Cape Cod Family Fun by Land and By Sea

 Posted by on May 27, 2013  Comments Off
May 272013
The Great Island Trail at the Cape Cod National Seashore

The Great Island Trail at the Cape Cod National Seashore

For families with teens and tweens that want to combine a beach vacation with lots of active outdoor  fun, Cape Cod   in Massachusetts is hard to beat.  With more than 550 miles of coastline, including dozens of ocean and bayside beaches, active families will find unlimited opportunities to hike, bike, canoe, kayak, fish and explore – and don’t forget the beautiful beaches too!

For starters, the Cape Cod National Seashore spans 40 miles along the Outer Cape from Eastham to Provincetown including six swimming beaches with lifeguards.  The Salt Pond Visitor Center near Eastham has exhibits and films on the Cape’s geology, history, and landscape and is a good place to pick up maps and information about hiking, biking and other activities.

Hiking is one of our favorite things to do on a Cape Cod family vacation with teens and tweens.  The National Seashore includes some amazing hiking trails that go well off the beaten path.   They range from easy half mile strolls on boardwalks such as the Red Maple Swamp Trail to strenuous beach hikes such as the 6-mile roundtrip Great Island Trail in Wellfleet, where it is important to keep track of the tides to avoid being stranded on sandbars!

The 1900 acre Nickerson State Park in Brewster also has many miles of hiking and bike trails and connects to the Cape Cod Rail Trail which runs 22 miles through Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham and Wellfleet.  It is mostly flat, paved and well marked,  and is a fun way for all members of the family to get some exercise.  Barbara’s Bike shop has bike rentals in Brewster and Dennis.

More interested in getting out on the water? Families can rent canoes at Jack’s Boat Rental at Flax Pond in Nickerson State Park.  Cape Cod Waterways has canoe, kayak and electric paddle boat rentals at Swan Pond in Dennis Port.   Great Marsh Kayak Tours offers escorted kayak trips on the Parker River in West Yarmouth and in the Nauset Marsh at the Salt Pond Visitors Center in the Cape Cod National Seashore.

For less strenuous voyages, HyLine Cruises offers daily departures from Hyannis to Martha’s Vineyard as well as tours of the Cape Cod Canal and deep sea fishing trips.  Whale watches depart from Barnstable with   Hyannis Whale Watch Cruises.  The Dolphin Fleet sails whale watches from Provincetown.  The Monomy Island Ferry offers a number of cruises and naturalist tours to see the seals at the Monomy National Wildlife Refuge, located on a small island off the coast of Chatham.  It is a pretty amazing sight.

If teens and tweens are involved in your Cape Cod family vacation plans, be sure to get off the beach and explore the Cape by land and by sea.

Photo courtesy the Cape Cod National Seashore


Sep 192011

We have just started thinking about trips for 2012 and taking a cruise is top of mind.  As a Boston-based family, imagine our excitement when we learned that Carnival Cruise Lines is planning multiple sailings from Boston to eastern Canada between June 3 -July 26, 2012.  During that time, Boston’s Black Falcon terminal will become homeport to the 2,974-passenger Carnival Glory.

Not only would we not have to worry about airfare or missing the boat due to unplanned airline delays, but  voyages will be four or five-days long.  That is just enough time that we could enjoy the cruise experience, but short enough that we could squeeze a trip into the teen’s crowded schedules amid finals, graduation, summer jobs, camps and packing for college.  For travelers coming from outside New England, these shorter cruises would be perfect to match up with visits to the beaches of Cape Cod or the mountains of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley, both of which are just a few hours drive from the terminal.

The Carnival Cruise Ship Glory Coming to Boston in June 2012

The Carnival Glory Coming to Boston in June 2012

The Glory will visit Saint John, New Brunswick on the four-day cruises and Halifax, Nova Scotia and Saint John on the five day voyages.  There will also be an early season 7-day cruise from June 3-10, 2012 which will visit Portland, Maine, Saint John, Halifax, and Sydney, Nova Scotia.   We have always wanted to see the world’s largest high tides at St. John’s and get a view of the beautiful Bay of Fundy.  Halifax offers access to numerous historic sites including the much photographed Peggy’s Cove.  There are also opportunities to kayak, go fishing, or take a hike.

