Gingerbread Lane makes Sweet Debut in NYCDec 22, 2013
Chef Jon Lovitch takes a holiday baking tradition to a whole new level with GingerBread Lane, a 300-square foot gingerbread village on display at the New York Hall of Science through Jan. 12.
Spring break has moved beyond bikinis and beer kegs to include adventure or a dose of culture. Maybe you want to ride roller coasters all day, cruise to distant ports or get personal with your favorite baseball players at Spring Training games in Florida or Arizona. Whatever floats your family’s boat—literally—spring break can be a good time to get away. And if you plan smart, you may even snare a bargain.
Kids and kids-at-heart love a good adventure and spring is the perfect time to enjoy one, or plan an escorted summer expedition for the whole family. We’ve had some of our most memorable trips sharing adventures.
The expert guides at outfitters like Thomson Family Adventures know how to get kids and teens searching for sea turtles in Baja, Class III rapids in Panama, and monkeys in Costa Rica, and getting to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro while parents and grandparents go hiking, kayaking or relax with a good novel.
Couples as well as families will appreciate time to explore new adventure destinations like Nicaragua, where eco-friendly resorts like Morgan’s Rock provide a comfortable home base and the local knowledge you’ll need to plan day excursions. The rain forest in Panama is another popular eco-tourism spot, and luxury outfitters like Austin-Lehman Adventures are branching out with new escorted tours for all ages to Cuba, Costa Rica and several continents.
Check out Chaa Creek Lodge, located at the base of the Maya Mountains in Belize, where you can visit well-preserved Mayan sites, stay on a private nature preserve, ride horses through a jungle, canoe, visit the butterfly farm and combine a stay at a beach resort.
Consider a small expedition ship that sails to exotic ports that big ships can’t manoeuver. Adventuresmith Explorations is Conde Nast Traveler’s pick for small ship expertise; yacht cruises around Hawaii, Alaska, family sailings along Baja California and even an overland Belize Honeymoon Adventure are available in spring and most months of the year.
All ages love the sea and sand of a beach vacation, even if the water along the eastern seaboard isn’t always warm enough to swim. That’s why we like the action in South Beach Miami and Greater Fort Lauderdale, beach cities packed with cultural venues, shopping and fine restaurants to keep everyone busy if the ocean seems too chilly.
Spring is also the season to help toddlers hunt for shells on Sanibel Island, build sandcastles with the fine sand at Panama City Beach, and explore other Gulf Coast resort areas where shallow, warm water welcomes little ones. Introduce kids to roller blading and people watching at a low-key Key West resort and get your teens into standup paddle boarding.
Strolling, skating and biking are our favorite spring pursuits along the boardwalks of Southern California, where all ages can enjoy the sea views and sunsets. Enjoy temperate days with the baby at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market and surfing lessons in wet suits for kids, teens and couples.
Visit Surf City USA — Huntington Beach, where among other places fit grandparents can learn boogie boarding, a California art form. Alternate beach time with attractions like SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, and Legoland inCarlsbad, near San Diego.
Kids, couples, grandparents will find the islands of Hawaii have beaches, recreation and historical attractions to suit every age; Hawaii is also a great destination for single parents. We especially love Kauai where Hanalei and beyond make us think this is what Hawaii used to be like — one-lane bridges; narrow, winding roads; shaved ice stands selling flavors like Li Hing Mui (sweet Asian plum) and Guava; small shops with colorful Hawaiian shirts hanging outside. Kauai offers adventures everywhere, whether you want to hike, kayak, surf, snorkel or play golf.
Families say they have a new reason to visit Oahu now that Mickey and Minnie have landed at Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa with its first-rate and complimentary kids’ club and emphasis on Hawaiian culture.
Knowing that the college kids are on spring break makes this the perfect time of year for campus visits, a rite of passage for every family. Take advantage of visiting the Ivy League schools and major state universities by combining your school tour with a city break in New York City, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle or Southern California. Travel over a long weekend when hotel rates drop at full service business hotels like the Omni (and they roll out family amenities); pick up a CityPASS for every family member, saving up to 50% on attractions and bypass the lines.
Amtrak offers significant discounts for kids to let you explore a nearby city over a weekend when you will score a hotel deal. Check websites like Getaroom.com and Hotels.com, or check vrbo.com for apartment rentals in cities you want to visit and propose what you are willing to pay. Each city’s official tourism website will have the latest deals and special family offerings. Check out review sites like Yelp or Chowhound and plan a special dinner out with your (almost) grown up teens.
