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New England leaf-peeping is a classic tourism comfort food. The quietly-blazing warmth of colors, the serenity of chancing upon them, and the pull of familiarity (certainly, our ancestors were peeping when the states were still colonies) add up to a soothing dish that is basic, life affirming, romantic, and, in many ways, free.
Yet I must admit that unless my family happens to be driving up north anyway, we have never deliberately timed a trip to watch the changing leaves, nor have I ever had the desire to plan a fall foliage-focused getaway. Perhaps I’m selling my kids’ attention spans short or am just being weird about it, but I need more of a reason to take that trip. And the other day, I stumbled across a good one. Tree-climbing classes.
Escape to winter wonderland this ski season at the Topnotch Resort and Spa, an idyllic country estate in Stowe, Vermont. Mid-week visits start at $129 and weekends at $209, a savings of up to 40 percent a night off standard rates. Just minutes from the world-famous Stowe Mountain Resort, Topnotch offers an on-demand shuttle to and from the resort and an on-site ski shop. Spend your day blazing trails at the Ski Capital of the East, then come back to the resort for a luxurious après-ski experience. Linger over a dinner made with organic local ingredients, treat yourself to a massage at the spa, or curl up with a good book in your luxurious bedroom. If skiing and snowboarding aren’t your thing, there’s plenty else to do in Stowe, from sleigh-riding to perusing shops and relaxing at a café in the charming New England village.
THE VALUE: Save up to 40 percent a night throughout the entire ski season.
THE CATCH: Weekend rates are significantly higher than mid-week rates.
THE DETAILS: Visit Topnotch Resort to book your stay by September 25.
Last week the family vacation blog was clued in about seven cities with favorable fall hotel rates, a gift to parents with the luxury of traveling at will with non-school age kids. I don’t have that luxury, but if I did, my first choice hands down would be Denver.
Not only is Denver’s average daily hotel rate 10 percent lower than it was last fall, but prices tend to drop anyway immediately after the city’s summer high season. If you’re looking for a little luxe for less, check out our top-rated Denver hotel, Brown Palace, running such deals as the Kids in the City package (promo code MKTCKC) from $229 per night, including breakfast for two daily as well as a $15 per night room credit.
My kids are fairly dependent on wireless gadgets and DVR, and I’m almost ashamed to admit that they’re learning by example. Vacations bring the promise of curtailing these weak pursuits. But after our family swim, beach time, or other low-intensity outing, we’re unwilling to resist the hotel room TV that’s inevitably far bigger than the one in our living room.
And then there was the time last summer when I realized that my daughter and I had spent more than an hour in a hotel lobby completely absorbed by what was happening on our side-by-side computer monitors. You’d think that would have been the time to look away from my screen and tell my daughter that it was time to stop the madness. But it was too easy to keep doing what we were doing.
Hollywood actors seem to take enormous pride in doing their own stunts. It’s easy to see why. If an action hero is required to leap from a 32-foot water tower, for instance, there’s a professional stunt person with years of experience prepared to stand in for our hero and take the leap. But from the actor’s point of view, making that leap himself is likely far more of a rush than delivering a monologue, as exciting as that can be.
Kids likewise seem to take enormous pride in doing their own stunts, whether said stunts are illicit leaps from one bed to another or semi good-natured sparring matches with their siblings. But from a parent’s point of view, many of these day-to-day jumps and fights feel like preludes to emergency room visits. And while that feeling never goes away, it might help if you child goes away – to Hollywood Stunt Camp, that is.
You could spend a pleasurable week at the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas without knowing you had at your disposal the skills of former Olympic windsurfer Paul Stoeken, but that would be a shame.
Along with members of his certified team, Stoeken, owner of Island Sol Water Sports, runs the Ritz-Kids Sailing Camp, held every weekday at the property for kids ages 8 to 13. You’ll pay $110 for the first child and $95 for each additional kid, and if you know what sailing lessons usually cost (a lot more) this is a good deal. Each lesson is tailored to your child’s skill and interest level. Kids can train on windsurfing equipment, a dinghy called an Optimist Pram (that your child will likely call Optimus Prime, if your child is anything like me) or a Hobie cat, the most popular craft among campers.
Tampa is tirelessly tailoring itself for families, as our ShermansTravel.com travel guide astutely points out. And when it comes to where to bring the brood for Major League Baseball spring training fun, the Tampa Bay Area is difficult to refuse. You’ve got the one-two punch of a cluster of ballparks – the Yankees in Tampa, the Phillies in Clearwater, and the Jays in Dunedin, among others – as well as perhaps the most under-appreciated and best coaster-laden theme park anywhere, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.
That said, while Tampa can be an easy home run for a family vacation, there is merit in doing the opposite, as George Costanza proved when he secured his job with the New York Yankees. This month – and March is the only month Cactus League (www.springtrainingonline.com) spring training games are scheduled – why not pull together a family getaway to Tempe?
Fellow ShermansTravel.com bloggers Donna Heiderstadt and Andrew Skwarek posted recently about the romantic and scuba-tastic aspects of the Great Barrier Reef, and I was all too happy to jump on the bandwagon last week when Tourism Queensland brought me to Australia for, among other experiences, a full-day reef cruise.
I was expecting the jaw-dropping beauty that Andrew encountered during his trip and found it during my excursion aboard the Calypso (www.tropicaljourneys.com), one of several reef tour boats operating out of Port Douglas. What I wasn’t expecting to find when I stepped out onto one the catamaran’s outdoor decks was a couple with two young kids.
I’m an East Coast transplant who now calls the West Coast home. Now that I think about it, I’ve called California home for more years than I spent growing up in New Jersey. The holidays on the West Coast are definitely different. Not better or worse, just different. For the majority of the West, we have to travel to find snow; we don’t typically wake up and find it in our backyard. We still sing holiday songs like “White Christmas,” but some Californians just get the bonus of caroling in shorts and flip flops, and luckily, the spirit of the season doesn’t get lost in translation. As far as visitors go, it’s rare to hear someone complaining about missing freezing temperatures. If you’re thinking about a trip West for the holidays, there’ll be plenty to keep you busy. And packing light will be easy, because you can leave the mittens at home.
Startling a golfer during his backswing is typically frowned upon, but that’s what makes Halloween weekend different from any other at the Tampa Bay area’s Innisbrook resort, where a one-hour “Ghoulf Clinic,” replete with a deranged-looking clown, is among the activities in store from 6-9pm on October 29th and 30th.
The spooky golf lesson, available to grown-ups as well as kids 12 and under (costumes encouraged) is a first for the resort, though this is its second year of providing Halloween weekend programming. Two main events center on the property’s whimsically-shaped Loch Ness Monster pool. A “dive-in” movie, appropriate for kids 4-12, will include short films and cartoons and yes, swimming is permitted during the movies. Appropriate for the same age group, though by the sounds of it (literally) probably skewing toward the older end of that range, is a Haunted Hallow Trail, upon which 11 scenes staged by creepy witches and werewolves are designed to scare you and your family along the way.
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