Family Vacations, Summer 1998
You Gotta Regatta
So you didn't turn out to be Dennis Conner. That doesn't mean you have to put your insigniaed blue blazer in storage. Heck no! It just means that it's time to do some serious projecting of your sailing fantasies onto your children.
Start them on the road to yacht-racing stardom at the sixth annual Scotia Bank Caribbean International Optimist Regatta, held June 18-21 on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Kids of all abilities race the eight-foot, tublike dinghies in the sheltered tourmaline waters of Cowpet Bay on the island's east end in winds averaging 10 to 20 knots. Novices run a shorter course than more advanced sailors.
Last year the event drew some 75 children from all over the Caribbean as well as from the United States. The entry fee of $90 includes three days of racing and all meals. Racers can either enter their own boats or charter a new Optimist for the regatta for $250-$300. The event is open to kids ages 6-15. For additional information, call 809-777-3892. — Meg Lukens Noonan
"Fresh air is good, fresh air is good. . ." Keep repeating this mantra as you ponder the following facts:
Are the kids tired of being dragged to vacation spots with atmosphere? Well, here's an outfit dedicated to transcending that — and gravity as well. Space Adventures, a new Virginia-based company, is already taking reservations for $100,000 seats on a rocket that will blast tourists 62 miles into suborbital space. The only catch: The craft hasn't been created yet.
But the instant it is, "we'll have a customer base for them," says Taylor Jernigan, vice president of program development. Until then (they're guessing 2001), the company offers other space-themed adventures right here on the home planet. At the Rocket Science Training Program (in Phoenix, Arizona) you and your clan will assemble a gigantic (ten-feet-tall, seven-and-a-half-inch-diameter) model rocket of aluminum and laminated cardboard. On the third day, having attended lectures by rocket designers, you'll watch your creation loft several thousand feet skyward. This will earn you a diploma that allows you to brag: "Why yes, I am a rocket scientist."
Then there's what the company refers to as Innerspace. That means underwater — 8,000 feet down, off the coast of North America, to be precise. From inside a three-person sub the size of a sports car you'll peer out at the wonder of "vent life" — creatures that live around thermal cracks on the ocean floor. What's down there? "A type of kelp," says Jernigan, "and. . . I want to say worms. Elongated tubeworms." And you might even get to see some glowing fish, if you're lucky.
Rocket Science Training Programs run March 27-29 and April 24-26, as well as several dates this summer that haven't yet been set. The cost is $770-$850 per person (minimum age 12), including accommodations at the Holiday Inn Midtown with daily breakfast, a welcome dinner, and a lunch. For more information contact Space Adventures at 888-857-7223. — Ryan Underwood
When the Klepper family's vacation rolled around three years ago, instead of booking a package to the Caribbean they moved into a trailer in the Mississippi Delta and spent a week helping the neighbors dig a foundation for a much-needed fire station. Had they received the wrong brochure? No, they were participating in a program set up by Global Volunteers, an organization that arranges service trips and projects worldwide. Did they enjoy themselves? Definitely. "I was born with a lot more than they were born with," says Adam Klepper, who was 14 at the time. "It's important to help out."
The following year, the family traveled to China to teach English. Participants need to be in good health, and some programs call for specific skills. Costs range from $350 per person for week-long domestic programs to $2,090 for three-week foreign programs (room and board included). Call Global Volunteers at 800-487-1074.
Sierra Club Outings (415-977-5522) invites families with kids ten years old and up to participate in their Teton Wilderness Multi-Generational Service Trip in which kids, parents, and grandparents will spend July 5-12 repairing trails and eradicating weeds just outside Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park. Room and board in a tented base camp are provided, as well as all equipment; costs are $375 for adults and $275 for kids 17 and under.
The American Hiking Society (301-565-6704, ext. 115) runs dozens of service trips suitable for families with older kids. Volunteers arrange their own transportation to the site, pay a $65 fee, and furnish their own tents and gear. Meals usually are provided. This year, the society will offer about 18 summer programs appropriate for families. For example, one crew will assist in constructing a section of the Iron Goat Trail in Washington's Mount Baker National Forest (July 11-19); another will reconstruct the Lightning Lake Trail in Montana's Gallatin National Forest (August 2-8).
The Savannah Science Museum's Caretta Research Project on Wassaw Island off the coast of Georgia allows selected families to help research loggerhead sea turtles. There are six spots available each week; kids under 18 need permission from the project director to participate. Kids (us-ually teenagers) work with their parents to tag adult female turtles, monitor nests, and protect the hatchlings from predators. The programs run from Saturday to Saturday all summer. The $500-per-person fee covers room, board, equipment, and supervision (call 912-355-6705).
