To continue my “2 Under 3” series, I bring to you my experience at The Kartrite Resort & Indoor Waterpark. Let me start by saying this resort is fit for ALL ages (even though I would feel a little weird being there kid-less), but I’m going to take you through my weekend and how best to navigate with really little littles! So, here we go.
January is a rough month, especially in New York City. The wind makes even mild temperatures feel freezing, and kids need to get bundled up just to arrive somewhere sweating, get unbundled to have a crowded indoor experience, and then bundle up all over again to go home. Winter just requires a lot of effort. Insert The Kartrite Resort & Indoor Waterpark. A giant building of kid-friendly amenities all under one roof. No bundling, no marshmallow suits, stroller footmuffs, mitts, snow boots, rain boots–just FREEDOM! And freedom with a tropical vibe, so you don’t even want to wear a bulky sweater in the place! The highlight of the resort is the indoor waterpark which is a bright, colorful mid-80 degree oasis, hidden in Monticello, New York.
Located just below the Catskills, the drive to Monticello is completely reasonable from New York City. We made it to and from in under two hours, both trips. We do not own a car, so relied on our usual trusted Zipcar rental service. We looked at a few options since the idea of paying for a rental to just sit in a parking lot for two days didn’t sit well with us, but after exploring the bus service (no direct trains) and renting a car and returning twice, at different locations, the Zipcar was still either the most economical or the least annoying with two young kids and a TON of stuff.
We left at around 1:00PM on Friday afternoon. My husband had to take time off to make this possible, but this departure time was really important. Why? 1) We always try to drive during the baby’s nap time for obvious reasons. (My oldest doesn’t nap anymore, EVER, but she’s fine to get to zone out watching Disney+ on her tablet.) 2) We wanted to avoid Friday afternoon/evening traffic getting out of New York City. 3) We wanted to check in to The Kartrite as soon as possible to make good use of the amenities, and to not only treat Friday like a travel day.
So, we arrived at just around 3:00PM and checked in. My mom and step-dad met us there at this time. They drove about the same distance to The Kartrite from Northwest Connecticut. Since I’m at the stage in my life where I have enough stuff, and in a New York City apartment that doesn’t have room for much more, anyway, we decided to book a weekend away in lieu of Christmas gifts to each other. This was also a very special way to do it for the kiddos. They got special bonding time with their grandparents and will remember their Kartrite experience much longer than the toy flavor of the week. (Maybe not the baby, but at least there are pictures!)
For the best bonding experience, and to make it easiest on us parents, we booked the Deluxe Two Bedroom Suite. If you have young kids, you know there is nothing more annoying than putting your kids down to bed early (ours go to bed at 7:00PM), and then having to read under the covers in the dark or have conversations via text as to not disturb your sleeping children in one tiny hotel room. With the two bedroom suite, our kids went to bed, and us four adults stayed up in the common area, or took turns exploring outside the hotel room walls.
The rooms are really large, and pretty comfortable. Everything you need to relax with your family. The beds were comfy (especially the pillows), the bathrooms were nice (perfect lighting, actually), and there were nice little extras like plastic laundry bags that we took our wet clothes home in. I only had two real complaints. 1) Our mini fridge froze everything. Twice. On day one everything I brought for the baby had frozen. Breastmilk–frozen. Blackberries–little rocks. Everything. Thank goodness I brought bananas and avocados to mash up. And, even after I turned the fridge down half way (!), everything froze again. The leftover pizza slices–completely frozen. It was really bizarre. And, 2) One of the bathrooms doesn’t really have a door. There’s a door to the tub and toilet area, but not to the part with the double sinks. So, you have to bring all of your clothes into the cramped enclosed area to change, and then continue getting ready in the open area which is just a little awkward if you’re sharing the space with another couple. If it’s only intended as a “kids bathroom,” it would totally make sense… But, overall, great rooms for great family bonding.
So, we checked in, got settled, changed for the evening, and explored a little bit. We checked out one half of the arcade, near the lower level bowling lanes and pool tables (our rooms were also located on the lower level), and I immediately became addicted to the claw game. I donated a pretty penny to the Kartrite arcade this trip! My daughter ignited my fire by setting her sights on a foam strawberry cake toy that I just HAD to win for her. (I later tossed it after the baby bit off the cherry on top which broke my daughter’s heart, and after I realized the constant chemicals that foam toys release. So, we decided to stick with the stuffies.) Side note: I have one aunt that has always been SO addicted to the claw. She would go to Atlantic City, never gamble in the casinos, but come back with bags full of stuffed animal claw winnings. I might get it from her…
So, after an hour or so in the arcade, it was time for an early dinner. #parentlife We had made 5:30PM reservations at the main sit-down restaurant, Bixby’s Derby, on OpenTable. I highly recommend making a reservation, as the place really does fill up, What I do not necessarily recommend is the restaurant, in general. In fact, my only major complaint with The Kartrite is the food. I will get into the food issues more throughout this post, but let me start with night one.
