A step back in time: Upscale getaway at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel and Bretton Woods Ski Resort
"Wow!" That's the three-letter word that my family repeatedly said over and over again during our two-night stay at the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods. Built in 1902, this hotel boasts not only history, but also luxury. And with a massive two-year expansion just completed, you truly will never want to leave.
We are a ski family, and since this hotel is across the street from the family-friendly Bretton Woods mountain — which is also owned by the hotel — we opted to visit during the winter months. But, for non-skiers, or those looking for a retreat other times of year, this hotel offers something for every New England season.
Based in New Hampshire, it is the perfect driving getaway for anyone that lives in the Northeast, or a 1.45 to 2.5-hour drive from three different airports: Manchester, NH (MHT), Portland, ME (PWM) and Boston, MA (BOS).
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The Omni Mount Washington Resort is truly a bucket list hotel — whether you are traveling with your family, as a couple or with a group of friends. Its character is unlike any hotel I've seen before and every design and decor has a historical meaning. The hotel dates back to 1902 and was built by Joseph Stickney, who spared no expense. Back then, about 50 trains a day would arrive in Bretton Woods bringing visitors from Boston, New York and Philadelphia. The hotel — and surrounding hotels, which are no longer standing — were a summer retreat for the wealthy, who would explore the area by horse and carriage. Over the past century, the hotel has hosted three U.S. presidents and even Thomas Edison — among many other notable guests.
Today, the character from the early 1900s still exists throughout the hotel — with turn-of-the-century decor and high ceilings. Walking around the hotel is an activity in itself — especially for history buffs. With many rooms and spaces, you can get lost in the hotel — admiring the charm — for quite some time. The hotel was created for relaxation, so on top of the meeting rooms and many restaurants, you'll also find many quaint areas to plop down on a chair and admire your surroundings — both inside and outside. The Cave is also a space you can't miss (although currently closed), an old Speakeasy from the prohibition days.
The hotel just recently went through a massive expansion where they added 69 new luxury rooms and suites as well as more meeting space and outdoor verandas. Part of the expansion was also the addition of the Rosebrook Lodge, which is at the top of the mountain at Bretton Woods.
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With the recent expansion of the property, you can now book a room in the newer Presidential Wing or one of the older historical rooms — the property offers 269 different rooms in total. We stayed in one of their deluxe rooms on the original side of the property and thought it was absolutely perfect for my family of four — especially since we weren't in the room much. We also loved that rollaway beds are allowed in the deluxe rooms, which gave us more space for sleeping.
If you prefer to stay in the more modern Presidential Wing, rooms are approximately $50 to $100 more than the historic rooms — for a similar size type. Many of these rooms do offer a balcony, so if that is something that's important to you, you'll want to consider one of these.
I was able to take a sneak peek at one of the suites in the Presidential Wing, and if you have the budget for it, I must admit that they are luxurious. The 1,000 ft. square feet rooms are extremely elegant, with the same historic — but modern-day — charm.
Or, if you are looking for a quaint inn, you can also opt to stay at the Bretton Woods Arm Inn at Mount Washington. This 34 room property is on the same grounds as the larger Mount Washington Resort, giving you the same access to all the amenities and activities the resort has to offer. The benefit: Room prices are slightly less expensive. The (slight) disadvantage: It's about a 5-minute walk outside to get to the main resort.
Of course, this upscale hotel comes with a high price tag, but if you can go during shoulder season — April or November — you'll possibly be able to find a discounted rate. And, since this is an Omni hotel, if you are a frequent Omni guest and part of their loyalty program, you can always redeem one of your earned free night awards for a stay at this property.
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With freezing temperatures on our first day while at the hotel, our time on the mountain didn't last long. Fortunately though, we were able to keep ourselves fully occupied with the many activities inside the hotel.
From the moment we arrived, our kids begged to go to the arcade, so that was our first stop after we took off our ski boots. The arcade is small, but the perfect size for entertainment without breaking the bank. Games cost 50 cents apiece and with $5 in hand, we were able to get a solid 30-minute of playtime.
Next stop was the toy shop. While I wouldn't usually put this on an activities list, what made it unique is that they have a Build-a-Bear-style set up where kids can stuff their own furry friend. Although slightly gimmicky, it's a favorite of the kids and is definitely a cute souvenir to bring home.
We then made our way to the outdoor fire pits, which have a fire going during the evening hours. With massive grounds, there are multiple fire pit areas — perfect for a single family or a large group. In the shop at the hotel, you can purchase a s'more making kit as well. On a winter evening, there truly is nothing better than sitting out by the fire, roasting marshmallows. Hint: Stop by the bar beforehand to grab a hot chocolate to go.
During a normal year — without a pandemic — the hotel also offers many kid-friendly programs. While we didn't get to experience these activities during our stay, at other times there's everything from arts and crafts and storytelling to lawn games and a family movie night. There are even "camp" programs which are supervised activities to give mom and dad some time to themselves — or a trip to the 25,000 square foot spa.
The pools: inside and outdoors
Of course, my kid's favorite post-skiing activity was to relax in the pool. If you want to take a dip in the pool, you have two options: an outdoor heated pool — yes, it is open even during the winter months — or, an indoor pool with a hot tub. During the summer months, there's also a kids pool right nearby the outside heated pool.
We personally loved the option of the outdoor heated pool. Swimming outside with the snow-capped mountains in the background is quite unique. We also felt that this was the "safer" option due to social distancing. The outdoor pool area is also brand new as part of their recent expansion project.