Of course, for the Princess, the ports of call are secondary to the on board experience.  All she wants to know is what is available for the under 18 crowd?  The Glory sounds pretty awesome with – a 270-square-foot Seaside Theatre poolside LED screen displaying movies, concerts and other programming, a 13,300-square foot spa, four swimming pools – one with the line’s signature Twister Waterslide – and, dedicated social areas for teens and tweens.

Waterslide on the Carnival Glory

Waterslide on the Carnival Glory

Circle “C” is the place for tweens age 12-14 with video games, dance parties, late night movies, Karaoke and more. Teens ages 15-17 have access to their own dance  club and activities.  She was also glad to hear that the food options include a 24-hour pizzeria, in addition to full service dining, poolside casual options, an American Steakhouse and a sushi bar.

Teen dance club on board the Carnival Glory

Teen dance club on board the Carnival Glory

The only downside we’ve found is that it looks like the ship does not have family suites so any family with older kids is likely to need to book two cabins to accommodate everyone comfortably.  Of course, if you are from New England you won’t have to pay for airfare!

Disclosure: we received no compensation for this article, we just thought our readers might find it interesting!  If you plan to take one of these cruises let us know.

Photos courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Photo Friday: Teen’s View of the Port of Seattle

 Posted by on September 16, 2011  Comments Off
Sep 162011

As usual, on our quick sunny Sunday tour of Seattle, we armed the teens with cameras so they could capture their own images of the day.  Even though he was almost 18, the #1 Son was drawn to all things mechanical.  In particular, the working Port of Seattle was an attraction.  The Port covers much of the waterfront land and nearby properties including container terminals, general purpose/cargo terminals, foreign trade zone,  break-bulk cargo and refrigerated cargo areas, repair facilities and storage warehouses.  It is also home to cruise ship docks, marinas for pleasure boats and a day cruise terminal – all in all it is a busy place.

View of Seattle Harbor from Space Needle

View of Seattle Harbor from Space Needle

We first glimpsed the harbor from high atop the Seattle Space Needle in the morning.  Both the sky and the water were a deep blue.  To get an up close view of the Port we joined a couple of hundred other tourists on the deck of the Argosy Cruise Line’s 1-hour Harbor Cruise (which we paid for ourselves).   As we reported earlier it was very crowded on the outside decks but that didn’t stop us from taking in the views.

Seattle skyline seen from the deck of the Argosy Cruise

Seattle skyline seen from the deck of the Argosy Cruise

The first part of the cruise provided a view of the skyline and the cruise ship docks, but, as we looped around the harbor it was Mt. Rainier that dominated the scene.   This 14,000 foot mountain is located 54 miles from Seattle, but it sure felt a whole lot closer.  Our tour narrator told us that if the volcanic Mt. Rainier explodes, the mountain’s vast glacial ice deposits would instantly vaporize and the resulting red hot mudflows, known as lahars, could reach all the way to Seattle!

Mt Rainier looms over Port of Seattle

Mt Rainier looms over Port of Seattle

A sizable section of the Harbor is dedicatedto  commerical matters such as boat repair and container ship loading cranes.  It was a fairly busy the day we were there.  We were a little surprised to see a 150 foot Coast Guide icebreaker in for repair.

The Coast Guard icebreak Healy in for repairs at the Port of Seattle

The Coast Guard icebreak Healy in for repairs at the Port of Seattle

The cranes were pretty impressive too.  There were several different types located across four different piers.  We got to see the gantry cranes in action unloading a container ship.

Container ship being unloaded at the Port of Seattle

Container ship being unloaded at the Port of Seattle

The boat actually came up right alongside the container ship for a birds eye view of the cranes and the containers.  They were stacked high enough that we wondered how they stayed on board during rough seas.

