The Hermitage Club of Southern Vermont

The Hermitage Club at Haystack Mountain is a premiere destination for any New England visitor or local. Southern Vermont is easily accessible, just two hours from Boston and four hours from NYC, and puts you right in the center of the East Coast’s only private ski resort. Members enjoy year round entertainment surrounded by the natural beauty of the mountains.

family ski trip

Spa, dining, and luxury accommodations are a fixture at the Hermitage Club while providing a safe environment for outdoor and indoor activities on the 1,400 acre resort complete with private mountain. Ski slopes, bike and hiking trails offer access to the beautiful scenery. Seasonal programs, with age specific focuses and even day care for the little ones are available so that parents and older siblings can hit the slopes or trek the mountainside make this a perfect option for all family members.

family travel

There are multiple lodging options for visitors to meet any preference. The Vermont House is located in downtown Wilmington Vermont offering the historical experience of an 1850’s colonial inn or the Inn at Sawmill Farm where you can spend your night in the renovated Carriage House. The Brook Bound Inn is near the Hermitage Clubhouse and offers a variety of rooms and even full house rentals for larger groups. Pools for swimming, a golf course, tennis and basketball courts are just the beginning of the features.

covered road

Restaurants, bars, and other tasty stops are sprinkled across the six inns during winter operating days, as well as on the very side and top of the mountain. The Hermitage Inn features French inspired meals with a Vermont twist. Savor farm to table dining at the White House, which offers American favorites, or you can enjoy the taste of Italy at Ristorante Piacenza. Check scheduled hours (as well as seasonal hours of operation) as they vary for the different locations, like the Clubhouse and Mid-Mountain Cabin. They are tied to the ski operating schedule which you can also find online.

ski lodge

Skiers can use one of six ski lifts and have a choice of 45 trails across 194 skiable acres. Lessons for newbies and those who want to up their skills are available or if you want to pass on the downhill portion strap on your skis and enjoy the cross country variety. Interested in trying motorized sports? Snowmobiling, as well as classic winter fun such as tubing and ice-skating are some more winter activities you can experience at the Hermitage Club.

ski vermont

After your time exploring and dining, consider relaxing with a spa treatment or drink. Joining a fitness class will keep you moving, or you can take a rest and enjoy the artists taking part in the Heritage Club Concert Series. Whether you are searching for a break from a hectic schedule or to re-energize yourself, The Heritage Club gives members the ability to customize their experience and enjoy the best of Vermont.

snowtubing vermont

UPDATE- The resort has recently been shut down, but there are a lot of other resorts to choose from in Vermont.

Top Fun Things To Do In Italy

The spectacular region of Italy needs no introduction as it is among the most famous travel destinations in Europe. The state has a high impact globally, and its artwork, beautiful places, crumbling ruins and castles make it an excellent holiday destination. You will also love the vibrant cities such as Rome and other less crowded areas where you can have great getaways with family and friends.

The food in Italy is delicious; the state has beautiful countryside and great wine to sum your trip up. Last year, I packed for a trip to Italy, and I loved every bit of it. The ancient streets, vineyards and the laid-back nature of the State is something to die for.

Here are a few selections of the best places to visit and the things to do while there.

Explore Rome

There is no better place to be than Rome. You have probably heard of this phrase from many people, and I’m here to tell you they were right. The city is filled with ancient history, iconic food formulates, monuments and loads of other activities that make it the ideal destination for anyone who wishes to explore the world.

From café bars for all ages, old worshipped gods, delicious and cultural meals, everything is just fantastic. In this city are cool things that people want to see and do. Who does not want to see the Pantheon, St. Peters and Coliseum?

When planning for a trip to Rome, you must decide on the main places that you wish to visit and the key things to do first to avoid dilemma. Some of the unusual places to visit are like the cat café. Sounds funny right? You will, however, fall in love with it right away. The interiors are spectacular, but you will love the cats even more. You can spend as much time as you wish eating raw vegan cake as you bond with the cats. You will never want to leave the place.

On the second day, visit the Sistine Chapel, which is a part of Vatican Museums. The chapel was named after Pope Sixtus. Every wall of the chapel is covered with arts, and some scripture stories such as the story of Christ and Moses featured on its walls. Opposite to the entrance is a huge wall, with the story of the Last Judgment featured on it. The arts and their designs are unique and worth checking.

