Fresh Air Fun: Family Hikes Near NYC

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Late fall is the perfect time to go on a hike with the kids, thanks to cooler temperatures and amazing fall foliage to take in. There are plenty of kid-friendly hikes near NYC, with both easy trails and more challenging ones for more experienced or older kids. Check out our favorite day hikes near NYC, all of which are under two hours from the city. Don’t have a car? Try these urban hikes in NYC. Got a baby in tow? We love these NYC stroller-friendly hikes!

Anthony’s Nose

If you’d rather spend more time hiking than driving, you can look closer to home: Anthony’s Nose is a short hike up a section of the Appalachian Trail that ends with a view of the Bear Mountain Bridge and a scenic overview of the Hudson River. Be prepared for a bit of legwork, because Anthony has a pretty steep nose. The walk is relatively short distance of about three miles round trip, but it’s a mix of climbs and straight paths. The climbs are more like a staircase thanks to the rocky layout of the inclines, but they can be tough on beginners. If you still have time — and energy! — when you finish the hike, you and the kids can take a walk across the Bear Mountain Bridge, visit the small but free zoo, or ride a carousel. All make a perfect reward for your trek up the trail!

Location: Westchester County, across from Bear Mountain

Difficulty: Moderate to hard

Drive time from NYC:
1 hr 20 min

More info:

Arden Point and Glenclyffe

Bring a bit of history into your hike by visiting Arden Point and Glenclyffe. In this relatively easy hike, you and the kids can retrace the footsteps of Revolutionary War general Benedict Arnold as he made his escape in 1780. It's an excellent way to bring history to life for older kids who might be studying this period in American history. The trail also offers some views of the river, but if you've had enough of that there's plenty more to see, like the 1950s railroad track that is still in use today for freight, and a few historic buildings that date back to the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Location: Garrison, NY

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Drive time from NYC: 1 hr 25 min

More info:

Palisades Interstate Park

Located under an hour's drive from the city, the NJ Palisades Park offers gorgeous views and scenic routes, as well as about 30 miles of trails of varying difficulty. This means there's a trail for any level of hiker, including small children. We recommend the State Line Lookout trails for their variety in terrain and difficulty. Taking the trails from the Lookout means getting views of the Hudson River and finding some hidden treasures like a tree swing that makes for awesome photo-ops, and the Women's Federation Monument. Before you go, ensure that everyone is wearing hiking shoes (not sneakers or running shoes) -- the terrain can get rocky.

Location: Alpine, NJ

Difficulty: Easy to hard

Drive time from NYC: 50 min.

More info:

Muttontown Preserve

The Muttontown Preserve trail is one of the easiest on our list, with winding but relatively flat trails through 550 acres of fields, woods, and ponds. The trails here are less like hikes and more like nature walks, allowing everyone to take in their surroundings without getting overtired—perfect for little feet and beginners. The trails also take you through a number of estates, as well as the curious remains of the mansion of King Zod, the last Albanian monarch. It is now in ruins, and covered in some colorful graffiti, making for an interesting sight among the trees. The trail markers can leave something to be desired here however, so come equipped with a map, a compass, and/or a GPS or you may end up spending a bit more time here than you meant to!

Location: East Norwich, NY

Difficulty: Very easy

Drive time from NYC:
50 min

More info:

Greenbelt Conservancy Parks

Sometimes we forget there is nature in our own backyard. If walking through Prospect and Central Park is not exciting enough, take a day trip to Staten Island's Greenbelt Conservancy parks. This foundation oversees 2800 acres of public park—including 30 miles of hiking and walking trails—and consists of High Rock, WIllowbrook, and LaTourette Parks.

All three are hidden pockets of nature and offer hours of leisurely hiking trails through wooded areas, marshes, ponds and other gorgeous landscapes. Both destinations are a perfect starter for the kids due to their location and the ease of the trails. They can wet their little hiking boots here, then move on to the more challenging or lengthier trips.

Location: Staten Island, NY


Drive from NYC:
35 mins

More info:

Eagle Rock Reservation

The hiking at the Eagle Rock Reservation is easy enough for kids to keep up, and without much of a trail to follow you are left to blaze your own path through the woods. But the walking itself is not what will keep the family coming back: hiking here rewards you with an amazing panoramic view of Manhattan. Before you head out on your walk, make sure you pay a visit to the 9/11 memorial.

Location: West Orange, NJ


Drive from NYC:
45 min

More info:

Schunemunk Mountain

Schunemunk Mountain is another fantastic spot to take the kids. The prehistoric beach offers over 25 miles of hiking trails and varied terrain, but it's not suitable for beginners so prepare accordingly. The mountain boasts some spectacular features, like a 3,000 foot pink rock and wild blueberries ripe for picking in late spring and early summer. Some of the (literally) biggest attractions along the mountain trails are the giant megalith boulders at the top of the mountain, but be prepared to do some sweating on your way up — the diverse terrain is beautiful but it can get tough.

Location: Orange County, NY


Drive time from NYC:
1 hr 40 min

More info:

— Yuliya Geikhman


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When it comes to kid-friendly restaurants in Seattle, families have quite a few to choose from. Whether you’re looking for something casual, upscale or just plain good, you’re sure to find a fun place to take the kids on this list. So grab your portable placemats and your best diaper bag games, these nearby kid-friendly Seattle restaurants are where families dig in when they dine out around the Emerald City.

photo: Cafe Flora

Cafe Flora

Cafe Flora is Seattle’s go-to spot for inspired vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free cuisine. Café Flora uses locally sourced ingredients and periodically reinvents their menu to feature seasonal items. Kids go wild for Cafe Flora's classic children’s menu which includes pita pizzas and if you’re enjoying brunch, don’t miss the animal-shaped pancakes and fresh fruit. Grown-up favorites include Oaxaca tacos and Portobello Wellington. There’s also a centrally located play area, crayon cups and step stools in the bathrooms to help the Littles wash their hands, and everyone can appreciate the pretty indoor fountain and the lovely, leafy, sunlight-filled space in general.

Good to know: Cafe Flora also serves brunch on Saturdays from 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. The full brunch menu can be found online. Reservations for six or more can be made by calling 206-325-9100. Psst!  If you're passing through Sea-Tac Airport, be sure to visit Floret located next to the new Delta lounge, between the A and B terminals.

2901 E. Madison St.
Seattle, WA 98112
206-325-9100 (reservations)

Hours: Mon.-Fri., 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m and 5-8 p.m.

Vios Cafe

Vios Café’s Capitol Hill location oozes kid-friendliness with its huge kiddie corner play area (separated by a glass window) and delicious family style Mediterranean menu. Try the fan favorite chicken or lamb souvlaki or choose from a wide array of soups and salads. Kids can indulge in mac and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs or the hummus, pita and fruit plate. Gather around the table with friends and family and fill your bellies with delicious, traditional food.

Good to know: Vios Cafe is self-service during lunch; traditional table service starts in the evening. Reservations are not accepted unless for a private party buyout. Parties of six or more should plan to come at 6 p.m. or earlier. There are two large tables for parties of eight and two bench tables that could be pushed together for a party of 10. 

903 19th Ave. E.
Seattle, WA 98112

Hours: Tues.–Weds., 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Thurs.-Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Closed Sun. & Mon.

photo: courtesy Dué Cucina

Dué Cucina

Every parent knows that pasta is an easy fall back for kids. When it's made from scratch, from locally sourced ingredients, it's that much better. With simple kid-friendly sauces like olive oil, butter and Parmigiano Reggiano, and authentic Italian recipes that have been passed down through the generations, parents of picky eaters can rely on this spot to sate everyone's appetite. This is where the slow food movement meets the fast-casual pacing parents crave.

412 Broadway E.
Seattle, WA

The Village at Totem Lake
12670 120th Ave. N.E.
Kirkland, WA


Hours: Daily, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. in Kirkland, open until 9:30 p.m. in Seattle

photo: Kristina Moy

Uneeda Burger

If burgers are your thing, Uneeda Burger. See how we did that? The self-described "casual, roadside-style burger shack,” is the perfect place for grown-ups and kids to get their burger fix. The all-weather patio blends seamlessly into the dining room; both provide picnic table seating to enjoy hefty burgers and delicious hand-cut fries (and onion rings and fried mushrooms and…). Choose from locally sourced beef, chicken and veggie options. Our favorite specialty burgers include the Sonora (roasted chili relish, jack cheese and cilantro), the Monsieur (black forest ham, gruyere, Dijon-mayo, and truffled shoestring potatoes) and the Caramelized Onions with none other than caramelized onions, watercress and blue cheese. They don’t have a kid’s menu, but Uneeda’s classic no-frills burger is just $5, and kids can also order soup, hot dogs or a grilled cheese. And make sure everyone saves room for dessert: All shakes are hand dipped and made with Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream in flavors like salted caramel, blackberry, strawberry, chocolate and oreo. Psst! The blackberry shake is our fave! A wide variety of microbrews, artisan sodas and wines are also on tap.

Good to know: Bring a sweater or jacket as under cover seats are limited and most dining is done al fresco.

4302 Fremont Ave. N.
Seattle, WA 98103

Hours: Mon.-Sun., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

photo: Peddler Brewing Company

Peddler Brewing Company

Hop on your bikes and cruise down the Burke Gilman Trail to Peddler Brewing Company. Not only does this Ballard brewery have a dozen brews on top, it also has a giant outdoor beer garden where dogs and kids are welcome. While you sip your beer, your kids can explore the play area and perfect their cornhole skills. Grab something from Cycle Dogs, the resident vegan street food truck, or jump next door to Mean Sandwich. Outside food is also welcome. Pick up your favorite takeout or pack a meal (and your kiddo’s favorite snacks) to enjoy.

Good to know: Although this is currently on hold, Peddler Brewing Company gives new parents a break with their Babies in Arms Happy Hours every first Sunday of the month from 3 p.m.-7 p.m., during which anyone holding a baby gets a dollar off a pint. One more reason to bring the whole gang!

1514 N.W. Leary Way
Seattle, WA 98107

Hours: Wed.-Fri., 3 p.m.–9 p.m.; Sat., noon–9 p.m.; Sun., noon-7 p.m. Closed on Mon. & Tues.

photo: Tipsy Cow Burger Bar

Tipsy Cow Burger Bar

This Eastside burger joint features over a dozen tasty burgers to tease your taste buds. Stick with the traditional Tipsy Burger or if you’re feeling a little on the wild side, go Beast Mode or check out The Rockstar. Tipsy Cow supports local ranchers, farmers, brewers, distillers and winemakers, so all food and drink are fresh and local. Not feelin’ like a burger? Check out their awesome salads or snacks. Burger-lovin’ babes will flip for the extensive children’s menu, featuring kid favorites like house-dipped corn dogs, burgers, grilled cheese and chicken strips served with house-made ranch. And don’t forget to round out your meal with a milkshake.

