to Palm Springs, Calif., take a red jeep tour through the desert. Operated by Desert Adventures, the tour is three hours of amazing scenery, stunning landscapes, beautiful photo opportunities and an education about the region and San Andreas Fault.

The experience was, without a doubt, my son’s favorite part of our trip to Palm Springs. Bob, our tour guide, skillfully drove us through the desert, educating us about geology, earthquakes, Cahuilla Indians and the vast landscape created by the collision of the Pacific and North American tectonic plates. We learned about how the tribe used the desert’s plants and other materials for survival and what life was like in the desert for early settlers and gold miners. The views and scenery were dazzling along the way were simply spectacular.

Bob first took us to an oasis in the middle of the desert with more than 40 billion acres of water underground and gorgeous palm trees and foliage up to 11,000 years old. He also showed us different plants that the Indians used to use for medicinal purposes and also eat, and had us sample or smell them all. Some of them were delicious! He also took us into an Indian village where we saw their tools and weapons on display and he shared stories about their lives.

My son especially enjoyed the last part of the tour when we hiked through the actual fault where two tectonic plates collide, hoping to avoid rattlesnakes and an actual earthquake. We went rock scrambling, basically, walking right over the fault line.

A few things to know before you book your next jeep adventure when in Palm Springs:
• The tour leaves from Coco’s Bakery & Restaurant in Palm Desert but complimentary pick-up from certain hotels is available.
• The tour guide brings granola bars and water bottles.
• Wear layers in case of temperature changes.
• Bring sunscreen and a hat if the temperature is expected to be high.
• The minimum age for kids on public tours is 5. There is no minimum age on private tours.
• Advance reservations are required. Adults are $135 per person; children are $110 each.

– Holly Fink

Holly Rosen Fink is a mother, marketing consultant, writer and blogger for a number of sites, as well as her own, The Holly Chronicles .

An Adirondack Christmas in July

July 15th, 2014

Can’t wait for the holidays? Head to the North Pole – in New York that is. The Adirondacks are home to North Pole, New York, and this summer families can enjoy a celebration months before the man in red comes down the chimney.

Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, NY has been entertaining and bringing families together since 1949. And with the annual Christmas in July, families can enjoy more activities and fun at the attraction without the snow and cold weather. Spend an hour or a day getting in the holiday spirit with your family this month, but we recommend making it a two-day visit. Choose from one of three, two-day experiences in July and enjoy these great activities.

Day 1
Savor a family meal with Santa Clause at 5:30 p.m. at Mother Hubbard’s Restaurant on the day of your arrival. And when dinner is done, cook S’mores over the campfire while singing Jingle Bells and other classic Christmas carols.

Day 2
After a great night’s sleep in a family-friendly hotel in the Adirondacks, return to Santa’s Workshop in the morning for breakfast with holiday characters, like Rudolph and Santa’s elves. Afterwards, visit the Reindeer Barn, ride the Candy Cane Express, see Tannebaum the Talking Christmas Tree, tour Storybook village and more.

The two-day experience includes special Christmas amenities, too. Take home a family ornament and candle, commemorative reindeer shoe, Christmas bells, a stuffed animal and personalized Santa hats and stockings.

The two-day Christmas in July Experience is available for families July 15 to 16, July 22 to 23, and July 29 to 30, 2014. The Experience costs $79.99 per adult, $129.99 per child between 2 and 16 and $65.99 per child under 2 years.

For families interested in a one-day visit to Santa’s Workshop, visit July 1 through Aug. 30, 2014, Tuesday through Saturday, between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. for all of the holiday fun.

For more information, visit the North Pole NY website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz

6 Festivals for Families in Honor of Ice Cream and Blueberry Month

July 14th, 2014

July is Ice Cream Month and Blueberry Month and what better way is there to celebrate than with delicious festivals in honor of the two tasty treats? Enjoy one of these edible events around the country this month and scoop up your favorite flavor or pick a few berries and enjoy some family fun.

New Jersey State Ice Cream Festival
Saturday, July 19, 2014
Enjoy rides, games and entertainment — oh and lots of ice cream of course — at the 12th Annual New Jersey State Ice Cream Festival. See which creamery serves up the best in the state or compete to see if you or your child can devour a bowl of the sweet stuff the fastest. Admission and parking are free. The event will be held on Washington Street in Toms River, N.J. from 3 to 8 p.m.

For more information, visit the Downtown Toms River website.

Farrell’s Splendiferously Superific Summer Spectacular Ice Cream Eating Challenge
Sunday, July 20, 2014
After weeks of qualifying challenges, the 5th Annual Farrell’s Splendiferously Superific Summer Spectacular Ice Cream Eating Challenge Championship Event will take place at Farrell’s in Downtown Brea, California. See who can lick the bowl clean the fastest and then enjoy a family-friendly festival with rides, games, prizes and entertainment for all ages. The contest benefits the Make a Wish Foundation and the Children’s Hospital of Orange County. The Championship Event begins at 11 a.m. and the festival will follow just outside Farrell’s in Downtown Brea on South Brea Boulevard.

For more information, visit Farrell’s USA website.

Chincoteague Blueberry Festival
Friday, July 25 to Sunday July 27, 2014
Eat blueberries and blueberry ice cream and blueberry pie and everything blueberry at the Chincoteague Blueberry Festival on Chincoteague Island in Virginia. Enjoy music and arts and crafts during the three-day festival, now celebrating its 27th year. Admission is $5 per adult, per day and $1 per child, per day (12 and under). Two- and three-day passes are $8 per person, and $10 per person, respectively. The event will be held at the Chincoteague Center and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For more information, visit the Chincoteague Blueberry Festival website.

Vermont’s Deerfield Valley Blueberry Festival
Friday July 25 to Sunday Aug. 3, 2014
Enjoy blueberries, music, food and blue vintage cars at the Deerfield Valley 7th Annual Blueberry Festival. Spread across three Vermont towns — Wilmington, Whitingham and Dover — across 10 days, the festival is sure to have something fun for every family. See the Big Blue Parade, eat lots of blueberry dishes and pick your own blueberries to take home. On Aug. 2, be sure to stop by Readsboro Central School for a special children’s blueberry-inspired reading program at 10 a.m. The Deerfield Valley Blueberry Festival is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For more information, visit the Deerfield Valley Blueberry Festival website.

Atlanta Ice Cream Festival
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Dive into a cold bowl of ice cream in Atlanta this summer at the 4th Annual Atlanta Ice Cream Festival. The event will also feature health and wellness agencies, fitness gurus and other vendors reminding families to eat well (before and after that sundae). Musical performances will entertain guests and an ice cream eating competition will take place. The Atlanta Ice Cream Festival will be held at Piedmont Park from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information, visit the Atlanta Ice Cream Festival website.

Iron River Lions Blueberry Festival
Saturday, July 26 and Sunday, July 27, 2014
The Iron River Lions Blueberry Festival in Wisconsin is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year with a two-day festival that is perfect for families. Head to Iron River’s Moon Lake Park, located just under one hour from Lake Superior, Minn., for the festival and enjoy contests, concession stands, arts and crafts, a blueberry pie eating contest, musical performances, fireworks and more. On Sunday, a blueberry parade will take place at 12:15 p.m. Festival hours are from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

For more information, visit the Iron River Lions website.

– Hilarey Wojtowicz