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My family and I do a lot of sightseeing in our hometown of New York City, where we tend to follow a simple plan of leaving home after breakfast, staying out all day, and coming home for dinner.
The part of the plan that always seems to need a little work is the staying out all day part. Minutes after leaving home, a child will declare that he or she is “really thirsty” (ever notice how a kid is never just plain thirsty?) or, upon reaching whatever attraction we had planned, someone snivels about how bored or tired they are before really giving the outing a chance.
Up until recently, I hadn’t really given much thought to how to make our family day trips more successful. But then something decidedly weird happened: New York Comic Con. If you’re unfamiliar with this event, imagine an intergalactic Ellis Island, where in lieu of immigrants, thousands of space aliens, comic book heroes and villains, and Earthlings with badges dangling from neck lanyards await processing into a great hall – in this case the Javits Center – where exhibitors await traffic to their booths.
It was during this outing that I discovered four easy tricks that eliminated a lot of the typical whininess I usually encounter during a family trip.
Florida’s Boca Beach Club, a chichi Waldorf Astoria Resort situated on the Sunshine State’s Gold Coast, is ramping up its winning mix of sun, surf, sand, and sumptuous accommodations with a slate of innovative new guest offerings. While some of the recently debuted programs are fairly cookie-cutter (sunrise yoga, sunset kite flying, nightly stargazing), we couldn’t help but take note of eye-catching resort programs like “water walkers,” informal modeling shows, and – our personal favorite – sand sculpture instruction. Read more
Don’t want to brave the competitive holiday shopping mayhem this season? The Carlyle, a Rosewood Hotel, is offering guests the “Santa’s Shopper” package, saving you the hassle of trying to get your hands on the sold-out Let’s Rock Elmo and the Leapfrog LeapPad for your loved ones. It’s a win-win: a mini-vacation for parents, and a happy Christmas for children.
The “Santa’s Shopper” package, starting at $780, includes accommodations at the 81-year-old hotel for one night, either the Let’s Rock Elmo or Leapfrog LeapPad, two cocktails in Bemelmans Bar, breakfast for two in the Carlyle Restaurant, and complimentary gift wrapping. The package must be booked one week in advance, and it is offered through December 23 (based on availability).
Forget snail mail: Santa and his helpers are tech-savvy now. At the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Destin, Florida, children can Skype with Old Saint Nick prior to their stay at the resort. A reservation at the resort is not required to Skype with Santa; it is open to everyone. Santa has already talked to kids in Africa, Sweden, and Canada!
Santa is available to Skype between 4 and 5pm central time on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in November, as well as December 7. It is free to participate; families only need a Skype account in order to book a time with Santa and discuss their Christmas lists.
Sandestin also offers a Santa Tuck-In, where Santa comes knocking at the door, offers each child a personalized gift and reads them a Christmas story. These visits will be available Fridays and Saturdays from November 25 through December 16. It costs $65 a child (and $15 per additional child). A portion of the proceeds will benefit Toys for Tots.
Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, cruises, and more travel deals.
ShermansTravel editors already consider The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun a smart splurge, but the resort no doubt recognizes the need in these difficult economic times to boost its splurge-worthiness, hence its Stay Four Nights Pay Only For Three offer, starting at $249 per night and valid through December 21.
Given that the deal includes an ocean view room with a balcony, you might be tempted to leave the kids at home. But because that’s likely not an option, you’ll like the fact that the offer permits up to two children younger than 12 accompanied by a grown-up to eat selected meals for free in all six of the resort’s restaurants; poolside snacks are included, too.
Whether you’re packing up the family for a few more days of quality time before everyone’s hectic school year schedules start up again or planning a rendezvous for two, these hotels are offering an old-school way to kick it on a red-checkered blanket, no ants allowed, for the last few days of summer.
Head west to the family-owned El Capitan Canyon located on the Pacific coast of Southern California for the Family Picnic Package, which includes a two-night stay in the accommodation of your choice. This upscale outdoor destination is nestled against the Los Padres National Forest and only a five-minute walk away from the El Capitan State Beach. The package includes a complimentary Canyon Logo picnic bag packed with a s’mores kit for four and a bundle of firewood, as well as a picnic blanket, trail mix snack, and a lunch coupon for four to be redeemed at either the Canyon Deli Garden Patio or the Back Market Lawn. Lunch can be packed up to go and enjoyed with gorgeous ocean and mountain views from one of Canyon’s several hiking trails. Rates start at $384 for two nights in the Safari Tent, $516 for a Cedar Cabin, and $494 for the Adventure Yurt; www.elcapitancanyon.com.
