Archive for the Category »VT «

  Hotel of the Week: Moms – It’s All Planned For You…. Plus, a Good Laugh.

It’s a fact. Women are the main decision makers when it comes to planning family vacations. So when a friend told me about this special family camp in Vermont, where all meals and activities are planned for you, I had to check it out online. (Now I need to get there in person :) )

It’s called Tyler Place, and they call themselves “the best family resort minus the hype.”Indeed, it does seem to provide everything you could think of doing at a family camp.
Family camps are the latest trend in travel… more down home during these scaled back times.

The accommodations at Tyler Place are certainly homey… just add the white picket fence to this cottage and it is a Norman Rockwell painting. The inside is very relaxed, not fancy…and every room – whether it be a suite, or a cottage, has its own parents’ bedroom.

The setting is 165 acres on a Vermont lake-shore (Lake Champlain) … with all that land it should be no surprise that Tyler Place is able to offer everything from all sorts of water sports (water skiing, lake trampolines, kayaking, fishing, catamaraning, sailing, etc!) guided bike trips… to hiking… to tennis… to golf…to volleyball and take your pick: indoor or outdoor basketball courts. There is also a spa, and an arts and crafts studio.
You can partake in all these fun activities with your kids – or if you need a little down time, and we all do, there are camp sessions for all ages where your kids go off with counselors to have fun. You may find them making a vase in a pottery class, or tending to the corn in the organic garden..while you relax on your hammock with a glass of wine and a good book.

Now, I have been to a family camp before – many universities these days offer family camps to alumni. So, my family visited one – no names mentioned but it is NOT UCLA… We were surprised at what you got for the price – dirty cabins, and no lounge chairs or pool by which to relax. I was at least looking forward to the special lectures led by university professors in their areas of expertise – instead I got a foreign policy discussion led by a student counselor who wasn’t even alive during the Gulf War under George H. Bush. For the price we paid, we could have been at a Four Seasons. (OK OK I know..that’s not really camping.)

Why do I tell you this? Because I am impressed with what you get at Tyler Place for the price. A family of four can go for seven nights for $3112…but that includes three meals a day, lodging, and all activities. I also like the fact that tipping is NOT permitted, instead 10% is added to your bill..that way you can relax and not worry about having to carry change everywhere you go.

If you are planning a summer vacation, now’s the time to start thinking about where to go. If you want to check out Tyler Place:

On another note, that has nothing to do with travel, unless you have tickets booked to Libya, I want to share this cartoon by Cam Cardow of Ottawa Citizen. It is hilarious. I hope that starts your weekend with a smile. :)

By Cam Cardow

  Hotel of the Week: A Heavenly Haven in Hollywood

Found a cute little gem of a place in Hollywood this week when I was on a shoot there. Petit Ermitage is a boutique hotel, with a Bohemian vibe.  The lovely garden cafe and rooftop pool  is a must for your next date, if you’re a local. But – it is a “members only” club, so you need to book a room in order to eat there. I don’t love that sort of  ”too cool” policy, give me a break. However, the food looks tasty, and the atmosphere, sublime.

European in feel, the hotel has all suites  - and, you know what makes me happy in a hotel – FREE WiFi! It is located on a neighborood street near Sunset Blvd – a very central location to explore the hipper side of Los Angeles.

Butterfly Bar at the Petit Ermitage

What it lacks in top luxury it makes up for in personality…a cute, ethinc-y bar (Butterfly Bar) and a heck of an art collection! I was admiring all the prints in the hallways, when I had a moment to stop and look at the artist’s name  - There were at least 20 Rauschenbergs just on the floor on which I was shooting. The hotel also has works from Miro, De Kooning, and Dali – all from a private collection. And did I mention the cookies waiting for you at the front desk?

Le Petit Ermitage, Hollywood, CA

Getting back to my favorite part of the hotel – the rooftop pool and garden.

There is a lovely fireplace with big couches and chairs to lounge… and the bar is right off the garden. It takes a romantic turn at night…

It is becoming a chic hang out – quiet, and with a view of the Hollywood HIlls. (Of course, our set in the below phoeo is not normally part of the view.)

I love that it is away from the main LA traffic. The photographer with whom I was working lives nearby and said he takes his girlfriend there for dinner and then stays the night. I love the thought of getting away from it all by walking there. Quite quaint.

Have a great weekend – and if you don’ t live near Petit Ermitage, maybe it’s time to follow the photgrapher’s lead discover a neighborhood getaway next to you :)

  A California day trip

Many schools in my area still on spring break…and many parents are looking for things to do with their kids.

Since this year our golden state saw more than average amounts of snow fall, many local ski areas are still open – an easy for a day trip from most Southern and Northern California cities. Some are offering discounted post-season lift ticket rates.

Snow Valley, CA

Last week my family skied at Snow Valley near Lake Arrowhead….luckily it snowed one night when we were there so we had some fresh powder to coat what had turned into some icy runs. The snow might be a little slushy in this warm weather, but the kids still had a good time, and it actually helped my youngest ski down the more advanced runs there. (Snow Valley is a relatively easy resort…which is great for beginner/intermediate skiers. But at one point my 8 year old daughter turned to me and said “Mom, I need some more challenging runs….)

The cost for FIVE lift tickets was only $64 – That is less than one lift ticket at bigger resorts! Kids under 7 ski free. The LA Times reported that Snow Valley and Mountain High will stay open until late April if they get enough skiiers and snow boarders. BTW – there are a lot of snowboarders here..the mountain has a special snowboard area with many jumps.

Other Southern California getaways – Mt Baldy will stay open until end of May….and gotta love Mammoth Mountain. They got so much snow those lifts probably will stay open until mid June!

