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Family Adventure

Great places for families to check out.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Harbour Island, the Best of the Bahamas

With more than 700 islands (20 of them inhabited) scattered from Florida’s doorstep to the edge of the Caribbean, the balmy Bahamas offers every type of warm-weather lifestyle imaginable. For some, the Bahamas is an afternoon’s port of call in Nassau and Freeport. Others are lured by the massive Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, where the beach life includes large pools, water slides, and a walk-though aquarium. Yet, there’s another side of the Bahamas called the Out Islands that have yet to be discovered. My favorite is Harbour Island, a three-mile-long, half-mile-wide speck off the coast of Eleuthera. With 18th-century clapboard houses edged with picket fences, this tiny island looks as if someone shrank Nantucket and plopped it down in the tropics. Cars are all but forbidden, replaced by golf carts.  Aptly named Pink Sands Beach runs the length of the island, speckled with the perfect blush of flamingo pink. Kids can ride horseback along the shores or don mask and snorkel to go eyeball-to-eyeball with the fishies. Stay at the Coral Sands Hotel, smack dab in the middle of that pink beach.  

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/23/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Wizarding Week at Cape Cod’s Ocean Edge Resort During School Break

If the thought of going to the Cape during February break seems absurd, take a look at the weekend weather, where Sunday could top 50 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s prime beach walk weather in these parts. But even if there’s a blizzard outside, your family will have a blast at Brewster’s Ocean Edge Resort during next week’s school break. Expect pizza pool parties around the two indoor pools, arts & crafts, family movie nights, indoor camping replete with your own teepee, and all the fun associated with Wizarding Week. Meet your fellow witches and wizards, grab your broomstick and wand, and compete in quidditch matches and other games to help win the House Cup. Another added perk is that kids eat free when parents dine for breakfast at Ocean Terrace. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/16/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Relaxing Stay at Lake George’s Silver Bay YMCA

North of Bolton Landing, Lake George feels more lake a river, narrow and hemmed in by the peaks, offering vintage Adirondack beauty. You peer out at ridge after anonymous ridge and a carpet of trees, with few signs of civilization. When I tell people that I find Lake George more exquisite than Lake Tahoe, Lake Powell, or even that wondrous lake to the north, Champlain, they often look at me bewildered.  They equate the lake with the honky-tonk village on the southern tip, packed with T-shirt and fudge shops, video arcades, hokey haunted houses, a requisite water park, and my personal favorite, Goony Golf, a miniature golf course crowded with huge fairy tale characters. All they have to do is drive about ten miles north on Route 9N to Bolton Landing and the lake becomes far more serene. Growing up in Schenectady, New York, we would make the hour-drive to Bolton Landing on a regular basis to reach our sailboat docked just out of town. Now I return on an annual basis with my family to treat my kids to a good dose of natural adventure. 

 
I just returned from 4 glorious days with 18 members of my extended family at the Silver Bay YMCA, a 20-minute drive north of Bolton Landing. We hiked to Inspiration Point for exquisite vistas of the lake, kayaked across to the opposite shores, played tennis, went on a stroll with a naturalist to find wildflowers, made s’mores around the fire pit while looking at the fireflies, took advantage of those rocking chairs on the inn’s verandah, and swam to our heart’s content in the refreshing waters. It was good old-fashioned fun, a bucolic retreat where we could disconnect from our screens and reconnect with the family. Can’t wait to return to the lake next summer! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/13/16 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, July 06, 2016

New Trends and Rides at America’s Amusement Parks

July 4th weekend might be in the rear view mirror but the summer has just begun. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit one of the hundreds of amusement parks across the country to sample some of their new rides. According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, the big new trends at amusement parks are virtual reality roller coasters and immersive 4-D attractions. On roller coasters, riders wear specially designed virtual reality headsets as they become part of the adrenalin-pumping storyline. For example, Six Flags Magic Mountain, celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, has added new virtual reality technology to the “Revolution” steel roller coaster, creating “The New Revolution.” Wind, water, and heat are just a few of the sensory elements, along with high-tech sound that ride designers are implementing to help create a 4-D immersive experience. At Epcot in Orlando, “Soarin’ Around the World” is a new 4-D experience that treats guests to an aerial tour of some of the world’s most distinctive landscapes.

 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/06/16 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Adirondacks’ Wild Walk, The High Line of the Forest

The Adirondack Extreme Adventure Center was the first place my family ever experienced a treetop obstacle course. Set 10 to 50 feet off the grounds amidst the tall pines and maples you have the chance to climb rope ladders, jump from section to section, walk across suspended bridges, and as a finale, zipline side-by-side. The treetop course is an innovative way to get a workout and a ride at the same time, so everyone in the family is happy. But obviously this type of experience is not accessible to all so I was delighted to hear that the Adirondacks is now home to another adventure that can lead all generations to the treetops. 

