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March 28, 2008

Oh, Canada


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.

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January 22, 2008

9 Great Reasons to Go RVing

If someone had told me I would travel 30,000 miles in RVs with my kids, all of us tucked into 30 feet of ingeniously designed, but undeniably small space, for days on end, I would have scoffed. We were hikers and campers. We were resort-goers. We were (relatively) young and, umm, hip. To scoffers I now say, "Don't knock it 'til you try it."

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December 21, 2007

Avila Beach: A Secret Stopover Between L.A. and San Francisco

From the coves of La Jolla to the vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge at San Francisco's Baker Beach, California's shoreline deserves its legendary stature. Well, now you can add the sleepy hamlet of Avila Beach to that list of must-sees. My family and I had just driven a little over three hours north of L.A. when we veered off Highway 1 to grab a bite. Three days later, we were still here soaking up the sunny bliss. It wasn't the white-sand beach that seduced us, nor the mountains that hem in this small community. It was the utter lack of humans. 

Living in Huntington Beach years ago, I had come to the conclusion that if you really wanted to savor a sublime stretch of Californian coastline, you had to share it. This is especially true in the warm summer months. That hidden beach south of Dana Point spoken only in secret circles among surfers would surely be overrun by that same tribe at sunrise. The rocky shores north of Laguna, favored by seals, are also a popular retreat for seal watchers, binoculars in tow. 

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December 13, 2007

Road-Tested Travel Tips from Fellow Parents

By awayblog

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We recently canvassed some of our readers for the ultimate advice they'd give to families looking to hit the road. Here's a sampling (minus the folks who told us, "Tip 1: Leave the kids at home!"). If you have other ideas, tell us in the comments section below or send us an email. We'll check back on a regular basis and update this section with the best new advice.

>> We tried to resist the temptation of portable DVD players, but there are only so many I-Spy games you can play. A useful addition, but house rule, is that the DVD can only go on once the car battery has charged up the DVD.
>> Bring spare clothes for little ones. Include a few diaper or plastic bags as vomit receptacles...
>> Try to leave early in the morning—take breakfast (granola bars, jelly sandwiches, fruit, etc.) with you so the kids are still lethargic from sleep when you set off. Then eat on the road (assuming no- one suffers from car sickness), which also uses up some extra time.
>> Get a roof box, which is priceless for all the little extras.
>> Pack the car the night before (and make sure Dad has beer to do it).

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December 12, 2007

Sites We Like:

By awayblog

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What did we do before the iPod? (OK, we listened to Walkmans, but that'd be showing our age…). If you're facing a long stretch in the car this Christmas season, check out, where you can download dozens of audio tales for free. Here, you can find classics like Dick Whittington or Alice in Wonderland, plus some original stuff about Prince Bertie the Frog and his gang of pond-dwelling friends. Rip the audio files to your computer or iTunes, then burn them to a CD or your iPod for storytime in the car.

Does anyone have any other ideas for fun ways to pass the time on a long plane journey or car ride? Tell us in the comments section below.

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December 11, 2007

Worth the Drive in Costa Rica

Frankly, I think the beaches and dunes in Cape Cod are superior to the Pacific Coast beaches of Costa Rica.

That's why I can never understand why people would travel all the way down to this sliver of a country in Central America just to hit the beaches of growing Guanacaste. To truly appreciate the beauty of Costa Rica, you need to check out one of the most active volcanoes in the Western Hemisphere, Arenal, and the emerald-green pasture and jagged peaks of the Cloud Forest in Monteverde. Unfortunately, the road to Monteverde is a rocky, pothole-strewn obstacle course that requires the use of a 4WD.

Rent a car at San Jose's International Airport and weave your way through the city north to the rim of Poas Volcano, where you can spend your first night at the Peace Lodge. The next morning, walk the grounds of the La Paz Waterfall Gardens and you’ll find five waterfalls, the largest butterfly observatory in the country, gardens filled with orchids, and a reptile area holding snakes and frogs. Then drive onward to the Arenal Observatory Lodge, perfectly perched at the base of the cone-shaped volcano. Keep the kids up late to see the nightly light show of lava running down from the crater. In the daytime, you can check out the hot springs in nearby Tabacon. Then you have the long drive around the entirety of 25-mile-long Lake Arenal to Monteverde. The last hour or so is on that nightmare of a dirt road. Simply slow down and enjoy the views of sloping pastureland dotted with sheep, cows, and horses.

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