Going Places, Far & Near: From Bucket List to Fantasy Camps to Wild Adventure, Travel is Priceless Father’s Day Gift

Karen Rubin

This Father’s Day, escape the mundane and feed a fantasy, give something that is priceless and last a lifetime, something that is unique, timeless and irreplaceable: a travel experience. Check off that bucket list, live a fantasy, experience the joy and wonder of discovery, or forge bonds and lifelong memories that span generations.  

Here are some suggestions:

Bucket List Experiences


Machu Picchu, Cusco, & The Sacred Valley  –With great guides to make the most of his adventure, Dad will access the Incan Empire’s most iconic site, scour the winding streets of Cusco, and ride the rails across Peru without getting lost in the crowd. https://gondwanaecotours.com/tour/machu-picchu-tour/  

Siberia Escapade – This experience is perfect for the daring Dad who has seen it all. On UNESCO-listed Lake Baikal, he’ll race teams of sled dogs, ice-fish and sweep across the lake by hovercraft.  In Ust-Ordynski, he’ll discover one of Siberia’s Buddhist monasteries, and participate in a sunrise shaman ceremony at Olkhon Island’s best-known spot, Shaman Rock. https://www.mircorp.com/trip/siberian-winter-escapade/ 

Fly Fish Amazon – Golden Dorado fishing, in general, is something special.  But fishing a remote freestone stream where the Amazon merges with the Andean hardwoods pushes this tour from special to extraordinary. Dad will spend four nights at a lodge near the Chimán Indian village, fishing rivers inhabited by two different Dorado species and other fish from the Amazon basin, such as the Pirapitinga or Amazon Pacu and the Yatorana. https://www.frontierstravel.com/tsimane-secure-agua-negra-lodge   

Galapagos Multisport Tour – Perfect for an athletic Dad, this itinerary allows you to explore the Galapagos the active way. Hiking, kayaking, biking, snorkeling…and of course, amazing wildlife! Paddle with sea lions, dolphins, turtles and bountiful birdlife. https://www.adventure-life.com/galapagos/tours/998/galapagos-multisport  

Cycle Remote Vietnam – Dad will head to the remote region of Ha Giang in the north-eastern corner of Vietnam.  Rice paddies and primary forests provide an attractive canvas as gests bike their way up through vertiginous passes on the road less travelled. https://www.rideandseek.com/local/vietnam  

Belgium Beer Bike Tour – Biking Belgium is truly a beer-loving cyclist’s dream, as there are 1,130+ beers brewed in country. This unique itinerary offers access to more boutique breweries than any other European bicycle tour. https://www.ciclismoclassico.com/bike-belgium/


Explore Canadian Rockies by 4×4 – On this all-inclusive trip, Dad will travel by 4WD vehicle from Calgary through the Banff and Jasper National Parks. This adventure affords the possibility to witness the Northern Lights in addition to all of the beauty and wildlife of The Canadian Rockies. https://bigchilladventure.com/trips/canadian-rockies-september-2016/

Roping & Ranch Skills Retreat – On this inaugural “Roping and Ranch Skills” retreat, Dad will spend five days learning roping fundamentals, cattle work techniques, and western horsemanship from expert horse trainers, wranglers and riding instructors at Red Reflet Ranch, which is both working ranch and luxury resort.  Wine tastings, ranch-to-table haute cuisine, and other exciting ranch activities round-out this authentic ranch getaway. Rates include all activities, lessons, guided hikes, use of ATVs, dirt bikes, mountain bikes, and all meals,/beverages. Guests can explore the 25,000+ acre ranch, work cattle, fish on private streams, and enjoy abundant wildlife. (307-366-2340,  www.red-reflet-ranch.net 

Fly Fishing, Falconry, Shooting, Driving Schools: The Equinox, Manchester, Vt., offers some programs with special appeal for fathers. This grand, historic resort (it was the summer vacation place for Mary Todd Lincoln), offers a Land Rover Experience Driving School: features off-road driving instruction in all conditions. Orvis Manchester Fly Fishing School, with expert instructors help you with setting up the rod, fly selection and knots and safely releasing your catch (866-531-6213,  www.orvis.com); Orvis Shooting School, where novices and seasoned veterans can take advantage of an instinctive approach to shotgunning, based on the English Churchill method, applicable to upland hunting, waterfowling, and sporting clays; Golf. The Equinox has all the modern amenities of a luxury resort, offering a world-class spa, stunning Vermont scenery, outlet shopping in Manchester Center (equinoxhotel.com, 800.362.4747).