 
Last July, the Wild Center at Tupper Lake opened its newest attraction, the Wild Walk. Dubbed the “High Line of the Forest,” Wild Walk gives visitors a chance to walk among the trees on a winding trail of bridges and platforms that lead from ground level to the treetops of the Adirondack forest. The experience includes a four-story twig tree house, swinging bridges, and a full-sized bald eagle’s nest at the highest point, 42 feet in the air. At Feeder Alley, slits in enclosed walls let visitors peer out into the surrounding forest, which is planted with species known to attract birds. The Wild Walk will reopen for the summer on May 27, 2016.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/13/16 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Winter Carnival Season Begins

If you love Paris in the springtime, then you’ll adore Quebec City in the wintertime, where, for 17 days, the party never stops. Quebec’s Winter Carnival (January 29-February 14) is the largest in the world, attracting more than one million people. I was one of the lucky people to arrive in this fortified city on the first day of the 2015 Winter Carnival. I spent the morning sledding down an ice chute, viewing the impressive ice castle, made from 1600 blocks of ice, eating maple syrup on snow, and playing a human game of foosball. Top DJs from Montreal and Toronto played a mesmerizing mix of hip-hop and electronica, while locals carried cane-like red sticks filled with a potent drink called Caribou, made of whiskey, red wine, and maple syrup, adding to the dancing frenzy. When Bonhomme, the popular snowman and revered host of the festivities started to boogie, the crowd went wild. For those of us who choose to embrace winter in all its snowy charm, there’s no better event than a Winter Carnival. Check out my latest column for Liftopia on "6 Winter Carnivals You Don’t Want to Miss."

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/14/16 at 05:59 AM
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Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Top 5 Travel Days of 2015, Exploring Cappadocia

When Mount Erciyes poured lava over central Turkey thousands of years ago, the volcanic ash formed a surreal, lunar-like landscape consisting of cone-shaped “fairy chimneys” and layers of soft volcanic rock called “tufa.” Early Christians found the pervious terrain ideal for escaping persecution by Romans and Arabs. When wet, the tufa could be easily carved like soap to make caves out of the pinnacles as well as underground cities descending hundreds of feet below the surface. Tunnels were carved into the soft volcanic rock that venture a mind-boggling 7 and 8 levels underground. They lead to rooms that were used to sleep, eat, pray, along with advanced ventilation systems and a well to retrieve water.

 
This past July, Lisa and I returned with the kids to Cappadocia to revisit this otherworldly terrain. One of our favorite jaunts was a hike with guide, Mehmet Gungor, accompanied by his dog. We were all by our lonesome in the stunning Rose Valley, hiking in and out of caves. Early the next morning we took a magical hot air balloon ride over the terrain and then toured the underground cities. We rented a car our entire time in Cappadocia and it was easy to drive through this rural part of central Turkey. We made it to the mountain town of Güzelyurt, where we found more underground cities and churches from over a millennium ago. We never felt unsafe driving on the backcountry roads of Cappadocia. On the contrary, surrounded by spectacular scenery and very little traffic, it was a great part of the world to cruise. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/05/16 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Family Fun with the Trustees of Reservations: Greater Boston

If you live in the Boston area and need a quick escape outdoors, look no further than a Trustees property. Some of my family’s most memorable day trips in the region have been to Hingham’s World’s End and Dover’s Noanet Woods. I’ll be delving into those sites in today’s itinerary, plus more.


Starting in Metro West and continuing counterclockwise around the 95/93 beltway that circles the city, we hit a favorite mountain biking locale, Noanet Woodlands. 17 miles of shaded trails weave through woods, skirt ponds, and lead you to Noanet Peak, which rewards you with views of the Boston skyline. Kids will enjoy the popular Caryl Trail, a half-mile walk to an old mill site. New this summer is a guided full moon and meteor shower hike for families in late July throughout August. Across the Powisset Street parking lot is the classic Powisset Farm which dates back three centuries. Take a leisurely walk through the farmstead, complete with chickens and pigs, then follow an easy, one-mile loop trail into the neighboring forest. 

Not far from the Noanet Woods in neighboring Medfield is another quintessential retreat for families, Rocky Woods. Walk around Chickering Pond or enjoy a longer excursion on carriage roads. New this year for families is the Night’s On, Lights Out Family Campout on August 1st. Pitch your tent in the evening and then participate in games and recreational activities. As the night darkens, you’ll go on a night hike before sharing stories around a campfire with S’mores. Pre-registration is required.

