We love Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Vermont. I mean, LOVE. It’s one of the most special places we’ve been as a family, and we were thrilled to check it out for the first time without snow on the ground! And, wow, there is so much happening! Here are just some of the MANY things to do at Smugglers’ Notch in summer…
Honestly, we barely scratched the surface and we were at Smuggs this summer for six days. Obviously we’ll be going back to do additional “research.” But for now, I’m so excited to share the best bits of our trip.
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Things to do around Smugglers’ Notch in summer
Located in Jeffersonville, not far south of the Canadian border, Smuggs offers so much onsite programming that they have to publish an entire book that outlines the daily activities. And it’s not a small book. Many of the activities are included with your Family Fest package (which also includes your condo-style accommodations), and some are pay-to-play.
Mark my words: if you wanted to arrive and spend nothing more than you already had to get to Smuggs — which in and of itself is very reasonable as family vacations go — you could easily enjoy a week-long vacation doing only what’s included. But since there are some pretty amazing paid activities, too, I’ll break down our favourite list of free things to do at Smugglers’ Notch Resort as well as those we thought were definitely worth paying for…
Free things to do at/near Smuggs:
- Kids’ camp — not all of the camps are included with your Family Fest package but many are. The Adventure Rangers camp that both The K Man and Miss Q attended, for example, is FREE with this package! It goes from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day of the week and includes a variety of options that the kids themselves can choose from one day to the next. From arts and crafts to scenic hikes, and a daily dip in one of the many onsite pools, my kids were never bored
- Pools and waterparks — we only made it to the one in Notchville Park because we were so busy with everything else all week, but — WOW! — what a great little waterpark; three pools (one with an obstacle course, one with a play structure and waterslide, and one for just swimming), all of which were carefully attended by lifeguards. There are eight heated pools, four waterslides and two freshwater reservoirs at Smuggs! Note that you’ll need to take your Notch Cards to get into the pool areas
- FunZone 2.0 — there’s an entire floor of free fun waiting for your kids at the newly renovated 26,000-square-foot FunZone complex, which I wrote about here
- Mountain biking — bring your own bike and helmets and head up the trails! Smuggs boasts seven miles of single-track and eight miles of double-track mountain biking across its mountains, and they go from beginner to expert so no matter where you are on your mountain biking journey, there’s a trail for you
- Giant chess — who doesn’t love playing chess with pieces the size of toddlers?
- Mini-putt — we’ve never been to a resort where mini golf has been included, so this was a nice surprise!
- Karaoke — I will not be sharing photo or video evidence of our adults-only karaoke night, but believe me…it was CRAZY FUN! And, yes, there’s a family-friendly version a few times a week as well
- Bingham Falls — a short drive through the Notch Road, which is an adventure unto itself (drive carefully!), you can go in search of one of the area’s biggest treats: a stunning waterfall and swimming hole that is best described as a cenote. Wear sturdy sandles like KEENs, along with your bathingsuits under some quick-dry clothes, and bring compact towels (there’s nowhere to change). If you’re going midweek, it won’t be too busy but on the weekends, head there by 9 or 10 a.m. to ensure it’s not overrun with locals and tourists. Getting there…turn left out of the resort, and as you drive from Smuggs through the Notch Road towards Stowe, watch for the Stowe Resort gondola and then the Smugglers’ Notch State Park on the right with its green and yellow sign. Shortly after, there are two large but unmarked areas on the left and right sides of the road where you can park; they’re dirt pads on the road’s shoulders and nothing fancy so don’t expect a formal parking lot. Try to park on the left since this is the side you need to be on to hike to the falls! Go through the opening in the woods and head down the path for about 20 minutes (it’s no more than half a mile); one you see the white “fencing,” keep heading to the right. This is a moderate hike and it can get tricky as you get closer to the falls, so tread slowly (especially if you have little kids). This is NOT stroller or baby carrier friendly — please do not bring either! If your child is too young to walk on his or her own, I suggest waiting a few years for this activity. It’s safe to climb down and get into the water, but remember to jump in feet first from the rocks around the cenote as the water isn’t deep enough to dive. If you wore KEEN sandals or water shoes, be sure to keep them on throughout! And be prepared for very cold but incredibly clean water
Seriously, we couldn’t fit in all of the free stuff! There’s so much more and I look forward to reporting back after next summer!
Paid things to do at/near Smuggs:
Please note that while there is an online activity guide, it doesn’t always match up with the printed guide you’ll get at check-in and the online version I have for this year might differ from next year’s, so it’s best to call (1-855-318-7103) and ask someone to send you the most recent guide so you can plan your paid activities in advance, since some do book up. (For example, we desperately wanted to do the Llama Trek, but it was completely booked before we even arrived.)
