Family Competition on Amelia Island

May 16th, 2015 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

Get ready for a little friendly competition on your next family vacation to Amelia Island. The popular Florida destination is home to the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort and this summer guests are invited to participate in its Great Family #OmniAmeliaChallenge. Do you think your family has what it takes?

Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort pool area

The Great Family #OmniAmeliaChallenge requires families to complete the following activities:

  • Segway, stand up paddleboard or kayak tour
  • Round of mini-golf at Heron’s Cove
  • Tennis lesson at the resort’s Racquet Park
  • Spa service or treatment at the resort
  • 18 holes of golf at one of the resort’s two championship courses

One or two family members are required to complete each challenge, though the more the merrier. So while mom is at the spa, dad can hit the golf course for the afternoon, and the kids can take a tennis lesson, and all will be helping the family complete the list of activities.

But just accomplishing these tasks is not enough. Families are also required to share their experiences on social media. All experiences must be shared on social media with #OmniAmeliaChallenge. Once all five tasks are completed and shared on social media, families will automatically win a two-night stay at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort.

The Great Family #OmniAmeliaChallenge is open for families now through August 31, 2015. The two-night prize voucher can be used for stays September 2015 through January 2016. Check room rates and start planning your stay at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation now!

— Hilarey Wojtowicz

Summer in the Sweet Carolinas With Natural Retreats

May 15th, 2015 by Lissa Poirot No comments »

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

Biking Through New England With Kids

May 14th, 2015 by Hilarey Wojtowicz No comments »

May is National Bike Month and families should get active with their kids by riding two-wheels wherever they can. For a fun adventure, visit New England this May – or any month this summer really – and explore the many trails that wind though the coastal towns. Here are a few resorts that will help your family get moving this year.

Family biking along a trail

Chatham Bars Inn
Visit Cape Cod and enjoy a stay at the historic Chatham Bars Inn, named for the coastal town in which it lies. The Inn offers all guests complimentary bicycles to use during their stay. Grab a helmet and hit the Cape Cod Rail Trail, which extends 35 miles through five countryside towns in Massachusetts.

Bar Harbor Inn
Discover Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park and Eagle Lake in Maine this summer with kids by staying at the Bar Harbor Inn. Just rent bicycles through Bar Harbor’s Acadia Bike and enjoy the scenic trails. Half-day bike rentals start from $16 for children and $18 for adult.

Winnetu Oceanside Resort
Rent bicycles via R.W. Cutler Bike Rentals during your stay at the Winnetu Oceanside Resort in Martha’s Vineyard, and your wheels will be delivered to you at the resort, free of charge. The resort is conveniently located near the Edgartown bike path, which takes families to the beach or other countryside towns. Rentals start from $20 per day for children and $40 per day for adults.

Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa
Head up to New Hampshire and take a mountain bike tour with kids while staying at the Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa. Choose from two- or four-hour tours, or even a full-day excursion, and explore the Mountain View Trails. Tours start from $10 for children ages 5 and under, $15 for kids ages 6 to 12 and $20 for teens and adults ages 13 and older. Note: Children ages 5 and under are only allowed on the two-hour tour.

For biking adventures closer to home, check out our list of the 10 Best Biking Vacations for Families. Additionally, stay at a hotel with complimentary bike rentals, such as a Kimpton Hotel, which has locations around the U.S.

— Hilarey Wojtowicz

Get a Kick Out of Portland With Kids

May 13th, 2015 by Guest Blogger 1 comment »

Wacky doughnut flavors, a thriving food truck scene and a hip counterculture made famous by “Portlandia,” are just a few reasons families should visit Portland, Oregon. We spent a weekend in Portland for another reason: the city’s (and my own) affection for the beautiful game of soccer.

Jeff Bogle and his family at a Portland Timbers soccer game

Portland is arguably the center of the U.S. soccer universe and with a stadium located in the heart of the city, funky urbanites literally surround the two pro teams that play inside it. Don’t get me wrong, the doughnuts are outstanding, but after watching several Timbers home games on TV, a soccer match was my first choice Rose City experience.

Providence Park, home of the Timbers and Thorns FC, has a rich soccer history – Brazilian legend Pele’s final professional soccer match was there in 1977 – and is now the home of Timber Joey (a real-life lumberjack mascot), Alex Morgan (dynamic goal scorer for the Thorns and the U.S. Women’s National Team), and the most rabid soccer fan base this side of England – a fan base you and your kids should join, if only for one game.

Attending a soccer match in Portland with kids is a not only fun but also safe and easy to do – thanks to changing stations in every restroom, even babies are welcome! And because games take less than two hours to complete, with zero TV timeouts, there will be no whines of boredom. This is especially true if the Timbers are scoring goals, because that’s when the place really comes alive!

Timbers mascot Timber Joey with the wood slice

Throughout the entire game, chants will be sung, flags waved, and team scarves displayed proudly, and after every Timbers goal, Timber Joey will head down to the massive conifer trunk that sits behind the goal in front of the Timbers Army (the most ardent of local fans). From there, he’ll fire up his chainsaw, cut a round from the tree, and raise it up high causing everyone to go wild!

After the game, Joey runs around the stadium with one of the tree rounds for fans to touch. Kids’ eyes will light up at the sight of Joey in his hardhat holding that enormous piece of tree! Later, that same slice is presented to the goal scorer – the most unique keepsake in sports. This isn’t just a soccer match; it’s a way of life for the people of Portland.

My wife and I, along with our 10- and 7-year-old daughters, were cheering wildly along with over 20,000 of our new best friends as the Timbers erased an early 1-0 deficit to win in dramatic fashion. Over the course of two hours, you and your kids will be welcomed as adoptive members of this special family too, and you’ll leave with memories that’ll last long after the final whistle.

Where To Stay
Walking to the game with the rest of the Timbers’ green and yellow clad supporters is part of the experience too, so Park Lane Suites & Inn, an affordable, clean and comfortable hotel just a few blocks from the stadium, is the perfect spot.

Where To Eat
No outside food or drink is allowed inside Providence Park (sealed or empty water bottles and soft-sided juice containers are okay), so I recommend eating dinner before the game at the Koi Fusion Korean BBQ food truck, Mazatlan Mexican Restaurant or Eat Pizza (located inside a skinny building your kids will love!) — each is just a stone’s throw away. Oh, and as far as those gourmet doughnuts go, Blue Star on SW Washington — a half-mile away — will do nicely!

What To Do Before The Game
The city’s many fountains, especially the kid-friendly wading pool at Director Park, are an easy 15- to 20-minute walk from the stadium, offering families a free and extremely cool summertime experience before kickoff – so pack bathing suits!

Buy Your Tickets
Soccer season in the U.S. runs spring to fall with games on weekends and some Wednesday nights. Unless the rival Seattle Sounders are in town, Timbers tickets can be purchased in advance and start from just $25 per person. I recommend sitting in sections 215 to 218 for a perfect view of the game and to be close enough to the Timbers Army to soak up their energy (but still far enough away that your little kids won’t be frightened by that same energy!) Children under the age of 2 don’t need a ticket if sitting on a parent’s lap. Tickets to see Alex Morgan, the Thorns and the Rose City Riveters (the Thorns version of the Timbers Army) start at just $13.

— Jeff Bogle

Jeff Bogle is an at-home dad of two pre-tween daughters. He writes about parenthood, family travel and all things childhood on his site He considers himself one of the luckiest guys in the world, although he needs to be reminded of this fact from time to time. Jeff also writes for PBS.