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February 2008

February 29, 2008

Dude, Giddy Up


My kids were two, five, and 11 the first time my gang packed up boots and headed to a dude ranch. We arrived at Paradise Guest Ranch in Buffalo, Wyoming, and fell in love with the place, the people, and the horses. By week's end we had discovered something else wonderful, too—each other. A ranch vacation does more to bring families together than any other vacation I know. It's the antidote to our fast-paced world in which everything is digital and our kids are permanently connected by cords and wires to an array of electronic devices.

I waited until we were almost at Paradise Guest Ranch to mention that our cabin would have no TV, news met with sullen disbelief and insistence by my older daughter that this was going to be the worst week of her life.

It wasn't. And she was the first one out of the car when we went back the following year.

Continue reading "Dude, Giddy Up" »

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Related Topics: Family Vacation · Outdoor Adventures · Places to Stay

Travel Radar:'s Weekly Roundup

By Karen Chen

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Alright, we get it. You're sick of long underwear and getting all screwed up because you're dressed for frigid temps outside but it's a sweat-inducing 80 degrees in your office. So to get you through these last dregs of winter, here are some suggestions for chasing summer sun south of the equator.

Test out the water in Australia's rock pools and then nosh on some of Sydney's best beachside bites. After filling up on fried fish (or a tuna tartare if you're feeling a bit more swanky), follow any of these 100 suggestions for where to eat, drink, sleep, and shop in Sydney. For some more high-minded culture, Gridskipper's handy guide (complete with city map) will help you navigate the city's art spaces.

Continue reading "Travel Radar:'s Weekly Roundup" »

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February 28, 2008

Top 10 Most Popular National Parks (and the Places Where You Can Escape the Hordes)


This week, the National Park Service released its 2007 visitation numbers, showing some 278 million folks traipsed through the federal agency's 391 designated units, a 1 percent uptick on the previous year. The Blue Ridge Parkway and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area were the two most-visited areas, with the usual ten suspects leading the charge among the country's 58 national parks. In fact, the same ten parks have occupied the top ten slots over the past five years (see below), with the same three big guns—Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, and Yosemite—filling out the top three, with the exception of 2004, when Yosemite was edged out by Ohio's Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The annual numbers also include some tantalizing statistical certainties for solitude seekers—and most of these unsurprisingly point northward to Alaska's wild frontiers. Of the ten least-visited parks, five are in Alaska, including Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, and Kobuk Valley National Park. Interestingly, for those sick of the sneaker-clad hordes in Florida's Everglades (a perennial top-20 fave), harder-to-reach but equally-stunning Dry Tortugas is one of the country's ten least-visited. Below are visitation stats over the past five years, plus some links to activity guides and resource pages on each from And while it may not be the first place you look when planning your next great outdoor adventure, the NPS statistical archive is a fascinating place in which to indulge in some cold-blooded, microeconomic adventuring.

Continue reading "Top 10 Most Popular National Parks (and the Places Where You Can Escape the Hordes)" »

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Related Topics: Outdoor Adventures · Top 10 Lists

February 26, 2008

Lush Dominica


People flock to the Caribbean to sift their toes in the pearly white sands. But in Dominica, the attraction is not the relatively few beaches, but a verdant mountainous interior ripe with every tropical fruit and vegetable imaginable, a place so inundated with water that around every bend is another raging waterfall, serene swimming hole, or hidden hot spring in which to soothe your weary body after a day in the outdoors. Indeed, this island has become an affordable haven for families who yearns to hike through jungle-like forest, scuba dive and snorkel on living reefs, and sea kayak in sheltered coves with little, if any, boat traffic. Sure, you can still lounge with a good book, but it won't be on an overdeveloped strip of sand. You'll be high up in the hills on some small eco-resort balcony sipping fresh passion-fruit juice and listening to the waves of the Atlantic crash onto the rocky shores below.

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Carnival in the Dominican Republic

By Gary Chandler

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The Dominican Republic's month-long Carnival celebration climaxes this weekend in Santo Domingo, with a huge parade and street bash. It's a wild scene, with tens of thousands of people crammed on the malecón, dancing, singing, and marching in the main parade and impromptu conga lines. There are dozens of clubs whose members dress up as traditional Carnival characters; the costumes can be extremely elaborate and can take months to create, or thousands of dollars to buy—some groups even have corporate sponsors.

Continue reading "Carnival in the Dominican Republic" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Caribbean Travel

February 21, 2008

Travel Radar:'s Weekly Roundup

By Karen Chen

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Whether or not you understand how exchange rates work, one thing's for sure: the bigger the bang for your buck, the better. And right now the dollar is faring no bueno abroad. Travel editors at The Boston Globe understand this, so they've put together a list of places stateside that are worth a visit.

