Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Campgrounds offer a taste of adventure

Whether you’re interested in whitewater rafting, mining for gold, exploring hidden caves, searching for Bigfoot or sleeping within earshot of Arctic wolves, can help you find independent campgrounds that nurture your family’s sense of adventure and wonder in the Great Outdoors.

Photos courtesy KOA America
Kamp Klamath in Northern California, a private campground with a quarter mile of frontage along the Klamath River, offers tours into the heart of Bigfoot country. “We actually go to places where Bigfoot has been spotted,” said campground owner Aaron Funk. “We also talk about the redwoods and the pioneering and tribal history of the area.” The park also offers tours to magnificent Fern Canyon, a site so lush and beautiful that it was used in some of the filming of the movie “Jurassic Park.”

“Most people are familiar with our state and national parks. But America’s privately owned campgrounds also offer unique travel experiences that are particularly appealing to families,” said Paul Bambei, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campground, which hosts the GoCampingAmerica website.

Cascade Caverns Campground in Boerne, Texas, is one of 3,300 campground in the searchable database. It offers families a chance to explore its namesake cave, where scientists have recovered bones from mastodons and saber-toothed tigers. The cave is currently inhabited by several unusual insects and animals, including Cliff and Leopard Frogs, Eastern Pipistrelle Bats, Cave Ground Beetles, Cave Crickets and Cascade Caverns Salamanders.

Some campgrounds even have wild animals on display. Camp Taylor Campground in Columbia, N.J. has a wolf preserve on site with 25 arctic and gray wolves, so you can literally hear them howl at night. Deer and bear sightings are also common at the campground, which is located about an hour’s drive from New York City.

If you’re really looking for a unique experience, visit the Chicken Gold Camp in Chicken, Alaska. “We are on the Taylor Highway, but for all practical considerations, we are in the Alaska wilderness,” said park owner Mike Busby. “People come from all over the globe to mine on our gold claims.”

Indeed, the campground was built on the site of a gold mining camp that was established in the 1930s by the Fairbanks Exploration Company. Now a National Historic Site, visitors to the Chicken Gold Camp can learn about the history of mining and even try their hand at panning for gold or mining on the park’s gold claims.

For more information on campgrounds, RV parks and resorts that offer unique activities and adventures, visit .
Information courtesy of Jeff Crider, National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, (760) 469-5905

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Enjoy cherry harvest on Door Peninsula, Wisconsin

Cherry harvest is soon beginning in Door County, Wisconsin– the summer destination for pick-your-own fruits and a great cherry getaway. Time to head to the country to pick up a few buckets of delicious Montmorency Cherries.

Door County is a veritable “cherry bomb” – with dishes and activities throughout the region focusing on the county’s main crop (Door County is expected to produce more than 8.5 million pounds of cherries each year).  U-Pick operations should remain open through the middle of August.

What’s so good about cherries—besides their sweet-tart taste? Scientific research reveals that tart cherries have high levels of disease-fighting antioxidants. Emerging evidence indicates that cherry consumption may ease the pain of arthritis and gout, as well as reduce risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Cherries also contain melatonin, which has been found to help regulate the body’s natural sleep patterns, aid with jet lag, prevent memory loss and delay the aging process.

For a Cherry Getaway—weekend or longer--check out the following cherry-themed activities:

Start the day with Door County’s Cherry Stuffed French Toast at the White Gull Inn in Fish Creek. The fresh egg bread layered with Wisconsin cream cheese and Door County tart cherries, topped with genuine maple syrup was named “America’s Best Breakfast” by Good Morning America (

Visit more than a dozen orchards and farmers markets around the county where visitors can pick fresh cherries off the trees or fill a shopping basket with dried cherries, jams, jellies, pies and turnovers. Go to for market locations, store information and a special orchards map.

Follow Door County’s wine trail—sip, swirl, and sniff your way up the coast to enjoy local cherry wines. Visit to download a map, get tour times and find out where to taste. If beer is more your style, don’t miss the Door County Cherry Wheat beer at Shipwrecked Brew Pub in Egg Harbor 

The 2018 summer season of Northern Sky theater includes premiers of two new musicals next summer and o a new twist on one of the all-time favorite shows.

Located just 40 miles northeast of Green Bay, Wisconsin, the 70-mile long peninsula of Door County is situated perfectly between the waters of Green Bay (to the west) and Lake Michigan (to the east) giving visitors a variety of experiences on two distinctive coasts with charming towns in between. Door County features 300 miles of shoreline, 34 islands, 11 lighthouses, 5 state parks and 19 county parks. It is known for its natural beauty, artistic offerings and outdoor recreation opportunities.

