Kid-friendly vacation ideas: Ropes course, schooner, water parks


If you’d like to know where your kids want to go this summer, just ask them. Sixty-three percent of U.S. parents say their children influenced where the family went on summer vacation, a 2014 Portrait of American Travelers report says. Before anyone gets in the car or hops on a plane, talk to your kids about what they think will make their summer special. Here are six ideas to get the conversation started.

Take a ropes course

Sometimes it’s good to get scared. Swinging, climbing and crawling high above the ground on a ropes course is an adrenaline-booster for kids and adults. “You get that roller-coaster feeling of ‘Oh God, can I do this?’” said Hugh Corcoran, co-owner of the newly opened Wild Blue Ropes in Charleston, S.C.



Ropes course: An article in the June 15 Travel section about kid-friendly vacation activities said the prices at the Wild Blue Ropes course for four hours of course time were $23.50 for ages 5-7, $46 for ages 7-11 and $48 for ages 12 and older. The correct prices range from $19 for the one- to two-hour course to $49 for an advanced four-hour course.
The 77 obstacle-like elements at Wild Blue take children out of the realm of video games and into a hands-on physical world of nets, swinging bridges and tight wires at least 15 feet off the ground. The harder it gets, the higher you go.

Four levels of difficulty starting with the Explorer Get, which is good for ages 5 and older. Prices for four hours of course time range from $23.50 for ages 5-7, $46 for ages 7-11 and $48 for ages 12 and older.

Info: Wild Blue Ropes; (888) 898-8050,

Other ropes courses:

Squaw Valley Adventure Center near the ski resort in Olympic Valley, Calif., offers a hybrid course that blends ropes elements with short zip-line rides. It’s good for kids 5 and older. Two-hour sessions cost $50 for adults and $40 for children 5 to 12 years old.

Info: Squaw Valley Adventure Center; (530) 581-7563,

Sail on a historic schooner


What’s more daring than sailing on a 19th century wooden boat that relies on nature to chart the course? “This is real sailing,” said Meg Maiden of Maine Windjammer Assn. “Where you go depends on the wind.” Families can unplug and time-travel on these historic boats that were once used to dredge for oysters or transport cargo.

Ships sail from harbors at Camden and Rockland, about midway on Maine’s rugged coast, and navigate past some of the thousands of islands along the coastline. Because they sail in protected waters near the shore, seasickness is rarely a problem.

The fleet of eight ships hold 20 to 40 passengers each, plus crew, and sail from Memorial Day to mid-October.

The Schooner Isaac H. Evans, built in 1886, specializes in family voyages for children as young as 6; others are good for tweens and teens who are game to try their hand at sailing. During the voyages they can work the ropes, polish brass, haul sails, tie knots and learn any aspect of wind jamming — or do nothing at all but enjoy the scenery.

Maine Windjammer runs overnight cruises from $230 per person and weeklong trips for $1,100 per person. It includes meals, accommodations, activities and excursions.

Info: Maine Windjammer Assn.; (800) 807-9463,

Other historic ships: The 160-foot Schooner Zodiac takes visitors on multiday windjammer tours of the San Juan Islands and other parts of the Washington coast. It leaves from Bellingham, Wash., and costs $595 to $975 per person depending upon the length of the journey.

Info: Schooner Zodiac; (206) 719-7622,

To get the feel of an old-boat adventure, the Maritime Museum of San Diego offers day trips on the Californian, a replica of a 19th century cutter. It costs $65 per adult, $57 for seniors and students, and $40 for children 3-12.

Info: Maritime Museum of San Diego; (619) 234-9153,

Take a llama to lunch

Kids and animals go together like peanut butter and jelly. Wild Earth Llama Adventures in New Mexico lets children lead llamas on treks along trails in forests near Santa Fe and Taos. The animals aren’t for riding; they’re loaded with gear for day hikes and overnight trips.

“It’s an engaging way to keep kids from getting bored,” said owner Owen Perillo. He said kids as young as 4 years old enjoy being able to bond with llamas.

Families can “take a llama to lunch” on a 5-mile all-day hike in places such as the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Rio Grande Gorge. The hike plus gourmet picnic lunch costs $69 for children and $99 for adults. (Price doesn’t include ground transportation.)

Overnight camping trips cost $375 for adults and $125 for children 12 and younger; longer trips range from $575 to $975 per person. The back-country excursions include gear hauling, food and guide.

Info: Wild Earth Llama Adventures; (800) 758-5262,

Lend a hand

Volunteer vacations are a great way to give kids an idea of the world beyond their own.

The Nature Corps, based in Templeton, Calif., offers weekend trips to Yosemite National Park where families can give back in two ways.

They need volunteers to gather seeds from manzanita, sugar pines and other native plants to help revegetate areas of the park.

The organization uses part of the trip price to underwrite outdoor adventures for underserved youth. The weekend isn’t all work either. Families go on organized nature walks and participate in a photography workshop at such nature spots as Glacier Point and Bridalveil Fall.

Campers bring their own tent and personal items; meals, entrance fees and naturalist guides are provided. Trips are July 18-20 and Aug. 1-3 and cost $295 per person.

Info: The Nature Corps; (800) 774-7275,

Other volunteer vacations: Global Citizens Network, based in Minneapolis, partners with Native Americans — the Anishinabe in Minnesota and the Quileute in Washington state. During their volunteer stay, participants perform tasks side-by-side with the locals.

Eight-day trips cost $1,200 each for adults; $600 for each child 15 and younger. The cost includes lodging and meals, ground transportation, guides and a donation.

Info: Global Citizens Network; (612) 436-8270,

Hit the road in an Airstream

Road trips are the quintessential American vacation, and Airstreams are the classic way to go. “Getting there is literally at least half the fun,” said Dicky Riegel, founder of Airstream2Go rentals. “We’re all wide-eyed travelers looking at all this stuff along the way.”

Airstreams were designed in the 1930s as a posh way to get into the outdoors and, to a degree, they still are. Airstream2Go offers fully loaded rentals — sheets on beds, kitchen supplies, etc. — as well as a Yukon Denali SUV to pull it.

Average rental time is eight days, Riegel said, long enough for a family to stop and enjoy the scenery. Ride by day in the SUV, sleep in the Airstream at night. Prices for a trailer that sleeps four start at $3,080 for four days. Rentals available in L.A., Las Vegas and Bozeman, Mont.

Info: Airstream2Go, (800) 780-9880,

Slam dunk on water parks

If you’re taking the kids to a water park this summer, go big. When it opens June 29, the Verrückt at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City, Kan., will be the world’s tallest water slide. Even Guinness World Records says so.

Rafts seat four and splash down 168 feet, climb a second hill and drop 50 more feet. If you want to know how this bad boy was built (verrückt means “crazy” in German), the Travel Channel will air a one-hour “Xtreme Waterparks” TV show on June 29 that takes you behind the scenes

Info: Verrückt at Schlitterbahn Kansas City, (913) 312-3110, All-day ticket from $35.99.

Closer to home, try two new water features in the West: Cowabunga Bay Water Park in Henderson, Nev., near Las Vegas (, set to open July 4, and the Chima Water Park at Legoland California Resort in Carlsbad (