I think that sometimes as parents we get caught in the all-or-nothing trap when we think about how to spend our vacation time. We either plan a multi-day family trip involving itineraries and flights or stay home and try to make the best of it (I refuse to use that word so popularly bandied about last summer and ending with –ation because I’d like it to just disappear from the lexicon).
I’d like to propose that we all get a little more flexible and creative; even 24 hours away can do wonders to refresh you and your family. You don’t have to go far and you don’t have to have elaborate plans. A visit to a fun roadside attraction followed by a few hours at a beloved museum you’ve been to many times before can be all you have on the agenda.
And if your kids are like mine, simply going to spend a night in a hotel is exciting and fun. They love little bottles of shampoo and watching TV in bed and access to an indoor pool. It doesn’t to be expensive or uncomfortable either. In fact, in our family we’ve finally moved beyond the place where we have to rent a suite or spend hours huddled in the bathroom trying to read while the kids fall asleep. Now we simply rent one room with two double beds and a sofa, put the boys to bed, and sit there and read while they fall sleep with the light on. They may giggle and wiggle a bit; we may have to have them start the night in separate beds; but they always fall asleep eventually.
Anyway, things have been very busy this spring between Little League, music lessons, and all of the usual end-of-the-school year activities. Sometimes I feel like we go for days without all sitting down together let alone actually getting away anywhere . So when I was offered the chance to spend a night at the Willow Valley Resort in Lancaster, I cleared the decks and fit it in between a baseball came and an end-of-year concert. We had exactly 24 hours to play and relax. We started out at the Choo Choo Barn, moved on to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, and by late afternoon were ready to park ourselves at the hotel.
We really liked the pool and small indoor water play area, which were bright, cheerful, and positively brimming with lifeguards on the day we were there (I do love a hotel that thinks about details like that when trying to attract families).
Tommy especially enjoyed the tunnel slide and Teddy was able to splash around in the shallow area all on his own.
We ate dinner at the smorgasbord, which, judging by the crowd waiting at the front desk at 5 p.m., is a popular weekend destination. I will admit that I didn’t have high hopes for the buffet – it’s not usually my favorite way to eat and we were there mostly because I thought the kids would like it (which they did). But I was pleasantly surprised by how good everything tasted – especially my mashed potatoes, which I’m guessing were loaded with butter and sour cream. Not that I actually want to know. All of the bread and pies are baked on the property and you can tell (the peanut butter pie is especially divine). And where else could Tommy eat chicken noodle soup, cocktail shrimp, and cookies and cream pudding all at the same time?
The next morning after an early breakfast we took a stroll around the little pond on the property, stopping to meet the ducklings and goslings at the edge before the kids took a turn on the playset.
Then it was time for another swim (we would have skipped the stroll and headed right for the pool, but it didn’t open until 10 – which is midday as far as my kids are concerned).
We finished up at the resort’s Bake Shoppe where I was tempted by a variety of Whoopie pies, but settled instead for a perfect homemade sour cream donut and a croissant that was sacrilegiously dipped in glaze to glorious effect.
And then it was less than an hour home, where we plunged right back into our busy life with Teddy’s Kindermusik concert. But all of us felt a little different – energized and happy to have been together with no distractions, even if it was just overnight. And so today I’m dreaming of doing this more often in the future. I would definitely return to Willow Valley and visit some of the other Lancaster attractions like Dutch Wonderland and the Lancaster Science Factory. But I know it would also be fun just to check into the resort, swim a lot, eat a dozen of those croissants, and just enjoy each other’s company. Sometimes it’s no more complicated than that.
The Willow Valley Resort has recently been purchased by DoubleTree – you can stay in the older resort building which is where the smorgasbord is or (like we did) in a newer building which houses the pool/water play area pictured above. We experienced friendly, efficient service and a clean, quiet room (this despite a large wedding taking place in the nearby atrium).
What are your Monday Dreams? Please feel free to share them below. Questions? See About Monday Dreaming.
The Willow Valley Resort/DoubleTree graciously paid for our room for one night but not our food. I’ll always let you know when I get something for free.