New York State Goes All-Out to Commemorate Erie Canal’s Bicentennial

Lockport has the only original locks of the Erie Canal still remaining. Events throughout the state will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal, an engineering marvel then and now © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Celebrations and events will take place across New York State to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal. An engineering marvel that stimulated trade, exploration and invention, the canal project created the first superhighway across New York, connecting Albany and Buffalo and improving transportation to and from New York City by linking the Hudson River to Lake Erie.
“The Erie Canal was critical in establishing New York as a national hub for commerce and industry, and today offers boaters unparalleled views and access to our canalside communities,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “In commemorating this anniversary, we celebrate the canal’s rich heritage as well as its pivotal role in promoting economic development and tourism today. I urge visitors to come experience the many events planned for the bicentennial celebration.”

The 2017 boating season is already underway on the 524-mile canal system for recreational vessels, which are now the primary users of the canals. The season runs through Oct. 11 when the canal is actually drained. A ceremony to mark the occasion was held in Waterford, the eastern terminus of the canal, where Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul gave the orders to open the gate at Lock 2, where more than 20 boats were waiting to begin their canal journey.

It was on April 15, 1817, the New York State legislature approved construction of the Erie Canal, connecting Albany to Buffalo. Crews began work following the ceremonial first dig on July 4, 1817, in Rome, Oneida County. The canal was officially completed on October 26, 1825.

The towns established along the canal now blossom with annual festivals, living history re-enactments and hands-on museums that celebrate the region’s rich past and the communities that live along the canal today.

“This will be an exciting year to visit the canals,” Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said. “Come experience our unique destinations and celebrate the Erie Canal Bicentennial with the more than 200 communities within the corridor and be a part of a history that is still being written every day.”

The New York State Canal Corporation is co-hosting bicentennial events with communities along the canal. They include:

  • Amsterdam, June 9, with a festival and fireworks at Riverlink Park, home to the new Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook Bridge;
  • Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site, June 10, all day canal-themed events and barbeque, where you can see the remnants of the original Erie Canal, the enlarged canal and current configuration of the Barge Canal;
  • Lockport, July 8, home to the famed “Flight of Five,” a set of five locks dating to the 1860s. The Flight once effectively acted as “stairs for boats” heading up the Niagara Escarpment, the long cliff that runs east/west across New York that famously includes Niagara Falls;
  • Rochester, July 14-15, featuring an Erie Canal forum and a day of family-friendly events and music, both held at the Strong National Museum of Play; and
  • Rome, July 22, an all-day event at Bellamy Harbor Park, featuring a first-dig re-enactment, an arts and crafts fair, concerts and fireworks.
Mid-Lakes Navigation’s Lockmaster canalboat at Fairport, one of the revitalized canaltowns © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Other festivals, exhibits and celebrations commemorating the bicentennial include:

  • The Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor plays host year-round to a number of museums and historical sites, which bring the rich history of the canal to life.
  • The Corning Museum of Glass will launch GlassBarge, a floating performance venue that will bring the story of glassmaking as well as demonstrations to waterfront communities across the state beginning June 2 in Fairport.
  • The Albany Symphony will bring “Water Music NY,” a series of unique musical celebrations of the historic waterway, to communities beginning in Albany on July 2, culminating July 8 in Lockport, when the orchestra will play while on a barge inside a canal lock.
  • The 1862 replica canal boat “Lois McClure” will travel across the state, including the length of the Erie Canal, visiting towns and villages along the way, as crews from the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum show visitors what life was like aboard a canal boat. Erie Canal Cruises in Herkimer will put on a July 4 commemoration and is planning season-long exhibits and demonstrations that will highlight the engineering triumphs of the eight-year construction process with notable innovations on display such as the wheelbarrow and stump puller.
  • The Seneca Museum of Waterways and Industry in the Finger Lakes shows how the opening of this vital trade route helped foster social reform movements, including women’s rights. Nearby, catch fireworks during Canal Fest on July 7-9.
  • WCNY Public Media’s new documentary, Erie: The Canal That Made America will premiere this September.
  • Syracuse will host the annual World Canals Conference from September 24 – 28, an international event that attracts canal professionals, tourism experts, academics and canal enthusiasts and boaters. Syracuse is also home to the Erie Canal Museum, located in the only remaining weighlock building in the U.S., where year-round interactive displays and artifacts tell the story of the canal’s development and the creativity and inventions that made it possible.
  • From September 30 through October 15, Locktoberfests will take place in communities along the canal system. The annual autumn events incorporate community markets, Taste NY products, local art and entertainment and family activities. Locktoberfests are scheduled in Fort Edward, Rome, Seneca Falls, Phoenix and Lockport.
  • A new Erie Canal exhibit, “New York’s Erie Canal: Gateway to a Nation,” will open this fall at the New York State Museum in Albany.
  • In Lockport, the Kenan Center, celebrating its 50th anniversary, will have a special exhibition of Erie Canal photographs.
  • The Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum lets visitors step back in time to experience life on the canal as it used to be, while the Canastota Canal Town Museum highlights canal history and engineering achievements.
  • In the Greater Niagara region, Canalside Buffalo offers a calendar full of fun festivals featuring live music, artisans, food and kid-friendly activities.

To further celebrate the bicentennial, permit fees for recreational vessels, normally costing $25-$100, have been waived by the Canal Corporation this year.

