The Punch House is an atmospheric pub-hotel right in the heart of Monmouth - a perfect place for exploring Wales and the Wye Valley. Stay in a room and enjoy live music at the weekend where the locals come to let off steam. My nine-year- old daughter loved the Lady Gaga show. The Punch House is a grade 11 listed building and an old coaching inn dating from the 12th century with oak beams everywhere, friendly staff and customers and and rooms from £45 a night.
4 Agincourt Square, Monmouth NP25 3BT
Google map: bit.ly/UBgoku
Jacques & Evelyne run the most idyllic camp site at the end of a quietest valley of the quiet Cantal region of France's Auvergne. I have kept it a secret for a while because i don't ever want to be told that there isn't a space for my family each summer, but this year is time to share the secret.
All three of my children have learned to ski in the Cairngorms. It's a good place to start with them young as the funicular railway takes them to the beginners slopes at the top of the mountain which usually has some snow and there is a cafe/restaurant for hot chocolate and food when they get cold. If the snow is poor or wind up the mountain prevents the lifts operating then there are lots of other things to do in or near Aviemore such as walking (Roithemurchas estate), mountain biking (Bothy Bikes), dog sledging, seeing the reindeer herd, visiting the Scottish wildlife park, swimming (at the Holiday Inn) or going for a tree top walk through an elevated pathway, so it's not all full on skiing. My son broke his arm snowboarding there and he was treated at the GP's surgery as they have X-ray scanning facilities on site rather than having to trek to Inverness to discover if anything is broken. The children got a taste for skiing there and now want to venture elsewhere and can ski/board all day but it's a great place to start with kids who may not want to ski all day everyday and want a range of other things to do as well.
Cairngorm Mountain Railway: www.cairngormmoutain.org
Highland Wildlife Park:
Google map: bit.ly/Q7chkp
We went to this Italian restaurant with our seven-year-old, efficient German and Italian-speaking waiter, calm atmosphere, generous helpings, good pizza and just as good pasta dishes, would definitely go again. Child got lollipop at the end!
Sendlinger Str. 28, 80331 Munich
+49 89 2609377
Google map: bit.ly/TnSLPy
Café/restaurant. We went there with kids for a lovely Sunday brunch. It had a peaceful and colourful atmosphere, delicious pancakes and perfect cappuccinos.
Mt Norquay is a 15-minute drive from the town of Banff in the Canadian Rockies in Alberta. Unlike the other two closest hills, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise, Norquay offers very affordable day passes and discount packages. There are plenty of mid-range runs, which makes it perfect for intermediate-level skiers and snowboarders. With views of the town and the surrounding mountains, it is a spectacular place to spend an adrenalin-packed day. Tubing is also available.
2 Mt Norquay Road, Banff, AB, ABT1L1B4, Canada
+1 403 762 4421
It's a small but very down to earth ski resort just south of Munich. Has a few famous Olympic stars such as Michi Gerg who incidentally runs a fantastic ski school for kids. My kids learned there and now ski black runs.
A little way out of Whistler - about five minutes in the car if that - is a complex of accommodation called Whiskey Jack. It's pretty quiet and wooded so great for people wanting a bit more of a chilled time or with families. We were a couple and the apartment we had was massive. It was like flat sitting for a mate. Set over two floors, balcony, two double bedrooms, huge lounge with TV and a great kitchen and all for so much cheaper than we were being quoted for Whistler Village itself. The one downside is the drive to the slopes (although there's loads of parking in Whistler) and home from a night out which can limit your hedonism somewhat but for the money you save you can easily treat yourself to the odd cab.
Head office (where you need to go to pick up your keys: 4314 Main Street Whistler, BC V0N 1B4, Canada
+1 (604) 932 6599
Actual apartment complex: 2400 Cavendish Way
+1 (604) 932 6500
Google map: bit.ly/SixGn5
A-Basin (as it is known locally) rocks the rockies for so many reasons. It has one of the longest ski seasons in the USA (already open for winter 2012/13) and has some of the highest terrain in North America so gets dumped with snow when other resorts miss out. It has a new high speed quad, but also has some old school lifts that give the resort a more local and relaxed feel. And the terrain at the end of the lifts is some of the best around. At the end of the day when your legs are too tired to take anymore, head to 'the beach' for some beers, bbq and afternoon sun. And with all of this it still doesn't have the crowds that other Colorado resorts have. You can head there from Denver just for the day or use your Vail resorts ski pass (and free shuttle service) to get some turns in at one of the coolest resorts stateside.
