East to West, Best Travel Spots for Aunties and Kids!
Written By Savvy Auntie Staff Writers
By Shawn Blackhawk
Growing up in America's Heartland, Shawn Blackhawk used her poetry from an early age to express herself. Her philosophy has always been: "I'll try anything once." She uses her words like a brush, painting vivid pictures, evoking as much emotion from her readers as she can. She appreciates struggles, as they pave the road to triumph, and firmly believes that the darkest parts of the human mind and soul are the only way to eventually celebrate the light. She has been recognized for Illuminating Digital Publishing Excellence by Jenkins Group (eLit Awards) and was the 2011 Silver Medal Finalist for the Electronically Published Internet Collation (EPIC Awards). Shawn's poetry book can be purchased at L-Book.com.
November mornings are cold enough that you can see your breath. Frost needs scraping off the car windows, and if you’re like me, small fires are lit in the fireplace at night. While there are still days when being outside is comfortable with just a long sleeve shirt, there are also days when staying inside, wrapped in a warm blanket, seems like the better idea.
With the arrival of the cooler days, holiday ads starting on TV, and kids beginning to think of ideas for their Christmas lists, vacation planning also rears its head as a “must do.” Now, I’ve lived in a lot of places, and moving around so much has allowed me to experience and see some of the greatest places our country has to offer. While I can’t name every place in which I love to spend time, I’m sharing a list of my all time favorites with other Savvy Aunties. That way, no matter where you live, you can either visit these places or find comparable ones in your area for you to spend time with your nieces and nephews.
There is such a variety of locations on this coast. You can enjoy hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, and skating. There are beaches, amusement parks, and national parks. So many choices, it’s often hard to decide where to go. Since my nieces and nephews on this coast are still pretty little, I choose indoor activities that will keep them entertained and warm. One of my favorites is the National Aquarium. Once upon a time, it was a separate aquarium but merged with the aquarium in Washington D.C. in 2003. The Baltimore location is in the Inner Harbor district—501 East Pratt Street. With over 16,000 specimens, representing over 600 species, this aquarium is HUGE! Focusing on exhibits that will help people understand the need for oceanic conservation, there is lots to see and do. Interactive displays, a dolphin show, and a rainforest on the top floor—there is something for everyone here! My favorites are the sharks and sea turtles. Since moving back to Maryland from Oahu, I go see these exhibits to help ease the loneliness from not being able to swim in the wild with these creatures.
For sheer size and beauty, you cannot do better than the Redwood National State Park in northern California. In the fall and winter, this place has no rival for beauty. Young kids and older ones will stand in awe of the awesome nature of this park. Combined with several other state parks that are adjacent, there are over 130,000 acres. During the 1800s, this area was almost entirely clear cut to help build the booming state. Preservation efforts were made, and now the four combined parks protect 45% of the redwood trees. These trees are among the tallest and oldest trees in America. The area was once home to many Native American tribes, as well as lumberjacks and failed miners. Looking up the history, the native peoples, and the concept of preservation, it’s a great way to educate kids (and adults) as to why we need to preserve and protect lands, cultures and ways of life. Doing all this while hiking amongst the trees is a fabulous way to spend a day or two.
For the Southern crowd
I recommend anywhere in Louisiana. This state is so diverse in its culture, language, people, and food that finding one area to visit is almost impossible. While most people would head for the New Orleans area to tour Bourbon Street, the French Quarter, and ancient cemeteries, I would suggest a different place. Located in Iberia Parish, about three miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico, is Avery Island. This island is one of the biggest natural salt deposits in America—during the Civil War, 22 million pounds of salt for the confederacy. It is also the home of the Tabasco Company. There are tours several times a day through the plant where you can watch the “how to” process on making this wonderfully spicy addition to any meal. The island is also home to beautiful gardens, each with their own theme. It is also home to a bird sanctuary and a gigantic statue of Buddha. If your niece or nephew is open to a little bit more of an adventure, you can always go the extra three miles to the Gulf and try your hand at crabbing. There is no better crab-tasting than ones you have caught yourself!
For the Northerners
You are in the land of snow and ice. Just about any state in the northern tier of the U.S. has outdoor activities. During my time spent in Wisconsin and Illinois, I developed a love of ice fishing. Your niece or nephew will have to be a bit older for this outdoor sport. It takes a lot of patience and the ability to sit pretty still and not get antsy from boredom. If they aren’t up for this, I would recommend either snowshoeing or cross country skiing. Most northern states have parks dedicated to keeping themselves open all year round for visitors. One of my personal favorites and one that my older nephews enjoy is Bear Paw Outdoor Adventure Resort in the Nicolet National Forest. Here they have beautiful trails that you can snowshoe or ski through. If you get there when they open in the early morning, you can often catch the deer crossing from their sleeping spots to their daily feeding areas. I always bring my camera along—making sure it’s in its case until ready for use. We’ve gotten some fantastic shots of sunrises, deer, and interesting snow and ice formations. It’s great exercise and allows for a great bonding time. It’s pretty easy to go at a slow pace and spend time talking.
For the middle of the country
I have to recommend Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah. While I do enjoy skiing and snowshoeing through the northern rim of the Grand Canyon, when I want to take my nieces or nephews skiing, I hit the resort. Named #4 by Outdoor magazine, this resort has it all. Beginner hills, intermediate and advanced slopes—there is something for everyone. They have instructors for skiing and snowboarding, professional athletes and even Olympic athletes. The food at this resort is vast. There are many different places to eat, so you can accommodate both the picky eater and the kosher one. Yes, they have entire kosher vacation packages! There is a spa where you can relax at while your niece or nephew take lessons or hang in the room. If you aren’t a great skier, there is zip lining, a ride-along with the “groomers” who maintain the 4,000 acres of snow covered awesomeness. There are horse drawn carriage rides and even dog sledding! This resort works very hard to maintain its family-oriented activities and keep the price range within reach of us normal folks. This resort is open year round!
Now that I’ve written this, I find I need to call my siblings and start planning my own trips and adventures! Start planning now, so you can give your wonderful nieces and nephews the attention they deserve!
Photo: David Castillo Dominici
Published: November 20, 2012