by Michael Blanding
There are plenty of children’s stories that start with opening up a portal to a new world — “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Never-Ending Story” — but few places exist where you can experience that thrill in the real world.
Enter Adventure Suites, a motel-turned-magical universe at the foot of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, where a different world awaits behind every door. Open one up and you might find a prehistoric cave or an African jungle; a movie theater complete with popcorn machine, or a dance club with disco floor and DJ station. But these are no chintzy plastic recreations — each of the rooms here is done with meticulous attention to detail and high-quality furnishings, including state-of-the-art-electronics and imported antiques that keep the illusions feeling real.
Once upon a time, Adventure Suites started as an ordinary motel on the White Mountain Highway, unimaginatively called the Cross Country. In the 1980s it added its first bit of pizzazz with a waterbed and Jacuzzi in each room, changing its name to the Presidential Waterbed Hotel. (Considering its slogan was “The Poconos of the White Mountains,” it’s doubtful any actual presidents stayed there.) In 1998, current owner Kathy Brassil took over the hotel from her parents and gave it a facelift. Out went the waterbeds and in came the first themed room, The Treehouse, with an imitation tree growing up through the middle. The suite was an instant hit (it’s still one of the most popular rooms) and paved the way for a complete makeover during the next two decades. Now it has 19 themed rooms, each representing a different place, time period, or other fantasy experience.
In addition to the themed rooms, the hotel features lots of extras to occupy guests, including a DVD library with several thousand titles, board games and a pool table, and a fire pit out back with a view of the mountains. The only thing lacking is a pool — though the Jacuzzi or hot tub in every room makes up for that. In short, kids and adults alike will find it hard not to fall under the spell of a stay here — everything is so over-the-top fun, the hotel itself is half of the vacation.
Our Editor Loves
- One-of-a-kind adventure themed suites
- Jacuzzis or hot tubs in every room
- Fire pit with mountain view
- Horse Back Riding
- Theme Park
- Water Parks
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Breakfast
- Free Wi-Fi
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Adventure Suites has 19 themed suites, 11 of which are designated as family-friendly. Even most of those that aren't, however, can accommodate a crib or rollaway bed for at least one child.
Adventure Suites' most basic rooms are anything but. The four suites -- Wolf Den, Deserted Island, Sugar Shack, and Rocket Launcher -- feature fantastical dÃ©cor in a fun range of styles. The economy suites are on the smaller side, ranging around 300 to 400 square feet. However, with the exception of Rocket Launcher, each still features a two-person Jacuzzi tub, and two 32-inch flat-screen TVs with DVD players, along with a fold-out couch and kitchenette with microwave and refrigerator.
-The Wolf Den is dedicated to the king of canines, with howling wolf sculptures and picture at every turn. The suite has a woodsy New Hampshire feel, with a queen-sized bed of tree timbers.
-The Deserted Island will thrill fans of "Gilligan's Island" and "Spongebob Squarepants" alike, with a queen-sized bed encased in an oyster shell that actually closes (perfect for when your little castaways are singing pirate songs).
-The Sugar Shack is definitely big enough for a family of four -- but features a particularly "adult" theme, resembling a Poconos honeymoon suite complete with heart-shaped bed and tub.
-Of all of the economy suites, Rocket Launcher is least convenient for families; it's small size barely accommodates a queen bed, though it could host a crib in a pinch. The Space Shuttle-themed suite is also the only one without its own hot tub, though makes up for it with a gorgeous bathroom with state-of-the-art electronic toilet. For larger parties, the room connects to Sky Captain's Lounge next door.
The deluxe suites are more suited to couples than families -- in theme if not in space. Ranging in size from 300 to 400 square feet, these rooms are designed as more intimate and romantic accommodations. They lack the extra sleeper bed that the economy suites include, though they do have enough floor space to accommodate a rollaway -- especially in the Victorian Spa or the New York Penthouse. Each of these suites includes a large flat-screen TV affixed to a swivel mount to be viewed from either the bed or the hot tub.
-The Log Cabin is a woodsy retreat with a bed hand-made from aspen logs, a reclining love seat, and fireplace.
