My family loves cabin trips. The excitement builds on the drive, wondering what the rooms and hot tub will be like. ACE Adventure Resort – recently named The New River Gorge National Park and Preserve – the newest addition to the United States National Park Service – was next on our list.
This family fun resort is located in West Virginia, about a 4 and a half hour drive from Cincinnati – the perfect weekend getaway. This time we chose to get a sitter for our 16-month old and deem this a well overdue “Big Kid Trip.”
The sound of gasp from my husband and kids was absolutely priceless as we pulled into the parking lot. Immediately we saw Ace’s spring-fed mountain lake water park, with the coolest obstacle courses that would even get grown-ups excited. The kids’ eyes widened as they internally planned their adventures to come for the next three days.
The Water Park season runs from May – September. I’ve seen these sort of waterslides and obstacle courses on TV but never in a million years did I think I would get to try one out for myself. I quickly learned, it’s a lot harder (and exhilarating!) than it looks. Life jackets on, we weren’t sure which to do first:
- The 40-foot tall Wet Willie Waterslide
- Tower Zip Line
- Two giant waterslides
- Or one for the 50 Huge inflatable toys: 25-foot Climbing Mountain, Giant Spinning Saturn Balls, SeeSaws and Obstacle Course
In the end, we climbed and conquered just about everything. My oldest looked at me and said, “I miss my baby sis, but I’m glad she didn’t come.” I asked, slightly shocked, “Why?” He watched his dad run through the obstacle course and said, “Because you and daddy couldn’t both do this with us!”
He had a valid point. This hands-free mama loved being able to get the full experience with my big kids. I needed it and so did they. If you do bring the little ones, ACE now has new splash pad perfect for the little kids to cool off and enjoy some fun-in-the-sun entertainment!
After climbing, tumbling, sliding and sometimes falling, a tasty kids’ (and adult slushy) was on the agenda. We all took a break in the provided beach chairs and lounged on the white, sandy beach with our cold drinks. What a great way to kick off our weekend adventures! Note: Before you head out, sign your online waivers so you are ready to go! It saves a lot of time if you do it online, and the kids will get more time to play. Learn more about all-day passes, prices, hours and more at acecraft.com.
Next up, cabin, pizza and of course, a steamy hot tub after a long day of swimming, jumping and climbing. I love that first, initial cabin arrival time; the kids twiddle their fingers, eager to explore the cabin with “ooos” and “ahhhs.” Ace offers an array of places to stay, including over 50 different New River Gorge cabin rentals amongst 1500 acres, while you explore. There is also rustic lodging, camping and more available. The deluxe cabin we stayed in was equipped with cable TV, a living room, full kitchen, a hot tub plus an upstairs and downstairs. The kids loved having their own bedroom and sink, too!
That evening, we picked up pizza at the resort, played games and penciled in plenty of hot tub time before our next day adventure (whitewater rafting!). Note: We had little to no Wi-Fi access in the cabin, so be prepared in case yours is like this, too. Learn more about their luxurious cabins and more at aceraft.com/west-virginia-cabin-rentals/new-river-gorge-cabins.
The kids have been rafting before, but nothing like this. I had no idea the rapids would be so challenging for my little adventurers. Surprising to all of us, the New River Gorge has an Upper New and the Lower New (most challenging and most popular with bigger rapids and gorgeous destinations). We braved the Upper New with smaller rapids (good for littler kids); and if your kids are 12 and older, they can handle the big class 5 rapids further down the river.
When we arrived bright and early, we could choose between the “Duckies” or a raft. The Duckies are basically an inflatable kayak that can fit up to two people. Although the Duckies looked more appealing to the kids, we chose a raft so we can all be in it together. I would recommend this if it’s your first time. With 12 miles of river upon us (we chose the full-day trip) I was worried the kids may get worn out or uninterested. Luckily, we had a super fun tour guide, Bailey, who quickly took all of the butterflies away and made our long trip one to remember.
