If you desire first class.......
The setting for this hotel is as impressive as the hotel itself. I didn't stay here, but I'm sure it must be at least 4 stars.
Dixville Notch and the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel way up north in New Hampshire, but well worth the trip. One of the few remaining grand hotels of New Hampshire, a stay at the Balsams is an incredible lesson in how things used to be.
The decor is opulent, the dress code for dinner requires men to wear jackets, and the staff is very attentive.
Unique Quality: Dixville Notch is the first town in the nation to cast its vote in presidential elections with the entire town voting just after midnight on the day the polls open. As a result, the area has been visited by significantly more political figures than your average small rural town. A room at the back of the hotel, which is also the town polling place, documents this unique history with a great display of photographs.
The setting for this hotel is as impressive as the hotel itself. I didn't stay here, but I'm sure it must be at least 4 stars.
Reservation - it was easy via the hotel's website and booked the B&B package ($299/room with breakfast for a family of 4, kids age 5 & 3), immediate confirmation
Check in - slow process, doesnt seem very organized but the staff are nice and polite
Room - we had stayed at 3 different types so check the photos for each type :
Our first - family suite Rm # 136 a great room (one king bed and two single pull out sofa in the next room). But u can hear everything from the dining room directly below (esp. with any wedding it is a nightmare). Even though this room has an air condition (the only other room that has it is the one above, the rest of the rooms in both wing have no a/c) and a TV (again the room above #236 has it), we had complained (it was a Sat. and there was a wedding going on below us and was told another one on Sun, no way can we get a good night sleep even if the windows are shut and with the a/c on).
Their first reaction was - oh no one had ever complained ! They had showed us into 2 small rooms (standard) with single beds in them ! We were so upset (it was really small and no way can it fit all 4 of us in those tiny two rooms) so were ready to leave the property and forefeit that fight night deposit.
Finally the hotel manager had decided to set things right and offer to let us stay in a suite until he can find some other alternative. Room #106 (Tillotson suite) is one that has been updated (see photos) but this room is so hot (no a/c) that we couldnt sleep even with the windows all opened and 2 fans going on all night. The bed configuration is also not ideal (two queens in the same room while the next room is a sitting room).
We had asked about the change of room after breakfast and no one seemed to know that we are supposed to be moving (again). It took half a day before we did finally move into room 426 and 427. These are superior rooms that are in the 'new' wing (this is built in 1912 or some time around that period while the main wing is in the 1800s) that each room is identical and has a door that can be opened into the room next door (on both sides) if u need connecting rooms.
Overall, these rooms are much more comfortable for a family of 4. The bathrooms may not be updated (kids' bathroom fixtures are better than ours and ours doesnt have a constant flow of hot water).
Food - I know this hotel is supposed to be famous for its food but I have to say, all of us (including guests and friends whom we had invited to vacation with us) were disappointed. Service is lacking (very chaotic and loud ! not a nice relaxing atmosphere, things seemed so frantic) and food quality can only be said as mediocre. For those who came here with a full package, u will be assigned to a table and for the rest of the week, u will be dining at this table, and this is the same for breakfast (which is a buffet). Servers are students from all over the world that came to work on this property to get some cash as well as to experience life in America. They all try to be helpful and are nice but service is definitely not professional and in many cases, severly lacking.
Due to a lot of grilled meat for the dinner menu (changed daily), the dining room has a very strong smell during breakfast (the spread is as u would find in many hotels), not pleasant but u will get used to it esp. when u r starving !
