#WestVirginia : Hitting the River with @ACEAdventures

Our whitewater experience started with a group meeting under the big tent. Our excursion leader was a dynamic twenty-year veteran with a set of powerful lungs and an energizing manner. ImageShe introduced herself and gave us a brief idea of what we could expect. Since we were rafting in early May, the water was still cold, and wetsuits required – luckily, ACE has a gear rental shop, and the process was seamless. Continue reading

#WestVirginia: Zip-lining & rock-climbing with @ACEadventures

ACE Adventure Center - Zip LineHeights are not really my thing – I don’t like roller-coasters, cliffs or suspension bridges. Increasingly in recent years, I’ve had many friends (and family members) tell me how great zip-lining is, and how it’s “not-to-be-missed.” Who can pass up that sort of recommendation? Continue reading

WOW! Factor Family Adventure Vacations Naturally Loaded with Fun, Energy & Memory Making Value.

Whitewater rafting @ ACE Adventure Resort near Oak Hill in Southern West VirginiaFor active families summer family vacation time is precious and it is pointless to spend a minute or a dime on predictable and boring activities in vacation places without a natural WOW! Factor.

Here’s the scoop. Vacations with a natural WOW! Factor deliver not-to-be-missed moments and one-of-a-kind thrills often seen on the Discovery Channel. Things like surfing a river rapid; hearing the roar of the incoming tide; watching a geyser explode; creating echoes from a mountaintop. I know of dozens of amazing family vacation ideas guaranteed to amaze, thrill, and yield unique family vacation memories. My list includes places where Mother Nature will impress even the most jaded adults and generate a WOW! from the kids. I am sharing a few examples on a short list below. For more ideas browse our Family Adventures lifestyle folder and see just exactly who delivers adventures with a natural WOW! Factor? Continue reading

Spring Break Plans Anyone?

Winter breaks have passed and it is officially on to spring breaks. This means, if you are a parent with school age children then it is likely – “good grief … the kids are out of school (fill in your dates here). I need a plan.”

Henricus Living History

Time travel Henricus style.

For some it is as simple as shipping them off to the grandparents but if that is not your case not then I have a few suggestions to make the time count and still have fun. Think about it. The school year is not over so this break time is a prime opportunity to combine learning and fun. Take advantage of the time to encourage learning about other places, people and things. Share unique activities with your kids (or grandkids) and have fun.  The “what” is not as important as the sharing of time learning together.
For example I like the exceptional 17th century living history recreated at Henricus Historical Park near Richmond, Virginia and they have added history and conservation tours along the James River on Discovery Barge II. Combine that with the new Children’s Garden at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden complete with tree house and international village.
Southern California has oodles of possibilities. I like Shark Lagoon Nights at Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. The free Friday night activity includes the chance to touch bamboo sharks and see large sand tiger sharks feeding. Combine that with a kayaking adventure on Alamitos Bay with Kayaks on the Water.
I like Pigeon Forge and Dollywood’s annual Festival of Nations because it’s a chance to have fun and share interesting cultures without the hassle of TSA. Combine that with a few hours of hiking in Great Smokey Mountains National Park or horseback riding near Cades Cove. Wait for it! If rollercoasters make your family happy, you need to know that Dollywood will literally launch “Wild Eagle” on March 24, 2012. It will define flying free.
Checkout Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and share The Science of Storms exhibit with your kids. It will be memorable. Combine that with time Lincoln Park Zoo. It’s free and open every day.

Better yet checkout the pre-planned urban adventures available with a CityPASS. Share great museums in world-class cities and enjoy substantial savings and avoid long lines. All the fun is included. Need more spring break ideas?  Click here.

Great Summer Family Vacation Adventures.

It’s no secret I look for amazing family vacation experiences that are not homogenized and mainstream. For that reason I can’t resist mentioning a couple of family trips with the potential for bragging rights.

Orcas Sea Kayak Adventures BC

Vancouver Island looking for oracs.