Unloading a container ship at the Port of Seattle

Unloading a container ship at the Port of Seattle

Having spent time on the downtown waterfronts of cities like Boston, where the focus is mostly on tourism and pleasure boats, we were surprised to see how close this large working waterfront is to downtown Seattle.   If you or your kids (no matter what age) are interested in how the waterfront operates this tour is a good choice.

A ship comes into dock at the end of a Port of Seattle cruise

A ship comes into dock at the end of a Port of Seattle cruise

We included a link to this photo essay in the Delicious Baby Photo Friday roundup where you can find connections to lots of other great family travel photos.

Dec 152010


Allure of the Seas steams into harbor

     The newest and biggest Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Allure of the Seas, features an unbelievable set of activities to entertain families with teens and tweens in between stops at Caribbean ports of call, including  the cruise line’s own private island, Labadee.       The ship’s 16 passenger decks and 2,700+ staterooms and suites offer an almost overwhelming choice of accommodations, entertainment, technology, water activities, shopping and food options for all ages.   Our teens took a look at the entertainment and activity choices and came up with a list of the best things for teens to do on board an Allure of the Seas cruise. 

Teen Picks for Best Things to Do on the Allure of the Seas

     For starters,  teen programs are offered throughout the day for ages 12-14 and ages 15-17.  There is a teen zone disco and living room area open from 10:30 pm to 2 am, but the emphasis is on offering a range of events that teens can opt to join at different times of the day or night.   Teen programs might include a theme night, a karaoke night or a rock wall climbing competition.  The goal is to make sure that teens and tweens have lots of chances to get away from their parents, make new friends, and have an opportunity to take advantage of all the ship has to offer, on their own terms.

Check out the Flowrider

     Hanging out at the Pool and Sports Zone is one of our teens’ top choices.  This area will be of interest to athletic  teens and tweens who want to try surfing on the the Flowrider surf simulators or get an adrenaline rush on the a zip-line that runs  nine decks above the Boardwalk.  An ice rink is available for skating.  It will also host Dreamworks themed ice shows.   The nearby Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center includes a dedicated spa area just for teens.  Can you say “manicure!”

           The Allure of the Seas is built around the concept of neighborhoods, several of which look like high priority teen hangouts.  One area that intrigues our teens is the Boardwalk, with its own carousel,  a Johnny Rocket’s burger joint, and the Aqua Theater amphitheater featuring the deepest freshwater pool at sea and beautiful views of the ocean.  It will normally feature high-dive acrobatics and water fountain ballets synchronized to music and lights.  Many of these shows will include Dreamworks characters such as the Madagascar menagerie.  The Aqua Theater will also provide a lavish setting for occasional featured acts such as a live performance by Talyor Swift debuting her new album on January 21, 2011.  Our teens want to know how to get on that cruise!

     Royal Caribbean’s partnership with Dreamworks is seen all over the ship, including parades and character meetings that are likely to be of more interest to younger kids than to teens and tweens.  However, even our jaded teens thought it would be a kick to check out  the 3D movie theater that runs such flicks as How To Train Your Dragon and  Monsters vs. Aliens®.   The teens were also interested in some of the more adult shows on board, such at the Chicago musical or the Blue Planet aerial acrobatic show, although they were a little disappointed to hear that they had to be with their parents to see some of those.

The Aqua Theater

      Beyond the sports and entertainment, Allure of the Seas is offering a number of other “firsts” at sea that got our teens’ attention.  The  first Starbucks at sea, was high on the list since our teens are always looking for a frappucinno.  The shopping opportunities made the list as well (what a surprise!).  Specifically, our shopper wants to visit the open air football field size Central Park neighborhood  that includes outdoor dining and tropical gardens.  The main attraction here is the promise of a Guess store, along with other boutiques.

Never a Dull Moment

Starbucks at sea!

     With so many activities to choose from on the Allure of the seas, your biggest challenge may be convincing your teen to get off the boat to take in the sights beyond the dock.   Allure of the Seas is the size of a small town and Royal Caribbean has made sure that every member of the family will have endless entertainment and activity options. We are guessing that even after a week on board neither teens nor their parents will have had enough time or energy to explore it all!