Now, the tavern is the only other place that u can get food but this is only opened after 12 (noon), the poolside offers food but the menu is from the tavern and so u r limited to the same food and time. Besides, we were told that we can only order from them at the poolside but we have to go personally ourselves to collect the food from the Tavern. Not what we had in mind when we talk about service but when u have a bunch of hungry kids as well as adults after a morning's swim, u will go a mile if u have to to find some food. Quality wise, it is fine (not great except for the pizza, taste like they make their own dough) but service, it will give it minus 10 esp. the barman Pete. He really shouldnt be in the service industry (he rotates from the bar at the Tavern to the pool so u will have to deal with him sooner or later)
And seriously, the menu is so limited we had to go out of the resort (and thank goodness we had found Li Wah right behind the gas station in the town of Colebrook, it is run by a family from Hong Kong and we went there 3 times in a week just to eat, they are so nice and even did a special dinner for us that is not in their menu, something that is authentic, it was soo..... GOOD ! everyone in our dinner party had a great time there and really enjoyed the food that is not found on the menu, that can be done if u speak to the chefs directly and if possible, in advance).
The paranoma grill's lunches are horrible but the dinners, what a world of difference ! The dinner is better here than at the main dining room. Prices are the same so I would advise eating at the grill (which is at the top of the hill where the main golf course is located). Service is again not great but at least there isnt the noise, chaos and smell ! The setting is much better for a dining experience.
Golf - they are not welcoming to little kids (even though they dont mind the private lessons we had for our 5 year old) as they make things quite unpleasant by insisting on collar shirts (if u dont have one, u got to buy one from their store which a few friends' had to do for their kids) and there isnt a break in price for kids under 8. Kids are not allowed in the main golf course (forgot the age limit) and those that are allowed must be accompanied by an adult
Spa - it look so dreary that I just couldnt make myself to give it a go
Facilities - the daily events are great for kids (btw, age 5 and up are better, the teens also have a good program but for anyone under 4, it is limited), kids club itself is another room that is depressing, in the basement, old 12 inch TV with two chairs, walls need to be painted, furniture are old and doesnt work property (cupboard's doors look like they need to be replaced, etc), just a sad place so thank goodness that they do take the kids out to do outdoor activities (hiking/walking, canoeing, padel boat, swim, baseball, etc)
Babysitting - $9/hr and each additional child is $1 with a minimum of $20. Now, u got to give them 2 days' notice to get a babysitter and I have to say, I am NOT impressed. First night scenario : told babysitter that the kids are usually in bed latest by 8 pm, take them to the play room (which is a room next to the billard room that housed arcade games that cost $0.50 or $0.75 per game and some free board games as well as some coloring stuff for the little ones) to meet up with our friends' kids before bedtime (read a book, brush their teeth). Well, at 11 pm, one of my girlfriend said "isnt that your daughter ?" and to my horror, my little one had run around the lounging room to the water fountain near the bathrooms where the reception area is downstairs from where the play room was. Immediately, my night is over and I went off to 'take care of things'. I only told the babysitter to bring the kids back to the room (she said they were were on their way just as I saw them at the stairs). I said good nite to everyone and went back to the room to find my kids still trying to look for their PJs (they were so tired they couldnt find them in the drawers as the babysitter didnt switch on the lights !). I paid the babysitter (cash directly was the instruction) and cancelled her service for the next few nights. Poor kids were not functioning well the next day.
Scenario Two : after complaining about the first babysitter, the second one they had sent to me was very serious and strict. My kids were definitely in bed by 8 pm but when I came back, I found her reading our newspaper, lying on one of the beds. Not professional but she was the one that had volunteered to babysit (she works at the golf shop during the day) when I had to cancel the last one I had.
Pool - great for the kids but it can get crowded at the shallow end.
Playground - great playground for all ages
Lake - small so u can easily paddle boat, canoe or row a boat around (available for all guests). there is a little shack that has life jackets as well as some fly fishing (only this is available due to licensing and regulations) poles. We had found a lot of crawfish and little fishes in the lake that is fun to catch.
Other notes : since u cant get any food after your breakfast and before noon, each floor has a vending machine for snacks (chips, cookies, etc) as well as drinks. If u just need water, there are water coolers right by the boutique/shop as well as at the sun room.
The sun room serves breakfast too if u dont want to deal with the buffet at the main dining room.
The main lounging area (right as u walk in from the arrival point) serves light snacks each evening.
Hike 50 is a great one, it takes u to the top that overlooks the resort, great view from up there.
