As a New Englander, no summer is complete without a family trip to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Located just a few hours away from Boston, the White Mountains offer lots of family-friendly hotels, restaurants, and attractions. For families looking for a little more space, there are also plenty of family vacation home rentals available.
The 16 major attractions of the White Mountains will all be open within a few weeks – with most of them opening this Memorial Day weekend. Lost River Gorge and River Caves, the Conway Scenic Railroad, the Flume Gorge, the Polar Caves, the Mount Washington Cog Railway, and the Auto Road in Pinkham Notch are all currently open, while everything else (except for the Whale’s Tale Water Park) is opening over the weekend.
Our two favorite White Mountains attractions, are Story Land in Glen, NH and Santa’s Village in Jefferson, NH, because of the rides they offer. Geared towards children aged 10 and under, these two parks are a great way for young families to enjoy the White Mountains. Both parks are easily doable in a day or a day and a half, and both offer attractions that appeal to the whole family.
The Mountain Coaster at Attitash
Another of our favorite spots is Attitash Mountain Resort, which is actually a ski resort. My daredevil daughter couldn’t get enough of the alpine slides, mountain coaster, climbing walls, and Eurobungy, and my son, who’s a little more timid, actually loved the rides too. There are also several water slides, and a pool, which are a great way to cool off when the weather gets warmer.
If you go: Both Story Land and Santa’s Village offer you a free ticket for another if you arrive a few hours before closing (check the websites for details). We usually take advantage of that promotion and visit over two consecutive days.
Kick your boots off and relax at The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg, Montana
I’ll bet you didn’t know that deer, antelope and elk outnumber humans in Montana? In fact, a square mile of land in Montana might contain Rocky Mountain elk, pronghorn antelope, mule and whitetail deer, with cows, horses, mountain lions, black bear, fox, coyote, wolf, and bighorn sheep sprinkled throughout the state.
Montana is a year-round, outdoor lovers paradise. If you enjoy connecting with nature, but your days of camping are long behind you, I recommend a stay at The Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana.
Granite Lodge is open year round at The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg, Montana.
The Ranch at Rock Creek, 6,600 acres of wild west fun
Located in Southwestern Montana, The Ranch at Rock Creek is 6,600 acres of wild west fun, corralled in a picture perfect package of luxurious ranch lodging. With the Anaconda-Pintler mountain range protecting the valley, The Ranch at Rock Creek sits tall in the saddle at 5,600 feet above sea level. Bird watchers might spot bald and golden eagles soaring overhead, in addition to osprey, hawks and falcons.
Order the Bear Trap, a Huckleberry infused Vodka with soda water and Montana Huckleberry jam.
Cowboy country at The Ranch at Rock Creek
With over 60 horses on property, The Ranch at Rock Creek could be considered a gentleman’s cattle ranch. Of course, this ranch includes a swimming pool, hot tubs, a sauna, spa, saloon and bowling alley. After-all, what kind of gentleman wouldn’t offer a lady a mani-pedi treatment at the Granite Spa after a hard day of fly-fishing or horseback riding?
Enjoy gourmet dining and rustic ranch cuisine at The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg, Montana
Luxury ranch dining
Looking out onto the Montana landscape, I see why the Plains Indians settled here and why owner Jim Manley picked this special place to be called The Ranch at Rock Creek. With 30 -50 miles of mountains, meadows, lakes and streams meandering through the property, the wild west is alive and well at the ranch. Yet those of us seeking a Relaix & Chateau experience will not be disappointed. Guests are greeted with a flute of sparkling wine and Executive Chef Josh Drage delivers three square meals a day, in addition to appetizers and premium drinks served in the Granite lodge dining room, the Blue Canteen or in the Silver Dollar Saloon.
From fresh Alaskan halibut to Montana-raised beef and organic garden vegetables, Drage serves a healthy and balanced menu, but knows when to pull out the stops with frozen berry souffles and piping hot apple cobblers for dessert and fresh baked chocolate chip cookies served in the afternoon.
Ponderosa house, at The Ranch at Rock Creek, is ideal for families
Sleeping in a barn
As a child, when I left the back door open to our house, my mother would say, “we’re you born in a barn? Close the door.”
I have slept in a barn before, but never an historic barn. Guests have more lodging options at The Ranch at Rock Creek than fish in the pond. In addition to the Granite Lodge, with its nine luxury rooms, the ranch features eight private houses, several canvas tent cabins and the historic barn.
The remodeled 19th century historic barn houses three accommodations – the loft, wrangler and the stable’s bunkhouse. If I were a kid, I’d want to sleep in the bunkhouse, as it is close to the horse corral, yet a short 10 minute walk to Granite Lodge. This location would be ideal for a family reunion, wedding party or private groups.
Home to the great room, dining room and Silver Dollar Saloon, the Granite Lodge served as my home base during my stay. My room, the Winchester, was fittingly named after the historic rifle maker. It is decorated in classic Western style with a king bed, as well as a full-size pullout loveseat. This lower level room offers high ceilings and private access through the courtyard to the Silver Dollar Saloon and Granite Spa. My room rented for $850 per person, per night. Winter season is October 1 – April 30, while peak season is May 1- September 30. Check website for current pricing and special packages.
Private Cabins at The Ranch at Rock Creek
For those seeking privacy, The Ranch at Rock Creek offers eight luxury cabins. The two bedroom Cattail cabin is perfect for friends or a small family, while the three-bedroom Ponderosa House would be my ideal choice for a family holiday. For honeymooners or those seeking a romantic getaway, Bluebird cabin, with its king canopy bed and twin pull-out bed is perfect.