For Northern California skiiers, the LA Times also reported that Sugar Bowl, Heavenly, and Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area will be open until April 25. Sugar Bowl is another one of my favorite family ski destinations..and about three hours from San Francisco. The more advanced resort, Squaw Valley, will stay open until May 9.

A bit of advice: before you go check with the resorts website for snow conditions and which runs are open if that matters to you.

  Want to take a last minute spring break trip but don’t know where to go?

Despite all the cold weather around the country in recent weeks – spring break is quickly approaching!

For a fresh perspective on where we can still go at this last minute, I spoke with a fabulous travel agent whom I have recommended to some of my BFFs, and now HE is one of THEIR BFFs!

Luxury travel consultant and family vacation planner John Clifford, President of  International Travel shared with us his picks for the best under-the-radar, family Spring Break getaways. ,

He says : “Spring Break 2010, will offer unprecedented bargains as the global economy continues to improve, while new hotels open in popular destinations and the travel industry seeks to entice holiday makers with bargains galore.”

“Families traveling this year stand to gain the most as discounts for adjoining rooms, value added amenities like free meals and upgrades abound.”

Forget Vegas, Florida and overdeveloped, mass-market destinations overrun with breaking revelers. John says savvy families this year will be enjoying such locales as….

Santa Fe, NM

The city is celebrating its 400 year anniversary this year highlighting the city’s rich tri cultural heritage and designation as the oldest continually inhabited capital city as well as the highest in the U.S.

Aside from being an art mecca, Santa Fe boasts Indian markets & pueblos, historic Spanish colonial sites along with an amazing bounty of outdoor activities from ballooning to canyoneering mountain climbing and more.

Not only did artist Georgia O’Keefe call this place home, but today, the city boasts family favorite museums, one featuring O’Keefe’s works, and others such as the Museum of International Folk Art and the Wheelright Museum of the American Indian which are favorites to kids and families.

But wait, kids actually get their own museum here, the Santa Fe Children’s Museum ( full of interactive exhibits & special events.

Hop aboard the Santa Fe Southern Railway ( and ride a vintage rail car to the abandoned, ghost town of Lamy.

Or take in the Casa Grande Trading Post a combination, kitschy petting zoo and turquoise mining museum.

Don’t miss an excursion 45 minutes from town to Bandelier National Monument ( to experience ruins and cliff dwellings, ceremonial caves & petroglyphs of the Anasazi culture that was thought to have inhabited the area seven or eight centuries ago.

Insider’s Tip: Families love local writer and bibliophile Barbara Harrelson’s 2-hour walking tour of downtown Santa Fe which explores the history, personalities, the legends and the lore of the area through its stories and its literary landmarks.

The Mayan Riviera, Mexico (Tracy’s pick also! Want to go!)

No matter what you think about the Mayan Riviera, it is not Cancun.  It’s the anti-Cancun. So close and yet so far.  Even though this stunning, Caribbean coast starts just south of the 17-mile SoBe like hotel zone, The Riviera Maya is anything but.

With a slew of new resorts welcoming families from all inclusives to boutique gems, powder white beaches and unrivaled history, this locale never fails to impress.

From ancient Mayan sites & pyramids to underground rivers offering tubing exploration like those at Rio Secreto, to colonial Spanish towns such as Valladolid, it’s a treasure trove of discoveries with a MexiCaribbean flair!

Water sports galore delight young and old along with a coastline that is full of natural beauty including the Mayan ruins of Tulum, built atop the ocean’s bluff, still standing today as well as the UNESCO’s Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

Insider’s Tip: Families love the all-in-one adventure run by tour company/conservationists, Alltournative who work with Mayan communities to preserve their heritage. The “Maya Encounter” excursion, includes whizzing through the jungle on a zip line, rappelling into a cenote (deep water filled sink holes), and kayaking on a lagoon.

After the elders offer a ceremonial blessing, village women serve a full lunch rounding out with a trip to the ruins of Cobá.

Costa Rica

Don’t let the exotic name, or flip-flopped seasons fool you. The Northern Hemisphere is starting Spring, while Costa Rica is enjoying the last of their Summer, which is the driest overall, lasting through April.

That being said, the country is a tropical paradise boasting one of the 20 countries with the highest biodiversity in the world.

Though it seems a world away, it is closer to the mainland U.S. than Hawaii and boasts incredible value and endless family friendly activities, sites, resorts and destinations.

Though the Pacific & Caribbean coasts are lush and tropical, the real excitement takes place in its many National Parks and wilderness reserves, which span over one third of the entire country. Young & old will be mesmerized by the stunning variety of flora, fauna and landscapes with diverse microclimates and untouched wildlife viewing. Numerous species of birds, monkeys, sloths, crocodiles, insects & amphibians abound.

A live volcano? Yes, Vulcan Arenal is one of the most spectacular, active volcanoes in the world, and the locale alongside Lake Arenal is sublime and exciting.

Active adventures dot the map from cave exploring to horseback riding, river rafting, zip lining, canopy tours amidst the tree tops, and off road exploration through virgin forests.

Many who visit believe it is a paradise like none other on the planet, making for lifelong, family memories.

Insider’s Tip:

Killington, VT aka “The Big K” at Ramshead (If watching the Olympics got you in the mood to ski..we like this suggestion)

Killington Vermont boasts the largest ski area in the state, as well as Eastern North America. Unknown to many, it also offers the longest ski season in Vermont which can last as long as May, sometimes June.

Families love a winter break here, with 200 trails, 31 lifts, and the new Skye Peak Express. They’ve even got a ski and snowboard school for all ages.

Insider’s Tip: With an entire lodge dedicated to families & kids, Ramshead, you can’t go wrong, especially with record snows this year.

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