Biking to the top (golf club) is not a bad ride but too short, bike shop staff are knowledgeable.
Concierge - needs a lot of training, only the good morning lady (who can be found daily between 8 to 9 am right by the door of the main dining room) is the only person to get a right answer
White water rafting - recommend the North Woods (heather), dont be confused with North white water rafting (not as safe for little ones and they are pushier in their sales, say one thing over the phone - that they dont take anyone under 8 but when u arrive, didnt ask questions about the kids' ages and just ask for payment after registration).
Overall - some friends said they will come back (the price is attractive for a family vacationing together) some wont (the serious lack of food choices, service quaity is not dependable, rooms can do with some updates, etc). For us ? I dont think I will be returning unless they are going to update (like the Mt. Washington resort nearby, an hour or so south).
For those who really like a rustic vacation that has an European feel, this is the property for u. For those who like a little pampering and newer facilities, look elsewhere.
We have just returned from three nights at The Balsams and I would recommend this hotel. The food is the best and so is the service! Our room had no TV or A/C and both were not needed. The nights are cool and it was good to get away from television. You can do several activities, such as use mountain bikes (like new), for no additional charge. Also, unlike some resorts that charge extra for steak or lobster, these items can be found on the regular menu! The Balsams is a little out of the way, but well worth the trip!
Mixed Reactions was our opinion as we drove for 8 hours back to New York City. Overall The Balsams has beautiful views and mediocre service. Some staff at The Balsams were great and knowledgeable and helpful, especially the people in the Bike Rental. The trails and lakes are gorgeous but it goes downhill from here. The staff are not very well coordinated and ask them a question and you will receive a variety of answers. The dining room has some good staff working and some unhelpful people. If you are not pool people, hikers, bikers and golfers this is not the place for you. There was nothing really for our kids to do. At the Pro Shop at the Panorama Golf Course the pro was not very enthustiastic about seeing kids and required my 8 year old to wear a collared shirt to drive golf balls becuase he is not allowed on the Panorama Golf Course only on the Coashakee 9 hole. The Grille and Tavern food was pretty bad and the Dining Room wasn't great either. We have been going to Mohonk, a resort in New Paltz, NY similar to the Balsams which we enjoy much better. Overall not worth the 8 hour drive from New York City.
Probably the best overall service I've ever experienced. I've stayed in a lot of hotels, including high end (Four Seasons, Penisula, etc.) and the Balsams topped them. The rooms were big and the food was excellent. The atmosphere is a little formal (men have to wer jackets at dinner) and rustic (its in northern NH). Staff were all very friendly and great with our young children. I'd highly recommend it.
What a welcoming place The Balsams is. After driving hours into the far north White Mountains, a crowd of friendly doormen and bellmen met us, told us just where to check in, and swiftly led us to our room overlooking little Lake Gloriette, the swimming pool and famous Dixville Notch. The room was bright and cheerful, with six (yes, six!) windows. I loved the sheer ruffled curtains, ivy-patterned wall paper and painted furniture. The king-sized bed was tripled-sheeted (not the most luxe linens or mattress, but ok) and the bedspread was white matelasse and immaculate. The bathroom, with a shower/tub combo, was roomy, unpretentious and sparkling clean. Missing, for me, was a functional desk and feather pillows. Nice, unusual touches were the crisp bureau scarves and a small selection of books.
It’s a gorgeous property tucked into a diminutive valley with vast forest all around. Flower gardens, broad lawns, a flowing stream and rambling old buildings full of character give The Balsams a unique coziness and warmth. (Perfect summer weather helped too.) I went on the 4 pm tour of the grounds and learned about its history, dating back to 1875. It is still owned by the family who purchased it in the Fifties. A new management company, Delaware North Parks and Resorts, was recently engaged. They manage properties such as the Ahwahnee and Wawona in Yosemite National Park. Their decisions at The Balsams this year includes fewer annual plantings and not stocking trout in the lake. It’s likely they’ve made improvements as well…It was our first visit so I can’t say.
