Teens and Tweens will love celebrating an old-fashioned Christmas at Black Creek Pioneer Village in north Toronto. Taste treats, visit the parlours, hear the carols, enjoy the holiday by lamp light. Here, a singing Caitlyn Paxson kneads the dough for Christmas breads or cakes the old-fashioned way. The Village hosts lamplight tours in December where families can visit as true festive participants.
Venice, a city with 177 canals and 354 bridges, is not your typical family vacation spot. No amusement parks, no escalators to help with strollers. With no parking lots, everything—pillows and teddy bears, ipads and earphones—must be carried by hand—and by boat—to hotels. Besides, what would kids find in a city steeped with history and art?
The answer: everything! To our young teens and a tween, Venice was one giant theme park. It was Water World Italian-style—from cruising the canals in vaporetti (boats acting as city buses) to gliding along in gondolas, from buying lunch from waterside vessels bursting with fruit to watching dogs (and their owners) whizz by on speedboats.
“Wow, wouldn’t it be cool to bring a Jet Ski here to zoom down the canals?” asked our 14-year-old as we rode our taxi boat to the hotel. “We could bring two and race each other,” enthused his younger brother. As for my daughter, she was squinting. Something in her eye? “If you close your eyes a bit,” she said, “the old buildings look like cool black-and-white photos.”
Obviously, in their eyes, Venice was an exciting new world. To top it off: cafés serving pizza, pasta and dozens of flavours of ice cream. “I’m going to live here one day,” exclaimed our oldest before we had even set foot in our hotel.
Two Top Venice attractions:
Peggy Guggenheim’s home where her beloved pets are buried in the garden; climbing the Campanile bell tower in Piazza San Marco; a huge puppet theatre in the Decorative Arts Museum
Out Islands: The Lido: rent bicycles to ride along the shore, play foosball on the beach. Or sail to the Murano glass factory for miniature glass animals – “I didn’t know that you could actually ‘make’ glass,” said one of my kids.
Alberta Ranch Adventure
It takes some nerve for a parent to take a city kid, plop them on the back of an 800-pound animal and say Giddyup. But it’s one of the best vacations ever for teens and 20-somethings. And where better than the ranch country of Alberta, where Clint Eastwood, Brad Pitt and other cowboys and girls have ridden across this beautiful landscape? Here you’ll find family-friendly ranches that welcome families with gentle horses and hearty food.
Try the Homeplace Ranch near Calgary for predictable horses, gentle encouragement and ranch lodging, the Boundary Ranch for day trail rides, or the Lucasia, a working cattle ranch where greenhorns help with chores whether it’s calf roping competitions or herding cattle.
For more: Travel Alberta.
Head to Switzerland’s Interlaken, a thrilling Alpine terrain that sits at the foot of the towering Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains. It’s the world’s top adventure sports destination for young people.
You’ll find numerous excursions. Travel by railway, regional cogwheel railway or cable car. Journey to the pedestrian-only village of Murren, at 1,650 metres, the highest resort in the Bernese Oberland and a car-free village. Walk the path to Lauterbrunnen and then ride the railway farther up the mountain or head to Stechelberg to take the aerial cableway to Murren.
From Murren, take the aerial cableway to the Schilthorn peak (height 2,970m), where the solar-powered Piz Gloria, one of the world’s oldest revolving restaurants is located (also featured as the villain’s lair in the James Bond classic, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.) The kids loved the ‘no high heels’ sign posted on the snow-dotted trails and throwing snowballs at one another.
Back in Interlaken, which is often called ‘The Adventure Capital of Europe’, you can sign up for adventures on water: rafting on the Simme or Lutschine rivers), on ice (there’s year-round trekking across parts of the 23-km Aletsch Glacier, Europe’s longest) or in the air (go hang-gliding with an instructor). There’s also summertime dog sledding, extreme mountain biking and Zorbing – something that even Bond probably never tried. More Swiss adventures.
Splurge at: Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa offers an old-world atmosphere, an indoor swimming pool and bikes for guests. They’ll even pack you a meal for a picnic on the mountain. Save at: Hotel Beausite for hearty family breakfasts and Alpine views.
Ziplining at Long Point is a Ton of Fun for Teens!
Lake Erie, about two hours south of Toronto, is primed for eco pursuits. Not only is the region is designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve (one of 15 in the country), but it’s teeming with environmental action.
Add a wind farm, 14,000 acres of light-free protected land for ‘dark skies’ parties and signs advising ‘Brake for Snakes’ and it’s no wonder that two environmentally minded guys with roots in the area decided to launch a fun green adventure here, Long Point Eco Adventures.Photo Christopher Wahl
NY City with the older kids was scintillating, especially the brunch at Fatty ‘Cue’s BBQ hut in Brooklyn (http://www.fattycue.com/). “We don’t encourage knives and forks here,” said our waiter after we had ordered ribs, curried black eyed peas and spicy bowls of noodles. Well how to eat? “It’s better with your fingers,” said our waiter.
Rightly so. The rustic shack with appointments of copper and tin was a fitting venue for down-home specialties, what the owners label a “little Southeast Asian fermented funkiness and a whole helluva a lot of smoke.” Ask about the pig roasting and you’ll get a tour of the smokers and roasters at the back of the restaurant adjacent to the kitchen. There’s even a official pitmaster.