The White Elephant Residences
There are many reasons to vacation with kids on Nantucket, including the island’s great beaches, its quaint, cobblestoned Main Street decked with charming storefronts, and the island’s seemingly non-existent crime rate. Now, there is another reason for families with kids to choose Nantucket as their vacation destination: The White Elephant Residences, a new arm of the well-known, White Elephant Hotel, which received Travel & Leisure’s 2011 World’s Best Awards for Top Family Hotels in the US.
Poshbrood originally reserved a two-bedroom garden cottage at the Hotel, a historic inn on the harbor and one of the island’s premier places to stay. A couple of weeks before our trip, we happily received an email from a hotel “vacation planner” letting us know a “team of professionals at the White Elephant Hotel” was available to assist us with anything we might need during our upcoming stay.
Tennis, golf, boat outings, dinner and spa reservations, etc. could be arranged. But when we asked about kid-friendly services, it became clear that the hotel itself doesn’t offer anything in particular for children beyond the kids’ menu at their restaurant. Not to worry, we thought, knowing the hotel is essentially next door to Children’s Beach, walking distance to the Brant Point Lighthouse, and close to town. We also loved the sound of kid-centric activities the vacation planner recommended.
But then we got a call from the manager at the White Elephant Residences. She offered us an upgrade to a comparable unit at the Residences, which are located a few blocks away from the Hotel. The Residences, a collection of six two-story shingle-clad buildings that look like traditional island homes. Each house a handful of one- to three-bedroom apartment-like rentals and gears many things toward kids. With post-trip perspective, we can say that Poshbrood never got so lucky!
Upon arriving for check in, kids are greeted warmly by name and given stickers, bubbles and little games. Both parents and kids will enjoy all the onsite amenities: an ever-present bowl of lollipops, several generous stacks of board games and toys (covering a wide range of ages: we borrowed a princess memory game, Sponge Bob Operation, and the board game Life) and a wall unit filled with DVDs for kids and adults. Guests are welcome to take whichever of these they like back to their rooms. Be sure to check the offerings a few times during your stay, since new options appear when guests check out and games and movies are returned to the collection.
Always available is a spread of drinks (coffee, tea, hot chocolate and cold drinks like lemonade and cucumber water) and treats that change from morning (banana bread, croissants, sticky buns, muffins) to afternoon (cookies). We would return to this nice but laidback space often, on a lollipop run, to pick up a new magazine, newspaper, game or movie, or for a cup of coffee or hot chocolate.
A cheerful bellman escorted us to our two-bedroom, two-bathroom suite with kitchenette (no stove) and washer dryer. We walked in and were wowed. Now THIS is a luxury rental, we all thought! Our beautifully designed living room/dining area/kitchen was open, airy and bright, with lofted ceilings (second floor units only) and a cozy window seat adorned with comfy pillows.
A basket of magazines sat under a console, and books (both coffee-table and novels) adorned the space, as did a few more games. There was also a gas fireplace for cooler off-season nights, above a flat screen TV that surprisingly offered On Demand viewing (an episode of Caillou or Dora available when you need it can be a witching-hour wonder).
Closer inspection revealed top of the line wares throughout: a Subzero fridge and freezer, a Bosch dishwasher, a wine refrigerator, microwave, dishware, glasses (including wine and champagne), flatware, bowls and utensils, even Chilewich placemats and coordinating cotton napkins. On the kitchen counter sat a coffee maker, a basket of coffee and teas and a pop-up toaster. Tucked away, we found a toaster oven, blender and a panini maker. Both bathrooms offered beautiful, freestanding showers; the master bath also offering a separate soaking tub. Flat screen TVs and DVD players in each bedroom promised good viewing from the beds, scrumptiously made with high-end bedding. And then there were our welcome gifts—a box filled with chocolate covered cranberries (a signature island treat) and stuffed elephants on each of the kids’ twin beds. We didn’t think we’d need much more for our five-night stay!
Tired from travel but still with some of the afternoon before us, we decided to hit the pool, located just steps from our front door—a major perk of the Residences (the main hotel has no pool). The Residence pool has a lifeguard, comfortable chairs and cabanas, and is reserved only for Residence guests, thank you very much! No worries about staking out your spot—the pool is never overcrowded. A big trunk of pool toys sits ready and waiting, along with a spread of complimentary magazines and books, fruit, and lemon or cucumber ice-water. For the kids in all of us, a complimentary ice cream cart is wheeled out poolside daily at 3:00 p.m. We were too tired after our swim to do much else, so we ordered room service for dinner, available from the main hotel. Lobster rolls, hot dogs and chicken fingers with fruit did us right—an easy, first night dinner.
