With our increasingly busy lives, and with families spread to all corners of the U.S. (and the globe, for that matter), sometimes the best present to give to dad on Father’s Day is simply your presence. Though travel costs can be high, we’ve found four affordable vacations — and one small splurge — that you can give to dad this Father’s Day as a way of saying “I love you,” and as importantly, “I want to spend some time with you and create some great new memories together.”
For fun in the sun: A cruise vacation A three-night weekend cruise is a glamorous change-of-pace for both dad and the kids. Starting mid-July and throughout the entire autumn, the 2,400-passenger Norwegian Sky (only nine years old) will depart Miami late Friday afternoons for a three-night cruise first to Nassau, The Bahamas (full day ashore), then to a private island for a day of beach recreation, and finally back to Miami (arriving Monday mornings).
In September and October, the price is as little as $229 per person in inside cabins, and up to $249 per person, while most August departures are $279, $299, and $329 — for the entire cruise, including all meals and all entertainment (but plus taxes and other government fees). There are extensive children’s facilities (and children’s programs for all ages); a sports deck; and a full day spent ashore in Nassau, The Bahamas, is a bit of a foreign experience for dad, mom and kids. ncl.com
For would-be ‘city slickers’: A ranch vacation Wide open skies, trail rides, learning to rope a cow, the smell of manure in the morning … few vacations offer as many thrills, old-fashioned pleasures and er, new sensations, as a ranch vacation. You’ll be learning new skills together and visiting some of the most gorgeous areas of the American West (note: There are also terrific ranches in the East, in Canada, in Mexico and Argentina; for a good online guide, surf to www.ranchweb.com).
Though some ranch vacations are deluxe and pricey, if you choose a working ranch like the Andrus Ranch in Idaho, you’ll pay just $950 per adult per week ($750 per child) for all meals, room, trail rides into the Caribou National Forest, cattle drives, sheep herding (this is the only ranch in the U.S. that lets visitors help with the sheep in this way), lessons in riding and roping, trips to nearby hot springs, swimming, fishing and children’s activities. andrusranch.com
For history buffs: Colonial Williamsburg, Monticello and Jamestown, Va.Here’s a living history museum populated by historical actors who bring it to life. Both fun and educational, Colonial Williamsburg re-creates the look and activities of a typical American city in the years (mid-1700s) just prior to the American Revolution, with authentically costumed characters (from Patrick Henry to Thomas Jefferson) on every site to explain the ways of life in those early years.
You can easily spend two days touring all the sites and exhibits, and both dad and children will receive a valuable education in the early life of our country, all of which can be alternated with recreation (swimming pools and Busch Gardens especially) at the many hotels and motels that service this important, historical “theme park” of America. Costs are moderate, and there are many hotel-and-admission packages in every price range.
For example: A family of four can enjoy a “Summer Saver Package” of five days and four nights at the Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel & Suites in a room with two double beds, including breakfast for four every morning, unlimited admission for five days to all the exhibits and museums of Colonial Williamsburg, free parking, $200 worth of meals, and admission to an historical motion picture presentation, all for a total of $600. Less than a half-hour away, the equally historic Jamestown (first permanent settlement in America, founded in 1607) should also be included, as should a visit to Thomas Jefferson’s extraordinary home, Monticello, just two hours away by car. colonialwilliamsburg.com
For outdoorsmen: The Boundary Waters Canoe Area A pristine one million acres of wilderness criss-crossed by rivers, streams and lakes beckons fishermen and those who simply enjoy being in a totally natural (and eye-poppingly beautiful) setting, alone in the wilderness. Though this type of vacation can require a lot of gear, local outfitters will usually set up your group with all you’ll need — tents, fishing poles, canoes, sleeping bags, maps, cookstoves, food, you name it — for about $70 per adult, per day ($55 per child, per day). A weekly camping permit is an additional $28 per adult, $8 for youths. For more information: rockwoodbwca.com; wildernessoutfitters.com
For sports fanatics: The Baseball Hall of Fame, an actual induction ceremony for baseball greats, and two pro games Many dads have dreamed of visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.. Now, he and the kids can enjoy an in-depth visit, followed by actual pro baseball games at Fenway Park Boston and Yankee Stadium New York. A famous sports tour operator called Sports Travel and Tours has packaged the entire experience into a six-day tour starting in late July (July 25 to 30) in Albany, N.Y., from which you’ll be taken to this year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown for such greats as Dick Williams, “Goose” Gossage, Walter O’Malley, Barney Dreyfuss and Billy Southworth.
And then, after thoroughly visiting the museum, you’ll be brought to Boston’s Fenway Park for a game between the Los Angeles A’s and the Boston Red Sox, followed the next day by a stadium tour of Yankee Stadium and a game between the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees. Dad will weep from emotion! The cost is a bit high — $1,600 per person — but it includes five nights’ accommodations at Sheratons and Hilton Inns, all tickets and admissions, transportation from city to city, a tour host, trip reception and more. The baseball trip starts July 25. sportstravelandtours.com