<![CDATA[familyTravelsUSA - Blog]]>Thu, 14 Dec 2017 06:14:27 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[6 Ways to Experience the Holidays in Washington DC]]>Mon, 20 Nov 2017 14:34:10 GMThttp://familytravelsusa.com/blog/6-ways-to-experience-the-holidays-in-washington-dc
The weather is turning colder and holiday music is in the air. If you are looking for festive fun, Washington, DC has so much to offer. With temperatures generally in the 40’s and 50’s and mostly sunny days, I think it’s perfect weather for some of the unique outdoor activities that happen during the month of December, like the Downtown Holiday Market. For those that prefer to be warm and cozy, there are also plenty of indoor options for holiday fun. I've offered a bit of both with these 6 ways to experience DC during the holidays.
1. Stroll Through the U.S. Botanic Garden. Most people who visit DC are familiar with the popular attractions like the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum or the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall, but don’t realize that the U.S. Botanic Garden sees more than a million visitors per year. Last year I had an opportunity to visit in December and was amazed by all the natural creations in the National Parks and Historic Places exhibit. This year, Season's Greenings features Roadside Attractions, and it was exciting to see plant-based models of iconic places like Cadillac Ranch in Texas and South Dakota’s Corn Palace. The exhibit runs between November 23, 2017 and January 1, 2018, but you can expect crowds during peak holiday times. We arrived 20 minutes prior to opening on a Sunday morning and the line grew quickly. Learn more about what to expect when visiting the United States Botanic Garden in December. Tip: If the line at the Model Train entrance just seems too long, it’s still worth entering through the Conservatory to see the rest of the garden.  
2. Take in a Show. New York City has the Rockettes, but DC has the long running A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre. It’s a Washington favorite that has been showing for over 35 years. Throughout the city and surrounding suburbs, you can find plenty of other holiday musical presentations. For a different perspective on a holiday favorite, the Kennedy Center is offering Second City’s Twist Your Dickens, the comedy take on the classic A Christmas Carol on select dates in December.  It’s recommended for older teens and adults. Or take advantage of the free shows offered everyday at 6 p.m. on the Millennium Stage. Another unique place to enjoy festive holiday music is the beautiful Washington National Cathedral, which offers several special choral presentations during the month of December.

3. Shop at an Outdoor Holiday Market. Grab your scarf and head outside for some holiday shopping. It’s the 13th year for the Downtown Holiday Market, which will be open from noon to 8 p.m. daily, starting with opening day on November 23rd and running through December 23rd. It’s a festive place to find unique gifts or just get into the holiday spirit. I’ve enjoyed shopping there for the last three years and it always puts me in the holiday spirit! Be sure to try Migue's Mini Donuts, the perfect warm snack on a wintry day. Located at 8th and F Street, N.W., it’s easy to get to via the Gallery Place metro stop.
4. Enjoy Holiday Trees & Light Shows. Visit the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse, which is open to the public on December 1st. Nearby you’ll find 56 state and territory trees that are each decorated with unique handmade ornaments.  Check the website for the schedule of nightly entertainment, which runs for a two week period in December. If holiday light shows are your thing, the DC area has many choices, but ZooLights at the National Zoo is a local favorite. This free event is happening from November 24 to January 1st (except for December 24, 25, and 31). Another favorite is the half mile stroll through the Winter Walk of Lights at the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia. If you don’t have a car, take the Metro to the Spring Hill Station in Tysons Corner, where it’s just a short 10 minute ride to the garden. 
5. Strap on A Pair of Ice Skates. If outdoor ice skating is on your holiday list, there are several options to explore when the weather gets cold. One to check out is the new ice rink at The Wharf. We had a chance to visit The Wharf about a month ago, and I can tell you there are plenty of restaurant choices to warm up and grab a drink afterwards. Other options for outdoor skating in DC include the popular Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery, and the ice rink at Washington Harbour.  New this year you’ll find a unique experience, probably best suited for older teens and adults, at the infamous Watergate Hotel.  Rooftop ice skating, with a fabulous view along with a skate-up bar, will be available select hours Wednesday through Sunday.  

6. Visit Arlington Cemetery. Just a short walk across the Memorial Bridge from DC brings you to the entrance of Arlington National Cemetery. On December 16th, thousands of volunteers will descend on Arlington to pay their respects as part of National Wreaths Across America Day. Our family has volunteered on several occasions, and it is always an honor to be a part of the laying of Remembrance wreaths during the holidays. It’s a humbling sight to see the dark green wreaths contrasted against the thousands of white headstones that cover the rolling hills across the cemetery. While you are there, visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and experience the Changing of the Guard ritual. Volunteers are always welcome, especially when the wreaths have to be removed in January. 
No matter how you celebrate the holidays, it’s the perfect time to experience Washington, DC in a whole new light!
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<![CDATA[Backpacking in the Enchantments - A 6 Day Adventure]]>Mon, 16 Oct 2017 23:42:13 GMThttp://familytravelsusa.com/blog/backpacking-in-the-enchantments-a-6-day-adventure
The Enchantments is a spectacular place for backpacking in Washington State.
Picture a series of pristine alpine lakes nestled between mountain peaks and jagged ridges. There’s a small slice of wilderness in the central Cascades of Washington known as the Enchantments, and hiking-in is the only way to access this area of astounding natural beauty. My husband Rick recently spent 6-days backpacking through the area with 3 other hiking buddies on an adventure that began and ended at the Snow Lake trailhead near Leavenworth.  Although I’m not a backpacker, I’m really excited to share some of his pictures and stories from this special place.

Why Did You Choose the Enchantments?

All the hiking forums praise the Enchantments! My cousin has been backpacking sections of the Pacific Crest Trail over the last 14 years, and I was fortunate to be able to join him on two previous occasions, both epic! After last year’s 80 mile PCT adventure through the Goat Rocks Wilderness, plus the bonus of hiking to the summit of  Mount St. Helens, we decided to look for something a little different. Hiking in the Enchantments met all our criteria with its challenging terrain, spectacular scenery, and proximity to Seattle. Due to the increasing number of visitors, the Forest Service adopted a lottery permit system (between May 15th and October 31st); we were fortunate to get one for the Core Enchantments, which enabled us to set up camp in any of the 5 permit areas.
6 Days in the Enchantments - View of Perfection Lake Flowing into Sprite Lake.

