Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

exterior trees surround a cabin with sun breaking through
Misty Cook / Courtesy of Paws Up

For years now, extended families have awaited the chance to converge on popular destinations, eager to gather for the first time following post-pandemic shutdowns and tightened travel to establish long-awaited, face-to-face connections or first-time acquaintances of new significant others, infants, or four-legged pals.

With federal travel restrictions and mask mandates steadily fading, the potential for such long-awaited reunions appears to be heading toward reality.

Of course, absence, as they say, makes the heart grow fonder, to the point that we may even forget familial gripes and pettiness ingrained in the DNA of each of us. If there is one universal truth among families everywhere, it’s that both time and personal space are critical elements to consider when planning a family rendezvous.

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“Seventy-two hours is the real sweet spot to preserving sanity and joy,” I remember my former grad school professor quipping. Anything beyond that, he said, and tempers and annoyances begin to flair. Civility unravels.

He wasn’t wrong. It’s a dynamic we’ve all experienced and learned the hard way. Week-long stays can, in select circumstances, feel more like confinement when the annoying uncle unleashes an onslaught of jokes that practically elicit lockjaw from the intensity of cringe. Then there’s the cousin whose hygienic standards are overwhelmingly sub-par. And, lest we forget the grandmother who incessantly acts as judge, jury, and executioner.

In the spirit of preserving grace, humility, and our mental faculties, we compiled a short list of outdoor-centric destinations, ranging from luxury to off-grid, that afford guests both the chance to reconnect and distance from the aforementioned trivial mix-ups capable of souring what should be a delightful experience.

Wondernut Farm—Near Yosemite National Park

If you and your group want to get completely off the grid, the charming Wondernut Farm has a little bit of everything to offer. Want to mingle with goats and sheep? Pick vegetables from a massive farmstead garden? Stroll through a 90-tree orchard? You can do it all here while enjoying excellent access to top-notch hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting. Multiple rustic accommodations offer a semi-primitive—composting toilet, shared showers—yet charming base camp for any and all adventures. Prices start at $125 per nightLearn more here.

OARS—International Locations

Looking for more of a rugged adventure physically on the water? Look no further than a single- or multi-day whitewater trip with OARS. Founded in 1969, the California-based company operates rafting trips in iconic destinations all over the world while fostering a sense of community and environmental stewardship. Camping gear, meals, and more can all be booked as part of each adventure. If your group is looking to get off the beaten path, there aren’t many better places to start than here. Single-day trips start as low as $119 per person. Learn more here.

BaseCamp 37°—Kanab, Utah

Five luxury tents grace this property just eight miles from the southern Utah hub of Kanab. Each glamping tent comes equipped with a king-size bed, a futon, private front porch, and electricity. The property, meanwhile, features two shared washrooms with flush toilets, three kitchens (two indoor, one outdoor), grills, TVs, and a fire pit ready to toast up s’mores offered by the property. Not a bad way to enjoy a group get-together. Plus, the surrounding region offers practically infinite outdoor recreation. Prices start at $210 per night. Learn more here.

Alderbrook Resort & Spa—Union, Washington

Nestled on 88 acres in the Hood Canal fjord of Washington’s Puget Sound is this newly renovated resort and spa with an extensive history as a gathering destination. First opened in 1913, Alderbrook recently completed a remodel of its restaurant, spa, common areas, lobby, and event spaces, while adding a new culinary destination aptly called The Drinkery. With 77 rooms and 16 cottages that range up to 1,240 square feet of living space, there is optimal opportunity for all manner of reunions. The canal and Olympic mountains, along with sights of eagles and the intoxicating aroma of regional cedar, captures the essence of the Pacific Northwest. Prices start at $219 per night. Learn more here.

Brasada Ranch—Bend, Oregon

The Bend area is a playground for all things outdoor. Drive an hour in one direction and enjoy an ocean of evergreens, rivers, and waterfalls that engage every sense. Venture the same distance in the other direction and immerse in a high desert landscape of world-class climbing, mountain biking, and hiking. Few places make a better base of operations for such activities than Bend’s Brasada Ranch, a 2,000-acre parcel that offers a plethora of adventures on its own. Enjoy horseback riding, a leisurely day on an 18-hole golf course, or, if that grandmother with antiquated views is sending your blood pressure into hypertensive territory, simply relax and rejuvenate at the onsite spa. Accommodations range from 600 to 2,664 square feet, so there’s no shortage of privacy when needed. Prices booked well in advance start at $399 per night. Learn more here.

Conrad Punta De Mita—Nayarit, Mexico

The Hilton-owned, 324-key property sits nestled in a picturesque oceanfront inlet radiating with the soothing soundtrack of the Pacific. Outward facing abodes ensure the privacy of guests while rendering a panoramic view of exceptional sunsets and pristine beaches. Patrons can venture out and explore the nearby surf town of Sayulita or lounge in a hot tub on a private deck of one of the resort’s expansive suites. No matter the room type, views remain abundant. If pampered living and savory dishes are your cup of tea, then this is a destination to feature prominently on your upcoming travel itinerary. Prices start at $524 per night. Learn more here.

L’Auberge Del Mar—Del Mar, California

It’s hard to go wrong in sunny Southern California, and it’s especially difficult while staying at the L’Auberge hotel in a prototypical beach town just north of San Diego. Whether group adventure or time alone is your thing, both the 121-room hotel and the region itself offer no shortage of options. Rent a spacious cabana and grab drinks poolside, zoom around on a complimentary Zybra Beach Cruiser, or just explore the numerous attractions afforded in downtown San Diego and nearby beach towns like Encinitas and Carlsbad. Just know that your trip will be a failure—not really, but kind of—if you leave without dominating a California burrito. Prices start at $700 per night. Learn more here.

Paws Up Resort — Greenough, Montana

Comprising 28 luxury cabins, which range in size up to 3,250 square feet, and 36 glamping tent sites across 37,000 pristine acres of mountains, rivers, and meadows, Paws Up is “room to breathe” defined. Recreational activities include horseback riding, four-wheeling, hot air balloon rides, fly fishing, and more. The addition of the Green O, meanwhile, an adults-only sub-section of 12 secluded accommodations that blends rustic charm with modern touches, makes Paws Up the ideal destination for those seeking wilderness immersion for the whole family. Prices start at $1,640 per night. Learn more here.

Bonus: Kevin Costner’s Colorado Ranch

No, seriously. Guests can book Costner’s sprawling Dunbar Ranch nestled deep in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Aptly named for Costner’s character Lt. John Dunbar in his 1990 Oscar-winning film Dances With Wolves, the 160-acre property, which sits just 10 minutes from downtown Aspen, comes with three separate houses that can accommodate up to 34 people. Depending on the season, guests can enjoy dog sledding, tubing, a private ice rink, horseback riding, fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding, archery, a private baseball field—for Field of Dreams fans—and more. And it can all be yours for $36,000 a night. This might sound like monetary masochism for those of us firmly entrenched on the outside of the seven-figure-and-above salary club, but if 33 of your closest friends pitch in, it takes some of the sting away, especially with costs comparable to luxury stays in the neighboring ski haven of Aspen. Learn more here.

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