Good to know: Tipsy Cow doesn’t take reservations, but you can check wait times or "get on the list” (with up to six guests) by using the NoWait app.

14111 N.E. Woodinville Duvall Rd.
Woodinville, WA 98072
Hours: Daily, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

16325 Cleveland St
Redmond, WA 98052
Hours: Daily, 11 a.m.–8 p.m


Anthony's Beach Cafe

Fresh Northwest seafood and incredible water views? Yes, please! Anthony’s Beach Café is a casual neighborhood restaurant serving lunch and dinner daily. The menu features fresh seafood (think: fish, oysters, shrimp, chowder…you get the picture) in original, inventive dishes. Kids can indulge in fish and chips, prawns and chips, grilled cheese or pasta. Visit in the spring and summer months and request outdoor seating. While you wait, your kids can play in the giant sandbox, complete with toys to entertain the little ones.

Good to know: There are two Anthony’s restaurants at this location. The Beach Café is more casual, located below Anthony’s Homeport on the Edmonds waterfront, and open for lunch. Anthony’s Homeport is open daily for dinner. 

456 Admiral Way
Edmonds, WA 98020

Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 4-7 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., noon-8 p.m.; Sun., noon-7 p.m.

photo: Diamond Knot Craft Brewing

Diamond Knot Craft Brewing

This Northsound gem caters to all its patrons (affectionately called Knot Heads) young and old. Diamond Knot totally gets kids, giving every child their own paper menu and overflowing cup of crayons, eliminating the age-old fight over the red crayon. And a full kids’ menu provides plenty of options for picky palates. Petite pizzaiolis can make their own two-topping masterpieces, a perfect entrée to keep little hands busy and fill their bellies. Other favorites include homemade mac ‘n’ cheese, chicken fingers and burgers. For parental appetites, unique flavor combinations, generous portions and local ingredients fill the menu. From pizzas to prawns, salads to steak, Diamond Knot’s menu will entice you to come back again (and again) to try something new. Cheers to that!

Good to know: Just feeling like dessert? Stop by the ice cream window, grab a cone and head to neighboring Mukilteo Beach to search for sea critters.

621 Front St.
Mukilteo, WA 98275

Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 3-10 p.m.; Fri., 3-11 p.m.; Sat., noon-11 p.m.; Sun., noon-10 p.m.

photo: Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria

Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria

With multiple locations around Seattle (and take-out pizza you can grab at QFC), there is bound to be a Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria near your neighborhood. Tutta Bella's authentic, wood-fired pizza pies not only taste like a slice of Italian heaven, but are just as kid-friendly as they are delicious. As soon as you’re seated, kids get Wikki Stix to keep their little hands busy while their food is cooking. And the open kitchens, that allow kids to watch as their pizzas are being made, are another great distraction. If your little diners aren’t feelin’ pizza, there is an extensive kid’s menu with favorites like pasta al burro or the Neapolitan meatball.

Good to know: If your sidekick has a sweet tooth, treat him or her to a scoop of gelato or an Italian soda.

Locations: Columbia City, South Lake Union, Wallingford, Bellevue and Issaquah


photo: Beecher's Handmade Cheese

Beecher's Handmade Cheese

It's no secret that mac 'n' cheese is one of the main food groups for kids. If you’re in the city, hit up this Pike Place Market favorite that serves up the best mac ‘n’ cheese in the Seattle area (or arguably, in the world!). Young and old(er) cheese heads go nuts for the ooey, gooey, cheddary goodness at Beecher’s, who make their flagship cheese on premise—while you watch! Order cheese curds, paninis or soup, but save room for a steamy cup of mac. Psst! Stop by the cheese counter on your way out and take home one of Beecher’s award-winning cheeses.

Good to know: Pike Place Market draws throngs of tourists and locals every day, so make sure you go with patience when walking with tiny tots, and leave the double-wide stroller in the car.

1600 Pike Pl.
Seattle, WA 98101

Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

photo: Elliott Bay Brewing Company

Elliott Bay Brewing Company

Beer and babes? A brewpub may not be the first place you’d think to dine with your tot, but this is no ordinary brewery. Here, you’ll find an extensive list of brews and ciders, though Elliott Bay Public House is a family joint at heart. Founders Todd Carten and Brent Norton’s primary goal is serving delicious food and drink in an environment where everyone in the community is welcome. The brewpub boasts a wide-open dining room perfect for people watching and enough noise that nobody will hear your chattering child. Feast on house favorites Luna Weizen Cod Tacos or nosh on the No Doubt Stout BBQ Pork Sandwich. The kids’ menu gets points for variety: opt for a hot dog and fries, salmon teriyaki or fish and chips. We also appreciate Elliott Bay’s commitment to sustainability. The kitchen serves free-range, all-natural beef and chicken and purchases local bread baked with spent grain from the brewing process.

Good to know: Brunch is served at their Lake City Way and Burien locations on Saturdays and Sundays from 9:30 a.m.–2 p.m.

12537 Lake City Way N.E.
Seattle, WA 98125
Hours: Sun.-Wed., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 11 a.m.-midnight

255 S.W. 152nd St.
Burien, WA 98166
Hours: Mon.-Thurs, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 11 a.m.-midnight; Sun. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

4720 California Ave. S.W.
Seattle, WA 98116
Hours: Sun.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat., 11 a.m.-midnight


photo: Portage Bay Cafe

Portage Bay Cafe

Weekend brunch at this family favorite used to mean planning on an hour-plus wait for a table, but now all four Portage Bay locations take reservations. Score! You’ll find a menu full of unique twists on classic favorites. Order any of their pancakes or French toast options and you’ve earned yourself a trip to the breakfast bar: a buffet of seasonal fruits, nuts and all the whipped cream you can eat. Portions are big enough you could likely share with tinier appetites, but the kid’s menu of scrambled eggs, French toast, pancakes and grilled cheese is so good they’ll want their own. Psst! It’s gonna be crowded on weekends in particular, but brunch is served all day at the Roosevelt and Ballard locations, which means diners can go later in the day without needing reservations.

Good to know: If you have early risers who don’t understand the beauty of sleeping in, Portage Bay’s doors open at 8 a.m. View their brunch menu online.

900 N.E. 65th St.
Seattle, WA 98115
Hours: Mon., Thurs. & Fri., 8 a.m.-1 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

4130 Roosevelt Way N.E.
Seattle, WA 98105
Hours: Mon., Thurs. & Fri., 8 a.m.-1 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

2821 N.W. Market
Seattle, WA 98107
Hours: Mon., Thurs. & Fri., 8 a.m.-1 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

391 Terry Ave. N.
Seattle, WA 98109
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-1 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m.


photo: Lunchbox Lab

Lunchbox Lab

With six locations around the Seattle area, Lunchbox Lab is your go-to restaurant to create a burger you can only imagine in your dreams. Create your own or pick from the tried-and-true list of "burger experiments” such as the Burger of the Gods made with bleu cheese crumbles, candied balsamic onions and gorgonzola spread. Each burger comes with a choice of sides including the staple french fries, but feel free to try out the loaded mac du jour, a side dish of mac and cheese that will tantalize your taste buds. Big kids are sure to love the tater tots and grilled cheese or let ’em try their hand at creating their very own burger experiment. Smaller appetites will enjoy classics off the kids’ menu like cheeseburgers, grilled cheese, and classic mac and cheese. Lunchbox Lab also boasts a Shake Lab, a milkshake creation station featuring Snoqualmie Ice Cream. Stick with delicious ice cream and yummy add-ons or make it a boozie shake by adding a test tube of your favorite spirit!

Good to know: Kids eat free on Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to close.

Locations: South Lake Union, Green Lake, Bellevue, Redmond and Gig Harbor. All locations open at 11 a.m.


photo: Frelard Pizza Company

Frelard Pizza Company

Frelard Pizza Co. is absolutely ideal for busy kids (and their parents who want to enjoy some adult conversation). In addition to a spacious outdoor patio for parents to relax on, they have a kids play area, known to regulars as the Kid Pit. The Pit has a cushy, padded floor and giant blackboard wall that kids can chalk up and loads of toys to keep the Littles occupied while you enjoy your pizza pie.

4010 Leary Way N.W.
Seattle, WA 98107

Hours: Sun.-Thurs., 4-9 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 4-10 p.m.

photo: Kristina Moy

The Fisherman's Restaurant & Bar

Located on Pier 57 at Miners Landing (directly under the Seattle Great Wheel) is where you will find The Fisherman's Restaurant & Bar. The Seattle-based family restaurant, which also has California locations, serves an array of fresh-from-the-sea delicacies (think: crab, oysters, mussels, salmon, tuna) and offers some of the best views of Elliott Bay, Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains from the Seattle waterfront. Chef Nick Novello, who joined Miners Landing in 2018, is extremely passionate about seafood and chef-driven sustainability projects. In fact, Novello runs a variety of chef-driven sustainability projects that encourage the public to "get out and support wild fish."

If the skies are bright and sunny, grab a table on the outdoor patio and indulge in fresh shucked local oysters, coconut prawns and Novello's to-die-for Crab Toast (pictured above) served on the restaurant's freshly baked sourdough bread. If you've got a crew of crab lovers, you'll find Alaskan snow crab, Bairdi Alaskan crab, Alaskan king crab and Dungeness crab on the menu. And for the littlest diners, Novello's shrimp mac & cheese, fish & chips and hot crab dip served with chips can't be beat. Just remember to save room for dessert. Novello makes a mean Mud Pie!

Good to know: Pier 57 offers a variety of family activities that can be enjoyed either before or after your meal. Take a ride on the Seattle Great Wheel, soar high above the city on the Wings Over Washington theater attraction and enjoy the Pier's historic carousel, arcade, shops and oddities. Pier 57 is also home to Novello's other popular family restaurant, The Crab Pot Restaurant & Bar. Come hungry and order the restaurant's famous "Royal Crab Feast" which comes with four different kinds of crab (Alaskan Bairdi Alaskan King, Alaskan Dungeness and Snow crab), steamed head-on shrimp, Andouille sausage, red jacketed potatoes and fresh corn on the cob. Poured directly onto the table, it's a meal your kids won't soon forget. 

1301 Alaskan Way S.
Seattle, WA 98101

Hours: Mon.-Sun., noon-8 p.m.

Waterleaf Restaurant and Bar

For families in the South Sound, Waterleaf Restaurant and Bar inside Hotel Interurban, a new boutique property located a stone's throw away from Westfield Southcenter Mall, serves globally inspired comfort food in a casual and comfortable dining setting. The dinner menu is inspired by Asian inspirations, regional faves, bar bites and specialty burgers and sandwiches. Come with your appetite and indulge in the Snake River Farms Wagyu Bacon Burger, Coriander-Crusted Neah Bay Halibut or 12 ounce New York Steak. Just remember to save room dessert...their seasonally inspired cheescake can't be beat! 

