Harry Potter Will Soon Add Extra Whimsy and Magic to Hollywood.

As if Los Angeles is not already exciting enough for a family vacation, Universal Studios Hollywood will soon officially unveil “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™” providing Hogwarts lovers with an artfully immersive day adventure. The new experience will include hyper-realistic 3D-HD thrills, dozens of whimsical interludes and many ways for muggles to enjoy spellbinding moments.

Hogwarts in Hollywood at Universal Studios

Feel the magic at Hogwarts in Hollywood at Universal Studios beginning April 7, 2016. Courtesy Universal Studios Hollywood.

 

A soft opening is underway with the official debut scheduled for April 7, 2016. Inspired by J.K. Rowling’s compelling stories and characters that were brought to life in the Warner Bros. films, the new experience is described as the best ever real-world interpretation. Though built on land owned by muggles, the theme park visuals will replicate the iconic themes from the books and films including snow-capped roofs and cobblestone streets of Hogsmeade, Hogwarts Castle and Hogwarts Express.

For thrill seekers, Universal has created the land’s signature ride, “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey,” and the family outdoor coaster, “Flight of the Hippogriff™.”

Fans may sign up for the latest news and information at Hogwarts in Hollywood or join the conversation online using #WizardingWorldHollywood.

The magic of  a summer vacation in Southern California will have a new whimsical dimension. Bring it on.

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files

 

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Ireland on My Mind.

My screensaver for the month is the Cliffs of Moher; I watched River Dance last night; I am listening to Celtic Thunder at the moment and on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day I am planning to bake Irish soda bread. I have Ireland on my mind.

Cliffs of Moher along Ireland’s western coast

Cliffs of Moher along Ireland’s western coast embrace the power of the sea connecting the island to its destiny.

I think of Ireland and smile. It is known for its friendly people and engaging music plus I know it to be artful, festive, magical, mysterious, quirky, beautiful,  energizing, and welcoming which makes the destination perfect for families on holiday.

For families of all age combinations the choices for having fun and making memories are many. Want to enjoy miles of awesome bike trails, hike into the morning mist, or walk along ancient island pathways?  Want to listen to energizing music, hear local stories, and laugh every day? Maybe the taste creamy cheeses, soda bread, and scrumptious ginger bread sounds appealing? How about sailing lessons or a falconry session at a castle? Ireland with kids is a natural high. The fresh air and ready-made adventures make achieving a healthy vacation balance easy.

Historic Kinsale Harbor

Historic Kinsale Harbor is a stopping point on Thomson Family Adventures Ireland adventure.

For families the vacation options are plentiful from fly/drive circuits to escorted island adventures customized for small groups. Thomson Family Adventures has a quintessentially Irish family vacation experience. The escorted multi-sport tour includes Dublin and focuses on the dramatically beautiful southwestern coast and includes sailing lessons in the harbor of historic Kinsale, biking through the Gap of Dunloe, and kayaking around the shores of Baltimore. Adventures by Disney has a family tour which begins in Dublin, includes a castle stay and concludes at Shannon. For more independent families I very much like the Ancient & Medieval Mysteries vacation offered by Authentic Ireland.

Clonmacnoise Heritage Site

Nun’s Chapel ruins along the River Shannon at Clonmacnoise Heritage Site date from the 10th century depict evidence of Ireland’s rich history.

Of course I have dozens of notes and suggestions posted on our Ireland page. The punch line Ireland is a terrific place to vacation with kids of all ages.

Níos déanaí.

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.

Cross-country skiing near Traverse City, Michigan

Winter Trails Add Extra Energy to “Learn a Snow Sport Month.”

For most of North America January is all about snow sports and celebrating winter in the snow. We have been announcing this month-long celebration for more than a decade because it spans the country and always offers super deals and screen-free ways to share the fun with your kids.

Cross-country skiing near Traverse City, Michigan

Cross-country skiing family fun near Traverse City, Michigan

The Winter Trails component focuses on Nordic sports of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing two popular ways to have fun, burn calories and later eat all the chocolate or pasta you want. Because the best cross-country skiing spots are in beautiful surroundings where cell phones usually do not work the chance to escape with your kids for a day is easier. The result will yield more smiling, laughing, and maybe a few breathless moment if your kids are setting the pace.

Vail Resorts Nordic Center snowshoe treks in Colorado

Vail Resorts Nordic Center snowshoe adventures will energize any Colorado family vacation.

During January at participating locations there is no charge for the use of equipment and trails plus most locations offer snowshoeing and cross-country skiing instructions for newbies. Organizers have made registration easy with an online service that allows participants to sign up for their preferred location before leaving home. Those who register on-line have the chance to win prizes from sponsors.

Lapland Lake Adirondacks cross-country skiing.

Adirondacks cross-country skiing at Lapland Lake.

Winter Trails locations with offerings include popular alpine resorts like Sugar Mountain Resort near Boone, North Carolina and bucolic Lapland Lake Resort in New York’s Adirondacks as well as state parks, National Park Service, and U.S. Forest Service land. YMCA of the Rockies has terrific Nordic facilities.  Vail Resorts in Colorado offer Nordic adventures for families and kids of all age may enjoy the trails in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Information about other snow sports learning programs may be viewed at www.winterfeelsgood.com.

Happy trails,

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files

Snow Tubing Yields Squeals and Smiles.

Don’t wait to get your snow tubing thrills, snowy activities may be part of spring break 2016 for many but Mother Nature is fickle and some are already predicting an early thaw. I am nudging action if your family is in need of a double dose of thrills and laughter because snow tubing will do it.

