Are We There Yet? A Family Travel Report from the Road

Unlike your unencumbered bloggers, not all of Traveler‘s staff travel with only their lightly packed bags for company. Associate editor Susan O’Keefe recently took a trip with her family, and gave us the following report:

Just back with my three kids from the Tides Inn in historic Irvington, Virginia, a charming town on the Rappahannock River (a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay) in Virginia‘s Northern Neck, where the setting, pace of life, and activities recall summer vacations of the past. From croquet on a bluff overlooking Carters Creek to the swimming pool complete with a metal shade awning, towel cabana, and plenty of water floats for the kids, the Tides is unpretentious and fully welcomes kids, even misbehaving ones (take my word for it, breakfast one morning turned into a nightmare, and a waiter averted disaster with miniature, palm-size pinball

games). And unlike so many resorts that have programs for kids—tidy, nowhere-to-be-seen facilities to store tots for the day—the Tides’s Crab Net Kids

program is chock-full of activities that actually take in the inn’s surroundings and can include crabbing and fishing on the river, golfing and playing tennis.

Otherwise, you can find things to do on your own on a list of daily activities posted in the lobby that may offer a property-wide scavenger hunt, a complimentary ice cream social, or live music to sway to on the beach in the evening. No matter what’s happening, you can bet that it will go off (no ‘they said this was the spot to meet’ moments), with cheerful, fresh-faced young staff assisting. Do-it-yourself crab nets are provided on the dock (this entertained my active five-year-old for hours) or you can head out on the water in a variety of boats and complimentary canoes. The sailing school offers on-site lessons to young and old alike. We piled in one of the blue-canopied Duffy motorboats and tooled around the river pointing out grand summer homes with sweeping lawns and old boathouses, while the kids waved to passing boaters.

The small town of Irvington is a scene out of Mayberry

with homes with front porches lining both sides of the main street.

Just a short walk from the inn, the town has a few worthwhile shops and cafés (we never made it to the White Fences Vineyard on the edge of town with two huge wine cork sculptures sprouting from the vineyards, but it caught our attention), or you can drive to several nearby waterside towns, all offering their share of crab houses for dinner.

We ventured out one afternoon to pick up a $6 crab net (for our dedicated crabber who insisted on his own) at Eubanks & Son Hardware store (+1 804 435 1519) (much more fun to forage through than Home Depot) in Kilmarnock where we stopped for barbecued ribs and pulled-pork sandwiches at Smokin Joe’s (+1 804 435 6000) located in the Tri-Star Supermarket

(81 Irvington Rd.; +1 804 435 3800) parking lot. But mostly, we floated in the pool at the inn and hung around the dock talking to boaters.

After dinner in the evening, we sat on Adirondack chairs on the small beach while the kids danced around and doodled in the sand waiting to see the first star in the night sky … summer vacation indeed!