Instead of the beach this year, we opted for a vacation in the mountains. Situated between the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park, Massanutten is a close-by retreat from the greater DC metro area.
We rented a home in the Massanutten resort area, a perfect size for our family of four. We had plenty of room and it could have easily fit 1-2 more families. We chose to rent from VRBO.com, but there are many other options for renting a home or condo. You can also stay at the Massanutten hotel. For a full list visit the Massanutten website.
Activities in the Resort
The general Massanutten Resort area has plenty of activities year-round. No doubt the area is huge for skiing during the winter months, Massanutten bills itself as a four-season resort. There is a family activity park, zip-lining, fishing, mini-golf, go-kart racing, swimming pools and more.
One of our activities during our stay was to do a family hike along the ridge line of Massanutten mountain. We started about one mile from our rental property and went a pretty good distance. The views were very pretty of the resort, the Blue Ridge and other areas of the Shenandoah. We were only one of a couple groups who were hiking that day. The route had some boulder scrambles, so this is not something I would take young children on. You can read a great blog post here about hiking this section. You can also head out of the resort and hike one of the many trails in the George Washington National Forest or even take on the Appalachian Trail (it’s about a 15 minute drive from Massanutten).
If you are staying at one of the resort properties you have access to many of the various amenities. The home we rented did not have access to these amenities, even though it was situated right in the heart of the resort area. Tip: if you are renting a property on your own, be sure to find out what amenities are included in your rental.
Throughout the year the resort also offers classes and a host of events to keep you busy for your entire vacation. It really is your own option how much or how little you do. Activities include arts and crafts, exercise classes, horseback riding, golf lessons, late night comedy and other entertainment. You can see a sample online.
The Massanutten Waterpark
The Massanutten Waterpark is an indoor facility that is built for all-year round use. Kept at a cozy 84 degrees, the waterpark will keep your children busy for at least several hours, if not more and you do have the option of leaving the facility and returning with your wristband from the day.
We’ve been to several large indoor and outdoor waterparks both locally and within a few hours drive from the DC metro area. We’d say that the Massanutten Waterpark is worth a visit if you’re in this area. The waterpark is a whole family activity and there are areas for the youngest of family members (i.e. Frog Pond) as well as waterslides that will give the older set a thrill. Note: the waterpark does have life vests available for use, free of charge.
Some of our favorite features of the indoor waterpark included:
- The Lazy River (aka Blue Ridge Rapids): sit in a one-person or two-person tube and let the current take you around the park. There a some neat spray features as you twist and turn through the maze. This is great for all ages and you can even grab a yellow two-person tube where one of the seats is filled in, perfect for younger children. My youngest was so tired after the day that we ended our day on the lazy river going round and round to relax.
- The three tube slides (Country Cooler, Peak Splash and Melting Mogul) were great fun. The nice thing about these slides is that you can go down individually or with a partner in a two-person tube. All three slides are a little bit different and the speed of each will get you!
- Massanutten Meldown is the central piece of the waterpark and is where most kids can be found playing, squirting and getting soaked. There are water cannons, water falls, slides, and the ultimate bucket that drops a ton of water down.
- The adult reviewers favorite spot was the Shenandoah Hot Springs. It’s an indoor and outdoor hot tub open all year round that the entire family can enjoy. The temperature is not too hot and not too cold. We also loved the two adult-only hot tubs; one situated in the outdoor area near Splash-A-Nutten and the other in a little nook near the lazy river. They were hot, hot, hot, but it felt good, good, good.
During the summer months, there is also an outdoor area that houses a large slide called the Rockingham Racer, a medium-sized wave pool and Splash-A-Nutten. The latter is pretty much an activity pool for children ages 1 to 10 with a spray/splash area, a floating crosswalk challenging kids to hold onto the ropes above their head to get across, a water-basketball section and few other activities.
When you tire of the waterpark, head to Diamond Jim’s Arcarde. We didn’t partake in this part of the facility, but took a peek and there are many video games and other classic arcade games. Kids can earn those coveted tickets and exchange them in for prizes.