Good to know The Happy Hour menu, available Mon.-Sat. from 3 p.m.-6 p.m. and all day Sunday, offers everything from house-made Red Wine Sangria, domestic beers and specialty cocktails, to $3 small plates and popular bar bites like fried mac and cheese, street tacos and Dungeness crab cakes, to a killer Volcano Burger made with Mama Lil’s peppers, pepper jack cheese and a chili glaze. Psst! The restaurant has several big screen TVs playing your favorite sports teams, so if you're looking for a place where you can also cheer on the Hawks, Sounders or Mariners, Waterleaf has you covered. And if you've got a crew of early risers, the restaurant starts serving brunch on Saturday and Sunday mornings at 7 a.m. 

Waterleaf Restaurant and Bar inside Hotel Interurban
223 Andover Park E.
Tukwila, WA 98188

—Abbey McGee & Kristina Moy

feature image: iStock


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Totally Unique State Parks Worth a Visit

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If you need a vacation that’s not a theme park and you want nature, but not all the crowds of the National Parks, we have some great suggestions. Among our top picks for the best state park, you’ll find a ghost town, amazing waterfalls, giant metal sculptures, alligator sightings, warm beaches and breathtaking views. It’s enough to make you want to load up the car and hit the road ASAP. Keep reading to see them all.

Brazos Bend State Park - Needville, TX

Just 45 minutes away from Houston, Brazos Bend State Park is considered by many as a nature lover’s paradise. There are 37 miles of trails (some which are even wheelchair-friendly) including the short half mile Creekfield Lake Nature Trail which is outfitted with various exhibits and touchable bronze sculptures of wildlife, a boardwalk and observation deck. Other trails wind back and forth from the lakes and the hardwood forest and are good for those walking, biking or even horseback riding. You’ll learn about the three ecosystems in the park at the Nature Center and the stars at the George Observatory. Nearby you’ll find the Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historic Site and the George Ranch Historical Park—both worth a trip. You can stay at the park at a campsite, screened shelter or cabin.


Red Fleet State Park - Vernal, UT

Red Fleet State Park is one of the nation’s youngest state parks with some of the world’s oldest “residents.” Opened in 1988, Red Fleet’s 1,963 acres are home to a number of dinosaur tracks which are said to be over 200 million years old. A short 1.5-mile trail will lead you to them, but head's up—the path has a few large hills and dips along the way. It's a little tense, but you’ll be rewarded with great finds along the three-mile loop. The park is a great place to hike, mountain bike or go off-roading. Water-lovers will enjoy the swimming, boating and fishing, and the park rents out canoes, kayaks, pedal boats and paddle boards at reasonable rates. Finally, you’ll want to get your overnight reservation in early to rent out one of the two authentic teepees for just $30 a night. How cool is that?


Amicalola State Park - Dawsonville, GA

It’s no wonder why the Amicalola State Park is a popular spot for weddings—it's beautiful and probably more upscale than what you would normally expect from a state park. There is a lodge on the premises that not only offers a comfortable place to stay but lots of activities as well. Here you can learn how to paddle board, fly fish, or take a guided wilderness hike. You can also try your hand at 3-D archery, brace yourself for the many zip lines, go on a GPS scavenger hunt or check out the nearby Amicalola Falls. You can also camp in one of the 24 wooded campsites available.


Niagara Falls State Park - Niagara Falls, NY

Did you know that Niagara Falls State Park is the country’ oldest? While the spectacular falls are probably enough reason to visit it, you might be surprised by how much else there is to do here. The 400-acre park is surrounded by 15 miles of hiking trails and gardens including the observation tower which is not only your best bet for unobstructed views of the falls but also offers a way to the “Crow’s Nest” and the base of the gorge. While there, you’ll want to allow time to discover the new multimedia experience, “The World Changed Here” located near the Cave of the Winds. If getting drenched is not your thing, the Niagara Scenic Trolley offers a fun and comfortable way to learn the history of the area (and it’s cheap too!).

Other suggestions: Niagara’s Adventure Theaters shows the 30-minute film, Niagara: Legends of Adventure, which tells the tales of men who dared to plunge over the falls, and the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center features a bunch of hands-on displays, a 180-degree multi-screen theater and a rock climbing wall with a few fossils and geological formations trapped inside.


Anza-Borrego Desert State Park - Borrego Springs, CA

We’re pretty sure that the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the coolest park in the country. Smack dab in the middle of the Anza-Borrego Desert, you'll find over 130 giant metal sculptures installed around the Borrego Valley and Borrego Springs. Created by Ricardo Breceda, these sculptures are easy to get to and pose with and allow for numerous photo opps. Some the creatures you’ll find here include a 350-foot long serpent, a scorpion, a grasshopper, a sabertooth tiger and a Colombian mammoth. You’ll also want to take a stroll to the park’s visitor center to check out the exhibits as well as the 15-minute film, A Year in the Desert. Just outside of the visitor center you’ll find the desert garden with its own pupfish pool (where the fish will burrow in the bottom if the weather gets too warm or too cold) and an amazing bouquet of wildflowers. Of course, that is just part of the 600,000 acres of canyons, washes, ridges and peaks that await you through a series of self-guided trails.

Big Bone Lick - Union, KY

Big Bone Lick not only has a funny name, but it also features a most unusual mix of activities. First, it boasts of a visitor’s center that features all new exhibits and displays on paleontology, Ordovician geology, ice age mammals, Native American history, the chronology of science at Big Bone, and ongoing research currently underway at the park. The park is also a great place to view the wild bison every day of the year. Of course, the park is a great place to camp with a swimming pool and playground areas to keep the kids busy, but it is only open from mid-March to Mid-November, so plan accordingly. Other activities to do here include biking, boating, fishing, horseback-riding and even mini golf.


Cape Disappointment State Park - Ilwaco, WA

Your family won’t be disappointed to visit the 2,023-acre Cape Disappointment State Park that sits along the Long Beach Peninsula. Fronted by the Pacific Ocean and looking into the mouth of the Columbia River, you’ll find a mix of freshwater lakes, saltwater marshes and ocean tidelands with lighthouses. Soak in the rich history as you walk in the moccasins of Lewis and Clark at their very own interpretive center located on top of a 200-foot-high cliff. And don’t forget the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. And if you still run out of things to do, there are eight miles of trail worth hiking as well. When the exploring is done, relax by the beach, which is also is a great place to go clam-digging or kite-flying. The campground offers yurts, cabins and historic vacation homes to rent.


Alabaster Caverns State Park - Freedom, OK

The highlight of this 200-acre park is the ¾-mile cavern formed of alabaster, which is the largest natural gypsum cave in the world. Sure, it’s not the world’s largest ball of twine, but it’s still pretty impressive—especially with its new extensive lighting overhaul. Daily guided tours are available. Also, wild caving (or spelunking) the four caves at the park is also pretty popular, and if you are a fan of bats, this is your place. The Alabaster Cavern’s Raptor Roost Trail is a great way to get your heart rate up. The park features 11 RV campsites and a dozen tent sites.


Boston Harbor Islands State Park - Boston, MA

Boston Harbor Islands State Park is not your usual state park. It consists of 17 islands which are part of 34 islands (which some are part of the national park) which are spread out over 50 miles of bays, harbors and rivers (Sound confusing?). Needless to say, there is a lot to see and do here. The top on our list is a visit to Georges Island where you can explore the Civil War-era Fort Warren with its amazing granite archways and the rumored Lady in Black ghost. They also have a popular interactive visitor center. However, the two-hour Lighthouse Cruise sounds good too, with a narrated cruise sailing past three lighthouses including America’s oldest one, Boston Light. With all of that water, there are plenty of opportunities to go fishing, swimming or just beachcombing and lots of places to camp to crash after your day is done.


Fall Creek Falls State Park - Spencer, TN

The crown jewel at Fall Creek Falls State Park is the 256-feet tall waterfall, but it’s not the only thing here to experience. One of Tennessee’s largest state parks (over 26,000 acres), it features cascades, gorges, streams and even more waterfalls. Don’t miss a trip to the 15-mile long Rumbling Falls Cave—ot contains the largest cave room in the eastern U.S. and the second largest in America. The park is known for lots of hands-on activities, including arts and crafts, movies, campfires and live music from time to time not to mention the environmental education center. Other activities include an 18-hole golf course, the Canopy Challenge Course with 74 obstacles, four playgrounds and an Olympic-sized pool. And there is plenty of room to camp here as it contains 222 campsites and 30 rent-able cabins surrounded by 56 miles of walkable trails.

Ecola State Park - Cannon Beach, OR

While there is no overnight camping allowed at Ecola State Park, it still makes a worthwhile stop during an Oregon beach vacation. Wrapping around Tillamook Head between Seaside and Cannon Beach, the park stretches along nine miles of coastline with outstanding views from above and up close tide-pooling down below. The park features an eight-mile segment of the Oregon Coast Trail as well as the two-and-a-half-mile historical and interpretive Clatsop Loop Trail. Be on the lookout for wildlife like deer, elk and eagles. The shores are popular with surfers, little crab hunters and picnic-takers.


Bannack State Park - Bannack, MT

Have you ever wanted to go to a ghost town? Then Bannack State Park is your place with over 60 structures to explore. The small town of Bannack was formed in 1862 when John White discovered gold. It later became a mining town, and by the 1950s it was pretty much abandoned. While visiting this town can be fun any time of the year, it really comes alive during Bannak Days in July when “townspeople” show off their pioneers skills, meals are served in the Hotel Meade, and the occasional gunfight breaks out in the street. Kids can pan for gold in Grasshopper Creek all summer. In September, the town offers a Living History Weekend reliving the events of the Gold Rush era and a month later, you’re invited to take a spooky Ghost Walk. The town also offers two small campgrounds with 32 campsites total.

photo: Va. Dept. of Conservation & Recreation

Natural Tunnel State Park - Duffield, VA

This is pretty incredible: The Natural Tunnel State Park features the tunnel that stretches more than 850 feet and is ten stories high and was dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World” by William Jenning Bryan. Don’t worry, you won’t have to climb down the tunnel. You can take the chairlift! You’ll also find a variety of activities to do here including the new Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Interpretive Center with numerous hands-on exhibits and a library full of books and photographs covering early America through the Civil War. The park has seven walking trails, a swimming pool with a 100-foot-long slide, and places to boat, fish, ride horses and even hunting.


Patagonia Lake State Park - Patagonia, AZ

For a more relaxing vacation, consider visiting Patagonia Lake State Park. You might see whitetail deer or blue herons while enjoying the beach or take a hike along the creek trail to see if you can spot such birds likes the canyon towhee, Inca dove, vermilion flycatcher, black vulture or several types of hummingbirds. The large park offers 105 campsites with picnic tables and a fire-ring/grill, but you might want to spring for one of the air-conditioned cabins with lakefront views. There are seven furnished, three-room cabins—and they look pretty sweet.


