Tie a bow around your travel plans. Here are five family-friendly ways to share the gift of travel with those you love.
For those who relish the white stuff, the gift of travel to Colorado ski country will be a high-altitude hit. At multiple resorts throughout the state, kids under various ages are offered the opportunity to ski free. For example, kids under 5 always ski free at Arapahoe, Aspen Snowmass and Loveland. Steamboat's Kids Ski Free and Grandkids Ski Free programs enable children 12 and younger to ski free the same number of days as their parent/grandparent with the purchase of a five-or-more-day adult lift ticket. In Vail, family activities might center around Adventure Ridge, a mountain-top snow park reached by gondola with activities that include ski biking and tubing to a mini-snowmobile course and a zipline. Adventure Ridge is open into the evening, providing a family-friendly add-on to the ski day. Other resorts offer lift ticket deals as well as lodging, lesson and gear discounts. Contact: https://www.coloradoski.com
In Williams, Ariz., board an historic train for a 65-mile scenic adventure across the Kaibab Plateau to the awe-inspiring south rim of the Grand Canyon. In Georgia, bypass the crowds and head for the Cumberland Island National Seashore, the state's largest and southernmost barrier island. Pristine beaches, mud flats, dune fields and salt marshes provide respite for shore birds, sea turtles, wild turkeys and wild horses. Kayak, fish and hike by day. Enjoy the bounty of stars visible from your family's campsite. (No other lodging is available on the island.) Accessible only by float plane or boat, the Katmai National Park and Preserve on the Alaskan Peninsula near Kodiak Island, spans nearly 5 million acres. Families visit to observe the dense population of brown bears and to fish for trophy rainbow trout, salmon and Dolly Varden trout that run in Katmai's streams and rivers. Contact: Thetrain.com
Make a plan to visit our nation's capital with your family and immerse yourselves in the depth and breadth of opportunity provided by the Smithsonian Institution, the world's largest museum, education, and research complex. From art and history to the National Zoo and the Air and Space Museum, where kids can climb aboard an interactive flight simulator or take an exciting virtual trip on board a passenger ride, there is plenty to explore in Washington, D.C. At the National Museum of the American Indian, families can sample basketry or sit inside a full-size tipi to learn about Comanche life. Before your trip, consider a review of the online resources that inspire, prepare and educate. Contact: https://www.si.edu
In Nashville, Tenn., home of the Grand Ole Opry and the best in country music, learn how a simple radio broadcast spawned a global entertainment phenomenon. From industry legends to the latest luminaries, you'll get a taste of history along with a contemporary dose of the genre in the "home of American music." Take in the Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium, the Bluebird Cafe and the Johnny Cash Museum. Ask about backstage passes, behind-the-scenes tours and family packages. Or, indulge your teen with tickets to see his or her favorite pop star on stage in Vegas. Avoid some of the bright lights by staying at the Four Seasons, a nongaming oasis. Contact: https://www.opry.com
Pack your sandals and sunscreen and enjoy quality island time. In Hawaii, explore torch-lit paths, indigenous birds and flora, and a world-famous luau at the Big Island's Hilton Waikoloa Village. Dig in for toes-in-the-sand dining and hula dancing on Kauai, snorkel on Maui, or surf and swim while relaxing on Oahu. In Costa Rica, wake to a chorus of tropical wildlife in the only lodge located inside the Arenal Volcano National Park. The majestic and perfectly shaped volcanic centerpiece, in a rich rainforest setting, can be observed from most guest rooms, the dining room and an expansive deck. Horseback riding, biking and hiking trails wind through old lava fields and soft jungle trails where howling monkeys, slithering snakes, butterflies and colorful birds beckon visitors. Contact: https://www.gohawaii.com
(Lynn O'Rourke Hayes (www.LOHayes.com) is an author, family travel expert and enthusiastic explorer. Gather more travel intel on Twitter @lohayes, Facebook, or via FamilyTravel.com)