Give Readers an Overview of Your 6 Day Adventure 

Our adventure began early Monday, with our departure from the Snow Lake trailhead (elevation approximately 1400 feet), around 9 a.m. We hiked about 6 miles to our first overnight camping spot at Nada Lake. Nada, like all the lakes in this wilderness area, was clear and cold! Day 2 was a pretty strenuous hike up to Leprechaun Lake, where we established base camp for the remaining 5 nights. As a group, we had decided that Leprechaun Lake was a good central spot enabling us to maximize our day hikes. After the steep elevation gains from days 1 & 2, the day hikes from base camp were easier, and ranged from 4-6 miles. Day 3, we hiked to Prusik Peak, where our clear day was overtaken by the smoke pouring into our valley from western forest fires. Day 4, after much route discussion, we summited Little Annapurna (approx. 8400 feet) for an amazing view of Mount Rainier and smoke plumes from several forest fires. Day 5 took most of the group to Dragontail Peak and the precipitous view down Aasgard Pass (approx. 7800 feet) onto Colchuck Lake. The last day was reserved for our long hike out (see below for why this day was so challenging). 
6 Days in the Enchantments -View of Colchuk Lake from the top of Aasgard Pass.

Talk About the Most Challenging Day of Your Trip

Easy! Our last day we hiked out 12 1/2 miles with over a mile of elevation loss on a varied-terrain trail. Even though we had been hiking every day for the last five, hiking 12 miles downhill was pretty grueling on our legs and especially my 55 year old knees! Our choice to hike that far in one day was based on our earlier decision to spend as much time as we could in the more picturesque, higher lake region. I don’t regret having the opportunity to look down into Aasgard Pass, where the view of  Colchuck Lake, and far-off Glacier Peak surrounded by nameless mountains was something I’ll always remember, and the long hike definitely made our last day’s pay-off of beers and a burger even better! 
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​Were There Any Unexpected Animal Encounters?

When you are out in the wilderness, you can always count on something unexpected sneaking into camp. Our first encounter happened after only about three hours of hiking. While sitting on the side of the trail enjoying our first snack, we heard a branch snap, but the 2nd ”SNAP!” really caught our interest. That’s when we  noticed two hikers down the trail looking back and forth between us and “something” in the valley;  cameras at the ready, we investigated. Down the trail and into the valley, the tall bushes were thrashing back & forth, and a minute later out popped the head of a 300-pound black bear foraging for huckleberries. He looked at us, we stared back at him. After as many pictures as we could get (none of mine perfectly clear as I knew not to get too close), he foraged and popped out again, only to disappear into thicker bushes. At one point we realized the bear was now… on OUR SIDE of the creek, and ambling towards us! We made quick work of getting up the trail, loaded up and on our way out of there!  
Wildlife encounter on a 6 day backpacking adventure in the Enchantments.
As with many animal encounters, another unexpected one happened on a star-speckled night when I stepped outside my tent to enjoy the 2 a.m. Milky Way over the mountain. As I was focused elsewhere, I nearly startled out of my unlaced boots by a twig snap right behind me. Three feet away was mama-goat and kid looking for their daily salt-lick! There were plenty of mountain goat sightings AND encounters during the daylight hours, but those weren’t quite so unexpected!
6 Days in the Enchantments - so many mountain goat encounters!

Share Some of Your Favorite Places in the Enchantments

There were so many beautiful sights and places, it’s hard to pick favorites but here’s a few. The hike up the valley was dry, hot, and sun exposed. Catching glimpses of the rushing stream below only heightened our drive to push on. I was expecting the upper lakes, our destination, to be the epitome of wilderness sights.  Yet only 2-hours from the trailhead, and soon after our bear, we rounded onto an early picturesque surprise - a cedar forest grove campsite right next to a crystal stream. Placed just for us (not really), a fallen tree gave us THE respite and view - cool shade, a lively cool stream, and the whole place carpeted with cedar needles. I could have stayed right there (but that’s the East Coaster in me talking)! It’s was also our first goat encounter - two kids along with a mother and a billy goat.
Another favorite place was right in camp, overlooking Leprechaun Lake with Little Annapurna in the distance. After hard hiking,  dinner and clean-up, we’d enjoy evening time together relaxing on a small ledge, our backs warmed by the granite, enjoying the sunset, cashews and cocktails! 

In addition to the views west atop Little Annapurna, as well as straight down 3000 feet into the valley, and the view up Dragontail Peak and into Aasgard Pass, my favorite sunrise morning moments were atop the elevated-dome view looking down into Leprechaun and Vivian Lakes.
Beautiful sunrise view from our campsite in the Enchantments. Read more about a 6 day backpacking adventure.

Any Advice to Share with Novice Backpackers?

Just go! And when you do go, pay attention to what you REALLY need. The bane of any backpacker is carrying too much pack weight. One of the best ways to drop pounds is have a light pack, one that's 2 pounds or less. Gather smaller gear into stuff sacks for organization. Don’t always default to pre-packaged meals, there’s lots of Pinterest boards for meals and recipes, including the familyTravelsUSA Camping & Hiking board. 

What’s Next on your List for Backpacking in the United States? 