Hungry? Note that no outside food or drink is allowed inside the waterpark, so your options are to either leave the waterpark and come back (tailgate or head back to your rental home) or choose from one of three food and beverage options at the park. Since we were wet and didn’t want to change, we opted for “Snackers,” which was a basic fast-food counter with options like chicken tender, hamburgers, hot dogs, etc. Healthy choices weren’t this restaurants forte and we’d love to see some better options on this menu.
Two other options in the waterpark facility are the Blue Ridge Buffett and Restaurant and the Hideaway Lounge. We didn’t’ sample either of these options, but from the looks of their menu, there are more options than Snackers that is on the same level as the waterpark. Note: we’d recommend you bring clothes to change into if you want to visit either of the aforementioned options.
Waterpark Hours & Admission
The waterpark is daily open throughout the summer, with the outdoor portion option from Memorial to Labor Day. Throughout the remaining months, the waterpark has various hours based on the time of year. They are generally closed two days during the week but open on all weekends.
Admission varies based on your height, but for general admission, plan on spending $26 for 42″ and under and $38 for anything over 42″ tall. There are discounts if you are a Gold Card Holder or in the Military and if you are an Activity Card Holder. They also offer 3 and 5-day passes.
Additional Waterpark Information
- Locker rentals are $10 for in/out privileges for the day. We felt it was definitely worth our while to put our belongings in a locker so we didn’t have to worry about the safety of anything.
- Be sure to bring the following: bathing suit, goggles, change of clothes, swim diapers, sunscreen, towels, flip flops, money.
- Get there early, as usual with most outings, the place filled up as the day wore on.
What else is there to do?
We took a few side trips while on vacation and found two hidden gems that we’d highly recommend that you visit.
Having been to several lavender farms in the last year, we were excited to stumble on one in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The refreshing smell of lavender permeated the air as we walked through the gates to start our adventure at the farm. The White Oak Lavender Farm is a family-owned farm offering many varieties of lavender. They have a PYO field during summer and fall bloom seasons. We recommend that you call the farm before going to see what is bloom. They are open year round, with peak bloom times from May until July.
We opted to take the 1+ hour seasonal tour of the farm which was $8/person. Our guide (one of the lovely family members) gave us a thorough tour of the farm gardens and it was the highlight of our visit. We learned a lot about lavender (growing, how it’s distilled, etc.), got to pick 20 stems of lavender and saw all the animals on the farm plus some other beautiful features of the farm. We’ll let you experience it for yourself, but be sure to visit the walking labyrinth.
Regular admission to the farm is $3/person; children under two are free. They also have a $12/family admission price. These rates give you the opportunity to explore the gardens, animals and the overall farm on your own. We say opt for the tour if they offer them, we learned so much. After you’re done exploring the farm, visit the gift shop and purchase any of their hand-made offerings. They have soaps, lotions, creams, aromatherapy, gourmet food and other heavenly-smelling gifts.
A note, we would recommend you allocate 2 hours for your visit, especially if you take part in a tour and/or do some lavender picking. This is a great all-ages activity, although the tour is most appropriate for ages 4 and up.
Support local farms and make a visit to White Oak Lavender Farm.
Our second hidden gem was the Green Valley Book Fair in Mount Crawford, Virginia (in between Harrisonburg and Staunton). It’s a discount book outlet store that has more books that you can imagine. All books are brand new and you’ll save up to90% off retail. They have everything categorized by section (I was impressed by their kids section). They are open six times throughout the year and their next two fairs are October 5 to 20, 2013 and November 29 to December 15, 2013.
This fair would be perfect for a teacher looking to stock her/his classroom bookshelves. Our book-loving family found many titles and was it was definitely a highlight of our visit.
The sale takes all major credit cards, cash, personal/travelers’ checks with proper ID. Check their website for hours of operation and join their mailing list to keep updated on their upcoming sales.
Photos by Our-Kids.com.