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on location: west O

elana andersen

Family Reunions Target National Parks Reunions are all about creating occasions for family members to join together and celebrate bonds of lineage.

California’s Yosemite National Park attracts 3.3 million visitors annually.

WHETHER A SMALL GROUP OF

apart, the afternoon picnic at Grandma’s

tions. Amenities include shops, museums,

siblings or a large gathering with multi-

house is no longer practical. Many fami-

visitor centers, and dining and refresh-

ple generations, family members eagerly

lies now plan annual or bi-annual re-

ment outlets. Accommodation options,

mark their calendars and make travel

union events to fit in individual

from campgrounds to full-service hotels,

plans for these special festivities.

members’ vacation plans.

are found both in the parks and nearby.

More than 72 million Americans at-

Location, reasonable travel time and

Wilderness guides, outfitters and opera-

tend family reunions, and more than half

cost, recreation, a relaxed atmosphere,

tors of adventure programs are also

do so every year. Reunions magazine

and group facilities and services are just

available. Many parks offer transporta-

[reunionsmag.com], a leader in tracking

some of the criteria considered when se-

tion shuttle services between lodgings

the growth and trends of various kinds of

lecting a reunion destination. U.S. na-

and key sights.

reunion groups, reports that families are

tional parks have great appeal not only

unique in that the motivation is to create

for ambiance and recreation facilities;

Here is a sampling of parks that are ideal

a meaningful way for relatives to stay in

they also invoke memories of fun family

locations for family reunions:

touch and pass on their heritage to new

gatherings throughout the generations.

generations. Among significant changes that affect

Western wilderness parks preserve

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK

thousands of acres of the country’s most

Located in northwest Montana, this 1.4-

family reunions are the advent of a

majestic and pristine landscapes, offering

million-acre park encompasses one of the

longer life span and extended family

groups everything from scenic sights and

most dramatically beautiful mountain re-

units that represent four to five genera-

wildlife viewing to recreation options, in-

gions in the West. Scenic features include

tions. Because relatives often live far

terpretive programs and seasonal celebra-

dense forests and alpine tundra, more

60 April 2009

LeisureGroupTravel.com


than 200 lakes, 50 glaciers, hundreds of

explore the canyons, rugged ridges and

a rifle range are also available. [800-293-

waterfalls, 730 miles of trails, and 1,000

backcountry wilderness area. Ranger

5444, zionponderosa.com]

different species of plants and wildlife.

programs include day and evening talks

Recreation choices include boating, bik-

and walks that focus on wildlife, geology,

BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK

ing, canoeing, rafting, fishing, hiking,

plants and human history. For youngsters

A visit to this park is often in combina-

swimming and golf. Guided horseback

there are daily Junior Ranger Explorer

tion with a trip to Zion. It is an easy 70-

riding and hikes are popular, as are Red

and Discovery programs. [nps.gov/zion/,

mile drive between the parks. Small by

Bus tours on vintage vehicles with roll-

zion.national-park.com]

national park standards, Bryce is set at

back canvas tops. There are seven his-

Family Adventure: Book an area guest

the eastern edge of Utah’s Paunsaugunt

toric hotels and lodges in the park.

ranch like the 4,000-acre Zion Ponderosa

Plateau. Its most dramatic feature is the

[nps.gov/glac/, glacier.national-park.com]

Ranch, where accommodations include

series of more than a dozen amphithe-

Family Adventure: Charter Red Bus tour-

family lodges (up to 35 guests), two- to

aters with colorful limestone formations

ing coaches or travel in tandem by car

five-bedroom homes, cabins, camp-

called hoodoos. Trails descend from the

along the 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun

grounds and an RV park. There is a

plateau rim down into the canyons; at

Road, the park’s most famous route.

restaurant with banquet facilities and

rim level is an 18-mile driving route to

Keep in touch by walkie-talkie (no cell

catering services. Zion Ponderosa Ranch

Rainbow Point featuring 13 “Photo Op”

phone access here) and plan a group pic-

guests also enjoy extensive recreation fa-

viewing stops. Daily ranger-led programs

nic stop at an alpine meadow or lunch at

cilities and guided and unguided adven-

have geology talks and hikes, rim walks

one of the historic hotels.

tures, including horseback riding, jeep

and evening programs at the campground

tours and trail hikes. Swimming, tennis,

amphitheater. There are wrangler-led

ZION NATIONAL PARK

volleyball, a zip line, climbing wall, tram-

horseback and mule rides.

