Family-Friendly Travel Ideas

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Perhaps one could say the family that travels together stays together. Summer is the preferred time because of the school holidays and the weather is usually better than other times of the year.

What we suggest here can be true for both parents traveling with children as well as grandparents and the grandkids.

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Metro Services photo

Kids love trains, so rail journeys make a perfect vacation for families.

Train trips

Kids love trains, as do many adults. Colorado alone has several fine opportunities for rail excursions. Outstanding is the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. This would be my choice of the several available. We did this a few years ago and it is outstanding for mountain scenery. The railroad functions as a living history museum. It uses 64 miles of track, two trestles and two tunnels spanning more than 100 yards. This 1880 vintage railroad line is the most extensive and complete of the lines still in operation. You board the train in Chama, N.M., located at the northern most portion of the state and travel most of the day through rugged Colorado mountain terrain with many twists and turns.

You enjoy lunch at a cafeteria located in the middle of nowhere, and then reboard the train to continue on to Antonito, Colo. After arrival, comfortable motor coaches drive you back to Chama, arriving there before dark. This is a never to be forgotten train ride in a narrow gauge old time train. I suggest you purchase first class tickets — the seats are more comfortable! Phone 1-888-286-2737 for more details.

The Ski Train is actually not an antique rail line. Built in 1940, its original purpose was to ferry skiers to Winter Park, nearly 60 miles from Denver’s Union Station. The train travels the front range of the Rockies using 31 tunnels including the Moffat tunnel. At times you travel high above the valley floors with hairpin turns providing great views of the Continental Divide. This rail line runs only between December and March.

The Durango & Silverton narrow gauge railroad is another thrill that you want to include in your rail adventures. It mostly operates in the good weather months.

You board the train in Durango, Colo. and travel up the Animas River Canyon with the fast moving river almost touching the tracks at times. There are many twists and turns, bridges and spectacular scenery. You almost never put your camera down.

You arrive in Silverton, an old mining town, just before noon. There is time here to walk about town, drop into a few stores and have a nice lunch in a true old western atmosphere.

After lunch, the train has been turned and you reboard for the return to Durango arriving before dinnertime. The children will fully enjoy this and the other excursions we are discussing.

Consider the Royal Gorge Route Railroad. This scenic railroad runs on a historic track, but the equipment is modern and comfy, with panoramic-view cars open to the spectacular canyon walls of the Royal Gorge over the Arkansas River. Because of the unique access, the gorge goes from east to west. The rail bed was essentially carved out of riverbed and rock as it snaked along the fast-flowing Arkansas River. You may even see adventurous rafts and kayaks going by. The rail journey of 24 miles begins in Canon City and takes two and a half hours. Phone 1-888-724-5748 for further details.

Perhaps the young ones would get a thrill out of riding the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. This route is truly historic. The track is vintage and the rustic station is beautifully restored. The train cars are the most modern obtainable, with expanses of glass offering unimpeded views of the dramatic land. This is the highest train in the United States, and the three-hour roundtrip brings you 14,110 feet up to the summit. The views of the majestic mountains can’t be beat. The trip begins in Canon City. Phone 1-719-685-5401 for more information.

White water rafting

As long as you are in Colorado, why not take the children on a white water rafting journey. Contact Colorado River Runs at 1-800-826-1081.

You may wish to stay a couple days in Steamboat Springs and let the kids hike the mountain trails and spend some time horseback riding.

California calls

The California beaches are a joy to many. Avila Beach, just south of San Luis Obispo is one of the places the kids will enjoy. The small beach town is a thriving seaside community with a bustling boardwalk, busy storefronts, fantastic eateries and lots of activities. You could stop here for a day or week; there is plenty to keep families busy.

You might consider the Avila Lighthouse Suites, located right on the boardwalk, providing beautiful views of the ocean. It is within easy walking distance from eating and the beach and perfect for children. There is a heated pool and Jacuzzi. The ocean is cool here, so wet suits may be in order.

San Luis Obispo is an interesting town of some 25,000 people and boasts a college. And San Simeon, home to Hearst Castle, is less than an hour away. The newspaper baron built this large castle to accommodate guests from all over the world, including the Hollywood elite. He frequently chartered private trains from the Southern Pacific Railroad to bring his guests 250 miles north from Los Angeles to party for long weekends. The estate comprises several buildings and a zoo. Several tours are offered daily to the delight of all. If you are in the area the Hearst Castle is a-don’t-miss destination.

Disney

It’s hard to beat the pleasure of a Disney park or cruise. The cruise line has added a new ship, the Disney Dream. It is based in Port Canaveral, Fla. and is nearly 50 percent larger than the Disney Magic and Wonder. It features new and interesting pleasures for the young ones. There is the Oceaner’s Club for the very young, Pixie Hollow, Monster’s Academy, Tinker Bell’s enchanted forest and the Explorer Pod. If you are not familiar with the Disney Cruise concept, get a brochure, it will describe all the attractions onboard. The adults can also have fun — just relaxing during the day while the kids are kept occupied with the Disney activities. The shipboard activities are complemented by the fun of the ports of call.

Disney Cruise Lines will be sailing in Europe and Alaska this summer. Check out the itineraries for these cruises.

Hawaii

Everyone likes Hawaii, including the children. I might suggest Maui and Kauai. They are not as crowded and I believe the young ones will enjoy them the most. Airfares are going up, so these trips may be a little expensive this summer if you don’t get your tickets soon. Oil prices are going to impact travel in general this summer.

The Great Northwest

Alaska and British Columbia can be enjoyed by the entire family. Something I have always wanted to do is to travel to Seattle, take a ferry to Victoria, BC and rent a car to drive the beautiful land of Vancouver Island. You pass through Duncan, Sidney, Surrey, Nanaimo, Port Alverni, Counrtenay, Bloedel, Kelsey Bay, Port Mc Neill and Port Hardy. There are some interesting resorts nestled along the coast.

If you want to do Alaska’s Inside Passage on the cheap, put the family on one of the State of Alaska’s ferries and stop off at the locations that seem interesting to you. Contact the Alaska State Ferry System, get a map and plan your Alaskan adventure. Also check out a major cruise line and see what kind of family plan you can obtain for a 7-night cruise in the same area.

The kids will love seeing the water creatures, the fjords, the glaciers and the interesting small towns along the way.

Mexico or Europe

Mexico is on sale right now. Cabo San Lucas is enjoyable for the entire family because of the fine resorts and beaches. So far, there have been no problems there.

If the children or grandchildren are in their teens, Europe is always interesting and fun for all. History jumps out at you from almost every corner. Italy, England and France are always popular. You can purchase Eurail Passes for all and get on and off the trains at will. Plan your own itinerary. Again, airfares will be high this summer

Wonders of the West

Closer to home is a drive to Wyoming and South Dakota to visit Yellowstone National Park, Jackson Hole, the Grand Tetons and Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills.

Planning is half the fun and it is always rewarding to see the world through the eyes of children.

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