PLUG INTO THE POCONOS By: Manny Velasquez-Paredes
Originally published in Connextions Magazine Issue 19: Travel Lite
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to simply unplug - unplug from the everyday, from work, from technology, from - dare I mention it - Facebook! But as a working parent, it is extremely important to disconnect from the world and simply enjoy your family.
For the past three years, my husband and I have taken our kids on mini-vacations to the Poconos at least twice per year. It is just under five hours drive for us, so we leave the house early so we can beat traffic and (hint) the kids are usually still sleepy, which means they’ll probably fall asleep after 45 minutes into the trip for at least another hour or so, which makes for a calmer ride.
As a same-sex couple with kids, we have stayed at different hotels in the area, some more expensive than others, and have never encountered any issues because of our sexual identity. There are some budget hotels/motels where you can stay, just remember that the quality of place is directly proportional to the cost of the rooms. We stayed at this place once where we asked the front desk to change our room because the original room was simply unacceptable - stains, dirty walls, and a toilet seat that didn’t fit properly. Eventually, we settled on another room. Just remember if you are not satisfied with the room or any of the amenities at the hotel - speak up and let them know right away, most places will try to help you. Mentioning things like “are you on Facebook, TripAdvisor or Yelp?” might help you with your request. The first thing I do after checking-in to our hotel, is to turn off my cell phone - which trust me it is probably the hardest thing for me to do - but it is a conscious decision I made so I could enjoy my time with the family.
The Niagara Falls of Pennsylvania
The best way to unplug is to plug into nature and if you don’t mind hiking and climbing, then Bushkill Falls, which is known as the Niagara Falls of Pennsylvania, is really the place to visit! Opened to the public since 1904, Bushkill Falls is located on about 300 acres of land in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
The falls are 1200 feet above sea level, and include 8 waterfalls and over 2 miles of hiking trails, bridges and walkways. The drop from the top of the Main Falls to the bottom of the Lower Gorge is about 300 feet and it’s an absolutely breathtaking view and cell phone signal is extremely spotty - so leave them in the car or your room’s safe. But, please bring a camera - preferably a waterproof one so you don’t need to worry about it getting wet.
To read the entire article, please visit Connextions Magazine Issue 19: Travel Lite
(Originally published: Connextions Magazine Issue #12)
In order to escape what can only be described as “one of the rainiest and coldest springs” I can remember, my partner and I packed our kids and drove to a water park in the Poconos, where we booked a Kid Kamp Suite at the Great Wolf Lodge. The drive from Long Island, New York to Pennsylvania was a very uneventful one, since we are now experts on what to bring with us on long road trips to keep the kids occupied. Amidst the kids’ DVDs, leap pads, and etch-a-sketchers, I usually pack snacks, juices, water, sandwiches, fruits and sweets, anything to keep everyone happy and engaged.
I always say that my partner and I are “outlet junkies,” because we love shopping and are always looking for deals and sales. So on our way to the water park, we couldn’t resist and stopped at the Crossings Premium Outlets Mall, which is about five minutes away from the lodge, and the only thing we bought was lunch. I would not recommend this mall at all. I felt the prices were actually higher than those in New York, but it gave us the chance to stretch our legs and waste some time and energy.
As usual, we didn’t let our kids know where we were going, because we love to see their surprised faces as we arrive to our destination. Upon driving up the hill into Great Wolf Lodge we were greeted by huge water slides sticking out of the building and the kids put every toy away and excitedly focused on them and expressed their desire to climb each slide. Great Wolf Lodge is a massive water park with over 79,000 square feet of water rides and slides, including flabbergasting slides for the adults or zero-depth entry areas for the little ones. The indoor water park is always a wonderful 84 degrees and there are plenty of areas where everyone can get splashed and even smashed – yes, there is a bar inside the water park and another one in the restaurant!
our first night I checked on him every couple of hours. I was incredibly surprised he slept like a big boy and did not fall off the bed, and this is when I realized my baby is growing up so quickly and has already begun his own journey in life.
