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Family Adventure

Great places for families to check out.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Time to Go Apple Picking

There’s no better fall activity in New England than hitting an orchard, trying the variety of apples, buying homemade cider, and tasting the warm, just made doughnuts. We have photographs of the kids picking apples every year, and like the trees, they seem to sprout up far too quickly. My son has a short break from college and is coming home tonight, so I’m hoping to get to the orchards on Sunday. I’m a fan of cortlands and macs, which are probably gone by now, but I don’t care. It will be great to get out there and climb those trees, even when I’m not supposed to be climbing those trees! Have a great Columbus Day Weekend and keep active! 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/10/14 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Lake George Week, Adventures on Land

Most parents gauge the growth of their children by their height. I gauge the growth of my two kids by how far they can go on a treetop obstacle course called Adirondack Extreme. Located on the hillside outside of Bolton Landing, the course is set 10 to 50 feet off the grounds, amidst the tall pines and maples hidden in the forest. After a brief introductory talk on safety, you hook into harnesses and tackle five different courses, each a bit more challenging than the next. Along the way, you’ll climb rope ladders, walk across suspended bridges, and as a finale, zipline side-by-side. 
 
The waters of Lake George easily seduce, but there’s a slew of activity on the shores of the lake that are also worth checking out. You can climb Prospect, Buck, and Thomas Mountains, and be rewarded with exceptional vistas of the Adirondacks. Yesterday, I took a short hike around the forest and fields at Up Yonda Farm. I strolled past a sugarhouse and small butterfly garden before hiking uphill on a short climb through a mixed forest of birches, maples, and white pine. Eventually, I arrived at a clearing and another glorious view of Lake George.  
 
At night, everyone heads to Lake George Village, packed with T-shirt and fudge shops, video arcades, haunted houses, a requisite water park, and my personal favorite, Goony Golf, a miniature golf course crowded with huge fairy tale characters. My summer is not complete if I don’t get to play one round of Goony Golf. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/06/14 at 09:00 AM
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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Lake George Week, Adventures on the Water

"Towards you, towards you, pull it towards you," my father yells to my mom, referring to the tiller that sits on her lap. We're aboard my dad's 22-foot Catalina, sailing at a good 10-knot clip across the cobalt waters of Lake George on our way back to his dock. Mom’s steering, dad’s barking orders, and I’m on the bow of the boat, ready to jump onto terra firma, but first I have to listen to my parent’s banter, a routine I've witnessed far too many times.

“What the hell are you doing? Aim for the house,” my dad bellows, pointing to a small white house that stands on the hillside above our dock. My father’s voice always seems to rise a notch or two in volume every time he steps foot into his sailboat. That's usually what happens to former Lieutenants in the Navy. They resign their commission in the military, buy a small boat of their own, and quickly ascend to the rank of Admiral.  Nevertheless, my mom always remains as cool as the water in this lake, easily gliding the boat into the dock without a scratch. Once the lines are tied, she stands up, and ends with the tag line, “not bad for a Bronx girl.” “Yeah, not bad,” my father mutters back, forgetting that Mom also taught him how to drive.

Those two paragraphs are the first words I ever wrote on Lake George, for a magazine called Endless Vacation back in 1996. Both my parents are gone, but I have incredible memories of our family sailing, paddling, and boating this 32-mile gem in the Adirondacks. And I continue to create new memories. This week, I’m traveling with my brother Jim as we kayak around the Sagamore, boat with Ron Miller aboard his 1971 Lyman, and take a paddlewheeler cruise aboard The Mohican

I've been sailing the waters of Lake George before I learned to walk, or so I’m told.  Growing up in these sylvan surroundings, I took its beauty for granted; the verdant mountainside that slopes to the lake’s edge on either side, the pine-studded islands that provide perfect anchorages for boaters, the narrow width that's easily mistaken for a long rambling river. Working as a travel writer, I’ve had the good fortune to visit many of the world’s most famous lakes—Tahoe, Como in Italy, Taupo in New Zealand, Lucerne in Switzerland, but given the choice, I’ll take Lake George on a weekday (on summer weekends, the influx of motorboats and jet skies makes the lake seem a lot smaller). It’s the reason why “Sailing Lake George” topped my list of “5 Family Adventures Not Soon Forgotten,” my most recent article on the lake in a March issue of The Boston Globe. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/05/14 at 09:00 AM
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Monday, August 04, 2014