New York’s canal system includes four historic canals: the Erie, Champlain, Oswego and Cayuga-Seneca. Spanning 524 miles, the waterway links the Hudson River with the Great Lakes, the Finger Lakes and Lake Champlain. The canals form the backbone of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and connect more than 230 unique and historic communities.

The Erie Canalway Trail is a multi-use trail accommodating more than 1.5 million pedestrians, bicyclists, and cross-country skiers annually. More than three-quarters of the 365-mile Erie Canalway Trail from Albany to Buffalo is a dedicated off-road trail, much of it along the canal’s former towpath.  Other off-road sections will be completed as part of Governor Cuomo’s Empire State Trail initiative, which will include the Erie Canalway Trail and portions of the Champlain Canalway Trail, and at 750 miles will be the longest multi-use recreational trail network in the nation upon its completion in 2020.

Biking along the Erie Canalway with New York Parks & Trails © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

For the most amazing immersion into the Erie Canal’s rich history and stunning landscape, join New York Parks & Trails annual Erie Canal bike ride, when you bike the full length of the Erie Canal and the Erie Canalway (and then some), on the 400-mile, 8-day supported camping trip (July 9-16, Parks & Trails New York, 29 Elk Street, Albany NY 12207, 518-434-1583, ptny@ptny.org). Or, take a Lockmaster canalboat (a houseboat) through Mid-Lakes Navigation (11 Jordan St., Skaneateles, NY 13152, 315-685-8500, 800-545-4318, info@midlakesnav.com, midlakesnav.com).

To learn more about New York’s canal heritage and bicentennial events, visit:

Since 2011, Governor Cuomo has made substantial investments in the tourism industry throughout New York State, leading to historic levels of visitors and direct spending. New York recently welcomed 234 million visitors who spent over $63 billion, generating a total economic impact of more than $100 billion for the second straight year. Additionally, tourism the state’s fourth largest employer, supporting more than 910,000 jobs annually.

New York State features 11 vacation regions. New York’s attractions feature landmarks such as Niagara Falls, the largest park in the continental U.S. in the Adirondacks and treasures such as the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and the Corning Museum of Glass. New York State offers diverse activities for all: outdoor fun – snowmobiling, skiing and snowboarding, fishing, hiking and boating, year-round festivals and exploring the rich history and culture of one of the 13 original colonies. Visitors also enjoy the fine cuisine, beverage trails and farm-to-table fresh foods.  For more information, visit iloveny.com.

 

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New York State Path Through History Weekends Feature Special Events Statewide

Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site in Fort Hunter, where you can see all 3 versions of the Eric Canal, has special activities planned during the Path Through History weekend, June 17-18 © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York State is hosting two Path Through History Weekends during 2017: the first coincides with Father’s Day, June 17-18, and the other with Columbus Day, October 7-9. Each weekend will feature hundreds of exciting events at historic venues across the state that promote New York’s rich culture and heritage. Interactive science museums, living history museums and former battlefields are among the cultural and historic sites planning reenactments, activities and tours throughout the weekends. In addition, many historic districts and parks will offer festivals with live music, crafts, and local foods.

Introduced by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in 2012, the Path Through History initiative uses 13 themes to organize more than 700 heritage sites across the state. The Path Through History website includes maps, a user-friendly list of historical sites organized theme and region, and an itinerary builder to help plan your trip, as well as road signs on highways that direct visitors to historic destinations.

Some highlights of the June 17-18 Father’s Day Path Through History Weekend from New York’s eleven vacation regions include:

The Adirondacks
During Father’s Day at the Fort, families can step back to the year 1757 and the days of the French and Indian War at Fort William Henry in Lake George. There are daily cannon and musket firings and soldiers engaging visitors. Children can drill with the King’s Army and receive a certificate and coin for signing up. Admission for fathers is FREE during Father’s Day Weekend, June 17 – 18 from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Capital Region-Saratoga
The Stockade Scavenger Hunt in Schenectady, beginning at 10 a.m. on June 17, invites participants to learn fun facts about the city’s more than 300 years of history as they follow clues that lead around the Stockade Historic District. Clues are all-new so last year’s attendees are encouraged to return. The event is FREE and registration is encouraged.

The Catskills
Learn about the rich, famous and forgotten resort of Highmount before Belleayre and other ski resorts helped make the area a winter sports destination. Before Belleayre: An Illustrated History of Highmount will take place June 17 at 7 p.m. at HSM Hall, 778 Cemetery Rd., Margaretville.

Central New York
On June 17, participants will be asked to separate fiction from fact at History & Hearsay: Bits of History & Mystery Along the Trails of Schoharie Crossing, a guided tour of the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site in Fort Hunter. The FREE 90 minute walking tour starts at 3 p.m. and covers about a mile of the canal trail.

Chautauqua-Allegheny
It’s Family Day at the Cattaraugus County Historical Museum in Machias on June 17, with a full slate of entertainment and activities. At noon, The Fiddle Kids of Western New York will perform, followed by a concert by the Bent Brass Band at 2:00. There will be a blacksmith demonstration and the grand opening of a new exhibit: “The Greatest Event of the Year; An Exhibit of the Cattaraugus County Fair.” The event is FREE and open to the public.

Finger Lakes
The Celts played a major role in shaping the history of this region and the Genesee Country Village & Museum will host a Celtic Faire to celebrate the culture, history and traditions of its Scottish and Irish settlers with performances by regional pipe bands, Irish dancers and authentic food and drinks. The faire takes place on June 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Greater Niagara
The 269-acre Forest Lawn Cemetery is one of Buffalo’s most fascinating attractions and the final resting place of many well-known personages and Civil War soldiers. On June 18, Forest Lawn’s Civil War Trolley Tours (at 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.) will help visitors learn about these historic and heroic figures. A few might even “pop up” to tell their stories in person, and exhibits will display Civil War memorabilia and highlight the region’s involvement in World War I.

