My family's summer travel schedule is pretty much already booked.
While I've left a lot of free time on the calendar, over the last 13 years we've accumulated a number of summer family travel traditions already slotted in and confirmed. I try to balance a bunch of family time with fun activities for each of us to enjoy separately.
Here are the Ehm Family Adventures that have become meaningful family traditions for us over the ten weeks of summer, in the hopes that it may inspire you to do the same.
This is the tenth year we will be kicking off our summer vacation at Clevelands House Family Resort. A decade of making memories! The first time we arrived at this Muskoka gem, my husband and I were shell-shocked and sleep-deprived parents with a three-year-old tantruming toddler and a six-month-old baby girl. The fact that they had the "Kids Club" for the toddler and a nursery for my baby allowed me and my husband to catch a few hours of downtime together (aka naps) while the kids were babysat by university-aged students. Their dining hall was casual. The food was yummy and kid-friendly. The scenery was breathtaking, and there were always a ton of activities to choose from. Over the years it's the place my kids learned to water ski, swim, and venture out on their own with a room key in their pocket and a whole lot of freedom.
But it was the bonding with other families with kids of a similar age that really connected with me and my husband. As has become tradition, each year at the same week at the end of June, we all still arrive "en famille" and marvel at how each other's kids have shot up like weeds. Within hours, we're all by the pool with beverages catching up on the year that has sped by while the kids are running wild around the Clevelands House property, almost like their second home. Clevelands House is definitely my family's Happy Place. A week flies by and there are often tears when we pack our bags and head to our next summer adventure.
Every year there are small changes to the property and dining room. Last year they opened a delicious bakery called Abby's Bake House on the property in an old Church, and a yoga studio beside the lake. A little bird told me the big news this year is that Clevelands House gift mugs will be waiting for all guests as well as coffee machines in each room! Woot!
Still on our bucket list...to stay in one of their family cottages. And take one of the Muskoka boat cruises. I can't believe I still haven't done that yet.
Actually, I love it at Clevelands House so much, I started a YMC weekend at Cleves for staff and friends of YMC to bring their families and hang out for a long weekend. You're welcome to join us between July 10 - 13th.
If you're looking for a great place for family bonding and relaxation, you should definitely book some time at Clevelands House this summer.
Described as "the Grande Dame of Folk Festivals," Mariposa Folk Festival is three day mini-Woodstock music love-in July 4th to the 6th. Launched in 1961, Mariposa is a great family-friendly weekend of music, crafts, activities, and food tucked away in Tudhope Park in Orillia, Ontario. My sister started going years ago and finally convinced me to bring the family. We had an amazing time! Sitting on lawn chairs sheltered from the sun under big old trees, or under the night time stars, we've seen non-stop musical acts as diverse as Jann Arden and Murray Mclauglin, spoken words artists like Robert Priest and Shane Koyzen, and a ton of lesser known bluegrass, blues, gospel, and folk acts. Last year my family lived in an RV on the Mariposa grounds — which was quite the experience.
You should come! An entire area of the park is dedicated to old-fashioned activities for the kids, and another area is filled with yummy food vendors. This year I'm excited to see Rosanne Cash and Hydra (Feist's supergroup), and also to laze around while the kids frolic around the festival like it was the '60s.
I grew up in Hudson, Quebec surrounded by horses and my dad still lives in the area. This means he doesn't get to see my kids enough. To solve this problem, we started sending my son to stay with his grandfather on his horse farm for a week of good, old-fashioned manual labour. Nothing like a little shit shoveling to help a grandson and Zaidie bond, right? A highlight of the trip for my son is flying on an airplane BY HIMSELF!! The highlight for my dad is being able to spend a week one-on-one getting to really know his his grandson. Then the rest of the family drives to pick up Josh and enjoy a long weekend at my dad's.
As you know, I love my kids. But I also love my husband and basically spend next to no alone time with him. So for the past two summers we started a new tradition in which we strategically send our kids to the camps of their choice for two weeks at the same time so mummy and daddy can play kid-free. If you have the disposable income to do this, but choose not to, I humbly suggest you're crazy. As my friend Elissa Freeman writes, Sleepover Camp Saves Parents.
A couple of years ago my hubby and I spent five romance drenched days in Portland, Oregon which was surprisingly awesome! Last year, we voted to be tourists in our own town and just chill. This year, we haven't decided where we're going. But we're itching to go somewhere new!
When the kids come home from camp there are loads of laundry to be done. But once the clothes are cleaned and we get reacquainted with our sun-kissed, untamed children, we like to end the summer with a family adventure with an educational bent. A couple of years ago we took the 11-day Castles and Kilts UK bus tour with Trafalgar Tours. We all had the opportunity to see amazing historic sights and absorb grand tales about famous historical events in the process. This year, we are heading to Canada's East Coast to introduce our kids to this part of our beautiful country, and in the process, bring some of Canada's history to life. I haven't finalized the itinerary yet, but the kids are already looking at Google Maps to get acquainted with our destination.
So there you have it — five of our Top Family Summer Traditions that have evolved over the years. Spending time as a family, as a couple, and as carefree kids are all priorities each summer. With careful planning, we can all try to create memory-rich experiences this summer.