Gamble Rogers State Park - Flagler Beach, FL

The 145-acre Gamble Rogers Memorial State Park is named and dedicated to Florida’s own folk singer and storyteller Gamble Rogers. This is a beautiful beachside park great for sandcastle builders. You’ll find pelicans at the beach or opt to kayak down the Intracoastal Waterway to find dolphins and manatees. A must-see is the butterfly garden with a variety of native plants in bloom and several special of butterflies fluttering all around. Finally, this is one campground where you’ll want to get up early and stay up late as the sunrises over the Atlantic Ocean and sunsets over the Intracoastal Waterway are spectacular.


Devil’s Den State Park - Westfort, AR

In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps used native material to build the Devil’s Den State Park’s rustic-style wood and stone structures, and it is one of the few that stands most intact. There is plenty to explore here including the amazing rock dam, the 1.5-mile self-guided trail and the easy quarter-mile CCC Interpretive Trail. There are other trails designed for mountain bikes and horseback riding and the nearby Lake Devil is great for fishing and boating. The campground offers 135 campsites, 17 cabins with kitchens and fireplaces and six camper cabins. There is a pool which is open all summer long and a playground to keep the young ones happy.


Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park - Soudan, MN

The highlight of this park, of course, is the two underground mine tours. Slip on a hard hat and get ready to experience life as a miner during one of two tours now offered. One is a walking drift tour which focuses on exploration and geology, and the other is the Secrets of the Deep Science Tour, which focuses on the various research that occurred in the physics lab and the new research that is happening in the mine. If that all sounds like too much, you can also take a self-guided tour with audio commentary. When you’re not in the dark, the many activities available here include hiking, fishing, boating, and snowmobiling. The park offers 33 campsites and three canoe sites.


—Jeff Totey


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Read next

While 2020 might have been a less-than-ideal year for travel, we’re hoping for the best for 2021 and have loads new properties to share with you. From the highly-anticipated opening of the LEGOLAND® Hotel at LEGOLAND New York Resort to a new Great Wolf Lodge in California to dreamy tropical destinations, this list of new hotels and all-inclusive resorts set to open in 2021 has it all. Get ready to plan your next family vacation!

photo: LEGOLAND New York Resort

LEGOLAND® Hotel at LEGOLAND New York Resort | Hudson Valley, New York

Coming to New York’s Hudson Valley in 2021, the 250-room hotel—the first and only LEGO themed hotel in the northeast—is specially designed for families, with imaginative LEGO features and themed play areas everywhere you look—and all just steps away from the LEGOLAND New York Park! Families can choose from four completely themed rooms (including Pirate, Kingdom, LEGO Friends and LEGO® NINJAGO® themes!) and explore the park’s seven themed lands, over 50 rides, shows and attractions and experience the global debut of the LEGO Factory Adventure Ride (where guests will be transformed into a LEGO Minifigure!). LEGOLAND New York Resort will be the first major theme park to grace the Northeast in over four decades and will be the premier multi-day destination for families. 

Online: LEGOLAND New York Park

Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Riviera Maya | Mexico

Located on the Caribbean side of Mexico, Riviera Maya is a slice of paradise just 20 minutes south of Cancún. Discover white sand beaches perfect for relaxing and warm, clear waters just right for snorkeling. Discover the coolest, most animated luxury resort to come to Mexico! Karisma Hotels & Resorts is excited to introduce you to Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Riviera Maya, opening in 2021. Families will have their ultimate beachfront escape, filled with indulgent luxury for adults, like sensational dining and bars—and unforgettable Nickelodeon experiences for kids like one of the largest water parks in Riviera Maya. The resort opens in June 2021 and you can book now. Read more here


photo: Great Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodge Bay Area | Manteca, CA

The San Francisco Bay Area has been eagerly awaiting the opening of its very own Great Wolf Lodge in Manteca. Currently scheduled to open in March 2021, kids will especially love the themed suites like the Wolf Den suite that comes with a decked out bunk bed room. Great Wolf Lodge guests have unlimited access to the water slides and pools inside the 84-degree water park. Guests are also invited to enjoy free activities like Story Time and Yoga Tails in the Lobby. There are other fun attractions inside the Adventure Park that are available at an additional cost.


AutoCamp Joshua Tree, Zion and Catskill Mountains

AutoCamp will be adding Joshua Tree, Zion, and the Catskill Mountains to its destination portfolio, with slated openings for Fall 2021 and Spring 2022. Established in California with AutoCamp Yosemite National Park and Russian River locations, as well as its first-ever East Coast debut in Cape Cod this spring, the introduction of three new quintessential properties mark an impressive milestone for the brand. All AutoCamp properties are designed with personal space in mind and offer a naturally safe and socially-distant experience aimed to help guests escape the crowds and bring them closer to nature.


Chatwal Lodge, The Catskills | Bethel, NY

Bringing a Blackberry Farm type experience to the Catskills, The Chatwal Lodge is located at The Chapin Estate, a 2,500-acre gated residential community. Accommodations include 10 suites, with private patios overlooking the 1,000-acre Toronto Reservoir Lake; a 1,000-sq.ft.  treehouse that rises 25 feet off the ground; and an 850-sq.ft. glam tent. Activities range from fly fishing in the on-property trout stream and kayaking with a to-go picnic, to private music classes at the Lodge and priority access to exhibitions at Bethel Center of Performing Arts.


The George | Napa, CA

Coming in early 2021, The George is a meticulously restored Victorian home turned luxury boutique inn featuring nine guest rooms, situated in downtown Napa’s picturesque old town neighborhood. This property is nestled away but within walking distance to everything downtown has to offer; from exclusive wine tasting rooms, restaurants, Uptown Theater, Napa Valley Opera House, Oxbow Market, and much more.


Paradero Todos Santos | Baja California Sur, Mexico

One hour away from San José del Cabo Airport, Todos Santos has a barefoot, bohemian vibe and is a haven for surfers and outdoor enthusiasts. Paradero Todos Santos is an 80 percent landscape, 20 percent construction project. 35 suites are situated within the Le Mesa farming community and an agricultural area comprising more than a dozen family-owned farms. Details with a sense of place include: on-site 100,000-sq.ft. botanical garden with 60 endemic species; artisan-made furniture from Mexico; suspended ‘star nets’ that offer high-altitude views of the surrounding farmlands, mountains and ocean; below-ground spa that is inspired by a secret watering hole in Todos Santos; an open-fire kitchen with a traditional Oaxacan clay oven.


Cambria Hotel Napa Valley | Napa, CA

Cambria Hotel Napa Valley, conveniently located within walking distance of downtown Napa, will open this summer featuring an outdoor pool with a sun deck and poolside bar, fitness center, bicycle rentals, and a full-service restaurant and bar serving locally inspired dishes and regional craft beers.


Margaritaville Resort Times Square | New York, NY

Where the island meets the city! Opening March 2021, the $300 million Margaritaville Resort Times Square marries island-inspired casual design with luxurious comfort, instantly transporting guests and locals to the iconic Margaritaville state of mind. Located in Times Square at 560 Seventh Avenue, blocks away from the bright lights of the entertainment district and NYC’s most popular attractions, the 234-room, 29-story property will boast five signature food and beverage concepts, including Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant, a rooftop LandShark Bar & Grill, 5 o’Clock Somewhere Bar, Tiki Bar and an all-new concept, Chill Bar. Additional amenities include year-round outdoor heated pool, upscale retail shopping, concierge, valet parking, laundry/valet service and fitness center. 


The Mayfair Townhouse | Mayfair, London

Set on the iconic Half Moon Street—the setting of Oscar Wilde’s most famous play, The Importance of Being Earnest—the property brings to life a unique design that features thoughtfully curated guestroom and suites that deliver the amenities of a high end hotel without all the frills. Without a traditional restaurant, The Dandy Bar will soon be London’s newest ‘must-go’ cocktail / lounge bar offering a refuge from the bustling streets of Mayfair. The property will also have a unique concierge program, Les Clefs d’Or (“the golden keys”), and an art program curated by leading art specialist Minda Dowling. 


photo: Jeremy Sexton

Colton House Hotel | Austin, TX

The Colton House Hotel brings a brand new hotel category and experience to Austin’s trendy South Congress district. The 80-suite luxury property combines residential comforts with upscale boutique hotel amenities and staff, inviting guests to “wander home” in a modern, yet authentic Texas setting. Drawing inspiration from its distinctive surroundings, the hotel showcases the captivating spirit of the Lone Star State and pays due respect to Texas’s rich history with thoughtful features throughout. 


Pendry West Hollywood | Los Angeles, CA

Located at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Olive Drive in the heart of the iconic Sunset Strip, Pendry West Hollywood will feature 149 luxury guest rooms and 40 Pendry Residences by Montage Hotels & Resorts. With interiors done by award-winning international interior designer Martin Brudnizki, guests and residence owners will have exclusive access to hotel amenities, including multiple food and beverage concepts driven by world-renowned Chef Wolfgang Puck, a rooftop pool and bar, a multi-purpose live entertainment venue, a screening room, bowling alley, Spa Pendry and state-of-the-art fitness center, as well as a curated art collection. 


photo: Palacio Provincial

Palacio Provincial | San Juan, Puerto Rico

Located in the heart of Old San Juan, the first new hotel in decades is set to open January 2021. Flawlessly combining past and present, Palacio Provincial is a new posh property that offers travelers an ultra-stylish home base for discovering the rich traditions of Old San Juan. The hotel boasts 43 guest rooms and suites with unparalleled views of Old San Juan and San Juan Bay. Hotel guests can soak up the Puerto Rican sunshine with lite bites and hand-crafted cocktails on the property’s rooftop pool and terrace space.  


Hotel Drover | Fort Worth, TX

A place where simple pleasures and one-of-a-kind experiences blend effortlessly to become special memories, Hotel Drover will bring 200 rustic-luxe rooms and suites—from cozy guests rooms, oversized soaking tubs, and fireplace suites to modern bunkhouse rooms and vintage-inspired retreats. The signature eatery, 97 West Kitchen & Bar, will feature a menu of contemporary Texas fare, elevated ranch classics and reimagined Southern comfort foods. Additionally, the property will boast two “one-of-a-kind” retail shops—Lucchese Custom Collection, a true bespoke experience offering custom and made-to-fit items and Little White Lies, a beautiful, hand-curated artisan shop with a decidedly feminine yet rustic flare.  


Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas | San Diego, CA

Located in one of Southern California’s most iconic coastal towns, Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas will be a crafted luxury resort, delivering authentic and bespoke experiences in a world-class beachfront setting. Defining barefoot luxury, Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas is slated to open in early 2021 and will feature 130 coastal and garden view rooms and suites, using innovative design to showcase the breathtaking coastal views and natural elements of the coastline featuring wood, stone, and sophisticated lines resulting in a stylish yet artisanal understated environment. 


