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Vacation Bulletins

Family Vacations, Summer 1998

Vacation Bulletins

News for adventurous families


The Summer Calendar
The fun begins June 4!

Solutions for Single Parents
An increasing number of destinations offer single-parent rates

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

OK, But When Will It Be Out on Video?

"Fresh air is good, fresh air is good. . ." Keep repeating this mantra as you ponder the following facts:

One Approach Our Approach
Admission to Universal Studios:
$34 per child, $42 per adult, per day
To Yellowstone National Park:
$20 per car
Price of a Nintendo controller, plus a device that makes it vibrate in your hand when your character is shot: $50 Of a child's baseball mitt:
Number of stars visible from the heart of the average city:
300 to 600
From the heart of the wilderness:
Number of calories in a "Super Size" order of McDonald's fries: 540 In a campfire-baked potato:
Amount Americans spend on videotape rental each year:
$6 trillion
On sports equipment:
$15 billion
Number of commercials the average child sees in a year: 20,000 Summer vacations in an American kid's lifetime: 12      — Ryan Underwood

The Final Frontier
No Danger, Will Robinson!

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

Vacations with a Little Give

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

Hail, Columbia!

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.

Best Off-Season Deals

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

Bean There, Done That

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:

  • Three mountain bikes mounted on shaking machinery, complete with sound effects.
  • A kid-sized electronic climbing wall.
  • A storeful of stuffed wildlife — skunks, otters, porcupines, beavers, raccoons, and foxes.
  • A molded "hiking trail" for trying out footwear.
  • A Rainy Day Room with books, crayons, and cushions that look suspiciously like L.L. Bean dog beds.
  • Displays on animal tracking and orienteering where kids learn to use compass and maps and track animal prints throughout the store.
  • Oh, and the clothes. There are fleece patterns you didn't know existed and shirts and socks in non-staid shades. Call L.L. Bean at 800-809-7057. — Hannah Holmes

Where Families Get it Together

The Stanford Alpine Chalet, Alpine Meadows, California
You don't have to be a Stanford alum to use the Alpine Chalet, adjacent to Alpine Meadows Ski Resort on the north shore of Lake Tahoe. With 14 rooms, all with queen beds and most with bunks, the chalet accommodates groups of up to 50. The staff can organize river rafting on the Truckee, barbecues, or hikes. With the Family Reunion package (12-adult minimum), which lets you take over the whole place, the Alpine Chalet rents for $80 per person per night, including family-style or gourmet breakfast and dinner; children 5-12 are half-price. Smaller groups that don't want to rent the whole facility can join in Camp Chalet (about $1,400 for a family of four), held June 24-28 and August 19-23, which includes meals and daily excursions to Lake Tahoe or into the Sierra. Call 530-583-4625.

Blue Lake Ranch, Hesperus, Colorado
This 88-year-old homestead sits amid acres of flowers near the frontier town of Durango. The property houses up to nine families, or 32 people, in accommodations ranging from the butter-yellow Victorian main inn to an Adirondack-style log cabin on Blue Lake to a converted barn. The owners can help arrange cowboy-led rides at neighboring ranches, rafting on the Animas River, and private Indian-guided tours of the nearby Ute Mountain Tribal Park. Summer rates range from $85 for an inn room to $245 for the three-bedroom cabin. Call 970-385-4537.

The Tyler Place, Highgate Springs, Vermont
The Tyler Place welcomes families with seven separate programs designed for two-year-olds to teens. The resort even provides one-on-one parent's helpers for infants ($3-$6 per hour). Each morning, kids pursue activities like windsurfing and waterskiing on Lake Champlain, scavenger hunts, kayaking, and canoeing; families reunite in the afternoon for a canoe or mountain bike excursion into Quebec. Families can book one of the cottages clustered throughout the resort's 165 acres (cottages typically have two to four bedrooms, a screened porch or deck, and a kitchenette) or one of the larger homes ranging from a ten-bedroom 1820s farmhouse to Ferncroft, an 1880s Victorian "cottage" that houses up to 24 people. The main inn has rooms and studios. Per-person rates, including activities and meals, are $77 to $198 per adult per day depending on the week and type of accommodation; children are $35 to $81 additional. Call 802-868-4000.