Information and photos courtesy of Door County Visitor Bureau,

Monday, July 25, 2011

Child Satefy initative aims to share information about using restraints on airplanes

Would you let your three-year-old ride in your lap in a car? How about letting a child under age four sit in a car wearing only a lap belt? Hopefully not, so shouldn’t safety apply also in an airplane?

The safest place for little ones during turbulence or an emergency is in an approved child restraint system (CRS) or device. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently launched a year-long Child and Youth Transportation Safety Initiative to raise awareness of proper restraints for children on airplanes--either an FAA-approved car seat or an FAA-approved restraint device.

Currently, lap-held children are still allowed on planes, even though it’s a dangerous way to travel. No matter how hard a parent wants to hold onto a child during times of heavy turbulence, it’s physically impossible. But the FAA won’t demand that all children fly in their own seats, and airlines fear that making parents buy a separate seat for children will encourage driving rather than flying. Still, children’s safety should come before anything else, and that means flying in their own seat using an approved restraint.

A CRS is a hard-backed child safety seat that is approved by the government for use in both motor vehicles and aircraft. FAA has also approved a harness-type restraint appropriate for children weighing between 22 and 44 pounds. Harness-style devices are an option for parents who don’t want to bring a car seat through security and down narrow aisles of a plane, but this type of device is approved only for use on aircraft and not in motor vehicles. Learn more about harness-type restraint.

Points to remember:
·       Make sure your CRS, either hard-backed safety seat or harness, is government approved, or you may be asked to check it as baggage.
·       Be sure the shoulder straps are properly adjusted and fasten the airplane seat belt around the CRS.

·       Ask your airline for a discounted fare. Buying a ticket for your child is the only way to guarantee that you will be able to use a CRS.

·       Reserve adjoining seats. A CRS should be placed in a window seat (never in an exit row), so it will not block the escape path in an emergency.

·       If you do not buy a ticket for your child, ask if you can use an empty seat. If so, avoid the busiest days and times to increase the likelihood of finding an empty seat next to you.

·       If your airline can provide a CRS for your child, you may not be permitted to bring your own CRS on board and may need to check it as baggage.

·       Arrange for your airline to help if you have a connecting flight. Carrying a CRS, a child, and luggage through a busy airport can be challenging

Child restraint
The CARES harness is approved
for aircraft use only but is
easier to carry through security
and airports than standard
car seats.
·       Children over 40 pounds may use an airplane seat belt.

While booster seats and harness vests enhance safety in vehicles, FAA prohibits passengers from bringing these types of restraints on airplanes for use during taxi, take-off and landing. Also, supplemental lap restraints or "belly belts" are not approved for use in both airplanes and vehicles in the United States.

Additional information is available on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. Also consult the FAA site on Child Safety on Airplanes.

Print out this section or the brochure (PDF) to take with you when you travel.
View a video that shows proper child seat installation on an airplane.
View a video that shows how to install a CARES child safety device in an aircraft seat.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Win sweepstakes to experience dedication of MLK Memorial in Washington D.C.

Enter sweepstakes by August 1 for a chance to win a trip for two from Southwest Airlines Vacations to experience the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Dedication in Washington, DC., August 26-29, 2011. Tickets to the dedication ceremony cannot be purchased, so this is an opportunity to be a part of history. For complete details, and to enter this sweepstakes, visit: The package includes:

  • Roundtrip air fare for two via Southwest Airlines® to Baltimore/Washington, DC, MD or Washington (Dulles), DC.
  • 3-night hotel stay at a deluxe hotel in Washington, D.C
  • Tickets to the black tie Dream Gala for two
  • Tickets to the Dedication Ceremony (seated area) for two
  • Old Town Trolley hop on/hop off city tour for two
  • Madame Tussauds tickets for two

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Six exciting adventures when vacationing in San Antonio

The lure of summer vacation is still strong, and if you'd like to get in one more family trip  (or if you're waiting until the kiddos are back in school to take an adults-only trip), consider all the things to do in and around San Antonio. There's no limit on fun for the young and young-at-heart. The following information is provided courtesy of San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau. Photos are by Larry and Beverly Burmeier.

What could be more thrilling than exploring a cave 180 ft. below the earth's surface? Or waking up with the sea lions at SeaWorld San Antonio? What about meeting real live cowboys and sharing a chuck wagon dinner at an 86-acre working ranch? These are special adventures your family will talk about for years to come.

