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Family Adventure

Great places for families to check out.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Adventures in Puerto Vallarta

Last Wednesday in Puerto Vallarta, I took a fast zodiac boat ride with the family across glorious Banderas Bay. Led by the outfitter Vallarta Adventures, we landed on the docks of the seaside village of Quimixto. We walked the cobblestone streets past the sleeping chihuahas and soon made our way to a pack of horses that were waiting to take us up the mountainous hillside. We got out of the saddle, only to walk to a hidden waterfall where we swam in the cool waters. After horseback riding, we snorkeled with a slew of angelfish and then had a delicious lunch on a quiet beach farther south in Pizotita. Our guide, Poncho, made a helluva margarita for the adults, while the kids were served coconut juice. Life was bliss and we laughed when Poncho said “Where are all the bandits in their big sombreros and guns blazing?” It was so peaceful here that my daughter wandered over to a hammock and took a nap.
The next day, a busload of passengers from a Celebrity cruise ship were on the outskirts of Puerto Vallarta, on their way to a nature hike, when they were robbed at gunpoint by a bandit. I was stunned. I had just spent the past two days in Puerto Vallarta, walked the Malecon, the broad boardwalk down by the ocean, had an excellent meal of authentic Mexican fare at Old Town’s Margarita Grill, and felt perfectly safe my entire stay in the region. But then the robbery happened. This being Mexico, which already faces a huge media blitz about crime and their drug cartels, it can only add salt to the wound. Yet, let’s be realistic. There’s crime in every city in America, so why wouldn’t a city of over 400,000 people like Puerto Vallarta face some adversity. I feel horrible for the people on that bus who were robbed of their cameras, money, and cell phones. Hopefully, the robbery was an anomaly and the city can go back to doing what it does best, making guacamole tableside with homemade salsa. For that dish alone, I wouldn’t hesitate to return.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/28/12 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, January 09, 2012

Favorite Travel Days in 2011, Rafting and Rock Climbing with Austin-Lehman Adventures in Alberta

Each January, I like to look back at the prior year of travel and pick my five favorite travel days that come to mind. Not to boast about where I’ve been on assignment, but to point you in the right direction. You’ll be happy to find yourselves in any of these five locales.

in late July, my family of four took a memorable six-day, five night trip into the Canadian Rockies with the highly reputable outfitter, Austin-Lehman Adventures. Based in neighboring Montana, few if any outfitters know this mountainous terrain better. Each day was jam-packed with adventure, like taking a glacier walk on the famous Icefields Parkway, biking down a backcountry road surrounded by snow-capped peaks on the outskirts of Banff, and taking walks away from the masses to a lonely lake in Lake Louise. Yet, it was hard to top the day we spent in Kananaskis Valley, an hour outside of Calgary. In the morning, we rafted the Kananaskis River and the afternoon rock climbed on the face on Mt. Yamnuska. The river was a rip-roaring ride on glacial-fed waters that certainly cooled down when splashed. My 15 year-old son, Jake, got a wake-up call when he was thrown out of the raft and we had to pull him back in.

At Yamnuska, I followed my daughter up the rock face twice, peering down over the U-shaped valley once atop. It was wonderful to share my love of adventure with my wife and kids and to be in the more than capable hands of the ALA guides. My kids had never rafted or rock-climbed before that day and are now hooked on both sports. My detailed story on the six-day trip will appear in The Boston Globe this spring and I’ll be sure to pass that along. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/09/12 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, December 09, 2011

Head to Historic Banning Mills to Try the Tallest Climbing Wall in the World

Hey Georgians, take a break from your holiday shopping this Saturday and head 45 minutes outside of Atlanta to Historic Banning Mills. Representatives from the Guinness Book of World Records will be on hand to verify that the new Banning Mills climbing wall is indeed the tallest in the world. Give the wall your best shot and then try the largest zipline canopy tour in America. More than 40 ziplines span over 7 miles of course. That means you can be out there for eight hours, flying high above the Snake River and its exquisite gorge and not sample the same zipline twice!

I’ll be heading south this next week to kayak, bike, and hike in the Everglades. I’ll be back on December 20th. Have a great week and keep active!


