The Snows of Summit County: Keystone


Keystone

Veer south off the interstate at Dillon, and the first ski town you reach is Keystone. Its River Run base area looks as if it had been custom-made for an easy, low-stress vacation—which, in fact, it was. In its car-free village, condos and restaurants are clustered around pavilions and cobbled walkways. Families clomp around in ski boots, sprawl beside fire pits and soak up the brilliant Rocky Mountain sunshine at the Kickapoo Tavern.

Across the Snake River, the River Run gondola quietly whisks skiers and snowboarders to the summit of 11,640-foot Dercum Mountain. While its Area 51 terrain park is fairly challenging, the signature front slopes will please beginners and intermediates with their mellow groomed runs.

But first impressions can be misleading. Keystone encompasses 3 peaks; the challenge increases as you work your way south from Dercum. North Peak offers some steeper cruising and long thigh-burning mogul runs. The Outback hides stashes of powder and nice lines threading through spruce forest.

Enticing snowy bowls gape above North Peak and the Outback like hanging glaciers. Follow the locals trudging to the 12,000-foot ridge above, or hop on the Outback Shuttle, where five bucks gets you a snowcat ride to the top.

When you’re spent, it’s easy to skip the end-of-the-day crowds skiing back to the base. Keystone thoughtfully has strung a second gondola from Dercum Mountain to North Peak, so you’re just two relaxing gondola rides away from après ski.

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Enjoyments in Myrtle Beach


Myrtle Beach

There's so much happening at once in this popular Southern vacation spot, you'll feel like you're tackling yet another of its popular humongous buffets.

From toddler to tween to retiree, there’s a fun park or miniature golf haven in Myrtle Beach to suit everyone. Rollercoaster fans hit Freestyle Music Park while aquatic types tackle the slides at Wild Water & Wheels. Engine hounds race carts at Nascar Speedpark and miniature golfers take swings at Mutiny Bay. For old-school versions of all the above, try the nearly half-century-old Family Kingdom.

At the southernmost end of the new boardwalk, rent fishing poles and tackle from the 2nd Avenue Pier, a family-owned joint. The best biking is around the Market Common or Myrtle Beach State Park. Joggers, walkers and beachcombers avoid the summertime crowds when they hit the shore between sunrise and breakfast.

Serious golfers do well at any of the area’s courses, but the ones that regularly snag accolades are Barefoot Resort’s Dye, Love and Fazio courses, Dunes, Tidewater, and TPC of Myrtle Beach. While those courses can cost $100-plus a round, the well-loved Heritage Club, 40 minutes south on Pawleys Island, can run half as much.

Spa goers rave about the getaway in the North Beach Plantation community—Cinzia, The Spa at North Beach Plantation. With a saltwater whirlpool and internationally themed massages, it’s the region’s crown jewel.

And for a blast from the (distant) past, visit Medieval Times’ Myrtle Beach Castle to watch swordplay, falconry and a jousting tournament over a roast-chicken feast.

SHOP
Find the best of the worst cheap T-shirts and snow globes at Wings or Eagles, or visit the grandfather of them all—the gargantuan, 6-decade-old Gay Dolphin Gift Cove on the boardwalk. The area’s bounty of outlet malls keeps bargain hunters busy. The 2 Tanger Outlet malls alone include the likes of Banana Republic, Coach, Nine West and more. And the Coastal Grand Mall, with more than 170 shops, is one of the state’s largest.

Anglers revel in the Bass Pro Shop. For a traditional Southern souvenir, check out the hand-tied hammocks at the Original Pawleys Island Rope Hammock.

EAT (LOTS!)
Myrtle Beach has a crazy number of huge buffets, most offering more than 150 different dishes. These massive dining rooms can easily handle the busloads of hungry visitors who descend on them before heading off to nearby attractions. Places like The Original Benjamin’s  and the Great American Steak & Buffet Co. offer local flavors like Calabash-style fried seafood and “chicken bog,” a Low Country dish of rice, chicken and sausage. The buffets are good value, but you might miss out on the nuances of Southern hospitality and home cooking.

DOWNHOME SOUTHERN
Barbecue joints like Big D’s Bar-B-Que Barn or Little Pigs Bar-B-Q lack frills but serve up perfect pork platters, hushpuppies and barbecue and slaw sandwiches. For a more traditional Southern supper, dine on crab casserole at one of the few waterfront dining spots on the beach: the more than 80-year-old Sea Captain’s House.

Just south of Myrtle Beach is Murrells Inlet, lined with restaurants, bars and a marina. Visitors stroll the marshwalk, carrying their drinks as they move from one spot to another to catch live music and enjoy straight-from-the-water appetizers. Sports lovers head to the Market Common’s upscale King Street Grille, while club goers check out the evening scene at Broadway at the Beach.