- eBike adventure tour — booked directly through the front desk staff at Smuggs, the Lamoille Valley Bike Tour we did was AWESOME. It was a four-hour self-guided tour, with a little help from a “ride guide” (a pamphlet outlining suggested local stops) and included eBikes, saddlebags, a lock and helmets. What fun! We enjoyed the relative ease the eBike afforded us (especially for the few uphills we encountered) and aside from beautiful scenery along a newly converted railway line, our 17-mile ride took us to The Dream Cafe and Fledermaus Teahouse in Johnson, as well as the Lost Nation Brewery where I found a beer I legit liked (the Mosaic)
- Mountain biking intro clinic + beginner tour — Having never been on a mountain bike or trail in my life, I booked the intro clinic without hesitation. And, boy, am I glad I did! We learned some great mountain biking tips and learned the right (and wrong — very wrong according to the scrapes and enormous bruise on my left leg!) way to turn, go over bumps and around other obstacles, plus how to brake properly without going ass over tea kettle. Smuggs has a fantastic course set up on the bunny hill (don’t let that fool you into thinking it isn’t quite challenging) so you can take you and your bike up the magic carpet! The first time I went down, it was — honestly — terrifying, and I thought “meh, I don’t need to do the tour this afternoon…I can now say I’ve mountain biked.” But by the third time through the course, it was fun and I decided not to wimp out of the tour later in the day. And I’m so glad because we got to do a really sweet trail down Sterling Mountain (Smuggs’ second-highest of the three) and even got splashed with mud making it feel truly authentic
- Kids’ mountain biking camp — Miss Q loves to bike and has a pretty kickin’ mountain bike that we scored second-hand last year, so she decided to take advantage of one of Smuggs’ specialty camps. While not included in the FamilyFest package, you do get a 50 per cent discount so it’s around $50 for the day. She was EXHAUSTED but really enjoyed it (and was chuffed to be the only girl in the “class”!) and said she’d do it again next summer
- EuroBungy — My kids have done the EuroBungy several times at Tremblant and I’ve always been jealous that I didn’t get to try it, so cue my OTT excitement when I read that Smuggs goes by weight and not by age for participants! It was every bit as fun as I expected it to be and I got really high but felt super safe and secure the entire time. Definitely worth the $5 ride price
- Morse Mining Co. — Here’s another activity we’ve done before (at Horseshoe Resort in Ontario) that my kids still absolutely love. You buy a $5 or $8 bag of “dirt” and then go panning to reveal the gems hiding inside. It only takes about 10 minutes to uncover them, but you also get a gemstone legend with your dirt so you can figure out which ones you have. Your kids might end up with rose quartz, topaz, peridot, opals, obsidian, amethyst or any number of other rough, uncut gemstones
- FunZone 2.0 GoZone — In addition to the free floor of activities at FunZone 2.0, there are also some pay-to-play activities. You might recall that my kids didn’t have running shoes with them during our winter visit so they weren’t previously able to try the climbing wall or this timed obstacle course, so this time we came prepared! (Well, almost…Miss Q had a dress on and despite the boy shorts underneath, one of the employees refused to harness her for the climbing wall; thankfully another staffer stepped in). At $5 per climb/dash, these feel a bit pricier based on the amount of time they take (compared to the EuroBungy), but you sure didn’t hear the kids complaining
- Off-road Segway tour — We loved this! Having Segwayed once before (in San Diego), I was really glad I already knew the basic premise to operate a Segway. The OffRoad version is more rugged and has great shocks, but being off-road takes more practice than a regular city tour on pavement. Spills are common — though happily, my feet stayed where they were supposed to for the entire 1.5-hour activity. We got to see Smuggs from yet another vantage point and it was so fun letting them go at top speed when we could. Unless your kids are 13+, you’ll need to do this while they’re at camp
- Boyden Valley Winery tour and tasting — The original plan was to do the “Water & Wine” tour, whereby we would paddle in a canoe or kayak down the river for about 4 miles until we got to the winery; but seeing as Vermont is having its driest, hottest summer on record — leaving water levels very low — it wasn’t in the cards. So we drove. Because wine. It was only about 18 minutes by car, but you’ll need a designated driver because the wine flight is very generous — much more generous than one would expect for only $10! (Plus you get to keep your Boyden Valley Winery-branded wine glass to boot.) We tried whites, reds, roses, bubbly, liqueurs, ice wine — you name it. I took home a maple-infused white (and I don’t even like white wine!), a maple creme liqueur and a bottle of the most divine maple syrup that’s ever touched my lips — bourbon barrel-aged!
Where to eat at or near Smuggs
- In your condo — The best part about staying in a Smugglers’ Notch Resort condo is the full kitchen, so you can bring groceries and cook as much or as little as you like. We save SO MUCH MONEY doing this! There are plates, cutlery, glassware, pots, pans and even a slow cooker
- Hearth & Candle — Without question, the best and my favourite restaurant at Smuggs (and in the general area). It has a beautiful, seasonal menu and all of the dishes I’ve tried there — and we’ve been four times — have been impeccable. The cocktails are also notable!
- Morse Mountain Grille — This slopeside restaurant has improved dramatically since our first visit two years ago (with the exception of its coffee, which is still blah — hit up The Perk at the back of The Country Store just across the way instead) and now has some amazing dishes. We tried the fried chicken burger for the first time and it was SO good that Big B thought it rivaled the Club Sandwich (which is a tall order)
- Riga-Bello’s — Fantastic pizza, and not expensive
- Ben & Jerry’s — Made in Vermont!
- Sunset Grille & Tap Room — If you’re heading out to Bingham Falls, be sure to time it so you end up at this restaurant for lunch and have the Pig Skins!
- Stowe Ice Cream — Homemade ice cream? Check. Chocolate- and sprinkle-laden waffle cones? Check. The perfect finish to a day spent waterfall-seeking? Check!
- Von Trapp Bierhall — Just listen to me: have the lager cheese soup and the chicken schnitzel, then take home an apple strudel so you can warm it up in your oven the next morning for breakfast
Where to stay at Smuggs
We stayed in the Kestrals condos onsite, which were huge and amazing. They share the exact layout as the condos across the street that I reviewed a couple of years ago, so you can read the Eagles condo review or watch the video I took in the Kestrals
There’s still plenty of summer weather left to enjoy, or you can start planning for next summer. Either way — be sure you go. You and the kids will fall in love with Smuggs like we did. And remember to use this number to book: 1-855-318-7103.
DISCLAIMER: Smugglers’ Notch Resort invited my family to experience a summer getaway to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.