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Isle of PalmsIsle of Palms, South Carolina (iop.net)

About 20 minutes from historic Charleston, Isle of Palms is a 7-milelong, 1-mile-wide island that’s managed to keep high-rise condos from cropping up on its shores, a practice that can stress local ecosystems. The island’s beaches are the first in the state to get the Blue Wave Designation from the Clean Beaches Council, an organization that recognizes environmentally well-managed beaches.

What to do

With Barrier Island Eco Tours, your crew can cruise the salt marshes at a nearby undeveloped barrier reef island. Naturalists guide the tours, pointing out bottlenose dolphins, great blue herons, and pelicans along the way (nature-tours.com). Isle of Palms is a nesting area for loggerhead sea turtles, a threatened species, that lay eggs on the beaches from May through August. Nests are marked with orange signs, and visitors can—from a safe distance away—see the areas where up to 150 eggs lie incubating. Get a firsthand look at the turtles at the South Carolina Aquarium, a nonprofit dedicated to animal conservation (scaquarium.org).

Where to stay

Wild Dunes Resort participates in dozens of environmental efforts, such as using only eco-friendly cleaning products and taking part in the Global Soap Project, which recycles soap from U.S. hotels to send to African refugee camps. Kids can participate in activities like fi shing expeditions and treasure hunts (wilddunes.com).

Where to eat

Huck’s Lowcountry Table is SC Certifi ed, meaning at least 25 percent of the ingredients are produced in South Carolina. The restaurant recycles as much as possible, including donating its fryer oil to make biodiesel fuel. Visitors can dine on homemade meals with a southern flare, such as cheesy grits and chocolate pecan pie served with cinnamon honey ice cream.

Indianapolis, IndianaIndianapolis, Indiana (visitindy.com)

A city known for its racing cars might be the last place you’d think to look for an eco-friendly family trip, but be prepared to go green with surprise. The city has turned 250 acres of unsightly urban land into lush, green spaces full of trails, trees, and waterways. Visitors can explore by foot, bike, paddleboat, kayak, or even by gondola.

What to do

It makes sense that Indianapolis has been a center of the urban farming movement—after all, as the third largest city in the Midwest, it’s surrounded by rich soil and farmland. Tour Traders Point Creamery, the first 100 percent organic grass-fed dairy farm and creamery in the country. Try your hand at milking, visit with the 200 brown Swiss cows, and meet Gwendolyn and Melinda, the rowdy resident Berkshire pigs. Don’t miss the samples of the creamery’s products, made with milk that’s as local as it gets (tpforganics.com). Next up, head six miles north of the city to Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, a 200-acre oasis where history comes alive. The park offers fi ve themed areas your kids will love exploring, including a pioneer village and Victorian farm; you can also take a thrilling (but safe!) ride in a tethered helium balloon (connerprairie.org).

Where to stay

The just-opened JW Marriott Indianapolis features the latest in green technology: The guest rooms have energy management systems, meaning the lights and thermostats are automatically
adjusted when the rooms are empty; more than 5,000 LED lights are in use; the roof is made of a special material that refl ects sunlight; and all toilets and showerheads are low-fl ow (jwindy.com).

Where to eat

Café Patachou has been a center for environmentally conscious eaters for over 20 years, with five locations throughout Indianapolis. Open for breakfast and lunch, the café serves up local produce, free-range Indiana chicken, and gluten-free options. The kids’ menu features Green Eggs and Ham—the local, farm-fresh eggs are green with herbs, not artificial food coloring (cafepatachou.com).

Boise, IdahoBoise, Idaho (boise.org)

For vacationers looking for the best of the country within city limits, Boise offers an urban feel in an outdoor setting. Centered around the Boise River, the city gives families the chance to rent rafts and tubes for hours of fun floating down the river. On land, discover the Greenbelt, a 22.5-mile tree-lined path created for biking and walking, and the Ridge to Rivers trail system, which features over 130 miles of paths for hikers of all levels.

What to do

Kids can get up close and personal with nature during a stroll along the Story Trail. Every month, a nature-themed children’s book is divided up and posted on 10 child-height reading platforms along the trail, inviting visitors to wander the quarter-mile path to read along and look for native plants and animals (bee.cityofboise.org). If you’ve ever wondered what fish do when they think no one’s looking, find answers at the Morrison Knudsen Nature Center via underwater viewing windows along the Boise River. Take a guided tour for help spotting all the local critters (fishandgame.idaho.gov, click on “Education,” then “MK Nature Center”).

Where to stay

Located in downtown Boise, Hotel 43 is all about recycling: Used soap is donated to Clean the World, a nonprofit that sends hygiene products to impoverished countries; towels go to Idaho Youth Ranch, an organization for troubled children; and dishes are sent to Life’s Kitchen, a nonprofit that teaches cooking to kids (hotel43.com).

Where to eat

Shangri-La Tea House is a family owned and operated café that lures you in with small-farm organic teas—then keeps you there with tasty vegetarian fare. Try this kid-pleaser: Power
Pudding, a sweet blend of organic cacao, avocado, coconut butter, goji berries, and dates (shangri-la-tea.com).

San Luis Obispo, CaliforniaSan Luis Obispo, California (visitslo.com)

There’s a reason this city has been nicknamed the Happiest Town in America: San Luis Obispo is all about open spaces, with more than 6,500 acres of protected land for endorphin-boosting hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities. Located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, San Luis Obispo is easy to get to and get around in, no car necessary (or wanted!); the town has a car-free initiative, encouraging visitors to leave their vehicles at home and explore the city by train, bike, or foot.