Dining at The Kartrite
The restaurant itself is fine. Clean, a nice big booth for the family, crayons for the already overstimulated kiddos. All good. The food just misses the mark. The kids chicken fingers were great, but my salmon was pretty bad. The skin, as advertised was not crispy, the lemon preserves were an awful and bitter choice to have the fillet swimming in, and the risotto was more like dry rice with a very funny taste. I was extremely disappointed. The asparagus side had an overly-smoky, charred aftertaste, and the burger was just eh. Another note on the burger. The only reason I had half of a burger was because my mom’s medium-rare burger was basically served to her well done. I only eat it that way, so I was fine to try it, but she was obviously very dissatisfied. This is my issue with overcooked food. The server acknowledges the problem, offers to remake the dish, but then you’re left with a bad feeling either way. Either you eat an overcooked meal that you are not enjoying, or you toss a full entree, get what you want, and feel horrible about adding to the food waste in this country! It’s a can’t win, really.
But then on another note, my stepfather tried to “waste” his leftovers, and the server was a little too pushy about it. She was a little too comfortable with our table, in general, but when it came to him not touching too much of his burger, she sort of pressured him about it. After she continued, saying something like “But, you’ve barely touched it,” he had to get into how he just started eating solid foods after radiation from throat cancer, and trying to eat is part of his physical therapy. Some days are good, some days are bad. This is why he asked for just a bunless burger (that was served with the bun accidentally) and nothing else. Not really her business, just saying.
So, whatever, all so-so, and we were out of there pretty quickly. The meal for four adults and a child (the baby had some carrots I had made earlier in the day) came to just over $200.00. Not crazy for folks coming from New York City prices, but not cheap either. I was expecting worse, honestly, because a lot of people have mentioned the Kartrite’s high prices. I did not find any of the prices to be all that extortionate at the resort in any area.
We got back to the room for 7:00PM, put the kids right down, and had a night in our common living area of wine and card games! We brought our own bottles of wine (luckily those didn’t freeze) and played a couple games which included the hilarious Relative Insanity (think Cards Against Humanity but about family members. We change the names on the cards so we can literally be playing the games about our own kin.) We also packed our room with my Trader Joe’s haul of puffs, chips, cheese, and crackers, so we were all set. The only thing I recommend is grabbing a couple wine glasses from the bar. There are only two in the room and they’re kind of lame. Fun night, and then we all slept like babies.
Saturday was our only full day at the resort. We wanted to make the most of it while still relaxing and keeping our kids on schedule. This meant our usual 7:00AM wakeup and instead of rushing out to the buffet, we relaxed with provisions from the resort’s cafe, The Highline. Everything was really, really good. The carrot muffins get an A+, the bagels were soft and flavorful (but they only had cream cheese packets), and the lattes were great! We enjoyed our breakfast, had quality family time in the room, and put the baby down for her 9:00AM nap. We got ready to go and hit the water park once she woke up at 10:00AM.
Time for the Waterpark!
The indoor waterpark was just a short walk from our room. At the beginning of your stay, you’re given wristbands that (like at Disney World) serve as your room key and allow for access to the waterpark. Once in the park, we grabbed towels and found a place to put our things. I would say less is more when bringing items inside. There are lockers available (for about $20/day), but if you’re staying in the resort, there really isn’t a reason to bring too much into the park since the rooms are so close. Outside snacks are not permitted in the park, but we brought in our water bottles that we continuously filled up in our room. I had a change of clothes for the baby, and my phone which I ended up leaving behind the next couple times I visited the park. You could invest in a waterproof phone bag if you really need your phone, though. Since the park is rather large, and you won’t always have eyes on your lounge chair, I’d keep valuables on your body or in your room.
Both mornings in the waterpark were nice and quiet. Chairs were easy to find, the pools weren’t too crowded, and the waterslide lines were really short. Be prepared for more crowds later in the day. I would try to get your watersliding out of the way early, to avoid the waits. The crowded afternoons are another reason the cabanas they offer look very attractive.
To Cabana or Not To Cabana?
