Ready to plan your next vacation but feeling uninspired when it comes to choosing the destination? If you’re tired of the same old annual beach escape or tourist-trap sightseeing trip, now’s the time to try something new. Whether you want to head somewhere sort of familiar but with a newfangled approach, or you want to go rogue and enjoy a completely new and unexpected destination, these out-of-the-box vacation spots will definitely breathe some new life into your travel experience.
For the Foodie, Try Glamnicking
Maybe you’ve heard of glamping (glamorous camping)? Coining a new phrase here, why not check out glamnicking (glamourous picnicking)? You’ll never view a picnic the same way again. Here are two spots to try:
Grande Lakes, Orlando, Florida
The 500-acre Grande Lakes, Orlando properties, which include The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott and are situated at the headwaters of the Florida Everglades, are leaders in the farm-to-fork movement. Guests get a seat at the picnic table at Whisper Creek Farm to see firsthand where their food grows. Picture this: The sights and sounds of clucking chickens, an apiary full of buzzing honey-producing bees, charming farmers tending the organic fruit and vegetable garden and pro chef’s preparing your meal right in front of you. New to Whisper Creek Farm is Whisper Creek Fables, which includes three different interactive tours of the grounds, a farming lesson and an alfresco lunch. Talk about a chef’s table! You’ll also feel good about the dining experience here as Grande Lakes has excellent sustainability programs that focus on clean renewable energy — they recycle the food waste generated by the resort, keeping it out of landfills and shrinking the carbon footprint, for example.
“Grande Lakes continues to set the bar high for farm-to-fork experiences in Orlando and Whisper Creek Fables takes this concept to the next level,” says Jim Burns, vice president and managing director at Grande Lakes, Orlando. “We are thrilled to launch this new interactive offering to further our commitment to sustainability.”
The Resort at Paws Up, Montana
Another great glamnicking experience can be had at The Resort at Paws Up in beautiful northwest Montana. This resort not only places importance on being great land stewards, but they also utilize locally sourced food when possible and all of their farm-to-ranch-to-table foodie events — Montana Master Grillers, Montana Master Chefs, Art of the Pie, Smoke and Around the Fire, The Elements of Pizza — bring in the best-of-the-best award-winning culinary stars. From James Beard winners to “Top Chef” contestants, guests here can be assured that everything that goes in their belly will be of the finest and tastiest quality. For a unique family-friendly dining adventure, check out the Montana Long Table: Artisanal Picnic, an event that starts with a traditional Montana farmers market followed by an alfresco meal shared with farmers, ranchers and food artisans at a single long table. What can be better than hearing personal stories from food creators while listening to live music and dining with your loved ones?
“Paws Up converted our family from ‘tropical’ vacationers to ‘outdoor/mountain’ ones,” says the Knott family from Newport Beach, California, in a review. “Our family refers to Paws Up as our home away from home.”
Should you want to extend your glamours experience overnight, check out Glamping Hub, an excellent aggregator of nature-based, luxury and affordable rental opportunities for every type of guest. Have you ever dreamed of staying in a yurt, cabin, tent or treehouse? Glamping Hub has you covered — in spades.
For the Outdoor Enthusiast, Try Adventure Travel
REI Adventures, Costa Rica
Many people know about and love to shop at REI, yet they don’t know that you can actually travel with the adventure company to destinations all over the globe for thrilling guided trips — family adventures, signature camping, women’s adventures, solo travel, weekend getaways and even volunteer vacations. They make travel simple by planning everything and taking care of all of the logistics. REI Adventures has an amazing tour in Costa Rica, for example, where they lead travelers through the country via hiking through clouds on volcanoes, zip lining through jungle canopies, white water rafting, and more. Guests with REI Adventures stay at eco-friendly resorts, participate in leave-no-trace travel to minimize environmental impact, support and patronize local businesses to help economies thrive in the countries visited, and contribute to meaningful and courteous cultural interactions with locals. How cool is that?
Why not channel your inner cowgirl or cowboy and visit Cheyenne, Wyoming, on a gritty trip out west? Visit Cheyenne Frontier Days, the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and western celebration, at the end of July to see the action — bull riding, roping, barrel racing and wild horse racing. New this year, the Mustang Heritage Foundation and Mantle Ranch Wild Horse and Burro Training Facility are going to combine forces and present wild horses and burros for adoption. Other fun wild west adventures include: hat making sessions at The Wrangler, a trip to Vedauwoo Recreation Area to explore rock formations, horseback riding (of course!), beer sampling, ATV riding, bouldering and technical rock climbing, and mountain biking. And, if you want to take a road trip and see where the bison roam and the hot pots boil, visit Yellowstone National Park, America’s first National Park.
