T+L Family Hot Tips: Tree Rides, Travel With Grandchildren
News on where to stay. . . what to see. . . what to buy. . .
COME ON AND TAKE A TREE RIDE
At Bonfante Gardens, a new theme park in the garlic-farm foothills south of San Jose, California, both the landscaping and the rides are meant to thrill. The 75 acres are studded with sycamores in acrobatic forms (the trunks have been grafted to loop, zigzag, and interweave), and garden beds are home to triceratops topiaries. County fair—style rides teach kids about agriculture and history: you can whirl inside giant strawberries, dangle from a 39-foot mushroom, or wheel a mini Model T past a barnyard where animatronic hens cackle. Admission fees are not exactly chicken feed—$28.95 per adult, $19.95 per child—but the cause is worthy: proprietor Michael Bonfante donates proceeds to philanthropic efforts such as horticulture classes for schoolchildren. Bonfante Gardens, 3050 Hecker Pass Hwy., Gilroy, Calif.; 408/840-7100; www.bonfantegardens.com.
THE MOTEL GOES MOD
The mid-century motor court is back, and looking so much better. The hip, new Hotel Biba in West Palm Beach (561/832-0094; www.hotelbiba.com; doubles from $79) is a 1939 motel reincarnated with beanbag chairs and futon beds. At San Francisco's Hotel del Sol (877/433-5765; www.thehoteldelsol.com; doubles from $95), a Marina District flophouse is dipped in sunny hues. And in Wildwood, New Jersey, the Starlux's fifties neon glows on (609/522-7412; www.thestarlux.com; doubles from $99).
Hey, snow fiends, here are some new tricks to try. At Northstar at Tahoe (Truckee, Calif.; 800/466-6784), you can speed downhill on a bike that has skis instead of wheels (above), or strapped inside a man-sized ball called the Zorb. Adventure Ridge (Vail, Colo.; 970/476-9090) lets you experience "thrill sledding" in a go-cart—like contraption with hydraulic brakes. Next?K2 is about to launch K2UBE, a steerable inner tube with metal runners, a seat, and hand brakes.
You-know-who won't be the only one trailing Harry Potter this fall. With a map from the British Tourist Authority, your family can visit sites that star in the movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, out November 16. Tour Hogwarts School (Gloucester Cathedral), or talk to snakes in the Reptile House at the London Zoo. For the free Potter Around Britain map, call 866/MUGGLES or order at www.travelbritain.org/moviemap. Owls not included.
THE GRAND TOUR
Hiking boots?Check. Scuba gear?Check. Grandchildren?Check. More people are taking their kids' kids on vacation, and specialists like Grandtravel are making the trips adventurous—nothing like hiking the Great Wall of China to bridge the generation gap (12-day trek from Hong Kong to Beijing; 800/247-7651; www.grandtrvl.com). Or learn to fly with Elderhostel's weeklong flight school (877/426-8056; www.elderhostel.org). Large outfitters tailor at least one trip to grandparent-grandchild combos. Can't picture Grandma paddling through Egypt (Thomson's Nile expedition; 800/262-6255; www.familyadventures.com)?Maybe you're the old-fashioned one.
NEW YORK ROCKS
Bono dines there. So do the Beastie Boys. The Park is New York's current hipster hangout—but after Saturday night's crowd slinks away, the next generation of groovers drag their parents to this former Chelsea taxi garage. Sundays from two to four, Rocket Ship Revue belts out "Goodbye Old Paint" and "Keep on the Sunny Side." Meanwhile, the Park serves up berry pancakes, banana beignets, bagels, and gravlax, and the courtyard dance floor starts jumping. The Park, 118 10th Ave.; 212/352-3313.
The flight's delayed and you're stuck in Terminal Z. Or you have 10 hours in the air, and the Game Boy won't get you even halfway. Pick up a pint-sized DVD player at the InMotion Pictures airport hub in 17 cities ($10 a day, including a movie for each day rented; www.inmotionpictures.com). Then return the rental on arrival. Survive the Drive (www.survivethedrive.com) will deliver a cigarette lighter—powered video system to your door.
YOU AND THECHOCOLATE FACTORY
Your kids may be more familiar with Hershey's than Scharffen Berger, the Berkeley chocolatier that's the darling of pastry chefs. But they'll still love the new free tour of its factory. Hear how Aztec ruler Montezuma drank 50 goblets of a chocolate elixir a day as you sample roasted cacao beans and chocolate bars; watch rumbling vintage machines grind and mix. Then buy a bottle of souvenir sauce. Scharffen Berger, 914 Heinz St.; 510/981-4066; www.scharffenberger.com; tours (for ages seven and up) by reservation.
THESE CHANGING TIMES
Designers with maternal instincts have come up with diaper bags you'll hold on to even after the Huggies are gone—the pockets, after all, are perfect for toting your own bottles (of water). The leather-strap canvas bag from Rafe New York (800/486-9544; $295) packs a changing pad; Kate Spade connects the jacquard dots ( 212/274-1991; $275); and Made on Earth's vinyl bag ( 323/654-4771; $160) cries for attention. Now if airlines would only give us a place to change a diaper. . . .