In New England: Traditional Family Fun at The Balsams

Kim Foley MacKinnon

Coming around the bend on Rte. 26 in Dixville Notch, N.H. - after driving almost five hours from Boston - The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel at dusk appeared like a mirage of a fairy tale castle. The two 9-year-old girls in our car, weary after our long drive, gasped with pleasure. "This was worth it!" my daughter said. Her friend instantly agreed.

The historic, red-roofed property in the White Mountains has been welcoming guests since 1895, when it opened with just 25 rooms. And while it has grown to 200 rooms, The Balsams still serves up a very traditional experience.

This includes a daily roster of activities - guided hikes in summer, outdoor sports in winter, exercise classes, wine tastings, culinary demonstrations. At night, live music accompanies cocktail hour and a band in the ballroom encourages dancing. All are included with your stay.

For families, the charms of the resort include a rolling green lawn that leads to a heated swimming pool and, beyond that, Lake Gloriette. We hopped on paddle boats, the girls taking off like a shot, while my husband and I followed at a more leisurely pace. After a swim in both the cold lake and warmer pool, the girls went off to play volleyball and a game of supersized Connect Four (the resort's special board is 4 feet tall). Later, we all played billiards and Ping-Pong in the game room.

The Balsams is also home to six tennis courts and two golf courses - an 18-hole championship course designed by Donald Ross and a 9-hole course. Although we don't play, we ate lunch at Grille overlooking the golf course and the mountains. The view was stunning; our meals less so.

Fortunately, back at the main dining room, dinner was excellent and the service even better.

One touch that was especially sweet was when our server, without being asked, brought the girls an appetizer of fruit, beautifully prepared. He said he didn't want them to feel left out as my husband and I ate our several courses. When such attention is paid to children, it is clear why generations of families return here year after year.

The Family Fun Package at The Balsams, $295 per night, includes a two-bedroom suite, breakfast buffet, children's camp, nightly entertainment and most resort activities. Visit www.thebalsams.com, or call 877-225-7267.

Find more travel stories and the Get Away with Fran blog at www.wickedlocal.com/getaway