Since we live where everyone comes to play, sometimes it’s nice to explore other latitudes, longitudes and altitudes. We asked some of our contributors to share their summer adventures beyond our beautiful Sunshine State to help inspire your family’s next big adventure!
Exploring the Grand Canyon and other natural wonders in Arizona
Maggie Rodriguez, Co-host of Daytime of WFLA News Channel 8
How we got there: We flew to Las Vegas, then drove to the Grand Canyon, with a stop at the Hoover Dam along the way. We visited the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, which is the most popular because it offers the most scenic views.
Where to Stay: staying inside the park is especially helpful when visiting the Grand Canyon in the hot summer so that you can go to and from your room as often as you’d like during the day. There are four lodging options: the historic El Tovar Hotel, which books up to a year in advance, or one of three lodges. They’re not luxurious, but quaint and perfectly situated close to the canyon’s rim.
To beat the heat and the crowds, get an early start (between 6 and 8 a.m. if you can get your kids up that early). Avid hikers enjoy the popular Bright Angel or South Kaibab trails. Our favorite was the tamer Rim Trail, where each vista was more jaw dropping than the last. Bring lots of water and some snacks to keep you hydrated and fueled.
At lunchtime, the dining room at the El Tovar Hotel is a great place to enjoy good food, spectacular views, and much-needed AC amid artifacts from local Native American tribes. Make reservations as far in advance as possible.
After lunch, when it’s still too hot to hike, I suggest driving to the many lookout points along the South Rim. You can park easily and take lots of photos. Each view is a little different, but equally spectacular.
After a rest at your hotel, head back out to catch the sunset at one of the lookout points. The Grand Canyon is at its most beautiful as the sun sets and turns the rocks varied hues of pink, orange, and purple. There’s no better word than magical to describe this experience.
Other highlights: Our Arizona road trip continued to Page, where we discovered Antelope Canyon. Hiking at the bottom of the narrow, slot canyon was like walking through a painting. We also visited Sedona, known for its majestic red rocks. Off-roading is the best way to explore them. We loved the “Broken Arrow Tour” from Pink Jeep Tours.
A Tour of New England
Deanna Moore, executive producer of Daytime on WFLA News Channel 8
How we got there: We flew via Allegiant from St. Pete/Clearwater to Portsmouth. It’s the best route if you want to save money because flying from Tampa to Boston is a bit pricier and you have to drive a bit to get to the more quaint towns.
Where did you stay: We rented accommodation via VRBO/Vacasa.
We stayed in Wells, Maine, but took day trips to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Kennebunkport, Maine, and Salem, Massachusetts. Experiencing a northern beach was phenomenal. The wildlife, sand and atmosphere are completely different from Tampa Bay.
In Kennebunkport we went on both a whale-watching excursion and a lobster-catching cruise. The girls learned so much and were entertained. In Salem, we took the girls on a kid-friendly historical/modern tour of the happenings during the Salem Witch Trials. To cap off everything the food was amazing! We had everything from decadent pancakes to quintessential New England seafood.
- In order to see Kennebunkport or Portland, Maine, fly from St. Pete/Clearwater to Portsmouth, New Hampshire rather than TPA to Boston.
- If you need to rent a car, use a car seat rental service. They can provide you with car seats, boosters, cribs and toys and deliver straight to the airport for a minimal cost.
- Don’t stay in Kennebunkport proper. The nearby town of Wells, Maine, is a 20-minute drive away and is significantly cheaper for a vacation rental or hotel.
A Mountain View in Park City, Utah
Laura Byrne, Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine
How we got there: We flew out of TPA into Salt Lake City airport where we picked up our rental car and drove about half an hour to Deer Valley Resort where we rented a condo at Trails End Lodge with friends.
Where did you stay: Deer Valley Resort is perfect for families, with numerous hiking trails within steps of our condo and access to mountain biking, standup paddle boarding, horseback riding and more. We were also a short drive away from Olympic Village and Park City Mountain where you can take rides down the Mountain Coaster and Alpine Slide. The public transportation in Park City is free and super easy to navigate. We spent many nights dining on Main Street which we highly recommend—there are a ton of restaurants, art galleries and shops. The hard part will be deciding which one to go to!
- Book a condo at the same rate or even less than a hotel room. Full kitchens and separate bedrooms are always a bonus when traveling with kids.
- Rent a car so you can take day trips! We made a three-hour drive to Vernal, Utah, to Dinosaur National Monument’s Quarry Exhibit Hall to see 1,500+ dinosaur bones unearthed from an ancient riverbed. It was all indoors, which made the experience worth lingering.
- It’s very dry in Utah compared to Florida, so make sure to stay hydrated and bring water with you everywhere you go. Our rooms each had a humidifier which was helpful for our group of Floridians.
Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks
Natajassa Prose, IG: @proseandcompany
How you got there: We flew into Jackson Hole, Wyoming, making that our home base during our stay. We rented a car for the drive to the National Parks, only about an hour away from Jackson. We saw where the buffalo roam and where geysers make a show. In Grand Teton National Park, we saw moose, elk, antelope and bison! In Yellowstone, we saw colorful hot springs and Old Faithful. We had a family picnic along a river bank and watched baby bison follow their herd across beautiful fields.
Pro tip: The National Parks Service has a special 5th Grader Voucher program, allowing 5th graders and their families to enter the National Parks for free! Lucky for us, we packed our 5th grader, binoculars, maps and even our lunch for some epic exploring!
Backroads that Lead to the South—Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas
Marisa Langford, @TampaMama
Highlights: Driving north, we made a pit stop in historic Apalachicola and enjoyed some of their famous oysters at The Station Raw Bar. Amidst the rolling green hills of Alabama, we stayed with family in Montgomery, canoed on the gorgeous Coosa River out of Wetumpka (featured on HGTV’s ‘Hometown Takeover’) and had some delicious popsicles from Frios Gourmet Pops.
In Memphis, the kids were ready to go walkin’ for some BBQ, Elvis and blues on Beale Street! We stayed at the Hyatt Centric Beale Street which was around the corner from The Peabody Ducks marching the red carpet, lunch at Central BBQ, and paying our respects to the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the National Civil Rights Museum. Don’t miss a visit to Graceland as you can tour Elvis’ mansion and see his pink Cadillac! We drove over the Mississippi River on our way out of town which was so cool!
The beautiful state of Arkansas was last on our list and did not disappoint. We checked off another capital city in Little Rock as we visited the capitol of the 25th state of America. The historic bathhouses, ancient thermal springs, mountain views and lush forests of Hot Springs National Park made for an idyllic vacation spot in the deep South. The 210-acre Garvan Woodland Gardens is a must-see with its famous Anthony Chapel. Our “road less traveled” summer road trip was one for the books and we can’t wait to hop in the car and do it again soon!
*Originally published in our September 2021 Issue.