Epicureans no longer get short shrift on the Grand Strand. The best options are the mod SeaBlue for small plates that start at $10; Greg Norman’s Australian Grille for surf and turf; and Pawleys Island’s High Hammock for nouveau renditions of Southern seaside favorites like shrimp and grits and crab cakes. The Cypress Room at the Island Vista serves upscale versions of downhome food and fresh catches; Divine Prime is the place for dressy steaks.

MUST-TRIES
If you have access to a kitchen, visit the Mr. Fish seafood market for fresh-off-the-boat shrimp. The Crab Cake Lady sells handpicked, hand-shaped crab cakes. Go to a Piggly Wiggly to stock up on grits, ham hocks and peanuts for boiling. The farmers market sells fresh produce on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Finally, don’t miss the Sunday gospel brunch at perhaps the coolest joint in town—the House of Blues.

 

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Myrtle Beach Bliss


Myrtle Beach

Have fun in the sun, chow down in full Southern style, or even get abducted by aliens in this primo resort town.

The crews who dug the Intracoastal Waterway in the 1930s probably didn’t have a clue about what would spring up in their wake. But when they connected inland rivers at the northeastern tip of South Carolina and continued some 60 miles southward, they birthed one crown jewel of an island.

The area that eventually became Myrtle Beach—at the time known by only a few, for its pristine white beaches—was sparsely dotted with vacation homes and a few resorts. But by the 1940s, thanks to its new Air Force base, dance clubs that gave rise to the Carolina Shag and a motel-lined strip, it had been duly discovered. Nearly 80 years later, Myrtle Beach (named for the wax myrtles that sprout in maritime forests and edge up onto the dunes) welcomes almost 14 million visitors annually. Here’s what’s fresh in this long-beloved destination.

PLAY HARD
Myrtle Beach’s famed Ocean Boulevard has always been the place to cruise in the Palmetto State. But since 2010, when the city’s Boardwalk opened, the attention has been shifting from the automobile to the pedestrian. The 1.2-mile walk stretches from 2nd to 14th Avenues and includes countless benches, canopies, parks, souvenir shops and arcades.

You won’t run out of amusements on the Grand Strand, but two must-sees sit within a few blocks of each other on Ocean Boulevard. First, the beachfront SkyWheel, a nearly 200-foot-tall Ferris wheel sporting 42 glass-enclosed air gondolas and a million LEDs that dance in a stunning light show. A ride on this marvel, which opened in 2011, offers views of as far as 20 miles in every direction; try it at dusk to take in the sunset and the strip’s neon artistry.

Just south of the wheel, Family Kingdom has reigned as Ocean Boulevard’s amusement park for decades. While it’s known for its old-school wooden roller coaster, 2013 brought the Twist ’n’ Shout steel roller coaster and a 2-person flying-gondola ride. You can stroll the amusement park grounds free of charge; you pay only to ride.

Farther afield in nearby Murrells Inlet, Pirate Adventures awaits pint-size landlubbers looking for seafaring action. After donning swashbuckling clothes and dabbing on pirate makeup, kids (and their chaperones) climb aboard an old wooden ship to sail in search of treasure. Spoiler alert: Rogue sailors attack along the way.

Myrtle Beach

GEEK OUT
How long would you have lasted in the cold waters that claimed the victims of the Titanic disaster? Stick your hand in an icy tank and find out. Think you can use your mind to move objects? Strap on a sensor-laden headband and give it a go at WonderWorks, where you’ll find hands-on experiments galore. Until Labor Day, Encounters: U.F.O. Experience displays 200-plus artifacts centered on purported run-ins with aliens.

TEE UP
Golf Digest has ranked the Grand Strand, with its 102 greenways, among its top 10 best buddy golfing destinations for years. And now, the area’s pick-of-the-litter course is easier to access. Instead of booking through your resort to score a reservation at the semiprivate Dunes Golf & Beach Club, you can book at myrtlebeachgolf.com.

SHOPPING BREAK
Myrtle Beach’s onetime Air Force base is now home to Market Common, a walkable live/work-shop complex with A-list stores. Noteworthy recent additions include City Mac, a chic Apple shop where you can get the latest phone or troubleshoot laptop snafus; the Kangaroo Pouch, which has the hippest baby gear and wear; Devo Olive Oil Co., selling some 60 types of pressed oil; and the Coastal Wine Boutique, where you can taste and buy

EAT YOUR HEART OUT
Find the Crab Cake Lady’s hand-made crab cakes at Harrelson’s Seafood Market, in Murrells Inlet. And hunt down Mr. Fish at its newly opened location, north of the old (closed) spot; the lines for fried platters and chocolate pie still run out the door.