The next morning they woke up and got out of bed and ran into our room to wake us up, which was absolutely an amazing experience for us, because we are usually the ones who wake them up. The breakfast buffet, which I recommend purchasing during the booking process, was great. I had read online some comments about people complaining about the food, but everyone in my family enjoyed all of the options available, the freshness and tastes of the foods. I strongly recommend the create-your-own omelet area, where the chef will create your favorite omelet, and by the way they have feta cheese if you ask for it! During breakfast, we were delightfully surprised when Violet, one of Great Wolf’s mascots, came around our table to greet the kids and for photo ops. So have your cameras ready, because you just may encounter Violet, Oliver or Wiley. By the way, Shutterfly.com has an awesome deal with Great Wolf where you can receive book of pics as a gift, make sure to get the card with the code for your free book from your room.
After breakfast, we relaxed by the Great Clock Tower in the Grand Lobby for story time, which is repeated three times throughout the day. We then went to the water park and this is when I realized just how brave and fearless my little girl, Jaslene, has become. In the water park, Jaslene decided she wanted to try the water slides, so we started with the kiddy slides, and suddenly she was doing belly slides and wanted to try the bigger slides, so we did! My little four year old princess was pulling me to take her to the Totem Towers, which is described as “twin three-story slides offer[ing] the fastest escape route out of the Fort Mackenzie tree house.” So we did, I got a wedgie and felt I was about to fly off the Totem, but she was sporting a huge smile and a desire to go again. So we did – several times later, I asked Jose, my partner, to swap with me. Back in the kiddy pool and slides, Max was having the time of his life and I was able to catch my breath! In case you forget your waterproof camera, the lodge’s shops have plenty of stock available. Virtually every area of the water park is supervised by lifeguards and we felt extremely safe, also life-jackets are available free of charge on a first come, first serve basis.
This destination opened my eyes to the journey my kids have already started and how we, as their parents, have given them the tools necessary to begin their journey and for them to take control of their own path. This is such an important lesson for Jose and me to learn, because we are currently in the middle of the adoption process and have faced a few obstacles lately, which at times has been stressful for us and needed to learn this lesson. We had such an amazing experience, that we decided to return a couple of months later for Fathers’ Day.
The staff was absolutely awesome; they have games to keep the kids entertained throughout the day, and make balloon animals. Kids and adults can get magic wands and go on scavenger hunts throughout the lodge and even battle a dragon in MagiQuest games located all over the lodge. There’s even an ice cream-themed manicure called Scooops Kid Spa, an arcade, a pizza place, a sweets shop, a bowling alley, miniature golf, a spa and gym for adults. The fun never ends at Great Wolf Lodge. If you go, say hi to Bill the General Manager, Brieanna the Front Office Manager and Michael the Manager and let them know that Manny from Connextions Magazine highly recommends this place.
Save Up To $800 On Customizable Family Tours To Japan, China, Bali, Vietnam, India & More
With summer vacation on the horizon, Kensington Tours, the leading tour company specializing in private guided travel to over 90 countries worldwide, is offering families’ special savings on its exotic trips to Asia. From sumo training and samurai interactions in Japan to elephant safaris in Thailand and hot air balloon rides in Myanmar, Kensington Tours is offering families up to $800 off on these exciting adventures for travel between June 1 and September 1, 2013. Featuring two National Geographic Traveler award-winning tours, Kensington’s new kidtastic “Asia Specials” are offered on family itineraries to China, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, Bali, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and India.
“Each itinerary will keep young minds growing and small hands busy with fulfilling activities, cultural experiences and learning opportunities for children of every age (I would say appropriate for kids ten and up). Kid-oriented private guides, short drives, beach time, hotels with pools, adjoining rooms and family suites are standard on every kidtastic Kensington tour.”
From mountain biking and hiking for families with kids who love to move to culinary lessons for aspiring chefs and historical wonders for curious minds, Asia truly holds something for every type of family. Kensington’s enriching experiences can transform your summer trip into a family legend.
Highlights of the Tours
To view some of these exotic Kidtastic adventures please refer to the excerpts below or discover the whole collection at http://www.kensingtontours.com/tours/asia/family.
Elephants, Tigers & Temples Thailand Family Adventure
10 Days from $3,595 pp – Save $200 pp when you book before June 15th
With an elephant safari, jungle ziplining, baby tigers, craft workshops, river rafting and time at the beach, this tour makes
for a kidtastic family holiday. Tour Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and the Phi Phi Islands with the luxury of private guide and driver. Complete with great kid oriented hotels, all flights and more.