Hudson Valley: A petting zoo and the chance to participate in 18th century games are among the added attractions on Children’s Day, at the New Windsor Cantonment on June 18 from 1 to 4 p.m. This state historic site in New Windsor offers a glimpse into the daily lives of soldiers and the women and children “camp followers” during the final encampment of the Continental Army during the American Revolution with demonstrations on blacksmithing, camp life, and military drills by costumed interpreters.

Long Island
Shiploads of pirates will be descending upon the 14-acre Long Island Maritime Museum in Sayville for its annual Pirate Festival, June 17-18 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Historic reenactments by pirates, live music, storytelling, inspired crafts and great grub make it fun for all.

New York City
On Father’s Day, visitors can get a rare view of how Hessian soldiers lived during the Revolutionary War in a Hessian Hut that is rarely open to visitors. The Hessian Hut sits on the grounds of the 18th century Dyckman Farmhouse Museum at Broadway and 204th Street. FREE tours of the Hessian Hut begin at noon on June 17.

Thousand Islands-Seaway
Discover the connection between historic Sackets Harbor’s military story and today’s Fort Drum, home of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division at the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site. Learn how the US Army set up their Madison Barracks quarters in Sackets Harbor just after the War of 1812 in 1816, but eventually out grew the post making it necessary to relocate to land that became Pine Camp, Camp Drum, and today Fort Drum.

“The Corning Museum of Glass is the epitome of cultural heritage in Upstate New York. Corning has a long glassmaking history, steeped in 150 years of tradition,” Beth Duane, Chief Communicators Officer said. “We share our story and the entire 35-century history of glass each year with more than 460,000 visitors, and the Path Through History weekends help us reach new visitors interested in heritage tourism.”

In addition to the Path Through History Weekends happenings, there are special events scheduled throughout the year to commemorate important New York State anniversaries. These include the bicentennial of Erie Canal, the 100th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in New York State, the 150th anniversary of the birth of Frank Lloyd Wright, and the 200th anniversary of the Lake George Steamboat, among others.

For more exciting and educational things to do on this year’s Father’s Day and Columbus Day weekends, visit Path Through History Weekends for a full list of events, searchable by location and special interests.

I LOVE NEW YORK’s social media platforms will be highlighting Path Through History Weekends events with photos, videos, event itineraries, \. Follow I LOVE NEW YORK on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, or use #PTHWeekend to the journey down New York State’s Path Through History.

Path Through History highlights historically and culturally significant sites and events throughout New York State. The program, introduced by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, builds on New York’s already robust heritage tourism attractions. The initiative is currently focused on 13 themes including: Arts & Culture, Natural History, U.S. Presidents, Women’s Rights, Canals & Transportation, Civil Rights, Colonial History, Immigration, Innovation & Commerce, The Revolutionary War, Native American Heritage, Sports History and the War of 1812. Important heritage sites and events across the state were selected with input from leading historians. For more information, visit paththroughhistory.iloveny.com.

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Top50Ranches.com Showcases British Columbia Ranch Vacations in time for Canada’s 150th Birthday

Three guest ranches in British Columbia are featured in Top50Ranches.com; Canada celebrates its 150th birthday on July 1, 2017.

SONOMA, CA – Three guest ranches in Canada’s British Columbia hope to round up more American dudes this season with the US Dollar offering 35 percent or more value than the Canadian Dollar. And the icing on the cake? They will throw in a slice of birthday cake to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday on July 1, 2017.
“What differentiates these ranches from their US counterparts is their proximity to the vast wilderness of the Canadian Rockies,” says Gene Kilgore, the world’s leading authority on ranch vacations and the expert behind Top50Ranches.com. This website focuses on where to locate a top ranch vacation in the United States and Canada, as well as abroad.

Each ranch offers its own personality, characterized by its range of activities in addition to horseback riding, gourmet dining or spa facilities.

Riding Plus: The 35,000-acre Three Bars Guest and Cattle Ranch is in the Canadian Rockies between Banff and Glacier National Park.  Here up to 45 guests are accommodated in modern log cabins and guest houses overlooking a central lawn.

“Decades ago people came here and were happy just riding all day,” says Tyler Beckley, third generation owner/rancher. Today’s guests can still choose to do that; but now the ranch mixes horseback riding up with fly fishing, shooting sports, mountain biking and whitewater rafting. A favorite pastime of guests is stopping by the reining arena to watch Tyler’s brother, Jesse, working with the horses. “These activities along with an indoor heated pool, hot tub and fitness facility set us apart from more conventional ranches.”

The Beckley family has served guests for some 60 years. A grandfather began several guest ranches in the States where Tyler was born. His parents, Jeff and April, purpose-built this Canadian operation in the early 1990s on property that was one of the first registered cattle ranches in British Columbia. Now the ranch is the extended family’s year-round home. The family shares their western cowboy lifestyle of wide, open spaces and good friends with guests from around the world.

Spring and fall are favorite seasons here for couples; families favor July and August, sometimes combining a ranch experience with visits to Canada’s national parks. Entry to the parks is free this year in honor of the country’s anniversary. Ranch guests sometimes schedule in the annual Calgary Stampede (July 7-16, 2017) and the Cranbrook Pro Rodeo (Aug. 18-20, 2017) to augment an already busy week.