Alternate the serious stuff with a laughter break at the Mall of America’s indoor amusement park, a meal at a themed restaurant like Rainforest Cafe, or a games arcade. Great Wolf Lodge has 11 indoor water park resorts between the state of Washington and Ontario, Canada, and your college road trip is likely to lead to one of them.
New museum exhibits are geared to all ages; we especially love the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the largest in the country, and the food exhibit at New York’s American Museum of Natural History. We mean it: Let each child plan a day of the itinerary. You will be amazed where they lead you!
Spring is a terrific time to visit Washington, DC. The National Cherry Blossom Festival starts March 20 and lasts until April 27 and even includes a special Blossom Kite Festival. There are plenty of freebies (or nearly free) like seeing the stars in Rock Creek Park at the only planetarium operated by the National Park Service, touring the National Mall with DC by Foot, a walking tour company that gives kid-friendly tours complete with games and fun facts.
Cruises are always a good bet for families whether the kids are preschoolers (supervised play time) or teens (all they can eat, a safe place to roam, youth spa treatments). See our Family Cruise Section. Some ships like Disney Cruise Line and select Royal Caribbean ships even have day care for infants while Carnival Cruises nursery begins at age 2.
Go for three days or a week. Mega ships like Royal Caribbean’s Oasis and Allure offer something for every age group. Check websites like www.discountcruises.com for the latest deals, and get custom advice from one of their agents. Alternatively, you can visit a travel agent near your home who is a cruise expert by looking at www.cruising.org.
The big news for cruising this Spring is more ships, bigger ships and more homeports to save families from purchasing air fare just to board their cruise. Disney Cruise Lines is expanding its homeports to include New York for the second year, and will assign ships to Port Canaveral and Miami in Florida, New York, the port of San Pedro in Los Angeles, and now Galveston, Texas. Norwegian and Carnival now cruise all year from New York City.
February is African-American Heritage Month celebrating the struggles and contributions of all who built the country we know today. Your kids may have seen “Lincoln” for a school project, but do they realize that another great president, George Washington, ran his estate with slave labor and then freed his slaves in his will? The Mt. Vernon Historic site outside Washington DC – a great city to visit during the President’s Day school break — has special programs with interpreters introducing visitors of all ages to plantation life.
Build a trip around American history whether in Virginia’s Historic Triangle of Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown; Gettysburg in Pennsylvania; Boston where you can walk the Freedom Trail with a costumed interpreter; or Philadelphia where you can see the Liberty Bell in the Liberty Bell Center. The wonderful National World War II Museum in New Orleans has just opened the US Freedom Pavilion about the industrialization that followed the war. Include a stop at historic sites in major resort areas, too, like Pearl Harbor in Hawaii (here’s what we said about our visit.)
Such places bring famous battles to life and encourage grandparents to connect with younger generations through stories only they can share.
If sports rule in your household, this is the time to take your team to spring training, a mainstay at small stadiums in Florida and Arizona. Look for deals like at the InterContinental Tampa, which is close to Steinbrenner Field. You’ll find special packages close to every stadium—and plenty to do when the games are done.
Grandparents, on the other hand, may find it perfect weather to introduce the grandkids to their passion for golf, at its best in Arizona, Hawaii and Palm Springs resorts.
Couples in search of a rugged workout (or a luxury hideaway retreat) can combine golf, hiking, tennis, biking and cross-country skiing with a fabulous spa at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. Kids love the Broadmoor too.
Scottsdale, meanwhile is known for its spas as well as golf courses and spectacular spring weather. Here’s what we said about a mom’s getaway that included spaaing it up at the JW Marriott Resort and the Boulders where we were also able to take a night time bike ride in the desert. Fun! We’re also fans of Tucson with its dude ranches, spectacular desert hikes, birding and laid-back cowboy sensibility.
There’s nothing like a gentle spring sun, soft fluffy powder and afternoon hot tub crawls to make expert skiers and snowboarders relax with delight. It’s also the perfect weather to turn your littlest ones, who are so susceptible to the cold, into lifelong snow sports lovers. Check out our FUN IN THE SNOW section.
Bretton Woods, NH is New Hampshire’s larges snow sport resort and home to the historic Omni Mount Washington Hotel where you also have the chance to experience a zip line (actually nine of them, two sky bridges and three rappels on a unique canopy tour.