Of all the national parks in Utah, Zion is

poline bungee, horseshoes, basketball and

[bryce.canyon.national-park.com,

perhaps the most striking. Its 229-

nps.gov/brca/]

square-mile expanse is a mosaic of

Family Adventure: The clarity of

earthen hues carved over 200 mil-

Bryce Canyon’s nighttime sky makes

lion years into massive monoliths,

this an ideal location for star gazing.

limestone arches, mesas, buttes,

Two guided programs will entertain

deep slot canyons and towering red

and amaze all family members. The

rock cliffs that rise some 3,000 feet

“Full Moon Hikes” follow trails illu-

above a tree-lined river valley. The

minated by the stars and moon. The

park has a rich cultural history dat-

“Stars in the Park” astronomy pro-

ing back more than 10,000 years.

gram includes a multimedia show

Displays at the Human History

followed by telescope viewing.

Museum show artifacts from the Archaic, Ancestral Puebloan

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

(Anasazi), Southern Paiute and

Yosemite Valley in California, with

Mormon cultures. Other exhibits

its dramatic waterfalls and towering

feature the region’s topography and

sheer Half Dome face overlooking a

natural elements.

lush forested landscape, is one of the

The landscape invites all types

most iconic national park images.

of outdoor adventures, including

All park roads lead to the main val-

photography, wildlife viewing and

ley, a center for many sights, activi-

various sports activities. There are opportunities for cycling, hiking, climbing and horseback riding. Or LeisureGroupTravel.com

ties, accommodations and park

The Human History Museum is a popular services. Throughout the 1,200-squarestop at Utah’s Zion National Park. April 2009 61


west O

mile park are many less traveled, but

services, accommodations and opportu-

equally impressive areas, each with its

nities for visitors to explore its wilder-

own distinctive ambiance, recreation op-

ness on their own or with a guide.

tions and services. At the south entrance

Unique experiences include a llama trek.

are the Mariposa Grove and Giant Se-

Join a history walk that gives insights

quoia (redwood) Forest. Also here are

into Yellowstone and the founding of the

the historic Wawona Hotel and Pioneer

National Park Service; it includes a tour

Yosemite History Center. Tioga Pass at

of century-old Old Faithful Lodge.

the eastern entrance leads to the alpine

[yellowstone.national-park.com,

Tuolumme Meadows, a popular

nps.gov/yell/]

fishing, hiking, birding and picnic area.

Family Adventure: Take the family on a

[nps.gov/yose/,

Yellowstone Old West Dinner Cookout.

yosemite.national-park.com]

Travel by horse-drawn wagons through

Family Adventure: Organize a family

sagebrush flats to a cookout site. Wran-

photo safari. Family groups should grab

glers tell stories about life on the range

trail maps and cameras and head out for

and sing Western ballads while guests

a day of exploration in various areas of

enjoy hearty food.

the park. Replay photo adventures around the evening campfire (a Yosemite

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK

tradition) and award prizes to your fam-

Five million visitors annually visit the

ily’s best Ansel Adams shots.

rim of the Grand Canyon to see the aweinspiring, mile-deep, 277-mile-long gorge. The hub of activities and services is found at South Rim Village. Popular activities include scenic bus and air tours, guided walks that focus on geology and cultural history, wilderness horseback rides and the sunset wagon ride. Adventurers hike or ride mules to the canyon floor and overnight at the Phantom Ranch. [nps.gov/grca/, grand.canyon.national-park.com] Family Adventure: Early visitors to the

Roadside parking areas provide panoramic views of the Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park.

Grand Canyon arrived by rail, and you can relive the era on the Grand Canyon Railroad’s trip between Williams and South Rim Station. [800-843-8724, thetrain.com]. “Learning and Lodging

62 April 2009

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

Adventure” are two-day outings de-

America’s first national park is in

signed for family groups and operated

Wyoming and bridges into Montana and

by the Grand Canyon Field Institute.