The Land Time Forgot Myanmar Family Adventure
10 Days from $3,200 pp – Save $200 when you book before June 15th
This emerging destination makes for a trip back in time. Heartwarming, adventurous and kidtastic, this customizable private guided tour of Yangon, Inle Lake, Mandalay and Bagan is life changing! With biking, temple blessings, voluntourism, Burmese arts and crafts, cooking class, carriage rides, hot air balloon, boat cruises, fortune teller, village visits, family hotels and more,
this is the stuff family legends are made of.
Sumo, Samurai & Sushi Japan Family Adventure
7 Days from $3,595 pp – Save $200 when you book before June 15th
From samurai legends, life sized robots and dressing up in a kimono, to sushi lessons, sumo training and tea ceremonies, this family friendly adventure is thrilling for kids ages 1 to 99. Travel from Tokyo to Hakone and Kyoto led by expert private guide. Unveil the secrets of origami with hands-on lessons, cycle through geisha districts, cruise on a Japanese pirate ship and much
National Geographic Traveler Award Winner China Family Adventure
12 Days from $3,995 pp – Save $200 when you book before June 15th
This National Geographic Traveler Magazine “50 Tours of a Lifetime” showcases this mysterious land with private guide and plenty of family flair. Highlights include Forbidden City, Great Wall, Temple of Heaven, Terra Cotta warriors, Guilin and more. Family fun abounds: cook lunch with a local family, learn Tai Chi, cruise the Li River, visit villages, see a 500-person show, bicycle along the Dragon River, go climbing and live the legends of China!
Vermont and it's four beautifully changing seasons, offers travel options for any taste or budget. Consider boating, hiking, mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding and/or camping.
Explore nature and get your kids moving... literaly. Here are a few kid-friendly, gay-friendly trip ideas when enjoying your visit to Vermont.
Experience "Freedom & Unity," which is the idea of balancing two seemingly opposite ideals: the personal freedom and independence of an individual citizen, with the common good of the larger community... and is also the Vermont State Motto!
A recommended resort for travelers with children, is the Topnotch Resort & Spa in Stowe, Vermont.
Some Topnotch family favorites include:
Tennis - Four indoor courts, six outdoor courts, tennis ball machines, and tennis lessons and clinics for all ages
Horseback Riding - for all ages and abilities, including trail rides and carriage or wagon rides
Swimming - large indoor family pool open year-round, and outdoor family pool
Games - Game room with ping-pong, pool table and hoops. Video game room,
board games, and a selection of lawn games, including croquet, badminton and bocce.
Dining - Kids' menus, poolside dining, picnic lunches, 24-hour room service
The Great Outdoors - Nature is huge in Vermont, and Topnotch is an ideal hub for exploring all the Green Mountains have to offer.
Here is a link to the detailed review of our visit to Topnotch, which includes photos. Here is a link to the Topnotch Resort webpage that features a kids video, along with family activities and teen activities.
Nestled in the heart of the Green Mountains in Waterbury, Vermont, is the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream factory. Sample the flavor of the day and learn how the two best friends (Ben & Jerry) turned a $5.00 course on ice cream making into a successful business. Tours are hosted daily until 6pm, seven days a week, and last 30-minutes long. The views are spectacular and they offer outdoor activities for kids during the summer months, along with a picnic area.
Gay and gay-friendly parents appreciate that Ben & Jerry's has always been supportive of equality and human rights, while the kids appreciate all the famous flavors of ice cream... its a WIN-WIN situation.
Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory
Burlington, Vermont seems to be the hip and chic location, possibly because it's a college town or maybe because of its location? Either way, Burlington is nestled beautifully on the edge of Lake Champlain, and the brick lined streets are filled with unique shops and fabulous restaurants.
Burlington is known as "an epicenter of outdoor activity and urban delight." Burlington has a fantastic bike path, which rides along the lake (and is great to capture those kodak moments). You can check out ECHO Lake Aquarium & Science Center (www.echovermont.org), located in the heart of town. Take the kids hiking through Sunset Ridge Trail on Mount Mansfield, or let an experienced boater teach them the basics of kayaking (www.vermontkayak.com). After dinner, feel free to just hang out and enjoy the music, as bands play in the streets, and you watch the tree-lit town come alive at night.
