This year, give the gift of experiences that will create lasting memories. Here are five ideas to consider:
1. ISLAND LOVERS
If you've ever dreamed of casting away to a tranquil hideaway where white sand beaches stretch for miles and your worries dissolve in soft ocean breezes, this coral island is for you. The only resort on a small spit of land in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the Four Seasons Desroches Island in the Seychelles pairs warm and welcoming service, top-notch cuisine and rustic luxury with a pristine natural environment. Stay in villas, suites or expansive residences, each with private pools and beach access. Ride bikes to the Island Conservation Society's Giant Tortoise Sanctuary before stopping on a private stretch of beach for a family picnic. Explore your choice of 14 world-class dive sites around the island or soak up the sun in a kayak or on a SUP. Youngsters can explore with the Kids for All Seasons crew while adults spend the day deep-sea fishing or relaxing in the open-air spa. Later, connect for a spectacular sunset atop the Lighthouse, the beachfront restaurant where fresh-caught seafood is served highly. Contact: www.fourseasons.com/seychellesdesroches/
2. NATIONAL PARK LOVERS
Visit Death Valley National Park for untamed adventure, stunning landscapes and warm, sunny days. Following a multimillion-dollar revitalization, the Oasis at Death Valley is your perfect base camp for hiking, biking and exploring the expansive park. Consider the Inn at Death Valley, an elegant hideaway where new casitas provide privacy and luxury within easy walking distance of the Hollywood-style, spring-fed pool. The Ranch at Death Valley offers a more casual, family-friendly setting with a children's playground, expansive lawns and fire pits, as well as a spring-fed pool. Families are welcomed in a new Mission California-style Town Square where they can gather, shop or visit the Last Kind Words Saloon, a signature dining and entertainment venue. Contact: www.OasisatDeathValley.com
3. BIRD LOVERS
Visit Southern Arizona to see as many as 250 bird species including more than 15 kinds of colorful hummingbirds, the elegant trogon and a painted restart. Make your way to Muleshoe Ranch Cooperative Area, a 49,000-acre conservation region, rich with winged wildlife, thanks to care preservation of the fragile ecosystem. Each January, the Wings Over Wilcox (WOW) festival celebrates the sand hill cranes that migrate to the area. Contact: www.SouthernArizonaGuide.com; www.NatureConservancy.com; www.VisitArizona.com
4. HORSE LOVERS
Consider a ranch vacation where you'll have the opportunity to learn more about horsemanship in an authentic and scenic setting. Opt to ride in open meadows, on mountain trails or in the desert Southwest. Will your family members choose to participate in a real cattle drive? Are you up for a horse pack trip into the backcountry? Will your youngsters be eager to learn the skills required for team penning and other arena games? Or will you be happy to relax during daily trail rides. The options are yours at working dude ranches and guest ranches across the country. Contact: www.Duderanch.org; www.Top50Ranches.com.
5. SNOW LOVERS
For those who relish the white stuff, the gift of travel to Colorado Ski Country will be a high-altitude hit. At more than 21 resorts throughout the state, kids under various ages are offered the opportunity to ski free. For example, kids younger than 5 always ski free at Arapahoe, Aspen Snowmass and Loveland. Steamboat's Kids Ski Free and Grandkids Ski Free programs enable children 12 and younger to ski free the same number of days as their parent/grandparent with the purchase of a 5-or-more day adult lift ticket. Aspen Snowmass offers free lift tickets with an equipment rental from Four Mountain Sports for children between ages 7 and 12. Other resorts offer lift ticket deals as well as lodging, lesson and gear discounts. Contact: www.ColoradoSki.com
— Lynn O'Rourke Hayes (www.LOHayes.com) is an author and family travel expert. Gather more travel intel on Twitter @lohayes, Facebook or via FamilyTravel.com.
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