For down-home food, head to Lulu’s Café (their eggs Benedict is a take on biscuits and gravy, and cheese fries come with pimento cheese). Kudzu Bakery offers cakes, while Coccadotts gets wacky with cupcakes (try the maple and bacon).

A casual lunch of Nacho Hippo’s tacos stuffed to the limits can’t be beat. And a great date night destination is tiny Sobaya Japanese Bistro, where Korean and Japanese dishes are made to order. On the other end of the evening-out spectrum, drive to North Myrtle Beach for 21 Main at North Beach’s country-club-meets-steak-house fare. Chef Lou Petrozzi’s steaks are perfectly rendered; his seafood dishes, like seared scallops, are impeccable.

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Low Country Lowdown


Fried Green Tomatoes

Get a taste of the South at these spots in Charleston, Hilton Head and Savannah.

Southern culture is amazingly diverse, and nowhere more so than in the Low Country kitchens of South Carolina and Georgia, where food lovers gather for shrimp and grits, fried chicken, pork ribs, Gullah rice and fried green tomatoes—dishes that have evolved over more than two centuries. Here’s a triangle of culinary pit stops—in South Carolina’s Charleston and Hilton Head, and in Savannah, Georgia—where dining traditions are infused with regional ingredients, eccentric chefs and a whole lot of soul.

CHARLESTON
Travelers staying in Charleston’s historic district, where 18th-century houses line cobblestone streets, can taste-test Low Country staples at the Saturday farmers market in Marion Square. Here, stalls overflow with okra, butter beans, rutabagas, whole pigs and chickens—as well as sandwiches and pies. Foodies scope out the scene at 8 a.m.; before you join them, get a café con leche at Hope & Union Coffee Co., six blocks away.

For lunch, venture out of the downtown area to Martha Lou’s Kitchen, a Charleston institution in a bright pink cottage on a nondescript four-lane thoroughfare. After over 30 years in the biz, Martha Lou herself still runs the kitchen, a spotless corner with well-loved pots and pans visible from the dining room. Tables fill up for her famous fried chicken, well seasoned with just salt and pepper, as well as sides like buttery cornbread and cabbage simmered with hunks of ham. A glass of sweet tea, in this case extra sugary, is a must.

Five o’clock cocktails are a serious tradition here, and Charlestonians happily celebrate it at F.I.G., or Food Is Good. At the restaurant’s bar, expert mixologists craft cocktails such as the Marfa Daisy, made with Espolón tequila and elderflower, and the Green Thumb, a blend of Mississippi Cathead vodka, chartreuse, mint, cucumber, celery bitters, aloe and lime—both chart-toppers on the winter drinks menu.

Over the years, many of the city’s chefs—Ken Vedrinski of Trattoria Lucca, Robert Stehling of Hominy Grill, Sean Brock of McCrady’s—have been singled out for prestigious James Beard Awards. The latest is chef Brock’s Husk, set in a historic house with wide porches, antique-glass windows and a 10-foot chalkboard menu that details ingredients and their provenance. His dishes are daring: chicken skins poached in buttermilk and hot sauce, then fried till they’re crisp; sliders made with pig ears—pressure-cooked, sliced and fried—and pickled heirloom squash, tucked inside warm buns.

At Cypress, Craig Deihl mixes Low Country foods with Asian ingredients: oysters, for example, are topped with tuna sashimi and pineapple wasabi. End your evening with a Lady Baltimore cupcake, a Southern specialty made with sherry-soaked raisins and figs, at Sugar Bakeshop, owned by New York transplants Bill Bowick and David Bouffard.

HILTON HEAD
This South Carolina island is one of the most visited vacation destinations in the country. Luckily, it’s blessed with wide stretches of sand and a low-rise oceanfront, so beachgoers never feel packed in like sardines. In town, bikes rule the streets, which are lined with shops, art galleries and more than 150 restaurants.

Seafood, of course, is the thing to order. Devoted customers of the unassuming Sea Shack insist that no one does fresh fish, oysters and clams better. The question “Fried, grilled or blackened?” applies to everything from shrimp po’boys and crab cakes to locally caught wahoo and triggerfish. Meals are served on plastic blue-checked tablecloths in a kitschy dining space dominated by a mural of a jaunty shrimp relaxing with a cocktail in a hammock—seemingly unaware of its fried, grilled or blackened fate.

While restaurants in Hilton Head cater to varied taste buds—sushi bars and pizza joints stand side by side—travelers committed to a Low Country food pilgrimage should book one of the front-room tables at Red Fish (8 Archer Rd.; 843-686-3388; dinner for two, $130). The menu isn’t strictly South Carolina–inspired, but some of the best dishes on it are. Try the seared scallops with lobster mac-and-cheese, the Low Country shrimp and grits, or the Berkshire pork chop served over grits and kale. The space also doubles as a wine store, so you can buy a bottle, open it to drink with your dinner and cork the rest for later.

