But A1 managed to get an interview smack in the middle of the week, an interview it would have been quite rude to reschedule and so with one little email my grand plans for our first true entire-family-in-one-place vacation in a very long time instantly disappeared.
All was not lost though! There is SO much to do in the Chesapeake region, so after a brief survey of what the kids were interested in and a quick mental inventory of the weather and our budget, I settled on a list of interesting, hopefully educational and of course wildly fun places to go.
We started our week by heading for one of my favorite stay-cation spots, the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay, located on a beautiful stretch of the Choptank River near Cambridge, Maryland. In fact, this resort is one of my local favorites, so this post will be longer than usual with lots of photos. Just settle in, and imagine you are there….
Let me say from the start that having stayed at $40 per night hotels and at $400 per night resorts, I have never in all of my travels found such a hospitable, accommodating, generous and truly caring staff as at this resort. I highly endorse it.
My kids call it the Cambridge Hyatt, so that’s how I will refer to it, although you shouldn’t Google it that way, because you will end up at the Cambridge, Boston Hyatt, which is several hundred miles north.
Here is what you need to know about this resort,
which, while not large, has much to offer the entire family:
HOW TO GET THERE
The Cambridge Hyatt is located on Route 50 East, just past Cambridge, Maryland. From the Baltimore/DC area, go over the Bay Bridge, past St. Michael’s and Easton, over the Choptank River Bridge and beyond the fast food joints that line Route 50 outside of historic Cambridge. Folks traveling south from New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania/Delaware can follow I-95S to 301S to Route 50E or use their GPS to enjoy the small farm and chicken towns that sporadically dot the backroads of Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
You will see the Hyatt perched on your left beyond the long fishing pier and on the northeastern river bank of the Choptank as you drive over the bridge. Continue until you see the Walmart on your right. Turn left at this light (Gypsy Hill Road), past the guardhouse and down the winding road that goes through the award winning golf course and over a couple of wooden bridges. See if you can spot the very realistic but fake craggy tree with the eagle perched in it. This road will eventually bring you to the hotel, golf club and restaurants of the resort.
WHAT TO DO
There is so much to do at Cambridge Hyatt that this post would be endless if I were to list them all, so I am going to highlight some family-friendly information here, and you can leave a comment or email me with other questions.
- The Cambridge Hyatt offers frequent specials, especially in the winter and mid-week. Go to their website or check area magazines for a coupon. I’ve seen rates as low as $99 per night. The hotel does offer a government rate but is very strict about having ID at a check in.
- Guest parking is free, but the valet is only $10 per night, and since I was hauling what seemed like half our house into the hotel, I paid for this luxurious convenience. Note that the guest parking is just past the hotel on the left side. This is a large, convenient lot that for some reason folks don’t see. It is across from the golf shop. You can enter the hotel or the pool right there–no need to walk all the way around to the front entrance.
- Check-In is in the afternoon, and can be achieved electronically ahead of time. This way, you get an email or text alerting you when your room is ready. In any case, you have to check in with the front desk to get your room assignment.
- The rooms at this resort are spacious and very clean. Each room has a writing desk, refrigerator, digital safe, coffee maker, sizable closet and large bathroom. Each also has a TV, but we have never used it so I couldn’t tell you the channels.
- I don’t recommend paying for the upgrade of a balcony or view. The balconies are so small, its not like you can even get a chair out there to enjoy the view. Having stayed at this resort three times, we’ve never had a room with a bad view. I am sure there are rooms with more expanded views; but with the golfing, biking, boating and swimming it is doubtful you will be in the room much, and if you are, this is a G rated post and probably doesn’t have the insight you are looking for. NOTE: for a really great view, go up to the Eagle’s Nest, the highest point in the hotel, and walk out on to the patio there.
- The kids will want to head straight to the pool, of course. You will find it on the Lobby level down a short hallway and past the Starbucks and Sundry store, the Spa (a lovely place up a flight of stairs into absolute peace), gym and game room.