-The Dragon's Lair is a fantasy realm of knights, dragons, and gargoyles, complete with a "floating bed" suspended from the ceiling and a unique waterfall sink.
-The Wine Cellar feels is an oenophile's dreamscape, with a stone walls, vaulted wooden ceiling and barrel-shaped hot tub; it has a separate small TV in the shower.
-The Victorian Spa is all frills and Oriental carpets, with a four poster Chippendales bed and fireplace. Its best feature is a built-in two-person spa with sauna and steam shower.
-Finally, Trump Tower has nothing on the New York Penthouse, which comes complete with its own putting green in the living room, along with a tastefully decorated modern suite with wet bar and luxury bathroom (strangely equipped with a urinal and high-powered air dryer ala Penn Station).
The Super Suites are a step up from Deluxe in both spaciousness and concept -- incorporating features that go beyond just decoration and fixtures to create a whole fantasy experience. These suites, ranging in size from 400 to 700 square feet, are all unique in style and amenities. Of the five Super Suites, Motorcycle Madness, Treehouse, and Owner's Quarters can all accommodate at least four children each; Roman Rendezvous can accommodate a rollaway; Love Shack is best for couples.
-The original adventure suite, the Treehouse is great for young kids (up to six!), who will love climbing in, up, and around "Mr. Tree Trunk," the huge molded tree growing out of the center of the floor. The suite also features a two-person Jacuzzi, and kitchenette with full-size refrigerator and dining table.
-Motorcycle Madness is better for older kids or teenagers, with a rip-roaring Harley-Davidson theme, including a "biker bar," 44-inch flat-screen, Harley poker table, and seven-person hot tub. Four people fit in the room itself; the garage can accommodate two motorcyles (no joke) along with another two kids on a fold-down Murphy bed.
-Owner's Quarters is like a private vacation cottage, including two floors with two queen beds and a set of bunk beds. Amenities include a full kitchen, a two-person hot tub, and no fewer than three televisions.
-The Roman Rendezvous is a little Italy of romance, with a chromatherapy hot tub, gas fireplace, kitchenette, flat-screen TV and luxury bathroom with another TV in the shower. Above the bed, the constellations are traced in fiber optic lights, along with a shooting star every 30 seconds.
-Love Shack takes its cues from the eponymous B-52s song, with a 70s vibe, psychedelic dÃ©cor, and of course, a rusted tin roof.
The top of the adventure food chain are the Galaxy Suites, which are not only spacious in size, but also ambitious in concept, with a fully immersive themed environment. Of the five suites, The Cave, The Jungle, and Showtime are great for families; The Club will appeal to teenagers; and Sky Captain's Lounge is perfect for large parties and extended families traveling together.
-It's impossible not to think "Fred Flintstone" when you walk into The Cave, a prehistoric den complete with stalactites hanging from the ceiling, and cave art on the walls. The space includes a five-person hot tub, three TVs, kitchenette, and waterfall shower in the bath, along with several caverns and tunnels suited for kids to hang out and sleep in privacy (while leaving parents to theirs.)
-Don't expect dense undergrowth in The Jungle -- do expect a palatial space with lots of African masks and animal prints, including unique bar stools in the form of tiger, lion, and zebra hindquarters. The suite features a five-person hot tub, kitchenette, outdoor shower, and separate "Gorilla Villa" loft for the kids with TV and sleeping pad.
-Spend the night at the movies at Showtime, a surround sound theater with a projector and 10-foot screen, comfy leather couches that convert to beds, and a popcorn machine in the kitchenette. The suite features a heart-shaped tub in the bathroom with a view of the screen. The entertainment system includes an HDMI port so you can plug in your own device.
-The newest adventure suite, The Club, is exactly what it sounds like with a two-level dance club that includes a disco floor, disco ball, hot tub, dance cage (with pole!), and DJ station with mixer and aux hookups. Thankfully (for parents), the set up also includes a soundproof "observation deck" with a quiet view of the mountains. In addition to a king-sized bed, the suite includes two double fold-down beds and can accommodate up to four rollaway beds.