I’ve been wanting to go backpacking in Zion National Park ever since I visited with my family almost 10 years ago. Also on my list, Glacier National Park in Montana and the Olympics in Washington. 
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View of Crystal Lake
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View of Prusik Peak
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Sunset from base camp with the forest fire smoke
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Hiking out on the last day!
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One of many beautiful waterfalls!
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Atop Little Annapurna
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Another gorgeous sunrise from base camp.
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Sunrise over Leprechaun Lake
For more information about the Enchantments, visit the Washington Trails Association website. 
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<![CDATA[Why We Loved Staying at the Kihei Sands Condominiums on Maui]]>Fri, 22 Sep 2017 14:43:31 GMThttp://familytravelsusa.com/blog/why-we-loved-staying-at-the-kihei-sands-condominiums-on-maui
Hawaii has always been on my travel bucket list. But with a family of five and the long distance  from the DC area, there were many reasons to put off the trip. Several months ago, I realized that time for our family vacations together was dwindling, so my husband and I made the decision that this was going to be the summer of Hawaii!  As I began searching for accommodations in late March, I quickly realized how popular Maui is during the summer, particularly near the 4th of July. To make it more difficult, many of the more affordable, larger accommodations were already booked. So I was excited when I came across Kihei Sands Condominiums, and now that we have returned from our trip, I have to say that it made for the perfect first vacation to Maui.  
Location
The location right on Sugar Beach in the middle of Maui couldn’t have been better, and we found out quickly that being centrally located made our daily activities much easier. Our family travel style tends to be on the active side, so while we did spend lazy time hanging by the beach and pool, we also spent a good portion of our time away from the condo exploring Maui. Located just 20 minutes from the airport, it was an easy drive to our new favorite town of Paia, convenient to Maalaea Harbor for our snorkeling trip, and close to a wide range of restaurants. I would describe Kihei as a laid back beach town, home to low rise condos along with shopping areas and beaches mixed in. It is not a high end resort town, like Wailea to the south. It’s about a 45 minute drive north to Lahaina, but the one evening we tried to drive there, we quickly turned around when we hit bumper to bumper traffic. Instead we made the easy drive to Paia to have a casual dinner and watch the sunset. The location on Maalaea Bay was tranquil, the sand was super soft, and the calm water perfect for swimming. The other plus was you could walk on Sugar Beach for miles in either direction, a nice bonus in the early mornings when we were still on east coast time.
Accommodations
With 3 teenagers, it’s often difficult to find spacious accommodations at big resorts, without breaking the bank. While we love all the amenities that large resorts offer, we have found that having space (and extra bathrooms!) is a bigger priority for our family. The difficulty is that unless you book far in advance, finding larger resort properties such as a villa with 3 bedrooms is often difficult. And purchasing two rooms a night at a Hawaiian resort was not really an affordable option for us. Our unit was one of two 3 bedroom units, with a downstairs bedroom and bath, a King bed in one of the upstairs loft areas, and 2 twin beds in the 2nd upstairs loft area. The loft style worked out really well for the kids, with enough privacy for everyone, along with a separate bathroom. The unit was comfortably furnished, with a small balcony, along with a dining table perfect for card games. We had the ability to spread out, access a full kitchen, and quickly and easily walk out to the pool or beach area. One of the features I really liked was the key less entry, which made it easy for all of us to come and go without having to worry about carrying or losing keys. 
Amenities We Loved
I can’t say enough about all the amenities that came with our rental, especially since there were no daily fees or extra charges other than for the washer and dryer. Here’s a few things that we really loved:
 First and most helpful, about a month before our trip, we received an email from our personal concierge, Mona, who was available by phone or email to help us plan activities. It was nice to have a point of contact, especially since I learned that several activities needed to be booked in advance. Each email contained helpful tips and a suggestion for a fun activity, and we did chat by phone several times. The office staff was also friendly and helpful during our stay. 
We found plenty of restaurants close by, along with several grocery stores. Some of our favorites were Kihei Caffe for breakfast and Coconuts Fish Cafe for fish tacos. But our best discovery was that Ululani’s, world famous for it’s Hawaiian Shave Ice, was just a short walk down the beach. Stand in line no matter how long it is, it’s definitely worth the wait.
Having access to grills and outdoor tables for the one or two nights we didn’t go out to eat was perfect! Our place had two grills, and it seemed like one was always available. As we strolled down the beach, we noticed that many of the rentals in this area had outdoor grilling areas. 
Did I mention the miles of soft, sandy beach & beachside pool? One of the best parts was that the pool and lounge area were never really crowded. 
The big, fluffy beach towels that were in our unit. These are provided by each owner, so can vary from unit to unit. There was a also a centrally located bin near the pool that contained items like boogie boards and beach chairs that you could borrow at any time (or contribute extras to when you were leaving). And no matter what time of day, we never had a problem in finding open lounge chairs.  
Watching the sky turn pink behind the swaying palm trees was also a favorite. It was so relaxing at night to sit outside and watch the clouds change colors. 
And finally, the fact that parking was free was an added bonus. Although we were visiting the last week in June, we never had difficulty finding a parking spot no matter the time of day. I will add that the parking lot was small, and the spaces somewhat tight. 

If you are looking for a big resort with fancy pools, daily maid service, and on-site restaurants and bars, then this is probably not the place for you. But if you want a great location to explore Maui, easy beach and pool access, and clean, comfortable, affordable family-friendly accommodations, check out Kihei Sands. I also think it would be an awesome place for a multi-generational gathering. We certainly hope to get back there in the future. 

Related Posts: 
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<![CDATA[Weekends in the Mid-Atlantic Region: 5 Ways to Celebrate Fall]]>Wed, 13 Sep 2017 00:06:52 GMThttp://familytravelsusa.com/blog/weekends-in-the-mid-atlantic-region-5-ways-to-celebrate-fall
September is here, and it’s my favorite time of year! Fall is already in the air, with cooler temperatures in the evenings and some of the leaves already starting to turn. What I really enjoy about fall in this area are all the fun outdoor activities. Every weekend between now and Thanksgiving, there is an opportunity to get outside and enjoy the fall weather. Check out these 5  ways to celebrate fall that are within a 3 hour drive from DC.  
1. Step Back in Time to the Year 1527. If you live in the mid-Atlantic area, chances are you’ve attended the Maryland Renaissance Festival. Now in it’s 41st season, it’s one of the biggest fairs of its kind around the country. True renaissance fans will appreciate the continuous story line that follows the reign of King Henry VIII, and the 27 acre Village of Revel Grove. Both kids and adults enjoy dressing up, so you’ll see plenty of period costumes. With 10 stages for entertainment, jousting, artisans and a variety of food, it’s a fun way to get outside on a crisp fall day.  We’ve gone several times over the years, and some of my favorite activities are watching the jousting and glass blowing, and eating foods on a stick, although the novelty of eating the turkey legs has worn off as I’ve gotten older!  Catch the fair on weekends now through October 22, 2017. 
2. Walk Through the Ultimate Haunted House. If you are looking for the ultimate haunted Halloween experience, head to Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. Considered by many to be the #1 haunted attraction in the US, it’s a walk through haunted house like no other. First off, the prison itself is believed to be haunted, and with its crumbling walls and dark corridors, it’s creepy enough when you visit during daylight hours. Plus visitors to the haunted attraction can decide how interactive they want the experience to be (think being grabbed and possibly removed from your group as part of the action!) Every year we talk about going but chicken out. Could this be the year?  Even if you don’t visit during the fall, touring Eastern State should be on your Philly to do list. We took a tour several years ago, and I would highly recommend it. The penitentiary has a fascinating history and unique architecture, along with a record of notable inmates like Al Capone. You can read more about why I think you should visit this historic attraction, at least during daylight hours.  

3. Hit a Bike Trail for Leaf Viewing. Fall is the perfect time to explore one of the the area’s many bike trails, with cooler weather and colorful scenery. To me, there is nothing more relaxing than pedaling along a trail lined with vibrant red, orange and yellow leaves. Some favorite spots we’ve found for enjoying the beautiful fall foliage are the W&OD Trail in Northern Virginia, and the Mount Vernon Trail that follows the Potomac River between Roosevelt Island and Old Town Alexandria. Both are paved trails, with options for side adventures. If you are on the W&OD in Loudoun County, Virginia, check out the  Brews by Bike Trail, with options for lunch at local breweries just minutes off the trail. In Old Town Alexandria, you can enjoy a picnic lunch by the Potomac River.
4. Celebrate Oktoberfest. Most of us won’t be able to make it to Germany for Oktoberfest, but you can find many Oktoberfest celebrations in the DC area during the months of September and October. Das Best Oktoberfest has two big celebrations, one at National Harbor in Maryland on September 30th and one at the M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on October 14th. If a small town celebration is more your thing, visit the 24th Annual Lovettsville Oktoberfest on September 23rd in Loudoun County, Virginia. With music, dancing, free admission and kids activities, it’s the perfect way to spend a fall afternoon. Philadelphia also offers a variety of Oktoberfest celebrations along with Fall Festivals. Find the complete list at Visit Philly

5. Stroll through THE GLOW. Looking for a new way to get into the Halloween Spirit? This fall, experience THE GLOW, a Jack O’Lantern Experience, at locations in Philadelphia, Northern Virginia and Nashville. Visitors will be able to take a stroll past thousands of hand-carved jack o’lanterns, some made from single pumpkins, and other larger creations. Advance tickets are required, and can be purchased on-line. It looks to me like a great way to get inspired to go home and create the best jack o’lantern ever!

