Smuggler's Notch (Summer)

I took my family to Smuggs for the end of summer. It was the perfect family vacation for us and a great value. But do not that it is not fancy in any way if that is what you are looking for.

Highlights

  • Easy drive from Boston
  • Available on Chase Ultimate Rewards for a reasonable price. We paid $415 (27k chase) per night for a large 1 bedroom condo in high season including the “Smuggs” package. Also available on RCI though usually only during shoulder weeks or off-season (first week of september was $600 a week for a 2 bedroom without the Smuggs package). We actually combined chase and RCI into a nearly 2 week stay.
  • “Smuggs” Package included lots of activities even big ones such as
    • Full day hike over Vermont’s highest peak with a guide and shuttle.
    • Indoor “fun zone”
    • Multiple small hike options per day
    • Three outdoor pool complexes with water slides (Courtside, Mountainside and Notchville)
  • Everything that is not included is priced reasonably – $12/hour for tennis court rental (includes rackets) – Disc Golf (rent the discs or bring your own disc set)
  • Always included
    • basketball courts
    • mini golf
  • Included on RCI
    • One of the pools (usually the Courtside pool unless it is closed than the Mountainside pool)

Negatives

  • No fitness center (unless booking certain “premium” condos)
  • PHIT Performance in Stowe is a great facility for $16 per day, about a 20 min drive. Has just about everything a high quality modern urban fitness center would have. Nicer than a Town Sports/LA Fitness but less fancy than an Equinox/Lifetime.
  • Cambridge Community Center - $10/day or $20/week. 10 min drive. I haven’t been there.
  • Suggestion for management: Find some strong rafters to install heavy duty eye bolts and then put up signs saying “TRX Parking”. For a few bucks you can enable people to bring their own TRX
  • Babysitting service may require multiple finders fees instead of one fee for the whole schedule. This surprised us even though it wasn’t a very large amount of money. For example, if family A and B each ask for a dinner babysitter from 6-9 for 7 nights and they find a single person available for 7 nights for family A but need to piece together 7 different sitters for family B, family A will pay $335 and family B will pay $455 for the same service.

Note that if you have the choice to book “room only”, the Smuggs pass as an add on is expensive and charged per person. If you book an RCI week, the Smuggs pass add on is only $65 per night for the entire unit (must pay for all days between when purchased and end of reservation).

Child Care / Camp

  • Treasures Day Care 6 weeks to 3 years, M-F 9a-4p $115/day +$25 for early/late, $85 for half day, 25% off with packages (including the package booked through Chase)
  • Older kids are 9:15am-4pm, $95/day with age-based camp style programming (25% off with packages (including the package booked through Chase).
  • There are various special interest camps starting at 7 years. Note that room without packages seem to be available on chase, but can buy the stuff a la carte.
  • Babysitting service - the Treasures staff will find babysitters for hours that Treasurers is closed (they don’t seem to be willing to find them during the weekday hours that Treasures is open, ostensibly since most of their sitters are not available during those times, but maybe also to avoid cannibalizing Treasures). You will pay a $20 “finder’s fee” to the resort plus $15 per hour for 1 kid or $16 per hour for 2 kids directly to the sitter. Note that you will likely need cash for the sitter (none of them seem to be on Venmo or the like) though there is an ATM in the village. The sitters they found for us were of very high quality. As we came in the shoulder season, they were mostly grandmothers that were former employees of the resort but now had flexible schedules. Mid summer I would expect more of the college students that are working seasonally in the daycare or camps.

During the Summer, Smuggs is a ~20 minute drive over a notch (closed during the winter) into Stowe, VT. Stowe has a lot of nice restaurants and a small town center.

Restaurants

  • Morse Mountain Grill - casual restaurant in the main village. Had dinner with the family there one night. Pretty much what you would expect. Enjoyed a grilled chicken sandwich.
  • Harth & Candle - advertised as a fine dining restaurant. Nothing wrong with it but it is fairly pricey and the food doesn’t appear to be true fine dining level quality preparation. Great for an east coast on mountain restaurant but worth the drive over the notch to eat in the village of Stowe during the summer or keep it simple with a sandwich at the mountain grill.
  • Refuel Cafe at the Fun Zone - What you would expect from arcade food. Not for me, but they did have a half off special for most of August that made it a good place to grab a soda or beer.
  • Deli - The deli is a grill/deli cafeteria typical of ski base lodges in the base lodge building that is open for lunch.
  • Pizza - There is a pizza counter in the same building as the deli in the base lodge building that opens for dinner. I haven’t tried the pizza.
  • Ben & Jerries - There is an ice cream shop in the base lodge building
  • Jeffersonville - “Jeff” is the closest village to the resort and has a few restaurants though I have not ventured there
  • Stowe - Stowe is a short drive in the summer (long in the winter) with plenty of restaurants.
    • Mattehorn - I really enjoyed dinner at the Mattehorn. The Tuna “martini” (app in a martini glass) was very good. They claim to fly their Tuna in from Hawaii. Given the quality, I believe it.
    • Von Trapp Brewery - I was very underwhelmed. The food was pretty bland and I remember really enjoying meals in Austria so I am thinking they lost some of their cooking skill as they crossed the Atlantic. The beer was fine but nothing special. The grounds were very nice and the food passable enough.
  • Waterbury - Waterbury is about a 40 minute drive (via the Notch and Stowe) and has a great food and beer scene in a tiny town.
    • Prohibition Pig - had a nice lunch there with the family on the brewery side (order at counter). The pulled pork sandwich and the ramen were good.
    • The Reservoir - had a wonderful dinner there with the family. The pork nachos were good (though note that the cheese seemed to be a fancy version of cheese wiz), the spaghetti squash pad thai was good and a novelty, and the fish tacos were wonderful.