Riding & CuisineSundance Guest Ranch in Ashcroft, BC, in the Thompson River Valley, lies in one of Canada’s sunniest spots and is one of the country’s oldest ranches. Co-owner Cynthia Nichols says the 1864 ranch became a guest ranch in 1955. Her parents purchased it in the late 1970s. Today the management falls to her and her two brothers.

The ranch enjoys proximity to Vancouver (a four-hour drive) and to Seattle (a six-hour drive). It now welcomes fourth and fifth generation guests, primarily from the Pacific Northwest. An international clientele enjoy the opportunity to meet this Canadian family. Up to 50 people can be accommodated. Horseback riding is the key focus, concentrating on over 100 horses. After riding, guests may splash in a heated outdoor swimming pool or enjoy a massage before a talented chef engages their appetites. Twice a year Chef Lauren even goes overboard with free rein to create gourmet weekends with complimentary wine pairings. The next Gourmet Weekend is Oct. 13-15, 2017.

Meals are served at large tables, so everyone mingles. This is a comfortable setting for single parents. “Adults make new friends here as much as their children do,” notes Nichols. In July and August, parents appreciate a complimentary child care program for ages under 8.

Riding & Spa: Norman Dove met his wife, Nan, in Thailand. A commitment to her Thai heritage was the inspiration for the “East meets West, Canadian Signature Experience” in the high desert area in BC’s Marble and Cariboo Mountains that since 1995 is known as Echo Valley Ranch & Spa near Clinton. Here the Baan Thai Pavilion hovers with the spirits as guests enjoy a variety of spa treatments. The Western culture and heritage of the local First Nations is equally important, as is visible across the ranch and in each of the 18 guest rooms. A map of this Echo Valley “village” is one of the more recent works of resident artist Michael Blackstock.

Kerstin Auer, Marketing and Sales Manager, says the ranch welcomes people with its Canadian Signature Experience of East meets West. “I think different cultures coming together harmonically is very typically Canadian.”

Days may begin with yoga, followed by such gentle sports as archery or fly fishing or hiking; afternoons find guests on horseback. During the summer family weeks, children learn to throw ropes and lasso as parents enjoy a spa treatment. An evening campfire follows dinner. Meals are organized around a farm-to-table and organic philosophy.

Founded in 2010, Top50 Ranches (https://www.top50ranches.com/) focuses on where to locate and then what to expect when it comes to the world’s top dude, guest, working and luxury ranch vacations in the United States and Canada as well as Argentina and Mexico. The site outlines special ranch offers, events and opportunities and makes available Top50’s Concierge Service, a no-fee advice service by phone for valued Top50 Travelers who seek extra help while choosing the right ranch for their family or business group.

Follow Top50 Ranches on Social Media:
Top50 Facebook:                 https://www.facebook.com/DudeRanchVacations/
Top 50 Twitter:                     https://twitter.com/top50ranches
Top50 Pinterest:                   https://www.pinterest.com/RanchVacations/

 

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New Mobile App Adventure Junky Enables Adventurers to Book Trips, Compete for ‘Earth’s #1 Adventure Junky’

Adventure Junky mobile app allows users to interact with other intrepid travelers, book sustainable tours, research thousands of adventures, submit photos/videos/trips, and compete for the title of “Earth’s #1 Adventure Junky.”

(Sydney, Australia) — Adventure Junky, a NEW smartphone app designed for adventure travelers, is the result of three years of research and development and the ambitious goal to reinterpret the way the world travels. Adventure Junky allows users to interact with other intrepid travelers, book sustainable tours, research thousands of adventures, submit photos/videos/trips, and compete for the title of “Earth’s #1 Adventure Junky.”

Adventure Junky has established a set of guidelines, with help from the Adventure Travel Trade Association, by which adventures are selected to appear on app. In simple terms, adventures must be ’high’ on experience and ‘low’ on impact if they are to make the cut. By turning sustainable travel into a game, Adventure Junky aims to ensure sustainability is a new standard in travel.

The game aspects of Adventure Junky (points, patches, and leaderboards) tap directly into the Millennial’s competitive spirit. It also harnesses their love of sharing life experiences online and invites them to become co-creators of the game. Over half of the 1,000+ adventures added to the app during the late 2016 testing phase were user-generated.

Adventure Junky currently partners with Tourism Board partners from Australia, Sweden, Greenland and Canada, and many of the world’s best-practice tour operators.  For more info, visit http://www.adventurejunky.com/. 

 

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This Father’s Day, Tap into His Bucket List & Give a Once-in-a-Lifetime Adventure

Moonlight Basin Golf (photo by Tony Demin)

This Father’s Day, instead of the run-of-the-mill, treat Dad to once-in-a-lifetime: from shooting sporting clays in Montana to fishing in Russia, hiking in Ethiopia, cycling in South America and driving Land Rovers in Mongolia, tap into Dad’s bucket list.