Idaho. It is known for Old Faithful and

The package includes guided hikes and

other geysers and abundant wildlife.

tours, plus hands-on activities, two

Like other parks, Yellowstone offers a

nights’ accommodations and meals.

full menu of natural and cultural history

[866-471 4435,

enrichment programs, extensive visitor

grandcanyon.org/fieldinstitute] LGT LeisureGroupTravel.com


on our radar: west O

ALASKA Bering Straits Native Corporation, in partnership with Kigluaik Adventures, offers intrepid travelers a ski and winter sport experience that will guarantee “top this” bragging rights. Travel from Nome by Snowcat to ski the challenging Kigluaik Mountains while looking west across the Bering Strait to Eastern Eurasia. Expand the adventure with dog mushing, ice fishing, wildlife tundra viewing and other lively adventures. Guided trips are available March through May. Multi-night tundra camp arrangements are also available. [800-478-5079, beringstraits.com/lands/tourism.html; Kigluaik Adventures, 907-632-7197]

Explore the Kigluaik Mountains of Western Alaska ARIZONA Pueblo Grande Museum in Phoenix is found on the site of a 1,500 year-old Hohokam village. For over 70 years the museum has been entrusted with the study and interpretation of the Hohokam culture. The 102-acre-park grounds feature the ruin of an 800-year-old platform mound used as a ceremonial or governing center, a ball court and reproductions of prehistoric Hohokam homes. Also here are remains of Hohokam irrigation canals. The museum’s exhibition hall displays different aspects of Hohokam culture. Guided tours of the grounds and exhibition areas are offered. Visiting groups are welcome to participate in the year-round educational events that are sponsored by the city’s Public Archaeology Program. [877-706-4408, Guided tours - 602-495-0901, http://phoenix.gov/parks/pueblo.html] CALIFORNIA Lake County has released two new discovery itineraries: “Wine Adventure Route” and “Farm Trails Discovery.” The Farm Trails brochure spotlights the area’s agricultural products. There is also a guide to farmers’ markets and farmstands, plus special events such as the Kelseyville Pear LeisureGroupTravel.com

April 2009 63


on our radar: west O

Festival, Sept. 26. The “Wine Adventure” lists area wineries, vineyards, wine bars and tasting rooms. It describes Lake County’s five viticultural areas. Information about these and other agricultural touring options is available from the Lake County Visitor Information Center. [800-525-3743, lakecounty.com] The Autry National Center of the American West in Los Angeles features the exhibition Sparkle and Twang:

Starting this summer, visitors to Denver can rent bikes for free.

Marty Stuart's American Musical Odyssey from April 16-Aug. 23. The exhibition tells the story of this coun-

ments and unpublished photographs of

four miles of downtown and will be

try music icon and his personal experi-

such legends as Patsy Cline, Hank

near convenient locations such as light

ences with some of the most famous

Williams, Porter Wagoner, Johnny

rail stations, museums, campuses and

stars of American music. Displayed are

Cash and Bob Dylan. [323-667-2000,

hotels. Metro Denver has 850 miles of

performance costumes, handwritten

autrynationalcenter.org]

off-road, paved bike trails, one of the

lyrics, personal letters, musical instru-

largest bike networks in the nation. Palm Springs Air Museum has added

Denver is also filling the downtown

new planes to its collection. Its two new

area with bike lanes and “shared lane

exhibits, Interactive History Map of the

arrows” to make the city more bike-

Progression of the Allies and Axis Pow-

friendly. [visitdenver.com]

ers in Europe During World War II, are located in the museum’s European

Fine Arts Center Colorado Springs is

Hangar. The C-47 and PBY have been

not just a museum but also a perform-

restored and are available for interior

ing arts center and school for the arts.

tours. Also new are 20-minute helicop-

The museum and its collection were

ter rides for up to four persons. [760-

founded in 1938. Until the recent ex-

778-6262, palmspringsairmuseum.org]

pansion of the gallery space, only a small portion of its highly praised col-

64 April 2009

COLORADO

lection of more than 20,000 objects had

A new citywide bike-sharing program –

been on display. The collection encom-

“Denver B-Cycle” – will put 500 free

passes art and media produced in the

bikes on the streets of Denver by this

Americas and is now shown in nine the-

summer. Visitors and residents will be

matic galleries. There are also two gal-

able to go to one of 30-40 bike stations,

leries for traveling exhibitions. The

swipe a credit card, and ride off on a

upcoming show is The Baroque World

bike to sightsee around the city, attend

of Fernando Botero, May 15-Aug. 15.

meetings or run errands. Bike rentals

Botero is a Colombian painter, sculptor

are free as long as the bike is returned

and draftsman. His works follow

to the same location by 10 a.m. the fol-

themes of baroque expressions, exagger-

lowing business day. All of the bike sta-

ated rounded forms with mocking ob-

tions will be situated within three or

servations depicting the comedy of LeisureGroupTravel.com


human life. This is the first retrospective

plant and herb garden. Cheyenne

tion of the new Oklahoma Cheyenne

exhibition of Botero’s work in the U.S.