Enchanted Springs Ranch Wagon rides, pony rides and a puppet show are all part of the entertainment Wednesday through Sunday at the 86-acre working ranch in a gorgeous Hill Country setting northwest of San Antonio. Every Wednesday and Friday, an authentic chuck wagon dinner and delightful wild west show bring the cowboy days back to life! Get details

San Antonio Zoo
The city's zoo dates to the 1800s, when a collection of animals was assembled in San Pedro Park. Today, the San Antonio Zoo is America's third largest and a center of research, education and conservation. Schedule your visit during early morning for the best opportunity to view animals. Among the zoo's planned activities: Visit with zoo keepers, listen to fun demonstrations, take an evening tour after the zoo closes, or enroll in a summer camp. Get details

Natural Bridge Caverns
At 180 feet below the surface, the largest cavern in Texas showcases stunning geologic formations in underground rooms and passageways. Always cool, this is the perfect place to escape lofty summer temperatures. Six types of tours range from easy strolls to four-hour adventures that involve strenous climbing and rappeling. Get details

Sea World San Antonio
Day camps, resident camps and sleepovers at the world's largest marine park introduce children of all ages to the world of the sea and exotic creatures like sea lions and penguins. They learn about marine life through age-appropriate adventures under the guidance of experienced and
enthusiastic camp counselors. A variety of excellent shows thrill adults as well as children--and take time to cool off in the water park.  Get details

Downtown All Around Playground and HemisFair Park
What do kids call a 15-acre play area with a huge wooden playscape, swings, slides, sand, water gardens, a castle and a space tunnel? Paradise. What do parents call a place that kids love and there’s no admission fee? Perfect. Get details

Rockin ‘R’ River Rides
If your kids are happier on water than on land, lazily floating down the cool Guadalupe or Comal River in an inner tube or raft may just be the highlight of their summer. Trips are available for ages 3 and up. Get details

Friday, July 22, 2011

Coronado Springs Resort at Walt Disney World, Orlando

Main reception building of Coronado Springs Resort
There are so many options of places to stay in and around Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, that making a decision can seem overwhelming. Having visited the theme park several times before our June vacation, I knew that staying at one of the on-site Disney properties is the best way to go.  Transportation provided to every park and attraction is reliable, wait times are not too long, and you’re deposited as close as possible to entrances.

The Disney web site describes each type of accommodation, and guide books can add another layer of information to help you determine what best fits your family’s needs. During this recent visit, Larry and I traveled with a 12-year-old granddaughter. Considering her age (not too young) and the fact we purchased a meal plan, we were very pleased with Disney's Coronado Springs Resort.

With our meal plan, cups could be refilled free at
any resort--a big savings.
Coronado Springs is a Southwest-themed moderate hotel (and convention center) encircling Lago Dorado, a glistening 22-acre lake that provides a beautiful, reflective backdrop for the resort.  Named for Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, a 16th-century Spanish explorer, the resort embraces the spirit and romance of Spanish-colonial Mexico. From the bubbling spring-fed Fountain of the Doves to the hidden treasures of the Mayan-ruin themed Dig Site pool, this lakeside accommodation is perfect for relaxing after a long day of rides, shows, and exhibits.  Actually, we came back to the room mid-afternoon each day and rested--granddaughter swam in the large pool just outside our room (I could keep an eye on her from our balcony). Then we returned for evening parades, fireworks, and entertainment as scheduled in different parks.

The "smaller" pool near our casita in building 4
Casita guest rooms such as ours are colorful and comfortable with two queen beds (better than doubles elsewhere). The vanity area can be closed off entirely from the sleeping area with sliding wooden doors. Other choices are the rustic Ranchos resembling Southwestern pueblos or beachfront cabanas with cozy hammocks. Meals in Pepper Market were tasty, quickly prepared, and covered by our meal plan. Instead of dessert, which was included, we generally chose muffins and ate those for breakfast the next morning.  Our location was convenient to restaurants, shopping, salon and spa, although some accommodations might require more walking because the resort is fairly spread out (makes for a more tranquil setting, which we loved after all the hectic activity in the theme parks).

Looking across the lake from one of the trails
After a busy day it’s great to relax in the 22-person hot tub at Coronado Springs, one of the largest at any Walt Disney World Resort hotel. Between dips you can stroll down the nature trail, walk around the lake to the sprawling Mayan pyramid pool at the Dig Site, or grab a poolside drink at Siestas Cantina. This pool featured a jaguar-inspired 123-foot long water slide and plenty of room for everyone. Kids look for hidden treasure at the Explorer's Playground or test gaming skills at the Iguana Arcade.

Coronado Springs Resort is located between Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park and Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park. It’s a smoke-free resort and has been noted by the Florida Green Lodging Program for its environmentally responsible practices. We enjoyed the fanciful decorations and serene ambience of this resort and would stay there again.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Read several stories about the Burmeier's trip to Ireland at Striped Pot