Vail, Keystone, Breckenridge and Beaver Creek along Colorado’s I-70 Corridor make it a great destination for posh resort-hopping if you want fresh slopes to conquer. At Beaver Creek, kids 2-12 can fly with parents right into Eagle Airport, then enjoy 20% or more off lodging, kids rentals an lift tickets; valid till March 15, 2013 with restrictions. Kids 12 and under ski free at Keystone Resort every day of the 2012/13 winter season without any blackout dates. (Families must stay two or more nights in one of Keystone’s numerous owned and operated accommodations.) Check out the daily Kidtopia activities and don’t miss the huge ice fort at the top of the mountain. Kudos for the new “Kids LiveWell” healthy meals initiative at Keystone’s on-mountain resorts.
Aspen and its four different mountain resorts bring the X-Games glamour to a snow sports vacation for any fan. The Treehouse Adventure Center at Snowmass Village is where you also can visit the Ice Age Discovery Center to learn about the fantastic fossil find of mastodons here. There’s also plenty of other opportunities for fun in the snow at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. When was the last time you met a Golden Eagle?
At the Aspen resorts kids stay and ski free between April 1st and 14th with a 3-day minimum purchase of a comparable adult ticket (as long as you book by March 11). Kids rent their gear free with a comparable adult purchase and eat free at select on-mountain resorts. Kids stay and ski free with a 3-plus day comparable adult purchase.
At Park City Mountain Resort, you might have the chance to meet up with a snowmama and get the skinny on one of the most fun ski towns anywhere. Here’s your chance to ride an alpine coaster, go tubing, catch a ride on an Olympic Bob Sled or even learn a little history! Love that at Park City Mountain Resort you’re guaranteed not to have any more than five in a group ski or snowboard lesson—whether you are a child or an adult.
If everyone in your gang is a beginner, consider smaller mountains near where you live – Bolton Valley in Vermont right near Burlington is one of our faves, as are Mt. Rose in Lake Tahoe, California and Wisp Mountain in Maryland.
Family spring breaks are all the rage at theme parks, where all ages can find thrill rides and shows to their liking. Couples with babies in tow can take advantage of the Rider Switch policies at major Disney and Universal theme parks, which allow one parent to wait with baby at the head of the line while the other one rides, then switch without waiting again. The New Fantasyland at Orlando’s Magic Kingdom has a host of new rides for toddlers and grandparents, as does Cars Land at California Adventure in Anaheim, where thrill-seekers will love the Radiator Springs Racers coaster (see what we said about it here. )
So many families come to Orlando for Spring Break—2.6 million visitors in March and April – that you’ll see more kids here than any time of year except the summer. And it won’t be nearly as hot. TheMagicard offer discounts on everything from attractions to accommodations and restaurants. Check out www.mousesavers.com for deals on all things Disney. You will find new attractions at all of the parks:
The theme parks are especially welcoming for those with special challenges too. (A tip: If you can, go after spring break and before summer for the best deals, or wait until September when prices drop again.)
Explore outside Orlando too. An hour south is the “Space Coast” with the Kennedy Space Center, which offers a space camp and a number of picturesque beaches and nature refuges.
One thing we can say about a tropical getaway to the Caribbean, Mexico or Central America – the weather is more likely to be warm and sunny than in most American beach areas. With that in mind, you’ll have to start shopping for flights right away since cheap seats and frequent flyer rewards during the school holidays around Martin Luther King, Presidents Day, Spring Break and Easter book up quickly. Airfare search engines like FlightCenter.com allow families to check flights, hold their seats for up to 24 hours while shopping for better fares, and even notify their sales team if you find a lower fare and get $10 off that.
Cancun’s reputation as a hot spring break destination has been assured by MTV but there are many terrific Cancun resorts, and more along the Riviera Maya, that welcome families and couples without asking you to check your sanity at the gate. Check out the Azul Sensatori, the new Villa del Palmar Cancun, which offers fully equipped kitchens and deeply discounted all-inclusive rates through the end of April, and Occidental Grand Xcaret – with hands-on activities to encourage families to engage with and learn about the environment. The hotel offers a turtle tip program in which guests can participate in the liberation of baby turtles; an Xcaret eco-path designed especially for children. You can opt for a condo hotel right in the fishing and tourist town of Playa del Carmen.
Puerto Rico is the island getaway for those looking for Latin culture without needing a passport; this territory welcomes US visitors of all ages to its beautiful beaches, historic fortresses, rain forest canopy tours, bio-luminescent bay, and contemporary art galleries, with just a photo ID. Bundling your hotel, flight and even a rental car will into one tropical vacation package is the best value; check out comparison sites like HotCaribbeanDeals.com for current specials or book ahead for summer.