a peek inside the fishbowl

14 Aug, 2011

A happy family vacation at Smugglers’ Notch, part one

Posted by andrea tomkins in: travel talk

We’re back from a fantastic holiday that I’ve been itching to tell you about.

Awhile back I received an email inviting my family and I to Smugglers’ Notch near Stowe in Vermont. We stayed in Stowe for a couple days three years ago during our big Maritime road trip, so I was glad to have the opportunity to go back.

After a bit of back and forth we decided on an itinerary that would give us four nights and five days to spend any way we wanted, courtesy of the kind folks at Smugglers’ Notch. (Thank you Smuggs!)

We’ve been vacationing as a family for some time now so we have a pretty good idea of what works for us. Our perfect holiday is a fine balance of rest and recreation, new discoveries and adventures, good food and lots of laughter. Throw in some nice accommodations in a scenic part of the country and we’ve got ourselves a great getaway.

I think we got that at Smuggs. And then some.

Vermont is surprisingly close to Ottawa, and parts of it remind me a lot of what life is like here in Ottawa. Vermont is outdoorsy and casual, with a heavy emphasis on the recreational side of things and a good helping of small town feel. Vermont is trees and skis. It’s farm and field and forest. It’s got sky. Suffice it to say I felt right at home there.

Smugglers’ Notch itself was originally a ski resort – just for winter fun – but it’s easy to see why it’s become such a popular summer destination as well. It’s in a pretty good spot; nestled in a little mountain range which is a totally reasonable drive (only about 5 hours) from Ottawa, which is about the same as the drive to Toronto that we undertake all the time.

The girls have become fantastic little passengers. They are so great to travel with. They’re happy to play in the back seat together, draw and read comic books, or just stare out the window at the scenery that unfolds as we go. There’s a lot to look at. When we got closer to our destination we saw bald eagles and pretty farms, lakes and sailboats, clouds that looked like gorillas … and so much more. (Sidebar: What I’m saying here is that it’s DOABLE. Don’t sell your kids short and assume they can’t make a trip like this.)

On the way there we took a ferry across Lake Champlain (FYI we crossed the border at Prescott):

Ferry across Lake Champlain

… and on the way home we crossed near Montreal (which was not as successful because we hit rush hour traffic).

This was our first visit to what can be called a traditional American family resort. Don’t laugh, but while we were there I thought a lot about the movie Dirty Dancing and the summer resort that family visited. (Baby took dance lessons! And got involved with an older man that her dad didn’t approve of!) All kidding aside, Smuggs is the kind of place where the whole family can come to stay – mom, dad, kids of all ages and even grandma and grandpa – and there are activities and programs that appeal to absolutely everyone. This is the recipe for a really great summer family vacation.

There are different activities happening at different times of the day. You can join an early morning yoga or swim class or hike or tennis lesson… or not. You can participate in as many or as few activities as you like and build your own perfect holiday. I can’t begin to describe what’s available (you can look at a PDF of the weekly schedule to get a better idea), but I will say there is a lot to choose from, for all ages and all interests.

And if you’re NOT the kind of person who’s keen to get a massage, head to the driving range or participate in a cooking or art lesson, you can just lie by the pool or go for a solitary hike or canoe. I thought that was pretty cool.

We arrived on Monday afternoon, checked in, and found our home for the week. There were a bunch that looked similar (we almost walked into the wrong place at one point):

Our accommodations at Smuggs

This is a bit of what it looked like on the inside, looking from the kitchen into the dining/living room:

Our accommodations at Smugg's

It was a two bedroom, two bathroom condo with a full kitchen that was located in a “neighborhood” called Trailside Highlands (you can see it on a map here).

A few near our place at Smugg's

It fit our needs perfectly. Although it was farther from the action, it was quiet and beautiful. As an added bonus we had access to a pool that was reserved for residents of Trailside, which was very nice.

Our own little pool

Our condo was spacious and comfortable. I really appreciated having a full kitchen because it gave us the option to eat in. It was fully stocked with everything we needed to cook up a meal – including things like a blender, toaster oven and slow cooker (!). But we weren’t planning on making any dinners here, just breakfasts.

We could have picked up some staples at the Country Store on site, but we decided to take Mountain Road (Hwy 108) to Stowe to pick up some fresh fruit, milk, cereal, coffee, juice, fruit, cheese, and wine. That was quite the trip. I’d forgotten what a white-knuckle drive it was.

This sign was a bit of an understatement.

On the road to Stowe

Check out this video we took of the road from Smugglers’ Notch to Stowe (but please note that Mark sped it up a bit … we were actually driving through this part a lot slower than it appears!)

This road is actually closed in the winter because it’s devilishly twisty and turny. Some of those corners – blind hairpin turns around massive boulders – had me practically hiding my eyes. I was thankful that I wasn’t the one doing the driving.

Coming up next: what we saw, what we did, what we ate, and who we met at Smugglers’ Notch.


3 Responses to "A happy family vacation at Smugglers’ Notch, part one"

1 | Bob LeDrew

August 14th, 2011 at 11:45 am

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That is a great road. But I have some roads in my catalogue (not on this continent, sadly) that would straighten your hair, curl it, and then make it fall out. This video is of a motorcycle race on one of them. But it’s equally freaky in a car. Trust me. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDD2j9_MQb8

2 | andrea

August 14th, 2011 at 12:58 pm

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So Bob, was that road lined with body bags or soft things the drivers can crash into?

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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