With winter gone and summer fast approaching, no one wants to stay indoors. Our writers found some of the most exciting and unique activities to keep you outside no matter where you are—from mountain tops to city parks and all the places in-between.
In the Mountains
Family-friendly: Horseback ride at Winding River Resort in Grand Lake, Colorado
Saddle up at Winding River Resort and ride through pine forests and alongside the Colorado River or into Rocky Mountain National Park. The park has some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the lower 48, including more than 60 peaks that top 3,600 metres. Kids will love watching chipmunks scamper up trees while parents look for larger wildlife such as elk and moose.
Under the radar: Mountain bike in Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park in Kelowna, B.C.
Earn your happy hour in B.C.’s wine country by pedalling the trails in this emerging mountain biking destination. Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park boasts 155 kilometres of trails that wind past ancient rock outcrops, through a desolate-but-beautiful burnt forest (thanks to a fire in 2003). Knox Mountain, just five minutes from downtown, has plenty of fast, twisty descents and jumps.
First-timers: Climb the Via Ferrata in Mont-Tremblant National Park, Que.
You don’t have to be a devoted mountain climber to try out this alpine craze that involves hiking, climbing ladders and crossing swinging bridges, all while clipped to a steel cable. The Via Ferrata is a three-hour experience that runs the length of the Vache Noire cliff above the Diable River and is designed to challenge newbies.
Bucket list: Hike Diamond Head in Oahu
Hike up this saucer-shaped crater that is arguably the state of Hawaii’s most-famous landmark. It’s an incredibly scenic walk from the sands of Waikiki Beach to the trailhead at Diamond Head State Monument. From there, ascend to the top of the volcanic crater. The reward for your effort? Experiencing Instagram-worthy views of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean.
Not for the faint of heart: Go on a cave tour in Canmore, Alberta
Stomach-down on the wet rock, you crawl through a narrow crack in the earth while your headlamp makes shadows dance on the limestone walls. It takes some effort—and nerves of steel—but you make it inside Rat’s Nest Cave. This subterranean world of stalactites, stalagmites and a crystal-clear pool of water formed as a result of rain and melt water finding its way inside Grotto Mountain. Canmore Cave Tours leads trips into the cave year-round, where the air temperature is always 5˚C (dress warmly). The standard Explorer Tour has guests hike 30 minutes to the cave entrance before going underground for about 2.5 hours of crawling, climbing and wiggling from one chamber to the next while a guide points out formations and fossils. —LK
On the Water
Family-friendly: Kayak on the Bay of Fundy
The Bay of Fundy boasts the highest tides on Earth, rising the equivalent height of a five-storey building. A kayaking adventure offers the chance to fully experience this scenic coastline, even paddling amongst New Brunswick’s iconic Hopewell Rocks after the tide comes in. At low tide, you can stroll on beaches soon to be swallowed by the ocean swell.
Under the radar: Ride the rapids on the Ottawa River with Wilderness Tours
With rapids that range from gentle Class I ripples to some of the most extreme in North America, the Ottawa River offers fun for all ages and skill levels. If white water is too much of a rush, try a family-friendly inner tube ride or a beginner rafting route, building your way up to 360-degree spins on runs suitable for rafters five years and older, at Wilderness Tours, an hour outside Ottawa.
First-timers: Take surf lessons in Malibu, California, with Aqua Surf School
As its name suggests, Malibu’s Surfrider Beach is a beloved spot for surfers—and one of the best-known in Los Angeles County thanks to the surfing movies of the 1950s and ’60s. While Surfrider’s outer breaks are best left to the pros, First Point, closest to the shore, features long, even waves perfect for newbies. A two-hour lesson with Aqua Surf School will help you master the basics.
Bucket list: Paddleboard in downtown Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Saskatoon is known for its bridges, and the Meewasin Valley Trail is a popular draw for running and hiking along the South Saskatchewan River. While the river doesn’t seem like an ideal spot for paddleboarding, as it’s often a sport reserved for calm, flat waters (currents on the South Saskatchewan River are so strong swimming is not recommended), the sport is growing in popularity. Both the rare perspective of seeing downtown Saskatoon from the water and the rush of the flowing river make it a surprisingly enjoyable place to SUP.
While paddleboard size is typically linked to stability (the bigger the board, the steadier you’ll be), it’s not the case when you hop aboard Escape Sports’ eight-person stand-up paddleboard. In the group scenario, any shake or a wobble by one is felt by all. It’s great fun—with a greater-than-normal risk of everyone getting wet. But that’s half the fun of hiring a multi- or single-person paddleboard for a cruise through downtown Saskatoon.
Not for the faint of heart: Parasail in Maui
It’s a steep lift-off from the back of a boat to your cruising altitude of 243 metres above Kaanapali Beach on Maui. But once you hit UFO Parasail’s peak height, you’ll be rewarded with the wind in your hair and jaw-dropping views of the beach, the West Maui Mountains and the neighbouring islands of Lanai and Molokai. Want to kick it up even higher? Parasailers can also upgrade to a 366 m “out-of-this-world” ride. —AS
In the Desert
Family-friendly: Hike to the Centrosaurus Quarry in the Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta
Alberta’s Badlands got their name because they’re a notoriously difficult place to navigate—the tortuous landscape of statuesque hoodoos and water-eroded coulees often dead-end in box canyons.
