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March 2008

March 28, 2008

Oh, Canada


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Canada all too often falls off the radar for U.S. families. It shouldn't. I've taken my kids from Ontario to British Columbia over the years, and there's still so much we want to experience, not to mention the places we'd go back to in a heartbeat (i.e. all of them). There's not enough space here for all of our favorites, but here's a sampling of reasons to cross the northern border.

Montreal, Québec: It's a taste of Europe, no transatlantic flight necessary. Top activities: Jet boating on the St. Lawrence; exploring superb Pointe à Callière Archaeological Museum, built over a real archaeological site; shopping on eclectic Rue St. Denis (with pre-teens or teens, this is the street); savoring house-made French pastries at Premiere Moisson in Atwater Market; alternating between fascinated and grossed out at the Insectarium; taking in Just For Laughs, the annual comedy festival.

Continue reading "Oh, Canada" »


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Related Topics: Family Vacation · Outdoor Adventures · Road Trips

Video Spotlight: Tuckerman Ravine, New Hampshire


On the east side of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, the steep slopes and challenging terrain of Tuckerman Ravine draw thousands of visitors each year, determined to carry their skis up 1,400 vertical feet of snow-covered mountain just for one ten-minute run. This year, April 18 to 20, Friends of Tuckerman Ravine is hosting the 2008 Inferno, with individual and team competitions near and on the ravine in five events—running, kayaking, biking, hiking, and skiing. Check out the video above to get in the groove for carving down one of the East Coast's best backcountry shots. Below are some more resources, if you've got the cajones to go for it like these guys in the video:
North American Backcountry Skiing Hot Spots
Avalanche Safety
The Basics of Telemark Skiing
Tuckerman Ravine Desktop Wallpaper


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Day 9: Last Turns in Niseko


If the previous day proffered the worst possible conditions for spring skiing, then my final four hours in Niseko proved to be the best. Bluebird skies and sparking sunlight had me up and out for the first gondola ride to the summit of Higashiyama Resort—but so much for the early worm.  The first run proved to be a crusty, icy affair; overnight temps had hardened the snow so much that every sloppy turn emitted that distinctive shshshshshshshshshrrrrrrip scrape sound that's oh-soooo familiar to East Coast skiers such as myself.

But by the time I hopped the gondola and rode a few one-man chairs to reach the backcountry gate accessing the summit of 4,291-foot Niseko An'naupri, the snow had been perfectly softened by the glittering, mid-morning sun.

Continue reading "Day 9: Last Turns in Niseko" »


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Related Topics: Asia Travel · Dispatches from the Road

March 26, 2008

Earth Hour: Turn Off the Lights, Turn Down the Heat


Consider this the environmental movement's equivalent of the butterfly effect: Turn off your lights for one hour this Saturday and you might help save a migratory bird from a fatal mid-air collision or prevent ice slabs seven times the size of Manhattan from calving off into the frigid Antarctic Ocean. It's a big leap, admittedly, but the now-global Earth Hour deals in high-minded environmental action on a massive grassroots level. Scheduled for 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, March 29, Earth Hour 2008 will see the lights dim in 24 major cities and municipalities around the world, spanning five continents and including Sydney, Dublin, Toronto, Chicago, and San Francisco. The event seeks to raise awareness about global warming by encouraging individuals to conserve energy, and in doing so, consider other personal steps toward combating climate change.

Continue reading "Earth Hour: Turn Off the Lights, Turn Down the Heat" »


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Related Topics: Holidays, Events, & Festivals

March 25, 2008

Learning to Sail



By Gary Chandler
03/25/2008

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I recently spent a week in Mazatlán, Mexico, with my wife's extended family, for whom no gathering is complete without a marathon session of dominoes. I have zero talent for the game, and my status as Game Night Loser has remained unchanged after three years of courtship and four years of marriage. (Even my wife hates to be paired with me.) So I was cautiously pleased this year when a cousin announced he'd brought a new board game for us to try. "Blokus" turned out to be Tetris-meets-Chinese Checkers, two games I spent countless hours playing as a kid. Suddenly, I was a powerhouse, winning seven straight games, most by a landslide. They copied my moves, ganged up on me, even forced me to change colors, to no avail. I was The Champ.

Continue reading "Learning to Sail" »


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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Sailing

Walking San Diego's Wild Side


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Food is an essential part of my nine-year-old daughter's day. When Melanie blurts, "I'm hungry," that's my cue to find sustenance immediately or face her tear-filled wrath. Yielding to her hunger pangs at SeaWorld San Diego, I had a plate of chicken fingers in front of her in almost record time. But then, as San Diego's famous son, Dr. Seuss, might say, something wonderful and truly amazing happened. Melanie was not stuffing her face. In fact, her eyes were the size of doughnuts as she stared in awe at an orca whale doing a backflip, not more than ten feet from where we were sitting.

Continue reading "Walking San Diego's Wild Side" »


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Related Topics: Dispatches from the Road · Family Vacation · Places to Stay

Dear Airline Industry: "You're Filthy... You Lose Our Stuff... Your Seats are Cramped... We're Hungry... You're Late"


Remember the days of United's cheery come "Fly the Friendly Skies" marketing campaign? OK, we thought not, as that was almost four decades ago and the love affair between air passengers and our once-ebullient sky valets went sour some time ago. "Cramped seats, trashed interiors, lost baggage, and long delays—flying these days is about as comfortable as rotator-cuff surgery," is how Outside contributor Jason Daley puts it in his straight-from-the-heart open letter to the airline industry in the magazine's April 2008 issue.