Master & Commander: Taking the Helm

Houseboat on the Erie Canal Want an extraordinary experience that combines the best of RV’g, boating and biking, with history thrown in? Take a specially designed houseboat on the Erie Canal and let serendipity be your guide. A special thrill is going through the locks, and having bridges lift for you. The boats come with bikes (though serious bikers may want to bring their own or rent). You can go hundreds of miles. You can choose 3, 4, or 7 nights aboard your own canalboat – an amazingly comfortable houseboat with turning-heads charm. You decide where you want to go, where you want to tie up overnight, then go off and explore. This is truly a living history experience. You don’t need to have any prior experience boating (trust me). You get an intensive tutorial in driving, going through a canal lock, and docking the boats before you set out (and the people who run the locks are extremely helpful). Contact Mid-Lakes Navigation Co., Ltd 11 Jordan St, PO Box 61 Skaneateles, NY 13152, 315-PO Box 61, Skaneateles, NY 13152, 315-685-8500, 800-545-4318, wwwmidlakesnav.com, info@midlakesnav.com.

Sail aboard a Mane Windjammer: Some of our favorite travel experiences have been aboard the Maine Windjammers that ply the waters off of Rockland and Camden – many are historic sailing vessels with stories and personalities of their own. Each sailing experience is unique. Many of the sailings are themed or cater to special interests: This is ideal as a guy-getaway, a couples getaway, a father-child getaway, and a family getaway, multigenerational and reunions (some of the ships cater to families, but children should be at least 8 years old). With the addition of creative new specialty cruises, growth in the fleet with the addition of the 82-foot schooner Ladona, and a special parade to celebrate Acadia National Park’s Centennial, the Maine Windjammer Association (MWA) has lots of new offerings for 2016. With nine windjammers sailing from mid-May to October, there are 227 trips to choose from, ranging from in length from 1-8 days. Average prices range from $188-$250 per day, everything included, depending on the length of trip, ship and season. Maine Windjammer Association, 207-374-2993, www.sailmainecoast.com, or follow at  www.facebook.com/mainewindjammerfleet

Biking/Hiking/Rafting Holidays


Biking Holidays are a quintessential experience that bring together a physical challenge, the outdoors, with cultural enrichment and most importantly, togetherness. Every trip is an odyssey of sorts.  Choose a guided tour (operators also offer holidays geared to families with children as young as 8 years old) or self-guided trip (especially if you have adult children, as I did with my sons, on the Danube Trail from Passau, Germany to Vienna, Austria). Some excellent tour operators, which collectively cover the entire world:


Bike Tours serves as a central resource for bicycle tours worldwide, representing 100 tour companies with over 500 tours in 71 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and the Americas (the newest program is in Namibia).  The programs – such as a guided eight-day island-hopping bike/boat trip through the Greek Isles and a self-guided eight-day Danube Bike Trail trip from Passau to Vienna –  I have noticed, tend to provide excellent value for money. Offerings include guided or self-guided, trips appropriate for families (like the Danube Bike Trail) and first-time cycle tourists, challenging tours for experienced riders, bike and boat tours, wine and bike tours, mountain bike tours, and tours using dedicated cycle paths. BikeTours.com has announced its new “Gold Star Tour Collection” to highlight its 16 top picks for bicycle tours around the world that stand out for their exceptional experiences and value. They range from popular bike tour destinations in Europe like Croatia and Spain to off-­the-­beaten path locales such as Burma/Myanmar (www.biketours.com/gold-star-collection). Tours were carefully selected from more than 450 tours the company offers in 70 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Americas (877-462-2423, 423-756-8907, Email: info@biketoursdirect.com, www.biketours.com).

Backroads has grown from being a premier biking tour company to a foremost active vacations company, hosting thousands of guests on biking, walking & hiking and multisport trips worldwide. Top five active travel vacations for families: Yellowstone & Grand Tetons National Parks multisport tour; France’s Loire Valley biking tour; Bryce, Zion & Grand Canyon multisport tour; Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast multisport tour; Italy’s Tuscany bike tour  (800-GO-ACTIVE (800-462-2848), 510-527-1555, backroads.com).


