by Francis McGovern
I remember when I was young and growing up in the seventies, we watched TV mostly with the family. Back then there was no on demand, what was on was what we watched. Changing the channel was an act of power and we didn’t have control of the TV. This was before cable and remotes made it to our house.
During the week, we would usually read a little every night before bed and my dad would read to me, or sometimes we would listen to the radio, to a program where a narrator would read fiction, the precursor to spoken word. We would listen to stories read on the radio as we slowly fell asleep imagining ourselves as the characters. Reading was a great alternative because you could get the chance to be someone else.
But on the weekend, Saturday nights were special, we would have a family dinner, and sometimes we would go out to eat mostly at an Italian restaurant in town. When I got a little older, we watched the Love Boat and Fantasy Island on Saturday nights.
There was something about being a young kid and seeing there was a place where your fantasy could come true. I remember being young enough not to know if it was really real or fake. It was a very American idea for a show. If you had enough money you could live out your dreams and become someone else. What’s more Gatsbyesque than that?
When I realized that the actors were also the people on the Love Boat coming on the show, I knew it must be made up. I recognized Abe Vigoda, not from Barney Miller or The Godfather but from Fantasy Island and The Love Boat.
Now a new generation will get the chance to experience that seventies feeling of escaping their own life into something new, with the release of Fantasy Island. Although the 2020 movie seems like a little bit of a darker twist and is more horror than fantasy (and I did see it) and it was not very much of either (currently 8% on Rotten Tomatoes.) But maybe that’s just a sign of the times and a steeper price we face now for fantasy. I remember that on Fantasy island, every fantasy had a cost. Becoming someone else is not easy. You have to pay the price for the escape.
So where can you go when you want to escape the ordinary? There is a place where you can take part in any adventure that you desire. Adventure Suites in North Conway NH is a themed hotel with many different themes. You can come here to do anything or be anyone, maybe you want to feel what it was like back as an emperor in Roman times, or get in touch with your inner biker in the Motorcycle Room? Maybe you have dreams of being an Italian Duke, well there is a room for winemakers with detailed wine barrels in the walls, A Dragon Room (currently being renovated but perfect for Harry Potter fans) and for the lovers of romance novels there a Victorian suite that is primed for bodice ripping! Maybe you want to head back to the seventies and stay in your very own Love Shack complete with psychedelic decor and watch old episodes of Fantasy Island.
The hotel is run by Kathy Brassill-Doucet and the hotel was in her family although in a different incarnation. It was formerly the Presidential Waterbed Hotel. She spent time in the hotel as a little girl and she took over the property in 1998 and since then she has lovingly and carefully restored each of the rooms to have its own theme. She is a gracious host who cares about her guests and their adventures. If you get the chance to take a tour please ask for one and they welcome the chance to show each room (unless the property is sold out which it often is.) We were lucky to visit a few when we were there. There are almost 20 different suites to choose from. Each room has unique details and special surprises. The hotel is a stand alone property and not part of a chain. Her innovations are painstakingly researched and features of each room come from places like Estonia, Italy, England, Germany, Canada, Mexico, Japan, China, Russia, and others that Kathy has traveled with her husband Paul, who also works there. They have a full time construction crew working year round at the hotel to constantly improve their guests’ experiences.
The rooms really run the gamut from family friendly and cozy to downright scary. These escapes are perfect for couples or families with children who are visiting the White Mountains and getting to stay in a tree house or a cave, log cabin or jungle room. There are so many literary connections to be made here, from Swiss Family Robinson to the Jungle Book, reading a book and then visiting Adventure Suites could even make your little literary travelers more excited about reading and traveling. Nevermind what you can do with Stephen King in the Haunted Castle. Also the hotel has recently opened a spa along with its own restaurant and pub. They are looking for guests to plan out special events and special occasions such as birthdays, honeymoons, anniversaries, family vacations, romantic evenings, corporate retreats and kids’ slumber parties.
For our family’s Visit, we were joined by our sons Ryan 16 and Wesley 11. The boys are both actors so we got to watch movies in the Sky Captain’s Lounge with a big screen projection TV. Watching the first Pirates of the Caribbean on a projection TV was impressive. There are also many games and thousands of DVD movies to choose from for all of the guests.
The next night we got to stay in the Haunted Castle suite. Now this was the most interesting and creative suite that I have stayed in the past twenty-two years running Literary Traveler. It wasn’t my fantasy to stay there but my youngest son loves Halloween and loves to decorate and celebrate it. My older son really likes to be scared and so I was just along for the ride.
You might ask yourself Can you stay in a haunted castle? The question might mean, is there a place that is haunted that you can stay in, or can you actually stay and last in the room all night?
