Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fun Family Vacation Activities Your Kids Will Love

Our family vacations are always fun! Whether we are waiting in the airport or sitting in a hotel, to playing on the beach or driving to historic Williamsburg, VA (which we did in June 2009), I try to plan a variety of activities they will enjoy. Since the kids are getting older, they get some say in our destination and I try to plan out the overall events, but allowing time for them to pick one big excursion per day. For example, they have a choice on one or two days of either: a water park or another popular attraction.
1. While holed up in a hotel, due to inclement weather, or an airport for that matter, we love scavenger games. I will usually scout out the directory and come up with a variety of questions and our kids have to find the answers by asking hotel personnel, but not bothering them, or finding out on their own. For example; say we're stuck at our hotel and it's raining outside, I will come up with about 10 items for them to find or gather information about. The kids are usually split into two team, boys versus the girls. I have the master list with my answers and they get pen and paper and off they go searching for helpful data. One of the questions may be: how many meeting rooms are in the hotel? What are the names of them? (this is good for a tie breaker too), what activities can kids participate in at the hotel? (i.e. anything from video arcade to swimming, to putt-putt golf, etc.) The winning team usually gets a prize from the gift shop. And everyone usually gets icecream.
2. While driving, there's always the popular game of finding something for each letter of the alphabet. For example, we start with A and look for either a sign, or license plate or some attraction that starts with the letter A and we continue until we get to Z. The hard part is finding the Q and Z, bonus points!
3. Another great challenge, for those who like scavenger or treasure hunts is Geocaching. Geocaching is a popular activity you can do by yourself, with friends, family or on teams. You will need a handheld GPS unit. Occasionally you can find a place that might rent these out. There are literally thousands of caches (booty, swag) hidden in a container, usually camouflaged. Go to Geocaching.com, and put in the zip code or coordinates of where you are, or where you are going. You can then choose from dozens of great caches to seek out. The website will tell you if this cache is small to large (container size), to the difficulty of the find and if their is something special about the cache, such as a travel bug! Or a geocoin! I'll let you search this fun site and see for yourself how addicting it can be! (Too much to explain here!)
3. We love to research our destinations now ahead of time to plan activities that everyone can enjoy. Sometimes the kids don't all agree, however, our rule is everyone has to participate, and surprisingly, even the "boring museum" turns into something memorable for them too! Kids can go online and find out something about where we're going and staying and offer up an activity. Sometimes they even find a great restaurant to dine at. We found a cozy spot near Williambsurg, VA, called "Food for Thought". Clever title, good service and food for the whole family. We always stop to pick up brochures too. On the way home we went through several states, our two girls decided they wanted their photo taken in front of each "Welcome to ..." state sign.
4. Naturally kids will gravitate to the theme parks for a day of fun, water parks, Walt Disney World, Sea World, Universal, etc. These are fun too. Sometimes hot, long days. We plan breakfast ahead of time, make sure everyone has their sunblock on and appropriate clothing, and we bring drinks, snacks if allowed. and cameras! And cell phones are charged! We usually always get the "attraction family photo" before leaving the park. We let the kids pick out the photo and the frame now. And since my husband and I both travel for work, we try to bring something memorable home to add to our plant shelves in our home.
5. Other fun activities we love: horseback riding, a hayride. Finding something local to the area is memorable as well; such as a hoe-down, rodeo, bonfire, or even karaoke at the ski lodge. Frieghtful photos are great scrapbooking and wall hanging memories. One year, the first Christmas after my mom passed away was difficult and we were out of town for the holidays, my two daughters and my husband stopped at a Lowes or Home Depot and picked up a small potted pine tree and ornaments and decorated it during the night. They placed it out in the living room of our rented townhome in Maggie Valley, so we could all enjoy Christmas. I even brought the tree back home to Florida, needless to say, it didnt last long in tropical climate. I also love taking the kids kayaking, hiking, to museums and sometimes, if they are good, the spa with me ;-). Even walking through a live historical town with re-enactments like Tombstone, AZ or other attractions, seem to garner the kids attention.
We usually have board game nights and video or movie rental night at our condo or hotel room too.
It's amazing how some small mundane things can not get your attention at first, only to discover that one small activity can be someone's best memory of the summer or holiday vacation. For other great family vacation activities, please look here: http://www.twittermoms.com/forum/topics/share-5-fun-family-vacation
I wrote this blog post while participating in the Williamsburg Tourism and TwitterMoms blogging program for a chance to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.” (include this link:http://www.twittermoms.com/forum/topics/share-5-fun-family-vacation)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Geocaching Challenge at Ft. Yargo State Park