  1. Fish the Remote Russian Wilderness: Ryabaga Camp on the Ponoi River is located above the Arctic Circle and accessed via a two-hour Mi-8 helicopter ride across remote Russian tundra. There, an entirely wild Atlantic salmon population thrives, and Dad will enjoy a single-occupancy cabin, gourmet food and fine wine. Frontiers International Travel arranges it all, including flights, activities and visas.
  2. Trek the Roof of Africa: Dad will spend four days hiking and camping in Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains – part of the Roof of Africa – on this trip with Adventure Life. The range has more than a dozen peaks over 12,000 feet and is home to the gelada baboon, Ethiopian wolf, walia ibex and birds of prey such as the lammergeyer. Dad will also start and end at the Simien Mountain Lodge, set on the edge of an escarpment at 10,700 feet and claiming the highest bar on the continent.
  3. Play Cowboy at a Working Ranch: Did your Dad grow up idolizing John Wayne and Clint Eastwood? At the 25,000-acre Red Reflet Ranch in Ten Sleep, Wyoming, he can ride horses, fish, shoot guns, ATV and play cowboy like his heroes. Additional activities include guided hikes, dirt bike rides and mountain biking. Gourmet dining includes ingredients from the ranch’s butcher shop, organic greenhouse and gardens. From cattle drives to branding, the true western lifestyle thrives at Red Reflet.
  4. Ride South America From Top to Tip: On TDA Global Cycling’s 8,400-mile South American Epic tour, Dad can bike from the shores of the Caribbean across the equator and south to the Beagle Channel, or one of nine shorter sections. Highlights include Colombian coffee, Volcano Alley in Ecuador, the Incan highlands of Peru, the Bolivian salt flat, Argentina’s wine country and the trans-Patagonian Carretera Austral, while rest days offer the opportunity to fly over the incredible Nazca Lines, explore Macha Picchu and more.
  5. Drive Land Rovers on the Silk Road: Since MIR Corporation’s inception in 1986, it has been creating custom overland adventures. On a self-drive tour, Dad and his friends can get behind the wheel of Land Rovers, motorcycles or even vintage automobiles and cross the rolling steppe of Mongolia, pass through the charming towns and villages of Siberia, or even travel the Silk Road. These journeys are momentous, unforgettable and limited only by one’s own imagination.
  6. Golf, Shoot and Sip Under the Big Sky: A stay-and-play package at Montana’s Moonlight Basin will give Dad and his friends a taste of life in Big Sky Country. They’ll play rounds of golf on the Jack Nicklaus-signature course at Moonlight Basin – named one of the best new courses in the country – and the Tom Weiskopf course at the Spanish Peaks Mountain Club, then shoot sporting clays with Moonlight Outfitters. And in the evening, they can retire to a spacious mountain home beneath 11,166-foot Lone Peak and sip whiskey at a private, curated tasting.
  7. See the Northern Lights in Alaska: Dad will get a dose of local culture by day and photograph the Aurora Borealis under the massive Alaskan sky by night. Highlights of this Gondwana Eoctours adventure include dogsledding through snowy forests, hiking alongside a family of reindeer taking curling lessons from locals in Fairbanks soaking in the geothermal Chena Hot Springs learning to photograph the Aurora Borealis from a professional photographer snowshoeing on private land and exploring the Ice Sculpture Museum.

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Backroads Unveils Robust Program to Most Popular Family Travel Summer Destinations

Iceland is one of the most popular destinations for family adventure travel this summer © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Alaska, Yellowstone and the Tetons, Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast and Italy’s Dolomites top the list of the most popular summer travel destinations for families, according to Backroads, one of the world’s leading active travel companies that has focused more intently on family travel in recent years.

“The trend of immediate and extended families traveling together continues to grow, as families of all ages look to collect shared authentic experiences, while also doing more with limited vacation time,” the company stated.

This summer Backroads is offering nearly 450 family trip departures. This summer’s top-selling Backroads trips include easily accessible domestic destinations for those looking for an immersive vacation that is a quick flight or short drive from home. Following last year’s centennial celebrations in the US National Parks, the company’s camping trips continue to sell well.

The strong US dollar is also positively impacting growth in Europe with must-see regions like the Loire Valley, and off-the-beaten path destinations, including Sweden are trending hotter than ever.

Backroads top trips in the US this summer include:

Alaska: Family: Alaska’s Prince William Sound to Denali Multisport Adventure Tour; Family Breakaway: Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula Adventure Tour

Utah & Arizona: Family and Family Breakaway: Bryce, Zion & Grand Canyon Multisport Adventure Tour; Yellowstone & Tetons; Family: Discover the Wonders of Wyoming’s Wild Preserves Multisport Adventure Tour; Family Breakaway: Exploring the Wyoming Wilderness Walking & Hiking Tour

For families looking to travel internationally, Backroads offers many departures from European gateway cities for easy travel and extended stays on either end of a trip.

European top-selling Backroads trips to international destinations include:

Croatia: Family: 101 Ways to Play in Croatia’s Dalmatian Islands Multisport Tour; Family Breakaway: From Split to Dubrovnik via Croatia’s Island Paradise Bike Tour

Iceland: Family: Exploration at the Edge of the Arctic Circle Multisport Adventure Tour; Family Breakaway: Coastal Fishing Villages of Northern Iceland Walking & Hiking Tour

Spain and Portugal: Family: From Barcelona to Catalonia’s Peaks & Beaches Bike Tour; Family Breakaway: A Taste of Camino de Santiago Walking & Hiking Tour

Switzerland: Family: Massif Thrills in the Swiss Alps Multisport Adventure Tour; Family Breakaway: A Summer Adventure in the Swiss Alps Walking & Hiking Tour

“There is something very special about the tradition of family summer trips. Not only are they a chance to explore and discover new or favorite locations, but they are also a chance for families to spend unforgettable quality time together,” said Tom Hale, Backroads founder and president. “Our goal at Backroads is to enable people to take full advantage of their vacation time and not sweat any of the details. In many cases we have spent years in these regions and know the most beautiful hikes, the best bike rides, and which campground has the most spectacular view. We offer family trips people often dream of, but in reality know they are typically too difficult to plan on their own.”