-The biggest suite in the hotel, Sky Captain's Lounge can accommodate up to 11 people (13 with the connecting Rocket Launcher suite) in the luxury of their own virtual private jet. The 3-story suite includes an outdoor hot tub, dance floor, arcade game machines, full kitchen with wet bar (and optional beer keg), gas fireplace, and a surround-sound movie theater with convertible leather furniture.
Ever played pool with a knight in armor? Cross that one off the bucket list with the resort's full-sized billiards table in the lobby, right next to the two full sized suits of armor and a life-size statue of an angry native warrior. Balls and cues are available by request from the front desk. Kids must be 14 years old to use the pool table, which is a 100-year-old antique.
In addition, the lobby has a full complement of board games, as well as an extensive DVD library with more than 2,000 titles for free check-out. During holidays and other special occasions, staff set up a giant projector screen to show movies right in the lobby.
Backyard and Fire Pit
Adventure Suites have a huge back yard with a grassy area that comes complete with a number of lawn games, including Frisbee golf, cornhole, ladder ball, and an oversized checkerboard. Tucked into a corner is a playhouse with a Liliputian sized door that's popular with toddlers.
The centerpiece is the firepit, located on a patio in its own dragon-topped fireplace and surrounded by Adirondack chairs with a view of the Moat Mountain range and Cathedral Ledge. Staff light the fire nightly year-round -- except in case of a downpour or a blizzard -- and a S'more kit with all the fixings is available from the onsite gift shop.
In winter, the backyard is further tricked out with an ice luge for sledding, as well as several groomed cross-country trails leading on property.
An imitation bank vault located off of the lobby is home to the resort's amply stocked gift shop, which includes all kinds of fun tchotchkes and souvenirs for the kids, including stuffed animals, T-shirts, candy, and games. There are some useful items, as well, including toiletries and medicines of all types, as well as a fair assortment of Adventure Suites branded swag and a full selection of postcards featuring every room in the place, so you can check out the rooms you are missing.
Adventure Suites doesn't have a restaurant onsite per se, but it does have a cute little breakfast room located off the lobby -- and of course it has a theme, in this case a 1950's-era soda shop complete with padded chrome barstools and a checkerboard tile floor. Breakfast is served between 6:45 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. every day, and includes bagels, cereals, yogurts, and juice. Most exciting for the kids, however, are two make-your-own Belgian waffle stations complete with maple syrup, strawberries, and whipped cream. Coffee is also available throughout the day, as are fresh-baked cookies and popcorn every afternoon.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Add-On Room Amenities
As if the suites themselves weren't enough, the hotel offers an embarrassment of extras to add to the experience (for a fee of course) -- some examples include silk sheets, in-room massage, chocolate covered strawberries, and a birthday party add-on that comes with a birthday cake, balloons, and party favors.
Many of the suites are pet-friendly, and can accommodate dogs at the rate of $25 a tail.
The hotel also has a list of pet sitters and babysitters to recommend.
The Art of Smart Timing
Adventure Suites is open year-round with several high seasons. Summer is popular with families heading into the mountains to beat the heat; fall brings leaf peepers to take in New Hampshire's famous fall foliage; and winter, of course, brings skiers to try the slopes at nearby Cranmore, Attitash, and Wildcat. Slower times are late fall and early winter after peak leaf season, but before the snow has started to fall on the mountains; and in early spring, between March and April, a time called "mud season" for unfortunately obvious reasons.
The closest airport is Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, located a two-hour drive from North Conway. It is served by American, Delta, Southwest, and United. A full complement of domestic and international carriers serves Boston's Logan International Airport, a three-hour drive from the White Mountains.
Most visitors rent a car to get around the town and the surrounding mountains. There isn't any regular bus service throughout the area, though taxis can be used for short trips. Adventure Suites is close to several restaurants within walking distance.
For Mom and Dad
If parents can steal a few hours away from the kids, they'll do best to spend them inside the hotel. In addition to the obvious appeal of the in-room hot tubs and Jacuzzis, the hotel offers various romantic add-ons including rose petals, Champagne, and "tasteful adult accessories" that are sure to make those all-day kids' ski lessons more than worth it. (Insert winking emoji.)