There is a big push for the $249/day cabanas. These enclosed tents offer a place to rest and relax, include TVs, refreshments and snacks, and a little bit of privacy to change or just get away from the crowds for a minute. If you’re going to spring for a cabana, I would make sure you get one on the lower level, close to the water action. It’s nice to stay close to the rest of your party and even be able to view them in the water. Getting to the upper level and back down is just a lot of effort! If I planned on spending the entire day at the waterpark, I might consider renting one, but for me, it just wasn’t worth it. My baby takes her second nap from 12:00PM-2:30PM, which technically could have been done in a cabana if we brought in the pack and play (which we brought for this trip, FYI. Didn’t even look into The Kartrite’s crib options), but the cabanas get pretty hot, and it was nice getting a break from it all in the middle of the day.
That nap time break wasn’t only nice for the baby and me, but for our toddler, as well. Even though she doesn’t nap anymore, it was good to take her out of the waterpark stimulation and have her eat lunch (some sandwiches from The Highline and fruit/snacks we had brought from home), in the quiet of the hotel room. I basically forced her to watch Frozen on her tablet just so she would sit and rest so she wasn’t too burnt out before a second round at the waterpark.
At 3:00PM we were all refreshed (with help from visit three to The Highline cafe for a round of coffees for us parents), and we headed back to the waterpark. It was noticeably more busy, but still fun to enjoy the baby pool area, a kids water playground, slides, and the lazy river. A lot of people worry that there will not be enough for young kids, but don’t, your toddler will have a blast!! Our baby enjoyed her first real time in non-bath water, as well!
After a couple more hours, we flew back to the room, showered the four of us in record speed, fed the kids with yogurt, cheese, and fruits we brought from home, and headed to the arcade. My parents had an early dinner at the Harvey’s Wallbanger restaurant so they could hang out in the room and mind the sleeping children for us parents to have a night to ourselves! (They enjoyed their pizza after it was remade. The first one was very burnt. My mom was 0/2…) We checked in with them, tried to encourage my daughter to pick at more food, but she’s like me, not hungry during excitement, and then spent their college savings at the arcade. The claw sucked me in for a few more stuffies, and we left with happy and tired kiddos begging for bedtime. As we walked back, I was thankful that my daughter had yet to notice (and actually never did) the Pop’s Sweet Shoppe. It was a completely sugar-free weekend, which was for the best given the stimulation at every turn.
Just after 7:00PM, we put the baby to bed in the pack and play and my daughter in one of the two queen beds in our room. We took the bolsters from each bed and slid them under the sheets on each side to act as bumpers since this bed was much higher than the toddler bed she is used to. It worked perfectly. This was also their first time falling asleep together which worked out, as well, and gave me more confidence as they approach the time when they will be sharing a room at home. So, anyway, they were cozy in beds, and my husband and I were ready to go out. My parents had the baby monitor and enjoyed a low-key movie night, while we went out on a little date!
Parents Night Out
We decided to go back to Bixby’s since there aren’t many sit-down options. Harvey’s Wallbanger was a little too bright and rowdy for us, and we didn’t feel like leaving the resort. So, back to Bixby’s we went. We decided to eat at the quiet bar since there appeared to be a wait and it felt nice to go somewhere only grownups could go! We started at the left side of the bar, but the staff was extremely, shall we say, casual? We were right in a loud and lax service station which was taking any ambiance out of our little night. We moved to the other end of the bar in front of two really bright TVs, looked at each other, then shifted a little more to the middle. Those seats were juuuuust right. The bar was still too bright overall (and the sound of “Zootopia” from the lobby’s movie night was hard to compete with) but it was as good as it was going to get.
Now, this was our toughest meal of the trip. You’re probably bound to eat here because there really aren’t many options, but hopefully the restaurant will stumble upon this review and make some changes, I don’t know. I’ve already described our tough first night at Bixby’s, so I had an idea of what to steer clear of. After the little annoyances–the loud and casual service, the brightness, the changing seats, the fact that they had a full bottle of Maker’s Mark on a high shelf (apparently their “show bottle”), but claimed they were out–we decided on dinner.