Continuing southeast, the Bradley Estate in Canton is easily found off of the highway. While the Georgian brick home and gardens are a popular spot for weddings, families will love seeing the llamas and sheep on the property. On July 9th from 3 pm to 5 pm, try your luck with Family Games on the grounds. The July 23rd Art Quest will lead families to four different destinations around the property. Each family member will then have an opportunity to experience the landscape through art. 

The Trustees purchased the 36-acre Governor Ames Estate in 2012 and what a gem this Easton property is. Trails lead under centuries-old beech trees to small serene ponds, sweeping meadows, and an elegant 19th-century stone stable. Don’t miss the 2nd Annual Legacy Event this coming Sunday, June 28th. Held from 11 am to 4 pm, the event features live music throughout the day as well as hands-on art programs, walking tours of the grounds, canoeing, and interactive children's programs including a Stegosaurus Scavenger Hunt, Cookie Monster Kitchen, and a children's entertainer to end the day.

Last but certainly not least is another crown jewel in the Trustees collection, World’s End. South of Boston, World’s End juts out of Hingham Harbor like a rooster at daybreak. In 1890, noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead was hired to transform World’s End into a “planned community” of 150 homes. Thankfully, this never came to fruition. The 251-acre estate was farmed and owned by one family until the Trustees of Reservations purchased the property with the help of the public in 1967. A 4-mile walk (jogging is also popular here) starts on a wide path bordered by white pines, hickories, oaks, and bracken ferns. The trail narrows as it hugs the rocky shores of the Atlantic Ocean, with views of the Boston Harbor and the city skyline. Upcoming programs for families include Learn to Kayak on June 28th and Trees and Bees on July 9th.
 
 
Also, don't forget that the Trustees own and manage 60 community gardens in Boston and hold year-round gardening classes, workshops, and events. For example, in Mattapan (30 Edgewater Drive) on July 11, from 1:30 pm-3 pm, kids can learn about bugs and go on a scavenger hunt. 
 
It’s been a pleasure to work with the Trustees again, especially their powerhouse publicist Kristi Perry, who knows all 113 properties intimately. Please take another look at all the blogs I wrote this week on the organization. There is a ton of events happening this summer and I don’t want you to miss out. Come to the August 22nd “Strandbeests” event on Crane Beach and please say hi to me in person. In the meantime, I’m off to Istanbul and Cappadocia, Turkey, back again with a new post on July 7th.

Have a wonderful 4th of July and keep active!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/25/15 at 03:30 PM
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Family Fun with the Trustees of Reservations: the North Shore

Most people affiliate the Trustees with that glorious stretch of Atlantic Ocean shoreline called Crane Beach, recently named one of the “Top 10 U.S. Family Beaches” by National Geographic Traveler. Today’s itinerary will get you to Crane Beach and the adjacent Crane Estate, which looks incredible after a $2.1 million restoration of the Grand Allée, but first we want you to work up a sweat before swimming in the ocean waters. 


Choose between a mountain bike ride in the fishing town of Gloucester or a short hike up a hill in Andover that rewards you with vistas of Boston’s Prudential Center. At Gloucester’s Ravenswood Park, ten miles of former carriage path trails wind through hemlock-covered grounds, leading to a must-see overlook of Gloucester Harbor. The crushed gravel and wide trails is ideally suited for novice mountain bikers. Not to mention, it’s a great way to escape the Cape Ann crowds in summer. 

At Andover’s Ward Reservation, opt for the 1-mile (round-trip) climb up Holt Hill. You’ll stroll through forest and alongside meadows past old stone walls. Keep on climbing the grassy trail until you reach the short summit overlooking the expanse of Merrimack Valley and yes, the Pru. 

Four and a half miles long, Crane Beach in Ipswich is known for its smooth surf and dunes. Members of the Trustees can obtain a parking sticker for $75 and park free for the entire summer at one of New England’s best-loved beaches. New this summer, Crane Beach will be open late to offer Drive-In Movies, including a snack bar. Also don’t miss being on Crane Beach during low tide (around 11 am) on August 22nd, when Dutch artist Theo Jansen will create one of his signature “Strandbeests” to coincide with an upcoming show at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. It’s impossible to describe. Just check it out

Soak up the sun and then make your way to the Crane Mansion or Great House. This spring, The Trustees announced the launch of an initiative to celebrate its cultural sites with a new “Bringing Our Stories to Life” campaign. Not surprisingly, the Crane Estate, the property the Trustees consider the crown jewel in their collection, is at the forefront of this initiative. Children will like the new tour, “Guest of the Cranes,” where it’s 1929 and you’ve just arrived to visit your good friends, the Cranes. After touring the mansion, walk down the striking Grand Allée, with camera in hand, and stop at the recently renovated Casino, which originally served as an elegant pool and entertainment space used by the Crane family. The Casino is now open to the public for lawn games, and inside you can play pool and buy ice cream.

