Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Summer in the Sweet Carolinas With Natural Retreats

May 15th, 2015

If you’re planning a trip below the Mason-Dixon line this summer, you’ll quickly realize that sweet tea and fried green tomatoes are just the beginning of what the Carolinas have to offer. Whether you want to hike through the Blue Ridge Mountains, rent a boat for the day on the largest private lake on the East Coast, take a dip in a natural waterfall pool, or just relax on the back porch of your dream home for the week, we’ve got just the ticket.

Travel and destination company Natural Retreats has partnered with Southern Living magazine to launch Handpicked Home Collections across North and South Carolina that are the perfect setting for ultimate family vacations.

Natural Retreats rental home in Balsam Mountain, North Carolina

A Private Mountain Retreat in Balsam Mountain, North Carolina
Nestled in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, this private community is entirely contained within the Balsam Mountain Preserve, a 4,400-acre nature sanctuary. Choose from one of the 10 luxurious Handpicked Collection cabins, all within walking distance of the incredible amount of onsite outdoor and recreational activities.

Natural Retreats guests have access to all of the preserve amenities, including a swimming pool, 24-hour fitness center, yoga studio and tennis courts. The Equestrian Center is also available for private lessons or guided trail rides, most under the cool forest canopy. Free, guided hikes are available on over 30 miles of groomed hiking trails meandering through the preserve, accessing deep forests and stunning mountain views. Guided fishing trips are available along the 38 miles of spring-fed streams filled with native brook trout on the property. The Nature Center hosts a variety of activities led by full time, onsite naturalists, including guided nature hikes, bird watching classes, botanical walks and family-focused programs.

A Secret Island Oasis in Daufuskie Island, South Carolina
If you’re looking for a place where you can totally unplug without an eight-hour flight, look no further than Daufuskie, South Carolina. Only accessible by ferry from Hilton Head, this Carolina gem is one of the best-kept secrets of the south.

The island is free of automobile traffic; instead, golf carts are the vehicles of choice, along with bicycles and horses. Rentals feature kitchens and outdoor grills, and young kids can play freely while mom and dad look on from the front porch. Natural Retreats will handle everything for you, from arranging the accommodations to supplying your transportation. Golf carts and ferry rides to and from the island are included in your reservation, as well. Rental homes come complete with complimentary highchairs, Pack ‘n Plays and beach chairs at your request.

Something For Everyone in the Family in Lake Toxaway, North Carolina
Lake Toxaway lies in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounded by over one million protected acres in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. A vacation here places you in the heart of an outdoor lover’s paradise. From Panthertown Valley and Gorges National Park to incredible small town destinations like Asheville, each minute here can be as action-packed or relaxing as you choose.

The lake provides incredible fishing and is home to brown and rainbow trout, small mouth bass, bluegill, shell cracker sunfish and catfish. While on the lake, hire a boat for the day, or rent sailing or fishing equipment for the week. Known as the “Land of Waterfalls” there are more than 250 named waterfalls in the region that can be spotted on the numerous hiking trails. And rental homes here can range in size from two to six bedrooms to accommodate the whole family.

Hike the Rolling Hills in Highlands, North Carolina
A mere three-hour drive from the hustle and bustle of metropolitan Atlanta, Asheville or Greenville is the idyllic mountain town known as Highlands, North Carolina. At a pristine elevation of over 4,000 feet, this quiet rustic mountain community is located at the southern tip of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is surrounded by a national forest. A picture perfect location reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting, Highlands is a delightful blend of country and city cultures.

For those who possess a more adventuresome spirit, the Highlands provide some of the best nature hikes in North Carolina, simply by stepping out your front door. Take a long walk or an invigorating hike to a nearby waterfall, go mountain biking across the hills or stroll the sidewalks of Main Street for fantastic boutiques and homemade preserves. Spend the morning golfing, or take a white-water rafting trip with the whole family one afternoon. Each of the seasons offers a unique set of outdoor adventures that attract residents and visitors alike to revel in the magnificent splendors of the mountains.

— Lissa Poirot

Hotels and Resorts Accommodate Food Allergies

February 7th, 2015

Parents, grandparent and children eating pizza togetherAs food allergies and special dietary needs become more prevalent in our society today, traveling families need to focus on finding hotels and resorts that offer more menu options. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of children under the age of 17 with food allergies increased from 3.4 percent to 5.1 percent from 1997 to 2011; that’s a 50 percent increase. Luckily, the number of properties who can accommodate families with food allergies or dietary needs is also on the rise.

Over the past couple of years, chains like Hyatt and Fairmont have expanded their menus to include gluten-free and vegan options, while individual resorts, such as the Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa in California, will prepare personalized menus for children with restricted diets. Other properties, like the Breakers Palm Beach, work to make menu items gluten-free from the start and even prepare food in separate dishes so as to prevent cross-contamination for those with severe food allergies to ingredients like peanuts or shellfish.

For families wishing to visit all-inclusive resorts where every meal is included in the price, alternative dishes may be hard to come by. Palladium Hotels & Resorts are working to include options for all their guests visiting the all-inclusive properties. Chefs at Palladium Hotels & Resorts have been specially trained to prepare dishes that are gluten-free, Type 2 diabetes-specific, and that eliminate seven other ingredients that can cause severe allergic reactions, including nuts, fruits, vegetables, seafood, eggs, dairy and lactose. Guests with the special dietary needs receive a color-coded card at check-in, which they show staff prior to every meal. The staff then acts accordingly, offering guests meal options just for them.