Mango House Seychelles, LXR Hotels & Resorts | Mahè, Seychelles

An ultra-private escape in a destination with unrivaled beauty, Mango House Seychelles, LXR Hotels & Resorts will sit on the pristine beachfront in the southern part of Mahè. The highly-exclusive and intimate resort will be a tropical oasis of tranquility and relaxation, surrounded by clear waters and white sand beaches. With only 41 guest rooms, including 9 suites, the luxury resort will also feature five world-class culinary venues, three pool areas, including an infinity pool, and an elevated wellness program with standout treatment rooms overlooking the glittering Indian Ocean. 


The Westin Anaheim Resort | Anaheim, CA

Situated in the heart of the Anaheim Resort District, The Westin Anaheim Resort is a relaxing haven of wellness and renewal while being steps away from some of Southern California’s biggest and most popular attractions including Disneyland Resort, Angel Stadium of Anaheim, the Honda Center and the Anaheim Convention Center. A landmark hotel occupying eight acres, The Westin Anaheim Resort will boast 618 guest rooms and suites, signature state-of-the-art WestinWORKOUT Fitness Center, outdoor pool, and multiple signature food and beverage outlets including Anaheim’s only exclusive rooftop bar which gives guests incredible panoramic views and first row seats—without the crowds—to Disneyland’s nightly fireworks.


Pendry Chicago | Chicago, IL

Pendry Chicago sits at the epicenter of business and leisure in Chicago in the heart of The Loop, only steps from the River and in close proximity to  The Magnificent Mile and Millennium Park. Pendry Chicago will be both a restoration and reinvigoration of the 1920s-era Carbide & Carbon building, built in the shape of a vintage green Champagne bottle and said to be inspired as a response to Prohibition. Pendry Hotels & Resorts will bring careful attention to detail and thoughtful elevations in design by the award-winning Alessandro Munge and Studio Munge; new food and beverage, programming and guest experiences—a re-imagination that will deliver a luxe, 364-room and suite property. 


photo: Bailey Made

Under Canvas Lake Powell - Grand Staircase | Big Water, UT

Opening April 2021, Under Canvas Lake Powell-Grand Staircase offers 50 safari-style canvas accommodation tents on elevated decks with private ensuite bathrooms within, perched on the edge of Canyon Rim Plateau with views from the lake to its namesake, Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument. The camp will center around a lobby lounge tent where guests can enjoy board games, a book, Western inspired cuisine, retail offerings and generally soak up the community vibe before or after a day of outdoor adventure. The camp sits on 220 acres of beautiful land colored with hues of orange, red, and yellow for as far as the eye can see and is conveniently located near top attractions such as Antelope Canyon and Lone Rock Beach at Lake Powell. 


The Cloudveil, an Autograph Collection hotel | Jackson Hole, WY

Set to open spring 2021 as the only hotel on Jackson’s historic Town Square, The Cloudveil, an Autograph Collection hotel will draw upon the town’s signature Western style, while bringing understated luxury and a refined, yet relaxed sensibility to the valley. Located at the gateway to the Grand Teton National Park, one hour south of Yellowstone National Park, and in the center of the town’s boutique shops, restaurants, galleries, and more, The Cloudveil aims to capture a true sense of place and offer a modern sanctuary inspired by the organic elements of its locale. The property will boast 100 guest rooms and suites; a European bistro-style restaurant and bar; an expansive rooftop terrace overlooking Jackson’s Town Square and Snow King Mountain; a tranquil outdoor pool and garden; a state-of-the-art fitness center; and 7,500 square feet of indoor-outdoor meeting and event space featuring fireplaces, fire pits, and spectacular views, all designed with the destination in mind.


photo: Bailey Made

Under Canvas Acadia | Acadia, Maine

Opening May 2021, Under Canvas Acadia offers 63 safari-style canvas accommodation tents on elevated decks with private ensuite bathrooms within, set on 100 acres with more than 1,200 feet of untouched Maine coastline and a short 35-minute drive to the acclaimed Cadillac Mountain Trail and more broadly, Acadia National Park. Under Canvas’s first Northeast location immerses guests in the beauty and lush New England environment of emerald green spruce and fir tree forests, sweeping lawns that reach to Union River Bay, and breathtaking views of Acadia’s famed mountainous landscape including Cadillac Mountain. A waterfront lobby tent will open out to an expansive communal dining and gathering space. 


Pendry Manhattan West | New York, New York

Pendry Manhattan West will feature 164 guestrooms including 30 suites; a signature restaurant; a lounge and vibrant open-air terrace bar; and meeting and event space. A vibrant urban plaza with landscaped gardens and dynamic street-front retail will bring together high-end, experiential shops and innovative culinary concepts, all enlivened with public art and events by Arts Brookfield, Brookfield’s award-winning arts and entertainment program. The 250,000 square feet of retail at Manhattan West will be anchored by Peloton, which is creating “Peloton Studios,” a 35,000-square-foot state-of-the-art flagship location, and Whole Foods, which is creating a 60,000-square-foot culinary destination.


Azure Palm Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa | Desert Hot Springs, CA

Azure Palm Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa Oasis, opening in Jan. 2021, offers a unique desert spa experience where guests can soak in healing mineral springs surrounded by the San Jacinto Mountains. The resort will offer 40 overnight accommodations, ranging from spa suites with private mineral spring tubs to balcony view rooms facing the stunning western mountainscape. 


Stanly Ranch, Auberge Resorts Collection | Napa Valley, CA

Stanly Ranch, Auberge Resorts Collection is a new luxury resort where winery estate tradition is perfectly blending with “new Napa” experiences. Scheduled to open in summer 2021, the resort will celebrate the heritage of the Napa Valley with architecture, cuisine and guest experiences inspired by the land. Shaped by its Napa Valley setting, the resort will have an overarching agricultural theme expressed through gardens and orchards, contemporary architecture inspired by the valley’s early farmstead buildings, environmentally minded infrastructure and engaging programs that invite guest participation in the cultivation and celebration of food and wine. The Stanly Ranch Winery will make the most of the Carneros district’s ideal climate and cooling breezes that contribute to the regions acclaimed Pinot Noir and Chardonnay varietals. 


Bishop's Lodge, Auberge Resorts Collection | Santa Fe, NM

Situated on 317 secluded acres bordering Santa Fe National Forest, Bishop’s Lodge, Auberge Resorts Collection is a soulful retreat steeped in heritage scheduled to open in Spring 2021. This iconic Santa Fe landmark was originally the home of Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy and was once the Pulitzer family’s private residence. With distinctive Southwestern heritage, nature-driven adventures and ancient healing arts, Bishop’s Lodge will boast 100 guestrooms and suites with amenities including outdoor gardens and event areas, a Turquesa Healing Arts Studio, awe-inspiring art gallery, fitness center, outdoor swimming pool, on-site trout habitat, horse stables and a unique 12-bedroom bunkhouse for families, multi-generational families and friends getaways. 


Montage Healdsburg | Healdsburg, CA

Nestled among 258 acres of rolling vineyards and oak tree groves, the ultra-luxury retreat Montage Healdsburg will debut December 12, 2020 as Montage’s first Northern California resort. The property will feature world-class amenities including an 11,500-square-foot spa, a zero-edge resort pool, three signature dining options inspired by the region’s culinary heritage and a wealth of experiences in addition to seamless access to Sonoma wine country’s renowned wineries and outdoor pursuits. Stay in one of the 130 bungalow-style guest rooms featuring an outdoor balcony or deck, or stay in The Guest House, the resort’s luxurious three-bedroom suite with outdoor hot tub. 


photo: Azeez Bakare Studios

The Industrialist, Autograph Collection | Pittsburgh, PA

A revival of Pittsburgh’s industrial revolution in a modern-day interpretation for the creative class, The Industrialist Hotel is an 18-story historic landmark centrally located in the heart of the Golden Triangle district in the old Arrott Building. The hotel presents 124 appointed guest rooms including 28 stylish and spacious suites, a restaurant and lounge serving imaginative cocktails and American fare, and private venue spaces for social gatherings. The hotel’s 1902-era architectural details complement reimagined interiors inspired by Pittsburgh’s famous history as a steel capital and are rooted in elements of smoke and molten metal. All guest rooms feature an open floor plan and luxurious suites come with a sofa bed or separate living area. 


Hyatt Place Tampa and Hyatt House Tampa | Tampa, FL

The first dual-branded Hyatt Place and Hyatt House in Tampa is slated to open in February 2021. The Hyatt Place and Hyatt House Tampa infuses modern chic designs with Tampa’s rich Latin History. Boasting a combined 345 luxurious guestrooms, Hyatt Place and Hyatt House Tampa is in the heart of downtown and just steps away from world class entertainment and major corporate offices. Enjoy dashing city views from the outdoor swimming pool located on the 5th floor deck or start your day with a workout session on one of the hotel’s Peloton bikes in the fitness center. 

Online: and

Yonder Escalante | Escalante, UT

Yonder Escalante is a new, outdoor lodging and camping experience set within Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and located adjacent to the scenic Highway 12. Founded by father-son duo, Charles Tate and James Tate, Yonder Escalante aims to bridge the gap between time-honored camping traditions and a contemporary hospitality setting amid the stunning backdrop of the southern Utah desert. The 20-acre property affords travelers an immersive stay in nature and presents rustic yet refined accommodations in 10 Airstream Trailers, 22 Modern Cabins and 67 Pull-In RV Sites. The property design pays homage to the surrounding environment and is comprised of an open-air Clubhouse and Bathhouse, General Store, Resort-Style Pool and Hot Tub, Bonfire Pits, “Drive-In” Movie Theater, and 2,000 square feet of indoor-outdoor venue space. 


Saba Rock Resort | British Virgin Islands

Located in North Sound of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands, Saba Rock is an iconic island paradise offering a laid-back, Caribbean-casual atmosphere. Made famous by diving pioneer Herbert “Bert” Kilbride, in the 1960’s, the bare-foot casual cay is an ideal spot for boaters, sailors and watersport enthusiasts in search of a private island escape. Alongside the crystal waters of the British Virgin Islands, guests can enjoy a variety of aquatic offerings including snorkeling, diving, kitesurfing, boating and more. The resort boasts nine rooms and suites, restaurant, lounge and bar, dive and retail shop. Saba Rock is set to open Early 2021 following a complete reconstruction after the devastation by Hurricane Irma in 2017.


Paradisus Playa Mujeres | Cancun, Mexico

Inspired by Mexican design and architecture, this luxury all-inclusive resort straddles the beach and lush jungle in its own self-contained oasis. Home to 498 rooms with beautiful views of the tropical gardens and picturesque beaches, each detail is thoughtfully considered to complement the natural beauty and topography of the land. Guests can enjoy exclusive access to a private marina, where they can sail the Caribbean Sea whilst soaking up unforgettable views. The resort also boasts 3 pools, with a water park for aquatic activities for all ages and 10 dining concepts. 