A leader in family travel, Backroads has been designing active vacations for almost 40 years and offers Family Trips for kids of all ages all the way up to older teens and 20-somethings. With daily route options and a range of activities, including those designed just for kids, Backroads adventures are geared toward multigenerational travelers and for families of mixed ages, interests, and abilities. The company emphasizes fun, dynamic and safety-focused travel crafted to immerse guests in a place and culture with authentic interactions and highly skilled leaders.

Backroads has nearly 450 family and family breakaway (designed for families with older teens and 20-something aged kids) departures available this summer, including options for private trips. Trip Consultants help match families with kids of similar ages and provide details on activity age restrictions and recommendations.

For more information, visit www.backroads.com or call 800-462-2848 daily, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Pacific time.
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Austin Adventures Facilitates Vacations in America’s Over-Popular National Parks

Hiking up the Mist Trail alongside Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park. National parks are ideal for summer family vacations, so much so, they are overrun. Tour operator like Austin Adventures not only has hotel space, but can facilitate the visit to minimize crowds © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Last year, a record setting 331 million people visited a national park in the U.S.  2015 had earlier set the record at 307 million visitors. Over the last two years there has been a 13 percent visitor increase overall. This is a trend that experts say is here to stay.

The good news is that more and more people are enjoying America’s “best idea.” The downside is that roads, pull-overs and entrance stations are more crowded than ever, parking is hard to find, campgrounds are booked full by noon, restaurant reservations are difficult to secure and for those waiting too long to book lodging, there’s no room left at the inn.

Because vacation time is too precious for such factors as frustration and anxiety, advance vacation planning that includes putting a professional tour operator in charge of the logistics can help buy peace of mind and a better overall experience.

“When a national park is in the equation, a good tour company can give you the kind of quality park vacation that just might not be possible on your own,” said Dan Austin, President of Austin Adventures, a leader in family-focused, multisport vacations here and abroad.

Austin’s company offers a good reason of why one should consider a tour operator for a national park vacation. “We have stayed ahead of the growth curve by adding capacity and trip departures. We also work hard to block the best rooms inside a park, a year or more in advance.” This is an investment (and risk) to the tour operator, having to secure everything so far into the future. But in Austin Adventures’ case, it has been a winning strategy.

Where an individual or family may find frustration going it on their own, booking through an operator can make the process pain-free. A tour operator has the rooms, the restaurant reservations and sightseeing logistics all worked out. They alleviate parking woes by dropping guests off at a trailhead and picking them up at a different spot later. They can also avoid the masses because they know where the crowds aren’t as well as the best times to be there (on Austin’s Yellowstone Park trips they often avoid the crowds at Old Faithful by visiting at sunrise – a short walk from their lodge).

“Guests benefit from our expertise, ‘insider’s knowledge and long-standing park connections,” Austin said.

Tour operators know the area, inside and outside the park, as well as the best places to stay, eat, view wildlife, etc. They have highly trained guides who are focused on customer service, safety and security, as well as having fun, said Rick Hoeninghausen, Director of Sales & Marketing for Yellowstone National Park Lodges.

Quality tour operators often build in special touches that enhance the experience for their guests. For example, Austin Adventures will surprise their guests with fresh made ice cream and fruit parfaits served along the hiking trail.

Some of Austin Adventures’ most popular National Park family itineraries include Yellowstone Family Adventure, Yosemite National Park Multisport, Grand Canyon Family Vacation & Tour, and the Bryce and Zion National Park Tour in Utah. For information on all of the company’s National Park adventures, see: http://www.austinadventures.com/national-park-vacations/

Based in Billings, MT, Austin Adventures has spent more than 40 years building an international reputation as a top provider of luxury, pre-set and custom-designed small group tours for adults and families to the world’s most captivating destinations. In 2013, Austin Adventures joined the Xanterra Parks & Resorts® portfolio of experiential leisure offerings that includes operations in Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Zion, Crater Lake, Glacier, Rocky Mountain and Petrified Forest National Parks; Mount Rushmore National Memorial; Furnace Creek Resort in Death Valley National Park; and five Ohio State Park Lodges as well as the Geneva Marina at Ohio’s Geneva State Park. Xanterra Parks & Resorts also owns and operates Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va., the Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel in Williams, Ariz., the Grand Hotel in Tusayan, Ariz., Windstar Cruises, VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations, Country Walkers and Austin Adventures.

For information on Austin Adventures, www.austinadventures.com, call 800-575-1540 or email info@austinadventures.com.

 

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Tofino Expeditions Offers Sea Kayak Trips to Haida Gwaii, ‘Canada’s Galapagos’

Travelers can take advantage of Canada’s 150th birthday for savings on Tofino Expeditions, sea kayak explorations to Haida Gwaii, ‘Canada’s Galapagos’

BEND, OR – Tofino Expeditions, a leading purveyor of sea kayak-supported explorations of Earth’s marvels, is spot on when selecting award-winning locales to awe their guests who prefer the serenity and special access that water offers when discovering new worlds.