What to do

The coast of San Luis Obispo county is home to more than 15,000 endangered elephant seals. Tourists can check out the giant seals on a 6.5-mile-long wooden walkway: Watch the seals sun
themselves, practice sparring, or even give birth! Along the path are volunteers who are schooled in the ways of elephant seals and always happy to share their knowledge (elephantseal.org).
Head inland to one of the many nearby state parks where kids can become Junior Rangers. Before your trip, go online and print out a Junior Ranger Adventure Guide. During your visit, complete the fun activities in the guide (like drawing interesting-looking insects). Bring the completed guide to the park office for an official California State Parks Junior Ranger certificate (parks.ca.gov).

Where to stay

Just as cute as its name, the Apple Farm Inn is a cozy hotel committed to environmental conservation: Each room has its own recycling bin, all the bulbs are CFLs, and the toilets are
low-flow. And the coolest green feature? The 14-foot water mill that powers up the hotel’s own ice cream maker (applefarm.com).

Where to eat

Stop in to Linnaea’s Café for locally grown fare, gluten-free desserts, and fair-trade cocoa. The café is a showplace and gathering spot for local artists with frequent musical performances and art shows. Fun fact: The back patio was built during a “brick party,” when community members brought bricks to donate (linnaeas.com).

Albuquerque, New MexicoAlbuquerque, New Mexico (cabq.gov)

With 310 mild, sunny days a year, having good weather on a trip to Albuquerque isn’t something you’ll need to worry about. Having nothing to do is also never a concern: The city has 19 museums on a range of topics, from hot air balloons to snakes. One highlight: the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, where visitors can see traditional, interactive Native American dances every Saturday (indianpueblo.org).

What to do

Your family will be charmed by the curious fluff balls desperately trying to meet you during a private tour of the working alpaca ranch, the Albuquerque Alpacas ranch (albuquerquealpacas.com). For more animal fun, head 20 minutes east of Albuquerque to the Wildlife West Nature Park, a refuge for the area’s orphaned and rescued animals. Unable to survive on their own, the animals get to frolic on protected land containing native vegetation, and up to 60 percent of the animal habitats are made of recycled materials. Be sure to say hello to the park’s 7-year-old black bear, Koshari, whose name is a Native American word for “clown,” a result of attention-getting antics like standing on his head (wildlifewest.org).

Where to stay

The Hilton Albuquerque underwent a “greenovation” in 2008, reducing their water and electrical usage by 15 percent and lowering the amount of waste sent to landfills by 20 percent. The hotel’s goal for 2011? Working with local shelters to recycle unused rolls of toilet paper and soap (hiltonalbuquerque.com).

Where to eat

No matter where you stay, you likely won’t be far from a Flying Star Café, a chain of colorful diners with seven locations in Albuquerque. The restaurants show a dedication to the environment by buying local, serving organic and vegan options, and even using delivery trucks powered by biodiesel fuel. Try the Southwest Bennie (certified humane, organic eggs on a homemade English muffin with a cheese chili sauce), or the Little Buddha Bowl with veggies, brown rice, organic tofu, and a lemongrass-ginger sauce (flyingstarcafe.com).

ALL-IN-ONE TRIPS

If your family’s vacationing style tends more toward resorts that offer lodging, dining, and entertainment in one spot, good news: Eco options abound!

Beaches Resorts, Turks and Caicos Islands and Jamaica

With four Caribbean locations, not only do Beaches Resorts offer the ultimate in family-friendly beach escapes, they lead the way in sustainable
practices, as well. Their parent company Sandals Resorts International is partnered with EarthCheck, the largest certifier of sustainable travel and tourism operators. Each of the Beaches Resorts’
locations offers a wide array of water and land sports, water parks, and exclusive camps for kids—including programs for tweens and teens—with a packed schedule of super-fun, age-appropriate games and activities (beaches.com).

Woodloch Resort, Hawley, Pennsylvania

Located in the picturesque Pocono Mountains Lake Region of Northeast Pennsylvania, Woodloch Resort is a haven for outdoor family adventure. Visitors can enjoy kayaking, sailing, and boating on the resort’s own lake, or venture out to the nearby Delaware or Lackawaxen Rivers. Woodloch is part of the Green Hotels Association, a group of environmentally friendly properties working to institute programs that save water and energy, and reduce solid waste. One neat eco feature? The resort has encouraged bats to take up residence on the property as a natural way to control insects (woodloch.com).

Great Wolf Resorts

Each of Great Wolf Resorts’ 11 locations in the U.S. is certified by Green Seal, a nonprofit that sets standards on eco practices like waste minimization, energy conservation, and environmentally sensitive purchasing. The resorts’ Canadian location also earns high green marks from the Audubon Green Leaf Eco-Rating Program, a project founded in Canada
to improve the environmental practices of the hospitality industry. Visitors of all ages love Great Wolf Resorts’ enormous indoor water parks, which are reserved for resort guests only, the huge arcades, and spas for both children and adults (greatwolf.com).

Strathcona Park Lodge & Outdoor Education Centre, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

This wilderness lodge emphasizes stewardship and offers no shortage of fun: Thirty on-staff instructors are ready to tailor programs for your family in areas like canoeing, kayaking, sailing, rock climbing, and hiking. And though they’ve been using alternate energy for more than 40 years, one of the lodge’s most recent green initiatives includes the addition of a solar hot water system, which reduces the use of propane. The lodge also works with local farmers and suppliers to serve healthy, sustainable fare (strathcona.bc.ca).

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