In a more academic vein, the University of California's University Research Expeditions Program (510-642-6586) welcomes families with kids over 15 to their scientific expeditions. This year, they can help excavate a ceremonial site on the northern coast of Peru, June 25-July 9 and July 13-27. Ground costs are $1,395 per person. Closer to home, families also can study the habitat needs of the American marten in California's eastern Sierra. The study runs June 28-July 11 and costs $785 per person. — Lisa Jones
There's Chris Wyman windsurfing on the Columbia River Gorge, finessing an acrobatic forward loop, and Scott Shipley careening down a waterfall, his kayak punching through the foam. But despite the high-level competition at the Timberland Gorge Games in Hood River, Oregon, your family can have a great time even if no one knows how to do an Eskimo Roll or hoist a sail. This year, in addition to the weeklong roster of events and clinics for adults, there's more going on for kids, including mini Gorge Game competitions for ages 5-17, clinics in snowboarding, rock climbing, mountain biking, windsurfing, kayaking, and more, plus daily scavenger hunts, hikes, and arts and crafts. The best part is that most everything is free! Dates are July 11-18; call 541-386-7774 or log on to www.gorgegames.com. — L. W.
How do you find the best off-season deals in summer? Go to Florida. Or go farther, south of the border to the Caribbean, where summer rates are 30 to 40 percent cheaper than in winter.
The Indian River Plantation Marriott Resort in Stuart, Florida (800-775-5936), is set on Hutchinson Island, a 16-mile barrier island on Florida's east coast, midway between Miami and Orlando. The 200-acre resort has a laid-back Florida ambience, with its profusion of cabbage and coconut palms and white wicker furniture. Adults can use one of four pools, play on the 13 tennis courts, or kayak to the mangroves; kids can spend the day at Pineapple Bunch Camp, which offers swimming, sports, games, and lunch for $25 per day for kids ages 4-12. Summer rates start at $159 for a junior suite with two double beds and a pull-out bed, a sharp drop from winter's $249 chill.
Or take Wyndham Rose Hall Beach Resort (800-996-3426) in Montego Bay, Jamaica. With 488 rooms, this seven-story high rise on 400 acres is a good deal in summer, when rates for a standard double room drop from $200 to $109 a night. For most of the year, the hotel offers a family deal in which kids 18 and under get a separate or adjoining room for 50 percent off the regular rates. The Kids On Us program, available only in summer, lets kids 12 and under sharing a room with their parents stay and eat for free. The free all-day Kids Klub for ages five to 12 includes swimming, building sand castles, and competing in mini-Olympics. Adults can work out at the new fitness center and play tennis and golf .
Go to Puerto Rico for the greatest pool in the Caribbean, a 1,776-foot-long pool with 14 waterfalls and a three-story slide. It's part of the Hyatt Regency Cerromar Beach (800-554-9288), which charges $205 per room in summer versus $405 in winter; book a second room for kids at 50 percent off. Camp Hyatt kid's program for ages three to 12 includes swimming classes, nature walks, and folklore shows; in summer the full-day rate drops from $40 to $20.
On Grenada, Blue Horizons Cottage Hotel (800-223-9815) has 32 air-conditioned one-bedroom studios and suites, all with kitchenette. The hotel is less than a five-minute walk from Grand Anse Beach, where guests can snorkel at Blue Horizons's sister property, Spice Island Beach Resort. You'll save bucks over the beachfront property: Spice Island charges $395 per night in January and $315 in July (including breakfast and dinner) for a one-bedroom suite; a family of four would need two suites. But at Blue Horizons, a family of four can comfortably stay in a one-bedroom suite with one king or two double beds plus a sleep sofa; rates are $180 ($50 for each additional child over 12) in winter, and just $120 (kids 18 and under are free) in summer. — Everett Potter
Call me childish, but when I saw the shimmery trout swimming in their glass-sided stream at the new L.L. Kids store in Freeport, Maine, I settled down and stopped whining. The tot beside me sucked her fingers in wonder. The 17,000-square-foot L.L. Kids, built to resemble a traditional Maine sporting camp, opened last August adjacent to the more staid L.L. Bean store. In addition to the pint-sized clothing and gear like reflective hats and gloves, kids' PFDs, and fishing poles, you'll find:
The Stanford Alpine Chalet, Alpine Meadows, California
Blue Lake Ranch, Hesperus, Colorado
The Tyler Place, Highgate Springs, Vermont
Attean Lake Lodge, Jackman, Maine
Double occupancy rates, including meals, are $190 per night; ages 6-12 are $60 additional; children five and under are $25 additional. Weekly rates are $1,200 for two people; $330 for kids 6-12; $110 for five and under. About 50 people can be accommodated; to rent the whole place you'll need at least six months' notice. Call 207-668-3792. — Jane McConnell
More and more ski resorts are marketing their slopes as year-round playgrounds, with hiking, biking, and watersports replacing the steeps and deeps of winter and prices plummeting as temperatures rise. But not all resorts are created equal; some, we've found, have much more family appeal than others.
Whistler Resort, British Columbia
Sun Valley, Idaho
Smugglers' Notch, Vermont
If your parents tell you they want to take their grandchildren on vacation without you, don't start having visions of little Jimmy forced to stare at a plate of peas until every last one is eaten, or of Grandma reaching for her heart pills after the 50th game of Brain Warp. Here are three nature-oriented trips specifically designed for grandparents and grandchildren with plenty of action — and interaction — for both generations.
Great Camp Sagamore Grandparents' and Grandchildren's Camp
Sierra Club Outings' Clair Tappaan Lodge:
Grandtravel's Alaskan Wilderness Adventure
Illustrations by James Yang, Tim Bower, Mike Lee
Filed To: Snow Sports