Top Ten American Family Adventures - Page 2

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Family Hiking
LITTLE FEET: Head to the hills and explore the outdoors with the family  (Photodisc)

5. Fish and Canoe in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Minnesota
Maybe it's the 1,000,000-plus acres of seemingly endless wilderness—a whopping 1,300 miles of canoeable waters through countless lakes, rivers, and ponds—that gets paddlers all dreamy-eyed over Minnesota's northern frontier, the Boundary Waters. You can go days without seeing another person, replaced instead by moose, whitetail deer, black bears, beavers, otters, and those laughing loons. This area is truly an angler's paradise. Crystal-clear waters hold trout, walleye, bass, and northern pike in abundance. Stay at Gunflint Lodge in the North Woods of Minnesota and its guides will show you where to catch trophy-size walleye in Sagananga and Northern Light lakes, lake trout in Gunflint and North lakes, as well as smallmouth bass and northern pike in several of the other area lakes. Then it's back to the historic lodge, where the Kerfoot family has been the host for over 75 years.

4. Bike Sanibel Island, Florida
Similar to the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket in the northeast, Sanibel is best explored on a bike. There are 22 miles of paved trails that lead you into the wildlife of Ding Darling, along Tarpon Bay, on bridges over canals, and to the eastern tip of the island to visit the Sanibel Lighthouse, which has stood tall over San Carlos Bay since 1884. Along the way, stop for a bite to eat or lounge on one of the many beaches. The best way to see the alligators and amazing birdlife at "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is on two wheels. This way you can slow down and see roseate spoonbills, egrets, herons, and ibises hidden in the foliage that you would ordinarily miss if you zipped by in a car. Get there early before it gets too hot to catch the best wildlife sightings.

3. Sail Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
Founded in 1982 in Newport, Rhode Island, J World has since added teaching facilities in San Diego, Annapolis, the Florida Keys, and Sweden. The Annapolis-based franchise is owned by Jahn Tihansky, a former sailmaker and instructor with U.S. Sailing. While Tihansky says that children 14 and older are mature enough to take the learn-to-sail or intermediate sailing courses, he suggests private instruction for the entire family or for children ten and up. Tihansky's philosophy of "more time on the water, less time in the classroom" will turn any landlubber family into sailing aficionados. You'll learn how to set the sails, practice your knots, stop and start under sail, tack, jibe (controlled, of course), and anchor. More advanced courses will teach salty dogs how to put up a spinnaker, navigate, and moor.

2. Multisport in the Finger Lakes, New York
A mere four-hour drive from New York City, Toronto, and Cleveland—and a bit longer from Boston and Philly—the Finger Lakes of western New York are ideally suited for a summer or fall road-trip in the East. Start in Watkins Glen, where you hike through the famous gorge in the state park alongside a number of spectacular waterfalls. Watkins Glen is at the southern end of 38-mile Seneca Lake. Go for a sunset sail on a schooner and the next morning, head a wee bit south of the lake to kayak through the cattail-laden Catherine Creek marsh and see countless herons, turtles, maybe even a beaver. The following day, head to nearby Keuka Lake and bike the 20-mile Bluff Ride that starts at Keuka College on a quiet peninsula jutting out into the water. All of the lakes are surrounded by vineyards, so after days of adventure, mom and dad can taste award-winning Rieslings and Gewürztraminers at night.

1. Mountain Bike Kingdom Trails, Vermont
In 1997, I had an assignment to preview a network of mountain biking trails being created in the northeast corner of Vermont. Biking with one of the route's designers, I quickly saw the potential for an off-road biking route through this rural part of the state. On a spongy mat of trails dusted with pine needles, we cruised past century-old barns and small, dilapidated sugar shacks lost in the countryside. Yet, even though the scenery was pure Currier and Ives, the trails felt very raw, as evidenced by the mud bog we ended up in, sludge up to our knees. Today, I'm happy to report that the Kingdom Trails is the preeminent mountain biking route in the northeast, a 150-mile circuit of former farming roads and slender singletracks that climb and dip with the green countryside. Take, for example, Coronary Bypass, a gem of a singletrack run, where you bank corners and bounce over roots as the path snakes back and forth through a pocket of trees. If your child is like mine, they'll be quickly hooked on the sport.

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