Local Festival + Resort Hotel = Easy New England Summer Getaway
An easy weekend travel formula: book in at a resort hotel during a New England summer festival and enjoy a fun escape for all ages.
Story & photos by Melissa Coleman
My family and I landed on an easy weekend travel formula: Book in at a resort hotel during a New England summer festival and enjoy a fun escape for all ages. Last summer we tried two such hotel/festival combos, one by the sea in Maine and the other in the mountains of Vermont. Each destination had its own charms, but we found the getaways equally appealing for both the kids and the parents.
Hotel: The Colony Hotel
Town: Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Arundel, Maine
Festival: LAUNCH! A Maritime Festival
Dates: June 14-18, 2017
The palatial Colony Hotel in summer has long been a celebrated weekend getaway in its own right. Dating to 1914, the John Calvin Stevens building has all the fittings of an early 20th century hotel by the sea. Picture the perfect traditional New England wedding sited between a classic wraparound porch and ocean backdrop and you have an idea of the one that took place the weekend we visited.
The 11-acre resort has 125 rooms and two restaurants with complimentary breakfast buffet. There’s a heated saltwater pool overlooking the ocean, private beach, and easy access to walks along the beach and past Walker’s Point for a glance at the Bush family compound.
It was tempting to park our twin tween girls at the pool and call it good for the weekend. However, we’d planned the trip in conjunction with the LAUNCH! Maritime Festival, a new annual event focused around the seafaring history of the Kennebunks. This gave us ample incentive to leave the pool and explore activities around town.
Our first stop on Friday evening was the Castaway Cove for Kids at the Seafood Center of Maine in Arundel. Children of all ages filled up on homemade clam cakes and ice cream, decorated nautical buoys, investigated the marine life touch tanks, and let loose in the bouncy houses.
If that wasn’t enough to get the twins’ wiggles out, we could have woken early on Saturday for the Sailors & Sirens 5K race at 9:15am at the Franciscan Monastery in Kennebunk. The beachside run/walk boasted nautical costumes as well as, yes, very real looking mermaids and pirates.
Instead we went to the “Chopped”-style Captain’s Cookoff at the Waterhouse Center in downtown Kennebunk, about a 15-minute drive from the hotel. While the chefs did their thing with the required ingredients and were judged by resident foodies, we sampled chowders from a local cook-off and blueberry desserts made by aspiring kids.
As the weather was sunny and warm for June, we returned to the Colony to hang at the pool over lunch and into the afternoon, and then took a walk on the beach below.
For an early dinner, we headed into Kennebunkport for the festival’s Classic Maine Lobster Bake under a tent on the Kennebunk River near the Pilot House. We sat at tables with red-and-white checked tablecloths in the late afternoon sun and gorged on lobster, corn on the cob, and clams.
The kids and their father went back to the hotel and I met up with some friends for the VIP Rock the Boat adults-only after-party. It was hosted on the Spirit of Massachusetts schooner, moored on the Kennebunk River. We drank dark and stormies and champagne on deck and watched the River Lights Boat Parade in the harbor. The live music and boats adorned with lights and costumed passengers made for a festive night on the town.
On Sunday morning we enjoyed the buffet breakfast at the Colony, but missed the 8am Blessing of the Fleet up the coast in Cape Porpoise village. The festival’s closing event wished fair winds and following seas to the many local crews and captains.
We spent the rest of our morning walking about Kennebunkport’s downtown in search of a perfect father’s day gift. This we found at Beach Grass in the form of a painted wooden VW bus carving with surfboards on top.
The weekend capped off with lunch at Salt & Honey (https://thesaltandhoney.com), and then a coffee for the drive home from Dock Square Coffee House. We left the Kennebunks content and revived by the healthy doses of sun and salty early summer air.
Town: Stowe, Vermont
Festival: B3 – Bikes, Brews & Beats Festival
Dates: June 23-25, 2017
Like the Colony, the Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa is a destination in itself. Owned by the Baraw family since 1963, the original motel has grown to include 116 rooms in the hotel and 60 townhouse rooms across 60 acres. The main hotel buildings form a full circle around the inner gardens and pool, with a classic Vermont covered bridge to complete the loop.
When my kids played in the gardens I could watch them from the window of our room. There’s also a walking meditative labyrinth and destination spa with a mineral soaking pool and hydrotherapy waterfall modeled after nearby Bingham Falls.
Again, we’d planned our visit to coincide with a festival, in this case the annual B3 (Bikes, Brews & Beats) Festival, which began in 2014 to bring cycling, beer, and music to the somewhat sleepy atmosphere of Stowe in early summer. Though we had warm rainy weather much of the weekend, we made the most of the breaks in the downpour to explore the area and festival events (all free with a B3 bracelet).
Friday afternoon kicked off with a Block Party on Park Street in the Stowe village. Despite the drizzle, a festive crowd enjoyed beer tastings from local breweries, including Alchemist and Idletyme, as well as samples of local chocolates, pizza, cider, and coffee.
The Critical Mass Ride at 6:30pm brought out costumes and local spirit for a group ride around town. Everyone ended the night at Piecasso (http://www.piecasso.com), a pizzeria right across the street from the Stoweflake, for the Kickoff Party with raffles and local bands.
The next day, the festival offered a wide range of group rides, from 4-hour single track and beer tours, to multi-level family and kids rides. Since the weather was intermittent, we opted to relax at the hotel and follow our whim. This included a hearty breakfast at Charlie B’s Restaurant, and a dip in the pool and Jacuzzi located just outside the spa and sports club.
The Snowflake’s central location made it easy to explore the area. We checked out bikes from the hotel and crossed the street to the Stowe Recreation Path. The paved trail runs 5.3 miles through fields and trees along the West Branch Little River. At the upper end, it connects to a steep climb on the road up to Bingham Falls, but we decided to return later by car. We glided back down past the Stoweflake and into town for a reward from the bakery at the Café on Main.
After biking back to the Stoweflake, we stopped across the street for a late pizza lunch at Piecasso. Next was the big event for kids and kids at heart, the Trike Race at 4pm at Sushi Yoshi, another great nearby eatery. After that, the Rusty Nail hosted live music and mountain bike movies (hosted this year by Stowe Cider).
Sunday morning was spa time for mom. The Ayurvedic facial, with healing herbs and oils, did the just trick for a dose of pampering, followed by a soak in the mineral pool and a massage from the hydrotherapy waterfall.
After checking out of the Stoweflake, we drove up to Bingham Falls itself and walked the short path to the overlook. The wet weather made the cascade especially jubilant.
On the way out of town, we couldn’t resist a stop at the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in neighboring Waterbury. The 30-minute factory tours run every 30 minutes from 10am to 6pm and include a fair share of ice cream samples. Best thing I didn’t already know: Ben and Jerry met in 7th grade gym class because they were the two slowest runners.
Melissa Coleman has written for publications including the New York Times, O, The Oprah Magazine, and National Geographic Traveler. She is the author of This Life is In Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres and a Family’s Heartbreak, a New York Times bestselling memoir and finalist for the New England Book Award, about growing up during the 1970s back-to-the-land movement. She lives in Maine and can be found at melissacoleman.com.