The end of summer is a perfect time to go hiking in Central Vermont. The days are warm, but the air has got just that edge of chill to it that says fall is on the way. Go in late August and you might just see some of the leaves starting to change color.
The towns of Stowe as well as Warren and Waitsfield near Sugarbush all offer a number of family-friendly hikes that are perfect even for younger kids. Take advantage of the waning days of summer to enjoy spectacular views of the Green and Adirondack Mountains and beyond. Here are a few favorites:
Sunset Ledge. My family has hiked this portion of the Long Trail (which runs from the Canadian to the Massachusetts borders) numerous times starting when my sons were very young. It’s steep at the bottom, but not too steep, and offers a couple of fun rock faces that kids can easily scramble up. The best part about this hike is that it’s only about two miles round trip and offers the reward of great views at the ledge – which is also a perfect spot for a picnic.
Sterling Pond. Starting at the top of Smuggler’s Notch near Stowe, this is the steepest and most challenging of the hikes listed here, and is probably best for families with school-age children. The challenge of the hike is rewarded with a beautiful pond (it is in fact the highest stocked trout pond in the state) as well as views galore. The trail is well maintained but can be slippery when wet.
The Pinnacle. This hike just outside Stowe offers what may be the best views of the Green Mountain Range that you’ll find anywhere in Vermont. It’s steep enough to feel like a legitimate hike to kids, but short enough at just under three miles that they won’t get too tired. The bottom can be muddy after rain; you may choose to park in the upper parking area (called The Meadow) and skip the muckiest portion of the trail.
The Enchanted Forest. This trail in Camel’s Hump State Forest in Waitsfield is actually officially named the Dana Forest Trail and it’s a great nature walk with kids. Starting in a meadow, it traverses a forest that’s home to woodpeckers (and black bears, so be on the lookout) as well as sap lines for a local syrup maker. The highlight of the hike is a huge stand of pine trees whose beauty has earned the trail’s nickname.
For more information about where to find all these hikes and many others see the Green Mountain Club and Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce websites. The weather can change quickly at this time of year, so be prepared for your family hike with warm, waterproof layers and sturdy shoes.
And be sure to celebrate your completed hike with an ice cream at the Sweet Spot in Waitsfield or I.C. Scoops in Stowe.
If you haven’t had your fill of summer, extend your days of sun with a weekend getaway to Scottsdale. Hot, dry summer days in this Arizona golf and resort town give way to warm days and balmy nights, perfect for family days around the pool or on the links. Here’s what to do in Scottsdale this fall:
1. Play tennis or golf. In the summer months, visitors to Scottsdale are limited to early morning and late evening golf tee times and tennis matches, but in autumn, schedules can be more flexible. Nearly all Scottsdale vacation homes within resort areas offer golf and tennis, and kids’ lessons are often discounted off-season. Our favorite resort golf: the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess course, which is open to the public.
2. Hike or visit nearby national parks and monuments. One of our favorites is easy-to-access Pinnacle Peak, locate din Pinnacle Peak Park. Tackle this hike in the morning or evening, as shade is not available. Outside of town, tour the Casa Grande Ruins (over 650 years old) at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. Take a guided tour of the ruins, then cool off in the visitor’s center to learn more.
3. Horseback ride. If renting a vacation home located within a resort, find out whether a stable is located on-site. If not, check with Scottsdale’s multitude of horseback riding operations for off-season discounts. Half-day rides (as opposed to shorter hour rides) are also an option now that the sun isn’t quite as intense.
4. Sit by the pool. It’s still warm enough in Scottsdale all autumn to enjoy one of our favorite summer pastimes…sitting by the pool. Find a vacation home in a community with a pool (which shouldn’t be a challenge), or visit a public pool. Find some shade and relax for the day!
I spent the majority of my childhood growing up in Madison, New Hampshire, which is a short distance away from North Conway, the center of The White Mountains in New Hampshire. Growing up there I thought it was terribly boring and I couldn’t wait to get out. Now, as someone who goes up for the occasional visit, there’s a few things I need to tick off my list:
Go visit the kancamagus highway
And more importantly, check out the river. Any time of year it’s beautiful and definitely a worthwhile trip!
Go to Beas cafe
Or Peaches if you’re closer to North Conway than center Conway. Both of these little breakfast cafe’s have really good food at a really good price. I haven’t been in a few months, but I’m pretty sure it’s cash only!
Drive to the top of Mt. Washington
And get one of those super cheesy bumper stickers at the top! I have to admit, I’ve never actually driven up there, but I will be going within the next few months with my boyfriend.
Spend a day hanging out in Schuler Park
Get some ice cream at the Ben and Jerry’s, grab a drink at the Met, sit on the grass with a blanket and a good book… there’s a TON of stuff going on around “downtown” North Conway that can easily keep you busy for the day!
There are few things I enjoy more than buying a cheap inner tube, grabbing some good friends, and spending hours floating down the river. The best part is that an hour long river ride often equals about a 15 minute walk back to your car!
