Turn off the television, get your children outside, and share a wild family adventure this summer. Nothing bonds a family together more than an adventure that offers a little something for everyone -- not only will your kids thank you, but you may actually rediscover your own inner child.
The price for family fun in the great outdoors doesn't come cheap and even a one week U.S.-based trip can set a family of four back over $10,000. But rest assured that there are also some less expensive ways to take the family on an unforgettable adventure. Here a few wild and woolly ideas to get the adrenalin pumping and the children active.
For a family vacation that you will never forget, venture north, way north, to the Great Alaska Adventure Lodge (tel. 800/544-2261; www.greatalaska.com). It has an Alaskan Family Adventure priced from $2,495 per adult for five days or $2,995 for seven days. Kids aged 12 and under pay 25% less. The package is offered from June through September and each group of four or more may have an exclusive departure featuring guided hiking, wildlife cruising, sports fishing, rafting, bear viewing and a trip to the "End of the Road." Accommodation is in two-room suites and all meals, transportation and activities are included. Although itineraries can be tailored to suit the particular needs and interests of your family, their sample itinerary features the following: Pick-up from Anchorage and transfer to the main lodge before embarking on a guided nature hike in the Chugach National Forest or a Salmon Fishing charter. Then travel to Seward, home of the Harding Ice Field, before hiking to the base of a glacier and spending the day on a wildlife cruise in Kenai Fjords National Park.
The following day custom-built Catarafts will take you and your family on a float trip before they tumble into a high walled Canyon and a beautiful glacial lake, ending up with a hike out of the canyon. Visit Homer and the "End of the Road." En route, see early Russian Churches, active volcanoes and possibly baby moose with their mothers. Spend a day exploring the art and uniqueness of the famous boardwalk at "Land's End". Paddle and portage the Wilderness Trail in lightweight, inflatable kayaks with an opportunity to view wild game up close. On the seven-day trip, ride behind the Husky dogs of an Iditarod Champion Team and head to a mountain-view point in the Chugach National Forest. View spawning salmon jumping up a waterfall or take a morning Salmon charter. For $300 per person extra, the highlight of your trip will almost certainly be an overnight stay at the bear viewing camp.Black Hills, South Dakota has plenty to offer families. Black Hills Vacations (tel. 866/601-5103; www.blackhillsvacations.com) has come up with a selection of well-priced and fun family packages. Their eight-day Great Black Hills Adventure is priced from $1,089 per person. Based in Rapid City, enjoy eight days and seven nights of beautiful landscapes, sacred lands and amazing wildlife. Uncover endless history by exploring archeological sites in Badlands National Park and hands-on museum exhibits. Explore new heights while climbing some of the great granite spires of Custer State Park and soar over the Southern Black Hills on a one-hour hot air balloon ride. Take in 18 holes at your choice of Rapid City's greenest courses and trek the trails of the Black Hills with mountain bike rentals. Delve deep underground through the caves of Wind Cave National Park, enjoy a guided trip of Custer State Parks with its massive free-roaming buffalo herds on a Jeep tour and kayak on pristine Sylvan Lake. The package is valid from May 1 to October 31, 2008.
Western River Expeditions(tel. 866/904-1160; www.westernriver.com/trips/familyadventures) run a series of exhilarating family vacation packages in Utah and Idaho. Their four-day Utah Southwest Sampler Family Adventure features two-nights accommodations at the luxurious Gonzo Inn and one-night of all-inclusive camping on the banks of the Colorado River. Explore Arches National Park on a guided hike and scenic tour, raft the Colorado River for two days and discover Moab's breathtaking backcountry on Hummer Safari. This trip is priced at $575 per adult and $475 for children five to 15. The Utah Green River Family Vacation includes four or five days exploring the calm stretches of Green River's warm waters. Desolation Canyon, deeper than Grand Canyon, is hardly desolate with its big sandy beaches, sparkling side streams, shady stands of huge Cottonwoods and abundant wildlife. A century ago, this was a hiding place for Butch Cassidy and his gang of bank robbers but now, it offers a family-friendly rafting vacation.
Ride some 60 rapids down the Green River in an oar boat with a guide doing all the work, or take a turn challenging the waves in an inflatable kayak. Take short hikes to old homesteads, uncover natural rock formations, and view Native American petroglyphs. Camp each night under a star-filled sky with the calming sound of the river to lull you to sleep. Children must be at least five years of age to participate. Four-day rates for May and June trips are $975 for adults and $875 for kids aged five to 16. Five-day July trips are $1,125 and $995 respectively. These rates include airport transfers; a scenic flight from Moab to the river; rafting on moderate class II to III rapids (suitable for the whole family); camping with cots, tents, sleeping bags and chairs and all meals.
The six or seven-day Utah Green River Saddles and Paddles trip lets your family experience the best of both worlds, combining a Green River rafting adventure with two-nights at a Western-style ranch in the heart of Castle Valley, an off-road Hummer Safari, horseback riding and exploring the countryside. in the West. The six-day trip is priced at $1,410/$1,270 from between June 2 and 27, 2008 and the seven-day adventure is $1,560/$1,390 for trips from July 4 to 29, 2008. All meals, transfers, a scenic flight and activities are included. The five-day Idaho "Main Salmon River Rafting" trip explores Idaho's rugged and pristine wilderness. More moderate but exciting whitewater on this stretch of canyon makes this river trip a perfect introduction to rafting and camping without sacrificing any of the grandeur. Relaxing, swim and enjoy camping on sandy beaches set against pine forests and granite mountains. View wildlife and rock paintings left by ancient inhabitants. Trips depart regularly between June 18 and August 21, 2008 and are priced at $1390 for adults and $915 for children 16 and under. Rates include rafting Class III and IV whitewater, expert guides, hiking, camping and all meals.
For an international slant that's still relatively close to home, head to the beaches and jungles of tropical Belize. Green Dragon Adventure Travel (tel. +501/822-2124; www.greendragonbelize.com) has designed a series of family adventures ranging from three-days to two-weeks. Each one is all-inclusive, including every meal, transfers, accommodations and activities -- you just need to pay for your family's international airfare to Belize City. Their seven-night family "Reefs & Ruins" Package includes visits to the ancient Mayan Ruins of Caracol and Xunantunich, a chance to experience the world renowned Reef system, a day observing manatees, swimming with Nurse Sharks and stingrays on a snorkeling trip to Shark/Ray Alley, a horseback jungle adventure, a river cave tubing and opportunities to meet the local people of Belize along the way. The $1,999 per adult and $999 per child price includes also features hiking the wondrous limestone cave of CheChem Ha, swimming in refreshing rivers and natural pools and a boat trip or golf game at a local course. The family of four price of $5,990 is based on two adults and two children, 11 years and younger. You can also add an exciting jungle Zip Line tour for an extra $80 per person
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