“The summers of your youth aren’t lost. You just have to know where to find them.”
— The Bugle, Mount Washington Hotel’s 105-year-old daily bulletin
For a delightful alternative to our North Shore beaches and lakes this summer head to the hills for a mix of good old-fashioned fun and plenty of contemporary adventures, including tackling Bretton Wood’s tough mountain terrain on a “Diggler” scooter or hitting the trails on horseback.
The world-class Mount Washington Resort at Bretton Woods is a four-season destination spot for tots to boomers and beyond. Majestically set at the base of New Hampshire’s 6,288-foot Mount Washington, it is surrounded by nearly 800,000 acres of the White Mountain National Forest. Ahhh, to climb or recline, to rest or recreate, the choices are wide.
As a North Shore family we have been long familiar with the property’s Bretton Woods Mountain Resort and its landmark 1902 Spanish Renaissance style Mount Washington Hotel. For years “Grandma” has treated my niece and nephews to February school vacation getaways. It’s here at Bretton
Woods that they first learned to stand on two sticks and master the bunny hill. Today the teens do the glades and board with the best of them at the resort that SKI magazine ranked #1 in New Hampshire for family programs. It is also named as one of Conde Nast Traveler’s “Top 50 Resorts in North America” and among the “Top 20 Family-Friendly Resorts in the Continental U.S. and Canada” in Travel + Leisure Family.
In summer `07 we revisited the mountain, sans skis. We rode the chair lift, “toasted” the view over lunch at Top o’ Quad, then proceeded to tackle tough mountain terrain on Diggler mountain scooters; helmets required. Descending via chair lift let the matriarch bask in the majesty of the Grand Dame across the road.
As a grand old resort, MWH has witnessed the evolution of summer recreational pursuits since 1902. The idle rich of the 1900s spent weeks and even months of leisure time at New England resorts like The Mount Washington and The Balsams. Those early visitors spent time between extravagant meals contemplating nature; visiting landmarks by foot, carriage, horse or train, or perhaps playing croquet. As times changed and active sports became de rigueur golf courses and red clay tennis courts were built and equestrian lessons included dressage and show jumping.
Of recent the resort has designed program packages with catchy names like Romancing the Stone (couples’ nature tours) and Our Family Rocks (group rock climbing) to meet changing tastes.
We opted for less structure and mixed and matched from activities highlighted in the resort’s daily bulletin from the “arts, music, history and culture” column and from among ideas for outdoor enthusiasts like mountain bike tours Nordic walking.Â Swimming, sunbathing and “spaaing” were popular with our clan as well.
Depending on the day, tiny tots can dig into finger-painting and racing rubber duckies. And when the sun goes down private babysitting services allow parents to partake in 21-plus happenings, including entertainment in The Cave nightclub, a very cool setting: During the prohibition, the speak easy’s fashion-forward guests imbibed spirits out of tea cups, in the dark Bohemian spot decorated with moss, while watching out windows for unwelcome officials.
Today it’s a parent’s dream to see a son ditch his Abercrombie uniform to don a dinner jacket and tie. Yet, that’s the timeless requirement if one is to partake in the elegance of the formal dining room, with its unique octagonal shape, crystal chandeliers and Tiffany stained glass adornments. Posture is straighter and elbows are off the table when menu choices include classy items such as roasted beet carpaccio, cucumber wrapped baby greens, and grilled ahi tuna loin and are served by a team of 5-star wait staff.
Dinner mates that July weekend included a small wedding party and costumed guests enjoying the optional Roaring 20’s WeekendMurder Mystery. The Who Dun nit caper included gangsters wreaking havoc in the historic hotel.
After dinner our party “retired” to the great hall with half of us playing 45s at the game tables while others were serenaded by the strolling barbershop quartet and entertained by costumed actors. (Earlier in the day, a gangster’s moll flirted poolside with my married brother; that evening at The Cave she attempted to get her “boyfriend” jealous by luring us into the interactive improv.)
The hallway of the hotels’ lower level near The Cave is a veritable vintage photograph gallery. Captions tell the 100-year tale of the grand resort: auto touring, Volvo tennis tournaments, caddy camp reunions, celebrity visits, and the signing of diplomatic documents that earned the hotel its rights as a National Historic Landmark.
When my nephews passed me I thought they too were inspired by the visual historical timeline; but rather they were en route to the video game room – yet another indicator that the Grand Dame adapts to the times.
For more information about Mount Washington Resort, call 877.873.0626, or visit www.mountwashingtonresort.com.