SAVANNAH
Savannah is known for being quirky and mysterious—and for its 22 lovely park squares, framed by Federal-style and 19th-century Greek Revival houses and shaded by trees hung with Spanish moss.

Crowds line up early to snag a family-style table at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room, which has been serving many of the same dishes since 1943. Servers bring out bowls piled high with Deep South fare: sweet stewed rutabaga, fried chicken and peppery red rice and sausage. Marcia Thompson, Mrs. Wilkes’s granddaughter, circles the room, encouraging conversation between diners.

In-the-know locals stop by Emerald City, a handful of 6-foot-long pits next to a car wash, for tender pork, beef ribs and rack of lamb. The smoky meat is pulled off the barbecue and slathered in tangy tomato-based sauce. Down the street at Back in the Day Bakery, the cheerful staff turns out old-fashioned cupcakes and banana pudding with house-made vanilla wafers.

Most of Savannah’s cafés and restaurants are on the redeveloped waterfront, a grid of redbrick streets lined with boutiques, a few blocks from the Savannah River. A discreet sign marks Alligator Soul, a cavernous downstairs space that feels like an elegant wine cellar, with its stone walls and arches. Dive into Christopher DiNello’s reinvented Low Country classics: Squash blossoms are sautéed with lobster and crawfish; shrimp and grits are livened up with cheddar and lemon butter; and green tomatoes are tossed in Parmesan before being fried.

A Hendricks gin martini at Circa 1875, expertly made and garnished with a cucumber slice, might sound like a dangerous conclusion to the night. But in this bistro, where artists and designers sit deep in conversation in the dark wood booths under pressed-tin ceilings, it feels just right.

Fried Chicken

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How to Tackle Hilton Head


Hilton Head

Experience a destination with a funky mix of history, abundant outdoor activities and unique cuisine.

Hilton Head is a 45-mile drive north from Savannah, GA, and 110 miles south of Charleston, SC. In the early 16th century, the French and Spanish attempted to settle this fertile land. Its live-oak forests and rich soil made it an agrarian paradise; the many waterways facilitated shipping; and the proximity to the Eastern seaboard made it a prime outpost. But local tribes didn't entirely welcome those early visitors. Finally, in 1663 British sea captain William Hilton successfully claimed the island for England, giving plantation life its start.

Today, Hilton Head Island is a funky mix. Historical sites are scattered among the resort-community-and-golf-course descendants of Sea Pines; hotels butt up against huge swaths of preserved land, while shopping and dining strips flood the interior. A four-lane road encircles the island, with hideaway developments shooting off it like spokes. And here and there, humble vegetable plots thrive next to multimillion-dollar digs and modest, slouchy cottages alike.

"This is the most relaxing vacation I've had with my family—ever," says a woman making her way across Broad Creek by kayak. "It's the first time we've ever just chilled out, relaxing on the beach, me reading and the kids shelling, and all of us trying new things."

To score that same experience, you'll need a strategy. Hilton Head has 250-plus restaurants and two dozen golf courses, so it's crucial to narrow your field of vacation vision. For a family-flavored getaway (the island's specialty), first pick a place to stay. If you're flying in, look for flights to the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport. And on your way to the island, stock up at the Publix in neighboring Bluffton to avoid the weekend crowds at island grocery stores.

Next, come up with your dream menu of outdoor activities. Hotels and resorts offer daily tours; ask for schedules when you check in. Or try Outside Hilton Head for kayaking, boating, fishing and dolphin-cruising options. If you’re not staying at a resort with beach access, you can hit the sand at several public access points. The most popular one is Coligny Beach Park, with ample parking and a brand-new area with restrooms, showers and more.

As for getting around, either bring your own bicycles or rent from Hilton Head Bicycle Co. And for the ultimate Lowcountry experience, don't miss exploring the Sea Pines Forest Preserve. This 605-acre wilderness oasis combines jungle-like expanses of native evergreen palms, live oaks and wax myrtles with lagoons populated by cranes and alligators. Powdery dirt roads traverse the gently sculpted site. Pick up a map at the info center hutch and head off by foot, bike or car—or on horseback. For a trail ride, sign up with Lawton Stables.

Hilton Head

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Heritage of Hilton Head


Hilton Head

Learn the history of this barrier island—including the best time and spots to visit—so you can experience the Low Country like a local.

