Smugglers’ Notch: Summer family destination (yes!)

Senior editor Haley Overland and her family take this popular winter getaway for a summery spin.

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When I told friends and family we were going to Smugglers’ Notch in Vermont last summer, I got the same response again and again: “In July?”

The beauty of “Smuggs” (as those in-the-know call it) in the summer is a well-kept secret. While the resort is famous for its skiing, it’s jam-packed with family fun during the warmer months, too.

Read more: Road trips: 10 apps to keep your kids entertained>

Our Notch experience began with a two-hour “Ice Cream Float” canoe trip. My husband, Josh, and our two kids, Joey, 8, and Ryan, 6, paddled along the river with a group of other tourists and a fun, knowledgeable guide. We stopped midway to “float” among the gorgeous hilly landscape and savoured some of Vermont’s famous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. I thought the kids would be tired out after the big canoe ride, but our return involved a busy day of minigolf, basketball, life-sized chess, and tennis. By the next day we were rested and ready for the challenge of ArborTrek’s treetop obstacle course, just minutes away from the resort. Even Joey, my scaredy-cat, loved it!

WHAT TO DO…

Llama love

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My kids’ favourite activity was the llama trek­. It’s a guided tour through trails where Joey and Ryan each got to lead their own funny, vocal llama—young, curious Percy and old, affectionate Joe—as Josh and I tagged along to help keep the animals from straying into the apparently tasty woods. We learned a ton about llamas and totally wanted to take them home with us. Our guide also provided us with a picnic and (surprise!) more Ben & Jerry’s. After three hours, we reluctantly returned and were each gifted a little bag of our llamas’ hair, left over from their “summer haircut.” (I ended up discovering the bags in my purse two weeks later, much to my colleagues’ amusement.)

We also took advantage of the Summer Fun University (ages three and older), which offers all-day programs. Joey was an Adventure Ranger and went hiking, while Ryan joined his fellow Trail Blazers in making costumes and playing field games. Babies and toddlers are well taken care of, too, at the Treasures Daycare.

THE BEST…

Kid magnet
The FunZone
, Smuggs’s giant indoor playground under a massive white tent.

Shopping
You can get everything you need at the resort’s Country Store, from groceries and souvenir Billy Bob Bears to syrupy treats.

Swimming
Hike or shuttle to the resort’s Notchville Park for its Twister waterslide, Lily Pad Walk and waterfall.

Read more: All the best indoor water parks in Canada>

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Old-fashioned fun
Don’t miss the weekly Vermont Country Fair, featuring walkabout characters like the Friendly Pirate, plus games, crafts and the beloved go-cart race.
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DID YOU KNOW
Smugglers’ Notch gets its name from its naughty history. In the early 1800s, and also a century later during Prohibition, alcohol was smuggled from Canada to the States through the Notch’s dense woods.

A version of this article appeared in our July 2014 issue with the headline “Smugglers’ Notch,” p. 22.

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