Bailey had squirt guns and bubbles ready for the kids and assigned my husband and me to be in the front – let’s just say that’s the “hardest” spot to sit. The paddlers in the front guide the rest of the crew while the actual well-trained guide steers and directs from the back. It’s a great system; Eva had the luxury of being in charge of the bubbles, nicely tucked in the far back of the boat; aka “The Bubble Queen.” I loved seeing my kids laugh and play throughout our long trip! Needless to say, the kids were satisfied with our raft decision, especially once they saw what are called the “Duckie muncher” rapids take some people down the river. Luckily, the tour guides are very experienced and got everyone safely back in the boat in a jiffy! (Don’t be intimidated by this, although I was, the people in the Duckies were having the time of their lives!)
ACE Rafting trips are more than battling class 3 rapids, paddling and learning what to do if you fall out – the guides aren’t shy about repeatedly telling you what do if you go tumbling out of the boat. You also get lots of opportunities to swim when the water gets calm; splash water at the other boats; and stop for a delicious “River Lunch” mid-way. There is most definitely the perfect trip for everyone, and you choose your adventure! They offer spring, summer and fall trips suitable for beginners, experienced and advanced rafters as well as kid-friendly options. Learn more at aceraft.com/white-water-rafting.
After thanking our tour guide multiple times for the best rafting experience we could ask for, it was off to fill our bellies at one of the dining options at the resort, The Lost Paddle. This restaurant had the perfect mix of tasty American cuisine for all-day adventurers. The kids dug into Angus burgers and fries, and us adults tried some delicious fish dishes, the Appalachian Rainbow Trout and Blackened Salmon – hands down the BEST rainbow trout we’ve ever had! Learn more about resort dining and fun at aceraft.com/ace-adventure-resort.
Hiking the Gorge
Our last day at ACE, I wasn’t sure how I would gather the kids out of their comfy cabin beds for an early morning hike. Surprising, we were up and ready, grabbed tasty breakfast sandwiches at the resort and we were on our way. Our hiking guide was super knowledgeable of the trails and knew exactly where to take us – a scenic two-mile (up and back) newly named Thurmond Overlook Trail. This narrow 1-mile trail lead us to the popular Concho Overlook (a must-see!) The climb was doable for the kids and well worth every step. Once you get to the to top, you get a picturesque view of the valley and river. The kids pointed to where we rafted the day before! Honestly, hikes can be a hit or miss for the kids (depending on the weather, distance and mood, resulting in some huffing, puffing and complaining). This particular hike, our guide sure knew how to keep them entertained.
Throughout the walk, he would point to plants and insects as he educated the kids and engaged their interest. It wasn’t long until the kids were finding things on their own talking about it, and before they knew it, the hardest part of the hike was over. This made me one happy mama seeing the kids find enjoyment out of the hike. Even cooler, on the way down we saw a black rat snake and chipmunks which really gouged their interest.
Whether you choose a guided hike are venture out on your own, I recommend beginning your New River Gorge National Park and Preserve hike in the morning. That is when it’s cooler and crisp, plus you have a better chance at seeing some cool wildlife. Either way, they will help you find the best adventure for you and your family. Note: The weather around the New River Gorge area can be a bit unpredictable (we dealt with some rain off and on throughout the weekend without warning) so be prepared for rain or shine! Learn more at aceraft.com/adventures/adventures-on-land/hiking.
Plan Your Trip
As we pulled away from the cabin, we saw two baby deer galloping around. It was a beautiful sight and a nice little memento as we headed home. There are so many more adventures ACE offers that time didn’t allow us to try – zip-lining, paintball, the new Aerial Adventure Park and climbing/repelling, to name a few. Our package worked perfect for our family that weekend, and I can’t wait to choose our next weekend getaway. ACE Adventure Resort has countless packages to choose from, whether you go for a day, weekend or longer.
Head to aceraft.com to plan your families next getaway this fall!