I’m a “real” one. I know this because two 13-year-olds told me so. Cheez-Its, Skittles, and a ride to Vail’s Mount Sunapee earned me this praise. I could’ve taken twice as long to get to Newbury, N.H., from their middle school on a recent Friday and everything still would’ve been “fire.” They didn’t even complain when I played First Aid Kit’s “Fallen Snow” on repeat as winter weather arrived. That’s because a sleepover and skiing awaited.
I shared their enthusiasm, loving a road trip myself. Both boys participate in ski team at Nashoba Valley during the week and appreciate going somewhere bigger on the weekends. In terms of proximity and size, Sunapee fits the bill at two-ish hours from Boston. We’ve driven there and home again in a day, but it wipes me out. So I was stoked to hear that Bluebird was bringing their brand to the area last year.
Backed by Lark Hotels, Bluebird reimagines existing properties as modern motor lodges, where stylish travelers can spend a night without breaking the bank. For approximately $150, my deluxe king featured a flannel headboard and comfy bed, along with a mini fridge and microwave. I was especially excited about the Ursa Major toiletries. The boys were in a connecting room with two doubles.
The former Best Western was a distant memory, as one teen told the other, “This place is legit fancy!” Fashionable, at the least. The Bluebird iteration features common spaces with chic furnishings in earth tones, Pendleton blankets and a record player spinning Elton John circa 1974. Three kids in PJs set up Stratego on the plaid carpet as millennials in blanket coats walked to the pub next door.
It was our second stop after the hotel. Seven miles outside Newbury, I realized that we forgot my son’s jacket. Eighth graders prefer hoodies to coats, in case you didn’t get the memo, so he hadn’t worn it to school. There’s not much in the neighborhood, but the hotel and restaurant share the parking lot with Bob Skinner’s Ski & Sport, which was having a sale and wins in the convenience department.
Salt Hill Shanty also gets the job done with standards like burgers, nachos, and wings. My companions devoured fish and chips and pulled pork before beelining for the game room, which, on theme, has vintage machines like Ms. Pac-Man and Tetris. The entire experience was nostalgic and had me recalling the car vacations of my youth, where the pool mattered more than the destination.
This truism isn’t lost on Lark, which has upped the game by offering a saltwater version with a fire pit outside. The boys dared each other to go from snow to pool, on teen theme, while I read “Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” in the lobby lounge. Gripping a beer, a dad headed to the basement in his trunks, two toddlers in tow. I felt his pain and relished having older children.
That also worked in my favor when they announced their intentions to make first chair in the morning. I put on my contacts, threw on my sweats, and had them at Sunapee in under four minutes. Back at the Bluebird, Abby Desmond and her young daughter stomped among the drifts in metallic boots the hotel should consider carrying in its small shop. We agreed that Lark has an appealing formula.
“It’s good for kids, very practical — the proximity to the mountain, close to the restaurant,” observed Desmond, who was visiting from Arlington. “It’s a rustic vibe. I do appreciate that aesthetic.” So did I, and so did the boys, who politely asked to “diss” me for lunch and keep skiing. Following a final run through the terrain park, the verdict came in: “It was a vibe.” By all accounts.
If you go . . .
Book a room on the third floor if you prefer a quieter “vibe.” Pack wine and cheese if you enjoy cocktail hour, as there’s no bar. And bring your blanket coat if you like to look the part, or just wrap yourself in one of the throws that decorate the hotel.
Bluebird Sunapee, 1403 New Hampshire Route 103, Newbury, N.H., 603-763-2010, bluebirdhotels.com
Megan Lisagor Stoessell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.