Trip tales: Residents share ideas for fun summer vacation destinations
By Beth Mixson
Summer is here — but it’s not too late to plan a vacation that will create lasting memories of fun and adventure for your family. One of the blessings of living in the United States is the diversity of our country offers something fun for every age.
A favorite vacation destination for Jacksonville families is North Carolina. Easily accessible by car or plane, the state offers a wide range of choices for family fun.
Last summer Ortega residents Jim and Kim Gleaton with their children, Ford and Lilly, enjoyed a lazy vacation in a rental cabin on the shores of Lake Lure near Chimney Rock in western North Carolina. There, they fished off the dock, enjoyed paddle boating, swam and fed the ducks.
“We spent a day at duPont State Forest hiking and visiting falls. We visited three of the six falls in the park: Hooker Falls, Triple Falls and High Falls. High Falls is the most impressive but all are well worth the hikes. Be sure to wear swimsuits and shoes that can get wet as we jumped in two out of the three falls. We couldn’t resist even though the water is cold!” Kim said.
Other family favorites were Chimney Rock and Pisgah National Forest.
“As you leave Pisgah National Forest, a fun stop is Dolly’s Dairy Bar at the entrance of Pisgah in Brevard,” she suggested. “A great way to end a perfect day!”
Ortega resident Ashley Daw calls Kanuga in Hendersonville, North Carolina “Heaven on Earth”. The Episcopalian retreat for the Southeast is open to all. Ashley, husband Keith and their three children, Andrew, Elizabeth and Caroline, have vacationed there for more than 15 years.
“Meals are family style dining, three meals daily — I love that,” Daw said.
Every day there is a range of activities for both children and adults. Housing choices are the Inn, cottages built in 1926 and guesthouses. You can find more information at http://www.kanuga.org.
Chattanooga, Tennessee is famous for its tourist attractions. The Ellis family of San Marco would agree it has earned its claim to fame. The Tennessee Aquarium, Rock City, Ruby Falls, the Incline, the Children’s Discovery Museum offer families plenty of fun to fill their days. Jeff and Pam Ellis took their two oldest children, Olivia and Davis there when they were young and were pleased how family friendly the town was. One favorite was the beautifully renovated train station, the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, which includes a restaurant, hotel, shops and a miniature train museum.
“We spent nearly all day there,” Pam said. “We ate lunch in the dining room which is housed in the old station and is very elegant. Then we visited the miniature trains and toured the actual train cars which are a part of the hotel.”
Another favorite outing for the Ellis family was walking across the Walnut Street Bridge, which is now pedestrian only. It spans the Tennessee River from downtown near the Aquarium to Frazier Avenue on the north side. Frazier Avenue is lined with a host of local restaurants, fun shops and a riverside park with a carousel. Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park is another stop for family fun. Families with children over the age of 12 could enjoy a day of white water rafting on the Ocoee River, site of the Olympics whitewater competition.
The West called to the DeStephano family.
“It’s amazing that all of this is in the same country,” Patty Destaphano. For several years, the Ortega Forest family has used Tauck Bridge Tours for family vacations. Last summer they ventured out west visiting Yellowstone Park and staying at the Yellowstone Lodge; Big Horn National Forest including the Crazy Horse Memorial; Mt. Rushmore and Cody, Wyoming, home of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. Also included in the trip was a float trip down the Snake River, a rodeo and a visit to Ucross Ranch. Patty, her husband Don DeStephano and youngest son, Dave, enjoy the Tauck Bridge have enjoyed the well planned nature of the trip.
Whether you want to stay in the South or travel afar, we have much to see and explore in our country. Grab the family, hit the road and make lasting memories!