ALL POSTS IN [Summer]

Photo: Castle Park

We love amusement parks as much as the next person. But sometimes a good day of fun can go horribly wrong, as we learned with last Friday’s tragic event at Six Flags Over Texas. This isn’t the time to turn alarmist — but it is time to brush up on amusement park safety tips, say industry experts.

First, keep things in perspective. A whole lot of people, well into the millions, take amusement park rides every year nationwide. And the number of serious injuries is minimal.

Chances of Injury Are Small

“Regardless of where we are on the spectrum, there’s always more we can do [in terms of amusement park safety],” says Dr. Gary Smith, who directs the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH.

It’s true, says Smith, there’s a global issue ahead to face — mainly, the current patchwork of oversight on amusement park safety, with differing standards by state and localities, and no umbrella government agency to oversee it all. Still, adds Smith, “The chances of a serious injury are small and that’s something parents can take comfort in.”

Know Before You Go

Already, states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania — home to a large number of amusement parks — have issued reminders to adventure seekers on how to enjoy rides responsibly. (Late June was Amusement Park Ride Safety Week in Pennsylvania, in fact.)

Check out tips from Pennsylvania authorities on amusement park ride safety here, and from the Ohio Department of Agriculture here. The main takeaway: Stay informed. Know before you go, it’s the best way for you and your family to have fun.
 
Top Ride Safety Tips

Ken Martin, an independent inspector and amusement park safety consultant with KRM Consulting in Richmond, VA, offers a great roundup of ride safety tips for parents. Also keep in mind the following:

    • Pay attention to the sizing device located by many rides and attractions — it’s put there for your safety. “Yes, trying to sit in one of these seats to see if you fit the ride may be a little embarrassing,” says Martin, “however, a little embarrassment may be better than the alternative.”
    • Do you take any medication? Consult your physician before you think of trying a ride, says Martin. “Pay attention to ride rules and patron warnings,” he says. “Should you take medication for medical conditions, it’s best to consult your physician before riding any amusement ride or attraction – as a precaution you want to make sure you have [medical information] on your person or have someone in your party who knows your medical history.”
    • Take note of your surroundings. “If you see behavior or something you don’t like, bring it to someone’s attention with the amusement park,” says Martin. “All employees should be wearing a uniform and a name tag. They are there to help and serve you.”
    • Avoid heavy foods or sugary beverages as much as possible. “Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water,” says Martin. “Also, lines to some attractions can be very long. Take a restroom break before you get in line.”
    • Trust your gut. As a parent, don’t just go by minimum height and age requirements — ask yourself if your child is developmentally ready for a ride, says Smith of Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Finally, be sure the ride fits you and your child. “Restraint systems should fit as close to your body as possible, but not tight enough to hurt,” says Martin. “Then sit back and enjoy the thrill — remember we are taking you to the edge and bringing you back safety, if all the rules are followed.”

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Chincoteague Pony Swim

Photo: Getty Images

Come early and bring your patience. That’s the word on the 88th annual Chincoteague Pony Swim. Every July, on the last Wednesday of the month, the small island of Chincoteague sees its population of 3,500 people swell to more than 40,000, as visitors from all over the country — and as far away as Canada and Europe — flock to the island off Virginia’s coast, to witness an event of epic pony proportions: more than 120 wild ponies swimming across the Assateague Channel, between Chincoteague and Assateague islands.

The actual swim takes all of 5 to 10 minutes. And it’s worth every minute of waiting to see the oldest continuous wild pony roundup east of the Colorado River.

“This is an event of historical proportions,” says Denise Bowden, spokesperson for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which owns the ponies, often called the Chincoteague herd, on the Virginia side of Assateague Island.

Historical … or historic … one thing’s clear: This is the biggest event on Chincoteague Island’s annual calendar.

Chincoteague Island’s fire department has held the event nearly every year since 1924, culminating in the Salt Water Cowboys — about 145 cowboys from Virginia and neighboring states including Maryland and North Carolina — rounding up the feral fellas and females for a parade down Main Street, to the carnival grounds, where an auction of the ponies takes place Thursday morning. (Some ponies are bought under “buy back” terms; the bidder donates the money to the fire department and allows the pony to be released back onto Assateague Island.)

