Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Smugglers' Notch Resort - Fun for the Entire Family
Last week I spent 4 nights/5 days at Smugglers' Notch Resort in Vermont (4323 Vermont Route 108 South, Smugglers' Notch), which is about a 6 1/2 hour drive from NYC. I was amazed at how many activities there are at the resort, especially since I automatically think of skiing when I think of Vermont.
Smugglers' Notch is a family resort, with 8 heated outdoor pools and 4 waterslides. In addition to lounging poolside, I was so excited about zip lining, hiking and climbing the 30-foot rock wall. There were so many activities I didn't even get to, including kayaking, taking the SegRide tour and adventuring Via Ferrata, a.k.a. "The Iron Way," a combination of hiking, rock climbing and high rope (several guests I spoke with were raving about this).
I have never went away to camp, but this trip allowed me to experience camp as an adult! It also brought back memories of college - checking in and getting your welcome packet, getting settled into your room, exploring the community and meeting new people.
My brother's family went with me on the trip, and this was the first time my 10 and 11-year -old nieces were introduced to a camp environment. When I asked Ari and Bri what their favorite part of camp/trip was, they both said "swimming!"
Smugglers' Summer Fun University camp is split up by age group. Ari was in the Adventure Rangers group (ages 7-10 years), and at first chose Adventure & Games as her activity focus and then switched to Arts & Crafts the next day. Bri was in the Notch Squad (ages 11-15 years), which had 3 activity sessions per day. Since the weather was sunny and warm, the girls were able to enjoy a lot of outdoor activities, like going swimming at the pools and hiking. Ari also went miniature golfing and Bri collected some rocks and caught tadpoles at the creek.
While the girls were at camp, us adults were able to go zip lining and hiking. Camp runs from 10am - 4pm, but if you have certain family activities planned you can easily pick up your kids. Before or after lunch and in between sessions are the best times to pick them up so you don't interrupt any of their activities.
Smugglers' has five condominium communities - Highlands Hill, North Hill, Village East, Village West and West Hill. You can choose your condo community based on location (would you rather be near a particular pool/waterpark or enjoy a view of the woodlands?). You can choose from a studio up to a 5 bedroom condo, depending on how much space you need. Each condo includes a fully equipped kitchen, with cookware, dishware, glassware and utensils. Washer/dryer may be available in the unit or within the building. Cable TV/DVD is included and WiFi access is available at an additional cost.
We stayed at Trailside Highlands in Highlands Hill, in a 2 bedroom/2 bath 1,217 square feet condo which can occupy up to eight people. The Highlands Hill community is located on the east side of Smugglers', between Morse Mountain and Mount Mansfield State Forest, with great scenic woodland and mountain views. At the Trailside Highlands, we also had access to an outdoor heated swimming pool and exercise room.
It was easy to feel right at home and made me wish I was living in one of these! The master bathroom has a whirlpool and shower. The master bedroom and living room both have a gas fireplace and there is a queen sofa pull out in the living room. There is also a deck and charcoal grills outside for family fun cookouts. I can definitely see how enticing it is to own one of these condos or purchase a time share.
Trailside Highlands condo
The next morning after we arrived, we had breakfast at The Mix Cafe & Bakery, located at 55 Church Street in Jeffersonville, VT, just a few minutes away from Smugglers'. The Mix was so good! We couldn't help but eat breakfast there the next two mornings. My favorite, which I ordered two days in a row was the Crème Brûlée French Toast with drunken blueberries ($8), which tasted more like dessert than breakfast. It was the thickest French Toast I've ever had, and can easily be shared between two people.
My brother, Rich ordered the egg/cheese/pork roll (a.k.a. "taylor ham") sandwich with a side of home fries ($7). On my last day at The Mix I ordered Huevos Rancheros ($8) - black beans over medium eggs, corn tortilla, pico de gallo with a side of home fries (you can add chorizo for $3). I definitely recommend eating here!
Crème Brûlée French Toast with drunken blueberries
The Mix Cafe & Bakery
After breakfast at The Mix we headed off to ArborTrek Canopy Adventures, 1239 Edwards Road in Jefferson, just two minutes from the Smugglers' Notch Resort entrance. Rich, O'Nelly and I went on the ArborTrek Canopy Tour, which lasts from 2.5 to 3 hours and includes 8 zip lines, 2 sky bridges and 2 rappels. The zipline tour was one of the highlights of our trip. Click here to read about my whole experience.
On Monday, the girls got out of camp early to attend the Creative Corner Sock Puppets class, as I helped them glue gun their sock puppets creations. At the end of the hour and a half session, all participants introduced their sock puppets. The sock puppets session is free for Smugglers' guests and only available on Mondays at 1:30.
A trip to Vermont is not complete until you've gone on the Ben & Jerry's factory tour, at 1281 Waterbury-Stowe Road in Waterbury, VT. Tours are available every 3o minutes, and last 30 minutes. Admission is $3 for adults and kids 12 and younger are free.
At the end of the tour, we got to sample a small cup of Ben & Jerry's Late Night Snack, inspired by Jimmy Fallon. The limited edition Late Night Snack includes vanilla bean ice cream, salty caramel swirl and fudge covered potato chip clusters. I know it sounds like a strange combination but it's actually really good and has that crunch factor to it! It's now on my Ben & Jerry's favorites list!
