By Phil Marty, Special to Tribune Newspapers
8:38 PM EST, February 5, 2013
Kids are notorious for the whine, "How much longer till we get there?"
This time of year, with the excitement of the holidays long forgotten, the "there" isn't a destination, it's a date: spring break.
But where to go and what to do?
Disney? Been there, done that.
Cancun? Same old, same old.
A Caribbean cruise? Snooze.
Time for new family destinations and activities. Here's a sampling — domestic and foreign — in a variety of price ranges:
A multisport outing in Costa Rica: Biking is the star, but also available are whitewater rafting, zip-lining, surfing classes, ocean kayaking and more as options in a seven-day/six-night Costa Rica multisport package from Trek Travel, operated by the Trek bicycle folks.
Trek runs this as a regularly scheduled trip but can also design a custom trip, a much better option for a family.
During the two days of whitewater rafting on the Pacuare River, which National Geographic has named one of the 10 best river trips in the world, the family will stay at a safari-style river camp. More conventional lodging is used for other nights.
Biking might vary from 15 to 30 miles a day, and the trip typically includes hiking in a rain forest, where you might see monkeys, sloths, colorful birds and more. There is a visit to the area of the Arenal volcano, Costa Rica's most active, and other options include a cooking class, coffee plantation tour or a soak in a hot spring.
Custom tours range from $2,599-$3,199 per person, with a 15 percent discount for kids under 12.
To get an idea of what you might include in a custom trip, you can check out the itinerary for the regularly scheduled one at tinyurl.com/bdre8dt. Trek can be reached at 866-464-8735.
Blue Angels in Pensacola: Pensacola probably isn't the first city you think of for a Florida getaway, but the panhandle city has a lot of attractions for kids and adults, highlighted by the Blue Angels. The Navy's world-famous flying team is based at Naval Air Station Pensacola, and starting March 20, practice sessions are held every Tuesday and Wednesday morning.
There is a viewing area at the National Naval Aviation Museum, itself a worthy destination where visitors can climb into the cockpits of some of the country's most famous war birds or try out a flight simulator. There are more than 150 restored aircraft, including a Marine One helicopter used to transport the president, and 300,000 square feet of exhibition space.
For fun concentrated on the ground, there is Perdido Key and its two state parks inside the Gulf Islands National Seashore, the longest stretch of undeveloped beach on the Gulf Coast.
For some grub, take the kids to the Dog House Deli, which has been serving up hot dogs with a choice of 20 toppings for 40 years.
Visitpensacola.com has lots of information, including a link to Pensacola for Kids.
Europe's closer than you think: You and the kids can get the flavor of Europe without a flight of eight hours or more and without breaking the bank.
The nine islands of the Azores sit out in the Atlantic less than a five-hour flight from Boston, offering a taste of Portugal along with a dash of Flanders.
The volcanic islands have a mild climate featuring year-round temperatures of 60 to 80 degrees. Nature's big here, with crater lakes to hike to and black lava cliffs hugging the ocean. There also are fishing villages and two tea plantations, the only ones in Europe.
SATA Airlines offers packages from $999 per person double occupancy that include round-trip air from Boston and six nights' lodging. Kids under 6 stay free and pay only child's airfare (about $685), and connecting flights can be arranged from other U.S. locations.
Find information on the Azores Express packages at sata.pt, or phone 508-677-0555.
That's one small step: For families that really want to get away from it all, how about outer space?
The U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., won't really send you up in a rocket, but its Space Camp is about as close as you can get. Kids of all ages can learn what it's like to be an astronaut, but there's also Family Space Camp, where mom and dad join in for simulated mission training and operations. Everyone gets to try out astronaut simulators such as the 1/6th Gravity Chair and the Manned Maneuvering Unit.
Family Space Camp is offered in three- and four-day versions and includes meals and lodging. The three-day camp is $399 per person, $798 for two, $1,048 for three or $1,198 for four. Four-day camp is $449, $898, $1,198 or $1,398.
The center also offers a variety of aviation camps geared to fighter pilot training.
See all the details at spacecamp.com or call 800-637-7223.
Southwest rattlers and rhinos: Exploring Native American culture, seeing rattlesnakes up close and visiting a combined zoo/botanic garden/aquarium are all possible on a visit to New Mexico's largest city, Albuquerque.
The American International Rattlesnake Museum claims the world's largest collection of different species of live rattlesnakes. And, if that's not enough, there's a sizable exhibit of snake-related clothing, art, license plates and more.
At the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, exhibitions explore the art, food, culture and history of the area's native peoples. On weekends there are Native American dance performances and art demonstrations. Elsewhere in the city and nearby are many Native American sites, including Petroglyph National Monument, pueblos and reservations and the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway.
The ABQ BioPark has all manner of flora, fauna and fish. Chopper, a baby rhino, has been kept under wraps but should be making his public appearance soon. At the aquarium, the Shark Tank is home to five different breeds, and for something closer to home there's an exhibit of inhabitants of the city's river, the Rio Grande.
Explore Albuquerque at itsatrip.org.
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