Now the patience part: Chincoteague Island will be packed. And while the pony swim will be held sometime between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., crowds will start gathering well in advance. “Come early,” says Bowden. It’s not uncommon, she adds, for visitors to gather at the heart of the action — the Pony Swim Lane and Memorial Park — as early as 5 or 6 a.m.

The long wait time — plus the actual event’s start time, dependent on inclement weather conditions — spells greater exposure to the elements — lots of sun, maybe rain. “Make yourself as comfortable as possible,” says Bowden. Bring your sunscreen, hat and umbrella. Plus, a pair of old tennis shoes (no flip-flops or high-heels) — you’ll need them while standing in the marshy, muddy field. But the pay-off will be something to behold: Just beyond a fence, a herd of wild ponies — only 20 to 30 feet away.

For parking, Bowden advises heading to Chincoteague High School’s parking lot: A shuttle on the grounds takes visitors to the Pony Swim Lane. Find shuttle information here.

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US Open of Surfing (Photo: Getty Images)

The countdown begins to the largest surfing event on the planet. On Saturday, July 20, the US Open of Surfing kicks off in the morning, with rounds 1 and 2 of the Junior Men’s championship. If you’re one of the thousands of surfing fans en route to the event or are already stretching out on the sands of Huntington Beach, check out highlights of the 9-day surfing competition, which runs through July 28.

In all, this year’s event is slated to see more than 20 ASP World Championship Tour (WCT) surfers compete against the best new surfing talent from around the globe at Huntington Beach Pier. Beyond surf, skateboarding is also in store. This year’s event sees the debut of the Van Doren Invitational, an invite-only skateboarding event set to attract pro and amateur riders.

Another big draw will be music. Billed as one of America’s largest free concert stages of the summer, this year’s musical lineup includes indie rocker Modest Mouse, the dance-punk band The Faint and alternative pop artist Twin Shadow.

Can’t make it to the Vans US Open of Surfing? Check out the live webcast.

And if you’re looking for more places to ride out the heat wave, check out the world’s best surf destinations. Plus, explore the world’s best stand-up paddleboarding spots, extreme beach adventures and some pretty cool extreme adventure sports – all sure to provide great summer memories.

Photography by JOBY

The open road can throw some unexpected obstacles your way. Pack up your car with these ultimate road trip gadgets to ensure you’re ready for anything. Whether your goal is to escape into nature, experience new towns or get adventurous, we’ve got you covered.

Wine Suitcase

If your road trip is taking you on a vineyard tour, make sure your newly coveted wine collection makes the journey back home with you. Spare your clothes from a broken bottle catastrophe, and pack your bottles in a special wine suitcase like Brookstone’s The Wine Check Luggage Set, which safely carries 12 bottles for $69.99.

Worldwide Travel Adapter

Don’t worry about blowing a fuse or destroying your MacBook or iPad with the Apple World Travel Adapter Kit. While it might not be up there with James Bond-level gadgets, don’t be surprised if it turns out to be your most cherished travel accessory. From $39.

International GPS

Road scholars know nothing puts a dent in a great trip like constantly getting lost. Luckily, we live in the era of the GPS, making traveling unknown roads — even internationally — a breeze. With Garmin, owners can download thousands of international maps from their website straight onto their device, or make their own. Suddenly journeying off into the unknown isn’t so intimidating anymore. Prices start at $99.

Pocket Camera

Capturing any moment is easy with the 18-megapixel point-and-shoot Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX300.This ultra-lightweight camera easily stashes away and will appeal to serious photographers and amateurs alike with its negligible shutter lag, sharp photos and simultaneous video and still capture. From $299.

Folding Bike

Every savvy packer knows, roll your sweaters and … fold your bike? Coming in at 20 to 28 pounds (depending on the model and configuration) packing a collapsible Brompton bike is a brilliant possibility. The P6R Brompton is perfect for a globetrotting cyclist — its P Type’s handlebars were designed with the touring cyclist in mind. And after your ride, simply collapse it down, pack it up and take off for your next destination. Starting at $1,600.

For more cool cycling gizmos, check out our Bike Gear Guide.