We enjoyed dressing for dinner, as required, and sipped wine on the porch in the sunset anticipating a wonderful five course dining experience. Oh dear. We chose the later seating, thinking that most of the adorable young children (girls in party dresses, boys in blazers) would be long gone. However, we were seated at a table next to two large tables of only kids and their sitters. We must have arrived at the worst possible moment because all of the servers were racing back and forth past us at a speed and pace that caused the old floors to quake. After a few minutes, a breathless young man poured our water and disappeared. Ten minutes later someone else reappeared with bread and butter and said he’d be right back to take our order. We had to ask for menus which turned out to be an arm’s length away on the tray stand next to our table. Fifteen minutes more and a harried young woman returned to take our order. We found a wine list on our own, and ordered a bottle of champagne to go with dinner.
And thus it continued. We were well into our meal when the wine arrived. It was the wrong vintage. More time passed. The correct vintage couldn’t be found. We ended up with a glass of Pinot Grigio. My shrimp risotto had no shrimp in it. My husband’s prime rib was dry and tasteless. The dining room emptied out gradually, and the pace of the staff slowed down, but we were stressed out and irritable instead of merry and relaxed. On the way out, we detoured to the ballroom and were lured in by the traditional tiered nightclub set up and lively band. After being graciously seated, we waited over 30 minutes for someone to take a drink order. (I finally went to the hostess for help.) We ordered Bellinis from the drink menu. The cocktail that eventually came was totally unidentifiable. At that point we gave up and went to bed. We should have chosen earlier to return to our quiet room with the delicious mountain air coming through the open windows.
Please note: everything we didn’t enjoy at The Balsams is totally fixable. I hope someone up there is reading this.
Over the past 20 years we have stayed at the Balsams many times. Our last stay was September 2006 for our 25th anniversary. What a disappointment. We made our reservations well in advance and indicated that this was for a special occasion, our 25th wedding anniversary, and would like one of the better rooms. The woman I spoke with was rather cold and I had the feeling she would rather have been someplace else. Not at all gracious.
When we arrived a bellman met us and took our luggage. We approached the front desk and were greeted with less than a pleasant attitude.
The room was run down, small...
We are very disappointed, to say the least. I think The Equinox will be getting our business from now on. We are sorry to see such a glorious place lose its charm.
The golf was fun.
My wife and I just spent two nights at the Balsams. It was our first visit and we had a wonderful time. The resort is beautiful and very well maintained. We think they've struck a great balance between having up-to-date facilities without ruining the century-old grandeur. We really enjoyed the old-time charm of our room. As noted by other reviewers, there was no TV in the room but that just gave us the impetus to get out in the beautiful public spaces and enjoy the many facilities of the resort. We deliberately went during a quiet time, partially because we don't like crowds and partially to enjoy the exceptional value of the off-season rates. We found the staff to be very friendly and incredibly helpful. The meals were outstanding across the board, excellently prepared food and excellent service. We spent several hours wandering the halls and viewing the hundreds of pictures and artifacts about the history of the hotel. We are already looking forward to returning.
Dixville Notch is a small town (with only approximately 75 residents) located in the far northern part of New Hampshire. In fact, it is closer to Canada than it is to most other New Hampshire cities and towns.
In addition to being home the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel, on the the few remaining New Hampshire grand hotels, Dixville Notch is probably best known in connection with its longstanding middle-of-the-night vote in the U.S. presidential election! In a tradition which began in the 1960 election, the eligible Dixville Notch voters gather at midnight in the ballroom of The Balsams. The voters cast their ballots and the polls officially are closed one minute later - not that difficult to do in such a small town. The results of the Dixville Notch vote are traditionally broadcast around the country immediately afterwards.
We traveled to Dixville Notch, not to better understand its voting process, but for a mini cross country ski vacation at the Balsams. It was a distance, but it was well worth it!
We've found that other people looking for this hotel also know it by these names:
Address: 100 Cold Springs Rd, Dixville Notch, NH, 03576