Oh, and don't forget to tell the kids the story of "Champ" the Lake Champlain monster... it's a classic.
Whether your interest lies in nature, history or entertainment, Vermont is sure to please. Some other ideas to mention are the infamous Shelburne Museum and the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory.
Here is a link to Vermont's official website.
Oh, and don't leave the state without Vermont (to-die-for) cheddar cheese, and their very own all-natural peanut butter.
Enjoy culture, diversity, and spectacular views in ITHACA, NY!
As a child, I can recall camping trips to Ithaca, visiting Buttermilk Falls and Robert H. Treman State Park. Riding bikes and swimming during the day, then eating smores while laying flat on the picnic table staring at the blanket of stars that glisten in the clear night sky. It wasn’t until much later in life when I was able to appreciate the fascinating culture and delectable diversity offered in a community as gorgeous as Ithaca.
It is no surprise to me that Ithaca made the list as “Most Liberal Places in America” by www.epodunk.com, or that The Utne Reader named the city “America’s most enlightened Town.” Home to the prestigious Ivy League Cornell University, it would not be unusual to see a local walking through the infamous Ithaca Commons with dreadlocks, a backpack, and no shoes in this college town.
Ithaca may not be a place where ’everybody knows your name’… but the LGBT community certainly feels welcomed, rather than just accepted. Partners walking hand-in-hand don’t get the ‘double take’ from passers by.
Statistics from city-data.com show lesbian couples account for 0.8% of all households and gay men account for 0.5% of all households. This may seem like a small percentage but compared to a larger city such as Rochester, NY, where the population difference is over 203,000 more residents, their statistics show only 0.4% for lesbian households and 0.5% for gay men.
You ask: "What is there to do in Ithaca?" I say: "What ISN’T there to do in Ithaca?
Set on the southern shore of Cayuga Lake, sailboats, fishing, and tours on the water are pristine when weather permits. Imagine a 220 acre wildlife sanctuary with more than four miles of walking trails, found at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology/Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary. Take a scenic hike through a one mile long gorge at Fall Creek with waterfalls, cascades and rapids! When seeking
shelter from the temperamental weather in Central New York, visit several art galleries, find plenty of unique gifts in ‘the commons’ shopping strip, or maybe a wine tour is just up your alley! For a great history lesson, the Museum of the Earth at the Paleontological Research Institution, as well as the Earth Science Center are great ways to practice reverse psychology on the kids!
Did you know?
- The Tompkins County Public Library in Ithaca hosts a used book sale twice a year and it is claimed to be the 3rd largest used book sale in the United States.
- In June of 2008, 6,000 Ithaca residents set the unofficial world record for the largest human peace sign at Stewart Park.
- In 2006, VegNews Magazine listed this unique town as one of the “12 Hippest Hometowns for Vegetarians.”
- According to a poll taken by www.city-data.com, East Ithaca is #49 on the list of “Top 101 zip codes with the most full service restaurants in 2005.”
So whether a camping trip with the young ones is on the agenda, or a romantic getaway at a quaint B&B would better suit your
needs, consider the breath-taking views, liberal attitudes, and unique atmosphere in Ithaca, for your next trip. As the locals would say, “Ithaca is gorges!”
Connextions Magazine, the Travel & Lifestyle Magazine for the LGBTQ Traveler, is your trusted resource for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer travel destinations, vacation ideas, fun travel videos, LGBTQ travel guides and the latest news relevant to our entire rainbow community. Connextions Magazine focuses on celebrating the LGBTQ Traveler providing information on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer travel, our LGBTQ culture, the diverse style of our rainbow community, adventures, gay romance, tips for Lesbian Moms, Gay Dads, Bisexual, Transgender Parents and families.
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MISSION: Connextions Magazine celebrates the LGBT traveler. Making connections to travel like a local, whether on a quick weekend getaway or a luxury vacation, Connextions transports our readers through dazzling photography and insightful content about travel, dining, culture and style to destinations and memorable travel experiences across the globe.