Beyond hotels, theme park resorts are also willing to help guests find accommodating restaurants during their time in the parks. Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort are three that really make the effort to have alternative meal options for guests.

At Disneyland restaurants, even Kosher meals are available – just order at least 24 hours in advance. And for guests with uncommon food or dietary restrictions, simply contacting Disneyland at least 14 days prior to arrival and after booking all dining arrangements can make the dining process a breeze.

If your family includes members with restricted diets, there are a few things you can do prior to your vacation to ensure that special meals can be made:

  1. Tell the hotel or resort at booking about all food allergies or dietary needs. Then, follow up with the hotel or resort again just a few days before your actual stay.
  2. Make advanced reservations and notify restaurants of all food allergies and diets at that time. Most restaurants allow reservations up to 60 days in advance.
  3. Check with the hotel concierge or the guest relations kiosk upon arrival. If you’re at a hotel with no onsite dining options, the concierge can point you to a restaurant that meets your needs. If you’re at a theme park, the guest relations kiosk can do the same for in-park dining.

— Hilarey Wojtowicz

2015 Ski Spree Extravaganza at Sunlight Mountain Resort

January 20th, 2015

Families at Sunlight Mountain ResortCelebrate Western Colorado ski culture at Sunlight Mountain Resort’s annual Ski Spree Extravaganza this year. Located in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, Sunlight Mountain Resort is home to 67 trails, with activities available for all ages, year-round. Visit Feb. 6-8, 2015, for the community celebration that includes skiing and snowboarding competitions, a chili cook-off and a fireworks show at the historic Hotel Colorado. The 2015 theme for the Ski Spree event is Colorful Colorado, and guests are invited to incorporate that theme in every which way that they can throughout the celebration.

To kick things off, skiers and snowboarders will perform their tricks at the Rail Jam competition on Friday, Feb. 6. The fun continues at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 7, when guests are invited to sample chili recipes at the Chili Cook-Off Competition, and to cast their vote for the winner. Afterwards, families should stick around for a fireworks display at 8 p.m. outside the historic Hotel Colorado. On Sunday, the Need-4-Speed Race starts at 11 a.m. and all guests are invited to sign up to see if they can beat the clock on the slopes. All weekend long, though, families should take advantage of all the fun that Sunlight Mountain Resort has to offer during the winter season.

Admission bracelets for the Ski Spree event are $10 each and can be purchased in advance. With the bracelets, guests will also receive a $10-discount on lift tickets at Sunlight Mountain for Saturday and Sunday, Feb.7-8.

Ski. Swim. Stay. Package at Glenwood Hot Springs
Book the Ski. Swim. Stay. Package at Glenwood Hot Springs and save even more on your trip to the Sunlight Mountain Resort. Enjoy accommodations, free breakfast, lift tickets, free shuttle service and admission to the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool. Plus children ages 12 and under stay for free with a paying adult. Rates start from $437 per night for a family of four. Offer valid now through April 5, 2015.

— Hilarey Wojtowicz

A Day in Annapolis With Kids

September 24th, 2014

Just 40 minutes east of Washington, D.C., and home to the U.S. Naval Academy, is Annapolis — a small, quaint and family-friendly community situated right along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The streets are filled with parents walking their little ones in strollers or their beloved beasts on leashes, and there is always a plethora of fun things to do. From farmers markets filled with the freshest breads and jams to live music playing on every corner, Annapolis is the perfect place for you and your family to explore for a day or even a long weekend. Here are three things to do and see with kids while in Annapolis.

Picture of man making balloon animals in AnnapolisBalloon Man of Annapolis
Wandering around Annapolis is the Balloon Man, otherwise known as ABCtheClown. He’s been making kids laugh for more than 25 years, and he can’t wait to make yours laugh, too. In addition, he’s ready and willing to make them a balloon dog, cat or whatever they want — you just have to find him! And if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll catch him on a day when he’s strumming away on his Ukulele.

Chick and Ruth’s Delly
Exterior view of Chick and Ruth's Delly in AnnapolisStop by this Annapolis staple in the midst of your day’s journeys if you’re craving a delicious and hearty meal at a fair price. From omelets to deli sandwiches to pizzas, Chick and Ruth’s Delly is sure to have something to satisfy every belly (and will serve you whatever you want regardless of the hour — I got a chicken salad sandwich at 8:30 a.m.). While you can’t bring a stroller inside, there’s plenty of space to park them on the street; high chairs are offered upon request; and gluten-free options are available. We recommend getting there as early as possible as the line almost always ends up out the door (especially on weekends).

Exterior view of water taxi in AnnapolisWater Taxi
Getting from point A to point B by foot or car is so yesterday, so spice it up and hop on the water taxi! It will take you anywhere throughout Annapolis Harbor, otherwise known as Spa Creek, and is located right across the street from the Harbormaster’s office in Ego Alley. Tickets start from $3 per person. Call 410-263-0033 for more information.

— Morgan Agesen