Complete your stay in Rome by taking a hop-on-hop-off tour by bus and spend your day sightseeing and exploring all the attraction sites such as Vatican City and Colosseum. You can hop on and off at any destination as you wish. The best way to go about it is to get a ticket valid for at least 24 or 48 hours, so you can explore as much as you want. There is also an upgrade option that allows you to enter the Sistine Chaple, Vatican and Roman Forum.

rome Italy

Visit Naples

Also referred to as the Grande Dame, Naples is one of the most spectacular cities in Italy and happens o e among the oldest and largest cities in Europe. The town is filled with sceneries and unusual activities to take on holidays either with your family and friends. From trying their Pizza, which has been ranked among the best to exploring the Pompeiian ruins, you can never be bored.

The streets in the city are beautified with character and modern life. The routine here is simple yet very relaxing. You only need to eat, go for pizza, pray, play mainly for the football lovers and sleep. The list of things to explore in Naples is endless. Talk of sunny islands, beaches, volcano, and ancient history, I mean, what else would one wish for a summer holiday?

While here, you cannot miss out on Herculaneum and Pompeii. These are Italy’s most favorite tourist’s spots, and you can choose to visit them on one long-day trip, or you could split the visits into two depending on how much time you have. You get a chance to learn more about ancient Roman life.

Do not forget to visit the national museum and see where most of the stuff from the two sites mentioned here (Pompeii and Herculaneum) are kept. The museum also houses one of the most significant collections of Roman art, and you will also be amazed by its unique and rare design.

You have not visited Naples if you do not explore the Naples underground. Yes! You read that right. You can still explore the area underneath the historic center. Napoli Sotteranea is worth a stop as you get to see ruins from the Roman and Greek times.

Finally, you can take a tour to Almalfi coast or the Islands nearby if you still have time.

 

Explore Tuscany

There are lots of activities to take and things to do in Tuscany, and as much as you may wish to explore everything, you must have a selection if you want the tour to be a success. From Chianti wine tour to horseback riding and Vespa tour, you can never get enough of the place. You will also get a chance to attend cooking classes, something that ensures that at least you get to leave with something when going back home. For the bike lovers, the Chianti bike tour has your back, if you love swimming, the hot springs are there to ensure that you enjoy being in the water at your most favorable temperature and if you like walking, there is still something for you.

We stayed in Tuscany (Your name and surname), a spectacular region located in central Italy. Tuscany is one of the most fabulous art warehouses in the world. It is filled with frescoes, architectural masterpieces, and amazing paintings and sculptures. We enjoyed every minute spent here as we were able to explore the arts, the scenic countryside, tasted the wine, trekked at the mountain path and rolled down the hills. There is a lot to see there, and we had trouble deciding where to start.

When in Tuscany, we spent much time in Chianti, a region renowned for its wine and hills. If you love wine tasting, you are undoubtedly likely to enjoy the place. The cliffs are spectacular which happens to be among the best in the world. We then headed to Siena, where we got a chance to explore the architecture and Tuscany’s fantastic history. You cannot visit Italy and fail to go to Siena. You will only miss a lot.

After a long day of exploration, we had to look for a place to lie down and relax as we looked forward to the next day. We were looking for a simple, calm yet unique place to spend the night and luckily we came across the castle of Montalto. Again, the place was magnificent, peaceful and the best to relax and unwind. It has so many villas that we had trouble choosing one, but eventually, we settled for San Giovanni West, a villa that provided a breathtaking panorama with sunsets.

The place was super friendly. We did not want to leave as we felt like the villa had turned to be our new home. The meals, comfort, beautiful paintings, cooking lessons, and other activities led us to spend two days here, which made us lose track of time. We bonded well with the place and people, nature, and climate.

I loved the moments spent at the Castle of Montalto. We all left the place having learned new things and with a new, better way of viewing life. I got a chance to rediscover old and new emotions, smells, flavors, new images and memories that I will never forget.

The castle also includes exclusive villas for rent and Agriturismo, a famous farmhouse in Italy. What is unique about this farm?  Here they produce honey, oil, eggs and vegetables, all natural without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

We visited the farm and had a blast. We honestly did not want to go back home as every moment spent here was like a dream that we did not wish to put to an end. We, however, had to go back eventually and the whole vacation is still stack in our mind. We came back with lots of beautiful memories that have changed our lives completely. We have resumed work, and with no doubts, we have come back better than we left. We now have new goals; we feel energized which has helped improve our performance. We went back to the Castle of Montalto near Siena both before and after the vacation, which has changed our lives for the better.

tuscany with kids

Enjoy the scenes in Florence

Florence is the Soul of Italy and Tuscany, and it shines with lots of beautiful sceneries and attractions located all over the city. You will get an opportunity to discover myriads of architecture and exquisite artwork. All the arts are made to represent the culture of the city.

