We’ve creeped and crawled our way up and down the east coast a million times this year…and last year…and before that. No matter which way we go, we always find ourselves in Virginia for…well…a lot longer than we had expected. The thing is, this isn’t because we make a ton of stops in VA; it’s because VA is deceptively large. Huge even. So there’s a lot of time to watch and think.
As the road trip hours slide by, we inevitably have a conversation that goes something along the lines of, “Can we stop somewhere soon?” “I wish we had more time so we could make some stops in Virginia. There’s seems like there’s so much to do.” “Haven’t we been in Virginia for a few hours now?” “Oh look! Caves! Too bad it’s 5pm.” “Do you see that sunset? It’s gorgeous.” “We really need to spend a few days in Virginia.” “I wish we could right now.” Every. Single. Time. Truth be told, it may be the same place on the road, the same area of the state, that keeps us drawing this conclusion. (I have no idea though because it is just an endless expanse of driving.) But one thing I am certain about: we always leave Virginia wishing we had spent time in Virginia.
So last year, we promised ourselves we would. And on the final nights of the year we fulfilled that promise, staying at Massanutten Resort right outside of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Now, I will be upfront and say, we haven’t been able to explore as much of Virginia as we’ve been wanting to, but at least we got a taste. And a burning desire to go back. And more than likely, we’ll be staying at Massanutten again.
Why the same place twice? Well, there are two giant reasons that we’re going to be heading back. The first one is that Massanutten is made of combination of condos and hotels, so for a family of five, we can have the space we need. This holiday we booked a condo with a full living room, dining room, kitchen, and balcony. It also had two bedrooms and two baths. (And access to a clothes washer and dryer right outside the door…and if you know me, you know I’m a sucker for packing light and doing laundry on the road.) The footprint of the resort (6,000 acres) starts at the bottom of the valley and continues up all the way mountain, so a car is necessary to get around the resort.
So beyond the fact that we had an entire condo to ourselves, why else would we return to Massanutten rather than head somewhere else? Well, it’s everything that’s outside of the condo, both on the resort grounds and off. And that’s where we get to a little Massanutten Resort Review listing our 15 favorite family-friendly reasons to go back.
We’re not big skiers, and I feel almost a little ashamed to admit that. Frankly, though, the grown ups in this tribe really don’t enjoy the cold, so it’s never been a priority. And then one of us (I won’t say who, but it isn’t me) is a super Nervous Nelly when it comes to our littles and speed, so it just hasn’t made its way on to our “must do” winter activities list. But I will tell you, for one hot second, both Three Kids Dad and I were reconsidering the fact that we have yet to take the littles skiing. We, almost, searched out some ski lessons (but stay tuned for what we did instead).
The slopes were visible from our balcony and they were lit up in the crisp, dusky sky. The silence of the evening, combined with the warm glow of the lights on the trails made skiing seem like the absolute best way to spend an ice blue winter evening. The slopes, fourteen runs serviced by eight lifts, have something for all abilities, including our own lack of abilities. As I said, it was tempting, and at our next winter trip there, if it is not in the midst of a polar vortex, you just may find me scuttling my way slowly along the slopes (green circles of course).
#2 Snow Tubing
This I can get behind. And I think even the cautious Three Kids Dad can too. The unfortunate thing about our trip is that when we were there (over New Years) snow tubing tickets were already gone. It was a sad day for us indeed. But we still drove over to the Ski Lodge and took it all in (and realized it just wouldn’t have worked for the wiggly two year old, so ultimately, we were better off).
The tubing hill has sixteen lanes for tubers to go down the 900 ft lanes. At times it can get crowded, but there are two conveyer lifts taking tubers back up the 120 ft vertical drop, so the wait times are somewhat mitigated. You should note that over the winter holidays (December 25-January 1) the resort can be crowded and a limited number of tickets for snow tubing can be purchased online the day before. Otherwise, all tickets must be purchased in person at The Family Adventure Park (more on that gem later).
#3 Ice Skating
We are only half an ice skating family. And by that I mean my daughter really wants to do it, but we always seem to be busy doing something else when we have the chance. Or…maybe I can’t find the perfect place to take her. I don’t really want to ice skate in an indoor rink (I have some preconceived notion it will smell like a gym locker), but I’d love to do it on some quaint frozen pond outside, feeling the winter nip at my finger tips, cheeks red, a cup of hot chocolate steaming as it waits for me on a little rest-colored bench…. But, I haven’t really found those. At least not yet.
At Massanutten Resort, things are a bit different. While the rink is a standard rink, it’s located outdoors, surrounded by the mountains, so it feels like it has those qualities of a quaint little pond that is so peacefully appealing, but it has the added attraction of safety that doesn’t come with a pond (you know, cracked ice–I’ll never get over what happened to George Bailey and his brother in It’s a Wonderful Life). Note: the rink also has some crowd control (only 120 people on the ice at once), so they too recommend purchasing tickets in advance during holidays.
This rink. This may be the place to get skating. Just outside our the window of our condo we saw at least 30 deer (absolutely no exaggeration), so I have visions of these deer surrounding the rink. So, we may have skated, if we hadn’t had found the other activity. The one that lured my people in, both big and little. And that is our big number four.