Fairmont Century Plaza | Los Angeles, CA

The iconic Fairmont Century Plaza will emerge as a fully reimagined landmark for the city of Los Angeles (after nearly 5 years of being closed). Formerly known as Century Plaza Hotel, the Fairmont Century Plaza will feature 400 luxury guest rooms, 63 private residences, and nearly 24,000 square feet of private event space.

Fairmont Spa Century Plaza will be a 14,000 square-foot showpiece, with state-of-the-art facilities, nine treatment rooms, experiential showers, sanarium, Himalayan salt room, aromatherapy steam room, and hammam. The spa will be home to world-renowned treatment concepts, Los Angeles-exclusive beauty and wellness partnerships, and innovative guest experiences.


photo: Thompson San Antonio

Thompson San Antonio | San Antonio, TX

Situated in a luxury mixed-use development, The Arts Residences, on the banks of the San Antonio River, Thompson San Antonio is expected to redefine the city’s skyline and bring modern sophistication to the Texas Hill Country when it opens on the celebrated River Walk. City and Hill Country views will be a hallmark of the new hotel’s 162 guestrooms, including 33 suites including a penthouse suite designed for entertaining. Thompson San Antonio’s captivating public spaces will include a signature restaurant helmed by one of San Antonio’s most celebrated chef’s, a soaring rooftop bar inspired by the Greek goddess of the moon, an expansive pool deck with a bar and cabanas, a full-service spa, and 10,000 square feet of meeting and event space. 


Sunset Resorts | Montego Bay, Jamaica

Sunset Beach Resort, Spa & Waterpark and Oasis at Sunset are set to reopen this winter. Sunset Beach Resort, Waterpark & Spa offers sun-soaked fun for everyone. This family-friendly, all-inclusive beachfront resort is located just four miles from Sangster International Airport (MBJ) in Montego Bay. Boasting two towers, each with 149 spacious guest rooms, the resort features a waterpark, spa, six restaurants and four bars. Oasis at Sunset is a more intimate resort that offers a chic and sophisticated all-inclusive getaway with access to the fun offered at neighboring Sunset Beach Resort, Spa & Waterpark. Guests of Oasis at Sunset will enjoy round-trip airport transfers, a dedicated concierge and three exclusive restaurants and bars.

Online: &

Hotel Citrine | Palo Alto, CA

Opening early 2021, Hotel Citrine, Tribute Portfolio, is part of a Marriott branded complex of new hotels coming to Palo Alto, California.  This clean, playful lifestyle hotel features 150 guest rooms and suites designed by award-winning Southern California interior design firm, Beleco and shares a tree lined driveway and services with a new AC Hotel by Marriott.   Conscious leisure and business travelers will enjoy Wild Onion Bistro & Bar, electric bicycles, a pristine pool and access to the AC Lounge & Kitchen. 


Delta Hotels Virginia Beach Bayfront Suites | Virginia Beach, VA

Delta Hotels Virginia Beach Bayfront Suites, opening in January 2021, will be the only beachfront hotel on the Chesapeake Bay with its own private beach. The hotel will feature 295 spacious one- and two-bedroom suites, simple and sleek design, and amenities such as an outdoor pool and lounge, kayak and bike rentals, and a 24-7 ultra-modern fitness center. The hotel’s signature restaurant, Tin Cup Kitchen + Oyster Bar, will offer a robust oyster program, coastal cuisine, and expansive outdoor patio with views of the Bay. 


Humaniti Hotel Montreal, Autograph Collection | Montreal, Quebec

The brand new Humaniti Hotel Montréal will be Quebec's first Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel. Ideally located in downtown Montréal, the property and boasts audacious architecture and unique interior spaces. The hotel will feature h3 Restaurant, Terrace and Lounge where guests and locals alike can enjoy evolved local cuisine, a unique wine program and avant-garde mixology. 


The Pearle Hotel & Spa, Autograph Collection | Burlington, Ontario

The elegant Pearle Hotel and Spa, overlooks the Burlington waterfront and features five elegant event spaces with Lake Ontario as the backdrop, a spa with a traditional Hammam sauna, and signature waterfront restaurant, Isabelle, which prides itself on genuine and thoughtful experiences created through extraordinary cuisine and an inspired setting.


W Toronto | Toronto, Ontario

Say hello to Toronto’s newest and most sought-after hotel, an urban oasis of culture and style. The property will boast, a dazzling hotel rooftop bar and restaurant, FIT® gym, and ground-floor coffeehouse and restaurant. The 9-story, 255-room property is centrally located near iconic galleries, sophisticated shopping, world-class dining and electric nightlife.


Hilton Aventura Miami | Aventura, Florida

The new Hilton Aventura Miami will expand luxury lifestyle within the Aventura area, opening its doors January 20, 2021. With 208 guest rooms, multiple dining concepts including MuseBar and Gala, both with elevated views of Aventura, Hilton Aventura Miami is slated to be a standout destination for leisure and business travelers alike. Other highlights include an eighth floor yoga studio, elevated pool deck, and Executive Lounge with premium perks such as breakfast options, coffee, and assorted snacks and beverages. 


Canyon Madness Ranch | Roy, NM

Far removed from big city lights, Canyon Madness Ranch announces the launch of a luxury ranch set on 14,000 acres of outdoor adventure paradise amongst the geographic majesty of northeastern New Mexico. Opening to guests for the first time in April 2021, the ranch provides thrilling equestrian pursuits and an incredible range of wilderness activities, from archery to hiking to river kayaking and more.

An intimate property welcoming just sixteen guests, Canyon Madness Ranch’s extensive land holdings encompass Enciero Canyon, a box-canyon with seas of red clay interrupted by giant twenty-foot deep crevices. Views look out to the awe-inspiring red sandstone cliffs of the Canadian River Canyon. Mixing the high excitement of adventurous outdoor recreations with the comfort of luxury accommodations and stunning, uninterrupted, and pristine natural beauty, Canyon Madness Ranch is truly a playground for all.


AC Hotel Orlando Downtown | Orlando, FL

AC Hotel Orlando Downtown is slated to open its doors on January 12, 2021 as the area’s first lifestyle hotel. More than just Disney-adjacent, Orlando has trendy bars and cheerful eateries, and AC Orlando is in the center of it all in the new SunTrust Plaza building. The hotel expertly combines the next-gen style of AC Hotels with the under-the-radar rhythm of downtown Orlando. The rooms feature sleek furnishings, open floor plans and a neutral color palette for an inviting respite from city life. SkyBar, the property’s elevated bar experience, offers a lively cocktail program and light bites that are sure to satisfy while guests enjoy unrivaled panoramic views of downtown Orlando. 


Hyatt Centric Beale Street Memphis | Memphis, TN

The only hotel situated on the iconic Beale Street, Hyatt Centric Beale Street Memphis will be a stone’s throw away from the culture and nightlife that fills one of the most famous streets in America. Opening March 2021, the 227-room full-service hotel will boast unparalleled views of the city and Mississippi River with upscale features including an expansive pool deck, private cabanas, a modern lobby lounge serving curated cocktails, and Beck & Call, a roof top whiskey bar that will impress even the most discerning whiskey lover. 


photo: sbe

sbe, SLS Cancun Hotels & Residences | Cancun, Mexico

Renowned international hospitality group sbe will be expanding its SLS hotel portfolio with the debut of a new hotel in an entirely new global destination for the brand—Cancun, Mexico. SLS Cancun will debut in early 2021 and will feature 45 rooms with breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea, elegant Italian-designed interiors by Piero Lissoni, premiere beachfront access and imaginative Argentinian fusion cuisine by Chef Jose Icardi


photo: Cllub Med

Club Med Seychelles | Republic of Seychelles

The private island of Sainte Anne in the Republic of Seychelles will see their very first resort in February 2021.Nestled along the preserved Marine National Park, Club Med Seychelles will be the newest Exclusive Collection (5-star) resort from Club Med, the pioneer of the all-inclusive concept, with luxurious accommodations matched with high-touch, personalized service as guests explore the virtually untouched destination through glass-bottomed kayak rides, snorkeling experiences, and locally-inspired cuisine. The eco-certified resort will also feature a wide range of wellness treatments using products inspired by the native flora and will also offer nature conservation experiences, like marine conservation and turtle nesting.


Casa di Langa | Piedmont, Italy

Nestled in northern Italy’s Piedmont region, home to some of the world’s finest wines and white truffles, Casa di Langa is a sustainable luxury retreat that sits next to the vineyard landscapes of Le Langhe, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The 39-room hotel combines traditional Piedmontese design, reflected in the soft, muted colors of the surrounding natural environment, with sustainable practices such as a commitment to carbon neutrality and the use of 100% recycled water for irrigation. Guests can enjoy farm-to-table cuisine with a modern twist at the signature Fàula Ristorante, and take advantage of a wide range of immersive experiences including cooking classes, workshops at the on-property wine academy, truffle hunting, and art tours.


The Londoner | London, United Kingdom

Set in the buzzy Leicester Square, The Londoner has been dubbed the world’s first “super boutique hotel.” Offering a multifaceted experience and six subterranean levels, the hotel extends 350 guestrooms, including 35 suites and a tower penthouse with cityscape views, all complete with curated fine artworks. Other highlights include six restaurants and lounges, rooftop bar with a fire pit, underground spa and swimming pool and a two-screen cinema. The hotel is set to be one of the greenest hotels in the United Kingdom and will be employing pioneering methods of sustainable luxury.


The Wall Street Hotel | New York, NY

Located along lower Manhattan’s famed Wall Street and housed in the historic Tontine Building that originated as a coffee house in 1874, The Wall Street Hotel is a sleek retreat with 180 spacious rooms and suites. Following a day of sightseeing, guests can enjoy international cuisine in the JF Restaurant, led by Michelin-starred Chef John Fraser, or relax in the all-day lounge and bar. The hotel will also fuel guest exploration of The Big Apple by offering complimentary use of Electric Scooters and Vélosophy Original Comfort Bikes, in addition to an array of in-room spa treatments from Zeel Spa for post-adventure relaxation.


Andaz Bali | Indonesia

Inspired by the contemporary Balinese village where the property is located, the resort will be surrounded by a natural Balinese garden and situated in the heart of Sanur, known for its local charm and great beaches.


El Capitan, a Joie de Vivre Hotel | Merced, CA

On Merced’s Main Street in a building with ties to the town’s first railroad depot, guests will enjoy this hotel’s proximity to some of the San Joaquin Valley’s best nature offerings, including the Merced National Wildlife Refuge, Yosemite National Park and more.


Hyatt Centric 39th & 5th New York | New York, NY

This 162-room boutique hotel will be situated steps away from the Empire State Building, Bryant Park, Grand Central Terminal and the famed marble entrance of the New York Public Library. Inside, guests will enjoy playful details and sophisticated furnishings that capture the spirit of NYC, and a rooftop bar and lounge with breathtaking views of the New York skyline.