Pure Adventures has introduced ‘Supported, Self-Directed’ adventures, a new concept in cycling vacations that lets guests enjoy many of the freedoms of a self-guided/independent trip with the sag wagon service and trip leader support of a fully guided tour. The support van and trip leader assigned to transfer guest luggage from one overnight stop to the next also assist with ‘sag’ stops along the route (every 20-25 miles), provide a lift for shorter ride options, help with mechanical matters, and handle any on-road emergencies or questions. Pure Adventures’  self-guided cycling tours in North America include California, Colorado, and Arizona and just new in 2016 is Quebec. Pure Adventures also offers self-guided programs in 16 different countries throughout Europe.including Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain, and Switzerland (800-960-2221 or 480-905-1235, info@pure-adventures.com, pure-adventures.com).


Hike into the Grand Canyon: OARS, famous for its rafting trips on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon and other places, has introduced a guided hiking program into the Grand Canyon – an amazing adventure for families with older children.

(See: www.oars.com/grandcanyon/hiking/grand-canyon-hiking.html) Renowned for its rafting and kayaking trips, OARS offers multi-sport trips, special interest, family adventures, adult and singles vacations, among other styles of outdoor adventure travel. It operates on over 1230 miles of rivers in the continental U.S. In addition to Grand Canyon trips, OARS offers adventure vacations in Alaska,  California,  Colorado, IdahoOregonUtah and Wyoming, as well as in British Columbia,  Chile,  Galapagos,  Fiji,  Baja and Peru. (800-346-6277, 209-736-4677, oars.com, info@oars.com).

Out of This World Space Experience


Space, the Final Frontier: It may still be some time away before you can hop a ride on a rocket to the outer limits of the stratosphere, but you can still experience what it is to be an astronaut – even hang out with one – at the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral on Florida’s Space Coast.

Fly With An Astronaut: Let Dad see Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex as only an astronaut would during Fly With An Astronaut. He’ll spend a half-day experiencing the highlights of Kennedy Space Center with an astronaut as his guide. He’ll discover the birthplace of America’s space program in style and with an experienced space explorer by his side as he tours Space Shuttle Atlantis® and Shuttle Launch Experience®, along with Kennedy Space Center by motor coach. They’ll finish the experience with a catered lunch at the LC-39 Observation Gantry with a premium view of all three launch pads. (For reservations, visitKennedySpaceCenter.com)

Astronaut Training Experience (ATX): Immerse Dad in the adventure of today’s astronauts with realistic astronaut training. He will hear firsthand from a veteran NASA astronaut, experience a space shuttle mission simulation and perform hands-on space exploration activities. This intense, exciting hands-on training is the closest he’ll get to going into orbit. ATX, which designed with the help of NASA astronauts, includes operating a full-scale shuttle mock-up and taking the helm in mission control. (For reservations, visit KennedySpaceCenter.com.)

Lunch With An Astronaut: Give Dad the experience of meeting a true hero during Lunch With An Astronaut at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. He’ll hear inspiring space exploration stories as a veteran NASA astronaut shares what it’s really like to launch, live and work in space, all while enjoying a delicious lunch. Then he’ll have the opportunity to ask the questions he’s always wondered about space travel. Finally, Dad can capture the memory by snapping a selfie with the astronaut after the presentation. #AlwaysExploring (seating is limited, so registration is encouraged in advance. (866-737-5235, www.kennedyspacecenter.com)

Living the Fantasy


Playing for the YankeesLocated in Tampa, Florida, the New York Yankees Fantasy Programs boasts a line-up of former Yankees players and first class baseball facilities. Weeklong Fantasy Camps for men are scheduled November 7 -13, 2016, January 16-22, 2017. Father & Son Fantasy Clinic is scheduled November 3-6, 2016. (1-800-368-CAMP or  813/875-7753, fantasycamp@yankees.com.

The Baseball Fantasy Camp Directory helps you live out your dreams to play on the same field with the all-time legends of your favorite team by compiling the information for all of the adult fantasy baseball camps in one convenient location (www.baseballfantasycampdirectory.com)

This Father’s Day you can make your Dad a rock star with the gift of Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp. The camp is a non competitive environment, geared to any level of musical experience (including none), where participants get to learn from pros. In addition to the “Rock Star for a Day” program regularly featured at the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp just off the Las Vegas Strip, (www.rockcamp.com  or call888-762-BAND ex. 07).