Photos Courtesy Royal Caribbean


     Disclosure:  Since the Allure of the Seas just recently undertook its maiden voyage, we haven’t had a chance to check out all these cool activities in person.  We received no compensation to write this article, but had such a good time dreaming about being on the cruise that we thought we’d share our top teen picks with you, our readers, in the hopes some of you will get there before we do.

     Have you taken your teens or tweens on the Allure of the Seas?  If so please leave a comment and let us know what you thought!

Disney Dream Cruise: Wishing We Were Here

 Posted by on November 11, 2010  Comments Off
Nov 112010


The Disney Dream

   Cold weather in the Northeast has us wishing we were in the tropics.  What better way to enjoy the sun and warmth than via a cruise?  We’ve been investigating some of the newest cruise options that cater to families with teens and tweens and the soon to launch Disney Dream is looking pretty fine.

    Years in development, the Disney Dream’s first voyage begins January 26, 2011.  During the winter of 2011, the ship will take 3 and 4 night cruises from Florida to the Bahamas and Disney’s private Castaway Cay island.  With the introduction of the Dream, Disney is promising to take its service and its use of technology on the high seas to a new level. 

Disney Dream Aquaduck water coaster

     One of the most original innovations is an industry first – the AquaDuck water coaster.  It stretches 765 feet in length and spans four decks in height.  It includes a loop out over the side of the ship, 150 above the ocean below!

    The Dream also features Disney’s rotational dining program that cycles guests and waitstaff through a different dining room experience each night.  Adult gourmet restaurant and evening entertainment options are available and of course, spa and salon services are provided as well.

      Cabins are designed for families with split bathrooms.  The design of the staterooms is Art Deco inspired.  Most (88%) of the Disney Dream’s 1,250 staterooms are outside rooms, and of those, 90%  have a private verandah.

Teens and Tweens Get VIP Treatment

A teen sun deck is part of the Disney Dream's Vibe club

     Disney is well known for its Oceaneer Club and Lab for kids ages 3 to 10 but they didn’t forget about teens and tweens when designing the Dream.  Forward of the funnel is the Edge lounge for tweens (ages 11 to 13). It is full of hi-tech entertainment including tools to create and star in photo postcards and video karaoke using green-screen technology.  Activities  such as dance parties, trivia games and sports contests are also frequently organized.

The interior of Vibe rocks

     Teens ages 14-17  have their own club — Vibe – which Disney describes as a trendy, 9,000-square-foot club where teens can create videos, play computer games and try their hand at mixing dance tracks. Teens also get a private outdoor area for sunbathing, deck games and cooling off with wading pools and water jets.  Parents may not see their teens for the whole trip with this set-up!


     As with all the articles in our “Wishing We Were Here” series, we received no compensation or incentive to write this article.   We just wish we here here!  Visit the link to see some of the other cruises on our wish list.

     Photos courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line Epic – Wishing We Were Here!

 Posted by on November 1, 2010  Comments Off
Nov 012010


The NCL Epic at sea

      In reviewing some of the newest family cruise line options, our teens  quickly picked the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL)  Epic megaship as a  best bet for active families  that want to see the Caribbean, make a transatlantic crossing or  visit the Mediterranean.

     At 1,080 feet in length, with room for 4,100 passengers, the Epic is a floating city that has 20 dining options and lots of entertainment choices including Blue Man Group, Second City Comedy and Legends in Concert.  It also boasts a water park at sea.  Our teens got really excited thinking about the Aqua Park that includes several multi-story water slides, including The Epic Plunge.  It is billed as the only tube slide at sea that puts the blast of inner-tubing into the core of a bowl slide, with a thrilling drop down a 200-foot long tube.

Get ready for the Epic Plunge!

