Here are five places I'd take the kids--again. That's high praise coming from me and my well-traveled bunch who have logged too many hours in cars and planes over the past five years as we've hiked and skied and toured and camped and cruised across the country and beyond.
LUDLOW ISLAND LODGE, P.O. Box 1146, Cook, MN 55723; telephone (800) 537-5308. Internet http://www.ludlowsresort.com. My two older children learned to fish (we cooked their catch for dinner), water ski and canoe at this small, old-fashioned resort on an island in Lake Vermillion, close to Minnesota's famed Boundary Waters and two hours' drive north of Duluth. Matt and Reggie had their first taste of freedom here too, running from our comfy cabin to the beach and back again when they were preschoolers. The resort draws families from around the country. We're returning this summer so that 7-year-old Melanie will know the place her brother and sister think of first when anyone mentions vacation. Weekly rates (meals not provided) for a family of four start at about $1,760 and include use of a motorboat.
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, East Glacier Park, MT 59434; tel. (406) 888-7800. Internet http://www.nps.gov/glac. Glacier is part of the enormous Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park that straddles the U.S.-Canadian border. We picked huckleberries, touched a glacier, were mesmerized by the mountain goats and bighorn sheep and came home to the sprawling Many Glacier Hotel, where we felt like we were at a Swiss chalet. Lodging reservations: (602) 207-6000; for sites at the two reserved campgrounds: (800) 365-2267.
SEATTLE, Convention and Visitors Bureau, 520 Pike St., Seattle, WA 98101; tel. (206) 461-5840. Internet http://www.seeseattle.org. This is the place to beam up to the top of a huge flying saucer (the Space Needle), shoot water cannons (at the Seattle Science Center), go eye-to-eye with all kinds of just-caught fish (Pike Place Market) and see Puget Sound from the viewpoint of live fish (the Seattle Aquarium). Seattle is a wonderful kid-friendly city to explore, full of sights and sounds different from home. We loved staying at the Edgewater overlooking Elliott Bay. Rates for May, June start at $139; in July, August, $149. Tel. (800) 624-0670.
SNOWMASS, Aspen Skiing Co., P.O. Box 1248, Aspen, CO 81612; tel. (800) 598-2005. Internet http://www.skiaspen.com. Snowmass is Aspen's giant mountain 12 miles from the glittering town, with more than 2,600 acres made for family skiing and snowboarding amid the most awesome mountain scenery anywhere. Melanie hung up her skis for a snowboard after a couple of days at the unique "Bears on Board" program for 5- to 7-year-olds, while Matt and Reggie flew down the double black diamond runs here and at neighboring Aspen Highlands. The first-rate ski school pleased 12-year-old Reggie with a bona fide adventure down expert trails she wouldn't have found on her own. There are many late-season deals. Make sure to splurge on an evening at the Burlingame Cabin, an old miner's cabin at the top of the mountain, for dinner by the fire while the cowboys sing. Tel. (970) 925-1220.
KIAWAH ISLAND, 12 Kiawah Beach Drive, Kiawah Island, SC 29455; tel. (800) 6KIAWAH. Internet http://www.kiawahisland.com. This is where Matt learned to play golf and we all got up-close and personal with alligators that live in ponds on the 10,000-acre barrier island resort along the Atlantic Coast. I loved the house we rented right on the beach, Kamp Kiawah for Melanie and the 21-acre Night Heron Park where teens can always find a pickup basketball or volleyball game. With 20 tennis courts (plenty of junior lessons), four championship golf courses, miles of paved bike trails and Charleston just half an hour's drive away, no one got bored. Weekly packages for a one-bedroom condo start at $1,050.