Winter family getaways

The CoCo Key indoor water park  in Danvers, Mass.
Lisa Poole
The CoCo Key indoor water park in Danvers, Mass.

With five children ranging in age from 11 to 25, Jill Wollman used to find planning a family vacation challenging. All that changed when she and her husband, Daniel, of Bedford, N.Y., bought a timeshare at Smugglers’ Notch in Vermont.

“It used to be very difficult to find somewhere that would satisfy everyone,” Wollman said. “We used to be exhausted by the end of week trying to keep everyone busy. At Smuggs, you just go there and they keep everyone busy.”

Smugglers’ Notch is one of a handful of New England resorts that cater to families in winter. Typically such resorts offer family-style accommodations, such as condos or suites with kitchen facilities. They provide access to a variety of winter sports, activities for toddlers to teens, and optional services (such as spas) for those who don’t ski. Wollman, the only nonskier in her family, enjoys snowshoeing as well as massages and yoga classes at Smugglers’ and catches up with her brood at dinner.


Smugglers’ Notch is all condominiums, ranging from studios to five-bedroom units. All have fully equipped kitchens and most have washers and dryers. In addition to several restaurants on site, the resort village has a sport shop, country store, massage center, and nursery. Lodging packages include daily lift tickets, use of the indoor pool and hot tubs, use of the indoor Fun Zone with games and bouncy inflatables, trail passes for cross-country and snowshoe trails, evening snow tubing, use of teen centers, and family and adult entertainment. Lessons can be added to any package. Additional activity choices include a new heated groomer ride, a zip line canopy tour, ice climbing, airboard sledding, art classes, and health and wellness programs.

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For the Greenes of North Conway, N.H., a winter family getaway means one thing — a stay at Adventure Suites right in their hometown. Susan Greene describes the resort as “Disneyland for adults.” Over the last 20 years they have stayed in every one of the 17 themed suites, often with their daughters, Amanda, now 26, and Jessica, 22.

Each spacious suite is constructed and decorated to reflect a theme, such as Roman Rendezvous, Dragon’s Lair, and Victorian Spa. Family-friendly suites include The Club, with a nightclub lighting system, fog machine, dance floor, and infinity mirrors; the Treehouse, with a children’s sleeping area in a treehouse; the Cave, a subterranean adventure; the Jungle, with a thatched hut and waterfall; and Motorcycle Madness, with a seven-person hot tub and direct access to the suite through the attached motorcycle garage. Tony Greene says one of his favorites to visit with the kids is Showtime, which has a 10-foot projection screen, surround sound, and a popcorn machine.

Adventure Suites also offers sledding in the backyard and Nordic skiing from the property. Add-on adventure packages include ice-climbing lessons, guided snowshoe tours, and discounted skiing at Mount Cranmore.

Young misses can sample a manicure or pedicure at Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa in Whitefield, N.H., which also offers facials for teens in its full-service spa. Other amenities include an in-house movie theater, game room, working farm, and the Mountaineering Club for children. Guests can take advantage of ice skating, dogsledding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. Equipment rentals are available at the resort. A “ski and stay” package includes vouchers for tickets to Cannon Mountain. One-bedroom suites have a king-size bed in the bedroom and a queen-size pullout sofa in the living room, with a door between the two for privacy.


Set on a 600-acre lake in Fairlee, Vt., Lake Morey Resort is home to the country’s longest maintained ice-skating trail, which makes a 4.5-mile loop around the lake. During the winter (weather permitting) the resort also maintains a series of smaller rinks for recreational skating and pickup pond-hockey games. More than 100 years old with third-generation family ownership, the resort has 130 guest rooms and suites and a dining room with panoramic lake views. There’s also a full-service spa, fitness center, and indoor pool.

Topnotch Resort in Stowe, Vt., reopened last summer following a $15 million renovation. The Junior Tennis Academy for kids ages 3-14 is taught by the resort’s pros in Top-notch’s indoor tennis facilities during the winter. In the 35,000-square-foot spa, a “spa newbies” menu features salon services designed especially for kids, including fizzy bomb manicures and pedicures. When the snow flies, Topnotch offers sleigh rides, complete with blankets and jingle bells. Ski lessons for all ages, rentals, lift tickets, and complimentary shuttle transportation to and from Mount Mansfield are provided.

The Samoset Resort in Rockport, Maine, caters to families looking for a winter getaway with an indoor recreation center and pool, as well as discounts on nearby skiing and tubing at Camden Snow Bowl. The Give the Kids a Break package, available during school vacation weeks in February and April, includes two nights, one dinner and one breakfast daily for each member of the family (up to four), and resort activities.

The Red Jacket Mountain View Resort in North Conway has families covered for outdoor and indoor winter recreation. There are packages for snowmobiling, skiing at Cranmore or Attitash, and splashing at the resort’s onsite water park, Kahuna Laguna. The 40,000-square-foot park has four high-speed tubes, water basketball, a wave pool, and a 175-gallon tipping bucket. Family-friendly accommodations include bunk rooms, family lofts, two-bedroom townhomes, and four-bedroom homes that sleep up to 10.

If the whole family prefers swimsuits to ski boots, a few resorts in southern New England might fill the bill. Ocean Edge Resort and Golf Club in Brewster will open this winter from Feb. 14-22 with school break activities for children and parents. The schedule of activities includes inner-tube water polo and kickboard races at the resort’s two indoor pools, pirate-themed scavenger hunts, cupcake happy hours, and, for adults, cooking demonstrations and fitness programs.


The 8,200-square-foot indoor wave pool at the Cape Codder Resort & Spa in Hyannis has 2-foot waves, water slides, waterfalls, a 24-person whirlpool, dancing water fountains, and two saunas. The zero-entry-depth wave pool is ideal for younger children. Hardy souls may want to take a dip in the heated outdoor Rainbow Falls pool, which transforms into a light show after dark. Family vacation packages include lodging, meals at the on-premises Hearth ’n Kettle or Grand Cru Wine Bar & Grill, and use of the wave pool and Rainbow Falls pool.

The Crowne Plaza Boston North Shore in Peabody is home to the 65,000-square-foot CoCo Key Water Resort. The 366 guest rooms and suites include accommodations for up to six with two double beds and a sleeper sofa. A water park package includes accommodations and park admission.

In Connecticut the CoCo Key Water Park Resort Hotel and Conference Center in Waterbury has a 55,000-square-foot water park with an adventure river, three 40-foot body and raft rides, an activity pool with water basketball, and interactive play island with zero-depth-entry kiddie area. A limited number of day passes may be available.

Ellen Albanese can be reached at