Travel Adventure Show Host John Golicz Lists The Best Family-Friendly Travel Destinations In The US and Europe!
by Claudine Kurp
Go Kid Trips recently caught up with travel expert John Golicz, Founder & CEO of the Travel & Adventure Show. During our interview John shared some amazing tips on family-friendly travel in the United States and Europe. John also gave us his top list of awesome travel destinations that are sure to please the whole family!
Yosemite National Park
1. As a travel expert, can you point our readers to some of the best family-friendly “hidden gems” to visit in the United States?
Yosemite National Park in California celebrates its 125th Anniversary in 2015. While the best time to visit is in the Fall, this National Treasure is spectacular year-round. With over 1,250 square miles, Yosemite is where you’ll find ancient giant sequoias, bicycle trails, magnificent waterfalls and swimming lakes, hiking trails and even stagecoach rides from the Pioneer History Center. Kids will enjoy the Junior Ranger program, while adults should try out Ranger guided walks, talks and interpretive programs. Stop by the Nature Center at Happy Isles, or the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center and Indian Cultural Museum for interactive exhibits.
Where to stay:
Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, a family-friendly resort located just outside the park gates, is also celebrating an anniversary in 2015 – its 25th. It’s introducing a new Grand Family Adventure Package, available January through March, to encourage intergenerational stays. Onsite, seasonal activities include mountain biking, rock wall climbing, archery, ice skating, snowshoeing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, sledding and kids snowmobiling. The lodge also has as Kids Adventure Club and Kids Camp, as well as a kids-only pool complete with water guns and mushroom water features. Plan your visit with the Yosemite Guide.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
A 130-mile stretch of barrier islands just off the coast of North Carolina is a magnificent destination for family adventure, relaxation, beach activities and just plain fun. From Duck down to Hatteras, each town and island along the banks offers some of the most unique places to visit in North Carolina. For many families, the OBX becomes an annual pilgrimage and creates lasting family memories that you’ll cherish forever. It’s a place our family has gone for over 15 years and I’ll guarantee your kids will “lose the electronics” for outdoor fun. From beaches, to shopping villages, fine and casual dining, fresh fish marts, roadside produce stands, world class mini-golf, miles of safe bike paths, 4x4 beach driving to learning hang glide, OBX has it all!
Insider Tip: Make sure you stop at Kitty Hawk Kites for everything from boogie boards, surf gear, kites and hang gliding lessons at Jockey Ridge State Park.
OBX is also one of the world’s premier fishing locations. From on-the-beach croaker and spot, to open water blue marlin and sailfish, there are fishing experience for everyone. There are many hidden, off the beaten trail piers to throw a line in for the little ones, as well as world-class off-shore fishing fleets for the fanatics.
Insider Tip: Not a fisherman? Take a trip to Pirates Cove around 4pm-5pm and walk the docks to see the daily haul of massive tuna, wahoo, mahi mahi and more. Enjoy a sunset cocktail at Mimi’s Tiki Hut or a fun dinner at Hurricane Moe’s.
Step back in time in Roanoke Island and see the birth of the New World at Roanoke Island Festival Park. Stroll the Elizabethan Gardens and finish with a performance of a symphonic outdoor drama, the Lost Colony. Make sure to take in the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kill Devil Hills to show the kids how humans first took flight.
Where to Stay:
OBX is all about Vacation House Rentals and there are rentals that fit every budget. For details, try http://www.visitcurrituck.com or www.outerbanks.org.
2. For those adventurous parents that are planning a road trip throughout the United States this summer, what would you put on your “must-see” list to truly enjoy not only the destination but also the journey?
Black Hills Loop – South Dakota, 2-3 Days
From Mt. Rushmore to massive buffalo herds, the Black Hills Loop is an iconic Americana experience that every family should enjoy together.
Make a stop in Rapid City and explore its downtown, have some fun with the kids and see if they can find all 42 presidential statues which are located on many street corners. Drive to Badlands National Park and drive the Badlands Loop Rd, stopping at its numerous overlooks. Don’t miss Wall Drug, one of the world’s great tourist traps.
Next up, head to Keystone, a town bursting with national patriotism and Old West spirit, and the gateway to Mt Rushmore National Monument. Mt Rushmore is all about distances – see the grandeur from a faraway spot, but take in the marvel of engineering and artistry up close. Walk the Presidential Trail Loop which passes right below the monuments and gives you access to the Sculptor’s Studio while taking in the drama of how this modern marvel came to be.
Custer State Park
Custer State Park has one of the largest free-roaming buffalo herds in the world, the famous “begging burros” and other wildlife such as elk, mountain goats, coyotes and prairie dogs. Cave exploration can be had at Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument, which is presumed to be the longest cave in the world.
Crazy Horse Memorial
The world’s largest monument, Crazy Horse Memorial is ever a work-in-progress. When finished, it will depict the Sioux leader astride his horse, pointing to the horizon. The visitor center complex includes a Native American museum and cultural center. Then, for a ride on the infamous 1880 classic steam train, head to Hill City for a ride through the rugged country to and from Keystone.
Draw down in the classic old west city of Deadwood. This super fun town’s streets are lined with lavishly restored gold-rush-era buildings. Actors reenact famous shootouts on Main St during the summer and Wild Bill Hickock’s murder is acted out in Saloon No. 10. A trial of the killer takes place in the Masonic Temple.