#4 Indoor Water Park
If it’s a joint-achingly cold day out, one of those where you get cold from the inside out, what do you do? Why yes, you go swimming! Massanutten’s indoor water park is where we decided to spend our day on the mountain. Since it was New Year’s Eve, the water park was working with the same type of crowd control as the tubing hill: they were selling a limited number of tickets online the day before and the others had to be purchased at the park, in person. It was the source of much stress (insane amounts really), but we managed to secure our tickets the day before (which meant we could have a leisurely breakfast, which is important in this hangry family).
The water park was my littles’ dreams come true. There was a baby play area that worked well for the tiny one and the middle one in this tribe (that is until it couldn’t contain them anymore and they were pulled by the sounds of rushing water and giggles into the bigger area).
In the center of the water park is Massanutten Meltdown, where little people (and big people) can climb over bridges, rope bridges, up stairs, and down slides. It’s a perfect jungle gym situated over an approximate foot of water. The meltdown gets it’s name from the giant bucket of water that comes crashing down over the structure throughout the day (as well as other smaller spouts of water and buckets). (I wouldn’t recommend standing under it. And I certainly wouldn’t recommend letting your two year old stand under it. Just saying.) There is also a lazy river as well as three small water slides for older children. Then, for the big big kids and the grown ups, there are three tube slides and two body slides, as well as a pipeline.
Our time there was crowded, but it only truly felt crowded when we were in the hot tub and when we were looking for a place to sit after buying lunch from the concession stand. (Rather than renting lockers, most people claimed tables and chairs to leave their items on while they swam, so while the seats weren’t occupied with people, they were occupied with things.)
Not only do the littles still talk about the water park, they’ve also been plotting a return trip to the resort to do the full water park, including the outdoor area that has even more slides, obstacle courses, and a wave pool. So, we’re anxiously putting a plan in place for a warm weather return because our mid-winter trip to Massanutten Resort served to get us hopeful to try out all the other great things we saw and read about.
#5 Live Music
We ended up at Massanutten Resort over New Year’s, so it’s no surprise that they had a live band playing on New Year’s Eve at the Campfire Grill, one of the resort’s restaurants. The thing is, they have live music there every Friday and Saturday night, so there’s always an energetic atmosphere in the place. And when there isn’t music? Then there’s s’mores making by the fire on the back patio. Currently they’re running wine and painting nights and chef’s table nights. There is always something to be found.
While I was speaking on a small scale about the live music found in the Campfire Grill, one of the other aspects of the resort that will have me returning are the festivals they host. Throughout the year the resort hosts a variety of festivals that include live music, vendors, and events, with proceeds, often, going to charities.
When we hit Massanutten, it was so cold even the icicles were shivering, so golfing was completely out of the question. But we did admire the courses and drove around them. And yes, I said courses. There are two. One is located at the foot of the mountain, while the other is much further up. Regardless of location, though, they both have stunning views and what appear to be some pretty amazing courses. (The course farther up the mountain, The Mountains Green Golf Course, is said to be a bit tougher.)
While the grown ups of this travel tribe love a good round of golf, I have to admit that the resort is luring me away a bit with what they call FlingGolf, which they describe on their website as “a new sport that combines golf and lacrosse, and has you whipping the ball down the fairway.” So yes. All the yeses to this.
At the end of a long day of skiing, or tubing, or swimming, or golfing, or well…all of it, what could be better than a little spa treatment? Especially one that’s located right where you’re staying. They offer a variety of massage treatments, as well as “enhancements.” There’s skin care, body treatments, nail care, men’s care, and even tween and tot care. So yes, if you can’t get to the spa without the little people, you can at least go get your nails done together and savor the hand massages.
#8 Kids Club
Sometimes, it can be hard to get that round of golf or that stop in the spa in, especially when the little people are as little as ours. Don’t worry. Massanutten Resort thought of that.
During certain times of the year, parents can send their little people to the Kid’s Club for a variety of educational and recreational activities which vary from day to day (information for any particular day can be found at check in). Children 3-12 participate in a number of activities including arts and crafts, space explorers and pirate adventures. The programs typically run all day on the weekdays as two separate programs: a morning/afternoon program and an evening program (date night!!) (lunch and snack is provided). And on weekends, the kids club generally operates an evening only program. (Times, activities, and prices are all subject to change and can be found at check in.)
#9 Hiking Trails
Our middle little fancies himself an explorer, an adventurer if you will. He likes to head out in the woods and follow a trail or two. In fact, he often just begs from the backseat of the car to go exploring. So, for his sweet little enjoyment, that is one of the top “to dos” when we return to Massanutten at some point when it is not subzero.
Massanutten boasts more than thirty miles of trails on its Western slope. A map for the trails can be purchased in a number of locations throughout the resort. Though we’ve not been able to enjoy them, I have no doubt that the trails offer some beautiful views of the area. And we’ll be sure to update and confirm this after we get back to experience the resort in the warmer months.