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<![CDATA[You'll Want to Try One of These 8 Food Tours in the USA]]>Thu, 31 Aug 2017 01:33:27 GMThttp://familytravelsusa.com/blog/youll-want-to-try-one-of-these-8-food-tours-in-the-usa
Nothing captures the true flavor of a city like its food. Can you really travel to Memphis without eating BBQ, or Key West and not have Key Lime Pie? To me, spending time with a local expert on a food tour is one the best ways to truly learn about the rich cultural heritage of a place. Not only do you come to understand how foods become regional favorites, it’s also an opportunity to learn about history and local traditions. Best of all, you enjoy a sampling of foods that take you to the roots of a city, while socializing with fellow travelers. I’ve reached out to family travel bloggers in the USA to round up some of their favorite experiences. 
Old Pasadena Food Tasting Tour - Melting Pot Food Tours
California
Old Pasadena Food Tasting Tour - a great way to get to know the city of Pasadena. One of 8 food tours across the USA.
Photo: Courtesy of Everything Mom
Cafes down artsy alleys. Sweet treats in refurbished warehouses. Mom and pop shops for local flavor. Melting Pot Food Tours is the local friend who knows the best spots to eat while sharing a glimpse into the area's culture and history. My tip: plan a tour at the start of your trip to get a lay of the food land in Pasadena.

Contributed by Carrie at EverythingMom 

Grabbing a Bite in Old Pasadena

Wooster Square Tour - Taste of New Haven
Connecticut
Wooster Square Tour - a great way to get to know New Haven, CT. One of 8 food tours across the USA.
Photo: Courtesy of Family Travel Magazine
New Haven, CT may be known as the home of Yale University, but it’s also famous for its delicious food. On a press trip to New Haven, I had the opportunity to go on a food tour of New Haven with the Taste of New Haven. Their Wooster Square tour makes stops at the City Seed Farmers Market, Frank Pepe's, G Cafe, and more. Our knowledgeable tour guide provided us with lots of colorful commentary about the city’s history. It’s definitely worth a trip to the city to sample all of these delicious foods.

Contributed by Jodi at Family Travel Magazine
A Weekend In New Haven: Things to Do
Key Lime Pie Hop
Florida
If you love Key Lime Pie, check out the Key Lime Pie Hop. One of 8 food tours to try across the USA.
Photo: Courtesy of Along for the Trip
Each year around the 4th of July, Key West celebrates with their annual Key Lime Festival and part of the festival is the Key Lime Pie Hop - a must for anyone in love with this zesty dessert. Participants are led on a guided walking tour of Old Town Key West where they sample pie entries from local businesses. It's a gluttonous affair that's totally worth it!

Contributed by Carrick at Along for the Trip
Things to Do in Key West with Kids
Downtown Southern Food Tour -  Atlanta Food Walks
Georgia
Take a food tour with Atlanta Food Walks where you sample food and learn about the Civil Rights Movement. One of 8 food tours to try across the USA.
Photo: Courtesy of We3Travel
The Downtown Southern Food tour with Atlanta Food Walks is the perfect way to combine learning about the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta with sampling delicious southern specialties. The tour starts out at Paschal’s, where Civil Rights leaders like John Lewis and Martin Luther King, Jr. used to meet to plan rallies, marches and eat their favorite fried chicken. We also sampled BBQ, meat pies, soul food, and pralines, all while learning about the African, Native American, and Creole influences on Southern food. And, to show that not all greens need to be cooked with pork fat, we even visited a healthy juice bar for amazing green juice and kale chips. When we were done, it was a short walk over to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site to continue our history lesson.

Contributed by Tamara at We3Travel
A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours - Brooklyn Pizza Tour
New York
A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour is more than just pizza! It's a great way to get to know Brooklyn. One of 8 Food Tours to Try Across the USA.
Photo: familyTravelsUSA
Who doesn’t love pizza, and what better place for a food tour than Brooklyn, New York! From the moment you board the bus in downtown Manhattan, A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour is an entertaining few hours sampling pizza, taking a few Instagram-worthy photos and learning some history about this well-known city. Compare the flavors of the Neapolitan-style pizza from Grimaldi’s with the Sicilian-style at L&B Spumoni Gardens. Watch the famous John Travolta walking scene from Saturday Night Fever while visiting the movie location, and stop at the boardwalk at Coney Island to round out your tour. 

Contributed by Kath at familyTravelsUSA
Why You Should Add a Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour to Your NYC Bucket List
Sweet Stroll Through Over-the-Rhine - Cincinnati Food Tours
Ohio
Take a Sweet Stroll in Cincinnati with this popular walking tour. One of 8 food tours to try across the USA.
Photo: Courtesy of MommyTravels.net
Take a Sweet Stroll in Cincinnati, Ohio is a walking tour around the popular Over-the-Rhine neighborhood highlighting sweet foods. From the most popular donut destination in town to hidden gems only a local would know, you will make many stops to enjoy treats while learning the rich history of this part of Cincinnati. This tour is only $20 - $45 per person and incredibly informative and tasty. The tour guide has lived here her whole life and can tell you the history and future of almost every building you walk past.  

Contributed by Meagan at MommyTravels.net
Take a Sweet Stroll with Cincinnati Food Tours

East Nashville Food Tour - Walk Eat Nashville
Tennessee
Walk Eat Nashville is a fun tour of East Nashville. One of 8 food tours to try across the USA.
Photo: Courtesy of We3Travel
We recently took a food tour with Walk Eat Nashville of East Nashville, which was recently named one of the coolest neighborhoods in America. Since this neighborhood is across the river from downtown Nashville, it is probably an area many visitors would skip, and they would be missing out. We sampled everything from fine dining to street food, southern specialties like pimento cheese biscuits in a restaurant that started the food movement in East Nashville, to locally-made ice cream “Mondays” at a shop owned by a YouTube star. When you go to Nashville, there are two things you can’t miss — country music and good food!

Contributed by Tamara at We3Travel
Exploring the East End on a Nashville Food Tour
Gourmet Seattle Tour - Savor Seattle Food Tours 
Washington
Savor Seattle Food Tours are a great way to get to know the city. One of 8 food tours across the USA.
Photo: Courtesy of Lisa@obsessedwtravel
Seattle is culinary delight just waiting to be explored and there is no better guide through this food town than joining a Savor Seattle Food Tour. My family and I couldn't believe the quantity and quality of the various gourmet dishes this tour provided, and for the adults we loved the wine and cocktail pairings (don't worry, the kids aren't left out - they try fun bubbly and fruity concoctions). Our highlights included ORFEO Restaurant's slow-roasted wild boar with grilled polenta, Serious Pie's roasted mushroom truffle cheese pizza & margherita pizza, Cha:n's spicy Korean pork slider and braised short rib, Noi Thai Cuisine's crispy garlic chicken, Steelhead Diner's Razor clam chowder with truffle oil and so much more!!!