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/09/11 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, November 28, 2011

Multisport Trip for Families to Sardinia with Ciclismo Classico

This is the time of year when I receive a flurry of catalogs and press releases from outfitters updating me on their favorite trips for 2012. So this week, I want to describe a handful of those trips that excite me. Ciclismo Classico has branched off to destinations like Norway and New England, but their specialty is still the Italian countryside. Next summer, CC owner Lauren Hefferon is featuring a multisport jaunt to one of her favorite locales, Sardinia, the second largest island in the Mediterranean. Far away from the congestion on the European continent, you’ll bike along the pristine coastline, stopping at underused beaches for a dip. Other highlights include a hike up Capo Spartivento, rewarding young climbers with vistas of the shoreline, a day long boat ride in and out of coves, soccer on the beach, strolling to the markets in small villages, and a grand finale feast at the home of your Sardinian guide, with his mother and brothers grilling sausage. After all, what child doesn’t like Italian food? 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/28/11 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Time to Relax at Lake George

Staring in late May, I’ve been to Miami, Bermuda, DC, the entirety of the New England coast, Chicago, Banff, Jasper, Vancouver, and Saltspring Island. All great trips that have led or will lead to travel articles. But I can’t say I was relaxed on those jaunts. I usually had a notebook in hand researching each destination. On the 16-day Canadian Rockies journey with the family, we had to transfer to 7 different hotels and traveled by car, train, ferry, and plane. Tomorrow I head to Lake George to see the whole Jermanok clan, including my dad, sister, brother, nieces, and nephews. This is a special retreat for me; a 30-mile long lake nestled in the Adirondacks that I learned to sail even before I learned to walk. Not having to worry about an assignment to write, I can pick up my Schenectady Gazette at the local grocery, grab a cup of Joe, and head back to the docks of our cottage to chill. If I’m a feeling a bit hungry in the morning, I’ll drive to Lone Bull for a huge stack of pancakes. Then it’s off to Goony Golf for a round of miniature golf, a sea kayak paddle around the Sagamore, or playing on the high ropes course of Adirondak Extreme. The finest vacation is often the one you return to each year, not having to worry about new sites to see or restaurants to try. Things rarely change on the shores of Lake George and that’s exactly the way I love it.

Have a great Labor Day Weekend! I’ll be back on September 7th.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/31/11 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Best Family-Friendly Bike Ride on Cape Cod

Cape Cod is so close to Boston that I often drive there on a day trip. This past Sunday, I went with family and friends on one of my favorite rides. We start on 26 Main Street in Orleans in the lot next to Orleans Cycle and head out on the Cape Cod Rail Trail toward Eastham. Soon we pass the velvety marsh, where red-winged blackbirds sit atop the swaying cattails and cormorants dry their wings on floating docks. At Locust Road, we veer right off the CCRT and cross over Route 6 to reach the Cape Cod National Seashore Visitor Center. This is the start of a 2-mile bike trails that sweeps up and down through the forest and marsh, leaving you off at Coast Guard Beach, recently named one of the top 10 beaches in America. However, I think the beach up the road, Nauset Light, is more scenic, backed by towering dunes. We lock up our bikes and walk down the stairs to watch surfers dressed in wet suits (the water is still icy cold in late May) trying to catch the waves.

Once back on the bikes, we take Cable Road past Three Sisters Lighthouses, three absurdly small lighthouses built in the mid-19th century. A left turn at the end of the road and a right turn on Brackett Road leads us back to the CCRT. Turn left towards Orleans and you’ll soon smell the fried clams of Arnold’s, a lobster-in-the-rough restaurant beloved by my family. Stand in the long line (most likely out the door), order from their vast selection of seafood, including lobster, fried clams, scallops, shrimp, and mounds of tender onion rings and grab a seat at one of the outdoor picnic tables. Afterwards, play a round of miniature golf or grab a brownie sundae. Continue on the CCRT through a tunnel and you’ll arrive back at the Orleans Cycle parking lot in less than 30 minutes. A perfect summer outing.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/31/11 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Appalachian Mountain Club Going Overboard to Attract Families

Calling all families! If you ever wanted to do a little hut-to-hut hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, this summer might be the best time. The AMC has just launched a new campaign called “Kid Spoken Here” that reduces rates for all children at the huts, introduces a new Kid’s Menu like pasta and quesadillas, and even entertains Junior with counselor-led scavenger hunts and kite flying while mom and dad can sit down to a relaxing dinner. If you like the idea of having a guide around during the entire trek, consider one of the 5-night family adventure camps. Hike, paddle, and fish at some of the most serene spots in New England while being led by AMC guides and naturalists. The program is available to all children ages 5-12 and their parents.

