Taking a young family out on vacation can often times lead to some unpleasantness. After spending a years’ worth of savings to get a few days in at an amusement park you find that your young ones can’t ride on a majority of the rides, or that the ones who an ride are so frightened on the rides they can go on that the experience for mom and dad. I remember a trip to Walt Disney World with my then five year old daughter that was tainted by an unpleasant experience on Peter Pan’s Flight.
The key is authoring a trip that will fit in with no only your family’s finances, but one that will result in a fruitful trip for all involved.
For those in the New England region a short vacation to New Hampshire’s White Mountains/Lake Regions could be just what the doctor ordered. The following is a suggestion for a couple of days in the New Hampshire White Mountains.
150 miles North of Boston – a three hour drive depending on when you go through the New Hampshire tolls – is a fully age appropriate theme park, specifically designed with the younger family in mind with a full compliment of lodging options and shopping options for mom and dad.
ATTRACTIONS. “Story Land” is located in Glen, New Hampshire, not far from the Attitash Ski area. While Attitash offers its own summer offerings – from the Alpine Slide and water slides – Story Land is specifically designed for the little ones. It is a 50-odd year old park consisting of 35 acres of amusement for the little ones and is open from Memorial Day through Columbus Day. Admission is a fully palatable $23 with kids under three admitted free. If you enter the park after 3 PM – or 2 PM on dates the park closes at 5 PM – your admission is good for the next day as well. This allows you to get to your lodging, check in and investigate the park for a while without wasting your money. The park usually closes at 6 PM.
Kids under 48″ tall can ride almost all the attractions with a parent, and kids 36″ tall can ride all of the attractions. Our 2-year old son, just 36″, was able to ride everything without incident, including the “Polar Coaster,” a low key roller coaster. There are only 4 rides in the entire park that require 36″ in height, most rides are appropriate for infants and toddlers can ride on all but those 4 rides requiring 36″ in height. Of note, the park does a good job of specifying their definition of “infant,” “toddler,” and – quite possibly the most important definition – “responsible adult.” Infants are defined as lacking the motor skills and coordination to walk steadily on their own, Toddlers are defined as having developed adequate motor skills and coordination to walk steadily on their own.
The older part of the park is geared for the youngest kids – with live actors as the “Old Woman in the Shoe” and “Mother Goose,” and a three little bears prop house. The further into the park the visitor goes, the newer the attractions. Our little man was thrilled with the Polar Coaster and the “Bamboo Chutes,” a water flume ride. The swan boats – a familiar sort of ride to the Bostonians – were also of interest.
Concessions are fairly priced and without the “big park” prices. A slice of pizza will run $2.25, and a hamburger will cost a little less than $5. A box of popcorn will cost less than a buck – plus NH state meals tax, it’ll run $1.07.
The rides move along and even during the mid-summer with the parking lots reasonably full, there never seemed to be much of a wait, allowing even the slowest moving among us to ride most of the park’s attractions over the course of a full day. Of note, most rides specifically note riders have to be able to walk, raising the question as to whether or not the rides accommodate the disabled.
For your get-away day, a suggested attraction is the Mount Washington Auto Road. Opened in the 1850’s, it’s the nations oldest man made attraction. A nice getaway is the self guided tour – you get a “This car climbed Mt. Washington” bumper sticker and a CD that discusses the terrain. It will take somewhere between a half hour and 45 minutes to make the ascent and another half to three-quarters hour to make the descent. At the top, you can spend as much time as you would like. The car and driver will cost $20, an additional adult will be $7 and the kids are $5. There are some interesting vehicle restrictions you won’t find on the promotional material, so if you have a 1969 Lincoln Continental, you are likely out of luck. Sadly, the only Hummer allowed is the H3. These are all related to the width of the road and the sharp incline of the road.
This option is particularly good come autumn when the foliage is in full splendor.
LODGING. When you’re traveling by car, and as noted above, you will likely want a place to stay at least the night. In this area, there are plenty of Inns, Beds & Breakfasts, Motels, and hotels, with the North Conway shopping areas in quick proximity.
Depending on your family budget and family size, you can likely find appropriate lodging within your budget.
We stayed in the Swiss Chalets Village Inn, found on hotels.com. For a room with two queen beds and a pull out sofa, during the summer weeks, we found this to be the best value for our money. We stayed two nights at an average rate of about $140 nightly. The Swiss Chalets offers a heated outside pool, free wifi, full compliment of cable stations and a complimentary breakfast.
The overall ranking on line was 3 of 5 stars as ranked by those who had stayed, with the highest rating coming from family travelers – 4 of 5. For those of you staying on business, the rating was a far less favorable 1.5 of 5.
The inn keeper could not have been more gracious or helpful. The pool was exactly as advertised, clean and warm enough, but not bathing water hot. Our room was large and particularly clean – just what a traveling family could ask for. The grounds were well manicured, but the physical plant maintenance does seem like it is beginning to suffer a lack of attention. If you’re bringing Fido, rest assured, he’s welcome with a few restrictions.
The views from our balcony – a first floor room near the hotel office – were of the rolling frontage down to Route 16, and the mountains. Simply beautiful scenery to take in while the kids were sleeping.
Of particular note, the complimentary breakfast is more than just a few Danish and donuts. The draw here is a Belgian waffle maker where the kids (under a little supervision) can bake up their own waffles. Of course, you can grab a donut and a coffee to go along with your OJ. Lest you need a little more than free hotel coffee, a Dunkin Donuts is right around the corner.
The Swiss Chalets is maybe 4 miles from Story Land and makes for an easy stay. After the days activities, we found a few hours at the pool to be a perfectly relaxing option.
FOOD. Elvio’s Pizza – advertised as the “best pizza north of the Bronx” – fits the bill for an evening nosh. The fine for a large cheese pie is a little steep at $12, but it is what you would expect from an Italian pizza – a thin crust, healthy amount of cheese, and very little oil. Elvios is on Route 16 just after the North Conway center and a few miles from the hotel.
If you want a little more than the quick fix pizza, there are several family eateries locally – Friendly’s restaurant, in the heart of the Settler’s Green outlet stores; the Muddy Moose Family Restaurant and Pub; and Delaney’s Hole in the Wall all come to mind.
OF INTEREST TO THE ADULTS. Also of particular interest to the adults in the party are the Settler’s Green Outlets and the more boutique oriented shopping of Main Street, North Conway. Along Route 16, the driver will find several opportunities to spend a few dollars on local crafts – from the Tramway Artisans in West Ossipee to Kokopelli – a native arts store – in Ossipee. If you’re so inclined, you will find a native carvings shop along Route 16 as well. Some stand as tall, if not taller, than telephone poles. There is no chance you will miss this shop if you pass by.
If you’re looking for an adventure for your young family, the White Mountains Region can be the right cure for bringing your young family away.