Contributed by Lisa 
 @obsessedwtravel
Top 10 Things to do in Seattle with Kids | Hilton Mom Voyage

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<![CDATA[In the City: 3 Interesting Things to Do in DC]]>Fri, 18 Aug 2017 18:18:19 GMThttp://familytravelsusa.com/blog/in-the-city-3-interesting-things-to-do-in-dc
Back in February, I wrote about 10 fun ways to experience DC, with ideas to help you see the city from a different perspective. The nation's capital offers so many opportunities to explore food, art and culture throughout the city, not to mention all the free Smithsonian museums and historic monuments. Even though I’ve spent a lot of time in DC over the years, I’m always excited when I discover a new place to see or activity that I haven’t tried yet. Several weeks ago, my daughter and I went on a food and street art adventure, visiting a few neighborhoods that we previously hadn't spent much time in. Here’s what we discovered, along with a few unique tour ideas for the next time you are visiting DC. 
1. Check out a Local Food Market.  I’ve been downtown so many times, yet had never heard much about Union Market. I was surprised to learn that the market has quite a story. Historians date the market back to 1871, when Centre Market was opened to the public. Originally centrally located between the White House and the Capitol Building, in 1931, the building was torn down so that the National Archives could be built. Union Terminal Market took its place, but once again in 1962, the market was closed, due to the city ban on the sale of eggs and meat outdoors. The year 1967 brought a new indoor market, and that same building has evolved into the present day Union Market.  

We visited Union Market on a recent Sunday, and as expected, it was packed! Outside were picnic style tables, along with two ping pong tables, and people of all ages. Inside, we found over 30 food vendors, so we had to wander around a bit before we decided what to try. I tried to follow my own advice of eating from the place with the longest line (in this case, TaKorean - known for Asian style tacos), but the line was just a bit too long and the market had so many other delicious choices. My daughter and I enjoyed Shrimp ‘N Grits with an amazing tomato butter sauce at Puddin’, deep fried tequenos at Arepa Zone (think Venezuelan fried cheese sticks) and washed everything down with a healthy smoothie from South Block.  Expect crowds on the weekend, with popular food items at some vendors sold out by late morning.
2. Search for Street Art. If you wander around DC off the National Mall, you’ll probably be surprised at all the street art. Some of it stems from the formation of MuralsDC in 2007, which was created to help revitalize communities by replacing graffiti and encouraging community engagement. To date, they count 65 murals in 44 neighborhoods scattered throughout DC.

There has been a lot of local publicity recently about the new mural that was unveiled outside of the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl, so my daughter and I decided to go check it out. Known as The Torch, the new mural highlights a number of DC legends, like Barack & Michelle Obama, and recently deceased popular local newscaster Jim Vance, along with cultural icons & sports figures like Prince and Muhammad Ali. The mural was done by artist Aniekan Udofia with Mia Duvalia, and in a short time has become quite the hotspot for photographers.  Unfortunately for us, we were just too stuffed from Union Market to try the food at Ben's Chili Bowl, so we’ll save that for another time.  

Another nearby mural worth seeing is the Living Timeline: Paul Robesonwhich captures the life of this world famous civil rights activist, singer and actor. If you don’t have a car, you can take the Metro to U Street and you’ll find quite a bit of art in a 3 or 4 block radius around Ben’s Chili Bowl. Check out the MuralsDC website, where you can learn more about the artists involved and use the mural locator to find some amazing creations.
3. Take a Unique Guided Tour. Did you know Georgetown has a haunted past? Do you want to learn more about the night Abraham Lincoln was assassinated? Taking a guided tour is one way to get the inside story and this fall I plan to try some of the unique offerings by Free Tours by Foot, like the Eastern Market History & Pastries Tour or the Ghosts of Georgetown Tour.  The walking tours are name your own price, which can be a great cost-saver for families. There are a few exceptions, like the Ghosts of Georgetown, considered a specialty tour, but I think the $20 fee seems low compared to most other guided tours I’ve been on. Advanced reservations are required, and you can find the complete schedule on-line. I’m looking forward to taking the Ghost of Georgetown Tour sometime soon. Free Tours by Foot offers tours in select cities nationwide.

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<![CDATA[8 Family Tested Activities You Need to Do on Maui]]>Mon, 31 Jul 2017 15:07:20 GMThttp://familytravelsusa.com/blog/8-family-tested-activities-you-need-to-do-on-maui
Don't miss these 8 family tested activities on the beautiful island of Maui!
Planning a trip to Hawaii can be a bit overwhelming, especially for first-timers. Researching what island(s) to visit along with must-do activities can be very time consuming. During all my trip research and conversations with friends, Maui kept popping up as the island that offered the perfect mix of activities (several free or low cost) and tropical island beauty for a first time visitor. We ended up staying in Kihei, which turned out to be a central location for all the things we wanted to do during our time on Maui. Here’s my suggestions for 8 activities we enjoyed that I think will give you a true flavor of the beauty that makes Hawaii so special.
1. Visit the Turtles at Ho’okipa Beach Park. Seeing animals in their natural habitat is always exciting for us, and on our first full day in Maui, one of the guests at our condo recommended visiting this beach, so off we went. It’s known to be one of the best spots to view the sea turtles as they are resting on the beach. When we arrived, there were easily 15 Hawaiian green sea turtles resting in a cove area of the beach. The area was roped off, but it was so cool to be able to see them fairly close. It’s amazing to watch these beautiful creatures swim up on the beach, and we enjoyed learning about them from the friendly volunteer with the Defenders of Wildlife. The beach is popular for windsurfers, and there are lifeguards if you want to take a dip in the ocean. I highly recommend stopping in Paia for lunch before or after your visit. We really enjoyed the tuna melts at Cafe Mambo! 

2. Snorkel at Molokini Crater.
If you want to splurge, take a boat out to snorkel at Molokini Crater. We went with 
Aqua Adventures for our half-day adventure, and even though the ocean was rough and I experienced some sea sickness, I was ultimately glad we chose a smaller boat for this excursion. Check-in went quickly, the captain and crew were fun and helpful, and our boat was one of the first to arrive at the c-shaped island. The first thing that struck me when we arrived at Molokini was the amazingly clear dark blue water, which made for great snorkeling visibility. Aqua Adventures also offers a Snuba option, where you are tethered to an oxygen tank floating at the surface, but we opted to stick with snorkeling. I was surprised that there weren’t as many large fish as I would have expected but then I reminded myself that the Hawaiian Islands really are out in the middle of the ocean. After we snorkeled at Molokini, we hopped back on the boat for the short trip to “Turtle Arches” close to Makena. Here we saw several green sea turtles, both swimming and getting cleaned by the fish at a “turtle station.” Being under the water and watching the turtles glide by was definitely a memorable moment. Getting seasick was not so memorable (I blame that on the wind and high surf), but the crew was very helpful with suggestions for my queasy stomach. My only regret on the trip was that I wasn’t able to enjoy lunch and a Mai-Tai on the way back to land! 