artists, such as bead workers, painters,

Heritage Trail. The three-day itinerary

since 1978. [719-634-5581, tours - 716-

basket makers and dancers, demon-

visits the 106-year-old Mohawk Trad-

475-2444, csfineartscenter.org]

strate their art forms and crafts. [580-

ing Post, the first Indian trading post in

323-6224, clintonokla.org]

Oklahoma, and Washita National His-

NEVADA The Palazzo Las Vegas offers visitors a

toric Site. This site interprets the grassy The Cultural Center is the launch loca-

area where the Southern Cheyenne vil-

unique entertainment experience with The Living Garden, which combines the beauty of nature with classical music and graceful choreography. The performance begins at the base of the resort’s dramatic lobby waterfall, where three elegant statues transform into living creatures and find their way to the second-floor Shoppes at The Palazzo. Here they are joined by two living vine characters, and the nine-foot-tall performers proceed to interact with resort guests and pose for photos. This free performance is held daily at noon, 1:30, 3, 4:30 and 6 p.m. [877-883-6423, palazzolasvegas.com] OKLAHOMA Alabaster Caverns State Park in Freedom welcomes visitors to its ¾-mile

A PLACE WHERE GRITTY ROCK AND ROLL SWAGGER MEETS GLITZY URBAN SWANK.

alabaster cavern. Free guided tours are

A PLACE TO FEED YOUR SOUL AND SATISFY YOUR HUNGER FOR THE FINER THINGS.

available daily. This often overlooked

OUR COLORFUL PAST & BRILLIANT FUTURE. OUR DRAMATIC FLAIR & UNPRETENTIOUS AIR.

attraction recently was enhanced with new lighting that makes the pathway clearly visible and illuminates the colorful alabaster hues. Guided group tours need to be reserved two weeks in advance. [580-621-3381, oklahomaparks.com] Cheyenne Cultural Center near Clinton has opened its one-acre complex on the tribe’s ancient red-land fields and the original land allotment of the former Cheyenne-Arapaho Reservation. Displays and living history programs in different exhibition areas depict the stories of the Cheyenne people, their art and

V I SI T OKC .C OM

their language. There is a medicinal LeisureGroupTravel.com

April 2009 65


on our radar: west O

The Elizabethan Stage seats 1,200 people at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. lage of Peace Chief Black Kettle was at-

and largest professional non-profit the-

tacked by the U.S. Cavalry in 1868.

aters in the nation. Its season runs

Travel to the Black Kettle Museum and

from February through early Novem-

through Black Kettle National Grass-

ber, with 11 plays in three theaters.

lands to important sites at Antelope Hill,

The programs include a mix of pro-

Camp Supply and Gloss Mountains. The

ductions including Shakespeare, musi-

Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum in

cal comedy, new theater and classics.

Woodward is also featured. [See Group

[Groups – 866-545-6337; box office –

Tour Planner and Sample Itineraries at

800-219-8161, rshakes.org]

travelok.com] TEXAS OREGON

The Fort Worth Stockyards is offering a

Portland’s Fertile Ground Festival,

new way to experience past and present

produced by the Portland Area The-

Western culture with the use of GPS

ater Alliance, is a 10-day, city-wide

Ranger video tours. The patented, hand-

performing arts event held in late Jan-

held device delivers information on the

uary. The program offers a full sched-

24 points of interest throughout the

ule of arts events with the focus on

tour, using GPS (Global Positioning Sys-

sampling the breadth and depth of

tem). The GPS Ranger has 30 different

new theater. Its inaugural 2009 festival

video segments on sites such as the

set the stage for next year’s program

Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and White

by introducing 20 world premiere the-

Elephant Saloon. The device allows visi-

ater works. The 2010 program will be

tors to decide which sites they would

announced this fall. [503-241-4902,

like to see and lets them do it at their

fertilegroundpdx.org]

own pace. The GPS Ranger also has interactive trivia, allowing visitors to earn

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival in

points by answering questions about

Ashland has been on stage for 74 years

what they have seen. The video tour,

and this year is celebrating its 50th

hosted by rodeo legends Bob Tallman

year of performances at the outdoor

and Pam Minick, is 45 minutes long.

Elizabethan Stage. This Tony Award-

[817-625-9715, stockyardsstation.com].

winning festival is among the oldest 66 April 2009

LeisureGroupTravel.com

Family Reunions Target National Parks  

These wilderness gems offer everything from scenic splendor and outdoor recreation to ranger programs and museum exhibits. Rustic lodges and...

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