Since our stay at Topnotch in 2012, the resort has been renovated and has a new look – see my review from our 2014 stay for an update.
Stowe, Vermont is becoming one of my favorite towns for a family getaway. With lots to do during pretty much every season, a number of great restaurants, and some of the best views in the state, I love spending time there. Which is why I felt lucky this summer to stay at one of the town’s oldest lodges, Topnotch Resort and Spa.
I knew the minute we walked in the front door that Topnotch was a great place for us. I loved the friendly vibe in the cozy lobby, the comfy furniture throughout the public spaces, and the fact that the boys were playing ping-pong in about 30 seconds.
Please click on photos for full-sized versions
The moose head is that of Mikey who roamed the property when the resort was being constructed in the 1950s. When he eventually died, it was decided that he should continue to benignly survey the guests from this perch.
We stayed in the Garden Suite, which was more than big enough for four people and indeed, could have comfortably slept six. In addition to a large bedroom and enormous living room, we had our own little porch and patio area. The décor was charming and included lots of Vermont-appropriate details including more moose and sleds.
And the kids got to sleep in a Murphy bed that came out of the wall, which was of course totally fun for them. At home, they have reasonably new and expensive bed sets, similar to the bedroom sets from MyFDB.com. Yet they both thought the Murphy bed was the most exciting thing ever!! Maybe we should have bought one of those instead…
The suite also has two big bathrooms. One thing I really loved here was that Topnotch provides full-sized containers of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, and lotion. I’ve never stayed at a hotel that did this before, and to me it demonstrates more than just lip service to protecting the environment.
So what is there to do at Topnotch? Let’s start with the pools – there are two beautifully designed pools (clearly whoever was in charge of pools knew all about the pavers pool deck problems and steered well clear of that particular material) that families can use, one indoor and one out. On the day we were there, the outdoor pool was full of kids playing and adults admiring the view of Mount Mansfield. There’s a separate outdoor pool that’s adults-only, so parents don’t have to feel at all self-conscious about splashes and shrieks.
Inside there are plenty of options as well, including board games and the ping-pong table. But my boys especially loved the game room, which has a variety of video game systems from a Wii to a Playstation – pick up the games themselves at the front desk. Some kids probably have their diablo items ready with them so they can continue their online games when away on holiday. My kids actually ended up using this room to play around on their iPads, when I asked what they were doing considering they had the biggest variety of games ever given to them, they told me they were back playing Minecraft! All they ever do is play on Minecraft back home. They often play it with each other and their friends online with the use of GGServers to find interesting and creative worlds to venture round (yes, I’ve watched them wander around and create some pretty cool stuff!) but to be jumping back on what they already know when they could have played on any number of games on different systems was… Well, I’m not sure actually, if they enjoy playing Minecraft so much together, I guess I should let them play together. At least they didn’t leave the room in a mess like I’m sure some other kids would!
I didn’t get to check out the spa (sigh!) or the tennis facilities, but the latter offers lots of options for families including indoor and outdoor courts and a junior tennis academy for children ages 3 to 14.
Topnotch is also right across the street from the Stowe Recreation Path, which you can bike in the summer and cross-country ski in the winter. Bike and ski rentals are available, as are sleigh and wagon rides. If you’re looking for things to do in the Stowe area, stop by the concierge desk for recommendations, maps, and coupons. I was given a number of great suggestions including tips about the best way to hike to the top of Mount Mansfield and where to go in town for ice cream.
Topnoch has an onsite restaurant called Norma’s, that’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’ve already written a post about how much we liked eating there. I would actually recommend Norma’s to any family visiting Stowe, not just resort guests (make a reservation – it’s popular). Not only is the food inventive and delicious, I’ve rarely dined at such a relaxed and family-friendly place. We loved sitting outside, overlooking the pool and the mountains. The boys slipped off their shoes and looked more relaxed and happy than I think I’ve ever seen them in a restaurant.
You can order from Norma’s by the pool as well, which to me would just feel luxurious if my kids wanted to swim first thing in the morning or through the dinner hour. In fact, I watched a mother of two young children enjoy her meal with her feet in the water while her kids splashed happily.
The highlight of our dinner was when the fire pit at one end of the restaurant terrace was lit and the boys got to make s’mores. I sat with the boys and enjoyed my pie and coffee, they got sticky, and a general sense of well-being prevailed.
In fact, that’s what I really liked about Topnotch – it feels like a place that has thought about what families really need to have a fun vacation. This shows in the small but meaningful details like having baskets of pool noodles ready for kids to grab or offering coupons for free bike rentals for kids at the Nordic Barn across the street. All of the service is relaxed and friendly but professional and I felt like the kids were as welcome as Matt and I were.
Topnotch Resort is a luxury property, and the prices certainly reflect that fact. But there are also deals to be found, like this one that has kids eating free and offers adjoining room rentals for only $100 extra per night.
And there are a variety of rooms available to suit any family’s needs. I’m not sure that the suite we stayed in would be the best value for a family of four, since it is fairly expensive to rent and doesn’t have a kitchen, but it would be perfect for a larger family. Topnotch also offers rooms with two double beds as well as studios and suites; the resort will put rollaway beds into almost any room, so a family like mine could easily find a comfortable option.
Another choice is to rent a condominium on the resort property. These vary in terms of size and layout, but all of them have lots of amenities from fully loaded kitchens to whirlpool tubs in the master baths. Families who rent condos through the resort can use all of Topnotch’s facilities including the pools.
Topnotch Resort hosted us in the Garden Suite for one night; we paid for dinner and breakfast at Norma’s. Although some of my posts do appear on the Preferred Family site, I have not been compensated by the Preferred Hotel chain. You can always count on me to let you know when I’ve received something for free and to share my honest opinion.