Attean Lake Lodge, Jackman, Maine
How about having a whole island to yourself? You can at this turn-of-the-century retreat on Birch Island, in Attean Lake in northwest Maine. The homey lodge has a stone fireplace, common areas, a library, a kids' room, and a dining room; guest cottages with full bath, living area, and private porch sleep two to eight people each. Take your own launch (the lodge rents motorboats and canoes; sea kayaks and paddleboats are free) to explore the 22 islands dotting the 3,300-acre lake, or set off on the 27 miles of hiking trails. Canoes are stashed at ponds along the way. The beach in front of the main lodge is the setting for sailing, waterskiing, and cookouts.

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

Ski Resorts
Summer on the Slopes

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.

Snowmass, Colorado
You don't usually speak of Aspen and saving money in the same sentence, but you actually can have all the fun of Aspen with none of the expense and pretense. Head for Snowmass Village, 12 miles away, to take advantage of free 40-minute to one-hour clinics on the basics of mountain biking, fly-fishing, and rollerblading (with no charge for borrowing equipment). The clinics are held daily and are open to all ages. More free stuff: daily nature walks, weekly storytelling around a bonfire, and weekly concerts. The Snowmass Village Family Festival August 1-2 features musicians, clowns, puppet shows, and interactive children's workshops. Call 800-598-2004.

Northstar-at-Tahoe, California
Northstar offers its fat-tire friends a Mountain Bike Park, with more than 100 miles of connecting trails, lessons, guided rides, and rental equipment. Full-day lift tickets cost about $21 per adult and $14 for kids 5-12; two-hour guided tours run about $10. Kids and their parents also can try the climbing wall, ropes courses, and orienteering course at Northstar's Adventure Park (530-562-2285) adjacent to Northstar Village (open Wednesdays through Sundays). Call 530-562-1010.

Whistler Resort, British Columbia
The Whistler Resort area, encompassing both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, offers families some unusual possibilities for outdoor adventure — heli-hiking in the Coast Mountains, circus-skills lessons, and summertime skiing and snowboarding on Blackcomb's Horstman Glacier. Other slightly-off-the-wall options are glacier touring, heli-picnicking, and paragliding. You can also in-line skate at Blackcomb's freestyle skate park or check out Whistler Kids Windsurfing, which holds both kids-only sessions and family camps. For more information, call 604-932-3434.

Sun Valley, Idaho
During the summer you can rub elbows with some of the biggest stars of the skating world. Performing at the weekly ice show and buffet are celebrity skaters like Brian Boitano and Katarina Witt. Kids can also use the open-air ice rink to polish their own double axels and triple lutzes. Ice-skating lessons are available for all ages and abilities (walk-ons cost about $1 per minute; group lessons also can be arranged). Families can rent bikes at Pete Lane's in the Mall to ride the 35 miles of paved bike paths that start from the resort. For additional information, call 800-786-8259.

Smugglers' Notch, Vermont
If the Brady Bunch decided to skip Hawaii and opt for a ski resort instead, they'd no doubt head to Smugglers' Notch. Kids can attend daily adventure camps while parents go for the Adult Adventure program: mountain biking, aqua aerobics, fitness walking, and watertubing. Rum Runners' Rendezvous takes families on a wagon ride to Rum Runners' Hideaway to go canoeing, swimming, and paddleboating. Ask about Smugglers' many family vacation packages (June is Special Value Month) — they could save you up to 35 percent off regular summer prices. Call 800-451-8752 for more information. — Kara Ryan