There is a lot you can do, and places to visit in Florence and choosing one becomes a dilemmatic issue. The top sites include the Uffizi Gallery, the city’s top museum and a cite where you get to see Botticelli’s. The museum is filled with ancient pieces and artwork.

Visit the Palazzo Vecchio and at the entrance, you will see a replica of David indicating his original position since 1873. The Hall of Five Hundred is also a part of this building. Do not forget to pass by the Florence Cathedral, which is also known as il Duomo. The structure provides a cute view of the city’s rooftops amid rolling hills, the Tuscan hills.

If you are looking for a friendly place to spend time with kids, there is a place for you in Florence. The Children’s Museum of the Shoals is the place to be. The museum is vibrantly colored and entails a lot of things that children will love. The children will learn and still have fun. It is meant to them learn about the local heritage while understanding the basis of arts and culture.

When it comes to getting a place that has something for everyone, then Deibert Park is the place. The park lies on over 70 acres and has a thing for the young, teens and those in their 40s. It is home to museums, walking trails and ponds where you can sit and enjoy your leisure. Even better; it has a separate kids’ playground with modern play equipment to ensure that you can all have fun.

You can finally go to the Splash Pad, a city park that is known and loved for its water jets.  It was initially known as the River Heritage Park, and the place has something to keep everyone engaged. From slides, swings, and refreshing trees, you will with no doubts love spending time here.

 

A trip to Lombardy

From the gleaming lakes of Northern Italy to the foothills of the Alps, Lombardy is one region worth visiting during your trip to Italy. The region is filled with attractions, sites, and activities that cover everyone’s likes and preferences. Lombardy is popular due to its welcoming locals, Germanic-come-Italo foods and the fact that it is industrial wealthy. The enclave never fails to impress.

You can start by going to Mantua, one of the most loved destinations in Italy. It is found on the southern-east of Lombardy, and one of the things that you are likely to love here are the three artificial lakes that surround it. These lakes are believed to have been created in the 12th century, and if you are a lover of history, you will undoubtedly love exploring them. What’s more? The city is rich in cultural site and landscapes, the kinds that you can never find anywhere else. The Gonzaga family resided here and made the city an art, culture and musical hub of Italy.

Palazzo Vertemate Franchi is also worth stopping by.  Located in Prosto di Piuro, this palace was built in the 16th century by Luigi Vertemate Franchi and Guglielmo, to brothers who came from a wealthy family. You can tour around its interior especially if you love arts as the palace is made up of lots of compartments and unique designs that could inspire you.

Visit Lake Como, a popular scenic destination dotted with villages along the waterfront and rich of Rhaetian Alps in the background. It is a perfect destination for wealthy people who wish to retreat and witness the gorgeous scenes. Today, it is s spot for celebrity sightings such as George Clooney.

Finally, if you still have some time left, go to Catello di Mapaga which sits in Cavernago. It was known as the home to Bartolomeo Colleoni, a renowned soldier who gained his wealth and power when fighting for other people. The castle is much fun to explore if you find yourself around Lombardy.  

 

Explore Veneto

Deciding on which places to visit while in Veneto can be a hard task.  The region is full of sceneries and historic sites that you would not miss. From villas, lakes, and mountains, everyone is covered. You can start your tour by going to Verona, a region known for the house and balcony believed to have belonged to Juliet from the story, Rome and Juliet. The area is also home to museums, a castle, and shopping centers. You can also have a good time with family and friends at Piazza Bra.

From there you can go to Padua, which is a walled city known for hosting the oldest botanical garden in Europe. It is also a great historical center.

You cannot miss out on Brenta River, which is situated Padua and Venice. Along the river are old villas from the 15th-18th century. Although some of them are not open to the public, there are still some that you can visit and witness the beauty.

You can then visit Marostica, a small town famous for hosting a main squire and castle above and walls that lead up the hill to the castle. Every year in September, the main square is turned into a chess board for the chess lovers.

Spare some time and visit the Bassano del Grappa, which is named after Monte Grappa. This is a beautiful medieval town along the Brenta River, famous for its grappa, Alpine wooden bridge, and ceramics. While in Bassano del Grappa, you will have a better chance to visit Palladian villas, the castles of the Veneto or if you like, you can go hiking in the mountains.

Later you can visit Lake Garda, the largest and most visible lake in Italy. The eastern shore of the lake is in the Veneto region and therefore while in Veneto, you can spare some time and visit there. Nearby the lake is Gardaland, a sizeable spectacular park where you can relax as you lie calmly with family or friends.

Finally, you can set aside a whole day to tour around Marostica, Asolo, Bassano del Grappa, Palladian villa, and Treviso.

