a peek inside the fishbowl

17 Aug, 2011

Smugglers’ Notch and some of the great stuff we did there

Posted by andrea tomkins in: travel talk

This is a continuation of this post.

On our first evening we poked around a bit of the park and checked out the scene.

Notchville Park is a really neat three-tiered swim area. I hesitate to use the word “pool,” because “pool” is just too ordinary a word for what you get here. Here’s a daytime view, but these next shots were taken after they’d closed for the day.

The kids really got a kick of the lily pads (pictured below). But here’s the question, is it better to jump from pad to pad like a frog? Or cling to the ropes above?

I won’t give away the answer. You have to try it and find out.

View of Notchville Park after closing

Does it add to the fun factor or what? Here’s another view.

View of Notchville Park after closing

(Free tip: check the hours of the pool before you set out. They have different hours! We showed up at ten a.m. thinking Notchville would be open, but it wasn’t. Boo.)

We walked down to the village for dinner, which on our first night was at the Hearth & Candle. We had an amazing dinner. Much of the menu is locally sourced and seasonal, which really appealed to me. Sarah ordered a steak (!) with green beans (!!) and fries off the teen menu. I thought it was really cool there was a teen menu, and one that offered something other than hot dogs and chicken fingers. That being said, Emma had a hamburger. :) I had a steak frites salad with heirloom tomatoes and Mark had a meal that included a bit too much meat for my liking (ribs AND pulled pork) and we walked, er, waddled back to our home, stuffed to the gills. I brought some salad home because it was too much food for me (this happened every time we ate somewhere. The portions were enormous.).

There are a few other restaurants on site at Smugg’s including Riga-Bello’s (which is pizza and pasta) and one named Morse Mountain Grille. (You can get the whole low down on dining options here.) We had a lunch and dinner at Morse, and it was good fare. I had a killer burger and a salad one night and Emma had some fantastic fish and chips which came with 3 or 4 potatoes worth of fries on her plate. I worried about this quite a bit, not just in terms of Emma’s fried food intake but on a larger scale it made me wonder. Does everyone eat like this? Does everyone feel compelled to clear their plate (um, like me)? And what’s Smuggs responsibility here? Would their customers feel ripped off if there was only one potato worth of fries on their plate? Should they do the “right” thing and serve less? But then again, why should Smuggs lead the charge with a mini food revolution of their own? Gah. Anyway, I am getting off track. Let’s just say that the food we ate was good quality food and I was happy to let the girls eat what they wanted (within reason) and bring the rest home to eat the next day.

It turned out that on Tuesday we needed all the extra calories we could get. The four of us were booked for a zip-lining canopy tour. (Again, the cost of this was covered by Smugglers’ Notch.) Smugg’s is partnered with a company called ArborTrek. The site is less than a five-minute drive from the resort (they’re officially on site, but getting there requires you to drive down the road a bit). I totally totally recommend doing the zipline if you’re able. It was a heck of a lot of fun, for everyone.

Participants must weigh between 70 and 250 lbs. You need to be mobile and reasonably healthy (no neck, heart, or breathing issues) and wear closed-toe shoes. (They have turned people away if they weren’t wearing proper shoes).

Sarah squeaked by the weight minimum. I wondered how that would bode for her (would her lighter weight make her more or less likely to hit a tree?) but there were no problems. I can safely say that it’s not overly strenuous. I’m no athlete and I had no problems whatsoever.

I have to confess that I was a little worried going into it. I’ve been ziplining before (near Ottawa) and it was totally different experience. There was a lot more climbing involved and we all had to affix our own harnesses to the cables in preparation for each zip. This was different. I was relieved to see that at ArborTrek the tours are guided and limited to small groups. There were 8 of us (two families of four) plus two expert guides. We were all properly outfitted with helmets, harnesses, and leather gloves.

Zipping was a non-issue. It was the rappelling that freaked me out. Here I am, clinging for my dear life:

Me. Dangling. On a rope.

Both girls were great. Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger… right? Sarah was gung ho and leapt into every situation with both feet, LITERALLY. I was particularly proud of Emma, who has a fear of heights but kept up without issue. (A minor correction from Emma here: “I’m not afraid of HEIGHTS mum. I’m afraid of FALLING.” Alrighty then!)

Zip line canopy tour! - smaller

It was, in a word, amazing. If you go to Smugg’s, you MUST DO THIS.

There’s a camp for kids at Smugg’s too, in case you’re the kind of family who wants to go their separate ways. There are a LOT of children’s programs, and they’re available for a very wide range of ages.