- The game room has free ping pong, shuffleboard and foosball as well as several video games (you have to pay about 50 cents per play for those). Opposite the game room is the resort’s gym, which is better than many I’ve seen with clean, updated equipment and a view over the Infinity pool to the river beyond. Many families leave their age 6+ kids here while they bring other children back to the room or what-have-you. At first this seemed strange and somewhat unsafe; however, I have found this to be one of the few large hotels we’ve stayed in that actually feels like a small community. You always hear that parenting takes a village and it seems to be the case with this property. The other parents and guests were (on the whole) very friendly, kind, apparently wholesome and politely conscious of other children around them. The front desk, concierge and pool staff remembered my name and the names of my kids. In fact when #2 seemed to be leaving the pool area without me, a staff member stopped him to ask if he was okay. My kids were perfectly safe playing in the game room alone and they loved having what they thought was freedom. They stayed in the game room as I
orderedrequested, which gave me 5 minutes to run back to the pool to hunt for lost goggles, and I can tell you, that time is a gift right there!
- The Wintergarden pool is a lovely space, characterized by a breath of warm humidity that transforms any dull winter day into a true vacation. There is a lifeguard (very attentive, reactive, proactive and friendly) on staff as well as a lift for swimmers who have adaptive needs. One end of the pool sports a basketball hoop and some small fountains–this is where my kids generally hang out. The other end is deeper and wider.
- The pool is surrounded by lounge chairs which are first come, first serve. It is considered poor etiquette here to run down in the morning to reserve a spot for later in the day. There are plenty of tables alongside the lounge chairs and these are first come, first served as well.
- Poolside dining is primarily from Dock’s Poolside, a concession stand tucked behind the pool. There are menus on each table, but the better option is to check out the chalkboard near the concession stand for excellent salads and specials. The grass fed beef burger and French fries are especially good, although my kids like the usually banned but here you can’t say no virgin drinks like Shirley Temples and Fruity Sours.
- Most evenings the resort offers a free Swim In Movie in the Winter Garden area, which begins at 8 PM. During the winter months this special is offered on the weekends only. Sometimes it is hard to hear the movie as the WinterGarden is quite large and airy, and because of course all of the kids are swimming and having fun, but it’s fine and believe me, my kids have never complained about staying up late and watching a movie FROM THE POOL!
- There is a small shop in the rear of the Winter Garden–go toward the elevators and the locker rooms. It has swimming sundries for purchase, such as goggles, floaties, inflated animal floaties and more near the pool, which is also where you can get towels (free) and volleyballs, frisbees, balls and clubs (free) for outdoor activities (all located outside near the Activity Pool).
- The locker rooms have showers, which are great for the day you leave, when you’ve already checked out but can’t get the kids out of the pool in a timely fashion but you don’t want them to ride home soaked through with chlorine. Frankly the pool, game room or half-day kids club are awesome places to corral the kids while you manage check-out.
- The one and only downside of the WinterGarden area is the hot tub…
Happily the indoor jacuzzi accommodates several people. It has an underwater pass-through to a larger hot tub outside. My kids have had as much fun in that hot tub as they have in the pool. Sadly, the hot tub is Adults Only, both inside and out. Although I saw many a kid (and parent) trying to sneak in through the outside hot tub, the lifeguards and staff were quick to give interlopers the boot. I suppose I can understand that adults want to enjoy the hot tub sans bebes. Nevertheless, I do want to be with the kids, but frankly, that indoor pool–kept at 80 degrees– still isn’t warm enough for me… and that hot tub with the swim through is so cool.
- There are two additional pools outside, both open seasonally. One is located to the right, is heated and caters to the kiddos with a slide (for wee ones at least 42″ tall). It has a poolside bar affiliated with Dock’s Poolside. The other is to the left and called “The Infinity Pool”. Both overlook the Choptank River and a small beach.