3. Drive the Road to Hana. I had heard plenty about driving this iconic road on Maui, and I’m so glad we spent the day on the Road to Hana. There is nothing better than rounding the bend on  a curvy road in Hawaii to suddenly finding a beautiful waterfall, or a picture perfect coastline view. The stops along the way are what makes the trip special, and you can pick and choose based on your own preferences. Even though the highway is only roughly 64 miles, the one-lane bridges and over 600 curves make for a slow, scenic drive. I think my favorite place was the black sand beach and surrounding area at Waianapanapa State Wayside ParkThe photos don’t do justice to the color of the water, and the intensity of the ocean, especially at places like the Keanae Peninsula. Be sure to read my recent post for tips and photos from our amazing day on the Road to Hana. 
The views at Waianapanapa State Wayside Park are not to be missed on the Road to Hana!
4. Watch the Sunrise on Haleakala. This was an incredible experience, even though the weather at the summit  was somewhat overcast on the morning we visited. Advanced reservations are required, and you can’t drive into this national park between 3 and 7 a.m. without a ticket. When you go, allow plenty of extra time to drive the windy road to the summit in the dark. It doesn’t seem far on a map, but it will take much longer than expected. We left around 2:45 am from the Kihei area (always fun for teenagers!) and reached the summit around 4:45. Because it was slightly overcast and drizzly, the sunset was not as dramatic as some of the pictures I had seen, but it was still an awe-inspiring experience to be standing at 10,000 feet waiting for the sun to rise over the clouds. The temperature hovered around 40 degrees when we visited in late June, but we were somewhat prepared with sweatshirts and jackets (gloves and blankets would have been helpful). If you are not a morning person, I’ve heard the sunset from the summit can also be quite breathtaking. In hindsight, I should have scheduled this early morning adventure soon after our arrival in Hawaii, since we were still on East Coast time for a few days. 

5. Take Sunset Pictures at Makena State Beach.
Since Maui is relatively small, I was anxious to capture the sunset view from different locations. While I loved walking out on Sugar Beach each night to see the beautiful sky, we hit the jackpot one evening when we ended up just south of Wailea at 
Makena State Beach. It’s known as the “Big Beach” for a reason. At nearly a mile long and about 100 yards wide, it’s a gorgeous, popular stretch of beach, known for having strong surf. Walk over the Pu’u Ola’i cinder cone and you’ll find “Little Beach” which offers amazing sunset views with a backdrop of Molokini Crater. Just don’t be surprised to see sunbathers with little or no clothes on this somewhat secluded section of beach. 
A beautiful Hawaiian sunset at Makena State Beach on Maui. A must see when you visit the island.
6. Take a Surfing Lesson. What better place to try surfing than on the beach in Hawaii! My husband and daughter really enjoyed their 2 hour group surfing lesson with Maui Wave Riders at the Kihei location (it ended up being just the two of them so it was perfect). They each were provided with a rash guard shirt and booties, and after a brief lesson on the grass, they easily walked the surfboards across the street to Kalama Park, where they entered the water. After a few minutes of coaching in the water, they were ready to take on their first waves! By the end of the lesson, both were able to stand and ride a small wave most of the way to shore. 

7. Try Local Foods. I often joke that local food is one of the main reasons I travel and Hawaii was no exception. Fish tacos are a popular menu item, and Coconuts Fish Cafe knows how to make them! Recommended by several locals, we were not disappointed. The tacos are meant to be eaten with your hands, so be prepared to get a little messy. Another local favorite is Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice, with several locations in Maui. You can’t go wrong with any of their flavor combinations, like the Sunset Beach with guava, mango and passion orange! It’s the best treat on a warm summer day, like eating soft, powdered snow. Fortunately for us it was just a short walk down the beach from our condo. In Paia, our best casual picks are the Paia Fish Market for dinner, and Cafe Mambo for lunch (try the Ahi Tuna Melt). And finally, if you are staying in Kihei, don’t miss breakfast at Kihei Caffe. Bring cash, because you can’t pay for your huge breakfast with a credit card. Who can resist coconut syrup! 
Local food favorites in Maui - Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice, fish tacos from Coconuts Fish Cafe and breakfast at Kihei Caffe.
8. Head to a Luau. It wouldn’t be a first time trip to Hawaii without attending a luau and there is no shortage of offerings on Maui! So I was disappointed to find out that the highly rated Old Lahaina Luau was booked a solid two months in advance - take note if this is on your Maui to do list! I reached out to my personal concierge (more on that in my Kihei Sands post which will be live soon), who made some phone calls on my behalf. Unfortunately, since I was within 10 days of our trip, she was unable to get a reservation for a family of 5 at our next choice, the Grand Wailea. I am happy to say that it all worked out, as we had a memorable night at Chief’s Luau when we spent our last few days on Oahu. But you can’t go wrong with a luau on Maui.
There are still plenty of Maui adventures that we had to save for our next visit, like a helicopter tour, a swim in the Seven Sacred Pools (which were closed when we arrived), and sunset on Haleakala.  Let us know if you have a favorite we should add to our list. Aloha for now Hawaii, we will be back! 
My family took a ton of photos, but here are a few more favorites from Maui!
Loved the colors of the Hawaiian canoes against the blue sky in Maui!
The Haleakala NP sign looks much better during the daylight than it did at 4:00 a.m. when we went up to see the sunrise!
Always a beautiful sunset on the beaches of Maui!
Loved the ocean view from inside a cave at Wainapanana on the Road to Hana.
The views on the Road to Hana on Maui are breathtaking!
Watching the sunset at Makena State Beach is one of 8 family tested activities you need to do on Maui.