Hilton Head Island in a nutshell: Vacationing families connecting—via scents, scenery and seafood—with the second-largest barrier island on the East Coast. And while most of the 2.5 million annual visitors tend to come during warmer months, they miss out on what might be the island's best time of year. After Labor Day and before spring break, the humidity drops, traffic trickles off, crowds thin and temperatures average in the 60s. Folks toss on fleece pullovers to walk the 12 miles of beaches; ride fat-tired, single-speed cruisers along epic bike paths; and hunker down at cozy oyster roasts. Sound good? Grab the Lowcountry winter uniform—flip-flops, khakis and light sweater—and come on out to Hilton Head.

To play Indiana Jones, check out the Indian Shell Ring in Sea Pines. More than 4,000 years ago, Native American settlers are believed to have piled discarded oyster shells in a circle to form low walls around their village, now in the Sea Pines Forest Preserve. And on the island's northern tip you'll find the remains of Fort Mitchel. This moat-lined earthen mound relic of the Civil War was uncovered in the 1970s when construction crews were clearing land for a new restaurant. Today the Old Fort Pub serves up high-end Lowcountry staples like crab cakes with green tomato, sweet pepper relish and stone ground grits. Patrons waiting for a table can head next door for a self-guided tour of the fort remains.

One of the most vibrant local groups is the Gullah, a distinct African-American community that has retained much of its African heritage. To learn more about the Gullah's role in Hilton Head history, head to the Coastal Discovery Museum, then polish off your schooling at Harbour Town with a walk to the top of the Harbour Town Lighthouse. Its walls display historic photos and illustrations detailing Hilton Head's path to the present.

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Acapulco's Second Act


Mexico's original beach town has reclaimed its old-school allure.

Long before Cancún or Los Cabos or the Riviera Maya were even specks on the tourist map, Acapulco reigned as Mexico’s coastal queen. Acapulqueños have recently worked hard to restore Old Acapulco and the Costera, and posh resorts and malls have risen in the newest neighborhood, Acapulco Diamante. The result is a thoroughly modern vacation destination rich in culture and history. Now is the time to visit—or revisit—the place where Mexico’s tourism fame was born.

OLD ACAPULCO

In the early Hollywood days, Playa Caleta and Playa Caletilla, on the western shores of Acapulco Bay, saw the most action. Today, the ’50s have returned with the restoration of the beachfront Hotel Boca Chica. The designers faithfully retained the mid-century architecture and the tiny Coco Wash disco, which has become the hippest hangout in town. Chef Keisuke Harada creates platters of sushi and Kobe burgers for happy hordes at the hotel’s restaurants; on weekends, locals pull their yachts up to the dock and linger for hours over mescal martinis.

With Boca Chica grabbing attention, travelers are also being lured to the palapa-shaded fish shacks on Playa Caletilla. Here families gather beneath blue umbrellas, and water taxis take swimmers to the clear waters off Isla Roqueta, just 10 minutes away. At the nearby Plaza Alvarez (also called the zócalo), elderly gents study their newspapers at sidewalk cafés as kids scamper around the filigreed bandstand. Across the street, fishermen lay out their nets beside docks where party boats collect passengers for sunset sailings.

In the winding streets high above Old Acapulco, sightseers gather at La Quebrada to witness the famed clavadistas, or cliff divers. During the show, a lone diver poses atop a jagged, precipitous cliff. Below, waves crash against rocks before settling into a small swirling pool. In the blink of an eye, the diver swoops toward the sea. Onlookers applaud as he emerges from the water, and another duplicates his feat.

THE COSTERA

Most visitors to the Costera devote the sunlight hours to lounging poolside, browsing in arcades and malls and playing in the bay. Pint-sized fun-seekers enjoy the rides at Papagayo Park and the waterslides at CICI waterpark.

As evening sets in, families head to the Hard Rock Cafe for burgers and ribs. Partygoers seek out tables at Paradise or Beto’s, among the best of the clubs on the sand, or retire to high-end restaurants and discos in the hills. Horse-drawn calesas (carriages) clomp along the Costera, delivering dancers to Baby ’O, one of the best-known discos. And fireworks and laser beams shoot over the bay from the hilltop clubs until dawn.

ACAPULCO DIAMANTE

Perhaps the best evidence of Acapulco’s resurgence lies in the burgeoning Diamante neighborhood. Stretching from the Costera up the steep, winding Scenic Highway, Diamante has legendary discos, championship golf courses, lavish resorts, a concert hall and a shiny new mall.