#10 Scenic Chairlift Rides
One of our yearly traditions is to head up a mountain in Vermont in a gondola. I see no reason why we shouldn’t make this a yearly tradition at Massanutten Resort too. Of course, as an open air chairlift, our tiny mischief maker may not make the best rider, but hopefully we’ll reach that stage when we can all head up the mountain.
In Massanutten, the chairlift is a two part process that brings the rider all the way up to Massanutten Peak, which will provide panoramic views of the area. Here you can get off and take pictures, picnic, wander a bit.
The starting point for the chairlift (the off-season ski lift) is at the Ski Lodge, where riders board lift number 4 and then transfer to lift number 6 to complete the journey to the top. It is approximately a 90 minute ride round trip.
#11 Mountain Bike Trails
Like the Chairlift, the bike trails are one of those amenities of Massanutten that this travel tribe will have to hold off on for a few more years, but it sounds like such a great time, it deserves a place on this list for those families who have little people who are better bikers than ours. The fact, though, that the resort has a Beginner’s Mountain Bike Guide to help the newcomers, as well as lessons, is one of the reasons that I will make this resort the place where my littles first hit the trails with their bikes. (Note: You can rent bikes and equipment at the bike shop.)
Massanutten has two areas for biking. One, the Western Slope, is for intermediate to advanced bikers and it is more associated with cross country trails. The other, Mountain Bike Park, is a lift-served bike park which has beginner and intermediate trails as well as more advanced trails further up the lift. This area is more associated with down hill trails (and amazing views!).
#12 Family Adventure Park
This is a section of Massanutten Resort that everyone in the family can get behind. Not only is it the starting point for snow tubing in the winter, the Family Adventure Park is home to summer tubing as well. And that’s just the start.
There are exhilarating activities that are a bit out of reach of my littles, like zip lining and canopy tours, ridge climbing and rappelling. Then there are those activities that are much more suited to little people like a 12 and under Kid’s Adventure Course, a climbing wall, and a Kids’ Playland (and seriously, what kid isn’t going to get happy seeing a bouncy house?). This little oasis, tucked away in the mountains, is sure to appeal to any age. Note: the Mega Zip and Kid’s Adventure Course are open year round.
#13 Stonewall Terrace Recreation Center
Go Karts, a Bungee Jump Dome, Miniature Golf, and Ice Cream. I think that pretty much sums up a perfect day. Honestly, you could just say Ice Cream and I think that would sum up my littles’ perfect day. Because in this tribe, ice cream is life.
But all of these typical, nostalgic, holiday activities can be found at the Stonewall Terrace Recreation Center, which is located in Massanutten Resort and open to the public. So maybe when we book our warm-weather trip, the Three Kids Dad and I can do a round of grown up golf (on the lower, easier, course because this momma spends most of her time mommin’ rather than hitting golf balls these days) and then we can pick up the rest of the tribe and do a round of mini golf. Perfect. The grown ups will be warmed up, so we’ll be sure to win!
#14 Shenandoah National Park
So the real reason we found Massanutten Resort in the first place was its proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Shenandoah National Park. We were on road trip from Florida back to New York State and were fresh off of a night and brief stop at Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Unfortunately, the effects of the arctic blast that was covering the East Coast (it was 20 degrees in Florida) kept us from really hiking through the park. But we were ok with that. We knew we had just a short drive ahead of us to Massanutten Resort, which was situated right outside of Shenandoah National Park.
But that cold just got even colder as we headed north, and we weren’t much able to really spend the time in the park that we had hoped. But the Blue Ridge Mountains still loomed majestic and they deserve much more of our time than we were able to allot. This, especially for our four year old self-described explorer, is one of the greatest pulls to come back to this resort. There is so much that we can get out and experience in the quiet of the park (waterfalls, wetlands, peaks, the Appalachian Trail) and then so many ways we can then “relax” and remain on the resort’s property. It’s proximity provides the perfect balance of pure nature and manmade fun.
#15 Skyline Drive
It’d be hard, and almost neglectful, if I didn’t mention Skyline Drive, the famous road that runs from tip to tip of the long, slender Shenandoah National Park. This 105 mile Scenic Byway will take you through mountains, give you views, provide pit stops and lookouts, and invite animals to cross its path (which is only 35 miles per hour, so is at least a three hour drive).
There are only four entrances to Skyline Drive (which may be closed in inclement weather). And guess where one of those entrances is conveniently located? That’s right, right down the road from Massanutten Resort. So, as part of our exit into or out of this resort, the plan is, and if possible for everyone else, should be, to take Skyline Drive and soak in some of the beauty of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.
In all honesty, Massanutten Resort was not a place we had picked out months or even weeks before we stayed. In our searching for places to stop and spend New Year’s on our 1300 mile drive, we just sort of stumbled upon it, days before we left to head south. We didn’t understand it at first. Was it a resort? A village? How was it so sprawling? Was it condos? Or a hotel? Were all the amenities near it or part of it? We just couldn’t grasp what it really was. But, we took our chances and booked it. And I’m almost certain we got the single condo left in the resort. Some might say we were lucky. We like to call it serendipity.
Have you been to Massanutten? Or another great resort you’d recommend? If so, drop us a comment below and tell us about it! (We’re always looking for new places to head to!)