Entertainment

  • The resort has some campy entertainment options like a magician that does table tricks at the Morse Mountain Grill on certain nights.
  • Stowe Theater Guild - a short drive away in the village of stowe is a theater on the 2nd floor of the town hall. I took my daughter to see Mamma Mia for under $20pp. I thought that they did an excellent job on the production and would certainly go back. They had a concession at intermission with $1 sodas and $2 candies.

Smuggler’s Units

There are significant differences between the buildings and many units in such buildings. Some units appear to be dedicated to timeshare. Others are fully owned by individuals and managed by the resort to be rented by the night.

  • Poolside - Poolside is a good location not a very far walk from the village center (1,200’ walk from the Gazebo) and directly west of the Courtside pool.
    • P-1 - 1 bedroom / 1 bathroom unit with laundry in unit and a dishwasher. Bedroom had a king bed. Lots of hooks and empty storage. Very spacious for a 1 bedroom. Shower pressure could be improved. Note that the unit was in the process of being sold, so things could change.
  • Maples - Maples is a good location not a very far walk from the village center (925’ walk from the Gazebo). It is two buildings to the east of the Courtside pool. There are laundry machines (no charge) in the basement (note that one of the two dryers did not work during my stay).
    • M-2 - 2 bedroom / 1 bathroom unit with a dishwasher. Larger bedroom is fairly small with a Queen bed, two closets and two side tables. No dresser. Smaller bedroom is very small with a bunk with two singles and a small dresser. Very little storage in the unit and most every place to put something was already filled. No pantry space in kitchen. Fairly tired 90’s look to the unit but otherwise functional. Not very toddler friendly (fireplace with no way to block off, fire poker, etc.)

Outdoors

  • The resort has a mountain biking shop that rents mountain bikes, does private lessons and has group clinics. We rented bikes for the day, however, I highly recommend that you bring your own, but certainly rent if you forgot or didn’t have a trailer hitch like us. One of their bikes had a maintenance issue that they tried to fix, but was still a bit problematic. They have a very nice trail system to ride the bikes with good mapping and signage and varying difficulties. Though note that this is not a downhill biking resort, there is no operating lift for bikes, you need to pedal uphill for every foot of downhill you desire.
  • With the Smugglers pass they do a lot of guided hikes or you can do some on your own.
    • Mansfield West - did the Mansfield West guided hike. A very nice day. Left the resort shortly after 9am and returned shortly before 4pm (on the trail for around 5 hours with over 4 of it moving). They rate it “expert”. Nothing technical, but do need to shimmy over some boulders, some sections are a bit steep and there is a lot of vertical to give your heart a full workout. A shuttle dropped us off on one side of Mansfield in the meadows area and then we hiked to the peak of the chin. We then descended to near the top of the Stowe gondola and then down to the base of the Stowe resort were we were met by the shuttle for a short drive back over the notch to Smuggs.
    • Sterling Lake to Spruce Peak - went on our own for this one. The Sterling Lake trailhead is a 5 min drive from the resort. Then a pretty steep trail up to Sterling Lake. This maybe enough. We decided to take the Elephant Head trail around the lake and then go up a short spur to Spruce Peak (on Stowe’s ski resort). We returned on the Long Trail on the other side of the lake until we got back to the Sterling Lake trail which we then descended (slippery when wet) back to our car. Took us a good 3 hours or so.
    • Hell’s Brook (Mansfield) - hiked up Hell’s Brook trail to Pejorative then down the Cliff trail to the top of the Stowe gondola and took the Gondola down (free on the way down). Hell’s Brook was a challenging trail with tons of scrambling if that is what you are looking for. Some call it the hardest trail in VT. Not sure if that is true, but I have not been on anything more difficult in the state myself, so maybe that is true.
  • Bootlegger’s Basin - as part of the Smuggs pass (though I haven’t seen them ask for the pass unless they do that on the shuttle), there is a nice man made lake (snowmaking reservoir) with a waterslide, trampoline, and a bouldering wall. There is also paddle craft rentals. Life jackets are provided. You can get there by a shuttle from the village or it is a 30 minute hike or so or a nice mountain bike ride.
  • Disc Golf - I didn’t play but there is a huge course on Smuggs.
  • Outdoor Pools
    • Courtside - pool with a very deep end, waterslide, family hot tub and adult hot tub; pool and hot tub area covered in a bubble after the summer season
    • Mountainside - lap pool with a little kid slide (max height ~ 48”) big tube slide (min height ~ 44”, but recommend 48”) and toddler splash area
    • Notchville - multilevel pool including a waterslide and lillypad challenge (very hard)

Resources

  • Village Map (Summer)
  • Village Map (Winter)
  • Key Phone Numbers
    • Guest Services: 802-644-1293
    • Treasurers Child Care: 802-644-1193
    • Babysitting Reservations: 802-644-1193
    • Security: 802-644-1199
    • Text info service - text Smuggs to 855-421-2279 and Remove to stop for daily activity updates (like rain cancellations)

Area Babysitters

  • Lee 802-310 - eight - eight - eight - two
  • Gail 802-881 - six - seven - five - nine
  • Karen - 1st/2nd grade teacher willing to work on school skills with the kids

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