Several large timeshare resorts are also found on the beaches of Acapulco Diamante, close to attractions like the La Isla shopping center at Punta Diamante, which has lured some of the Costera’s well-known establishments (including the family-friendly yet rowdy Carlos’n Charlie’s). Kids can head to the mall’s Aqua Planet, with bumper boats and mini-golf, as well as displays that teach about water conservation. And at Mundo Imperial, an enormous development with a convention center and hotel, the stars of today appear at the Forum, a state-of-the-art concert hall. With the three sides of Acapulco all in a state of transformation, Mexico’s coastal queen is once again the biggest star on the map.

 

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Cozumel – Island of Swallows


Josef W.Walking down the stone streets of Playa del Carmen, past the numerous vendors and quaint shops, the ferry to Cozumel slowly comes into view. It looks sleek, fast and modern sitting atop the crystal clear blue water of the ocean. As we wait in line with mild trepidation to board, we watch the families play along the pristine white sand beach, bathed in the warm sunlight. Boarding the ship is quite a breeze once the gate opens and we are soon under way heading to Cozumel. As Cozumel slowly comes into focus, small droplets of ocean water cool us off during our complimentary sun tan on the 30 minute ferry ride. Arriving in Cozumel proves to be as easy as boarding was and we are soon on our way to the resort.

One of the first things that we noticed about Cozumel was that it feels like mainland Mexico, yet feels very different as well. There were numerous places to rent scooters on the side of the road, offering adventurous travelers the opportunity to explore the island on their own. They seem to be quite the popular mode of transportation to get around for the tourists and locals alike. We quickly leave the town limits of San Miguel de Cozumel, the capital, and drive along the highway towards our vacation destination. The resort staff is quickly at our service with towels and fresh drinks upon our arrival. We are quickly checked in and on our way to explore the resort. Having the ocean right outside our door along with a convenient ocean-side bar made this stay quite the treat.

The island seems to move at a slower pace than the mainland which makes everything more relaxing. We managed to spend some time exploring the local shops and dining at a quaint restaurant in the heart of San Miguel. The locals are eager to show you their items for sale and are quite friendly.  The food was amazing in both taste and presentation. We truly enjoyed spending a nice evening exploring this charming city. Don’t forget to also spend some time snorkeling at the largest reef in the Western Hemisphere, located off the coast of Cozumel. Make Cozumel your next vacation destination and enjoy the tranquility and beauty of Mexico!

We hope you enjoyed all of the great photos shared by RCI subscribing members. Be sure to check back with us next week!

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Cozumel – Adventure and Relaxation in One


Kristina W.Walking through the small streets of Playa Del Carmen, the excitement was building. We were heading towards the ferry terminal that would lead to our Cozumel journey. The process of using the ferry as transportation was quite simple and enjoyable. It was a beautiful sight to see the island coming into view as we felt the calm waves of the ocean rocking the ferry. Upon arrival on Cozumel, transportation to the resort was easy. The island of Cozumel is not an overwhelming size as it is roughly 30 miles long and 10 miles wide. There is one main road that circles the island, so if you choose to rent a car it is pretty easy to navigate.

Once you get settled in, be sure to check out the amazing water sport activities, like snorkeling. The largest reef in the Western Hemisphere, the Mesoamerica Reef, can be explored while staying in Cozumel. The ocean is crystal clear which makes for some fantastic sightings such as tropical fish and turtles.

Back on the island, the town of San Miguel offers many unique shopping prospects. While we were visiting, we enjoyed a night out in Cozumel with a phenomenal dinner at a local restaurant. Additionally, Cozumel provides many choices for spa treatments. Whether you are looking for a relaxing vacation, or an exciting getaway full of adventure, Cozumel offers the perfect trip for any family.

We’re continuing to share RCI subscribing members’ Cozumel photos. Stay tuned, there’s more to come!

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Winter Getaway


We took a four day weekend to Door County, WI in February and stayed at The Rushes on Kangaroo Lake. We expected to hike around in some of the county and state parks while we were there. What we didn't expect were all of the extra accommodations The Rushes had to offer. They had a separate room with every size ice skate, snow shoe, cross country ski and poles for our family, as well as our 4-year-old. These activities were complimentary. We tried snowshoeing, but got hooked on cross country skiing! My husband and I wondered why we had never tried it before. Our 12-year-old son had a good time too. We could pick between three different trails varying in length and difficulty. The priceless moment was watching our 4-year-old son and the triumph on his face when he could ski too. New experiences as a family, now that's what vacation time is all about!

-Linda A. from Fond du Lac, WI

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Family Holiday Fun in Mazatlan


What better way to connect with family than to spend a week together in Mazatlan, on Mexico's west coast, and with the Christmas holiday as an added attraction. With El Cid El Moro Beach Resort as our base, three generations enjoyed an all-inclusive vacation, which made sure our grandsons never went hungry! The beach itself provided sunny days of swimming, ping-pong, water sports, and parasailing for a perfect view of the city, the coast line and the nearby islands. Shops and restaurants, within easy walking distance, made life easy for the older generation. One day we all boarded a catamaran and sailed to Deer Island, passing sea lions that lazed on the rocks, oblivious to our squeals of delight. We swam, snorkeled, rode the giant banana, kayaked, and picnicked on the beach until the magnificent sunset told us it was time to return to reality.

