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Weekending With The Kids: The Tides Inn, Irvington, Virginia

by Elaine Sosa Labalme

At the Tides Inn, the name says it all.  A cluster of whitewashed, low-slung buildings sit on a spit of land that juts out to Carters Creek.  The creek spills into the Rappahannock River and the river flows on to the Chesapeake Bay.  Tides lap gently around the property, calling rhythmically to guests lounging poolside.  Watercraft are yours for the asking and include canoes, kayaks and paddle boats.  The inn’s sailboats ply the waters till dusk and lessons are available.


I pay a visit with my son, Steven, his schoolmate, Hannah, and her mother, Dana.  On our first morning, we amble down to the marina and slide into two bright red tandem kayaks.  We’re no novices yet keen on keeping our vessels upright as the placid waters are populated with jellyfish, a rite of summer.  Expansive waterfront homes dot the shore while sailboats pass us fore and aft.  Steven and Hannah engage in a friendly race, oblivious to the fact that it’s the moms who dictate the pace.  We head back before entering the Rappahannock, a nest of osprey the perfect grace note to a tall buoy.


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Games abound at the Tides Inn.  A new nine-hole Frisbee golf course has been smartly integrated into the resort’s “Baby Eagle,” an Executive 9, par-3 golf course.  My husband has been playing Frisbee golf for years and founded the intramural club at M.I.T.  In his stead, I explain the game to my companions:  keep flinging a small disc until you get it to land in a basket, oh, a hundred yards away.  Nearby trees are the equivalent of bunkers and the many flowering shrubs a perk of playing at a resort.  I emerge victorious in our morning game, something which would never happen if my husband, once ranked fourth in the world, was present.


We go with “Calvin rules” on the croquet lawn at dusk, adopting that devil-may-care attitude that served Calvin and his pal, Hobbes, well.  Dana and I haven’t played croquet in ages and it’s a first for our kids.  Steven swings his mallet like a hockey stick while Hannah is precision personified.  Once again, surprisingly, I win.


Our nightcap is bingo in the View Room, a great room filled with plump couches and stately wing chairs.  Milk and cookies are arrayed on the grand piano and Daniel Revere, an energetic young man who mans the Activities Desk, has been tapped to call the game.  Prizes include resort coupons, stuffed animals, Frisbee golf discs and a couple of small purses.  Four teens are jumping out of their skin on a nearby couch and for good reason – they win the first two games.  A mom on the couch to our right wins the next game and a dad across the room follows with a W of his own.  Finally, Hannah wins a game for our team and chooses a cute black purse as her prize.  Her smile is as wide as the mouth of Carters Creek.


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The choices for poolside dining are simple:  a burger, a wrap, a smoothie.  My nine-year-old  orders the burger and it’s an ample hunk of dewy beef perched at the edge of a plump bun.  A pickle sweats alongside but what really catches my eye are two slices of ruby-red beefsteak tomato that shimmer in the noonday sun.  With friends like this, this burger can’t miss.


Cruisers are available to guests of the Tides Inn and we avail ourselves for a bike ride into the quaint town of Irvington.  It’s gingerbread-meets-coastal-chic and the crepe myrtle are a riot of color.  Our destination is Nate’s Trick Dog Cafe, a whimsical yet modern establishment that would be right at home on Martha’s Vineyard.  Chartreuse plays with deep reds in high-backed booths while orbs of light dangle over our heads.  Crayons and white craft paper beckon at our table and it’s not long before Hannah creates a trick cat of her own.  My filet and crab cake are sensational while Steven’s grilled tuna steak is equally enchanting.  Halibut and soft-shelled crabs further populate our table.


A 30-minute drive on another night takes us to Horn Harbor House Restaurant in Burgess, Virginia.  A rambling, beach-y structure perched at the edge of a drop-in marina, the restaurant offers indoor/outdoor seating and we wisely choose the latter.  Steven and Hannah race up and down the marina and an adjacent beach while Dana and I sip wine with the setting sun.  Before long, my son is presented with a plate of five golf-ball-sized scallops drizzled in Old Bay and kissed with butter.  I count over a dozen large prawns on my platter of “steamed shrimp” with scalloped potatoes and garlicky green beans.  Despite our best efforts, we can’t finish our meals and end the evening with a walk to the end of the marina.  A family of nesting osprey is in the middle distance, its pop flying to and fro and snagging an equally fresh meal for his crew.


Back at the inn, Daniel is readying “summer s’mores,” or marshmallow fluff, (melting) chocolate ice cream and graham crackers.  It’s a nightcap that makes sense during the good ol’ summertime on Virginia’s Northern Neck.


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Our two-room suite at the Tides Inn is done in British Colonial style.  Dark wood shutters pop open to reveal Carters Creek sparkling in the morning sun while a brick-clad terrace is dotted with tables topped with emerald green umbrellas.  Back inside, green and gold tones predominate, a palm motif here and a cane-backed chair there.  The bed’s Frette linens are a new addition and guarantee restful sleep; the ample soaking tub captures Steven’s fancy so he repairs for a bath nightly.  Our foursome reconnects in the mornings in a well-appointed parlor complete with flat-screen TV and wet bar.  The kids are smitten with a nightly turn down service that delivers bottles of ginger ale and a bucket of ice.  It’s a bracing beverage, surely what the British Colonials would have requested.


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lan-guor – n.  a feeling of dreaminess and relaxation.  In a word, the Tides Inn.


The Tides Inn, Irvington, Virginia  (804) 438-5000 tidesinn.com  Vista Suite King from $455.


Elaine Sosa Labalme
is a food and travel writer based in Pittsburgh, PA . When she's not busy as a domestic goddess she's out traveling with husband Fen and eight-year-old son Steven. She hopes to be the next Charles Kuralt.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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