Tripping with the Old Folks

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
Sure, this Adirondacks Great Camp built in 1897 used to be a summer residence of the Vanderbilts, but long gone are the coachmen and maids. Now it's a low-key, nonprofit camp that each August holds two sessions for some 60 grandparents and grandkids (ages five to 12), with an emphatic "no parents allowed!" Days are filled with nature walks on 20 miles of hiking trails, beach picnics, swimming, canoeing, and crafts; nights with marshmallow roasts and square dancing. Guests stay in three lodges. When the camp bell sounds, meals are served buffet-style in the wood-paneled dining hall, and — horrors! — campers are expected to clear their own plates. Dates are August 2-7 and 9-14; costs are $595 per adult, $395 per child. Call 315-354-5311, ext. 21.

Sierra Club Outings' Clair Tappaan Lodge:
When the Sierra Club calls a lodge "rustic," envision digs just a step up from camping. At 7,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada just west of infamous Donner Pass, the club's two-story Clair Tappaan Lodge has tiny two-person cubicles with bunks and mattresses, communal men's and women's bathrooms, and no clothes closets. But on this outing designed for 28 in-shape people between five and 95, grandparents and grandkids will be too tired to care. Nearby there's easy-to- climb Donner Peak (8,019 feet), a sampling of Indian petroglyphs, Donner Lake, the Pacific Crest Trail, and a tram that runs to the top of Squaw Valley. BYO sleeping bag, pillow, soap, and towel. The trip runs from August 2-7 and costs $395 per adult and $295 per child. Call 415-977-5522.

Grandtravel's Alaskan Wilderness Adventure
Grandparents and grandkids could do worse things with their time than spend an afternoon panning for gold. On this epic two-week tour of the 49th state via plane, train, bus, riverboat, raft, horse, and foot, that's just one activity they'll get their hands around. Otherwise they'll be fishing for salmon on the Kenai River, hiking in the rainforest, watching glaciers calve, or riding in a gold freighter pulled by sled dogs. Just one caveat: They'd better strike it rich with the gold. Prices are $5,895 per adult, based on double occupancy ($5,775 triple); $5,590 per child ($5,460 triple), not including airfare to Juneau. Dates are June 29-July 12 for kids 12-17; August 1-14 for all ages. Grandtravel offers numerous other trips; call 800-247-7651. — L.W.

Summer 101: Learn to roll, jibe, cast, belay . . .

Sport Where How much Ages
Scuba diving Little Cayman Beach Resort, Little Cayman Island
Four-day full certification program, including both classroom and open-water diving (lodging not included); $450 per person; dive and lodging packages available at the resort. Minimum age 13
Rock climbing Adirondack Rock and River Guide Service, Keene, New York
Five-day parent/child classes, $740 for parent and child; $40 each additional child under 18; two parents with one child pay $960; lodging $20-$70 per night, double occupancy. No minimum age
Fly-fishing L.L. Bean Fly-Fishing School, Freeport, Maine
800-341-4341, ext. 6666
Two-day school, $595 for one parent and one child (additional child or parent pays $300; lodging not included). Minimum age 12
Kayaking Otter Bar Lodge's Kids' Kayaking NQGU (Not Quite Grown-Ups) Weeks and concurrent Kayaking Lodge Program for Adults, Forks of Salmon, CA
Seven-day classes for adults, including lodging, $1,490 per person; seven-day NQGU program, including lodging, $650 for kids with parents in the lodge program. Ages 10 to 14
Sailing Annapolis Sailing School's Become a Sailing Family, Chesapeake Bay
Weeklong package, $2,500-$3,735 depending on group size, including three nights in a hotel and four nights on the boat. Minimum age five
Surfing Club Ed Surf School and Camps, Santa Cruz, California
800-287-7873 or 408-459-9283
Seven-day school including camping, $750 per person Minimum age six

Illustrations by James Yang, Tim Bower, Mike Lee

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