Christmas Eve is one of the biggest celebrations of the year. We traveled by local bus to Juarez Street in the heart of the city. Over 100 stalls at the outdoor market provided souvenirs, tee shirts, leather goods, pottery, and every food imaginable from goat to chicken feet (not legs)! The Mexicans shop there every day, but for us it was an unusual treat. Nearby the cathedral shone with its majestic spirals and stained glass windows. Christmas carols pealed from outdoor speakers and decorated Christmas trees reminded us of the holiday. A cantina lodged in the park somehow seemed out of place until we remembered where we were!

We slept with our balcony door open to hear the breaking waves and see the gorgeous sunrises. We were up at dawn every day, as we did not want to miss a thing: kids, parents, and grandparents alike.

-Karen I. from Greenwood, SC

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Family Trip


My wife and I took our son and his wife along with our newly married daughter and her husband on a wonderful vacation to Puerto Vallarta. It was our daughter and son-in-law's honeymoon and they chose to spend two weeks with all of us and one week alone. It was the greatest time and we still watch the videos. We are planning a Hawaiian vacation with the same six, and hopefully it will be as big a blast as the first. The accommodations were fantastic, adding to the pleasurable experience.

-Theresa D. from Regina, SK, Canada

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Great Family Fun in Puerto Vallarta!


We book all of our vacations through RCI and each one gets better than the next! We never did an all-inclusive, but decided to try Club Velas Vallarta in Puerto Vallarta one April. Everything about it was wonderful and far exceeded our expectations. The people in Puerta Vallarta are wonderful hosts! We ate, rode the dolphins, took an island tour and enjoyed the culture of Mexico. Thank you RCI for making it so easy for us to find a perfect vacation for our family of four!

-Patricia C. from Wilton, CT

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Terrific Time at Tamaracks


The Tamarack Resort was a beautiful resort community with lovely accommodations. The condos felt like luxury townhomes with bedrooms upstairs and the living quarters on the first level. My family had the best time using the on-site amenities like the fitness center, swimming pools, and racquetball courts. We barbequed right outside of our condo and enjoyed the spacious kitchen and living room. My husband and I had a great time, and our children were just in heaven because there were endless activities between the Dells' waterparks and the fun at the Tamaracks Resort. We are so thankful to RCI for providing these wonderful vacations for our family to enjoy.

-Carol W. from Chicago, IL

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Family Fun in the Dells


We took a vacation with my in-laws, my husband's brothers and sister, their children, my mom and step-dad, and our kids. Looking back, I have never been more pleased to have taken the trip. Eighteen of us went and had three units at Christmas Mountain Village. It was awesome for all of us to be able to be at the resort at the same time and have the option of eating there together instead of eating out everyday and trying to find room to fit all of us. Now my father-in-law has been diagnosed with COPD and has had a tough go of it and most recently is bed bound. My mother-in-law finds it difficult to get out the house now with her medical conditions. It was our only vacation we every took with all of my husband's siblings and his mom and dad. I am so happy that we have that memory because we could never do anything like that now. We were thrilled that RCI made it so easy to arrange to have so many people come down with us. Thank you RCI. To many members of our family it one of the best vacations they have ever had.

-Julie B. from Sterling Heights, MI

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81 million people in the US live within 600 miles of the Wisconsin Dells, "The Waterpark Capital of the World!®"


Beth SDid you know that more than ¼ of the total US population lives within a 600 mile radius of the Wisconsin Dells?  For many, this is less than an 8-hour drive to a destination that delivers endless hours of activities for people of all ages!

My family of five has been traveling to the Dells nearly every October for the past eight years, and we’re planning a return visit over Fall Break this year.  With three boys ages 3-14 years old, our interests change daily, and the Dells is one of the few drive-to destinations that the whole family looks forward to. Here is a list of what you can do during your trip to the Dells!

At the waterpark:

  • My 14-year old –LOVES the wave pools, surfing, water slides and sometimes a hot tub to (in his words) “chillax”J
  • My 6-year old – He’s crazy about playing basketball and getting his feet wet riding the big kid slides!  With zero-degree entry pools, water guns galore, and plenty of splashing water, there are endless kid-friendly areas to play.
  • My 3-year old – Last year he loved floating on the lazy river, chasing his brothers and gliding down the tot sized slides. 
  • Where can you find all of these amazing water park activities in the Dells?  Our personal favorites are the Wilderness Resort, Kalahari, and Mount Olympus
     

Away from the waterpark:

This week on the RCI Blog, we’ll be sharing stories and photos from RCI subscribing members who have also traveled to the Dells. Be sure to come back to take a look!