Also, as previously reported on ActiveTravels, the AMC will reopen Gorman Chairback Lodge in Maine’s North Woods on July 1st after extensive renovations. Unveiled as a private camp in 1867, it’s hard to top the locale of Gorman Chairback, located on the shores of Long Pond in the shadows of the Barren-Chairback Range. This is for families who really savor peace and quiet.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/24/11 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, March 14, 2011

Family Adventure in the Canadian Rockies with Austin-Lehman

As an adventure travel writer, I’ve been paid to bike around the Big Island of Hawaii, sea kayak the Fijian islands, dive the Great Barrier Reef, and paddle the Allagash River during a memorable foliage. Then I had my first child and the canoes, skies, and other outdoor paraphernalia started to collect dust in the basement of my suburban Boston home. Going stir crazy one summer day, I called my dad who gave me the sage advice to integrate family into my work. The next thing I know I’m going up and down the hills of Vermont with my toddler on the back of my bike. Like many parents, I began to realize that I don’t have to give up my passion simply because I have little ones. It was time to introduce my kids to the real me. Now I travel with Jake, 14, and Melanie, 12, as much as possible without getting scolded by their teachers. And they’re the ones teaching me a thing or two about every sport they try. 

This coming summer, we’re already booked on a six-day multisport trip with Austin-Lehman Adventures in the Canadian Rockies. ALA is known for their guided family trips to the most stunning locales across the globe, from Costa Rica to Alaska, Africa, and yes, the Canadian Rockies. In the Banff, Jasper, and Lake Louise region, we’ll trek with crampons across the Athabasca Glacier, whitewater raft down the Kananaskis River, and bike through the tall cedars and pines on the Evans Thomas path. Another highlight is the 64-mile drive through the peaks and deep swaths of forest on Icefields Parkway. Elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, maybe even a bear or cougar can be seen as you make your way to the largest ice cap in the Canadian Rockies, the Columbia Icefield, on the boundary of Banff and Jasper National Parks. At night, we’ll be staying at Baker Creek Chalets, along a quiet stream smack dab in the center of the snowcapped summits.

As we begin to plan our summer vacations, I want to take the time this week to describe some of my favorite trips offered by outfitters.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/14/11 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Top 5 Travels of 2010, Biking Along the Canals in Hertfordshire, England

Instead of rushing straight from London to Heathrow Airport this summer, my family and I wisely chose to spend one day in the countryside at a hotel in Hertfordshire, less than an hour’s drive from the city. Called The Grove, the resort was once the country estate of the Earls of Clarendon. Today, it’s best known for its golf course, which Tiger Woods called one of the finest in the country. It’s also a family favorite. Walk inside a walled-in garden and you’ll find a heated outdoor pool, beach volleyball, and the oh-so civilized sports of croquet and lawn tennis. Yet, nothing quite compared to renting bikes and finding a path along a serpentine canal that formed the perimeter of the property. Shaded by thick trees and rolling under centuries-old bridges, you were immediately transported to another time. Narrowboats were slowly navigating through the locks past the local anglers and lounging swans, adding to the allure. Afterwards, we headed back to Grove for our last fish and chips before the trans-Atlantic flight home.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/06/11 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Quebec’s Winter Carnival

I just finished a story on winter carnivals in North America. One of the finest is in Quebec City, where for 17 days, the party never stops. More than one million people descend upon the fortified city to cheer on the competition in Le Grande Virée, a dogsled race that cruises through the heart of the historic Old City, or watch paddlers sprint across the turgid waters of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The French-flavored festivities continue with tours of the Ice Palace, a giant medieval castle constructed of pure crystalline water, parades, snow sculpture contests, inner tube sled rides, dancing to live music, and late night jaunts to heated tents to sample the potent drink called Caribou, made of whiskey, red wine, and maple syrup. One swig of this and you might be running naked through the snowfields.

While in Quebec City, spend a memorable night 30 minutes outside of town at North America’s only ice hotel, Hotel de Glace. 32 new rooms are created each year out of 12,000 tons of snow and 400 tons of ice, along with an Absolut ice bar, Jacuzzis, and a dance club. Bring those long johns. Temperature inside is a mere 27 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/14/10 at 02:00 PM
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about us
photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

Adventure Travel Trade Association