Park City is a former winter Olympics venue in Utah. It has three ski parks - Deer Valley, Canyons and Park City with all the other activities associated with a well developed winter resort. Snow is usually good and snow cannons help lay down an early base. Nightlife is not up to the hedonistic excesses of some European destinations given Utah's Mormon background, but this makes it an ideal family destination as facilities tend to be better than in Europe and there are bars and a microbrewery on the main street.
The Chilterns are famous for the beech woodlands and this has to be one of the best places to enjoy the autumn colour splash. This time of year, you can get into the leafy canopy at the GoApe centre, or perhaps something at ground level with amazing mountain-biking on the nearby Aston Hill for those who crave a greater downhill adrenaline rush.
And if this isn't enough, there are walks including the popular firecrest trail, and for families, a busy adventure playground.
It may sound busy, but the woods are big enough to quickly absorb everyone, so a walk or just somewhere to sit and enjoy the views is possible.
Often seen circling overhead are the gliders and red kites, maybe enjoying the lovely views across the vale to Hale Wood.
What's not to like?
Aston Clinton, Halton, Wendover and Aylesbury are the nearest towns or villages.
From Wendover, take the B4009 towards Tring, take the right hand turn approximately 1 mile north of RAF Halton, signposted Wendover Woods and St Leonards. The main entrance to the woods is found on the right.
From the A41, take the Wendover exit (also signed Dunstable) and take the B4009 towards Aston Clinton. Take the first left towards Wendover. After approx 1/2 mile, take a left signposted Wendover Woods and St Leonards. The main entrance to the woods is found on the right.
OS Grid Reference: SP890090
Google map: bit.ly/RAO3KN
Like the larger and more popular Barton Springs pool, Deep Eddy pool is a beautiful natural water swimming pool providing an ideal place to wallow or swim in cold water during the intense heat of summer. Formally a natural swimming area in the Colorado River, Deep Eddy is now a stand-alone swimming though it is still fed
by natural spring water. The riverside location means that it is ideally located for anyone seeking a cool down while on the Lady Bird Lake trail, that follows the river on both sides. The pool is a twenty-minute stroll from the part of the trail starting at South Congress Bridge, Downtown.
The pool is as a paradise for fitness fanatics, families and those seeking cool relaxation. It is divided in half with about six lanes for swimming lengths in one half, and in the other half there is a blissful open water space for kids and adults to wade, play and lounge. There is also a lush grass area around the pool to soak up
some rays, while pecan trees provide perfect natural shade. The best activity on offer at Deep Eddy, however, is the Splash Party Movie Nights, with films shown on a floating movie screen at night as people sit in the cool water or swim lengths. Wow!
The pool is cheap at $3 entrance during the summer months, and the swimming lanes are free for swimmers during the winter months.
Google map: bit.ly/R2cZOf
* Mark Sheaves is our Been there local for Austin. You can read his profile and about Austin here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/austin-local-mark-sheaves.jsp and you can follow his tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/MarkSheaves. Check out other locals here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/trails/been-there-locals.jsp
This is a beautiful apartment on a farm estate in Tuscany that is ideal for families. The apartment is big enough for four and has a decent-sized shared pool with stunning views down the valley. It's about half an hour from Arezzo and there are shops at nearby Anghiari.
This amazing forest park is one of our favourite spots and brilliant for families. There's a mile-long play trail through the forest passing a series of wooden playgrounds themed like an ants nest, a snake pit, towers and tunnels, a crocdile crossing and pond maze. Adults get a proper walk and the children just adore it. On top of this there's a five-metre-high tree top trail, a steam railway, two more traditional playgrounds, walking and cycling trails, a visitor centre and cafe. And it's free - you only pay for parking.
Voted one of the best places to live in America by CNN and a keynote stop in the fall tours of America's New England region, Hanover offers the best of the natural and town life that America has to offer.
