Guest Author - Lori Bradley
Itís amazing how many state parks donít allow dogs in campsites anymore, or require them to be confined to the site. At the same time, children run all over the campground, riding bikes through the sites, petting dogs without permission, and even once, stopping in unannounced for dinner:) Iím not the first to ask this question but do parenting skills seem to be going out the window in recent years?
Even the more remote spots, at least on the east coast, are too crowded and hectic for us these days. We really want a peaceful retreat when we make the effort to travel. We finally found our own place in the woods for summer weekends, with the buffer of a couple of acres on each side to insure privacy and to keep our nosy dogs from bothering anyone else.
Still, we missed our favorite places and decided to try visiting some of the most memorable summer retreats in the winter. We found we enjoy these places much more in the off-season! Usually, there are few or no children at all to interrupt your vacation. Here are some of our favorite trips (links at the bottom of the article):
If you like winter camping Ė one step away from a tent in the snow Ė Allegheny State Park in western New York has winter cabin rentals and some really beautiful cross-country skiing trails. Wanting a little adventure, we rented a cabin for a week in 0 degree weather (something we wouldnít do if we had kids) and it was actually fun! The wood stove didnít asphyxiate us and gave off a nice, crackling heat. There were some intrepid families out there but mostly, the trails were empty and we could get a full day of skiing in without running into crowds. Dogs are not allowed on ski trails but there are many, many places to walk them undisturbed in the winter. Steaming hot (outdoor) showers are a welcome relief in the evening.
A step (a big step) up in comfort is the Bretton Woods resort in New Hampshire. A stunning, castle-like ski lodge offering downhill and cross-country skiing is reasonably priced. Bretton Woods welcomes kids but they are so well managed, with structured activities and babysitting services, that the place maintains an aura of peace and tranquility.
The Blue Ridge Parkway in winter is an awe-inspiring winter vacation retreat. Much of the parkway is closed off to vehicles but open to hikers and cross-country skiers. Ice-covered rock walls, stone tunnels, snowy woods and magnificent views make this a transcendent retreat. We skied all day with the dogs several times and didnít run into a single person. There are plenty of accommodations in Asheville, NC and surrounding towns. The area is center to a growing and thriving arts and crafts community with plenty of shops and studios to visit. Holiday spirit is evident throughout Ashville, especially at the Biltmore Estate, but the area is never hectic and crowded, as it can be in the summer months.
Jekyll Island, off the coast of Georgia, is another very special retreat in the off-season. Many hotels allow pets, and this was the initial attraction for us, but overall, the place is just magical in the winter. Winter camping is also available and the campsite is very lovely Ė near the beach and filled with dramatic arching oak trees. The island is decorated for the holiday season but is homey, not tacky or commercial. Bike rental places abound and an entire day can be spent biking around the island discovering magnificent isolated beaches with dramatic windblown trees and drooping southern mosses, fishing piers, old stone graveyards, and the historic Jekyll Island Club.
Ultimately, weíve found some of the most magical places, and have created some of our best memories, in looking for ways to celebrate our childfree life together. We look for places that are peaceful and where kids are not the focus of all activities. Of course, everyone is different and I have kidfree friends who love to go to Six Flags, Disneyland, and water parks and just act like big kids themselves and thatís great! The main idea is to find a retreat, even in your hometown, where you can relax and feel welcome and be yourselves - not judged, or pressured, or overwhelmed by other peopleís children.
Allegheny State Park
Bretton Woods Resort
Jekyll Island, GA