Lake George Week—Why I Return Every Summer

I've had the pleasure of speaking about my career as a travel writer at 15 state travel conferences, including Mississippi, Louisiana, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Nevada. Talking to publicists, hotel owners, outfitters, and heads of city CVBs, I discuss how to attract travel writers to a destination and how to entice them to return throughout their career, continuously turning out stories for magazines, newspapers, and blogs. At every one of those speeches, I’ve included this paragraph:

 
“I don’t need anyone to pitch me on the Adirondacks in upstate New York, because that’s where I grew up. And this is an important aspect to take away from this talk. You can pitch a writer up the wazoo on a locale, but a writer always returns to a region of the world he know and loves. This is the place he cherishes and where he or she tends to weave their best yarns. We writers tend to be nostalgic. I’ve been sailing Lake George in the Adirondacks since I was a toddler and I will always return. It’s a very special retreat for me. I have always written about the Adirondacks and will continue to write about that place whether someone pitches me or not. Because I yearn to get back there.”
 
Lake George, a wondrous 32-mile-long lake nestled in the mountains, is my home away from home, where I can truly relax. I can pick up my boyhood Schenectady Gazette at the local grocery, grab a cup of Joe, and head back to the shores of the lake 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 Adirondack 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 why I love it. 
 
This week I’m happy to be blogging live from Lake George, divulging my favorite ways to get on the water and hikes that will reward you with spectacular vistas of the lake. I’ll talk about Georgia O’Keeffe’s years on the lake and how the region inspired artists from as far back as the Hudson River School crowd. I’ll also talk about lodging and restaurants, including staying at the classic Sagamore and dining at the Grist Mill in nearby Warrensburg. You can also follow me on Twitter @ActiveTravels. Thanks for checking in!
 
(Photo by Lisa Leavitt)

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/04/14 at 09:00 AM
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Spending a Night in Volcano, Hawaii

On the outskirts of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Volcano is a chilled (and at night, chilly) town of around 2500 people. Most travelers zip by here to spend a day in the park before heading back to their resort in Kona, Kohala, or Hilo. But if you spend at least a night like our family did, you’ll soon realize you that this part of the Big Island has its own distinct allure. We stayed at Volcano Village Lodge, which had the feel of a Costa Rican eco-lodge nestled deep in the forest. The spacious lodge with high ceilings, full kitchen, and front porch came with a full breakfast in the morning. Another nice perk is the hot tub which comes in handy when the temperatures cool at night (close to 4,000 feet elevation). 
 
A 5-minute drive from Volcano Village Lodge is the entrance and Visitors Center of the park. We met a wonderful park ranger who told us exactly what to do that afternoon and evening. We drove to the Kilauea Iki Overlook and took a short hike along the rim of the crater in a rainforest to the Thurston Lava Tube, a well-known tunnel created from the flow of lava. Then we had dinner at a ridiculously good, though expensive Thai restaurant in town simply called Thai Thai Restaurant. When the tour buses left, we returned to the national park at night to the Jaggar Museum parking lot. We walked over to the overlook to see the expansive Kilauea Caldera glowing a vibrant red at night. Definitely worth a night’s stay in Volcano! 
 
 (Photo by Lisa Leavitt)

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/22/14 at 10:00 AM
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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Five Favorite Family Adventures

In my 20s, I was fortunate to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef, bike the entirety of the Big Island, whitewater raft down an unchartered river in British Columbia, and backpack in the Mojave Desert. Then we had our first child and suddenly all my outdoor gear was collecting dust in an apartment closet. Going stir crazy one day, I called my dad who gave me the wise advice to simply bring my son with me on my adventures. Next thing you know, I’m biking the hills of Vermont with Jake on the back of the bike, helmet covering his sleeping body. You don’t have to give up your life of adventure once you have children. Indeed, kids thrive on the excitement and unscripted spontaneity of each outdoor challenge. It also doesn’t hurt that many of the finer outdoor activities are located amidst some of the most exquisite scenery on the planet. Now I travel with Jake, 17, and Melanie, 15, as much as possible, and they’re the ones teaching me how to improve my sport. 

 
In case you missed my article in The Boston Globe travel section this past Sunday, here are some of my favorite family adventures in the Adirondacks, Canadian Rockies, Costa Rica, France, and Israel. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/01/14 at 10:00 AM
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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

10 Best Train Trips for Families

Parents of teenagers know it’s never an easy feat to wake them up before 8 am while on vacation. Now imagine getting them to board the Kamloops to Lake Louise portion of the Rocky Mountaineer trip at 6:30. Of course they complain, but once you're sitting in the Glacier Dome seats of the train, staring up at the mountain vistas through the glass ceiling, my kids seem content. Even more so when a hot breakfast arrives and the train is quickly socked into a mesmerizing valley of towering peaks. 