Home to the famous Ivy League Dartmouth college, the town boasts an array of amazing restaurants using local, organic fresh produce. Whipping the natural freshness into amazingly decadent or simple fresh dishes - the restaurant selection has something for every eater's pallet and budget. For high end try Simon Pierce's Zins restaurant, while simple fresh is Rosie Jeacks restaurant (and shop!); family fun is Molly's Ballon, complete with sugar laced butter and bread that will make your children smile. Coffee shops, clothing boutiques (with high-end city sleek clothes for the undergrads or refined country knits for the locals), gellatto and ice cream bars for the kids and wine bars for the grown ups are just some of the town's attractions.
For activities, there is no end to the fall fun. With Pine Park offering natural glory within walking distance of the town, it is perfect for an afternoon stroll with fall leaves that will take your breath away. The park is a great stop for a quick afternoon activity. For longer trips head into the White Mountains (a major natural treasure) where the miles upon miles of undisturbed forests and woodlands lie in pristine condition and boast some of the most amazing fall views for "leaf peepers" (fall leaves enthusiasts) in the world. The trails offer a number of short or longer hikes ranging from two hours to days that are suitable for the casual walker or hiking enthusiast alike.
As a brief resident of this area, I cannot recommend its fall woodlands highly enough. It is a sight that I wish everyone could see at some point - and with a town filled with world class pubs, restaurants and shops it is the perfect trip for those looking for a New England Fall excursion.
This is a light, airy, neighborhood cultural centre run by an all female French Guatemalan team. La Marelle is dedicated to providing a space for parents and children to unwind, meet and learn. It's divided into various play areas with toys and games galore for the kids, and there are tables and stools for the grown ups to sit at while keeping an eye on their little monkeys. The cafe serves great coffee, brunches (pancakes!!) and cakes. There are also numerous workshops like yoga for kids in English, or story telling in French and other learning and sharing activities.
This small central Texas town has a strong German influence and is home to one of the best water parks in the world, the Schlitterbahn. They allow guests to bring in their own ice chest full of cold drinks and picnic fixings. Families park their belongings at a picnic table for the day and other guests respect that the table is taken. I have never heard of any problems with this set up. The park is fed with cold spring water from the Comal River which on its own allows for some fine tubing. Several companies rent the tubes and you literally just lay back and float down river for hours on end. Landa Park, a public park, has beautiful grounds and a small train for all ages to enjoy.
If you are hungry, German food and barbecue beckon but my favorite is Schobels set on the banks of the Guadalupe River. It is an all you can eat home style cooking buffet. Pastries and coffee are best at Naeglin's Bakery set around the historic town square. You can finish your day with a visit to one of the most famous honky tonks in the entire US and Texas' oldest dance hall, Gruene Hall.
Hotels and self catering facilities are plentiful and range from budget to expensive with many on the Comal or Guadalupe Rivers.
400 N. Liberty Avenue, New Braunfels, TX, United States
+1 830 625 2351
Google map: bit.ly/OSwNoD
If you’re an animal lover, the Toronto Zoo is a great place to visit. Located in the city’s east end, it is the largest zoo in Canada with over 5,000 animals over 10 kilometres of walking trails.
The zoo is divided into seven “zoo-geographic” regions: Indo-Malaya, Africa, Americas, Tundra Trek, Australasia, Eurasia and the Canadian Domain. Animals can be seen in their natural habitats, with some located indoors in tropical pavilions and others outdoors. There are also zoo keeper talks, scheduled feedings, hands-on discovery areas and special exhibits.
2000 Meadowvale Road
+1 416 392 5929
Google map: bit.ly/Okwy46
* Giulia is our Been there local for Toronto. You can see her profile here:
www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/places/canada/toronto/index.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/GiuliaFalsetti
Beautiful town, with recently updated pedestrian areas. So if the weather is not so hot, you can shop, visit the cathedral, bars and restaurants without getting splashed by passing traffic.
If you are there for more than a day or two also take time to visit Futuroscope. It's better than Disney and suitable for all ages - we've taken our seven year-old daughter and my 80 year-old mum and we all had a great time.
Good hearty food to be found here. Not high end dining but authentic wholesome food. Food could be described as Kosher Turkish/Kurdish, with Iraqi and Syrian influences. This restaurant has been serving food for decades, where the food is slowly cooked in huge pots over traditional oil burners called ptelias. This authentic place is extremely popular with locals which might mean a little wait during busy times.
We had two hearty mains and soft drinks for 110 NIS.
HaEshkol 4, Jerusalem, 94322, Israel
+972 2 623 5204
Google map: bit.ly/VUHabx
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