If you are looking for somewhere to dine, I do recommend Stella Notte, 44 Desjardins Rd, Jeffersonville, right outside of the resort. The Calamari Fritti and Broiled Salmon were both fantastic!
On Tuesday morning while the kids were at camp, Rich, O'Nelly and I went on the Rum Runners' Hideaway Wike. This wike has a moderate pace, usually about 3 hours long, with 10 people in our group. We got to explore around Morse Mountain, and even though it was overcast we still got to take in views of the forest and valleys. It had rained earlier that morning so the ground was wet but walkable. You just had to be extra careful not to slip on any rocks. It was already hot and humid out, so I actually preferred the overcast weather rather than having the sun beating down on us. Marissa, our tour guide, was very knowledgeable about the area and did a great job of taking us on the wike. The Rum Runners' Hideway Wike takes place at 10am on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Stream along the Rum Runners' Hideaway Wike
After we got back from the wike we picked up the girls from camp and headed over to the Notchville Park pool. Notchville Park includes three outdoor heated swimming pools and one of Ari and Bri's favorites - the Notchville Twister 140-foot waterslide. A waterfall was nicely designed into one of the pools, and was so relaxing to just sit under. We spent a few hours at Notchville Park and it never appeared to be overcrowded or loud. It was easy to sit in the sun and read a book while the girls enjoyed swimming. There was a lifeguard on deck so it really felt like a safe, secure environment.
The Raven's Roost Open Climb at Notchville Park was challenging, but definitely fun! The 6- face climbing tower has beginner, intermediate and expert walls. I tackled the intermediate walls and made it to the top, which was quite a workout on my arms! The open climb is $7 for two climbs, (no advanced signup required) and is open from Monday & Tuesday, 1-3pm and Saturday 11am-1pm.
We were all looking forward to the Giant Swing with a 100 foot arc (also at Notchville Park) but it was closed unexpectedly the day we decided to try it out, due to mechanical difficulties. I saw guests on the Giant Swing the day before and it looked like a lot of fun! The Giant Swing is open from Monday-Wednesday at 4-7pm and Saturday at 3-7pm.
Since I didn't make it to the other pools, I have included photos of both the Mountainside and Courtside Pool.
Mountainside Water Playground
Photo credit: smuggs.com
Photo credit: smuggs.com
After we spent the day at Notchville Park, Ari and Bri participated in the U-Bead It class, which is an open studio class that runs from 5-7:30, Monday-Wednesday. Prices range from $10-$20 depending on whether you make a pair of earrings, bracelet or necklace, as well as how many pieces you make. Ari and Bri were both excited about the earrings they made, which were $10 per pair.
Before checking out, I ended my trip with the Yoga Wike, which is only available on Wednesdays from 8:30-10:30. Liz, our yoga instructor, took us up to Rum Runners' Hideaway. The morning weather was a lot better than the day before and I was able to get some great pictures.
When we got to Rum Runners' Hideaway we were able to take in the scenery of the 6-acre reservoir. It's a great place to spend the afternoon with your family, either fishing, picnicking or swimming. The Aqua Jump, a 25-foot diameter water trampoline looked like a lot of fun!
The yoga class lasted 45 minutes, which was suitable for all levels. We had about 9 people in our group so the class was spread out on the first and second level decks. We didn't even need yoga mats for the class. It was very peaceful and calm with a light breeze on the deck and the sun shining. It was a great start to the day and I definitely felt energized. Thanks Liz!
Many of the activities are available only at scheduled times, and may or may not require advanced registration. If you plan on making a trip to Smugglers', I recommend looking at the activities on smuggs.com or requesting and looking over a resort information packet ahead of time. It was very helpful for me to use my Outlook calendar to plan out my itinerary. I wish I had found time to schedule in a massage toward the end of my trip. Smugglers' offers Swedish relaxation, deep tissue, sports, aromatherapy or hot stone reflexology massages - 50 minutes, $90 or 80 minutes, $120. It's definitely a good idea to leave some open space in your itinerary in case you find activities later on that you are interested in doing. I have only touched on some of the activities Smugglers' has to offer.
If you are wondering what to pack, smuggs.com has a very helpful checklist. I felt well prepared for the trip. If you do end up needing anything or need to pickup some snacks, definitely check out the Country Store by the Welcome Center. It's open until 10pm daily. If you find yourself craving ice cream, the Ben & Jerry's shop at the resort is also open until 10pm. Since the resort is so spread out, if you don't feel like driving there are frequent shuttle services within the resort to transport you to the pools, activities or back to your condo.
A big thank you to Karen and everyone at Smugglers' Notch Resort for making this such an enjoyable, memorable trip for the entire family. I can see why everyone I met has been coming to Smugglers' for years. This trip definitely inspired me to do more rock climbing and zip lining!
If you love to ski or always wanted to try skiing or snowboarding, I can imagine that the winter season is just as much fun with different but exciting activities for the season.
Thank you to Rich, O'Nelly, Ari and Bri for joining me on the trip and helping me take pictures!
- Kim Weling