For nearly a decade my family and I have been visiting Mystic, CT because it’s perfectly halfway between NYC and Cape Cod. Our routine is to stop for lunch, peek at the water, and be on our way. It wasn’t until last week that we discovered what might happen if we gave Mystic a promotion from pit stop to getaway.
Sure enough, it’s worth making the circuit of the Mystic Seaport, the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, and Mystic Aquarium, if only because they’re family-friendly sites within a couple miles of each other. But since we had already been to more seaports, nature centers, and aquariums than we’d care to remember, what was special about Mystic?
Here are the moments that stayed with us days after we returned home.
Minutes after leaving our Union Square hotel my family managed to stumble across the only Disney Store in San Francisco. Did we really need to fly to one of the greatest cities in the world to visit a chain store? Of course not.
But what if I told you Disney ran a museum crackling with Disney magic, including rare film clips and artifacts you won’t find in any retail store? You really would have to fly to San Francisco for that and head to the Presidio’s under-hyped Walt Disney Family Museum, a three-building, 77,000 square foot space that opened in Fall 2009.
One goal of the museum is to focus on Walt Disney himself. According to his eldest daughter, museum co-founder Diane Disney Miller, “My father has one of the most well-known names around the world, but as the Disney ‘brand’ has grown, the man has become lost,” so parents in particular as well as older kids might find the museum’s audio interviews and conversations with Disney co-workers enlightening.
Upping the ante for the younger set are exhibits on the making of the game-changing Snow White animated film as well as the development of the Disney theme parks. Kids of all attention spans will also delight in the more than 200 monitors rolling clips from movies and shorts, including some Walt Disney home movies never before seen by the public.
Should you want to build a family vacation around a pilgrimage to the museum and such neighboring points of interest as Crissy Field and the Golden Gate Bridge, three Union Square-area boutique hotels in the Joie de Vivre group, the Galleria Park, Hotel Rex, and Hotel Adagio, will be using four museum admission tickets as the centerpiece of their summer family getaway package.
Among the other package inclusions are three tickets to whatever movie is playing at the museum, a bottle of vino from a Bay Area winery, and a philanthropic touch: for every night of your stay at one of the hotels, five dollars will be donated to the Art for Life Foundation, which coordinates art programs for kids in hospitals recovering from surgery or illness.
The deal, which starts at $219 per night, is good for travel through September 5, 2011; a seven-day advance purchase is required and some blackout dates may apply. As of this writing, the hotel’s websites had not posted details of the deal, so inquire by phone at the respective hotels about the “Joy of Family” package.
For general trip-planning information, see our San Francisco Travel Guide, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates and travel deals on hotels, flights, vacation packages, and more.
For all those adults out there who love expressing their inner child, it’s now a very real possibility in New York City’s Central Park. The storied Plaza Hotel, conveniently located on the southern edge of the park, will offer a Tricycle Garage starting July 1. Both hotel guests and average city dwellers may rent Radio Flyer tricycles, bicycles, and scooters. The Tricycle Garage is a revival of a similar service first offered by the hotel in May 1956. Back then, bike racks and numbered license plates cost just 15 cents per day! Today, kids of all ages may rent the wheels at a cost of $20 for two hours, or $40 per day. The hotel also offers customizable, private tours of Central Park as part of a summer package – and the tours can even be arranged on tricycles.
Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, packages, and more travel deals.
Had I not been in New Jersey last weekend for a family function, I never would have set aside time to take my kids to the Turtle Back Zoo, and that would have been a shame.
The Essex County zoo has been reluctantly running under the radar since it opened more than 48 years ago, but it’s had a few watershed moments these last six years, including opening an animal hospital in 2005, receiving prestigious accreditation from the American Zoo and Aquarium Association the following year, and opening its renovated Australian exhibit in summer 2008. The latter caught my attention, because I hadn’t taken my family with me to Australia in February and was excited for them to see kangaroos.
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