The girls tried the camp out for a day. They seemed to like it well enough, but the week they were there, the camp didn’t seem to have the numbers to make it work for our family. Sarah was the oldest in her group, and I know she would have preferred to be with more girls her own page. Emma had fun, but felt left out. Apparently she spent the whole day by herself within her camp groups. Was it her, or the councillors who were unable to integrate her into the group? I’m not sure, but I felt sad for her afterwards.

What I did like about the older kid’s camp was the fact that they have autonomy over the things they do. Emma chose a swimming session, screenprinting (in which she apparently watched someone do screen printing instead of doing it herself… which I found a little odd) and a session of mini-putt and driving range practice (which she enjoyed most of all). Sarah chose a “minor” of arts and crafts (which was apropos) and came back with a lot of gimp (a.k.a plastic lacing tied in patterned knots which make bracelets).

While the girls were at camp Mark and I took a Segway tour. It was really fun, and much more exciting than I had anticipated. Mark took to it right away. I had a bit more difficulty getting used to it (is it because Mark spends more time on the Xbox, hmmm) but within a short time I got the hang of it. Kinda.

There were only four of us plus one friendly young instructor. We had a ten-minute lesson at the beginning and then went for a tour around the resort. Frankly, I’m amazed they trusted me with this thing.

Here I am, trying not to kill myself for a great photo op:

Smooching on a Segway is a lot harder than it looks

What else can I tell you?

We made a point of trying out all the different pools and slides. The pools and slides weren’t too busy and the staff were friendly and attentive at each place (especially at Notchville, where the kids were a little younger). I think the girls like the Mountainside the best, home to the 300-foot long and 30-foot tall Giant Rapid River Ride. Here’s a view.

We were there after dinner and practically had the place to ourselves:

Mountainside pool

Mountainside pool

Mountainside pool

You know, as I’m writing this all down it’s really hitting me. There is a TON of stuff for families to do at Smugg’s.

We also paid a couple visits to the indoor FunZone Family Entertainment and Recreation Center. Sidebar: I was talking to one of the Arbortrek guys who told me he lets his kids run amok in there after dinner in order to guarantee a good night’s sleep. And I can see why. It’s a neat little place where the kids can totally let off steam. We were lucky we happened to be wearing shoes with socks (no shoes allowed, and you can’t run around barefoot) when we decided to pay a visit. The girls had a great time. Here’s a wide view.

I wasn’t crazy about the ticket-winning games. (You know the ones I mean? You feed them your coins so you can hopefully win tickets in order to exchange a couple hundred of them for cheapie dollar store toys?) We tried to steer the girls towards more actively fun things, like the giant padded obstacle course and the inflatable slides. They didn’t mind:

Emma taking a slider

Emma bouncing down

Sarah bouncing down

Personally, I liked the ping pong tables and the table-top shuffleboard. :)

I think one of the most memorable times we had was with the llamas. We signed up for something called the “llama trek,” a scenic three-hour walk with the llamas that included a picnic lunch and lots of time in the company of these gentle, charming creatures.

The llama that was assigned to us was named DJ. She was a sweetheart, a real looker too, with one blue eye and one brown eye:

DJ the llama

In fact, it was love at first sight for some of us:

Sarah and DJ

We had a really nice – and surprisingly long – along a pretty trail to a reservoir. We walked, and talked, and learned a lot of llama lore. You can see what that looked like here.

There were children as young as 3-years old with us on our walk. To be honest I’m not certain I’d recommend it for kids this young because they seemed pretty pooped at the end (the kids, not the llamas). But then again, maybe this is a good thing? I think every kid is different and parents probably know what’s best.

ANYWAY. Phew. I have one more post about Smugg’s to come! A bit about the Vermont Fair and Rum Runner’s Hideaway, the town of Stowe, and the drive home…

2 Responses to "Smugglers’ Notch and some of the great stuff we did there"

1 | Natalie

August 18th, 2011 at 10:44 am


Great post Andrea! Nice to see there’s so much to do when there’s not snow on the ground which is when I am in the area :)

2 | DaniGirl

August 28th, 2011 at 6:18 am


Ah I was wondering if you’d try the Segway tour when I saw you were doing a Smuggs review. That was the highlight of the trip for us – totally loved it! Funny, we were opposite – Beloved never did get comfortable on it, but I found it easier (and way more fun!) than a bike to ride. :)

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The Obligatory Blurb

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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