      Beyond the water park, there are many other activities for energetic teens and tweens including multiple bowling alleys, ice skating, basketball, batting cages, bungee trampoline, a rope course and a 33 foot rock climbing.  Teens and tweens have their own zones as well.  Tweens ages 10-12  can hang out with the Playstations, Wiis, arts and crafts, movies and karaoke fun in The Tween Zone .  Meanwhile teens ages 13-17 have Entourage – which offers self-serve food and soda stations along with Playstations, air hockey, foosball and other games during the day.  At night it turns into a dance club for the 13+crowd.   

The Wii Wall in action

      The Epic was designed with family accommodations as a priority.  Suites and 2-bedroom family villas on upper decks are accessible by private elevator and have access to their own pool/gym/hot tub complex.   On lower decks, there are Family Balcony Staterooms that can sleep 4 and many options for connecting cabins.  

     The ship will be traveling to Mexico, the Bahamas, St. Maarten, Honduras and the US Virgin Islands this winter then move onto Mediterranean ports in the summer.   All we can say is, we wish we were sailing with the Epic on one of these voyages!


     As with all the articles in our “Wishing We Were Here” series, we received no compensation or incentive to write this article.   We just wish we here here!  Visit the link to see some of the other cruises on our wish list.

     Photos courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Mixing College Tours with Family Fun in Mystic Country

 Posted by on August 22, 2010  Comments Off
Aug 222010

Between searching out new ideas for family fun with our teens, and making plans to check out colleges, we’ve been doing a lot of travel research lately and are coming up with what look like some great ideas.  The Mystic Country area of coastal Connecticut recently peaked our interest as a place that offers a nice mix of history, adventure and fun to keep families with teens and tweens on the move and under sail — whether taking a break from college visits or just looking for a weekend getaway from New York or Boston.

The Charles W Morgan at Mystic Seaport, photo courtesy Mystic Country

In terms of colleges,  Connecticut College, Mitchell College and the US Coast Guard Academy are all in New London, next store to Mystic.   Many other schools are within an hour’s drive including Wesleyan University Middletown, CT and University of Connecticut a bit north in Storrs, CT and the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, RI.

Besides the  Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods gaming  resorts  which are within 15 minutes of the town of Mystic, most of the area’s attractions are linked to the ocean and the area’s impressive nautical heritage.  The Mystic Seaport is a unique living 19th century maritime museum.  The 60 acre site includes dozens of historic buildings, as well as an impressive  collection of restored schooners and sloops, a steamer and the last surviving wooden whaling boat, the Charles W. Morgan.  The Seaport’s buildings include a chandlery, sail loft, ropewalk, cooperage, shipping agent office, printing office, bank and more.

Beluga Whale at Mystic Aquarium, photo courtesy Tracy M Brown

The Seaport is open year round,  as is the nearby Mystic Aquarium with its collection of beluga whales, African penguins, sea lions, seals and other sea creatures.  Check out the Deep Sea 3D ride to feel what it is like to go 9,000 feet underwater in pursuit of deep-diving Sperm Whales and Giant Squid. We are told that a combination of 3D film and special chairs make it feel like you are really in a submersible.

Another opportunity to explore the country’s  maritime history is found at the Submarine Force Museum on the Thames River in Groton, Connecticut.   Operated by the US Navy, the museum traces the history of subs from Revolutionary War days to the present.  The highlight of any visit to the Submarine Force Museum is a tour of the USS Nautilus, the country’s  first nuclear powered submarine.  Admission is free.

If you make it to Mystic when the weather is warm and have a few hours to get out on the water, there are a number of options for day sails including a 5-hour cruise on the tall ship Mystic Whaler (a reproduction of a 19th century vessel).  The local ocean beaches are another refreshing activity in the warmer months.

Visit the Nautilus at the Submarine Force Museum, photo courtesy Mystic Country

We haven’t made it to Mystic Country yet but hope our travels take us there soon.  In the meantime, if you’ve visited there let us know your thoughts and comments.

This is one in a series of articles about fun family activities to add onto college visits (or to check out if you are planning a fun family weekend).  Check the full list here.

Mystic Family Vacation on raveable