Early the next morning, one of us grow-ups enjoyed working out at the Residence gym (larger than the one at the main hotel, and reserved only for Residence guests), while the other walked with the kids the block or so to Children’s Beach (wagons are available if you’d like to pull your kids or beach toys). The benefit of our great location sunk in as the kids played in the sand and at the adjoining park, all a mere two minutes from our door. This small beach on the harbor has a roped-off swim area and lifeguards as well as a giant climber on the sand. The park just behind it offers swings, slides, and plenty of ships wheels for little boat captains to steer.
Another perk is Nucci’s Italian Ice & Gelato located beside the park. In addition to the obvious, you can buy morning coffee and breakfast sandwiches, bagels, donuts, muffins or lunch—salads, paninis and, from the kid’s menu, grilled cheese, pb&j, hot dogs, mac and cheese and more. More greatness: morning yoga, dance and movement classes for kids ages 10 months to 7 years and yoga for teens and adults are available (several different classes for different ages). Classes take place in an open bandstand structure beside the park. The hotel has all the information; just show up when it works for you and pay by the class.
We ended up back in the Residence pool most days for a couple of hours, which was a pleasure for all of us. The friendly, relaxed setting made it easy to chat with other Residence guests and for the kids to pick up impromptu pool games. Beautiful cabanas, with comfortable sofas, chairs and a coffee table as well as a pair of lounge chairs were always available and were a nice place to visit, eat a snack or lounge and read. On day two, on our way back after swimming and the ice-cream cart, our seven-year-old announced, “I never want to leave this place!” And neither did we, especially given the Residence’s nightly turndown service, when children receive a new (and different) bath toy, laid upon their bed. This may have been our favorite special perk. Wow, did it turn the bath-time routine into an anticipated, exciting event!
The next day we were excited for the Critter Cruise boat excursion recommended by the hotel vacation planner. This 1-hour harbor outing offers kids a chance to learn about local crustaceans and to throw in a line. It honestly couldn’t be more perfect. Captain Josh and his crew pull up lobster traps and talk about the creatures found inside, which kids who want to can safely touch and hold. You never know what will be hauled up, so excitement built with each lifted trap. On our trip, crabs, lobster and a conch went into “touch tanks” on deck for further viewing. (Who knew that a conch spurts out water like a squirt gun when tickled?)
Then each kid was set up with a rod and reel and tried their hat at fishing. Our kids reeled in their first fish ever on this boat, and their giggles, smiles, and on-board excitement were one of the highlights of our trip. To boot, each got a Critter Cruise t-shirt to take home, a nice token from a memorable outing.
Now, a note about a Nantucket service that could lighten your load and help you feel free as the seagulls flying overhead. Since Poshbrood has been coming to the island for years, we’ve needed equipment—a jogging stroller (an absolute must for bumpy brick sidewalks), an exersaucer, a high chair, etc. Nantucket Babysitters Service has always hooked us up with such equipment rentals, making our airport travel a relative breeze. This year, we no longer needed any equipment, but asked for someone young and fun to assist us with our 7 and 4 year olds. The kids responded immediately to Vicky, and having her freed us up a bit to relax ourselves.
On our way to town, we noticed a jewelry boutique we simply had to go into. It’s called Posh! Inside are the wares of islander Jessica Hicks who makes each piece by hand. Amidst all the Vineyard Vines and seersucker on-island, it was a happy surprise to find such hip style, worthy of celebrity fans such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Halle Berry, Jessica Alba and Eva Longoria.
We could go on and on, and tell you, for example, about the delicious breakfasts at Fog Island Café (walking distance from the Residences) where our kids loved their fruit-decorated pancake faces, or about the back room candy shop (past the surfboards and swim gear) at Force 5 Watersports, which would make Willy Wonka cry with envy. Or about Jetties Beach, close to the hotel, where the water stays shallow and calm very, very far out, and its casual, kid-friendly restaurant The Jetties, where you can watch the sunset while enjoying anything from lobster and wine to pizza and pb&j out on an open deck.
This Nantucket visit can be perfectly summarized by our four-year-old, who said with a sigh on this trip, “I love vacation.” Parents and kids will love a White Elephant vacation.
Nightly in-season rates (July and August) at the Residences start at $1600 for a one-bedroom (all units have pull-out sofas in the living room area) and Two-bedrooms start at $2300. Better deals exist in the spring and fall, with some two-bedrooms going for $650 at times. As always, let Poshbrood/SmartFlyer help you make your family travel plans!
—Submitted by Stefanie Stark
Stefanie Stark is a freelance writer who has written for National Geographic Traveler, The Washington Post, USAToday.com and many more publications and websites. You can reach her at StefanieBStark@aol.com or via her paper studio, Pinwheel Paper.