Journeys of Discovery


National Geographic Travel: Set out on a voyage to the magical Galápagos or an active hiking adventure in Ireland, or surprise the photo enthusiast in your life with an opportunity to learn firsthand from top photographers. A full line of itineraries range from small-ship expeditions and rail journeys to active adventures and family trips to all parts of the globe. (888-966-8687, nationalgeographicexpeditions.com).

Sierra Club Outings, which offers opportunities for voluntourism, extended tours and treks, and outings designed for military, adults and youth (415-977-5521, content.sierraclub.org/outings

Earthwatchoffers the opportunity to join real scientists doing important research in places where you would otherwise not have access (earthwatch.org)

Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel), a not-for-profit leader in educational travel since 1975, offers 5,500 educational tours in all 50 states and 150 countries. Alongside local and renowned experts, participants experience in-depth and behind-the-scenes learning opportunities, from cultural tours and study cruises to walking, biking and more, at relatively modest cost. (11 Avenue de Lafayette, Boston MA 02111, 800-454-5768 www.roadscholar.org)


Smithsonian Journeys, the expert-led travel program of the Smithsonian Institution, offers more than 200 land and cruise journeys on all seven continents, uncovering the authentic culture of each destination and providing access unavailable to most travelers. The Smithsonian Journeys tour collection includes small-group (18-24 travelers), air-inclusive tours, small-ship cruising, trips by rail,  intergenerational family travel, luxury private jet experiences, and tailor-made travel options. There are Polar trips, and around-the-world itineraries.(Smithsonian Journeys, 855-330-1542, 989-393-3218, SmithsonianJourneys.org).

Stay and Play

For that golf enthusiast, stay & play at the Epicenter of the Golf World, World Golf Village, featuring The World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum, the PGA Tour Golf Academy, two championship courses designed by legends of the game, King & Bear is the only course in the world designed jointly by Arnold Palmer (known as “The King”) and Jack “The Bear” Nicklaus (www.worldgolfvillage.com800-948-4653). Stay at the Renaissance World Golf Village Resort and Convention Center, a full-service, luxury resort right in the middle (500 South Legacy Trail, St. Augustine, Florida 32092, 904-940-8000 or 888-740-7020, www.renwgv.com.

Basin Harbor Club, Vergennes, Vt. Is about the best family-friendly luxury resort you can imagine that would especially delight Dads – with a marvelous 18-hole, par 72 golf course that is wonderfully walkable, playable yet sufficiently challenging plus hiking, biking, kayaking, cruises on Lake Champlain, fishing, watersports, tennis, outdoor pool heated to perfection, hotel and cottage accommodations (74 cottages, each unique, that becomes your vacation home on the lake), the list goes on and on,  plus a marvelous children’s activities program (9:30-1:30 included with MAP and FAP) that gives time for golf and still have time for together activities. It’s like a summer camp for all ages where you can be as active or as relaxed as your whim and whimsy wants. Basin Harbor offers the best of a classic, traditional resort (celebrating its 130th anniversary this season! and a member of Historic Hotels of America, historichotels.org) with all the amenities and activities to delight contemporary tastes with impeccable style and service (4800 Basin Harbor Road Vergennes, VT 05491 info@basinharbor.com, 800.622.4000 or 802.475.2311, www.basinharbor.com).

Topnotch Resort opens its outdoor courts to the canine family members with the new Serve, Fetch, Love package. Beyond fulfilling doggie duties as ball boy during private tennis lessons with Topnotch’s seasoned pros, the package pampers pets and owners alike with special spa treatments and more, from May through September. The Serve, Fetch, Love package includes a minimum two-night stay in pet-friendly luxury accommodations, a choice of an one hour private tennis lesson or 1.5 hours of court time per adult/per stay, one 25-minute in-room spa treatment for canine guest, $50 spa credit per stay to be used toward services with a value of $100 or more, as well as a take-home tote bag with dog cookies and tennis balls for Fido. Offer is subject to availability (www.topnotchresort.com or call 800-451-8686).

Stay in a Dude Ranch– One of the best family experiences is on a dude ranch. New York State actually has several of them, such as Pinegrove Ranch, in the Catskills, which has been delighting generations of families with its all-inclusive fun (meals, entertainment, activities and riding). Look for special deals for Fathers Day and throughout the summer Pinegrove Ranch, 30 Cherrytown Road, Kerhonkson N.Y. 12446, Ulster County, Reservations: 800-346-4626, email info@pinegroverach.com, www.pinegroveranch.com.

(Next: Some of our favorite summer family travel ideas)


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Karen Rubin

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