The 600 square foot Trapper Cabin at The Ranch at Rock Creek sits next to Rock Creek and is ideal for couples
Family canvas cabins
If you are looking for a “glamping experience” the canvas cabins are for you! Four family canvas cabins feature two rooms separated by a curtain and include cozy reading nooks. Individually furnished in a rustic “Out of Africa” style, the cabins feature private baths, comfortable beds and the soothing sounds of Rock Creek steps from your front door. For the mountain men among us, Trapper Cabin is fifteen minutes by bike to Granite Lodge. This one bedroom, 600 square foot suite is ideal for star-gazing and day dreaming.
The Ranch at Rock Creek activities
With plenty of activities to keep any kids, or kids-at-heart, busy I promise that you will never hear the words, “I’m bored” uttered on this luxury vacation. From blue-ribbon fly-fishing, to sporting clay, 3-d archery, horseback riding, hiking, kayaking or biking, you’ll want to schedule in a day of rest and relaxation by the fireplace, pond or spa. The Ranch at Rock Creek offers year-round activities with the best professional and friendly instructors.
Need to know before you travel: The Ranch at Rock Creek is an hour and one half drive from Missoula and Butte airports. There is an additional fee of $225 per vehicle each way (1-6 people) if you would like transportation to and from Missoula International Airport to The Ranch at Rock Creek. Check in and check out time are flexible, according to guest’s schedules. The ranch is pet-friendly and charges $50 per pet, per night.
The Ranch at Rock Creek, in Philipsburg, Montana, offers friendly horses of all riding levels
Insider Tips to Philipsburg
Did you know that Philipsburg, Montana is known for their sapphires? There are several mine claims on Rock Creek in Philipsburg, Montana. The Ranch at Rock Creek offers sapphire mining nearby if guests are interested.
View from the top of Ft. Boreman, Parkersburg, West Virginia
Parkersburg, West Virginia was not on my “Go To” list until recently when my husband and I headed there for a quick weekend away. Located at the confluence of the Ohio and Little Kanawha Rivers, Parkersburg is a pint-sized package of important aspects of American history. From pre-Civil War to the oil and gas boom to the height of manufacturing, Parkersburg’s history is a nutshell version of our shared tale of industriousness and the quest for new horizons.Many attractions are within easy walking distance of each other making a Parkersburg trip easy and relaxing.
Fort Boreman Historical Park – Located off US 50, Marrtown Rd exit just 2 miles from downtown, this park is a fitting starting place for a Parkersburg tour. From the vantage point of the park’s hill you can see both rivers, the train tressels that give testament to Parkersburg industrial past, and a large part of the city. Fort Boreman was also an important spot during the Civil War. There are remnants of the Union fortification that once exited here.
Toilet exhibit at Blennerhasset Museum of Regional History
Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History – 137 Juliana St. Along with showcasing items that depict the history of Blennerhasset Island and the family that lived there, this museum features unusual objects of Ohio Valley history dating back to 9000 B.C. When I visited, there was an unusual displays of early toilets as a special exhibit.
The museum is housed in a building that has served as a grocery store and a warehouse. This is an example of a re-purposed building done right. It’s gorgeous.
Oil and Gas Museum, 119 3rd St. This museum is a facinating mix of items important to Parkersburg and West Virginia history. There’s more than oil and gas industry paraphenelia. Wandering from room to room and floor to floor of what was once a massive hardware store, I was able to gather how life in the United States has changed from pre-Civil War days to the boom and demise of major manufacturing. You could go back here dozens of times and find some other treasure you didn’t see before.
The Oil and Gas Museum in Parkersburg, West Virginia
Julia-Ann Square Historic District – Juliana and Ann Sts between 9th and 13th Sts. Pick up a walking tour brochure at the Blennerhasset Museum or the Blennerhasset Hotel. The tour leads you past the finest homes in Parkersburg. Here is where prominent people lived back when Parkersburg was a booming center of trade and industry. The houses, dating between 1850 and 1910 are a gorgeous mix of Second Empire, 19th century eclectic and Queen Anne style architecture. In 1977, Julia-Ann Square acquired prominence by landing a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
Several residents were outside gardening or sitting on their porches while we walked by and were happy to talk.
Julia-Ann Square Historic District, Parkersburg, W Virginia
Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park, accessible via sternwheeler. (Purchase tickets at the Blennerhassett Museum, 137 Juliana St.) This island is where Irish aristocrat Herman Blennerhasset called home. His Palladian style mansion burned to the ground in 1811 but has been reconstructed to reflect the times when Blennerhassett was a prominent figure. Blennerhassett was accused, along with Aaron Burr, of treason for allegedly trying to establish a southwest empire.
From May to October, costumed docents lead tours of the mansion. Alas, we were in Parkersburg a week before the season opened. That’s okay. This just means I’m heading back to Parkersburg. I’m thinking about the fall when the colors will be at their peak.
The historic Blennerhassett Hotel in Parkersburg
Blennerhassett Hotel- If you are spending time exploring a town’s history, stay in its historic hotel. The Blennerhasset Hotel, built in the late nineteenth century, is a Parkerburg gem and downtown centerpiece. We stayed in a King room. On the weekends there are specials to entice guests. Our package was the Spring Fling which included a $20 gift card to use in the hotel and two Starbucks drinks. Our room rate for one night was $119. We used the gift card for the hotel’s sumptuous Sunday brunch. After the gift card, brunch cost us $15 and some change plus the tip.
320 Market St 304/422-3131;800/262-2536
Post and photos courtesy of Jamie Rhein, member of Midwest Travel Writers Association