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Don't miss these 8 family tested activities on the beautiful island of Maui!
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<![CDATA[5 Cool Things to Do in Southwest Virginia]]>Wed, 19 Jul 2017 23:46:34 GMThttp://familytravelsusa.com/blog/5-cool-things-to-do-in-southwest-virginia
We just got back from a relaxing weekend with friends in the mountains in Southwest Virginia. It’s a place where the highway winds through the mountains, the rivers are wide, and the towns are small. Lately I’ve been spending more time in this part of the state, and I’ve come to appreciate many of the special things this quieter part of Virginia has to offer. There are plenty of outdoor options, like hiking, biking and water activities, especially during the warmer months, along with the opportunity to experience small town charm and home grown music. So next time you are heading west on Interstate 81 in Virginia, take some time to check out these 5 cool things along the way.
1. Stay at Mountain Lake Lodge. If you’ve ever seen the movie Dirty Dancing, then visiting Mountain Lake Lodge in Pembroke should be on your list. The movie was filmed here in the 1980’s along with locations in North Carolina. It’s worth pointing out that the lake itself has it’s own story, mysteriously filling up and draining over the years. Besides the gorgeous location in the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s a fun place for a family weekend. Twice we have had an opportunity to stay, most recently staying in the main lodge. Prior to that, we spent two nights in the Richmond & Thompson multi-unit cabins, which was perfect for the five of us to comfortably spend a few nights. Just a mile from the resort is the Treetop Adventure Center, where we spent a fun afternoon zip lining and trying to keep our balance on the challenge course. Along with Zorb Racing (the giant balls you get inside) and Archery Tag, new this year is the Sky Slide, a five story inflatable water slide. If you are a fan of Dirty Dancing, be sure to inquire about the themed weekends, which are held four times a year.
2. Take a Memorable Hike. If you recognized the title picture, it’s probably because McAfee Knob is one of the most photographed places along the Appalachian Trail. The photo is courtesy of my daughter, who recently had the chance to take in the view at sunrise. It’s a little over 4 miles to the top, where the elevation is around 3,100 feet. It is a popular hike, so expect the weekends to be crowded. Another hike that locals love is the roughly 4 mile round trip hike to view Cascades Falls, a 66 foot waterfall in Pembroke. It’s not an easy hike, and most hikers suggest taking the lower trail to the falls and the upper trail on the way back. Don’t forget to bring $3 in cash for the entrance fee.  

3. Paddle on a River, Swim in a Lake or Hike & Bike on a Trail. The New River, considered the oldest in North America, is one of the few rivers on the eastern seaboard that flows northward. Get up close on the river in a canoe, kayak or tube, which can be rented from Foster Falls Boat and Bike Livery. On land, start at one of the 12 public access points to hike or bike along a portion of the 57 mile long New River Trail, including stops in Draper and Hiwassee. Learn more in my post Visit Virginia’s New River Trail State Park. Another option is to head to Claytor Lake State Park to enjoy swimming, hiking and fishing. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, swim in the lake at the guarded beach, and then camp under the stars in one of over 100 campsites. During the summer a weekly stay is required in the 15 cabins and 3 lodges. 
4. Spend the Afternoon in a Small Town. Take a stroll back in time and visit any of the charming small towns scattered throughout the area. Stop for lunch at the Blue Door Restaurant in Draper, and then shop at the Draper Mercantile and Trading Company. Or spend the afternoon in downtown Floyd, browsing through the local shops. Just be sure to stop for ice cream and check out the live music in the back of the Floyd Country Store on weekends. The Virginia tourism website has a good blog post highlighting 19 general stores and markets, which includes the Floyd Country Store and BW Country Store. 

5. Stroll through the campus of  Virginia Tech. Spend a few hours visiting this beautiful campus in Blacksburg. If you’re like me, some of the buildings might make you feel a bit like you are visiting Hogwarts! Take a few minutes to visit the Pylons above the War Memorial Chapel, which honor those former students who died defending our country, going all the way back to World War I. If it’s football season, there is nothing quite like the experience of a college football game at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg.  Voted as one of the best openings in football, you’ll feel left out if you aren’t jumping when the Virginia Tech Hokies come running out of the tunnel, or shaking your car keys on third down. After the game, head into Blacksburg to eat, but be warned that the town will be packed. Two favorites are Cabo Fish Taco and the Cellar Restaurant.  ​​

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<![CDATA[6 Tips Plus Stops We Loved on the Road to Hana]]>Sat, 08 Jul 2017 14:53:41 GMThttp://familytravelsusa.com/blog/6-tips-plus-stops-we-loved-on-the-road-to-hana
During our recent Maui family vacation, driving the iconic Road to Hana was at the top of our must do list, and now I understand why it's so highly recommended. Starting in the town of Paia, this popular stretch of highway heads east for 64 miles towards the small town of Hana, and showcases much of the natural beauty of Maui. Along the way you will find numerous waterfalls, a spectacular black sand beach and plenty of scenic vistas. The road is rather narrow in spots, with over 54 bridges, many which only allow for a single lane of traffic to pass, as well as over 600 curves with a minimal shoulder in many spots. You can choose to leave the driving to someone else as part of a tour, but I think it’s best viewed on your own time. Read on for 6 tips to help make the most of your drive, along with a short list of our favorite stops along the spectacular Road to Hana.
1. Leave Early and Plan to Spend the Entire Day. We had great intentions to leave by 7 a.m., but didn’t end up leaving Kihei until around 7:45. While we never really noticed a bottleneck with the actual traffic (we went on a Thursday), the first few stops were already crowded with people by the time we rolled through. Since we had already spent the afternoon in Paia and at Ho’opika Beach Park, we decided to skip the first few popular stops to get ahead of the crowds. At the end of the day, we arrived back at our condo in Kihei around 8 p.m. You can spend the night in the Hana area, but know that accommodations are limited and are booked well in advance.

2. Download an App or Bring a Guide. This is invaluable advice! Our condo office had free copies of a Road to Hana CD that we intended to borrow, but since we failed to pay attention to the office hours sign, we weren’t able to pick up the CD the morning we left. I had bookmarked several blog posts with some of the stops I was interested in, but as soon as we passed Paia, our cell phone service became spotty. Luckily, the friendly folks at Jaws Country Store, recommended using their Wifi to download the GyPSy Guide. I can’t imagine having done the drive without it. It was like having a private tour guide, who knew all the great places to stop. Definitely the best $4.99 we have ever spent on a trip! The tour works offline, using only your GPS. in addition to all the great advice on the way to Hana, my husband really enjoyed the ride back, listening to our tour guide tell stories about some of the history of the area and the Hawaiian people. Here’s a few screenshots from the app.
3. Brings Cash. Everything I read ahead of time suggested that cash is important, especially for the the food trucks along the route, so we did come somewhat prepared. What I didn’t fully understand was the high cost of the food. Along the way we stopped for banana bread ($5 for a small loaf), along with some amazing coconut shrimp ($15 a plate which we shared) from Island Chef, and roasted coconut ($5 a bag) at the Nahiku Marketplace near Hana. The shrimp was definitely worth it, with 6 large shrimp freshly fried in a yummy coconut breading. So if you are planning to eat along the way, bring a decent amount of cash for the day.  