The Haunted Castle at Adventure Suites was the real deal. It was both a suite, and an attraction. Equal parts horror movie and Disney level quality experience. The suite consists of five levels of adventure. There are lots of loud noises and unexpected things that go bump in the night like noises, breathing, music, flashes of lightning.
When you watch a horror movie, or read a scary story, you might tend to think I would not get trapped in this alternative absurd horror universe, I would not go in, I would escape, I would get out, I would be the smart one to get out. I would realize this was an illusion. I would keep calm and carry on. But in real life, sometimes you might choose to go into that haunted house. It’s not an accident, it happens on purpose. Sometimes you end up at the door of a haunted castle and instead of turning back, you go in. That’s what I thought to myself as I unlocked the door.
I personally have a fear of horror stories as does my wife but I am drawn to them as well. Our older son Ryan always drags me to go to the movies or read Stephen King books. I have what could be called jump scare weakness. When we saw IT 1 and 2 – he was laughing at me while I was jumping out of my seat. Every minute there was a new jump scare and I was trying to be faithful and not look away.
This suite is new as of 2019. And it is beautiful on the inside and it really is hard to look away. Legend has it that a King and Queen Tumbledown had built a castle but didn’t know it was the former location of an insane asylum and then strange things started to happen. One fateful night they were seen running away from the castle; never to be seen again. Over the years, the castle has been abandoned and has deteriorated. The cabinets have fallen apart, the iron has rusted, the kitchen is in disrepair, stairs are rickety and crooked and many insects have invaded.
The first level consists of a kitchen and dining area with lots of special effects designed to make you jump. If you dare you can climb up the stairs to the next level. Beware of what’s at the top though, this next level is everything you could imagine and more. It’s two storeys tall with a drawbridge, and bone-throne overlooking a castle wall.
There aren’t people in the room to scare you but there are certainly special effects that are a bit scary and maybe exciting if you are of the brave of heart. If you keep climbing you will see another stairway leading to a balcony and an outdoor hot tub (pay no attention to the moving pictures on the wall.) There is a large gathering area with a fireplace and TV. Climbing the ramp to the sleeping quarters you will find the suite sleeps eighteen people. One room contains two queen beds and then there is a locker room with six double beds rising over fifteen feet, and don’t let the giant nutcracker bother you as you walk into the Master Bedroom which is both sexy and scary.
Not only are all the rooms full of magnificent details, each of the three bathrooms have mosaics that tell a story. And the special effects will really wow you. As the stay in the Haunted Castle progresses deep into the night, the sounds and sights get more powerful as the night goes on with special scares planned for each room. It was not easy but we made it through the night, tired but invigorated that we survived.
Kathy sat with us to talk about her vision for the suite and the custom technology behind it. The room is for everyone who likes to get scared or has a dark side or appreciates horror movies or great horror fiction. Think about the alternative bride who wants to have a goth wedding and has a great sense of style. This is the perfect place to live out her fantasy.
Adventure Suites is set amongst an outdoor paradise with beautiful natural resources very close to the mountains. If you get a chance go on the Mount Washington snow coach, it’s definitely an easy way to take in the mountains. It’s affordable, educational and fun. We took it up the mountain on a glorious sunny day. Our guide was great and was a Special Forces Navy Seal veteran. We learned about the natural forces that had formed the presidential range’s tectonic plates and it was a great science lesson for Wesley who is in sixth grade studying that same subject.
North Conway is a great little village. Lots of skiing and brewpubs and not very far away there are two theme parks popular in the summer and winter, Storyland and Santa’s Village respectively. There is even a new aquarium in town. We visited two restaurants, the first just by the hotel is called Table + Tonic, an offshoot by the owners of The Local Grocer who are taking their sourcing standards to Dinner. Heather Chase has taken a lot of care in putting together a delicious authentic farm to table experience, try the vegetarian meatloaf or the charcuterie.
For something more on the brewpub side, visit Barley and Salt closer to downtown. Barley & Salt has super friendly bartenders and servers and say hi to the manager Brie, who took such great care of us. Lot’s of families and young people were there for dinner. The boys loved it. They have a great selection of local breweries and spirits and their wings, fish and chips were excellent.
It was all just enough to make an excellent weekend getaway and it made for a memorable adventure if you are looking for your fantasy they have got it here. For more information contact the Adventure Suites. 603 356-9744.
Watch below for more upcoming events at Adventure Suites.
Proof that it is scary!
Francis McGovern is the co-founder and founding editor and publisher at Literary Traveler. He has run the site for over 20 years. He was at Walking Magazine and then spent three years at Lycos.com where he served as a product manager for their suite of personalization products including My Fidelity and My Lycos.
Francis has also run a search engine consulting practice as well as serve as Vice President of Operations for the reviewed.com network. He has helped to lead and develop many literary tours and cruises and loves to discuss books and ideas with a group of travelers as they discover new places.