 

Italy is a fantastic destination for anyone this holiday and I would totally recommend it. Ensure that you get your tickets in advance to avoid the last minute rush and park all the gears that you may need for the trip. Have a memorable vacation by booking today!

 

Travels in and around Sacramento, California

California tourists know big city names like Sacramento, but a visit to Northern California offers more than one opportunity to enjoy the area. A great place for a classic road trip, Camino, Coloma, Columbia, Jamestown, Placerville, Sonora, and  Tuolumne County are full of attractions just around the next bend in the road.

Sacramento

Sacramento is one of California’s largest cities and full of family friendly attractions. Museums dedicated to such topics as transportation, art, and history can all be found here along with shops, restaurants, and “Old Sacramento, a registered national landmark and state historic park”. With the diverse offerings there is something that will appeal to every family member.

visit california

Trains, cars, or both? Sacramento is home to the California State Railroad Museum and California Auto Museum. Transportation and the area’s history are closely tied as the city was part of the transcontinental railroad and Pony Express. The Railroad Museum not only displays restored locomotives and train cars, they also feature “40 one-of-a kind exhibits”. Here you can learn about railroad history from 1850 to the trains we ride today. A mile down the road the Auto Museum is full of examples of more modern four wheeled transport. The collection features cars from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, originals and restorations.

california railroad

Art? The Crocker Art Museum is a perfect stop. Opening in 1885 the museum is a part of history too, the “first public art museum in the Western United States”.  Enjoy more than the art when visiting, there are also live events, tours, and classes for kids, adults, or the whole family. When planning your trip be sure to check out their Events Calendar on the site.

History? Old Town Sacramento Historic District is a living piece of the past. Shops once supplied miners in search of gold, now those historic buildings house shops and eateries that appeal to new visitors in the area. The Sacramento History Museum is there to expand your local knowledge or if you want to go back before the city was founded try the California State Indian Museum.

travel in california

California Gold Rush

Gold brought the original settlers to the region and now you can learn about the history and recapture the experience at Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma Ca. James Marshall triggered the “largest migration in history” when he discovered gold in 1848. With a museum, gold panning, candle and rope making you can spend the afternoon living history.

Want more? Hangtown’s Gold Bug Park & Mine combines education and nature. Whether you take advantage of the hiking trails or investigate the two hard rock mines in the park, there are plenty of opportunities to learn about history and enjoy the Placerville countryside. Gold was becoming harder to find by 1852, this is what made mining become more popular. The only gold mines still owned by the state of California, you can take a tour into these two hard rock mines (either guided or self guided) 362 feet into Gold Bug Mine, as well as visit the black blacksmith shop, stamp mill, museum, and more.

gold mine

Looking for a full immersion into the Gold Rush? Columbia State Historic Park is the perfect answer. Costumed tour guides lead you through the preserved Mother Lode town, once the second largest city in California. Now home to an authentic stagecoach, locally made sarsaparilla soda (which is delightful and should be tried), a blacksmith’s forge, and saloon. “Columbia is a real town”, full time residents live the 1850’s lifestyle, practice the trades of the time, and you can join them to eat, drink, sleep, and be a part of living history.  Shops keep regular business hours, but the town never closes. No driving through though, cars are not allowed here. Visitors are hoofing it, by foot or horse back because this is the real deal historical experience. You can even stay overnight in guest houses and hotels, right on Main Street. This was an amazing experience, and one that you and your family will treasure.

jr ranger

Visit Apple Hill

The ranches and farms that make up Apple Hill is a top destination for food and fun. For every season, year round, they welcome visitors. From apples to berries, from pumpkins to pine trees for the holidays, Apple Hill tops the list of outdoor activities. Over 50 ranches and farms are part of Apple Hill. You can find details on the Apple Hill site. Here are the ones we visited.

travel california

Rainbow Orchard, which serves their specialty, “Hot Apple Cider Donuts”, is known for their Bake Shop and produce. A 3rd generation family farm they grow apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, and blueberries. Their farmers market is open in the fall, “Labor Day weekend and daily from September 10 through Thanksgiving weekend.” If you are looking for blueberry picking the season runs from early/mid June through mid/late July, and they are open Friday through Sunday.

trip to California

Harris Tree Farm has been operating in the community for over 150 years and 7 generations since 1857. Open all year from 9:30-4:30 this is the spot for fruits and vegetables, fresh flowers, or picking a pumpkin or Christmas tree depending on the season.  If you get hungry a visit to Irene’s Kitchen will hook you up with pies, turnovers, jams, and butters. Their motto, “We believe in operating a sustainable farm and forest. By using local sustainably produced products you support a healthier economy, environment and community which benefits us all.” stands out.

apple picking

Abel’s Apple Acres combines beautiful views, hot BBQ, homemade fudge, candies, and of course apples. Best of all they are dog friendly, so if you are looking for a place for the whole family, two legged or four, this is it. Pony rides, the pumpkin patch, and a walk through maze add to the time spent enjoying all the edible goodies.  They are open to visitors “Labor Day Weekend to 3PM Christmas Eve”.  