Mission Pacific Hotel, a Joie de Vivre Hotel | Oceanside, CA

Guests at this 161-room boutique hotel will be encouraged to slow down and immerse themselves in local food, culture and activities, including surf lessons and yoga offered by the property. The Mission Pacific Hotel will be situated adjacent to The Seabird Resort, a new Destination Hotel, collectively spanning 700 feet of uninterrupted beach access.


The Seabird Resort, a Destination Hotel | Oceanside, CA

The Seabird Resort will feature 226 guest rooms and suites, a full-service spa & fitness center and a 9,000-square-foot ocean-facing pool deck. The property’s oceanview lobby living room bar and lounge will be perfect for taking in sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. The Seabird Resort will be located directly adjacent to the new Mission Pacific Hotel, a Joie de Vivre Hotel.


The Shay, a Destination Hotel | Los Angeles, CA

The Shay’s 148 contemporary guestrooms will feature creative, loft-like design to fulfill the needs of today’s work-from-anywhere travelers, keeping guests connected to their surroundings.


—Kate Loweth


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Sure, you can head to a tropical location and drink fizzy things at a swim-up bar—not that there’s anything wrong with that—but if your family is looking for something a little more unique, adventurous and luxurious than a cookie cutter resort stay, we found your happy place. From daring knights to a tale of wizardry to luscious rooms and a brand new spa, read on to find out why a Kilkea Castle vacation is just what the family needs.

photo: Amber Guetebier

Bathe Yourself in Irish History

Established in 1180, Kilkea Castle was a defensive stronghold through the 1800s. The five-foot thick walls and guardsman tower with windows for the archers are just some of the evidence of the castle's history. One of the longest running owners were the Fitzgerald family, who owned many estates throughout Ireland, it remained in that family until the 1960s, when the property became a hotel but fell into ruin. Lovingly restored by the Cashman family, Kilkea is the perfect blend of history, luxury and legend. 

photo: Amber Guetebier

And Mystery

Kilkea Castle's logo features a monkey and the story behind the significance of this primate is as charming as the castle itself. Heir to the castle and estate, the Wizard Earl is said to have been rescued from a terrible fire at a neighboring castle by a monkey that belonged to the court magician. Although considered blessed as a child because of this, the family was under threat of the English, and after his father and brother were killed the young Wizard Earl was sent away to Italy (in an attempt to protect him). There, he studied with the famous Medici family and is said to have learned alchemy, astrology and other mystical arts. His reputation includes conjuring up the river, snakes and more. His tower—where he conducted his magic in secret—is off limits to guests but a wander will allow you a good look at it and the tiny door just the right size for a monkey. 

Tip: Ask at the desk, and the bar, and the clubhouse or 1180 and see who tells the best version of this marvelous story. We liked Andrew at 1180s lively retelling, especially! 

photo: Amber Guetebier

Sleep Like a Royal

We recommend requesting a stay in the castle itself, which has 11 guest rooms, or stay in one of the 30 historic carriage rooms, also connected to the main rooms of the castle. You'll also find on the 180-acre estate more modern cottages, many of which are self-catering with multiple bedrooms, perfect for larger families or multi-generations traveling together. 

Tip: You can request in advance a cot (meaning a small crib or Pack n' Play) or a campbed (which is what we think of as a cot bed in the US) for a room after making your reservation. This means you can stay in the more historic rooms with a setup for your kiddo. Most of the castle rooms are more than ample for this, but if you want a separate room from the kids you'll want to go with the cottages. 

photo: Amber Guetebier

Revisit Family Meals

Kilkea Castle hired renowned Irish chef David McCain (of Adare Manor) who transformed the castle's menus to featured exquisite but not pretentious food that tastes every bit as good as it looks, owing in part to his attention to detail and zest for freshness. Be sure and check out what he's growing in the kitchen garden on the castle grounds. 

photo: Amber Guetebier

The high-end (but still kid-welcoming) fine dining at 1180 is a feast fit for the sophisticated and the finicky alike. That kitchen garden we mentioned? You'll find those ingredients on your plate along with locally sourced meats, vegetables and more. 

You'll also delight in daily breakfast service complete with local eggs, made-to-order waffles, an array of cereals and baked goods, fresh juice and delicious Irish cheeses.

You'll find nightly fine dining at 1180, or opt for the Club House Bistro and Hermione's, located a short walk from the main castle, for excellent food in a more casual atmosphere. 

photo: Amber Guetebier

Indulge at High Tea

Treat yourselves to a proper tea service, held in the Drawing Room every day. With classic (and magnificent) scones, tea sandwiches, baked treats that rival a French patisserie's best (think miniature lemon meringue tarts) and service that makes you feel like you belong among the velvet couches and sparkling chandeliers. 

photo: Amber Guetebier

Get Lost on the Grounds

Remember how we mentioned the estate is 180 acres (and growing)? While much of that is dedicate to a renowned golf course, you'll find plenty to explore on foot. Amble through the hedges, relax on the lawn, take a jog down the tree canopied main road and more. At the time of this writing, the owners had acquired an additional 30 acres of forested land with the intent to create more wandering paths for families. 

photo: Amber Guetebier

And Find a Secret Garden

Around every corner you'll find a breathtaking scene, including babbling brooks and weeping willows. Bring your sketchbook. This is the kind of place that leaves lasting impressions and inspiration. 

photo: Kilkea Castle

Experience Bliss in the Spa

Sneak away from the main castle and walk into an oasis that will exceed any expectations. Copper-hewn roofs, soundproof treatment rooms and a brand-new, state-of-the-art hydrotherapy room where you can whirl and swirl your cares away. The spa is for grownups only, but they do offer manicures and pedicures for guests under 18 in the Beauty Lounge.

Insiders Tip: They offer special treatments for expectant and nursing moms. Just ask! 

photo: Kilkea Castle

Golf, Tennis & Other Pursuits

If you've always wanted to golf in the shadow of a 12th century castle, Kilkea has got you. The 18-hole, Parkland Course is a favorite of locals who join as members, but guests can enjoy a round (or two) themselves. If you didn't pack your clubs, fear not: you can rent clubs starting at just 20 euros. The par 70 course includes hazards like the River Griese and two lakes. 

Ask at the front desk for complimentary tennis rackets, and play a game just a short distance from the castle gardens. In addition, archery, falconry and equestrian pursuits can be arranged through the front desk. These are currently off-site, just a short drive (about 20 minutes) away or can be arranged on site for groups. 

photo: Amber Guetebier

When to Visit

Ireland has consistent weather year round. Autumn brings beautiful colors in the garden, at Christmas time the Castle is lavishly decorated, and in the spring and summer you'll find an explosion of color against the verdant grounds. There's really no bad time to visit Ireland or Kilkea Castle.


Kilkea Castle.
Co. Kildare, Ireland

—Amber Guetebier

Editor’s note: portions of this trip were hosted by Kilkea Castle,  but all opinions here are expressly the author’s own. 


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15 Great Ways to Play Outdoors In the Fall

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Just because summer’s over doesn’t mean your kids have to bring their fun and games inside. Anyone with kiddos knows that cooler temperatures won’t stop kids from having fun — inside or out. Scroll down for 15 simple and easy ideas that will have your kids throwing on their jackets and heading out the door before you can say, “Go play!”

photo: Happy Hooligans

1. Make a leaf labyrinth. Before you rake your yard (and sweep all that amazing fun away!), let your kids push the leaves into pathways to make a labyrinth they can wander through again and again. Your kids will love running around their own mazes. Get the how-to from Happy Hooligans.

2. Speaking of leaves, there are so many things to do with fall’s crinkly cast-offs that your kids won’t need much! For younger leaf-collectors, a simple game of figuring out which tree the leaf fell from is a great intro to the outdoors; while older kids can collect whole piles of fallen leaves and make mountains, slides and more. Check out this perfect roundup of leaf-play ideas from Rhythms of Play.

3. Play Star Wars with sticks. We know. Sticks. But are they really that different than the $60 light saber they’re begging for their birthdays? Nah. (Pssst: Want to up the stick-sword ante? Buy one of these silicon “Sword Creators” that basically turn your plain old sticks into something way cooler.)

4. Have a TIC-TAC-TOE-style seasonal scavenger hunt. Make a few rows of squares and draw simple pictures of seasonal-specific items for kids to find. Then, give them a dot marker or a pen and let them go. The first one to finish a row (or the whole card) wins!

photo: Melissa Heckscher  

5. Enjoy story time in the shade. Fresh air. Some blankets. A book. Perfection.

6. Play pickup sticks with sticks from the yard. Whether you go all out and paint the sticks you collect different colors or leave them au natural, this old-school game gets new legs with a larger-than-life game board—your yard!

Giant Pick Up Sticksphoto: S. Massey

7. Play Hopscotch. Forget the rules to the game? Get a refresher here. And, if you want some more fun yard games, here are some great classics to keep your backyardigans busy.

photo: Melissa Heckscher 

8. Look for spiders and spiderwebs. Autumn is spider season! What better time to get your little bug-lovers out and looking for evidence of arachnids than the days leading up to the spideriest day of all (Halloween). Hint: Most spiders come out at night, so if you really want to spot some good creepy-crawlers, head out when the sun goes down… if you dare. Want some fun activities to turn your spider hunt into a full-on lesson plan? Check out this spider-centric activities post from the Montessori-inspired mom blog Carrots Are Orange.

9. Make a wish flower bouquet and give it to someone who needs a pick-me-up. Those spring and summer dandelions have likely long gone white. If you don’t mind spreading thousands of new seeds for next year, collect a bunch of these delicate “wish flowers” and tie them up in a bow to give to someone who needs a little extra luck.

photo: Jessica Lucia via flickr 

10. Make an outdoor obstacle course. Get your Ninja Warriors crawling, running, and hopping away with a homemade obstacle course you can make with stuff you already have on hand. Ladders (laying flat on the ground!), couch cushions, cardboard boxes, and hula hoops, all make for perfect obstacles. Get inspired with these ideas.

11. Play hide and seek. Because no matter how many times your kids play it, they’ll still want to keep playing it.

photo: Pixabay

12. Have a candy corn hunt. ‘Tis the season for that delicious orange-and-yellow candy. So get in the spirit by having this fall’s version of an Easter Egg Hunt! Put handfuls of candy corn into small colorful bags and hide them around your yard (or a playground) to get kids tearing through the terrain for sweets.

13. Get gardening. Not all flowers need spring and summer’s sunshine to thrive. Get your green thumbs into the garden and plant some flowers that will keep your yard popping with color even as the temps start to drop. Pansies, asters, and zinnias are all flowers that can brave colder days, according to this fun fall gardening how-to from Scholastic. Now is also a great time to plant bulbs that will sprout in springtime. Don’t know which ones will last the winter? Better Homes & Gardens has a great go-to list.

photo: Aikawa Ke via Flickr

14. Build a scarecrow. It’ll look great on Halloween night and may actually keep some pesky birds at bay. The DIY Network has an easy step-by-step (that’ll require a grown-up to supervise). Or, if you want to do something different (and, if you ask us, totally creepy), Hands on As We Grow has this great instructional on how to make a kid-sized scarecrow that’ll make it look like you’ve got a tiny pumpkin-headed toddler hanging out in your yard.