4. Pack food, drinks & lots of water. If you need supplies, the Kuau Store in Paia is a good place to stop on your way to or from Hana. The coffee bar is perfect for an early morning departure, and they have an assortment of sandwiches and drinks for the road if you are looking for something to grab and go. Plus it’s fun to take a picture by the surfboard fence! Jaws Country Store, mentioned above, is the last convenience store you will see until you reach Hana. Regarding water, we found it easier to purchase gallon jugs of water from the grocery store, then fill several large,refillable water bottles each day before we headed out. A full tank of gas is also important, and once you leave Paia, there are no gas stations until you reach Hana!
5. Wear Durable Water Shoes & a Bathing Suit. This goes without saying in Maui. No matter where we traveled, we often found ourselves stopping at a beach and jumping in the water. On the Road to Hana, there are plenty of opportunities to take a swim, and sturdy water shoes/hiking sandals are essential. Often, we found ourselves scrambling down rocks for the perfect photo opp, or to get to the base of a waterfall. Sunscreen is also essential! 

6. Enjoy the ride. The most important thing to know is relax and enjoy the ride. It’s not about the destination, but rather the journey along the way.  We decided to enjoy a few special places for a longer period of time, rather than stop at every opportunity along the way. Our only disappointment was arriving at the gate of Haleakala National Park only to find that the Pools of ‘Ohe’o are closed indefinitely for safety reasons. Chalk that one up to not doing all my homework ahead of time!

Here are a few of our favorite stops on the Road to Hana:

*Paia and Ho’opika Beach Park: Before we drove the Road to Hana, we spent an afternoon shopping and eating in Paia, and then we visited Ho’opika Beach Park where we found sea turtles resting on the beach. I would suggest doing this on a separate day, as you can easily spend a few hours in the area.

*Garden of Eden Arboretum (mile marker 10.5): there is an admission fee but we felt it was worth the money; the views are breathtaking.

*Keanae Peninsula (the road veers left just after mile marker 16): This stop offers incredible photo opportunities of the rocky coastline. It’s just a beautiful place to see the wild ocean.

*Nahiku Marketplace (mile marker 29): Fun place to stop and sample some local cuisine and browse the work of local artisans; this is where having cash comes in handy. 

*Waianapanapa State Wayside Park (around mile marker 32): This was the place where we spent the most time. It’s a short hike down to the black sand beach (where the water shoes really come in handy as much of the beach consists of large pebbles). Bring a towel for swimming, and when you are done, explore the sea cave and other parts of the park. 

We also stopped at a number of waterfalls, some which offered easy access down to the water. It's easy to get hung up in trying to see everything, but make the decision that is best for you and your family. You really can’t go wrong no matter where you stop along the magical Road to Hana.  
There were so many spectacular spots on the Road to Hana, but these were some of our favorites!
The Road to Hana is a must do in Maui. Check out these tips and some of our favorite spots.
Ho’opika Beach Park
The Road to Hana is a must do in Maui. Check out these tips and some of our favorite spots.
Garden of Eden Arboretum
The Road to Hana is a must do in Maui. Check out these tips and some of our favorite spots.
Waianapanapa State Wayside Park
The Road to Hana is a must do in Maui. Check out these tips and some of our favorite spots.
Keanae Peninsula
The Road to Hana is a must do in Maui. Check out these tips and some of our favorite spots.
Nahiku Marketplace
The Road to Hana is a must do in Maui. Check out these tips and some of our favorite spots.
One of so many beautiful waterfalls.

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<![CDATA[4 Favorite National Park Units in the DC Area]]>Mon, 12 Jun 2017 20:42:43 GMThttp://familytravelsusa.com/blog/4-favorite-national-park-units-in-the-dc-area
When most people think of National Parks, places like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone or Yosemite might come to mind. But with over 417 park units making up the National Park system, you can find parks in all shapes and sizes, from National Memorials to National Seashores. In DC alone, there are currently 25 official National Park units, with another 22 in Virginia. While the National Mall and all the historic memorials should be at the top of your DC to-do list, the 4 places highlighted below are among my favorites, each offering something special. Here’s why you should consider adding one or two of them to your list next time you visit the DC area.  ​​
1.  Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. If you are visiting DC during the summer, take the Metro or make the short drive to nearby Vienna, Virginia to Wolf Trap for an experience you won’t soon forget. This special park is dedicated to the performing arts, and it’s my favorite venue for enjoying a concert on the lawn while relaxing with a picnic dinner. When my kids were younger, we loved attending the Theatre-in-the-Woods during the summer. The stage is reached by walking through the meadow and winding your way among the trees. The shows range from puppet shows and lively bands, to ballet, interactive theater performances and much more. Kids can also join a Ranger Program after the show, and even become a Junior Ranger.  Learn more and visit the Wolf Trap National Park website for all you need to know about the summer performance schedule and programs for kids.
Wolf Trap National Park is one of 4 favorites parks in the DC area (Photo Courtesy of Wolf Trap))
Photo Courtesy of Wolf Trap
2.  Ford’s Theatre Historic Site. Learn about that fateful night in history when President Lincoln was assassinated while watching a show at Ford’s Theatre. Visit 4 separate sites, including the Museum, Ford’s Theatre, the Petersen House and the Aftermath Exhibits. The museum exhibits span the beginning of Lincoln’s presidency up to just before his assassination, and include some rare artifacts. Take a self-guided tour of the theatre or listen to a park ranger history talk. Then step across the street to the Petersen House, where Lincoln was taken after being shot. Finally, the Aftermath Exhibits follow the events that happened in the days and weeks following Lincoln’s assassination. Although there are a limited number of free same day tickets available, I would suggest paying the small convenience fee to reserve tickets in advance, as they often fill up for several weeks out.  It’s an easy walk from the National Mall or Metro.
 
3.  Great Falls Park. Visit nearby Great Falls, Virginia, roughly 15 miles from DC, where you will find beautiful views of the rushing water of the Potomac River. From the main Visitor Center, you’ll find easy access to 3 overlooks for viewing the falls, two of which are wheelchair accessible. We love the fact that there are plenty of trails that offer different vantage points of the river, and the area is very dog-friendly. Recently my husband and I hiked in from Difficult Run, stopping to enjoy the view of herons and the rushing river from several rocky overlooks. There are plenty of scenic spots for a picnic, just know that Great Falls is a trash free park, so be prepared to haul out your trash. There is an entrance fee of $10 per vehicle, and the park does get crowded later in the day, especially on weekends. Save money by visiting on one of the fee-free NPS days.
4.  Theodore Roosevelt Island. When you are ready to take a break from the hustle and bustle of DC, head to Roosevelt Island for some nature time! It’s the perfect place to spend an hour or two, with several easy hiking trails throughout the island. Enjoy a ranger led program to learn more about the history of the island. Kids can earn a Junior Ranger badge or try one of the Kids in Parks TRACK adventures. If you aren't familiar with these fun outdoor adventures, learn more on the Kids in Parks TRACK Trail website. While bicycles are not allowed on the island, taking the bike trail is an easy way to get to the footbridge to access Roosevelt Island. Be advised that as of June, 2017, the Swamp Trail on the island is temporarily closed, so check the park website for the most current information before you go. 

Do you have a favorite National Park around the DC area? Feel free to leave a comment below.  

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