What do Cuenca, Ecuador; Charleston, South Carolina; and Singapore all have in common? They're three cities where you can get a great-value vacation without having to scrimp.

If all of these ideas are setting the wanderlust in motion, but you're low on cash, Budget Travel's "This Just In..." blog recommends starting a vacation fund now to save for your next excursion. Set up automatic transfers each month for an amount you won't really miss, and you'll see the savings start adding up when you haven't even been thinking about it.

Continue reading "Travel Radar:'s Weekly Roundup" »

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Winter Travel to Yellowstone National Park

By Erika Lloyd

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Photos by Awayblog on Buzznet

When Alexander Zhivotovsky's family was looking for a winter vacation from their home in Israel, a coworker mentioned Yellowstone National Park. Zhivotovsky's wife, 13-year-old twin boys, and five-year-old boy jumped at the adventure.  They'd stay in West Yellowstone, a small town outside of the park, and go dogsledding and snowmobiling together.  For many, it may not be the first winter vacation destination that comes to mind, but Yellowstone offers activities that appeal to the whole family—dogsledding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, wildlife viewing, snowmobiling, ice skating. Just pack the right clothes and you won't need to worry about the freezing temperatures.

Yellowstone receives about three million visitors per year, but most show up in the summer months.  Therefore, traveling during the winter offers an opportunity to see the park without the hordes of people.  You'll watch bison and elk roam the white landscape, backed by forests and mountain ranges, with only a few other people, if any, nearby.  It's a mesmerizing experience, peeking through binoculars and telescopes, waiting for the animals' next move, Discovery Channel style.  No doubt, this hands-on experience with nature will help get your kids excited to learn about the environment, wildlife, and geology. 

One of the popular kids' programs in Yellowstone is the Junior Ranger Program, open to ages five to 12.  For a very small fee, participants get a 12-page activity paper, in which they work through a list of items that includes attending a ranger-led program, hiking on a trail, and experiencing various other educational park activities, checking off activities as they complete them around the park.  When finished, kids go over their work with a ranger and are awarded an official Yellowstone Junior Ranger patch. This is a fun experience for the whole family to share together.

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Related Topics: Family Vacation · Outdoor Adventures

Packing Tips from the Expert

By Guest Blogger

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With special thanks to Jennifer Michaels for this week's guest post. Jennifer is the family travel guru for and

With airlines beginning to charge extra fees for additional baggage, travelers need to get organized about packing. For families, this creates extra challenges. And given that traveling is my trade, I am learning firsthand what it takes to pack smart—and light. Here are some of my secrets.

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Related Topics: Family Vacation · Travel Tips

February 20, 2008

Live from the World's First Carbon-Neutral Antarctic Voyage


Melting icebergs, sinking tour ships, incursions from invasive warmer-water species... the vast and majestic terrain of Antarctica has been in the press for all the wrong reasons recently. Which is why we're heartened to report that the world's first carbon-neutral Antarctic expedition is now underway, complete with live dispatches from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) climate scientist Sybille Klenzendorf (read her Antarctic Journal here). Until February 22, she and 47 other travelers are cruising aboard the Finnish research vessel Professor Multanovskiy between the Falklands, South Georgia, and the Antarctic Peninsula. The outfitter behind the 20-day voyage, Natural Habitat Adventures, is the first to offer a carbon-neutral option for experiencing the frozen south's penguins, peaks, and glaciers (not to mention being one of the first outfitters to go 100-percent carbon neutral for all its land-based trips and office operations). And if all that eco-cred wasn't enough, Natural Habitat's designation as a WWF "Conservation Travel Provider" means a portion of the trip price for WWF members is donated back to help with the organization's conservation efforts—no small potatoes given the expedition's $13k price tag.

Photo: Penguins, Antarctica (Colin McNulty)

Visit Outside Online for an archive of photos and dispatches from the world's first circumnavigation of South Georgia Island by sea kayak. The South Atlantic island was first made famous by Sir Ernest Shackleton's fated Endurance expedition.

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Related Topics: Holidays, Events, & Festivals

February 19, 2008

Sites We Like: Traveling Mamas

The Traveling Mamas recipe is simple: Take the ruminations of a team of well-traveled, adventure-seeking mothers and mix together in one easy-to-navigate blog. The four-person collective—aka, DesertMama, CajunMama, MountainMama, and MudslideMama—seeks to inspire other parents to get out and explore the world... with or without the kids. This wisdom is distilled through the Mamas' collective years of travel expertise and applies in a regional sense to their various base camps in Arizona, the Rockies, southern Louisiana, and southern California. However, whether it's chatting about the deal with kids in casinos or ways to find affordable things to do in high-end Santa Barbara, there are plenty of nuggets here to get you inspired whatever your zip code.

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