Flexible Tripod

With flexible legs that can attach to nearly any surface, Joby’s Gorillapod ensures you never miss a shot. Whether taking a timed self-portrait or steadying your lens to your car’s hood, this portable tripod is a must-have on any savvy traveler’s packing list. Universal screw attaches to most cameras. From $19.95.

For more road trip gadgets, check out our Road Trips Gear Guide.

– by Ashley Hardaway

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Photography by Valerie Conners


Summer
temperatures have sizzled into triple digits across large swaths of America’s West this season. Travelers would be wise to cool down at one of the region’s more spectacular attractions, Lake Powell, a shimmering, 186-mile-long behemoth that straddles the Arizona and Utah border. Technically a reservoir of the Colorado River,

Lake Powell is located within easy driving distance from some of the nation’s grandest and most popular parks, including the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon, and is a perfect respite for families that have just sweltered their way through national park trails and tours.

This man-made lake was created when part of the Colorado River was dammed, and a sweeping expanse of canyonland filled with water. The result? An otherworldly landscape of turquoise waters bordered by looming canyons crisscrossed with nooks and crannies begging to be explored by boat or kayak. Rocky buttes jut toward the sky both in the distance and above canyon walls. Watching sunset turn the colors of the canyons and buttes ablaze into fiery reds and oranges is one of the region’s more unforgettable experiences.

Photography by Valerie Conners

To best enjoy the lake’s scenery and activities, travelers should hightail it to the spectacularly situated Antelope Point Marina, a family-friendly destination born out of a unique partnership with the Navajo Nation and the National Park Service. Head to the marina to explore Lake Powell by boat tour, rent watercraft such as jet skis and kayaks, or take advantage of the pinnacle of all lake experiences: a houseboat rental.

Antelope Point Marina is teeming with houseboats — literally hundreds line the floating docks — some of which are privately owned, others which are for rent. For the uninitiated, houseboats here are no ordinary watercraft. These vessels are, without exaggeration, nicer than a good number of actual houses. Houseboats range in size from 59 feet to 75 feet and can sleep up to 12 people in as many as 6 bedrooms — perfect for multiple families vacationing together. These mega-boats are tricked out with flat-screen TV’s, indoor-outdoor living areas, kitchens, staterooms, covered decks, waterslides (!), gas barbecues and wet bars. Think that’s awesome? Some models even feature outdoor hot tubs.

Families can rent houseboats for a few days up to a week or more, which keeps them busy exploring Lake Powell’s beauty. Folks who only have a few hours to spend on the lake, can cool off at the marina’s

Photography by Valerie Conners

kid-friendly swimming area, arrange a boat or fishing tour, rent kayaks and ski boats, or hike down to nearby beaches along the lake’s clear, crisp waters (families take note: No lifeguards are present).

For the ultimate Lake Powell experience, book a helicopter tour over the lake via the Lake Powell Jet Center. Aerial views of Lake Powell offer the most breathtaking perspective of its expanse and stunning vistas. You’ll swoop past iconic Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River, the dam that created the lake, and monstrous Tower Butte, where your chopper will actually land and you’ll be allowed to wander the butte’s top — absolutely the tour highlight.

- Valerie Conners

Valerie Conners is a New York-based freelance writer who has worked in various roles at the Travel Channel for more than 10 years. She has written for digital and print publications including The Philadelphia Inquirer, Boston Globe, Frommer’s Travel Guides and Discovery.com.

Yellowstone’s busiest season is now in full swing, and if you’re among the thousands of travelers who plan to visit America’s first national park this July, first thing’s first: Bring a jacket. Yes, really, a jacket — in July. You’ll be grateful you did when winds up to 15 mph nip at your face and temperatures drop into the 40s at night. You may even see snow. (Keep current on Yellowstone’s weather here.)

Hard to believe, as scorching temperatures cripple other regions of the west, but Yellowstone is one place you do not want to explore without a jacket this month. I found out first-hand on a visit to the national park just a few weeks ago. From a chilly morning rain to a late-evening snowstorm, I experienced Yellowstone’s dramatic temperature drops all within the span of a few hours.

Once you’ve brought a coat (and a good pair of boots and sunscreen, too), you’ll be well on your way to exploring the park — here’s a taste of Yellowstone’s beauty in summer.