- Near the pools is a fireplace- every night at 6 pm the fire is lit for folks to roast marshmallows. You can buy marshmallow kits in the Bay Country Market, or enjoy them as an add-on to your room package, OR….you can make a run to the WalMart and get the same thing for much cheaper. There is also a chess board with huge pieces and plenty of lawn where the kids can run. #1 and #2 especially love to play Hide and Seek in this area. WARNING: lots of goose poop on the lawn!
- A lovely walkway spans the length of the resort, stretching from the rookery (a short, flat, shaded walk that is open seasonally after the resident cranes have hatched their babies), to a marina. The walkway near the rookery extends alongside the golf course, and is a great trail for walking, biking or running. There are two clear loops, one about 1 mile long and the other about 2 miles long. Trails do caution to stay off the golf course, largely so you don’t get run down by a cart or hit on the noggin with a ball. Trails crisscross the resort and the concierge has mapped running and biking trails.
- The resort is dotted with several places to lounge, including specific rooms off the main lobby, each named for a Marylander, such as the Michener Library and the Annie Oakley room. These are great places to wait for your crew to rendezvous or to simply chill with a book. In the winter, these rooms have fires which is so cozy. There is also a cocktail bar tucked under the main lobby (two wings of stairs lead down to the bar). It is a perfect spot to escape with a drink with views over the river. This area doesn’t explicitly say adults only, but it definitely exudes the feeling of a quiet, kid-free zone.
- There is a Starbucks inside the Bay Country Market en route to the pool/game room/fitness room, BUT if you venture down to Water’s Edge, the hotel’s main restaurant, you can get free coffee at the entrance across from the hostess stand.
- The resort has a great eating plan for kids under age 12: at breakfast and dinner, a buffet is offered in Water’s Edge Grill. You pay the age of the kid. So I paid $14 (6+8) for a heaping dinner, which the staff so nicely boxed for me so I could carry it down to the pool for dinner and a movie. I love that this resort puts a distinct focus on healthy food for kids, so while there was mac-and-cheese and chicken tenders (good ones too!), there was also a lovely fresh tossed salad, raw veggies and fruit. Dessert was a simple cookie. Breakfast is the same: of course there is french toast and etc, but there is also plain yogurt and lots of fresh fruit.
- I am particularly fond of the River Marsh Gastropub, located across from the main parking lot on the golf course. Firstly because it has immaculate and empty bathrooms, second because except in the case of times when there are a ton of golfers, it is much more quiet and calm than Waters Edge (do kids have something in them that makes them all hungry AT THE SAME TIME?), and third because they have awesome chili.
- Many people come here to golf or for marina privileges. I haven’t rented a slip, but have heard that marina rentals include full privileges of resort amenities.
- The resort has a wonderful kids club, called Pirates Cove at Camp Hyatt. Check in at Concierge or the front desk because the resort frequently offers BOGO or 1/2 off specials for the kids club (usually $50 per child for a half day and $80 for a full day including lunch). Camp Hyatt also has a night camp ($80). If by Night Camp they mean I could bring the kids to the resort, but ditch them for an entire evening with A1, knowing I have abandoned them to an amazing, safe and active time, I would definitely take a long pause to consider this splurge. I don’t have details on Night Camp at this time, but I will get on that….
- Camp Hyatt is located downstairs from the Main Lobby and off the left (south) side of the hotel with a secure exit to an outdoor playground. It is also full of games, crafts and activities to keep the kids happy while you visit the spa, have a cocktail, or go from G rated to something altogether different for awhile. Or while you just take a nap. Believe me, that $75, 4-hour nap was sooooooo worth it to me. I should have brought a book and sat in the hot tub!
I really could go on and on about this place, so just ask me in the comments if you have any questions.
Other things to do around Cambridge, MD:
- visit Sailwinds Park and the Choptank River Lighthouse
- walk through historic downtown Cambridge and eat in one of the up-and-coming restaurants there
- walk, bike or kayak through Blackwater Wildlife Refuge
- tour the wildlife center at Blackwater Wildlife Refuge
- visit an oyster farm
- fish off the Bill Burton fishing pier
- visit the Harriet Tubman Museum and Education Center
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