 

 

Le Blanc Spa Resort, Los Cabos Mexico

A Luxury Adults Only Getaway to Mexico

resorts in mexico

When you are looking to vacation without the hassle, to just enjoy yourself in the deluxe accommodations, to indulge on your next trip, you need look no further than Le Blanc All-Inclusive Spa and Resort. Located in popular Los Cabos on the west coast of Mexico, Le Blanc offers everything you are seeking and more.

adult only mexico

This is Le Blanc’s second location, the first being their top rated Cancun resort from Palace Resorts, recognized by AAA as a Five Diamond Awarded brand. With this new location on the opposite coast they have raised the bar. Fine dining, ocean front views, spa and fitness facilities are all added on to the pure natural beauty of the Baja Peninsula.

couples only getaway

Taste enthusiasts will love the variety of foods available during your stay. Le Blanc offers gourmet delicacies with curated menus by world-renowned pastry chef, Antonio Bachour. If you too enjoy baked goods, they are a top choice for me and hard to resist, what could be better than a selection of dishes from a chef who shares that passion.

adults only getaway

If you are all about the water bring plenty of swimwear. The Pacific is just footsteps away for visitors that want to catch some waves, or you can relax in one of the four pools. Maybe an evening under the stars enjoyed from a hot tub? All this talk of water making you thirsty? Float on over to one of the swim-up bars for some internal hydration.

mixed drinks

Vacation just isn’t vacation without some full on relaxation, which for me means time in the spa. Most exciting to me at Le Blanc was their hydrotherapy along with the Asian and European fusion of features. Hot and cold pools, herbal steam sauna, and ice room, which I totally love when going to the Korean spa but have not come across at another resort, make this place stand out.

resorts mexico

From the amazing food, to the tranquil comfort of the rooms, and the shear beauty of Los Cabos you could not pick a better getaway than Le Blanc Spa and Resort for your next trip. Adults Only is just what you may need to relax and unwind in paradise so take advantage of all there is to offer at Le Blanc.

le blanc resorts

Find out more about the resort on their website – Leblancsparesorts.com

10 Wildly Fun Ways to Enjoy the Houston Zoo with CityPASS

 

  1.  Up Close and Personal with the Animals: As soon as we entered the zoo gates we were greeted by the most adorable chinchilla and it’s friendly handler who let guest pet and pose for pics with the fluffy soft animal.

2. Playful Seals and Underwater life

3.  Under the sea: The Kipp Aquarium within the Houston Zoo houses 200 species of underwater animals like these stunning lionfish and moon jellyfish that we were all mesmerized by. On your way through the exhibit you’ll view 2,000 individual freshwater and saltwater fish as well as marine invertebrates that will have you feeling like you were touring the coral reefs of the Pacific, the Rift Valley Lakes of Africa and the Amazon basin.

4. Explore the new nature play area: The Houston Zoo believes that when children are encouraged to play in nature they are more likely to support and protect nature and this new area allows them to use their wild imaginations while discovering the natural world that surrounds them.  Kids can create sculptures and mud pies, build with tree branches and wall climb. Bring towels, extra clothes and expect your kids to get a bit messy!

5. Adorable Baby Elephants: During our visit we all fell in love with a few of the newest baby arrivals and gushed watching this sweet baby elephant right before she went over to the Houston zookeepers to get washed up.

6. Lions,  Chimps and Rhino’s Oh My: Make your way through the African forest which leads to the villages trading outpost and discover fierce gorillas and red river hogs before approaching a second building that houses adorable chimps and rhino’s that are soaking in the sun. At the center of the Zoo you’ll find the carnivore exhibit which features feisty big cats {jaguars, cheetahs, malayan tigers and more} who love to play hide and seek. The Lions were out in the open but we spotted an ocelot who was watching us from up high above, so keep an eye out as you pass by because they can be easy to miss.

7. Trade your Cool Stuff at The Naturally Wild Swap Shop: Kids always manage to pick up something they discovered on nature walks or strolls through the neighborhood and at the zoo’s swap shop they can bring in various items like: seashells, fossils, rocks, gems, claws, snake sheds, deceased butterflies and more! Visitors can bring in up to 3 items to learn facts about and earn points for their knowledge in order to trade.