But on this particular guided hike in Dinosaur Provincial Park, near Brooks (two hours southeast of Calgary), the terminus is a bone bed literally overflowing with the fossilized remains of a herd of Centrosaurs, a kind of horned dinosaur that roamed the province some 67 million years ago.
Guides are eager to tell the region’s paleontological history, but know any kids in tow are keen to spy their own dino bones in the ground. It’s this balance between education and exploration that makes the hike great for families.
Under the radar: Golf at Coyote Springs Golf Club in Las Vegas
Forget the slot machines and hit the desert links, where green fairways ribbon around spectacular red rock scenery. For the best backdrop on a top-rated course, book a tee time at Coyote Springs Golf Club, an hour’s drive north of The Strip. This par-72, Jack Nicklaus Signature course is comprised of rolling terrain cut through with ponds and cascading waterfalls—all surrounded by mesas and mountains akin to Mars.
First-timers: Rock climb in Joshua Tree National Park, Calif.
Sign up for a half-day beginner rock climbing tour inside one of California’s iconic parks. Seth Zaharias and Sabra Purdy of Cliffhanger Guides show guests how scaling the rounded granite boulders that, along with the twisted Joshua trees, give the park its otherworldly appearance, isn’t as hard as it looks. Newbies will be climbing more challenging routes in no time.
Bucket list: Go on a mule ride with Grand Canyon National Park Lodges
Gape in awe at the layers of sedimentary rock as you descend into the Grand Canyon—and through geological history—on the back of a mule. Grand Canyon National Park Lodges’ classic trip has seen these sure-footed steeds take travellers into the canyon since about 1890. It’s a slow descent on mule-back, but there’s no better way to admire one of the world’s natural wonders.
Not for the faint of heart: Sandboard at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado
Hike to the top of the tallest dunes in North America, strap on a sandboard and ride the grains downhill. This fledgling sport is similar to snowboarding (but not as fast) and is gaining traction around the world, including in this wedge of desert plunked amid the grasslands of southern Colorado, just east of the Rocky Mountains. —LK
In the City
Family-friendly: Take a cycle tour with The Pedaler in Victoria, B.C.
With a network of protected bike lanes to be completed in 2019, and easy access to outlying neighbourhoods, it’s no wonder the University of British Columbia’s Cycling in Cities program rated Victoria Canada’s most bike-friendly city. Though The Pedaler’s led-by-locals tours are suited to kids 12 and up, their Family Fun Tour is a customized spin on a cargo trike to some kid-friendly attractions.
First-timers: Ride a Segway through Edmonton, Alta.
While Segways are a great way to cover more ground than a walking tour, the typical setting—cities and historical areas with lots of foot traffic—isn’t ideal for enjoying the ride. But, with 160 kilometres of smooth trails, an intro session with River Valley Adventure Co. through Edmonton’s River Valley is your best bet for mastering this two-wheeled balancing act.
Under the radar: Go on a group run with BlacklistLA in Los Angeles
What might look to a bystander like a running flash mob is actually one of the best ways to tour Los Angeles—and get in a cardio workout.
BlacklistLA, has grown from small, planned group runs to numbers that now swell into the hundreds, all with an emphasis on learning about street art and the city’s different neighbourhoods. There’s no cost to take part, and the locations for Blacklist’s thrice-weekly outings are revealed the night before on Instagram. Flagship Monday night art runs are a five kilometre dash through the city streets with a break to learn about a specific piece of street art, while on Wednesdays the group meets at a station along L.A.’s Metro line to explore off-the-beaten-path neighbourhoods. Saturday morning runs are the group’s most ambitious—12 km and further distance runs.
While fitness is an obvious draw, Blacklist’s code of conduct reveals its true mission of encouraging runners to experience the city. The code also urges runners to promote the experience and featured artists on social media so others can do the same.
Bucket-list: Climb boulders in New York City’s Central Park
One of New York City’s most iconic settings, Central Park offers 341 hectares of fun. The park features dozens of locations suitable (and sanctioned) for bouldering, an increasingly popular offshoot of rock climbing. Bouldering focuses on rocks up to six metres in height, eliminating the need for ropes and harnesses and provides a rare opportunity to climb in the city.
Not for the faint of heart: Do the EdgeWalk atop the CN Tower
If just the idea of peering down from the CN Tower’s 342-metre-high glass floor is more than you can handle then forget about this next activity, a hands-free outdoor tethered walk around the outer edge of the tower’s main pod. EdgeWalk is bound to get your heart rate up a little more than the average stroll since the ledge is only 1.5 metres wide and 116 storeys above street level. —AS
Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of WestJet Magazine
5 Top Family Vacation Ideas
Where you choose to spend your holiday depends, in large part, on the wants and needs of each member of your travelling circus. Here are travel suggestions to suit families with young children, teenagers, single-parent families, multi-generational families and multiple families travelling together.