Roosevelt Arch: An elk rests by Yellowstone’s famous Roosevelt Arch — Teddy Roosevelt himself laid the cornerstone of the arch, located at the park’s north entrance. “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people,” reads its inscription. (All Photos: Lisa Singh) 

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone: Geysers … bears … but just why is Yellowstone called “Yellowstone”? The park’s abundant yellow-colored rhyolite lavas provide the answer. You’ll see these rich colors at Yellowstone’s massive gorge, roughly 20 miles long.

Yellowstone Norris Geyser Basin: Remember your jacket? These smart folks certainly did as they make their way down a walkway to view some of Yellowstone’s breathtaking geysers. Did you know Yellowstone is home to the largest concentration geysers in the world?

Rocky Mountain Fauna: It’s not just bears or American bison you may see at Yellowstone. Look up! This mountain goat, with some winter fur still left to shed, may be peering down at you from a mountain cliff. Just beware of Yellowstone’s deadly bears.

Fishing in Yellowstone: Don’t forget to get in some fishing. Pick up a Yellowstone fishing permit, and enjoy angling and fly-fishing in this massive 2 million-plus-acre wonderland, home to 13 native fish species … and plenty of trout.


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Photography by star5112, flickr

Venture out to Grant Park on Chicago’s magnificent lakefront now through Sunday, July 14, for the 33rd annual Taste of Chicago. Read on for a breakdown of the world’s largest outdoor food festival.

0 = Price. The cost of admission is FREE, however you’ll need to purchase strips of 12 tickets ($8) for food and drink items (priced from 3 to 14 tickets for tasting and full-size portions).

6 = Number of celebrity chefs participating in Mazda6 Celebrity Chef du Jour, including Rick Bayless, Carrie Nahabedian, Guiseppe Tentori, Paul Kahan and Gale Gand paired with The Hearty Boys. Introduced last year, the event costs $40, which  gets you a sit-down, 3-course meal in an air-conditioned dining pavilion.

14 = Number of different food trucks participating in the festival — for the first time ever! Parked on the concrete path parallel to Lake Shore Drive, they’ll begin selling entrees and desserts an hour before the evening concerts.

16 = Booth number of famed Eli’s Cheesecake, which has been at all 33 tastes. The Chicago Tribune calls a cool slice of Key Lime Skinny Cheesecake one of The Taste’s best bargains – it’ll only set you back 3 tickets!

35 = Number of restaurants on this year’s menu, including Taste favorites Bobak’s Sausage Company and Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, as well as newcomers like Bombay Spice and Southern-inspired Wishbone. For the full, diverse list and locations visit the Taste site.

48 = Number of bands and musicians taking the stage(s) this year, including Robin Thicke, rock ‘n roll legend Robert Plant and Grammy-award winners Jill Scott and fun.

For more on demonstrations, pop-up restaurants, kids’ activities and daily schedules, visit the official Taste of Chicago site.

Not able to make the Taste in Chi-town? We’ve rounded up more of the best Food & Wine Festivals around the country.

*Or, 5 Casual Observances for Summer Tourists From a Whirlwind NYC Weekend

Cronuts at Dominique Ansel Bakery

Courtesy of Dominique Ansel Bakery

1. The Cronut Craze — When I visited the Dominique Ansel Bakeryin SoHo back in May, you could still deign to enjoy your “DKA,” or “Cronut” seated on the small back patio (although we took ours to nearby Washington Square Park). Now the half-croissant, half-donut hybrid attracts lines around the city block –- and fans from as far as Singapore. I can’t blame them, though, the combination of flaky, delicious dough and caramelized crust is unparalleled. While we waited in line we were also treated to tasty mini-meringues — hope you are, too.

2. Pub Crawl With Pups — A friend’s birthday celebration took the form of a Brooklyn bar crawl with a “no presents, just pets” theme. Rather unsurprisingly, Williamsburg has a slew of establishments that not only allow, but also cater to canines and their owners. We started the afternoon at The Levee, think: a sea of sneakerwedges, $1 PBRs, never-ending buckets of cheeseballs and bar games ranging from Jenga to Big Buck Hunter. Later that evening we strolled to Luckydog, where more than one pug was spotted in skull paraphernalia.

