Red Jacket Resorts
I'm not sure if all families experience this, but in the past I have found family vacation planning a little challenging even with just two grownups and one (very vocal) child verbalizing preferences. Which is probably why we haven't done much in the way of just-us (vs. trips to see friends or family) family vacations. However, Red Jacket Resorts recently invited me to check out their properties and after mulling over the options, I decided that the universe was sending me a message to give family vacation planning another try -- that it may in fact be possible to find a destination that would satisfy all of our interests. Here's what I found at Red Jacket:
Property options. Red Jacket Resorts maintains five properties on Cape Cod and two in New Hampshire. There's a handy resort comparison chart that makes it easy to consider the options, and I decided to visit the Mountain View Resort in North Conway, NH for the following reasons: 1) I'm more familiar with the Cape experience than the NH experience so wanted to explore the lesser known for editorial purposes. 2) Though he enjoys both, Jon prefers the mountains over the beach. 3) Story Land is minutes away from the property and I've been meaning to take Laurel there for a few years now. 4) The Mountain View has an indoor water park, which would be handy if we got rained out.
Rooms. Our accommodations at the Mountain View were modest and functional (meaning, clean and well appointed but not luxuriously fancy) and perfect for a family vacation. When I booked the visit, I asked about options to accommodate two adults, one 6 year old, and a baby and what we ended up with was perfect: The main room included two beds (+ TV, desk, chairs, dresser, etc.) and then there was a small side room with another bed, nightstand, and armchair, separated by a sliding pocket door. Laurel bunked in this side room and she loved having her own space (especially the armchair for snuggling and reading books with me + her own TV...even though she only ended up watching it for about 5 minutes). In an effort to pack light, I had reserved a pack n' play through the hotel, but ended up sending it back because the two beds in the main room were plenty for me, Jon, and Violet (Jon took one bed and I co-slept with Violet in the other), plus it allowed us to regain some floor space. This setup worked great for us, and the hotel has a number of options -- including rooms with lofts, town homes, etc., to accommodate different needs.
In-room amenities. In addition to the great room setup, there were other nice points about the accommodations: our room had a small patio facing the White Mountains, the bathroom setup housed the sink outside the toilet/shower, and the room was equipped with a refrigerator.
On property features. The indoor water park ended up being a huge boon because the weekend we went was rainy and the day we arrived was downpouring. No matter -- we spent the entire afternoon/early evening at the water park. The water park was clean, there were plenty of lifeguards on staff, and there are are a nice range of activities depending on the age of your kids, whether you'd like to enjoy the gentle toddler area, shoot hoops in the water, negotiate the tidal wave pool, or coast down the water slides. The water slides were especially fun for Jon, me, and Laurel (Jon and I took turns walking baby Violet around), and it was perfect for Laurel that two of the slides accommodated two-person inner tubes. There also was an outdoor pool and a play area (including tetherball, which Laurel had a lot of fun with once the rain subsided) on the property.
In addition to the water park, I was impressed to find other activities and services available, such as paint your own pottery and a spa. Next time around I totally need to book myself a massage. Come to think of it, it would have been smart to book a massage for the day after the water park since I discovered some new muscles that day, undoubtedly from clenching Laurel with my legs on the two-person inner tube while screaming/laughing like a crazy person on the water slides.
Off property features. We could have definitely stayed longer than two nights in North Conway because there was Story Land (thankfully the rain held off to a light mist for our visit on Sunday...I'll share thoughts about Story Land in a separate post), the White Mountains (we had planned on doing a mini hike but scrapped the idea due to time, fatigue, and the fact that the trails would probably be super muddy from aforementioned downpours), shopping outlets, and a cute looking town center not too far from the Mountain View property. We did manage to squeeze in a round of mini golf on our way out (there are two fun looking courses right down the road from the hotel), which Laurel adored. There's also skiing in the winter and access to other outdoor activities.
Food. For the most part, we ate at the hotel restaurant because it was super convenient, and we really enjoyed it (the clam chowder was particularly excellent and I was thrilled to learn at breakfast that they use eggs sourced from local farms). There were plenty of options for kids and grownups and on Saturday evening there was a large dinner buffet and on Sunday a brunch buffet. (Laurel really liked being able to pick and choose off the buffet.) However, the property is also close to other restaurants, as well as a grocery store if you'd like to save some money and stock up your room fridge.
Distance. North Conway is about 3 hours north of Boston, which can be long if your child doesn't nap and/or if s/he gets carsick easily (Laurel and I both get carsick in about 2 seconds if we try to read while in motion). As it turned out, though, Laurel ended up napping a little both directions (and otherwise we played car games) and Violet slept the entire ride both ways so the trip was very doable for us.
Summary. In short, I think the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort is a great pick for a family friendly destination. The accommodations work really well for families with differing bedtimes, there are plenty of activities on and off the property to suit different interests, and I found it a perfectly easy place to navigate with a newborn -- no one batted an eyelash if Violet squawked during dinner or while I was nursing at the water park. We all had a great time and thanks to this experience, I'm excited about planning more family vacations in the future.