While the winter and summer months (through Columbus Day weekend) are the two most popular times of year to visit this property, you'll find activities all year round. With many more activities available than listed below, here is just a sample of ways to spend your day:
Even if you don't ski or snowboard, there are plenty of opportunities to play in the snow here in the winter.
Right outside of the hotel, near the Nordic Center, you'll find a single-lane tubing hill. Rent a tube — $12 for the hour, although no one is actually clocking your one-hour time — and spin your way down the hill. Although there's nothing fancy about the tubing center — no magic carpet to take you to the top or multi-lanes to race against a family member — my kids had an absolute blast. Just make sure to make reservations in advance as time slots do sell out fairly early.
Winter fat tire bikes
Also located at the Nordic Center, you can rent front suspension Fat Tire bikes — available in both adult and children sizes -- to peddle across snow-covered trails. While we didn't check out this activity since my 4-year old can't ride a bike just yet, we did see many families enjoying the trails. Bikes can be rented for the full day, half day or just for a two-hour time period.
Kids snowmobile park
I've heard a lot of hype about the kids' snowmobile park at Bretton Woods, but unfortunately, due to COVID this year, the park was closed. Fingers crossed, however, for this activity to be back in action for the 2021-2022 season — I can't wait for my kids to try it out on a return visit.
Go back in time and experience how guests used to arrive at the resort in the past. You can even select from a one-horse or two-horse drawn sleigh.
Nordic skiing and snowshoeing
If you are looking to try out something other than Alpine skiing, Bretton Woods offers 1,770 acres of Nordic trails — just a stone's throw away from the resort. At the Nordic Center, you can rent nordic skis (or snowshoes) and even sign up for lessons.
Although we visited during the winter, the Mount Washington hotel is extremely popular in the warmer months. With many outdoor activities and hikes, there's plenty to do during the spring, summer and fall.
If you are looking for some adventure this canopy tour offers nine ziplines, two sky bridges and three rappels. You'll start at the top of Rosebrook Canyon, making your way down to the base of Bretton Woods. This is a three-hour tour where you'll be able to see the beautiful White Mountains in the background. Although the canopy tour is not starting up again until April 2021, this activity typically runs 12-months a year.
In Dec. 2020, Bretton Woods completed construction on the beautiful Rosebrook Lodge which offers unbelievable views of Mount Washington. With the 8-passenger gondola, you can take the scenic ride up to the top of the mountain to enjoy the lodge and experience the scenery. The two-story lodge also offers outdoor seating, which reminded me of skiing out West.
Gondola rides are available 12 months a year — even in the winter months without needing ski boots strapped on.
Want to go mountain climbing? The hotel offers guided rock climbing tours, for kids and adults. You'll take the chairlift up the mountain and start your climb on the West Mountain peak of Bretton Woods. This is a three-hour tour and there are routes for every ability (even if you've never rock climbed before).
However, if you'd prefer something a tad simpler, there's a climbing wall inside the base lodge at the mountain. While this is currently closed due to COVID, I was able to see the space myself and it looked pretty cool — especially since you can climb 365-days a year (when it's open). An incredibly fun activity even while you are taking a mid-day break from skiing.
Instead of playing traditional golf — there's a golf course at Bretton Woods — play nine-holes of disc golf, a perfect family activity — even with young kids.
For mountain bikers, you have two choices: take your bike up the lift for an alpine route or start right near the hotel on the cross-country trail. Bike rentals are available as well.
There's even a brand new pump track to rip around some dirt.
Bretton Woods ski resort
With 464 skiable acres — including 62 trails, 35 glades and three terrain parks— Bretton Woods is the largest ski resort in all of New Hampshire. It offers a true upscale resort feel — similar to what you might receive while skiing out West — with breathtaking views of Mount Washington. Bretton Woods is one of those unique East Coast mountains that offers a few mid-mountain lift options, which allows you to stay away from the base of the mountain as much as possible. This is helpful in managing crowds, although due to social distancing rules this year, where just one party is allowed on each lift or gondola ride, we experienced a decent wait in the lift lines on Saturday of our trip. Fortunately though, the next day (Sunday) we experienced no wait to get on the lifts, even though it was the better ski day. This has unfortunately been quite common this year at most mountains due to not being able to fill each chair.
A huge perk of Bretton Woods is that there's terrain for every skill level from the top of the mountain. Once you've passed the magic carpet ride, there's no need to stick to the beginner section of the mountain, since there are long-wide green's from the top. This allowed my entire family — including my 4- and 7-year old -- to take the 8-passenger gondola to the top of the mountain and find trails that allowed us all to ski down together.
From the top, you'll also find long windy trails, which allows you more time skiing, and less time on the lift. With great snow and minimal wind, it’s an East Coast ski destination that has a little something for any skier/rider.
My family has skied at many resorts in the Northeast (and out West) and this is by far one of our favorite family-friendly ski resorts in driving distance. The Mount Washington Hotel experience combined with some skiing at Bretton Woods (or any of the other many activities) is a fantastic getaway for folks that are visiting the Northeast or want to do a weekend away. The combination of a historic hotel, modern amenities, outdoor activities and breathtaking views of Mount Washington offer a little something for everyone here, young and old, and the fun is all accessible without the need of a car once on site. As far as getaways go, this is one worth embracing.