Sunday, June 30, 2013

Just Back From: Tyler Place Family Resort

Sigh. My household is in post-vacation re-entry mode after a week at the Tyler Place Family Resort in Highgate Springs, Vermont. This family-run, all-inclusive resort on the shores of Lake Champlain has been my family's happy place for the past seven summers. This year's visit was the best yet.

I've written a lot about the Tyler Place over the years because it's such a standout among family resorts on so many levels. For starters, it's not just any all-inclusive resort. The Tyler family pioneered all-inclusive pricing in the early 1930s, and they continue to offer all-inclusive pricing with the truest spirit of generosity I've encountered. Not only do rates include accommodations, meals, kids' programs, and many on-site activities, but also wonderful off-site excursions such as hiking, biking, kayaking, canoeing. At the boat dock, you can take out a kayak, paddleboard, or a Hobie Cat sailboat any time you like without so much as leaving your name. During the week there are free head-and-neck massages by the pool, a visit from a (free) ice cream truck one afternoon, and countless other little perks.

And then there are the bikes. Every guest (EVERY guest!) gets a bike for the entire week. Rentals are on the honor system: you just pick a bike you like on the first day, and off you go. There are mountain bikes, BMX bikes, cruisers, pink-and-white Barbie bikes, bikes with training wheels, tandems, bikes with baby seats, trailaways, and teeny training bikes without pedals. Here's my sweet vintage cruiser parked outside our digs.

You ride your bike everywhere at the Tyler Place, which is incredibly fun for all the kids and just awesome for adults, too.


Every morning, the kids go off to their groups. I can't say enough about the children's program at the Tyler Place, which is more creative, comprehensive, and just plain fun than any I've seen elsewhere. There are nine age-staggered groups from babies to teens, each with its own clubhouse or hangout, plus activities that get progressively more thrilling and challenging as kids get older. (The trouble with most resort programs is that they focus on the youngest kids, and older kids get bored quickly. Not here!) Many of the counselors are college kids studying childhood development, education, or some other related field. Even after six years, each of my kids always tries and learns tons of new things and makes new friends. Every year at Tyler Place is deemed better than the last, which is an impressive feat!

Meanwhile, mornings for the adults means a choice of organized classes, excursions, and activities. Over the years, I've joined canoe trips and nature walks, done the low ropes challenge, and taken archery, yoga, fly-fishing, and pottery classes. There's never pressure to do anything at the Tyler Place. If you feel like it, you can just go off and take a nap in a hammock or do your own thing.

On our first morning, we went on an 11-mile bike trip around the area. I've always loved this little church that sits at the entry to the Tyler Place on Route 7.

The environs around the resort are just gorgeous. I love this darling barn on the shore of Lake Champlain.

Have I mentioned the Hobie Cats? I learned to sail at the Tyler Place about three years ago from Casey, one of the boat dock guys. If there's a bit of wind, my husband and I love to take out two Hobies and spend a few hours on the water.

Another morning, Emmet signed up for the bike trip to Isle La Motte (which he loved) while I joined the group kayak trip to the Lamoille River. What a fabulous experience on a beautiful river.

After the take-out, we walked a short distance on a dirt path beside this gorgeous field of wildflowers, and ended up.... the Boyden Valley Winery for a tasting of wines, a delicious iced cider, a fantastic spiced mull wine called Glogg (I bought two bottles), and a maple crème liquor that was tremendous. I can't recommend this outing highly enough.


Every day after lunch, families regroup for four hours of free time. You can go to the pool, hang out at the lake, go to the climbing wall or archery field, play mini golf or tennis, ride the zip line across the meadow, bike ride around the resort or to Martin's General Store, or just keep in low-key and do not much of anything. We managed to do a little bit of everything throughout the week, and my kids often met up with friends at the pool, lake, or trampoline.

This walkway down leads down to a great viewing spot on the lake.

Kayaks aplenty. The dock guys are always more than happy to get one for you.

My 10-year-old loved spending Friday afternoon playing on the Summit Express slide at the lake.

He must have gone down 20 times. Such a blast!


At the end of the afternoon, the kids return to their groups for dinner and a few hours of fun. There are movie nights, trips to a nearby bowling alley, and plenty of fun around the resort. The teens get to have an overnight sleepover at Raake's Point or, if it rains, inside the teen club at the inn.

Meanwhile, evenings are always fun for adults. Before dinner, which is always delicious, we gather for a cocktail hour.

This year, Hector and the boys behind the bar outdid themselves with a number of great farm-to-glass cocktails, including a basil gimlet and rhubarb margarita. My personal favorite was the maple mojito.

One night there were an organized minnow races on the lawn during the cocktail hour. Absolutely hilarious.

Friday night is a favorite for the kids. They play Capture the Flag and Kick the Can on the lawn, before a few rounds of tug o' war. Kids vs. Counselors is always a highlight!


The last morning at the Tyler Place is bittersweet. The kids meet up with their groups and adults meet friends at the inn for one last breakfast before saying our good-byes. We all met many new friends this week and hope to keep in touch and see many of them again next year.

I was touched that the teen group decided to meet up early for one last bike ride together around the resort before their final breakfast.

We feel so blessed that the Tyler Place has given our family so many wonderful summertime memories over the years. 

"Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened." --Dr. Seuss