U.S. public schools give kids two weeks at home for winter break during the Christmas and New Year holidays. My family normally spends this time at home relaxing and enjoying a break from life's usual hustle and bustle. Traveling with baby - especially multiple children - is not usually our idea of relaxation. However, this year we decided to spend a few days after Christmas at Massanutten Resort in McGhayesville, VA. Only a couple of hours away from our house, it was a good choice for a quick trip that allowed us to enjoy the outdoors.
Located in the Ridge and Valley region of the Appalachian Mountains, Massanutten has 6,000 acres of outdoor and indoor amenities. My first trip to Massanutten that I can remember was well over 20 years ago and at that time it was strictly a ski lodge. So I was apprehensive about bringing my five and three-year-old children skiing, thinking they were too young to enjoy the activity. To my surprise, Massanutten has grown into a year-round resort that offers a wide variety of family-friendly activities.
Although it is now a family resort, Massanutten is in the mountains and is not a place I would choose to bring a stroller. When traveling with a baby or toddler, the best option would be to bring a baby carrier. My youngest child is three and a half, but his little legs can’t keep up with his older siblings. Plus, he likes to run off (one of the joys of traveling with a baby!), so I still use the baby carrier often.
I’ll outline how baby-wearing came in handy while we were on this family vacation to the mountains and maybe you’ll be inclined to bring one on your next trip!
Massanutten Family Activities:
● Snow tubing
● Ice skating
● An indoor water park and indoor rec pools during the winter months
● An escape room
● Go-kart, bumper cars, mini-golf
● Climbing wall
Day One: Snowboarding and Baby-Wearing Walks
It’s been unseasonably warm in the Northeast this year, so we hoped that traveling to the mountains would allow us to glimpse the snow (even artificial snow). Traveling with the sole purpose of seeing snow meant that we definitely had to sign our kids up for snowboarding lessons. I knew our ten- and eight-year-old kids would have no problem picking up snowboarding, but I wasn’t sure how my five-year-old would take to it. Thankfully, the resort offers lessons and all three of my older kids were able to get an hour-long private lesson with an instructor before we turned them loose on the bunny slopes.
While we did see a few toddlers on skis and snowboards, my three-year-old had no interest in it. So I was glad I brought my baby carrier because I knew we’d do a lot of walking in areas that were not stroller friendly and his little legs get tired quickly. After a couple of hours playing in the snow, he ended up taking a two-hour nap nestled in on my back while his older siblings were still on the slopes. He got to sleep and, since I was baby-wearing, we didn’t have to worry about lugging around a heavy stroller. Hitting the bunny slopes for four hours was enough to wear my older kids out, too, and that was a wrap for our first day.
Day Two: Go-Karts and Waterpark Featuring the Waterproof Baby Carrier
Massanutten’s waterpark is huge. Since it has an indoor and outdoor waterpark, guests can enjoy it all year round. My kids love to swim so any vacation destination we go to has to offer a pool. Massanutten did not disappoint! In addition, to the waterpark, they have two rec pools and hot tubs for adults. The waterpark opens at 11:30 am but my kids are 6:00 am risers, so after breakfast, we needed something fun to do.
Located across the street from the ski lodge, the resort offers go-karts, bumper cars, and two 18-hole courses of putt-putt golf. Two of my boys are really into Mario Kart, which made go-karts the obvious choice for our morning activity. There’s no age limit to ride in the go-karts, but they do require that riders be at least 36” tall even when riding as a passenger. We got lucky and my three-year-old just made the height requirement. It’s hard to please everyone, but all the kids in our group loved the go-karts. And you could tell it was a popular attraction because we had to wait in line for 30 minutes before it was our turn. Toddlers aren’t good at standing still, so I was glad I had the option of baby wearing while we stood in line. That meant I never had to leave the group to chase him down.
We followed up the go-karts with the waterpark. The park is heated to 84 degrees Fahrenheit, making it comfortably warm inside. Personally, the water itself was cold for me but the big kids ran from the water cannons, sprayers, and tipping buckets to the huge slides and lazy river often enough to keep them warm. My three-year-old is not quite as active as my older kids. He enjoyed floating in the lazy river with me and kicking around the pool. After a while, he got cold from the water as well and asked to be held frequently to warm up. My older kids weren’t quite ready to leave yet so I buckled him into the carrier and walked around for a while (this place was packed and there was nowhere to sit down!) Baby wearing allowed for my body heat to raise his temperature. It wasn’t long before he was ready to get down and go again.
Day Three: Putt-Putt, Swimming, Arcade, Snow Tubing
We packed a lot into our last day at the resort. I have to say putt-putt got a little crazy and the kids took turns whining and running all over the course. It was one of those activities that seemed great in your head, but in reality, was a bit of a nightmare. I would have loved to strap BOTH of my toddlers into the carrier to keep them from dashing off, but they were having too much fun for me to even think about it. Thankfully, we had grandma there to help us keep an eye on the kids! You can’t exactly push a stroller through a mini-golf course so having a carrier and babywearing while you enjoy a little putt-putt would still be ideal for families with smaller infants.
After mini-golf and lunch, we decided to try one of the rec center pools. We got lucky and the pool we chose had a large 3-foot shallow section, so all four of our kids could stand and have fun in the water. If it had been deeper I would have had to spend an hour holding my 37lb toddler in my arms which gets tiring fast and makes my back sore. Cue: waterproof baby carrier to the rescue!
The arcade was in the rec center on the same level as the swimming pool, so we hit that next. Night tubing followed and honestly it was my favorite activity of the trip. 5/5 stars, I highly recommend it! It rained the whole time we were out there but that did not diminish the fun at all. When you get there, they require that everyone sit in their own inner tube. So if you’re traveling with baby, especially an infant, one parent will need to watch the fun from the sidelines while holding the baby and the other adult(s) will need to go tubing with the kiddos.
My three-year-old was just big enough to go in his own inner tube but he wasn’t strong enough to carry or even drag his own tube. The uphill trip back to the top was icy, so every time he tried to walk he slid and fell. Thankfully, baby wearing allowed me to strap him on my back and carry both inner tubes. They sell the tickets for tubing in 90-minute sessions but it was so much fun that we could have gone much longer! It was the perfect way to end our trip.
Traveling With Baby to Massanutten: The Verdict
There are 12 restaurants on-site, including an ice cream shop, but many of the resort accommodations are single-family homes or townhomes that have fully stocked kitchens. We chose to eat in because we have four kids and three adults, which can get expensive, but if you chose to go out there are a lot of options! A baby carrier comes in handy when you need to nurse discreetly or when your little one is fussy, tired, and needs to be held close.
We plan on coming back in the summer to enjoy their warm-weather activities. In the summer months, you can go zip-lining, tubing, and hiking. Plus, they have go-karts, bumper cars, climbing walls, and an outdoor water park. All in all, this was a great family resort for all ages and a great place to utilize your baby carrier! Traveling with baby doesn’t have to be so complicated - you just have to use baby wearing to your advantage!