Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Planet Explorers--new e-book travel guides for kids

Writer Laura Schaefer, offers a new series of e-books for kids called Planet Explorers. The latest title, Epcot 2012, is a guidebook for readers ages 8-12. With fun facts, tips, and active hyperlinks for kids who want to dig a little deeper into everything Epcot, the e-book guide is designed to be read on smart phones, Kindles, Nooks or iPads.

The philosophy behind the series is to empower kids using technology that allows readers to jump from information about the Spaceship Earth attraction to a website about artist Michelangelo, who is featured in the ride. The links are included and ready to go.

Planet Explorers guidebooks cut out all the stuff kids would find boring if they looked through a regular travel guide; instead they focus on attractions and fun facts. The guides have lots of pictures and even include a quiz at the end. Parents appreciate how easily the guidebooks incorporate learning about geography, history, art and science into real-life experiences.

The e-books provide an easy way for kids to become vacation experts and enable kids to plan vacations with their parents, so the trip is more fun and fulfilling for the whole family.

Planet Explorers titles are currently available for Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, London, Las Vegas, SeaWorld, Universal Orlando, and more.

Schaefer says writing Epcot 2012 was a blast because she loves history and has been a middle school curriculum writer for over a decade. She is also the author of The Teashop Girls (Simon & Schuster 2009) and The Secret Ingredient (Simon & Schuster 2011),


Thursday, July 26, 2012

El Portal Sedona is great place for a rocking girls' getaway

Today we have a guest post from Wendy Rubicam for El Portal Sedona Hotel.

Spectacular scenery at
Merry-Go-Round Mountain
If you are planning a girls’ getaway, head to Sedona, Arizona for an unforgettable experience. The “Wild West” is no longer the perilous destination that tested the mettle of pioneer women. Sedona offers the best of food, wine, spa treatments, galleries, shops, museums and outdoor adventures, all within one of the most beautiful and inspirational natural settings to “girls” of all ages. Whether it’s a Girlfriends’ Getaway, Mother-Daughter retreat, Female Family Reunion – Sedona is perfect.

Make your home base El Portal Sedona Hotel. This 12 room luxury boutique hotel offers personalized concierge services for Sedona and area, spectacular gourmet breakfasts and spacious accommodations. Guests appreciate the details of stunning turn of the century Southwestern design, yet suites feature all modern amenities. Each guest suite includes a private entrance, patio or balcony, fireplace, whirlpool bath, entertainment center with DVD player, free wireless and It is pet friendly.

El Portal Sedonal Hotel at night
A quick trip into town will introduce you and your friends to an array of shops and galleries, including Sedona Wineworks and The Art of Wine. This shop features Arizona wines and wine-inspired original artwork and is open for tasting seven days a week. After sampling some unique wines, head to Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village to browse in the shops and galleries, then relax over dinner at Rene’s or El Rincon, both just steps away from El Portal. After reconnecting over a great meal, make yourself at home back at El Portal with a glass of wine (and complimentary chocolate-chip cookies) around the campfire or on your private patio or balcony.

Jeep tour takes you all around Sedona
Taking a look back at women’s history in Arizona is a great way to celebrate the bonds of friendship while in Sedona. Through Labor Day, the Sedona Heritage Museum will be featuring the Arizona Women’s Heritage Trail traveling exhibit, which is a celebration of women who have made significant contributions and left a lasting mark on Arizona.

If you're truly adventurous, try
mountain biking.
Sun Country Adventures jeep tours of Sedona allow girlfriends to connect with the rich landscape in a unique way, exploring seldom seen parts of the area on exhilarating jeep rides. Tour guides work with visitors to incorporate yoga or Qi Gong, meditation and ceremony if desired on customized hikes. Guests can arrange full moon hikes, sunset hikes, hikes to high places, exhilarating and challenging hikes, as well as gentle hikes suitable for beginners. El Portal will even pack picnic lunches or arrange cowgirl cookouts.

One of the most popular hiking destinations in the area is Sedona’s majestic Red RockState Park. The park is a 286-acre preserve and environmental education center with breathtaking scenery of red rock and flowing water. Unusual local rock formations such as Devil's Bridge, which is considered the largest natural arch in the Sedona area, are great hiking destinations. Devil’s Bridge features dramatic views of the canyons, mountains and red rock cliffs from atop the cracked and fractured sandstone arch. The trail utilizes natural rocks as stairs to the top of the arch, making the trail suitable for hikers of most abilities and a great spot for memorable photos.

Or relax by a glowing
courtyard fireplace.
Sedona offers biking, golf, musical performances, wine tours, hot air balloon rides and much more. Of course, no girls’ trip is complete without spa treatments. Guests of El Portal Sedona Hotel can indulge in everything from facials to massages and full-body treatments. Rock the ideal girls’ getaway by calling 800-313-0017 or 928-203-9405.  www.ElPortalSedona.com  Email: info@ElPortalSedona.com

 Photos courtesy of El Portal Sedona Hotel

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Zip across Lake Travis near Austin

I can’t help screaming “Wheee” as my body, harnessed to a steel cable, flies through the air for an astounding half mile.  Whoops and hollers are expected when soaring the final zip line at Lake Travis Zipline Adventure near Austin. Whizzing over incredible canyons and lake inlets is hard to beat for a pure adrenaline rush.

Larry and I recently nurtured our inner thrill-seekers on a day excursion to Lake Travis Zipline in central Texas. It promises plenty of action for all ages making it a perfect family adventure.  After all, when was the last time your teen wanted to do an activity with you?
Members of our group were outfitted in harnesses with all sorts of hooks and cables, the uniform of zipping.  Our delightful guides made sure everything fit securely and explained how the automatic braking system works.  Rather than needing to wear a glove for protection when manually stopping motion on the cable, the automatic system leaves your hands free for waving to friends. Do remember to hold the cable away from your face when it hits the brake box, though.

After arriving and checking in, a boat ride takes guests across the river from Volente to the zips. Five lines range from 250 feet to over 2000 feet--the longest and fastest zip line in Texas. Early lines are shorter and work up to the grand finale where you’re launched off a 20-story high cliff and swoop across Lake Travis for almost half a mile, possibly achieving speeds up to 45 miles an hour.
Participants should be in reasonably good condition, since you have to walk uphill on trails to the zip platforms, but trained guides lead the way and provide guidance on these nature walks. Throughout the adventure we were offered snacks and cool bottled water, necessary in Texas summers. While waiting for others to take each plunge, you’ll enjoy amazing views of lake and hill country.

Tours run 2.5 to 3 hours long. If you want to extend the day, you’ll have access to a private beach where you can swim in the lake or relax in lounge chairs.  Picnic tables under shade trees are also available, and the boat driver will deliver your cooler and picnic basket.
If you’re truly adventurous, try the moonlight excursion, scheduled only during the full moon each month. Bring your own adult beverages and see lights sparkling on the lake as you zip seven times. I look forward to trying the night time zip.

Participants should weigh between 70 and 250 pounds. Wear closed toe shoes and bring sunscreen. Look for coupons or special rates on social buying sites--then go have a blast!

14529 Pocohontas Trail, Volente, Texas