Geo-Challenge Kickoff at Fort Yargo State Park, 
May 8th, 2010, from 10 am until 4 pm, 
Ft. Yargo SP is in Winder, on GA Hwy. 81. 
Georgia State parks 770-867-3489

More than 40 of Georgia’s state parks will soon join one of the largest treasure hunts on the planet.  With the May 8 launch of the Georgia State Parks Geo-Challenge, the park system is inviting GPS-toting explorers to travel trails in search of hidden caches.  Geocaching is thought to be one of the most popular games in the world, with more than 1 million caches registered on www.Geocaching.com.

The premise is fairly simple; adventure seekers use a GPS unit to find hidden treasures, then share their experiences online.  Caches usually contain trinkets that geocachers can keep, replacing them with something else.  Some trackable items, called travel bugs, make their way across the country and create a story as they go.  With the Georgia State Park Geo-Challenge, players download a PassPort from www.GeorgiaStateParks.org, find hidden stamps in each cache to spell out the PassPort’s message, and collect custom geocoins. 

“Geocaching can be enjoyed by all ages and is a creative way to explore your own state, and even the world,” said Georgia State Parks Director Becky Kelley.  “The game is a fun excuse to get outdoors, and it introduces a whole new group of visitors to our state parks.”

Forty-two state parks have hidden caches with “first to find” prizes of a free night of camping.  Three parks also have more elusive “bonus caches.”  Players go to www.Geocaching.com to find the GPS coordinates for each hidden box.  After their journey, players can talk about the parks and what they found.

Park officials see geocaching as the perfect blend of technology, trails and trees.  The Geo-Challenge is crafted for younger players as a way to encourage them to get more exercise outdoors.  Caches are hidden in public-access areas, so treasure hunters will not venture off trails or into remote locations. 

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources worked closely with the Georgia Geocaching Association (GGA) to create the new statewide program.  Geo-Challenge’s official kickoff coincides with GGA’s May 8 meeting at Fort Yargo State Park in Winder. 

“Anyone interested in geocaching is invited to the kickoff event,” said Kelley.  “Experienced geocachers will help newcomers learn about GPS units and the more social aspects of the game.  We’ll have extra caches hidden just for this event, plus animal programs and refreshments.”

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Flying High, over the barrier islands of Georgia

Being able to getaway from our usual four walls, responsibilities and expectations, even if only for a day, helps us mentally as well as physically. Most people joke about going to a private island somewhere to just "vegging", taking it easy with no responsibilities for a while with a fruity concoction and sand between your toes. For those who live on the Eastern seaboard, or even a few hours inland, America's barrier islands offer a pleasurable respite. And yes, you can rent an island!
Take the Golden Isles of Georgia; Jekyll, Cumberland, St. Simons and other barrier islands; as you drive across the Torras Causeway bridge, you literally feel the tension ebb and flow out of your body.
One of the many highlights I enjoyed while visiting St. Simon's and Sea Island, was an aerial view, via helicopter, DragonFly Copters through the expert flying of owner/operator, Angie Griffon.
Angie flew myself and two other ladies about 500 feet over St. Simon's, Sea Island and Little St. Simon's. It was a beautiful afternoon, around 78 degrees with mild winds, as we explored the southern barrier islands, from a historical and habitat point of view.
Call DragonFly Copters Tours up and soon you'll be flying over the King and the Prince, around the Lighthouse & Museum, towards Jekyll Island then back north, over marshes to Little St. Simon, a private island. Your pilot can give you a great overview of who's who on the island, some of the fascinating history to the flora and fauna and its' inhabitants. Whirl over alligators, birds and other critters foraging in the marshes.
Feel free as you whir overhead and get a real birds eye view of the Golden Isles and how beautiful these islands really are.