Where to Stay:
Make it a true adventure and RV it. With multitudes of state and national park camping options, make this a regal road trip and rent an RV. You know you want to! Check out Cruise America or Camping World.
3. Many of our readers are located in the Mid-Atlantic region with easy access to New England and Canada. Do you have any advice for those that want to go north this summer?
There isn’t a better iconic display of an old sea-faring New England town that Nantucket, and perhaps, no better spot to vacation in New England. Our family arrives by, and resides on boat in the Nantucket Boat Basin which is located in the heart of the village. No boat? No worries. Take the ferry from Hyannis, Cape Cod and rent a cottage right on the docks. From luxury houses for rent, to affordable hotels, inns and B&B’s, there are places to stay on any budget.
Insider Tip: Save money and leave the car. Nantucket is easy to navigate by WAVE – the regional transit authority shuttles as well as by bike, rental Jeep or easy to get taxis.
Nantucket = Whaling and there’s plenty of attractions to support that. From whale watching cruises and evening harbor sails, to the Nantucket Whaling Museum where the whole family can experience the whaling of yesteryear, you can count on getting a taste of how Nantucket became the whaling capital of the world.
Stroll along the original cobblestone streets of downtown Nantucket and admire this Old New England sea village steeped in history. Casual to uber fine dining await and everyone from kids to Mom will find a plethora of shopping for rainy days. Everyone loves ice cream. After dinner, be sure to make your way to the Juice Bar for some of the best ice cream in the Northeast. Stroll the waterfront lanes and walk the docks to see the mega yachts that are sure to be there.
Although downtown seems like the place to be, there are more to Nantucket than the heart of the village. Take a minibus tour of the island to get the local narrative and see Siasconset, Maddaket and even the blueberry bogs in South Pasture. The Shipwreck and Life Saving Museum is also a must see.
Beaches are abundant and they vary greatly, so make sure you do your research. A fine sunny day by the harbor can be a fog encrusted cool day at Surfside Beach including a huge wave day that doesn’t facilitate water activities. With small kids, try Children’s Beach or Jetties Beach.
4. With all your travel expertise I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you what are your favorite cities for family adventures in Europe? What is the best time of the year to go to Europe for serious bargain hunters? If summer travel is a must, do you have any recommendations on how to save money while traveling in Europe?
2015/2016 is the best time to see Europe in recent memory. The Euro is at a 20 year low and on near parity of the US Dollar. Europe’s economy is challenged, which means less local competition for rooms, restaurants and museums. In fact, many major hotels in European capital cities are less expensive than comparable US major city hotels.
If it’s your first time to Europe with the whole family, go with the standard: London and Paris. Your kids will thank you.
Serious bargain hunters should look to off-peak seasons – April/May, September/October – with less crowds and lower prices. BUT, don’t let summer scare you. London and Paris are big cities and have the ability to handle massive crowds. Use smart travel tips to save money, which can be found at 1000TravelTips.com.
As for airfare, save some money with these quick tips:
For us, when take our kids, I always make each of them plan a day of our trip so they get to make their own choices and be vested in the trip. You will be amazed at what you’ll discover from your child’s curiosity. My children’s top picks were:
- The Paris Sewer/Museum Tour
- The Royal College of Surgeons Hunterian Museum – where you’ll find an amazing display of surgery
history and very strange things/parts in big glass jars
- La Conciergerie – where hundreds of prisoners during the French Revolution were taken from to be
executed. Even Marie Antoinette was held there!
5. Travelers so often become “tourists,” do you have any resources that you can recommend for folks who want to have an itinerary that includes “locals only” favorites such as parks, restaurants and shops?
For those who prefer to see the world from a local’s perspective, there are a host of new apps that help streamline the process.
Traveling with your family but what an authentic experience? Try KNOK (www.knok.com). Billed as the first family travel network, Knok is designed for jetsetters with little ones in tow. Membership provides access to “thousands of like-minded families, who let each other stay at our beautiful homes when we’re not there,” explain the founders (and parents of two) Laura and Juanjo. “Each family creates a family-friendly guide that’s unique to their location, thus sharing their favorite local activities that children love.” Visitors are also automatically connected to trusted local babysitters if grown-up time is needed! Knok has over 1,000 destinations, but is mostly focused on the U.S. and Europe.
Want to eat with the locals? A new series of peer to peer dining apps have come online.
Check out EatWith (www.eatwith.com), a global community that invites you to dine in the homes of local food lovers around the world. Connect with amazing hosts, share stories and unforgettable experiences, and enjoy delicious native cuisine. EatWith is operational in over 20 countries in North America, South America, Australia, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
When visiting a foreign city for the first time I always recommend a walking tour as the very first thing you do (Samantha Brown would agree with me). If you can, ask for a private tour, which is usually performed by a very experienced local who will show you your way around, areas to avoid, how public transportation works, etc. When I arrive in a new city, I use Aeon Tours (www.aeontours.com).
6. With your extensive travel, can you tell us a few of your favorite places throughout the world? We would love a “Top 10!”
What can I say - #1 is Paris – what’s not to love! But, without full explanations, here are my top 10 favorite destinations in no particular order after #1:
1. Paris, France
2. Montauk, NY
3. Key West, FL
4. London, England
5. Tuscany, Italy
6. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
7. San Francisco, Napa Valley & Sonoma, CA
8. Nantucket, MA
9. Barcelona, Spain
10. Outer Banks, NC
Special thanks to John Golicz from the Travel & Adventure Show!
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