To get here, you have to fly into either Manchester or Boston and drive up, but it’s a beautiful drive and well worth it! Pick any time of the year and you’ll find plenty of awesome stuff to do. Hit the road!
Click here for lodging options in New Hampshire.
Of all the wildflowers in bloom in Colorado’s outdoors from April to July each year, the Colombine is the most revered. Its status as the official State Flower makes it a beautiful emblem of the Centennial State. Those who are lucky enough to spot it should stop to have a sniff of its deep aroma and snap a photo of this Colorado icon. Here are a few facts about Aquilegia caerulea to keep in mind while admiring:
Elected by schoolchildren
The Columbine’s journey to become the Colorado state flower began in 1891 when Colorado school children voted the Rocky Mountain columbine their favorite flower. It won by a landslide – of the 22,316 votes cast, 14,472 went to the Rocky Mountain Columbine.
Protected by law
Think before you pick! In 1925, the General Assembly enacted a law to protect the rare and delicate state flower. The statute made it illegal to uproot the flower on public lands, and the gathering of blossoms and buds is limited to 25 in one day. Columbines may not be picked at all on private land without the consent of the landowner. At the time the law was passed, it was a misdemeanor “punished by a fine of not less than five nor more than fifty dollars.”
Food for butterflies and hummingbirds
The blossom’s unique shape makes it well equipped to attract long-tongued nectar feeders, namely moths and hummingbirds. Columbines and hummingbirds are symbiotic – the hummingbird’s slender bill and long tongue enables the bird to reach the flower’s nectar from the base of the spur; in exchange, they act as the Columbine’s top pollinator.
Named after eagles and doves
The Latin word aquila (which is the root of the plant’s genus Aquilegia) means “Eagle” and refers to the claw-like spurs at the base of the flower. The common name ”columbine” comes from the Latin for “dove”, due to the resemblance of the inverted flower to five doves clustered together.
An indigenous remedy
It is said that the Native Americans of this region used the Columbine as a herbal remedy. They would treat ailments from fever to heart tension and even poison ivy pain with Columbine-infused tea.
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How would you define luxury accommodations? The definition will be different for different people. When my family made it’s way to St. Lucia, we stayed at a truly luxurious property. I knew it was sumptuous because our spacious top floor suite had exquisite furnishings, an amazing deck that overlooked the ocean and a hot tub the size of a small Olympic pool right on the terrace. My teenage daughter felt it was luxurious because she didn’t have to share a bedroom with her sister. Not only did she have her own room, it was tastefully furnished with a king bed and had it’s own amazing bathroom suite off the side door. She was instantly in heaven.
This gorgeous property is called “The Landings St. Lucia“. It is located on a sparkling beach on the western side of St. Lucia by the clear waters of Rodney Bay. It has a private marina that holds several private yachts. The grounds are exquisite with a beach lined with swaying palm trees that beckons to you. It has all the luxury amenities you would expect from a five star property including two floodlit tennis courts, a health club, a wonderful full service spa to indulge in and your choice in fine dining.
Our villa was over 2000 square feet with Italian tile floors and a fully-equipped, premium kitchen. The room was tastefully decorated with style and comfort in mind. We felt immediately at home and quickly unpacked so we could begin to enjoy our custom trip.
The beach was every bit as wonderful as it looked from our terrace. The ocean was almost bathtub warm and you could spend hours enjoying it. One of our favorite memories of our St. Lucia’s beach was “the fruit guy”. I don’t think he ever shared his name. His little boat would putter up to the shore every morning almost groaning under the weight of dozens of different fresh tropical fruit. We would wade out to where he stopped and the bartering began. I loved how he cut up the fresh mango on the spot. He husked all the coconuts and cut off the top of the cocoa fruit so we could slip our fingers in to pull out the seed pods ourselves. (We hadn’t tried cocoa fruit before this trip. It’s delicious!). We spent the rest of our beach time enjoying our bounty and washing our sticky fingers in the ocean waves.
St. Lucia had so much else to offer. We started our sightseeing at Rodney Bay. Originally famous for a pirate hideout in the 1700s, the Bay now hosts cafes, shops, bars, night clubs and a new casino. We went sailing on a tall ship out into the bay at night. The stars were so bright you felt you could almost reach up and touch them. Then we wandered through the shops and stopped for dinner to enjoy the best steaks I’ve ever had at Big Chef Steakhouse.
For a little adventure the next day, we took a Segway tour up into the rainforest and onto the beaches. The guides were wonderful, explaining all the flora and fauna we saw. They gave us some colored history of the island and treated us for a fresh fruit break at the top of a mountain near a historic bombing bunker. I didn’t know you could climb a mountain on a Segway. They’re not for malls alone! This was such an amazing tour of jungle and sand. I highly recommend it for a little excitement.
The trip wouldn’t be perfect without a hike to the top of the famous Pigeon Island lookout. This remnant of the war between the French and the British for the Island is a 44 acre preserve filled with military buildings, cannons and artillery remains. The hike is a challenge but the view from the lookout across the island is worth it. With it’s stunning beaches, interesting military and pirate history, and luxurious accommodations, I loved every minute of my custom trip.