May Family Travel Guide

Fiesta Cinco De Mayo
Inhale the aromas of delectable cuisine, dance to Latin American music, and attend performances at eight venues as San Diego celebrates Fiesta Cinco de Mayo (courtesy

Vancouver, British Columbia
It should come as no surprise that Vancouver sells more sporting goods per capita than any other city on the continent. As the largest city in British Columbia, Vancouver serves as the gateway to the wilderness, but, in reality, there’s no reason to leave town. Wake up in the morning and throw on a sea skirt to kayak around Granville Island; road bike around the 6.4-mile seawall in Stanley Park or bike off-road on the park’s numerous double-track trails; snorkel around the colorful coral found at Race Rocks; and finally jump aboard a Catalina and sail Vancouver’s harbor at sunset. (

Bryce Canyon, Utah
Like the Grand Canyon, Utah’s Bryce Canyon is one of the few National Parks where you look down in awe, instead of up at a mountain. Here, the highlight lies within the hundreds of hoodoos, colorful standing pinnacles that line the Bryce amphitheater. Inspiration Point marks the peach, apricot, tan, white, and red rocks that stand at attention like people on a parade route. Drive ninety minutes south to check out the towering cliff walls of Zion National Park, not yet sweltering in the summer heat.

Contraband Days Festival, Louisiana
Almost 300 years ago that nasty pirate Jean Lafitte took to hiding in the waterways of Lake Charles, Louisiana. Thankfully, the swashbuckling adventures did not end with Lafitte’s demise. Held the first 13 days of May, the Contraband Days Festival includes helicopter and carnival rides, log rolling and arm wrestling contests, a kid’s pirate costume contest, and loads of live music.

Fiesta Cinco de Mayo, San Diego
For one weekend in early May, revolving around Cinco de Mayo, San Diego’s Old Town turns into a colorful mercado, filled with mariachis, Mexican food, and crafts. Mom and dad can enjoy a margarita and a samba, while kids play in the Pueblo de los Ninos (Kids Village). This celebration of Hispanic culture commemorates the Mexican defeat of the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

Georgia'’s Barrier Islands
Sea kayakers will find paradise in the endless maze of tidal rivers and coastal waters that make up Georgia’s barrier islands. Savannah’s Tybee Island marks the gateway to the other islands. Little Tybee consists of a green expanse of tidal marsh, scrubby forests of palm and slash pine, and deserted beaches populated only by mink, sea otters, snowy egrets, blue herons, and ospreys. On the paddle over, you’ll most likely be accompanied by bottlenose dolphins and dining pelicans. If you want to spend the night, Little Tybee also offers wilderness campsites on the beach and interior.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park
The prospect of big game hunting lured young Teddy Roosevelt to the Badlands in September 1883. Yet, when he arrived, the bison were gone, having been decimated by hide hunters and disease. Today, the mighty bison once again walks the Great Plains. Roosevelt would be happy to know that the national park that bears his name in southwestern North Dakota hosts one of the largest herds. Some 400 of these 2,000-pound creatures roam the North Unit and South Unit of the park amidst a maze of buttes and canyons. Other wildlife includes wild horses, elk, and those cute prairie dogs that pop out of their holes like bread in a toaster.

Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland used to be the place my father threatened to send me as a child if I didn’t eat my veggies. Now I’d gladly bring my dad and the rest of the family to the shores of Lake Erie to catch a game at Jacobs Field, one of the most intimate ballparks in the country; spend a morning listening to the tunes at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame; and trying the latest thrill ride, the Maverick, at nearby Cedar Point, home to more roller coasters than any other amusement park in the world.

California’s Highway 1
Highway 1 from Los Angeles to San Francisco (or vice versa) looks like the sort of road you see in car ads, where the convertible hugs the wide turns as cliffs plunge to the Pacific below. No wonder this highway marks one of America’s unofficial pilgrimages for families. Stop by the Danish town of Solvang to try the pastries, the sleepy beach hamlet of Avila Beach to walk the pier, the beach north of Hearst Castle in San Simeon to watch the elephant seals squawk, Big Sur’s Nepenthe to dine on nachos while overlooking the stunning surroundings, and Monterey Bay to bike the boardwalk and visit one of the finest aquariums around.

Maine’s Kennebago River
Registered Maine guide Rich Gacki promises, and delivers, “Breakfast with Bullwinkle" on his three-hour guided canoe jaunt on Maine’s Kennebago River. As sunlight splinters through the branches of tall pines and birches, you’ll find moose waking up to slurp the waters, along with the occasional beaver, osprey, and heron. Rich will meet you in front of the Rangeley Chamber of Commerce and then drive over with the canoes to the Kennebago River.
($45 per person, includes a snack; contact Rich Gacki at 207-864-5136)

Boston-based writer Stephen Jermanok has authored or contributed to 11 books on the outdoors, including Outside Magazine's Adventure Guide to New England , Discovery Channel's Backcountry Treks , Discovery Channel's Paddlesports , Outside Magazine's Guide to Family Vacations and Men's Journal's The Great Life . His latest book is New England Seacoast Adventures . His many adventures appear in National Geographic Adventure , Outside , Men's Journal , Forbes FYI , Travel + Leisure , Hooked on the Outdoors , and Backpacker . He can be reached at

Published: 23 Feb 2007 | Last Updated: 7 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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