If your plans include one of the Thursday night concerts on the grounds this summer, you might be wise to spend the night at the bottom of the hill at The Inn at Castle Hill. The 10-room inn, where children 12 and over are welcome, was recently voted the top property on the North Shore by North Shore Magazine. The setting is hard to top. Look out from their wraparound porch onto miles of uninterrupted salt marsh and beach. 

Breakfast at the Inn at Castle Hill takes full advantage of the eggs and milk farmed just down the road at the Trustees’ 1000-acre Appleton Farms. Open to the public, Appleton is the oldest continuously operating farm, in existence since 1638. Stroll on grassy trails past rows of veggies to the Appleton Old House. Better yet, go on a Quest, an outdoor scavenger hunt and follow the clues to a hidden box at the end. Pick up a pocket-sized Quest Detective booklet and you can go questing at a dozen other Trustees sites located around the Greater Boston area. Also note that Appleton Farms’ eggs, cheese, yogurt, milk and grass-fed beef will soon be found at the Boston Public Market, ready to make its debut in July. Though don’t use that as an excuse not to visit the farm in person. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/25/15 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Family Fun with the Trustees of Reservations at Martha’s Vineyard

Few folks realize that the Trustees are the largest private owner of farmland in Massachusetts with five working community farms across the state serving over 1,300 CSA members. Now you can add Martha’s Vineyard’s FARM Institute to that growing portfolio. This spring, the Trustees announced their plans to integrate with the Katama-based farm, known for their educational programs and summer institute that attracts close to 1000 children who are interested in learning about agriculture. Expect even more exciting program offerings at the Farm Institute to happen in 2016. 


The Trustees has a longstanding commitment to the preservation of open space on Martha’s Vineyard. Start your tour of the island with a short ferry ride over to Chappaquiddick at their Japanese-style garden called Mytoi. Azaleas, daffodils, dogwoods, and rhododendrons line the fresh water creeks. On July 10th from 4:30 pm to 6 pm, kids will get to help restock the garden pond with goldfish. 

A short stroll from Mytoi and you reach the Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge and East Beach. The waters of Cape Poge are one of the best places to birdwatch on the Vineyard. Ospreys, oystercatchers, piping plovers, terns, and the occasional bald eagle nest here. To get a close-up look at the birds, sign up for the 2-hour Wildlife Discovery Kayak Tour with the Trustees that happens daily from 10 am to noon and 2 pm to 4 pm. Or you can simply rent kayaks and venture out on the water for a self-guided paddle. Please note that you don't need to bring a car to Chappaquiddick. The Trustees offer complimentary van pickup for guided tour participants on the Chappy side of the Chappy Ferry. Call 508-627-3599 for more information and to book your reservation.

Chappy offers one of the most pristine stretches of beach on the island at Wasque Point, also under the helm of the Trustees. Wasque is a great spot to try your luck surfcasting for stripers and blues. Or simply get lost in this glorious seascape by heading out on 1.5 miles of trail. 

Beach lovers will also love Long Point Wildlife Refuge in West Tisbury, where families can spend the day body surfing, swimming in the sheltered ponds, or explore Long Pond Cove by kayak or paddleboard, which are available for rentals. Families can also grab an Exploration Backpack, full of supplies for a day of adventure like binoculars and scavenger hunts. Every Tuesday from 5:30 pm to 7 pm, bring your mat, towel, and water for yoga on the beach. There’s also a chance to go on a moonlight paddle and return to the beach of Long Point for a campfire three nights this summer. 

Another great spot to escape the crowds is Norton Point Beach, just off Katama Road. Be sure to deflate your tires to 15 psi using the air hose next to the entrance before you drive on the sand. Then choose a spot on the beach and savor the serenity.

End your day with a walk through Menemsha Hills. If you scale Prospect Hill, the second highest point on the island, you’ll get spectacular views of the Menemsha Harbor and Gay Head Light, especially during sunset. Also worth checking out is the adjacent 18-acre property, The Brickworks, where clay was once used to manufacture highly sought after bricks that were shipped to Boston, New York and Newport. It’s open to the public for the first time this summer. 

If you’re taking the ferry from New Bedford to the Vineyard, be sure to make a stop at the Allen C. Haskell Public Gardens. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands once sought gardening advice from the renowned horticulturalist Haskell, so expect to find an exotic showcase of plants and trees surrounding one of New Bedford’s oldest homes. The Trustees acquired the property in 2013 and began a lengthy $2 million overhaul to preserve this cherished urban oasis. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/24/15 at 06:00 AM
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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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