The Standard Biergarten

Photo by Shawn Hoke, flickr

3. The Standard — Situated under the canopy of the High Line, in the heart of the Meatpacking District, the Standard’s open-air Biergarten serves up sausages, pretzels, beer (for 8 bucks a pop) and ping pong all summer long. There’s even homemade gelato at the Ice Cream Cart parked in front. It’s more casual than the storied rooftop, which boasts dramatic city views, live jazz music and almost-famous clientele. Both tend to get packed, so come early or expect to wait in line.

4. The Rain RoomMoMa’s must-see exhibit takes some coordination, but
the ticket line moves surprisingly quickly and the hours-long wait can be
spent perusing the magnificent modern art gallery and equally inspiring museum shops. I’d highly recommend planning one of your days around the 300-square-foot immersive environment, as admission is not guaranteed. And don’t worry, you’ll stay dry despite the falling water droplets, thanks to a system of 3D-tracking cameras that pauses the rainfall whenever a human body is detected.

5. No Reservations? No Problem. — Being a good corporate citizen, I can point you to a wealth of NYC recommendations. In a pinch, however, the power of recent Yelp reviews shouldn’t be underestimated. The app helped point us in the direction of some charming, more casual restaurants — like South Williamsburg’s Uruguayan resto Tabaré, SoHo’s cozy French spot Cocotte, and brunch at Café Cluny in the West Village — that we would have otherwise missed.

Cocotte

Courtesy of Cocotte

Also, dine off-hours when you can. After arriving rather late Friday night, it was nearly 11 p.m. once we checked into the hotel and headed out to dinner. However, we were able to walk right into Cocotte, its handful of tables having been occupied right up until that time. Dinner at Tabaré was at an early-bird 6pm — hey, we’d been at a bar crawl ALL day. Take advantage that you’re on “vacation time” — you’ll miss the trendy crowds, but eat well that way.

Hello, summer! Today marks the first day of summer and we’re gearing up for a fun-filled few months with our summer to-do list. There’s no excuse for boredom with our list of things to do this summer. So, get up, get out, and go!

1.     Head to the beach.

Nothing says summer more than a lazy day at the beach, soaking up some sunshine. We can dream of lounging on celeb-favorite beaches in places like Rio de Janeiro and St. Barts, but we’ll be just as happy digging our toes in the sand stateside at East Coast beaches like Cape May and the Outer Banks.

2.     Hit the open road.

Road trips are the perfect summer escape and the best way to see this beautiful country of ours. Whether it’s an iconic drive like Route 66 or a road trip through California’s wine country, there’s nothing more American or adventurous than taking a road trip.

3.     Take your workout to the water.

Nobody wants to be in the gym on a beautiful day. There’s no shortage of watersports that burn calories and cool you off — surfing, stand-up paddleboarding and white-water rafting are just some of our favorites. And who wouldn’t want to swim a few laps in these cool pools?

4.     Get some fresh air.

After being cooped up all winter (and possibly spring), this is the time to explore the great outdoors. If you can’t manage one of these bucket list treks around the world, there are national parks in nearly every corner of the US to explore. Take a break from traffic and crowds this summer and get back in tune with nature!

5.     Watch a movie under the stars.

On a nice summer night, there’s nothing better than watching a movie outdoors. From San Francisco’s Film Night in the Park to Washington, DC’s Screen on the Green, there are outdoor movies to take advantage of all over the country this summer. Don’t forget to pack a picnic.

6.     Take your bike for a spin.

It’s time to dust off your bike and leave the car in the garage. For a heart-pounding ride try mountain biking at Whistler or for something more relaxing (and flat) take a bike tour of Charleston’s lowcounty. And if you happen to live in one of these cycling cities, you don’t even need to leave town — your city was made to explore on 2 wheels.

7.     Cool off with a treat.

Did someone say ice cream? Count us in! We’re burning off so many calories outside this summer; we deserve a little indulgence, especially one that’ll cool us off on a hot day. Whether it’s artisan ice cream shops or ice cream trucks, dish us a scoop, please.

Tell Us:  What’s on your Summer To-Do List?

 

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