Brand-marketing eggheads as well as airline executives would do well to adapt Daley's five-point lament for their Path to Redemption presentations: "You're filthy... you lose our stuff... your seats are cramped... we're hungry... you're late." To that list, we'd add, "You're screwing us," not least because of recent moves to charge for additional pieces of checked luggage. While the new luggage-allowance rules exempt frequent-flier fat cats, once again it's ordinary travelers, like families and skiers, who are bearing the brunt of the airline industry's attempts to squeeze costs. "It's sad that the beginning and the end of a great vacation have to be so aggravating," writes Keith Fanta in an email. Fanta is Vice President of the National Ski Council Federation (NSCF), a nationwide organization of 28 ski councils that represents about 570 ski and snowboard clubs—aka, snow-chasing constituents who are now facing at least $50 extra per trip (for now) for the privilege of hauling their skis, poles, and boots to the slopes.

We can only hope that continued consumer dissatisfaction, allied with rearguard actions like NSCF's effort to staunch other airlines' impulse to follow United's lead, will someday put this latest what-are-they-smokin'-back-at-corporate genie back in its bottle. And then we'd like to request real food again... and a couple more inches' legroom... and clean planes... Oh, what the hell, just get us there with some trace of vacation giddiness left in our beat-down bodies.


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March 21, 2008

Travel Radar: Away.com's Weekly Roundup



By Karen Chen
03/21/2008

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One of the best reasons to travel is the chance to taste delicious new food from around the world (all the while, of course, seeing new places). Genuine food nuts will even confess that this is the only reason to travel. Either way, everyone loves a good meal, so let your stomach be your guide on these foodie trails from Singapore to Austria to Quebec. You'll even find suggestions for how to work off some of those calories afterwards.

Tokyo has recently gotten a lot of press for being one of the world's top places to dine out. The highly regarded Michelin Guides put out its first-ever guide to Tokyo's restaurants in November '07 and awarded the city a total of 191 stars—more than Paris (98 stars) and New York City (54 stars) combined (though some of that has to do with Tokyo having many more restaurants than the other two cities). Before you go, read over these Tokyo dining tips for restaurant recommendations and etiquette pointers to prepare you for your gastronomic excursion. Also, read our recent post about the country's weird and wonderful culinary delights.

Continue reading "Travel Radar: Away.com's Weekly Roundup" »


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Related Topics: Travel News · Trip Ideas

Special Dispatch: And Now We Pause for the Requisite Asian Food Entry


Fried crickets in Thailand, soft tacos filled with grasshoppers in Mexico, Indiana Jones and the monkey brains of India, Australia's love of yeast extract spread…  Yes indeed, travel always gives you an opportunity to sample the odd, unpredictable, and occasionally less-than-appetizing tastes of the world—or your own backyard (witness Rocky Mountain oysters).

So it should come as no surprise when I report that Japan boasts its own stomach-churning entries. And while I'm usually game for just about anything, I could not bring myself to try the marinated fish guts at the breakfast buffet at Niseko's Prince Hotel. Nor could I stomach fermented sticky beans—natto—a potent concoction housed in a small package that, when opened, emits the smell of dirty feet. You're supposed to stir the mixture into a bowl of rice until it takes on the stringy consistency of melted mozzarella, and then… bon appétit! Luke, an Aussie expat who's been in Japan for over six years, has acclimated to the taste well enough to make natto part of his daily caloric intake. Me? I couldn’t even manage the sight of it as one colleague mixed up an experimental a.m. dose. Instead, I stared into my machine-made cappuccino, tried not to smell, and concentrated on the challenges of eating fried eggs by chopstick.

Continue reading "Special Dispatch: And Now We Pause for the Requisite Asian Food Entry" »


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Related Topics: Asia Travel · Dispatches from the Road

March 19, 2008

Trip of a Lifetime: Viva Mexico!


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My daughter, Kira, came to Mexico with me when she was 10, 12, and 20. Molly visited at four, six, and ten, Hutch at nine. I've probably even forgotten some trips. Point is, Mexico is a great destination for every age. It offers family-friendly hotels, history, nature, adventure, and unique culture. But the single best reason to head south of the border is that Mexican people adore kids. On our Baja whale-watching trip, Molly, at six, didn't want to sit in the boat twice each day—understandable given that we sometimes floated for hours without getting close to a whale (but when we did, Wow!). The all-Mexican camp crew voluntarily took her under their wing, making her whale-shaped pancakes, letting her help in the cook tent, and taking her on beach walks to find shells. The morning we left, the head of the crew picked her up to say goodbye and they both cried.

When it comes to reading about a Maya ruin or seeing its astonishing engineering firsthand, there's no contest. The best school report Kira ever did was on Tulum, south of Cancun. Her teachers were unhappy that I took her out of school to go to Mexico, but she brought Mayan civilization to life for her classmates and has never forgotten the magic of Tulum.

Continue reading "Trip of a Lifetime: Viva Mexico!" »


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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Family Vacation · Mexico Travel
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