8. Twirl around the Wildlife Carousel: For an extra $2 {members} $3 {non-members} kids of all ages will enjoy a spin around this gorgeous hand carved and painted carousel.

 

9. Children’s Zoo Activities:  Open daily from 10am – 5pm visitors can check out the petting zoo and brush dwarf goats, burn off some energy in the play space  that features colorful climbing walls, slides and tunnels or  pop out of a mongoose habitat to snap a picture.

9. Creepy Crawly Bugs

10. Feedings with Giraffes

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Getaway

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Casino, their motto is “Expect the unexpected” and visitors should!

If you are planning a trip to Pennsylvania there is no better destination than the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Stay, dine, and adventure all at one location. You can’t go wrong and there are options for every family member, even the canine ones. Luxury and activity come together to offer stimulation and relaxation.

Pittsburgh resort

The first step is choosing the accommodations that work for you and your family. Nemacolin offers three rooming options, the Chateau Lafayette, Falling Rock, and their Lodge. Or if you want more they have townhouses and luxury vacation homes available. Traveling with a four legged companion? Try Nemacolin Wooflands Resort and Spa. No matter which you pick there is no wrong answer when every one is so lovely a retreat from the every day.

luxury resorts

Once you are on the grounds and your vacation has begun it is time to select between all of the possibilities Nemacolin has for its guests. Want to get some dirt on your boots? Try the Adventure Center. Hiking, bike rentals, paintball target practice, even a Jeep® Off-Road Driving Academy are some of the adventures that keep your feet on the ground. Or you can adventure up high. Fatbird SuperFlyer is over 3,000’ of dueling zip lines, or give the elevated Ropes Tour and Climbing Wall a try. Maybe keep it simple with a family round at the Fallingbrook Mini Golf Course.

Have Sippy Will Travel

Your kids can get so much more from their trip to the Nemacolin Wildlife Academy than just time in the outdoors. With a Safari Tour, on foot, or horseback, there are many ways to experience the wild life at Nemacolin. They are dedicated to giving a safe home to animals such as bison, zebra, a bengal tiger, lions, wolves and bears. There is also a nursery of more than 40 species of smaller animals like the two toed sloth, fennec foxes, rabbits and reptiles. There is always something new to learn and discover.

zoo in PA

Maybe an art class or tour is more your speed. Well there are enough options to keep you busy throughout your stay. Enjoy the Hardy Family Art Collection on display at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort as you move around during your visit or really delve deep with the Indoor Curator’s Tour or Outdoor Sculpture Tour. Want to get your hands dirty? There are classes offered in ceramics, painting, and even stained glass. Take home a personal creation from your stay.

In the summer it’s pools and in the winter snow sports that will get you moving. Whether you are an expert skier or novice snowboarder the 6 slopes at Mystic Mountain has an option for you. Or try something really different and take a dog sled ride across the snow covered terrain. Every season has its own appeal at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.

giant cookie

Now my favorite part of any vacation is the food. Delicious taste adventures after I have burned off calories with all the activities around the resort. With so many options at Nemacolin there was’t enough time to try them all! Looking for a Five Star dining experience? Lautrec at the Chateau Lafayette ranks amongst the top dining experiences anywhere in the country. Their Autumn restaurant specializes in farm to table meals that could not be fresher. There are also casual food options like Otis & Henry’s Bar & Grill to be enjoyed during your stay and even PJ’s Ice Cream Parlor.

No mater you culinary tastes or your appetite for adventure Nemacolin Woodlands Resort has you covered. Vacationing in Pennsylvania has been taken to a whole new level.

Learn more about Nemacolin Woodlands Resort on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Kennedy Space Center Astronaut Training

space camp

There are many reasons why actual space travel for civilians is quickly gaining momentum. Corporate ventures, like Mars One, Virginia Galactic and Elon Musk’s space-bound Tesla, have made such voyages closer to being a real possibility. Celebrities like Beyonce have reportedly put deposits on being one of the first on a commercial flight. Turmoil and pollution on this planet often makes escaping it a tempting option. Also, there is wide interest in STEM programs: phones and video games have created a universal audience and brought awareness to people of science aptitude they didn’t even know they had.

