Credit the digital workplace and our 24/7 work ethic with more than just answering e-mails at five a.m. and taking calls during the dinner hour. That go-go-go gusto informs our leisure activities too. “The majority of travelers unwind in less than a day on vacation,” says Michele Perry, a travel expert at TripAdvisor, an online travel community with nearly 25 million visitors a month. “And because people unwind quickly, they want to get busy and exercise their bodies and their minds on vacation.” To pack extra-large experiences into your family’s standard-size vacation, consider these destinations.
Camping is the top outdoor-vacation choice in America. One-third of adults in the United States say they have gone on a camping trip in the past five years. (Source: Adventure Travel Report)
The WaterColor Inn & Resort, a 499-acre resort on Santa Rosa Beach in Florida, features an inn, rental cottages, several restaurants, and more activities than a blockbuster theme park. It forces you to redefine your idea of leisure with activities like outdoor movies in the resort’s park, family karaoke night, trivia night, a top-notch kids’ program called Camp WaterColor, and fine dining for the folks at Fish out of Water (signature dishes include Kobe beef short ribs with black-truffle grits). One-bedroom hotel rooms start at $360; a two-bedroom cottage rents for $3,605 per week. (850) 534-5000, www.watercolorresort.com
Ever since Billy Crystal donned chaps in City Slickers, families have taken a shine to the notion of cowboying it up while on vacation. For the best dude experience, consider Hidden Meadow Ranch in Greer, Arizona (about 200 miles west of Phoenix). Activities include Apache dances and storytelling; classes on stargazing, constellations, and photography; arts and crafts for the little ones; and more traditional fare like horseback riding, fly-fishing, and more than 975 miles of trails. Packages that include activities, double occupancy in a log cabin, and three gourmet meals a day start at $625 per night. (866) 333- 4080, www.hiddenmeadow.com
Camping may be the number one outdoor activity, but not everyone possesses tent-pitching skills. Enter El Capitan Canyon, located on the outskirts of the Los Padres National Forest near Santa Barbara, California. Guests stay in roomy tents with wood floors (or upgrade to cabins with bathrooms and kitchens), and activity options abound: horseback riding, beach-cruiser biking, hiking, swimming in the pool or the ocean, and kayaking. You can also kick back and enjoy the free live concerts in May or charter a boat to go whale watching. Tents from $145, cabins from $225. (866) 352-2729, www.elcapitancanyon.com
Consider spending your trip on a Shasta Marina Resort houseboat cruising Shasta Lake on Northern California’s largest reservoir, which offers 370 miles of shoreline, countless hiking trails, and loads of fishing. The luxurious 16-sleeper Thoroughbred Houseboat features private staterooms, full bathrooms, an equipped kitchen, a hot tub, a fireplace, central heat and air, and, most important, water slides. Rentals range from three nights on the 14-sleeper Mirage at $3,600 to seven nights on the Thoroughbred for $8,400. (800) 959-3359, www.shastalake.net
The Mohonk Mountain House is an idyllic castle, which overlooks a scenic lake and is set on 2,200 acres of wilderness with 85 miles of hiking trails. The resort is known for family-style meals and a smorgasbord of activities that appeal to junior and the ’rents: hiking, a Victorian maze, boating, canoeing, fishing, swimming, horseback riding, award-winning gardens, a 30,000-square-foot spa, rock climbing, golf, and kids’ and themed programs (spring notable events include blues and astronomy weekends). From $275. (800) 772-6646, www.mohonk.com
Eighty percent of adult travelers (more than 118 million people) have included a historic or cultural activity while traveling. That number is roughly equal to the population of the United Kingdom and Italy combined. (Source: Travel Industry Association)