Wednesday, October 20, 2010

North Conway, NH and Storyland

WOW, WOW and WOW!! This vacation was, by far, the best family vacation we have taken to date. Our son saw a commercial on PBS for Storyland and had been asking to go for the better part of a year. We decided that Columbus Day weekend was the right time for us so off we went! I can sum up the "awesomeness" of this vacation with 3 B's: budget, bang (for your buck) and beautiful.

We stayed at the Golden Gables Inn and payed around $130/night (compared to $250+ for chain hotels next door). The accommodations are not fancy AT ALL, but it's a room with a shower and it's extremely clean. The best part about GGI is the yard and playground in the back. Our son saw the open space to run and refused to go anywhere else!! There's also an outdoor pool for warmer months AND the Conway Scenic Railroad runs just behind the playground area. For our little train enthusiast this was the highlight of our stay! Breakfast is not included but each room had a dorm fridge and there is a McDonald's next door. We also opted to stay on the back side of the building, which proved to be a smart move. The main street in North Conway is very busy and thus gets a lot of road noise. The back side of the building is church mouse quiet...which for two city mice was a nice break from noise.

Since Patrick refused to leave the playground in time to do any amusement park stuff we decided to go shopping instead. North Conway is home to Settler's Green, which is an outlet mall worth your visit. (This is coming from a woman who grew up next to the outlet overload of Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, TN). The layout is a bit confusing so find a map and plan where you want to go ahead of time. It was VERY busy so we spent quite a bit of time waiting in traffic while looking for the correct place to park.

Our second day was the day dedicated to Storyland. To start our day we found a local place for breakfast. Priscilla's was on the way and had great reviews on TripAdvisor. It took about 45 minutes to get seated, but it was worth the wait. The food is wonderful, the service great and it's not crowded. (We liked it so much that we tried to go back the second morning but the wait was again too long). So with a full tummy we set off for our adventure at Storyland. It proved to be worth every penny. While planning the trip I was frustrated at the lack of coupons and discounts. Well, after going I feel we got the deal of the century. Park admission is $28 (if I remember correctly) for adults, and our son is two so he was free. (Children 3 and older must pay admission). I could go on for hours about all the rides and attractions, but it's best you see the website for yourself at We also found prices for food inside the park were extremely reasonable. An adult could easily eat for less than $10 and as most of us know for amusement park food ten dollars is a steal. They also allow you to bring in your own food which is brilliant for a park dedicated to the age group containing mostly picky eaters!

My absolute favorite feature of the park were the restrooms. Each restroom facility has a separate room for diaper changes and nursing/feeding. There are three changing spots and rocking chairs in each room. Another good option to stretch your dollar is Storyland's "after three, next day free" deal. We had planned on going at 3pm when we arrived in North Conway, but after seeing the playground at our motel our son changed that plan. :) We got to the park around 10:30am and stayed until 4:30....and not once were we trying to find things to keep our attention!!

On our second day we chose to take the 55 minute ride on the Conway Scenic Railway. With a two year old we felt this was a safe bet. It's pretty, but you don't really get to see much scenery. For the three of us it was $28, opposed to the $124 it would have taken to get up the Cog Railway at Mt. Washington. There is a 5 hour scenic option that runs through the mountains which might be a better fit for us when our son is a bit older. The real fun of this experience was the look on Patrick's face while he was on a "real live train" (as he says). There is also a very nice public playground next to the railway station. After an hour of being seated this was a great place to work out Patrick's wiggles!

After we de-wiggled our son we stopped at the Hartmann Model Railroad & Toy Museum. It was $14 for all of us to get in. The collection is impressive but not so much for a two year old. There are several displays controlled by pushing a button. That was a thrill for about 15 minutes, then it was time to go. If you happen to be a model railroad builder and car collector this is really a neat collection. If you're looking for a place to amuse your child, not so much. They do have a small train that runs in a circle outside, but you have to pay extra. (Really, to get around a town ordinance banning attractions in town you have to buy a toy in the collectors shop and you get a "free ride with purchase").

North Conway also happens to be amazingly beautiful. Mount Washington can be seen in the distance and you are surrounded with postcard beautiful scenery. We chose not to drive up to Mt. Washington this trip but are planning on doing so (or taking the Cog Railway to the top) on our next visit. Our GPS sent us up I-95 on the way there, which sent us through many small towns and lots of road construction. To avoid the traffic, we chose to drive back through the White Mountain National Forest to hit I-93. WOW!! I felt like I was back home in my Smoky Mountains! The rock faces visible on the road will stop you with their presence. We found several places to pull over, walk around and take pictures. On our next visit we will be arriving via I-93 just to take in the views.

So, my reviews for this trip are as follows:
Budget Rating: 9/10 Area accommodations are a bit high, but worth it. Other than that, we could not have asked for a better value for our vacation dollars.
Child Rating: 10/10
Time Spent: Three days, two nights

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