In 1992, Tofino Expeditions blazed new trails and began offering wilderness tours in and around Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, often referred to as “Canada’s Galapagos” due to the archipelago’s unique ecology. In 2016 this park and reserve located on the southern end of the Haida Gwaii Archipelago was selected as one of three finalists for a 2017 National Geographic World Legacy Award in the category “Sense of Place.” The majesty of totem poles grouped along the shoreline of an ancient village is but one of the unique experiences awaiting inquisitive visitors.

“We’re thrilled that these very special islands are garnering such international acclaim,” said Grant Thompson, Founder and Owner of Tofino Expeditions. “The vacation combination we offer here is unbeatable: a time-capsule look at an ancient culture through the lens of abandoned Haida villages with hot springs, the flora and fauna typical of a Pacific Coast virgin rainforest and some of the continent’s finest sea kayaking.”

Tofino Expeditions’ eight-day Haida Gwaii Kayaking Tours conducted in July and August 2017 engage paddlers of all ability levels on coastal waters surrounding some 150 islands located 80 miles off British Columbia’s northwest coast. Paddlers land on the same beaches that the Haida, an indigenous people, once accessed when pulling cedar canoes ashore. These ancient people were seafarers who lived in harmony with nature leaving behind timeless artifacts depicting lineage and lore.

2017 offers a special value for guests as well. The per person double rate is $1,990 without a usual add-on. This year, Parks Canada is waiving its $120 CDN park access fee in honor of their 150th birthday celebration (saving guests $120 CDN each).

Guests explore the Islands in modern comfort and style utilizing two-person tandem expedition kayaks. These craft are 25 percent faster than single kayaks while providing additional stability that eliminates the need to wear cold water immersion gear while paddling. Each day guides surprise and delight guests with freshly prepared meals reflecting Tofino Expeditions’ reputation for high quality ingredients and campfire cooking expertise. This wildness trip uses the finest camping equipment available including Mountain Hardwear four seasons mountaineering tents. Two guests share a tent designed for three persons allowing extra elbow room. Guests arrive and depart through Sandspit airport (YZP) on the northeast tip of Moresby Island.

Haida Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve (Gwaii Haanas means “Place of Wonder”) was founded to protect the natural and cultural integrity of the remote southern portion of the archipelago. Formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, National Geographic rated Gwaii Haanas National Park as the top park destination in North America; Outside Magazine Travel Awards rated Haida Gwaii as “Best Islands” and UNESCO has declared the village of Skung Gwaii with its intact totem poles, a World Heritage Site.

In addition to an intact cultural heritage, the region is rife with sea lions lounging on rocky haul-outs; gulls, petrels and tufted puffins perching on cliffs; humpback and orca whales gliding through channels and straits; and tidal shallows scattered with a tapestry of brightly colored sea stars. Burnaby Narrows is considered the richest inter-tidal life zone on the planet. Indigenous land animals unique to this region are the dusky shrew, pine marten and the Haida Gwaii black bear that thrives on salmon and crustaceans.

For more information see: https://www.tofino.com/haida-gwaii/haida-gwaii-kayaking-tours/

For information on all of Tofino’s world-wide tours, availability and reservations please contact Tofino Expeditions by phone: 800-677-0877 or (541) 389-6091; email: info@tofino.com; or visit online at http://www.tofino.com/. Request or download a catalog online at: https://www.tofino.com/#catalog.

Grant Thompson, owner/director, founded Tofino Expeditions in 1988 as a single fleet sea kayaking tour company in the small fishing town of Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Canada. Today this family owned and operated active adventure travel company offers a selection of the world’s finest sea kayaking destinations and tours. Its team, many of whom hold degrees in natural sciences, embrace sustainable wilderness ethics and authentic cultural discoveries. Luxury comes in the form of local connections, intimate knowledge and special access thanks to local guides who also educate clients on safety and kayaking skills that allow even the inexperienced to feel confident and secure on the water. The vast majority of Tofino’s trips include immersive visits into UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Norway, Sardinia, the Amazon rainforest, the Costa Verde, Brazil, Cinque Terre and the Italian Riviera, Venice, Halong Bay in Vietnam, Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast and the Galapagos Islands.
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Sports Tours International Makes it Easy for American Fans to Watch, Join Major Cycling Events

A Manchester, UK company is issuing invites across the pond to sports fans in the US and Canada to view or engage in some of the world’s most iconic yet demanding athletic events.

Sports Tours International takes care of all the vacation arrangements in a variety of inclusive packages while tracking the drama of international cycling and running events.

Guests may become event players themselves, as in a late June inaugural Haute Route for cyclists in the American Rockies. All may witness the agonies and joys at starting and ending stages of fierce competitions. They can ride the same courses the warriors master; they can be tourists in places new to them. And always they are viewing the world through the eyes of a passionate athlete.

Sports Tours International does the vacation packaging legwork for the following 2017 cycling events:

May 5-28, 2017 – 100th Giro d’Italia – As an official Tour Operator of this grand tour of cycling, Sports Tours International has exclusive VIP options on 6 sprint stages, 8 medium mountain stages, 5 high mountain stages and 2 Individual Time Trials. Sports Tours International offers five spectator tour packages to witness the 100th edition of this Grand Tour that begins in Sardinia, climbs up Mount Etna, weaves through the rest of Italy and Dolomites as riders conquer Stelvio and Mortirolo, and arrives in Milan for a spectacular time trial from the Monza Grand Prix motor racing circuit. See: https://www.sportstoursinternational.co.uk/event-categories/giro-ditalia/