Backpack across the American Southwest
If you’ve always wanted to go on a backpacking trip, and try “real” camping, as in on the ground and in a tent, yet are nervous about the logistics or where exactly to go, let Four Season Guides be your partners. Since 1999, Four Season Guides, a small and locally owned adventure company, has been offering awe-inspiring, back-country, leave-no-trace ethical adventures for intrepid travelers across the American Southwest in the Grand Canyon, Havasu Falls, Yosemite, Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. For an intermediate experience, check out the Rim to Rim tour to see the Grand Canyon like you’ve never seen it before. Begin the trip with a deep breath as you descend down the North Kaibab Trail from the North Rim, make your way past the Roaring Springs, Ribbon Falls and Colorado river and then hike up to the South Rim for a complete four-day thrill-ride to usurp all thrill-rides. Four Season Guides provides all of the gear and equipment, they’ll set up and break down camp, and they’ll clean and cook all of the food — just show up and be ready for the journey. Hiking and backpacking with these inspiring and passionate guides will give you the opportunity to enjoy a courageous and physically challenging exploration, full of significance and resolve. By the end of the trip you will have a newfound love of the outdoors and the ecological and historical phenomena of the landscape.
For the Multigenerational Family, Slow It Down
South Walton, Florida
Many people travel to Florida to visit Miami or South Beach, but there’s another quieter and more unique place to visit that’s perfect for multi-generational families: sunny South Walton. This area of northwest Florida has 26-miles of pristine, white-sugary-sand beaches and brilliant turquoise waters; Airstream Row, a village of retro food and snack trucks; and a bicycle culture that is in line with the relaxed string of 16 beach communities that South Walton is known for. Seaside in South Walton is where the “Truman Show” was filmed and you can see why — the new urbanism planning is truly inimitable and distinct. There are loads of music, wine and art festivals year round and each beach community, accessible by bike, has a completely different feel. Kids as young as four, as long as they can swim well, will be excited to learn how to surf at Austin Magee’s Surf School, parents will love enjoying a glass of wine and good noshes at 45 Central or The Great Southern Cafe, and grandma and grandpa can spend hours with their toes in the white sand while reading a good book.
“I’ve been traveling to the beaches of South Walton with my family every summer since childhood,” says Ashley Hogue from Golf. “My family began going there before I was born, back in the ’60s, and we still spend our summers there with an ever-rotating cast of family and friends of all ages.”
Chicagoan Andrea Kaiser Guthmann adds, “Powdery soft sand, calm Gulf waters and a slower-paced Southern style than you’ll find in South Florida are what I love. A sunset dinner on the beachfront deck of the casual Shrimp Shack in Seaside is pure heaven.”
Right on 30A, where all of the action is located, sits Cottage Rental Agency, your cool connection for stunning accommodations. Would you love to rent a colorful pastel cottage near “The Truman House” in Seaside from Jim Carrey’s “The Truman Show”? Or what about a stay right on the sandy beach so you can watch the famous sunsets? CRA can help you pick the best lodging for your families size, budget or interest. The best part: You’ll get to have a unique vacationing experience, outside of a run-of-the-mill hotel, where you can cook in your kitchen, sit on your own porch, ride a bicycle around town and have a vacation to usurp all other vacations.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
A bucket-list item for many folks is to ride in a hot air balloon and what better way is there to check this off your list than by attending the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in the first week of October? The whole family can hop in a basket at Fiesta Park and take to the skies, along with hundreds of other balloons, in the Balloon Capital of the World. The teens and social media whizzes in your family will have loads of Instagram-worthy photographs.
“The Visitor’s Center in Old Town was great at giving personal recommendations,” says Theresa Carter Goodrich from Elgin. “Albuquerque is an incredibly welcoming and diverse destination that will make you feel right at home.”
Other family-friendly activities in Albuquerque, a city that enjoys 310 days of sunshine per year, include: jeep tours, hiking, whitewater rafting, golfing, visits to 19 different museums and authentic art galleries.
“The museums in Albuquerque attract the very young to the older generation with interactive exhibits,” says Brooke Miller Stuckey from Arlington Heights. “Children can enjoy the plaza with the Native American families selling their handmade pots and rugs on the portal.”
Albuquerque celebrates diversity and is LGBT-friendly — Travel & Leisure listed this city as one of nine places for the perfect LGBT destination wedding. Also, several LGBT events happen throughout the year — check the website for a list of festivals and resources. In addition, according to a recent study, Albuquerque has very pro-immigrant city ordinances (along with Madison, Wisconsin; and El Paso, Texas), which is fantastic for supporting various cultures. Albuquerque prides itself on being welcoming and inclusive for all, which is a wonderful message for multigenerational families and travelers in general.
“I traveled to Albuquerque with my husband, and we felt nothing but welcome, both at Los Poblanos, the beautiful B&B where we stayed, and at the same-sex wedding we attended,” says Rob Frisch of Chicago. “Actually, we liked the city so much we considered moving there, to escape the high taxes of Chicago!”
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Wendy Altschuler is a seasoned travel and lifestyle writer with more than a decade of clips in various publications: MSN, Delta Sky, Modern Luxury, Sun-Times Media, Tribune Brand Copy, Parents Magazine, Yoga Magazine, The Daily Meal, Spafinder, Red Tricycle, Eluxe Magazine and many more. She is happiest when out exploring and adventuring or on a trail with her family and pup. Follow her on social @wendyaltschuler or visit her website: wendyaltschuler.com.