15. Make a fort. Hideouts have no season! Use sticks, leaves, blankets, and overhanging tree branches to construct a perfect fort (see some easy instructions here). Got a cardboard box and a whole lot of leaves? This blogger found a great way to use both for a totally camouflaged hideaway.

How do you keep the kiddos happy in the great outdoors? Don’t be shy. Tell us all your secrets in the comments section below!

—Shelley Massey and Melissa Heckscher

featured photo: lecates via flickr


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In order to give you the scoop on what’s new and cool in the world of toys, we hightailed it to New York for the 114th Annual Toy Fair, where the latest and greatest toys and gear were on display. From interactive pet tigers to Hatchimals everything, here’s what play looks like in 2017.

Toy Trends Your Kids Will Love

From even more tech-integrated toys to teeny, tiny things, here’s what your kids will beg you to buy this year.

lego_boost_foto1_kidsplaying_toyfair2017_redtricyclephoto: courtesy LEGO

Phyigital Play
We spotted several new toys and gadgets that combine physical play and augmented reality. With a quick scan, the Play-Doh Touch Shape to Life Studio (available now at, $24.99) brings shapes, creatures and designs to life in order to explore fantastical worlds. LEGO Boost (Aug. 2017, $159), is a maker kit for the seven and up crowd that comes with five different models to build and code with an emoji-based app. The Crayola Fashion Superstar (Fall 2017, $19.99) allows kids to unleash their inner fashionista by first sketching designs and then, using the free app, creating a virtual closet other designers can visit and “like.”

photo: courtesy Mattel®


Toys that Get Real
There were several new toys at the fair which not only move and talk, but also interact with the user. With hundreds of responses for a kid, these toys will make play time different every time. We spotted a ton of interactive toys but our favorites include Zoomer the Show Pony™ (Spinmaster, $79.99, Fall 2017), who goes wild for sugar cubes, responds to grooming and says “I love You,” Tyler the Roarin’ Tiger (Hasbro, $129.99, Fall 2017) a softy, fluffy cub that plays tug of war and responds to touch, and the Barbie® Dream Horse™ (Mattel, $99.99, Fall 2017) who not only responds to voice activated commands, but also dances, eats carrots and enjoys regular grooming. 

spin-master_hatchimals_colleggtibles_toyfair2017_redtricyclephoto: courtesy Spinmaster

Collect the Element of Surprise
Collectibles and blind bags aren’t going anywhere in 2017. From the new LEGO Brickheads to Colleggtibles, mini-hatchimals (Spinmaster, $2.99 for a 1-pack, May 2017), Hana Zuki mood charms (Hasbro) and Surprise Chicks and Fizz ‘n’ Surprise Submarine (Moose Toys, Spring and Fall 2017) kids will have even more teeny, tiny treasures to unwrap, squeal over, and then proudly display.

photo: courtesy Sensible Object

Game On!
Family game night shows no signs of slowing down. Hasbro is still riding the Pie Face wave of popularity; as an ode to old carnivals, it’s still a big winner for kids and families alike. In addition, one of their viral video-inspired games, Egged On ($19.99, May 2017)—an plastic egg game of roulette—will be a lot of fun on hot summer days. On March 19th, the new edition of Monopoly will hit the market with the new fan-favorite game marker (the thimble was voted out!). Happy Salmon (North Star Games, $14.99, available now) has major buzz to be a new favorite, and Beasts of Balance (Sensible Objects, $99, available now) combines the physical play aspect of stacking figurines with an interactive world of imaginary beasts.

shopkins_toyfair2017_redtricyclephoto: Gabby Cullen

It’s a Lifestyle, Not a Toy
Toy makers will be using multiple entertainment platforms (online, tv, movies, books, retail) to reach the Littles this year. GoldieBlox has a YouTube channel with two super-popular new shows (Toy Hackers and GoldieBlox) an app, and will introduce a chapter book series this year (May 2017). Moose Toys is capitalizing on the mega-success of Shopkins by adding even more clothing, shoes, jewelry, and backpacks to the line. My Little Pony: The Movie (Oct. 2017) will add a whole new storyline to the already popular series, as well as all-new play sets, animatronic horses, and board games. Other entertainment lines with new toys on the market this year include Star Wars, Paw Patrol, Despicable Me, Thomas the Train, Star Wars, Beauty and the Beast, Guardians of the Galaxy and Pete the Cat.

offbits2_fatbraintoys_toyfair2017_redtricyclephoto: courtesy Fat Brain Toys

Build It Yourself
The maker movement is still on the up and up. We spotted several new toys that leave the design and construction up to the kid. KamiGami robot bugs (Mattel, $49.99, Fall 2017) can be assembled and then controlled with an app, and the new Off Bits from Fat Brain Toys (Summer 2017) is a non-motorized maker kit with three models: Kids can stick to the parts from the kit, or add new parts they find around the house.


The Bright Lights
From a design standpoint, neon colors were on point. The new Skip Hop Vibrant Village Activity Center (June 2017) infuses a modern black and white design with a pop of color and the Crayola Sticker Design Studio ($19.99, Jul. 2017) comes with three bottles of neon paint and supplies like paint rollers, a pattern-making paint tool, and foam sticker sheets, so your budding designer can make a bold statement while crafting up a storm.

Toys that Caught Our Eye

Here are a few more new and cool toys we think totally rock.circuitcubes_toyfair2017_redtricyclephoto: courtesy TenkaLabs

Circuit Cubes
Designed by two veteran STEM teachers, these electronic building cubes are compatible with just about anything, and there are three different options: Wacky Wheels Kit, Bright Lights Kid and Smart Art Kit. Kids can build vertically, horizontally and diagonally, and all the blocks are compatible with other items including LEGO, cardboard, rubber bands, and wood blocks. The transparent design allows kids to get a good look at what’s going on inside. Each block has a play life of about one hour, and is easily rechargeable with an micro-usb port. Brand-new to the toy market, Circuit Cubes are available for pre-order now (Spring 2017, $59.99).

pixlplay smartphone cameraphoto: courtesy Pixl Toys, Inc.

PixlPlay Camera
If you’ve got a couple of extra Smartphones stashed away, you’re not alone. Put that “old” technology to work by turning your phone into an easy-to-use camera. The exterior case has the look and feel of a 35mm, but it’s totally functional, with a splash-resistant screen, working shutter button, a focus lens with a “clicking” sound for play, and there’s even an iOS app: Kids can go on scavenger hunts, learn about photography, give their friends funny upgrades with digital accessories and more. The PixlPlay camera is available for pre-order now (Pixl Toys, Inc, Jun. 2017).

seedlinglittles_galaxyrocketadventurecape_toyfair2017_redtricyclephoto: courtesy Seedling

Seedling Littles
A new line of pretend play kits puts the creative vision of Seedling into the hands of your tiniest players. Each one is made with large, soft pieces and velcro (perfect for tiny hands) in themes like Galaxy Rocket Adventure Cape, Under the Sea Puppet Playtime, and the Farmer’s Market Playtime Kit. Five of the seven new kits will be available on Mar. 1, 2017.

icecreamaker_kidchen_toyfair2017_redtricyclephoto: courtesy Little Kids Inc.

Magic Kidchen Ice Cream Tray
This cool kid cooking gadget (Jun. 2017) will let your little Ben or Jerry turn real cream, milk or even dairy alternatives into a frozen snack with lightening flash speed. Pour the mix onto the magic tray and use the spatula to instantly scrape up the treat. Each tray will stay cold long enough to make four to five batches of ice cream, just long enough to keep kids busy on a sunny summer afternoon.

Which hot new toy will your kid want the most? Share with us in a Comment!

—Gabby Cullen


Just Opened: Grand Park Playground

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Just when we thought Grand Park couldn’t possibly get any better, they opened a whimsical new playground that looks as though it was plucked right out of a Dr. Seuss book. For families who already adore the Grand Park’s crazy popular “splash pad” at the historic fountain, this magical play space is giving us one more reason to fall in love with downtown all over again.

Meet Me At The Park-52photo credit: Grand Park

You’ll find the playground at the southeast end of Grand Park between Broadway and Spring Streets.  The new million dollar playground encourages pint-sized Angelenos to romp, explore and use their vivid imaginations to create fantastical adventures.

Rios Clementi Hale Studios (the original architect of Grand Park) designed the space to be truly one-of-a-kind, like nothing else you can find in the city. And it is.  Among the many highlights your wiggle worms can expect to enjoy are a custom 20 ft. high treehouse with a tall roller slide and a 12 ft. tube slide, along with three tiers of platforms tucked inside the climber. The soaring tower gives tots a realistic sense of what it’s like to climb a tree. With loads of ways for little ones to peer out, the treehouse offers a “kids-eye-view” of the sprawling park and breathtaking cityscape.

grand park

photo credit: Grand Park via facebook

The floor of the playground is a super soft surface that resembles a forest floor with gigantic leaf shapes in colors inspired by nature. It also includes seven berms that range from 1ft. to 4 ft. tall with some featuring groovy extras like rock-climbing handles, a rope climber and tunnel that babes can scamper through. Down the road, outdoor musical instruments will be added to the area so little ones can create some jamz of their own while they play. (Your neighbors at home thank you for that.)

1383365_781106951936025_7835770015130489085_nphoto credit: Grand Park via facebook

Gorgeous sycamore trees have also been placed around the playground and will ultimately grow together to create a continuous shade canopy – something LA parents will no doubt appreciate, during toasty summer months. Big leaves posted along the fence surrounding the playground feature the words “Let’s Play” translated into 24 of the languages you can hear in Los Angeles County. Just in case you needed a reminder or what an awesome and diverse city we live in.

Additionally, the playground (like the rest of Grand Park) is totally ADA accessible encouraging kiddos of all abilities to get out and join in the fun.

Hours: The playground maintains the same hours as Grand Park: 5:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Parking: While guests are welcome to park in Lot 10 on N. Broadway between First Street and Temple, we strongly encourage families to take the Metro Red/Purple Line to the Civic Center/Grand Park stop. It’s tons easier & cheaper (parking is $3/15 minutes or $10 on weekends and $20 on weekdays- ouch!) and gives rugrats a thrill.

200 N. Grand Ave.
Downtown Los Angeles
(Playground is on southeast end between Broadway & Spring)
Phone: 213-972-8080

10347486_781106851936035_2909283980390438307_nphoto credit: Grand Park via facebook

–Jennifer O’Brien

What truly unique playgrounds have you discovered in your hood? We’re always on the lookout for special new spots to uncover and share. Give us a shout in the comments section.