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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Story Land adventure - Shelby Davis

Thank you so much to Shelby Davis for sharing her awesome experience in North Conway, including a full day at Story Land last summer! Such a thorough account of her experience, and great tips - including getting Mommy in the Picture photos! LOVE that :) I personally cannot wait to go to Story Land now! 

All images from Shelby Davis, and shared with permission from Morgan Leeman as well 

1. When did you go to Story Land? Who went with you? We went last summer, in August 2013. My husband and I, my 18 month old son, my brother and sister in law, and their kids, ages 8 and 2.

2. What did you do beforehand to prepare for the trip? How far in advance did you save money?
I started researching in the spring. Figuring out how many nights we wanted to go away for, what else we wanted to do, where we wanted to stay, etc. I probably didn't do as much research on Story Land itself as I typically do for a trip (I spent an embarrassing amount of hours putting together our Walt Disney World itinerary...I like to be prepared). As far as money, it wasn't a huge trip for us and not a huge expense, so we didn't really "save" for it.
3. How much did your trip cost, including hotel, park visits, food, etc. (try breaking it down as much as you remember for us... $$ on hotel, for example, etc.)?
Hotel was $180/night plus tax, stayed for 2 nights so about $425. We stayed at the North Conway Grand which I liked a lot. Park Tickets were $30 each for my husband and I, and our son was free (age 3 and under are free), so that was $60. Dinner was $60 each night so that was $120. Breakfast was $30 each morning so that was $60. Lunch was $40 at Story Land (we didn't pack lunches, didn't want to), and $30 the next day and $20 on the last day so that's $90. Then we drove up Mt. Washington which was $25. Ice cream and other snacks/drinks while we were out probably equaled around $30. Souvenirs (we bought our son a t-shirt at Story Land and the Mt Washington Auto Road) were $25.
So all and all, not including any shopping we did, we spent around $835.
4. Where did you start researching for this trip? Any helpful Web sites, you used, etc.?
I use religiously to find hotel prices and use to research the hotels within our price range. 
I got park hours and prices from the Story Land website. I googled "North Conway" to find random websites to find other things to do. 
I use and to find restaurants and read reviews. So we go up there with a plan.  
If the plan goes in the gutter, that's fine, but I like to at least have an idea of where we're going, what we're eating, etc. I find that things go a lot more smoothly when we have an itinerary instead of winging it.
5. Did you receive any special discounts, coupons, or have some secret tips to share about saving money?
No discounts per say, but I did consistently check the price on the hotel and it went down twice after I booked (I booked directly with the hotel, not with a third party). Both times I called the hotel and requested the price decrease. I think that ended up saving us around $50.

6. Best places to eat, stay, visit, etc.? Things you encourage families with kids MUST do while in that area?
We stayed at the North Conway Grand which I liked a lot and would stay at again. As a kid we always stayed at the Fox Ridge or the Red Jacket, but after the Fox Ridge burnt down years ago and was rebuilt, it just wasn't the same and wasn't fun anymore. We didn't want to stay at the Red Jacket because we didn't want the kids asking to go to the indoor water park in the middle of the beautiful summer. So we opted to try something new.  
Day 1 was Story Land, which we did all day. 
I recommend getting there right at open. There is a lot to do and you need all the time in the day to do it. 
We ate at Moat Mountain that night. BEST DINNER EVER! It was great for the kids, because it was loud in there. They had an extensive menu and it was SO good. All 7 of us left happy.
Day 2 we ate breakfast at Peach's which I wanted to do for old times' sake. I went to No Conway a lot as a child and my parents always took us to Peach's. Such a good breakfast. We drove up to the top of Mt. Washington which was awesome! We had a great time doing it. All 7 of us in one car (my mother was scared to death that we were all going to go crashing to our deaths), my brother drove while my sister in law screamed from the passenger's seat, lol. It was so neat at the top, great view, different things to look at and read. I absolutely loved it. We spent a few hours doing that and just grabbed pizza and subs on the way back because my nephew was sleeping in the car. 
Back to the hotel, took full advantage of the outdoor pool and hot tub, including a zero entry kids pool which was cute and convenient. 
Dinner that night was at Horsefeathers. Now, Horsefeathers used to be good when I was a kid. It's not good anymore. Don't go.
On day 3, we packed up and checked out and headed to explore the outdoors. After a quick stop at The Blueberry Muffin for breakfast (pretty good), we went to Echo Lake (beautiful) and did the hiking trail around the lake. Next time I would plan on spending more time there, bringing food to grill, etc and spend a majority of a day there. We also drove up to the top of Cathedral Ledge and the views were absolutely gorgeous. We watched a couple of rock climbers who were scaling the side of the ledge come over the top. It was very cool.  
Then we went to Diana's Baths. We walked the 6/10 mile in (seems like a lot longer). If you have a small child, put them in a backpack or stroller. My husband carried our son in the backpack carrier which was a lifesaver, especially since my son was exhausted when we were finished. We spent a couple hours there, exploring the waterfalls, eating a lunch that we picked up at a sub shop nearby. The water was freezing, but it was interesting and fun.