The growing popularity of snow tubing offers the chance to share snowy thrills and sometimes ride a magic carpet as part of the experience. It does not require lessons or practice to be enjoyed. It’s really a ready-made, surprisingly affordable, screen-free day adventure.

I like it as much as ziplining for many of the same reasons. Snow tubing is definitely a multi-generational experience (not really a sport) that combines a modicum of skill, fresh air, squeals of joy, and laughter. It is a recipe for pure family fun with no apps needed.  It has few age requirements and offers thrills for 10-year-olds, teens, 20-somethings and most snow slugs over 50. Some locations even have mini lanes and short runs for tykes.

To facilitate spring break planning or planning for next weekend, the Family Travel Files has just expanded its Snow Places folder to include an extensive list of snow tubing spots across the US. New additions to the list offer terrific snow tubing possibilities including snow tubing at night, snow play areas and extra activities like snow sledding, winter ziplining, pint-sized snowmobiling, dog sledding, and even a bob sled run for those who get no thrills from snow tubing.

Prepare to slide before the thaw.

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.

Hey Dudes, Saddle Up with Your Kids.

As the year comes to an end, it is time to think about next summer and making vacation plans. Given 2016 is an election year and it seems like there will be no end to the absurdities which will likely be super-sized by summer, I think a dude ranch might be the answer. A dude ranch vacation provide opportunities to escape the 24-hour news cycle and to get real. Time on a guest ranch delivers new experiences with every sunrise and no fact checking will be needed.

Dude Ranch Vacation Smile

Smiling comes naturally for kids on a dude ranch vacation.

Our family has enjoyed many Wyoming campfires with sing-a-longs, trail rides in Colorado, Arizona starry nights with coyotes yelping, and cowboy poetry in Alberta. Our daughters learned to saddle and ride, rope and shoot skeet, track and identify scat before they were teens.

I can say honestly no two days on a ranch will ever be the same but every day is guaranteed to be interesting and rewarding. Expect horses, hats, hospitality, heritage, honesty and heart with a little music, a lot of storytelling, and plenty of reasons to smile or laugh out loud. Expect screen-free family fun.

Located in some of the most breathtaking areas of the U.S. and Canada, dude ranches are usually all-inclusive and generally flexible with activities. One of the best resources for planning a family dude ranch vacation is the Dude Ranchers’ Association (DRA). Their website features more than 100 accredited guest ranches.

Browsing is part of the fun.

Happy trails,

Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files

Have a Great Trip – Stay Safe.

Whether it’s a road trip, train trip or plane trip, it is wise to establish your own family travel rules to keep everyone safe and happy. Because we are out the door in the morning, I have just reviewed the trip rules with our-year-old grandson. After some thought his only question was can my mom be my buddy? I replied, “Why, yes she can.”

Naturally rules evolve as families mature and I have learned from experience when children know the rules ahead of time and the backstory for each rule, trips become more predictable, less stressful and safer.

Santa Claus City Limits

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Five rules govern the bridge time which begins with our departure from home and concludes when we arrive safely at our vacation destination. Even though our family mix includes strong willed, independent, sometimes stubborn individuals, we choose to travel together and all abide by the same family travel rules.

Leave on time. Safe travel begins with a timely departure from home remains in place until you reach your destination

Make trip leader in charge. To lessen stress caused by situations out of your control, move and act as a group. While traveling one adult needs to be the point person and all travelers need to know who it is.

Use the buddy system. Just like swimming at the lake or in the sea, the buddy system is an invaluable tool to sustain safe, stress-free travels.

Listen and observe. While on the move everyone needs to practice situational awareness. Insist that your children use active listening. Listen to the adult in charge; listen to security staff; listen to the stewardess. Encourage them to keep track of their own possessions and actively observe their surroundings.

Remain flexible. Sometimes travel expectations fall short of the mark. A positive flexible attitude, even if you have to fake it, will keep your family safer.

If this sounds like micro managing, think again. The idea is to travel safely together not just for one trip but for all the subsequent trips and to enjoy the journey and time with each other.

Have a Great Trip – Stay Safe.

Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.

 

Kinsa – Cooler Than Ice Cubes at 98.6.

No one plans to become ill while on vacation, but air travel, climate adjustments, food allergies, cruise ship activities, jet lag, and public restrooms all provide the potential to wear down resistance and to allow unwanted germs to wreak havoc. Becoming sick is not an automatic result but as a mom and grand mom, I think being prepared offers peace of mind.

Kinsa is the world’s first smart thermometer.

Kinsa, the world’s first smart thermometer, measures, tracks, and stores temperatures using a user friendly app.

A couple of weeks ago I used Kinsa, the world’s first smart thermometer. I am not the most tech savvy individual but the app enabled device which connects to the headphone jack of a smart phone is easy to install, easy to understand, and though I did not test it on a feverish tyke, it worked like a charm on my 20-something daughter.

If you have ever been away from home at a resort or in a hotel room with a sick child and needed a thermometer, you will agree with me that this item is cooler than ice cubes.

Kinsa is the world’s first smart thermometer.

Knowledge is power and Kinsa provides guidance about symptoms so action may be taken.

The thermometer stick is lightweight and flexible so it will fit in a carry-on, purse, backpack or even a jacket pocket. It makes tracking a family member’s symptoms and temperatures easy. Kinsa’s new version has the ability to give guidance about what to do when a fever is detected. Stored on your phone, the information is ready to share with your doctor if need be.

Practical, affordable and essential when traveling with kids, I just ordered a second one in the hopes that by having it with us during the holidays we will not have the need for one.

Happy travels,

Nancy Nelson-Duac Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.