visit nasa

Now, thanks to NASA and the Kennedy Space Center, students can get hands-on training to go to Mars! The Astronaut Training Experience (ATX) is a special simulation of space walks, landing a capsule and more, to give a physical experience to complement the science they’ve been studying. After all, there’s so much more to exploring space than what’s on the page of a book. This gives students a real incentive to be able to achieve the exciting pinnacles of being an astronaut. Participants will take part in a Space Launch System rocket. They’ll also spend the day working on simulated Mars: collaborating with each other, doing engineering work and botany-gardening to supply food. So thought provoking, and the hands on experience gives you and your children a whole new perspective, and experience, to space and what astronauts deal with. 

meet an astronaut

So, what is it like to be an astronaut for a living? You can find out for yourself by attending the Heroes & Legends Astronaut Encounter. Every single day at the Space Center, you can meet an actual astronaut who has lived and worked in space. You can ask questions, shake hands and even pose together for an unforgettable photo. This is usually over a buffet style lunch, where the astronaut talks, shows photos, and gives examples as well as answers questions while you and your family eat. Afterward, queue up for a photo with the space hero (take your own, or the professional will take one for you and you can pick it up later). 

astronaut training camp

Kennedy Space Center is just 45 minutes from Orlando. They open daily at 9 am, but with so many exhibits, activities, IMAX movies and people to meet, you just might want to invest in one of their annual passes. They are also about 40 minutes from Cocoa Beach, another lovely option, and a good one for those looking to spend time outdoors and at the beaches of Florida. 

Escape the Cold- to the Best Beaches in America. Visit Desin, Florida

Now that the cold weather has arrived, you might be thinking about ways to escape it.  Consistently rated among the best beaches in Florida and in the USA (and even the world), you can’t go wrong with a visit to Destin, Florida. Known for it’s emerald green, yet totally clear water and white “sugar sand” powder soft beaches, Destin will give you the break from reality that you have been craving. If you have yet to make up your mind, let the beautiful scenery, amazing seafood, and endless opportunity for outdoor activities help you arrive to that conclusion.

best beaches

If you are a fan of seafood, you will be in a foodie paradise. Obviously the fare is as fresh as it gets, being right on the water. Part of Florida’s “panhandle” (along the Northwest of the state, most boardering the Gulf of Mexico, and yes- because it looks like a panhandle), people here take seafood seriously. You will find some of the most interesting and unique ways of cooking seafood you have had along the panhandle region, in my own experience. You might have had oysters, but I can guarantee you have not tried them all the ways you will find them here. It doesn’t’ matter if you prefer “tried and true” dishes or you are more of an adventurous eater, you won’t be disappointed in Destin.

beach restaurants

At The Crab Trap, you can eat outdoors or inside. I’d recommend out, as this restaurant has the most beautiful views of the beach and the Boardwalk below. There, watch beachgoers play vollyball or the waves roll in while you enjoy your meal. The ocean breeze is peaceful and welcome, and it’s a very relaxing way to spend your time out as a family. Located directly below you is The Boardwalk at Okaloosa Island, with shops, a small spray park, and other ways to while away your time. Let the kids run ahead of you or enjoy the water while you keep an eye on them. Great restaurant with great food, fantastic service (really, top notch), location, atmosphere, and views.  (crabtrapdestin.com)

fishing pier

Make sure you take the time to visit Okaloosa Island Pier after you eat; it’s about a block away. Not only the perfect spot to take a family photo, but you can also look for dolphins, fish, seabirds, or other marine life. You can also go fishing as well if you’d like.  I know, again with the views- but really, they are incredible.

destin aquaruim

Across the parking lot, in the same center, is the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park (gulfarium.com). It is a top Fort Walton Beach attraction, and perfect for families and animal lovers. This marine park houses animals like seals, turtles, alligators, fish, snakes, and much more. Learn from trainers and staff members about these animals, their care, and what they do in the wild. There are live shows at set times, and you can also sign up for animal encounters to feed penguins, snorkel with stingrays, and other options. Do this ahead of time so that you have your choice available to you at a time you are able to attend. 

SNUBA

We were definitely looking to spend as much time as we were able to outdoors. Getting as much vitamin D as you can while you can is always good, true? If you are looking for some outdoor adventure, book some time with Destin Snorkel & SNUBA Tour (destinsnorkel.com) Easily one of the coolest things we have done in a long time, this experience is part scuba, part snorkel, and perfect for almost any age and any level of swimmer.  Head over to the (very cool, save time to walk and shop along) boardwalk, where you will meet your SNUBA professional and get your snuba-suit on. Yes, it’s just a wetsuit and fins, but you will feel so much cooler thinking of it that way. Once you are ready, head onto the boat where you are driven to safe, calm, and clear waters. First, you will receive a 30-minute orientation where you are shown how to use all equipment and explanations are given, as well as questions answered. Then, you can swim and snorkel for a while. After that, you are able to dive up to 20 feet, with the rest of your group and your SNUBA instructor swimming along with you. Your mouthpiece is connected to an oxygen tank, and you are able to breathe fairly easily after you get used to it. You can see quite a variety of ocean life, and it’s a really awesome experience to be completely submerged underwater for such long stretches of time. Literally otherworldly, and very peaceful.  Not a great swimmer? Believe it or not, that’s OK. Got kids? Also fine. Call ahead and talk to them about restrictions, but there are far fewer then you might think. If you have never experienced SNUBA, or are thinking about SCUBA diving but have not yet, you must try this. An absolute “must try” experience for anyone. 