We were going to split the full rack of ribs dinner and a New York strip with Béarnaise sauce. Let me point out that the only reason I agreed to this entree split with my husband was the Béarnaise sauce. Maybe it was my years of living in Europe and trips to perfect street-facing bistro tables in Paris, but I am a sucker for a steak with Béarnaise. What was delivered to me was not a Béarnaise sauce. It was a cold, white mayonnaise with a strange flavor. It was not yellow. It was not warm. It did not seem to include vinegar or shallots, and it absolutely did not include tarragon. And, no, this is not me the cook being critical or picky. It was a completely different item than what was advertised. The new bartender was also confused, and the kitchen told her it’s their ‘housemade interpretation.” That interpretation was as if I asked for a filet mignon and was given a slice of bologna. But, the bartender serving us tried to make it right by giving us another inventive sauce, their “housemade steak sauce” or something. This was basically a cold, Thousand Island dressing, which I could never imagine dipping a steak into. I then just asked for the Gorgonzola option listed on the menu under the steak options. This was also a fail since it was actually an unimpressive Gorgonzola compound butter. That does not work on a cold steak that has been sitting in front of us for 20 minutes at that point. I was just chewing cold butter, really. So, I passed the whole dish to my husband and didn’t look back.
The BBQ ribs however, were fantastic. It was the best dish we had at Bixby’s over the two nights. I would slather on, or serve with a side of extra BBQ sauce, but even without, it was gooood. So, that was our food experience at Bixby’s.
Afterwards, we headed down to the arcade with a couple missions. My two-old-fashioned-deep self wanted to get my daughter everything in the claw machines, and we needed to earn about 1500 more tickets to get her the Toy Story art set in the ticket redemption center. We only had 500 tickets so we needed to do some damage. We aggressively played the baseball game where you knock down the bottles (we’re both still sore), basketball Connect 4, ring toss, Skee ball, weird unlock the vault games, and had water gun competitions. It was a blast. We were big, drunk kids having the time of our life throwing away way too much money on items we could have overnighted from Amazon for pennies. But, wouldn’t have changed a thing. We got back to the room with all the tickets we needed and a “Daddy Shark” to sneak into our toddler’s bed to go with the “Baby Shark” and “Mommy Shark” we had previously won her. (That idea seemed great at the time, until she woke up at 5:30AM, finding the new shark and demanding to get up and play with the whole new family. “Mama, there are three now!” Oops.)
My husband took that 5:30AM wakeup (it was his idea to put it in the bed, after all) and the baby and I slept in till 7:00AM. We headed back to The Highline in our jammies, grabbed more tasty muffins and bagels, and had another laid-back morning in our hotel room. This time, my mom and step-dad were to hang out in the room during the babies first nap time so my husband and I could take our toddler to the waterpark for a little solo time. (They never came back to the room with us the afternoon before, so really put their time in at the waterpark already.) We spent one last hour at the park, baby-free, swimming together as a family, or taking turns hitting the waterslides. This time I was even able to try the indoor/outdoor hot tub. Who needs Iceland? After accomplishing way more in an hour than I had been able to do the entire the day before with a baby on my hip, it was time to head back to the room and pack up for our 11:00AM checkout. (We had called for a late checkout, but they said they were unable to accommodate any late checkouts that day.)
The End is Near
We packed up from 10:00AM-11:00AM, loaded the car, and spent our last couple hours at The Kartrite back in the arcade. We had some credits left to use on our prepaid arcade card, and still needed to redeem all of those hard-earned tickets! First, I borrowed a highchair from Harvey Wallbanger’s for the second time that trip and fed the baby her meal in the common area. This time, I just broke open an avocado and scooped the flesh right out. Then, over to the arcade area.
The 2000 ticket Toy Story art set was no longer her must-have, and after wayyyyy too long in the redemption center, we ended up leaving with a knock-off Barbie with too-skinny legs named Sophie, and a Paw Patrol bowling set with a plastic ball and pins. I hope it was worth HUNDREDS of dollars to her. But, it really was priceless fun.
We ate some of our snacks and hit the road. I try not to ever feed huge meals before traveling because my kids get reallllly carsick. My daughter does better with dry snacks and water while we’re on the road. The baby napped, my toddler watched Toy Story, and we were home in under two hours, by 3:00PM. My husband returned the ZipCar and we had a night of unpacking, laundry, and takeout. And that was our weekend at The Kartrite!
So, the takeaway? The Kartrite Resort & Indoor Waterpark is a fabulous place for families. On top of the basic park amenities, older kids with later bedtimes or no nap times can enjoy all types of extracurricular activities, such as balloon animal classes or ropes courses. There are fire pits for s’mores and snowball games. Something for everyone. So, go. But, remember, outside of The Highline, the food and restaurant service is disappointing. The service outside the restaurants though, stellar. So, you take the good with the bad. Your best bet, stock up your mini-fridge (watch out for those frigid temperatures) with all the provisions you might need to graze on over the course of your trip. Trader Joe’s was our best friend this weekend. Please let me know if you have any questions, and, I would love to hear about your experiences!!