Have you vacationed in the Wisconsin Dells, what other recommendations do you have (for me and the other 81 million people living within 600 miles)?

Here’s a pic of my 2-oldest boys at the wave pool. 

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A Dream Trip to Hainan


Jenny U.As a child, I pictured Hainan as a mysterious and remote island waiting for courageous visitors to reveal its nature. It was not until many years later that my parents planned a spontaneous family trip which uncovered a fascinating and mind-soothing journey in my memory.

We took a ferry to Haikou, the northern point of Hainan. On arrival our family headed directly to a local seafood restaurant where I had steamed red crab meat, juicy shrimps and tender large yellow croaker. Never had I tasted seafood as sweet and luscious. It is said that the pristine south seawater has gifted Hainan with the most delicious seafood. The next morning, we drove alongside the East Coast national road to Sanya Bay. For miles along the road, there were people riding bicycles passing high-reaching coconut trees, cycad and palm trees swaying along the sea breeze.  Behind us, the clear blue sky stretched far to meet the edge of the dazzling seawater.

We arrived at one luxurious resort in Sanya Bay and spent half the day sitting among the sublime tropical plants and vibrant flowers. As far as I could see, I was able to spot two islands amongst thin mist and motorboats sailing around them. People can go angling, a type of fishing, on one island where the best angling club of Sanya rests.  In the afternoon, I took a walk along the bay and touched the warm sea water while fishermen were trawling (another type of fishing) and singing in the distance. People can join in and take trawling lessons, then take their self-caught fish home. Our short stay came to the end as the sun settled below the sea, leaving a golden lining in the sky.

This week on the RCI Blog we’ll be sharing a lot of great information about China. I hope this will help you plan your next vacation to China!

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Hanging With a Local


Hanging With a Local

An iguana we would catch regularly hanging out poolside at the Geo Group at Pueblo Real on our family vacation to Costa Rica. Pura vida.

-Nancy A. from Brooklyn, Michigan

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Family Vacation to Kauai


In May 2011, our family of eight enjoyed a trip of a lifetime to Kauai, Hawaii. We were celebrating our daughter's birthday, our anniversary and Mother's Day. We had a fantastic time at the Wyndham Kauai Beach Villas. The two units we had accommodated all of us very comfortably and the location was superb. Besides enjoying the pool and the beautifully landscaped gardens at the condo, we also enjoyed visiting several beaches, the Waimea Canyon, the Spouting Horn, Wailua Falls and Opaeka'a Falls. One of the highlights of our visit was the helicopter ride we booked through the condo. It took us over the Na Pali Coast and the Waimea Canyon, into an extinct volcano and over several majestic waterfalls. What awesome memories! We'd love to go back!

-Darlene A. from Red Deer, AB, Canada

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Kauai – a great vacation no matter what side of the island you are on!


Elizabeth D

Hawaii’s island of Kauai easily ranks as one of the most beautiful and tranquil places on earth.  For outdoor enthusiasts, both the North and the South sides of Kauai offer awesome activities.  Having stayed on both the North and the South sides, it's really difficult to say which is nicer as they each have a unique appeal.  Typically people shy away from the North side of the island in the winter because it tends to be rainier.  Nonetheless, it boasts lush, green vegetation, beautiful beaches, panoramic golf courses overlooking the ocean and awesome views of the island's many waterfalls. 

The North side of Kauai is home to the start of the incredible Na Pali Coast that attracts people from around the world to hike its rigorous 17-mile trail overlooking the coastline.  Another North side favorite destination is the Kilauea Lighthouse.  It too has breathtaking and is incredible for bird watching as it is located on a wildlife preserve. 

The South side is about an hour drive from the North side of the island. The South side tends to be less rainy and slightly warmer than the North side and is a perfect destination any time of the year.  The South side is home to magnificent beaches such as the beautiful Poipu Beach Park which is known for its excellent snorkeling.  In addition, it’s common place to see monk seals and sea turtles at this beach.  Families find it a great beach to spend the day at as it not only offers calm swimming conditions, but it is also home to convenient picnic facilities.

Evenings are equally tranquil in Kauai as the island offers spectacular sunsets.  In fact, there is no better way to end the day on Kauai than to take in a sunset from one of Kauai’s many beaches!

If you’d like to read more about Kauai and see some spectacular photos of the area, come back to the RCI Blog. We’ll be sharing stories and photos from RCI subscribing members who have traveled to this amazing island all week long!

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