One Spring evening in 1865, a stagecoach passing through Whitefield, NH flipped over in a treacherous storm. The two passengers walked to a farm owned by Mary and William Dodge and were welcomed to spend the night. When the passengers awoke in the morning to spectacular mountain views and a delicious pancake breakfast, they pleaded with the Dodges to stay longer. This was the start of the Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa that, over the last 150 years, has welcomed former astronauts, presidents, and movie stars. This is not your typical New Hampshire resort with large Moose heads and Bears at every turn. This is a hotel with a distinguished history that is evident the minute you step into the lobby.
My youngest and I enjoyed some special mother-daughter time just one week after the peak foliage season, but the colors were still beautiful. The Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa is best suited for those who delight in history more than luxury. The hotel rooms are smaller, constrained by the historic structure. Look elsewhere for in-room mini-bars, iphone-charging sound systems, and layers of Frette linens. But the service for this hotel is truly five-star, and that may be more valuable at the end of the family vacation than the Molton Brown bath products you’re missing.
This resort well understands both what you want your kids to be doing as well as what families enjoy doing together, and —in the end— this is what you come to experience. Like Kellerman’s Catskill resort in Dirty Dancing, this place has an activity for everyone.
The woman behind your family’s happiness is Ms. Baker who runs the kids’ Mountaineering Club. She also organizes events like the kids’ New Year’s Eve ball. Her four years at the resort have been incredibly successful, and her first act was to remove all the televisions and video games from the Mountaineering Club. She seems more than capable of keeping even a surly tween occupied on a rainy day. She replaced screen time with frog races and cardboard box races in the pool. Even though we visited the hotel on a school night with no kids programming available that day, Ms. Baker accommodated my daughter on the spot with pumpkin painting and shirt decorating.
The Mountaineering Club is for kids 5 and older and is offered free of charge in the mornings and afternoons, and for $20 in the evening. The program has a strong outdoor focus, and these kids are having the time of their lives. An eight year old girl I talked to in the pool said she and her family came to this resort and a neighboring grand resort, and without hesitation, she said she preferred the Mountain View Grand because of their unique activities.
Axe Throwing is a must
While my daughter was happily occupied, I was given a lesson in axe-throwing, a Mountain View Grand Resort specialty (this was my first and probably my last time throwing an axe—but I have to admit, it was really fun). Parents can enjoy guilt-free time to hike, bike, or ski, have some quiet couple time, hit the well-equipped gym, or, you know, just throw some axes.
Even without more structured kids’ activities during our mid-week stay, my daughter and I had a ball. Literally. She practiced her ballet in the Crystal Ballroom where wives in the 1950’s would hold dinner dances to welcome their husbands up for the summer weekend. In addition to the ballroom, we took advantage of the resort’s indoor pool, with its incredible forest mural to remind us we were, indeed, in New Hampshire. You can reserve the 15-seat movie theatre for your family and choose from hundreds of movies. Our private screening of a Tinker Bell movie was complete with fresh popcorn. True to the values of the resort, screen time becomes a family experience together.
Outside the movie theatre is a game room unlike those found in other hotels. There are no loud electronic video games (Ms. Baker may have cleaned house here too) but, instead, it is have a calm place to gather, especially for teenagers, with a pool table and air hockey. No need to search for quarters here. It’s all free.
Out and about, we took advantage of the meet the farmer activity, offered daily at 8:30AM, where guests can collect the eggs laid the night before. We met all the sheep, llamas, cattle, and alpacas that call the Mountain View home. The farmer’s knowledge is tremendous, and kids and parents will both enjoy the hands-on experience. We also made fresh apple cider that was delicious. In addition to their robust family programming, I was very impressed with the hotel’s sustainable initiatives. The hotel is powered 100% by wind power and sources food from over 40 local farms.
With my daughter in tow, I could not take advantage of the spa, but we did take a tour to see their signature offering, a whirlpool tub in the Tower section of the hotel with a 360-degree view of the White Mountains. The scenery was breathtaking, and this would truly be a unique soaking experience.
The resort has one restaurant and a pub with the usual fare of burgers, chicken pot pies, and other comfort foods. The kid’s menu is also pretty standard with the exception of a healthy salmon offering. While the food was just average, the bill was, at least, very reasonable— even for room service.
There are several special seasonal activities. This resort loves the holidays so much that they celebrate Christmas in July and December. You can select your own Christmas tree until the middle of October at the Rocks Estate, a nearby tree farm in Bethlehem, New Hampshire. Return later in the year to bring home your chosen tree and a wreath in a popular hotel package that many families book as an annual holiday tradition.
Overall, this Historic Hotels of America property has much to offer families (who aren’t die-hard foodies) and exceeds five-stars for its service, beautiful location, and children’s programs.