Whale Watching along Vancouver Island. During select weeks in the summer Sea Kayak Adventures offers an amazing four-day “Orca Quick Adventure” ideal for families seeking to share a sea adventure.  This new four-day tour is in addition a repertoire of six-day kayak tours in the area. This narrow sheltered orca freeway is world renowned for its summer population of “killer whales” following the salmon runs funneled from the sea into this specific area. Why this trip? Because it’s a chance to visit the first and only orca preserve in the world; paddle among salmon-eating orcas; enjoy sheltered waters and quick tour perfect for novice paddlers. Best of all seeing orcas is guaranteed in August or you get a free orca-watching day cruise. Make it happen. For further information contact Sea Kayak Adventures www.seakayakadventures.com

Go Ziplining with Your Kids in Warren County, Ohio.  I have written about zipline adventures in West Virginia, Hawaii, Colorado, Costa Rica, St. Lucia, and Ontario. (I am waiting for news on Georgia.) Now I am including Ozone Zipline Adventures, a company that operates the largest zipline in the Midwest offering a high-adventure canopy (tree-top) tour well-suited for families who want to fly. This energizing treetop zip combines education, thrills, and fun making it a smart choice for any active family. Why this trip? In addition to ziplining the area also offers miles of hiking or cycling trails, canoeing on the Little Miami, and Kings Island one of the largest amusement parks in the Midwest. The destination is definitely a family friendly, affordable vacation destination. Make it happen.  To learn more about ziplining or to find the latest family vacation package deals checkout www.ohioslargestplayground.com

Tiptoe along the Catwalk Under the New River Bridge.

Southern West Virginia New River Gorge Bridge

Whitewater rafters under New River Gorge Bridge

Southern West Virginia always has exciting things for active families to enjoy. Scenic and wild, the area contains the spectacular New River Gorge, also known as the “Grand Canyon of the East” and now daring vacationers can walk under the bridge that is over the river – REALLY! The bridge is the largest single span steel arch in the Western Hemisphere, and the highest vehicle carrying bridge in the United States. Until now the 24-inch wide catwalk is an existing part of the structure but has always been restricted. Why this trip? The area offers enough for seven vacations. Activity choices include hiking, biking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, live theatre, antiques, golf, fishing, sporting clays, horseback riding, caving, and spa experiences. And it is the home of ACE Adventure Resort one of my family’s favorites spots. Make it happen.  Get more details about the area by going to  www.visitwv.com

Just tell me where to go.

For years I have heard this comment from parents – directly and indirectly but in my attempt to be politically correct and socially sensitive, I dodge the issue with a question, no  several questions – age of kids, family interests, and how much time and money to you want to spend? When are you going and are you flying or driving (no one ever says they are taking the train even though it may be the perfect idea).

Drawing from two decades of traveling with kids, I always have suggestions but through experience I have learned to stop providing 10 ideas. While it is just the right number for a list, it is too much for a busy parent.

This year almost everyone is looking for a more affordable getaway. Really who doesn’t want to have more fun and spend less? We have begun compiling “Free or Almost Free” lists for select family vacation destinations. Continue reading

USA: Best Vacations for Families with Teens –Try Whitewater.

USA: Best Vacations for Families with Teens –Try Whitewater. Enjoying vacation time during teenage years can be tricky. Assuming you can negotiate work schedules and assorted practice schedules to fit with social calendars, and school calendars then there is still what, where, and why. Because I know no two families are alike there is really no such thing as one-size-fits-all “best” vacation idea but I can think of several very good ideas if your vacation plans include one or more teens.

Old familiar family vacation spots may still be the perfect fit (some teens do not like surprises) or you may hear “not again” meaning it’s time for plan B. Continue reading

Virginia: Virginia Beach, Sandbridge – Beach Time, Slow and Easy, No Schedules Needed.

I am sitting on the deck starring at the Atlantic and waiting for the sun. It is the first morning of our family vacation at the beach and I plan to find quiet time for myself each day – so far so good. I made coffee by flashlight, secured granola bar from the sack box and borrowed an over-sized beach towel haphazardly left on a chair.

Opening the sliding door was a bit tricky but it’s been 10 minutes and there is no sound from the house. My first sunrise will be uninterrupted. As I sip my coffee the gray-black horizon is being doused with hues of purple, orange and increasing amounts of yellow. I see pelicans scanning the waves and seagulls working the beach. It is low tide and the rhythm of the waves is slow and easy. Slow and easy – describes our plans for the week. I plan to share sand castles, sea breezes, and sunsets with my kids. We’re going bike, hike and try surfing – some of us that is. I am keeping sunrises for myself. Continue reading