7. Did you eat there, pack lunches, leave at a certain time and go back, etc.?
For Story Land, we just ate there. We had so much other stuff packed, that I wasn't packing lunches too. But, it's a good money saver and a much healthier way of eating if you do pack lunches.
8. What is your best advice for visiting Story Land... pack ___ in a backpack? wear swim clothes? go in afternoon and go back the next day? etc.?
We didn't let the kids get wet because they were going to have other opportunities to get wet at the hotel and at Diana's Baths. We took the stroller and tossed what we needed in the basket.  
I recommend bringing the kids water bottles, change of clothes for the little ones due to food/ice cream melting, etc. My son also sat in a big puddle when "milking the cow". Band-Aids, Advil (for mom and dad), sunscreen, kids healthy snacks, hat for the kids, camera, extra money for a little souvenir and some fun snacks/treats. Wear comfortable shoes.
9. Top 3 tips for spending the day at an amusement park with your children?
1. Keep them hydrated. 2. Be flexible. So what if your 3 year old only wants to ride the same ride 15 times? Is he happy? Cool.
3. Get mom in the pictures too!

10. What would you do differently if you went again on this trip? I'd have a better itinerary for Story Land itself. I spent so much time researching the outdoor part of our trip, that I didn't get out a Story Land map and make a park plan, which I should have done. I did that for Disney and we made the most of our time and hit every last thing on our list. I needed to educate myself more on Story Land before I went.
11. How old were your kids when they went on this trip, and do you think they got a lot out of it, remember it, etc.? Was it a good age span to go to this amusement park?
The kids were 8, 2-1/2 and 18 months. I think they all had fun. Obviously the 8 year old had the most fun but the 2-1/2 year old was pumped that Curious George was there when we were.  
We like to do different overnight trips and not do the same thing over and over again. I'm skipping Story Land this year and we are going to Canobie Lake Park for a day trip and then to Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park for 5 days instead. I would like to go back to Story Land when my son is 3 or 4.

12. Misconceptions: Something you think people don't know or are confused by when making plans to visit Story Land that you learned from?
There is so much nursery rhyme stuff, that you can't expect your small kids to know the Old Woman in the Shoe, or Mother Goose, etc. Don't be disappointed that they have no clue who the characters are. It's sad in a way, I want my son to have an idea of who Humpty Dumpty and the other characters are and the stories behind them before taking him back. Because if you just want rides, go to Fun Town or Canobie Lake. I knew this going in, but I think some parents don't.
13. Best part about Story Land? What did your kids LOVE? What was your favorite part?
My son loved getting his picture on his "driver's license" and wearing it around his neck and my nephew loved the train. My husband liked the candy shoppe, haha. Personally, I don't care where I am, I just love spending time with my family and my brother's family together. That makes it the best trip, just having the kids together on vacation.
14. Anything else you want to add?
Don't miss any of the spectacular things to do in the area of North Conway, especially if you're an outdoor family!

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