The Perfect One-Tankation - Family Fun in Mt Washington Valley
After 19 years of promoting Mt Washington Valley, the Chamber of Commerce PR Manager spent three glorious days vacationing with her family in New Hampshire's premier playground.
Vacation in your own Backyard - Kidcations in Mt Washington Valley
By Marti Mayne
"Look Mama, the sun's coming out," my youngest daughter exclaimed! "That's a good Amen!" "I think you mean omen," I replied in agreement. Despite the forecast for a clear day, it rained all the way from our home on Cousins Island, Maine. Just beyond Fryeburg, the clouds parted, the sun came out, and we knew we were in for a great "kidcation" in the Valley.
After promoting the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce for nineteen years, this was my first vacation in the Valley. Knowing that the trend is closer-to-home vacations, I decided to experience the Valley from the eyes of a vacationer. I don't like the term "staycation" which connotes pitching a tent in the living room and calling it fun. I prefer the idea of a "one tankation" and I was happy to find that's what our three day jaunt was...with a quarter tank to spare.
Accompanied by my two daughters, Calli, nine-years-old and Kim Han, seven, we started our "kidcation" with some back to school shopping at Settlers' Green. With an Old Navy coupon in hand, and the 40 percent off sale, I was able to find three outfits for each of them for under $75.00. Another good omen, I thought. We then headed for the Chowder House, to try one of those $7.95 lobster rolls. Well worth it, I concluded.
Next, we were off to White Mountain Family Golf. Miniature golf is roughly akin to an Olympic sport in our family with fierce competition and skill involved according to my kids. The course was beautifully maintained. With some creative math and a few "re-do's", I managed to insure that the girls beat their Mama. In complete sincerity, Calli consoled me with "It's okay, Mama, you got a good score for someone your age". Next time, perhaps I should be a little more honest with the scoring!
I had conversation with a family from Clinton, NJ ahead of us on the golf course. They were so impressed with their first visit to Mt Washington Valley. "Before we came here, we didn't' know what words or ideas to associate with New Hampshire. We think "scenic beauty" is the best way to describe this region", claimed the wife-and-mother, in this family of six. The husband/father also shared that they were awed by the affordability of Mt Washington Valley. "A trip for our family to the Jersey Shore would have cost more than twice this much!" he exclaimed.
Next, we headed up to Whitney's Inn, where the kids knew a pool awaited. We got a clue on how family-friendly this resort inn was when we entered and the kids spied the thick glass candy jars filled candy. The entire inn was renovated within the last year, after Don and Joyce Bilger bought it. The Adirondack-style log furniture and mirrors framed with branches are complimented by quilts embroidered with pine cones, pine boughs and whimsical bear-moose-porcupine fabrics. I got the chance to see some of the rooms at the inn, which also offered the beautiful hand-carved pine beds and Adirondack decor. They were quiet and romantic and offered just the right amenities - private fireplaces, beautiful views, and pet-friendly too.
We all headed immediately for the pool, and made quick use of the very cool pool toys. The inn also offers a beautiful pond stocked with trout. We picked up our fishing rods and worms from the inn, and headed to the pond, but Kim Han stopped short when it came time to go over the bridge leading to the pond. "No Mama, a troll lives under there," she exclaimed. Eventually, she ran across. (Note to self: lay off the scary fairy tales!).
Breakfast was beautifully served in a dining room overlooking horses grazing and Black Mountain trails. There were seven breakfast entree choices, with lots of kid-and-adult-friendly choices. Whitney's offers the perfect oasis at the base of Black Mountain with a great restaurant, tons of activities along with horseback riding or skiing at Black, and fabulous accommodations.
For dinner, we joined the Family Bar-B-Q at the Eagle Mountain House. I admired the beautiful view into Crawford Notch as the kids had faces painted and enjoyed the lawn games. The food was fabulous - salads, ribs, chicken, burgers and enormous cookies all enjoyed on the inn's expansive verandah. The piece de resistance, however, was the s'mores kit that arrived at the end of dinner. We proceeded to the bon fire near the playground and joined a group of guests all enjoying the tradition of burning these gooey, sweet treats.
The next day, we were off to Wildcat for the free Wednesday program. When we arrived, we heard the whir of the ZipRider. Second note to self: definitely something to try the next time we come here. We joined forty other people from throughout New York and New England for the weekly guided hike offered by Tin Mountain Conservation. High winds grounded us, so we hiked to Thompson Brook Falls, learning about the trees, plants and wildlife along the way. Just yesterday, my oldest reminded me of the difference between a fir and a spruce tree. I guess she was listening, after all.
After a stop to watch the water fall at Jackson Falls, we hit the Joe Jones Tent Sale on the way into North Conway and found some great deals there. This is always a must-stop for our skiing family. From there, it was down to Weston's Farm Stand to meander through the produce and gift shop. We picked out some homemade jams, and admired the hand made gifts. The kids asked about Sherman's corn maize. "That'll be perfect for our next trip," I responded.
We stopped in to the Weather Discovery Center and pretended to be TV meteorologists. Calli spent time sailing a boat and watching how the wind worked, while Kim Han felt the world's highest winds.
From there, we moved on to the Cranmore Mountain Lodge, drawn once again by the possibility of an afternoon in the pool. Here's another place that has accommodating families figured out! As a former pre-school owner, Frederique (who to my surprise was a woman), the co-owner of the Lodge, has filled the children's living room with toys, action figures, trucks, board games and more. For adults, an adjacent living room offers leather couches, a guitar, grand piano and plenty of Babe Ruth memorabilia. You name it, and the kid/teen diversions are here including a pool, hot tub, ping pong table, stocked pond for fly fishing, tennis court, and built-in playmates (there are three children/teens in residence).
Calli and Kim Han spent the afternoon poolside, while I took advantage of the wi-fi signal. The girls made quick friends with other children at the Lodge then went head-to-head in a rousing game of Battleship in the living room. I really enjoyed learning that Cranmore Mountain Lodge is a member of NH Sustainable Lodging, and has fully embraced an active recycling and reuse program. Throughout the inn, chem-free cleaners are used, and while AC is available, windows in rooms open to allow breezes making AC unnecessary. Partnership programs with local businesses help to remind guests to shop and dine locally and travel lightly. I like that.
For dinner, we joined hundreds of other families at the Red Fox Pub. We got there just after Story Land closed, which meant a short wait. The movie room, play room and face painting room made for easy diversions while parents stood watching and commented on how they wished they had a restaurant like this at home. Food was plentiful and quick to arrive, and we all enjoyed a fabulous meal.
The next morning, breakfast at the Cranmore Mountain Lodge was hearty and delicious. The Kid's Menu offered twelve choices from pancakes to a grilled cheese or McLodge sandwich. The adult menu was equally diverse. I was impressed to see they offer a number of gluten-free options and entrees accented with organic herbs from their garden.
The final day of our "kidcation" was spent at Story Land. Although we've been to Story Land previously, this was the first time we took in the shows. The Imagination Show got everyone dancing around the room and the Royal Hanneford Circus was just fabulous. My youngest is always drawn to Cinderella's castle for a glimpse at the glass slipper, which she still insists is magic. My oldest loved playing the horse race game. I've always loved the Bamboo Shoots ride, which still makes my stomach jump during the final plunge. We got our fill of rides and slides and everyone left with smiles on their faces.
While the children fell asleep in minutes, I spent the ride home marveling at all there is to do for families in the Valley. There were so many attractions, restaurants and lodging opportunities to experience, it simply means a return "one tankation" will be necessary each season.
Marti Mayne is the PR Manager for the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce.