6 Extraordinary Experiences for Families at the Four Seasons

July 20th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

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 by Guest Blogger No comments »

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

6 Tips for First-Time Disney Cruisers

July 18th, 2014 by Guest Blogger No comments »

On our first voyage with Disney Cruise Line, we expected — and found — an amazing array of offerings for families, including top-notch kids clubs and one-of-a-kind dining experiences. We also discovered some unexpected, little-known tidbits, which might be of use for your own first experience aboard one of Mickey Mouse’s ships:

1. Take the Art of Theme Show Tour
The tour, which lasts about an hour, allows passengers to get familiar with the ship and learn some fun facts and insider tips along the way.

2. Hit the Pools and Waterslides at Night
You won’t find any crowds, and will find short or nonexistent lines for the waterslides. Plus, it’s a nice time to unwind and watch a poolside movie.

3. Order a Wake-Up Call
Even though staterooms provide iPod docking stations with alarm clocks, order a wake-up call at least one morning during your trip calls are made by The Mouse himself!

4. Choose a Deluxe Stateroom
Deluxe Guestrooms are, without a doubt, worth the splurge for families, who enjoy sofa beds, Murphy beds, two bathrooms (one with a shower and the other with a toilet) and ample closet space. These units typically include balconies, too, protected by locks that are out of reach to children.

5. Go to Guest Services for Autographs
In the rare event your child doesn’t get to meet a character and grab his or her autograph, you can take their booklet or item to be signed at Guest Services. Your child will have plenty of chances to not only meet characters once, but several times on your cruise though.

6. Ask About Royal Court Royal Teas
While you’re at Guest Services, book a Royal Court Royal Tea. The offering, which allows kids to have tea with their favorite characters, isn’t highly advertised, due to its popularity.

– Amanda Geronikos

Driving the Road to Hana in Maui

July 17th, 2014 by Lissa No comments »

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 by Guest Blogger No comments »

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 by Guest Blogger No comments »

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