Suggested Package: The Final 9 Days, May 20-29, 2017 is priced from US$2,760 per person based on sharing a double/twin room (both cyclists and spectators are welcome). This is a 10-day program that includes, among others, gifts and informational packets, a copy of the official 100th Giro d’Italia roadbook, accommodation for nine nights, multiple meals, all transfers and transportation, the grand finale in Milan, bike handling and storage. Rental bikes are available. Guests lodge on arrival in Milan, then transfer for three nights each in Bormio and Cortina d’Ampezzo to watch the final legs of the Giro before returning to Milan for two additional nights to attend the finish as a VIP at Piazza Duomo. Every day there will be cycling opportunities as well as options to watch the Giro d’Italia. On a Giro rest day in Bormio, guests may cycle, visit a local spa, hop on a train or cable car or do some leisurely shopping. See more at: https://www.sportstoursinternational.co.uk/events/giro-ditalia-finale

June 24-30, 2017 – Mavic Haute Route Rockies. Sports Tours International’s experience on European Haute Routes (the toughest cyclosportives in the world) benefits cyclists participating in this inaugural event, the first Haute Route on North American soil. Organized by OC Sports of Switzerland, this combines the established format of the European Haute Route events with the thrill of riding through some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the heartland of American road cycling. The event starts in Boulder before heading through the Colorado Rockies, stopping in Winter Park, Avon, Snowmass Village, Crested Butte and finishing in Colorado Springs. Interest is this exciting new event is high and entries are expected to sell quickly. Entry fees for riders in the competition: US$1,800 subject to availability. This is available with or without the rider support package.

Suggested Rider Support Package: June 24-30, 2017. This package priced at US$2,180 per person, based on sharing a double/twin room includes accommodation for nine nights, daily breakfasts, dinners, airport and daily transfers including transport of non-riding companions between stages and to viewing points, bike handling, gifts and informational packets, and midweek laundry. See: https://www.sportstoursinternational.co.uk/events/haute-route-rockies/

July 1-23, 2017 – Tour de France. Sports Tours International is an official tour operator for the world’s biggest annual sporting event. Guests have special VIP access to stage start villages, VIP hospitality at finish lines and the opportunity to ride some of the routes taken by the pro riders. In particular, Sports Tours International offers official grandstand seating and VIP hospitality available for the final stage in Paris where the new yellow jersey winner is crowned. For only the fourth time in this tour’s history, the event will begin in a German city, this year in Dusseldorf. See: https://www.sportstoursinternational.co.uk/event-categories/tour-de-france/

Suggested Package: Mountain Stages, July 11-24, 2017. On this official Tour de France 14-day tour itinerary guests start and finish in Paris and witness all the mountain stages in the Pyrenees, followed by the Alpine finale and the deciding Time Trial in Marseille. Guests have VIP access to some stage starts and also enjoy VIP Hospitality at one of the finish lines. Included are airport transfers in Paris, nightly accommodation and breakfasts, some dinners, bike transfers and storage, and train transfer from Marseille to Paris for the grand finale. The per person rate based on sharing a double/twin room is from US$3,450. See: https://www.sportstoursinternational.co.uk/events/2017-tour-de-france-pyrenees-alps-marseille-paris/

July 30, 2017 – Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100. This London Marathon for cyclists is an opportunity to ride 100 miles on the closed roads of London and out into the English countryside of Surrey before finishing on The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace. This is the route based on one made famous by the 2012 Olympics Road Race. Sports Tours International has guaranteed entry and hotel accommodation available for two, four and five nights for people wanting to join this race. Per person rates based on sharing a double/twin room include accommodation, guaranteed entry to the race, service and support of Sports Tours International staff and bike storage at the hotel.  Note: entries to participate in this event close on 26th May, interested parties need to act quickly! See: https://www.sportstoursinternational.co.uk/events/ridelondon/

Sept. 1-11, 2017 – La Vuelta a España. This is the final Grand Tour of the season. The 2016 Vuelta a España was a nail-biting duel almost to the very end between Nairo Quintana and Chris Froome. Despite pulling back an enormous amount of time in the time trial, Quintana was able to hold off Froome in the final stage, becoming the first Colombian to win the race since 1987. Sports Tours International welcomes riders as well as spectators. Experience the battle for the red jersey up close and personal. Guides know the ideal locations and viewing points to experience the best of La Vuelta. See: https://www.sportstoursinternational.co.uk/event-categories/vuelta-espana/

Suggested Package: The Final Week, Sept. 4-11, 2017This 8-day tour from US$1,610 per person, based on sharing a double/twin room, experiences the stages of the second week of 2017 Vuelta including the final stages. This all takes place in northern Spain including the finale on the infamous Angliru. The rate includes hotels in the best places, many meals, transport to watch the stages, ride support and bike guides. Bike rental options available. See:
https://www.sportstoursinternational.co.uk/events/2017-vuelta-a-espana-final-week/

For more information, available packages, space availability and reservations please visit online: www.sportstoursinternational.com, email: sales@sportstoursinternational.co.uk, or call: (+44) 161 703 8161.

Sports Tours International is a leading European specialist in sports travel. Since inception in 1973 they have hosted thousands of participants and spectators at major sporting events worldwide. With the tagline, Fanatical about Sport, the company’s initial roots came from a devotion to running when founder Vince Regan began taking runners to the NYC Marathon. Since the early 2000s, the company now embraces international cycling events and triathlon competitions, sports training camps and corporate hospitality. Clients often can participate in events with the pros and are encouraged to “unleash your inner hero” or when it’s not possible to compete, there’s the ability to be active spectators along the routes and “watch your heroes.” 

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