scuba diving

While you are in the area, and you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Harbor Docks for some lunch. This Destin seafood restaurant staple has been locally sourcing food for more than 35 years, and you can really sense the pride and connection to the community. The menu offers only fresh, locally grown or locally caught options and flavors. Harbor Docks prides themselves on their long established relationships with local growers, fisher people, and seafood markets when at all possible.  In addition, you will find an unusual for the area cooking style, brought to you by Yoshia Eddings (sushi chef) as well as Dang McCormick, who is from Chiang Mai, Thailand, and runs the kitchen. There is not a ton of Asian influence in the area, and added nice variety. 

airboat

For an interesting way to see some of the local landscapes, Destin Airboat Tour offers informative tours, views you won’t see many other ways, and the enjoyment of riding in an airboat (destinairboat.com). The kids will really love this. The 6 passenger capacity airboat’s  owner and operator, Captain Frank, has been described as “a crusty Ozark Mountain Hillbilly with a sense of humor and love of nature”.  I don’t disagree- he is definitely a character, and amusing. Again, the kids will get a kick out of him. They will get a turn to drive the boat as well if they want (anyone can, should they like to), and my own kids gladly took the opportunity. Captain Frank is also the proud owner of the only mobile, floating chapel I have ever seen, and should you be looking to get married, he can spirit you off to do so. In a floating church. Really. (That’s enterprising, no?)

Florida organic

Some of the best food we ate while in Florida was at this “off the beaten path” place called Café Organic. The food was local when possible, organic, natural, and delightful. The menu changes seasonally and based on what is available from the organic, local farmers they work with. Best part? They didn’t even overcharge for the goodness and sustainability factor. A little out of the way, but entirely worth it, the food was amazing, and tasted as good as it was for you. The owners, chiropractors, make all the food from scratch and also still practice, and host other events such as yoga and tai chi on the property. No, not in the restaurant, but next door. There is also a food co-op for locals to participate in. These people are the embodiment of practicing what they preach (or “you are what you eat”, choose a saying you prefer, they both work).  Vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, etc? No problem. You won’t have a problem finding something you can eat here, and multiple options, even. Meat eater? Also no problem- everything goes here, as long as it’s healthy and tastes good. (cafeorganicfwb.com)

paddle boarding

Get outside and stay outside, if you know what’s good for you! Have you ever tried Paddleboarding? Also called SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard), it is a great way to be outside and active. It’s not as easy as it looks- think yoga on water. As long as you have decent balance, you will be OK. Don’t really? That’s also OK- you will just fall in a few times while you get used to it. This has become a favorite activity of ours, and one we have brought numerous friends out to do with us. If you have not tried it, do yourself a favor. If you have, all the more reason to head out with the Paddle Tribe Company. (paddletribecompany.com) The waters are lovely to glide through, and you will enjoy several different types of waters and scenery during your time out. No matter if you are a first timer or you’ve been out often, this is a fun time out and a good way to experience some of Destin’s topography. It’s also a killer workout, keep off some of that vacation weight, woot!

play outside

The Paddle Tribe Company is located directly outside LuLu’s Destin, a beachfront restaurant that often has live entertainment in addition to it’s excellent food and scenery (Lulubuffett.com). While you wait for your food to arrive (and of course, the seafood options are innumerous), the kids can play on the beach, which is outfitted with sand toys and games like cornhole. Parents can play as well, or they can enjoy some “chill” time, whatever works for you. 

lulu's destin

None of this even begins to take into account the time you can spend relaxing poolside or at a dazzling Destin beach, where you will no doubt want to park yourself for at least part of your trip. There is so much to see and do in Destin and the surrounding area, that you will be hard pressed to find a reason NOT to visit. Some of the best beaches in the world, fantastic seafood, endless outdoor activities, friendly local service, all of which makes your family vacation easy to plan and stress free.  Check out a few of the links, you will be searching for flights in no time.

best seafood