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Brewing up Some Family Fun on Maryland’s Eastern Shore

As usual, fall has been hectic for our family. Jeremy started kindergarten, Julian middle school, and Jacques is finding himself at a bit of a loss with his big brother in a different school. Add after-school activities, work travel for John, my usual juggling act and budding existential crisis—not to mention a crippling case of writer’s block—and it was clear a getaway was in order.

A few weeks ago, a flyer for the second annual Belgian Beer Festival in Cambridge, MD caught my eye. As a Belgian-American (yes, there is such a thing), I couldn’t resist the call of the froth.

As if we needed further incentive to hit the road, we got the opportunity to spend the night at the nearby Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay.

Belgian Beer Festival, Cambridge, MD

Sponsored by local gastropub The High Spot, the festival was well underway when we arrived around 4:00. The band was kicking and the beer flowing. Several breweries, including Flying Dog, Resurrection, New Belgium, and Dogfish Head served their own Belgian-style beers. John and I tasted a couple but mostly, we hung out in the children’s area, where a very talented fire juggler entertained us—I mean the kids—for over an hour with tricks that amazed even our somewhat jaded 12-year-old.

My little Belgian heart was warmed when I saw stoemp, a Belgian potato and vegetable dish, and oysters on the half-shell. This last one really brought me back to Belgium, specifically the Place Sainte-Catherine in Brussels, where oysters are served at an outside bar during happy hour, attracting everyone from office workers to backpackers. True to form, Julian loved the oysters, Jacques refused to taste one, and Jeremy grabbed one, spat it out, and spent 10 minutes complaining that his mouth had been poisoned. He is fine.

The Chesapeake Hyatt Regency

Let me start by saying that checking into a hotel with three boys can be a daunting experience. Even when everyone’s on their best behavior, hotel lobbies, like airports, seem to bring out the loud and active in our boys. I worry that the person behind the desk will look up from their screen, see the mayhem the boys are causing, and assign us the worst room in the building, the one usually reserved for heavy-smoking traveling puppy-farm operators or escaped convicts.

Of late, Jeremy has added to the fun by impersonating the doorman/valet, welcoming guests, opening doors, and sometimes even trying to “help” them with their luggage. I know it’s not cute. But there you have it. And Julian seems to think there’s no better place to practice parkour than in large indoor spaces, say, hotel lobbies.

So when we pulled into the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay, I did what any good mother would do.  I put on large sunglasses, mumbled “see you in there” to my husband, dashed out of the car, and raced to the check-in counter. Then, as usual, I planned to pretend I didn’t know them until I had the keys in my hand.

But this time, no one seemed to blink an eye. The doorman played along with Jeremy, and let him help open doors. And the clerk didn’t roll her eyes at Julian and Jacques’ antics. She smiled. She smiled! A few clicks later, I got three keys to our room. Clearly, this was one family-friendly resort.

The room, a Family Petite Suite, fit us perfectly. It was large, held a king-sized bed and a bunk bed, and there was still plenty of room for the extra rollaway bed. But really, we barely spent any time in the room at all.

We:

  • played tennis,
  • went on a nature walk through the Blue Heron Rookery, the resorts own wildlife preserve,
  • swam in the beautiful indoor pool,
  • soaked in the giant indoor-outdoor hot tub,
  • played miniature golf on the onsite course,
  • played chess on the giant outdoor set,
  • played air hockey and ping-pong in the game room,
  • watched The Lion King on floats at the dive-in movie, roasted marshmallows in the outdoor fireplace, and
  • hit golf balls at  the driving range. (This was the only activity we had to pay extra for).

We decided to have breakfast at the hotel so we could enjoy some more activities before hitting the road. As a fascist, I mean health-conscious mom, I was impressed with the children’s menu. No chicken nuggets here.

The kid’s menu is part of a new chain-wide effort to have healthy, organic options such as organic yoghurt fruit smoothies, to create-you-own pasta where children choose their pasta, protein, sauce, and vegetable, and even a three-course kid’s gourmet meal created by Alice Waters. They still have some of the old standbys, like grilled cheese sandwiches, but with whole wheat bread and unprocessed cheese. I loved knowing that anything they chose from the menu would be healthy. And I would imagine this would be a great relief if you were staying for, say, a week.

The Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay is a resort with kids and parents in mind. We really felt that they did more than just pay lip-service to the words family-friendly. The staff was genuinely friendly, the children’s menu was well thought out, and the activities kept us busy.

Sometimes one night can make all the difference. One afternoon of Belgian family debauchery and a night in Cambridge at the Chesapeake Hyatt left us refreshed and ready to tackle our lives again. At least until Thanksgiving.

 

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