 
The finest train rides for families do indeed slow down so you can snap that perfect photograph of a waterfall. They're in no rush to get you to the next destination because the journey is the most important part. Family-friendly train rides offer meals in a dining compartment, movies to watch, and naturalists and train historians to learn from. It’s a great way to be immersed in majestic scenery while cherishing time with the family. Here are 10 of my favorite train rides for families, just published by FamilyVacationCritic.com. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/04/14 at 11:00 AM
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Monday, January 06, 2014

5 Favorite Travel Days in 2013, A Magical Day on Floreana Island, Ecuador

Exhausted from far too many 5 am wake-up calls, 90-minute drives in and out of Quito to the airport, and long longboat rides in the Amazon, my family was in poor spirits when we arrived in the Galapagos Islands for the last segment of our summer trip to Ecuador. But it’s amazing how a motorboat cruise on the ocean and all that water can wash away the toxins of travel. Listening to our iPods and watching the dolphins and orcas swim beside us, we were relaxed by the time we reached the sea lions lounging on the docks of Floreana. A driver brought us to our lodging for the next two nights, Floreana Lava Lodge, simple wooden cabins on the beach with the sound of pounding waves to lull you to sleep. The owners, a brother and sister team of Claudio and Aura, were two of 12 siblings that were brought up on the island. Their father and mother moved to Floreana in 1939 and today there are only 150 full-time residents. 

The following day was my favorite of the entire trip. Claudio and our guide Carlos drove us high into the hills to first see giant tortoises, many over 100 years old. We walked through caves that housed early German settlers, picked juicy oranges from a tree, took a short hike to an overlook with exquisite views of the island, and then had a glorious lunch of grilled beef and chicken with a delicious chimichuri sauce, salads, and fresh fruit juice at the former estate of Claudio and Aura’s parents. We felt privileged to see where their father was buried on the grounds under the 12 fruit trees he planted for the birth of each of his children. 
 
In the afternoon, we snorkeled by ourselves with huge sea turtles. Yes, ourselves! Very few cruises or travelers make it to this isle. Afterwards, a sea lion swam up to our beach, rolled in the sand in front of us and went to sleep. When the night sky grew dark, we could see all the glittering stars of the southern hemisphere, including the Southern Cross. Doesn’t get better than this. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/06/14 at 11:00 AM
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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Availability on Thomson Family Adventures Trips to Galapagos, Costa Rica This Xmas

If you still don’t have Christmas plans and want to surprise the family with a memorable vacation, you’ll be happy to know that Thomson Family Adventures has availability on their Galapagos and Costa Rica trips. The Galapagos trips leave either 12/20 or 12/21, returning 12/29. The itinerary includes three nights in the Andean highlands at Cuenca where the family will tour this impressive Colonial city, see Incan ruins, rock climb, and hike in El Cajas National Park. Then you fly to the Galapagos Islands, where you embark on a 4-night cruise that includes stops to see century-old tortoises, blue-footed boobies, flamingoes, and colonies of tame sea lions. Having just been to the Galapagos Islands with my family this summer, I can tell you without hesitation that it’s magical. The 9-day Costa Rica Multisport Adventure is scheduled 12/22-12/31 and 12/25-1/2. Activities include whitewater rafting Pejibaye River, seeing the turtles of Tortuguero, then hitting the Pacific coast to zipline and go on a naturalist-led hike through Manuel Antonio National Park. If interested, please contact ActiveTravels.com to book. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/31/13 at 10:00 AM
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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Introducing Austin Adventures

Big news from the world of active travel this week with the announcement that Austin Lehman Adventures has been acquired by Xantera Parks and Resorts and will be renamed Austin Adventures. It seems like a perfect fit to me. The former ALA has a legacy going back nearly 40 years, offering tours to more than 30 countries. Though few people know North America’s national parks better than Billings-based Dan Austin. Combined with Xantera’s lengthy list of national park lodges, Austin Adventures can now create the perfect itinerary. I was fortunate to bring my family of four on an ALA trip to the Canadian Rockies two summers ago and it’s still the trip I use to gauge all others. I also recommend the company highly to my clients at ActiveTravels. A family of 7 recently returned from an August trip to Kenai Fjord National Park in Alaska and raved about the ALA guides and their passion and knowledge of the spectacular terrain. The company’s guided adventures include biking, hiking, sea kayaking, horseback riding, and safaris while focusing on themes such as culture, gourmet food and wellness. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/24/13 at 04:30 PM
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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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