The Good, The Bad and the Ugly:
Great activities, great river guides, great inflatables and activities in the lake. Kudos to all the white water rafting guides!
Cozy cabin was EXTREMELY small, with a/c that didn't work (85 to 95 degrees in the cabin, even after the a/c ran for four hours), fridge didn't cool food enough, loft for kids to sleep in was only tall enough for kids to sit up on one small side--angled roof meant the rest was only tall enough for them to lie down--and had a slat railing for a wall, so parents coudn't watch tv in living area or access kitchen, bath, outdoor hot tub, etc. without disturbing the kids--and the loft was very hot. When we arrived at our cabin at 4 pm (check-in time), the cleaning crew had just arrived and was beginning to change the sheets, clean the toilet, etc. We thought we could leave our luggage in the corner of the living space out of their way, but learned that the cabin is so small that there is no out of the way space.
When a sudden storm hit much of WV, ACE was incredibly unprepared to meet its guests' needs in a several day power outage. Staff had little or no information at first and seemed very disorganized, as a multitude of guests huddled in the dining hall as the storm hit (we'd been in the lake until just a couple of minutes before the strong winds and thunder hit) and we all huddled in the dark. No information was distributed to guests in cabins as to what had happened, expectations of when services might resume, options to take advantage of ACE dining since the cabins did not have power, or any other type of accommodation that management might offer to help displaced/affected guests.
Although ACE did an amazing job of bringing in generators to prep food for their $20 a person dinner buffet (cheers to the staff who came to work and managed to turn out meals without lights, even when they ran out of drinks, ice, many foods, etc.) and to run power for their $55 whitewater rafting DVD and $45 cd of whitewater rafting photos (computers, tvs, editing equipment, etc.), there was no power for the lights. Imagine trying to go down a dark hallway where you can't even see the bathroom door--imagine how hard it is to find the toilet much less the sink.
No power in cabins either so food in the fridge was not cooled (ice was initially sold to guests but ACE ran out--shouldn't this have been comp-ed for cabin guests who had brought food for their fridges? many staff drove to work from town--couldn't they have been tasked to pick up more for guests?), microwave and stove did not work, the office sold firewood but ran out of lighters for guests to purchase to cook food (shouldn't they have provided lighters and firewood for free to cabin renters who had planned to cook in their cabins). No A/C or ceiling fans or hot water or use of hot tub in cabins due to lack of power...temps both inside and out ranged between 95 and 105 degrees. Staff at check in had generators and used it to have fans aimed at themselves, but guests were not given even water or ice to help keep hydrated and cool, much less generators for fans or A/C...pretty miserable!
No light/glow sticks were given to cabin renters either...it's pretty hard to use the cabin bathroom that has no window light and is completely dark. Using the toilet, washing hands, and showering (with cold water) is pretty hard in the complete dark. ACE should stock lights or glow sticks to comp for guests in a power outage. Seriously, paying for cabin and there is no discount or accommodations made for guests in a multi-day power outage? An emergency action plan needs to be made and provisions of water, glow sticks, lighters, etc. stocked for guest needs.
No hand sanitizer was provided for guests at the $20 pp serve yourself buffet before the power outage or afterwards...so guests who can't find the sink in a dark unlit bathroom at the end of a hall in the dining building are now all scooping food with the same serving utensils then eating. They ran out of all drinks and apologized that drinking water was hot as they had boiled it and didn't have any more ice to cool it. Guests waited several minutes in line to get a cup of warm water.
It shouldn't have been a surprise when our son got sick and started throwing up in the middle of the dinner bufftet line. (Only ate ACE prepared foods for the previous 24 hours.) No one seemed to notice or moved to clean up his vomit. I rushed him outside and the paper plate that he used to try to catch most of it. :(
At this point, facing another night in a 100 degree, dark, unlit, crowded cabin with no hot water and no ice or cooling fan or a/c, was miserable--but with a sick child, it was unthinkable. So we threw our luggage in the van and checked out.
The manager, Tyler, was very kind and promised a credit for our unused portion of our trip (no refund, but credit good for next year). We drove all night and exhaustedly made our way back home to NC, but at least with a/c in the vehicle, the kids could sleep. He said someone would call in a couple of days to work out the details but that was a week and a half ago...still no contact from ACE so I will call them.
If it weren't for the poor handling of the challenges of the storm, we would have had a great time.
Come wearing a bathing suit or bring it in a separate bag to change in the check-in building's restrooms. Check-in doesn't begin until 4 (though they let you start on the paper work at 3:50!?), so it's great to utilize the lake while you are waiting for your cabin.
Cozy cabins are extremely small. Double bed in bedroom, a small old couch, a tiny loft with slanted roof with a small one inch mat for kids--you can't stand in the loft, and can only sit up completely on one side and has slit railing for a wall. Best for one or two very small children. Bring pillows and sleeping bags for kids. It's not possible to completely darken this space as a high window without blinds shines light into the space.
Cozy cabins are okay if you aren't picky, don't mind a/c that doesn't work well, and prefer convenience of being able to return to the cabin quickly throughout the day over a clean, comfy hotel in town that must be reached by a narrow, winding road into town. It is clean, but the small sofa and mattress are very worn. The hot tub is small and on the back deck. It would have been okay for us if there had been power, the a/c was in good working order, and the bed wasn't small (double) and lumpy. Bring soap...there wasn't any in our bathroom. Bring popcorn for the microwave. Lots of clothes as there isn't a laundry area on-site.
Lots of snacks and drinks and quick food/sandwich type items as there isn't a "grill" or fast service food window...just a high priced buffet with low quality food. We did order chicken tenders from the bar that we ate on the lakeside. $5 for 3 tenders and fries, which was a fine price. $8 for a vegetarian sandwich. Bring cash, as they can't charge it to your account.
ACE: We'd love to see a quick order grill type walk up window to order soda, burgers, tenders, etc. It'd be great if the dining hall and grill could charge to your account, so you don't have to carry cash to the lake.
ACE: Lockers should be added for rent at the lake side to keep keys, cash, etc.. It'd be great to add the magnetic bracelet type room key so you don't have to worry about losing cabin keys--esp. if they have charging capability at food and gift shop registers. (Check with Great Wolf Lodge to see how they do it.)
Cabins have a traditional house type key--lady swimsuits don't usually have a pocket for keys, so bring your guy! or bring a cooler or beach bag to store keys, cash, etc.
Bring flashlights or lanterns to travel the property at night. It's very dark and can be a long walk to your cabin or tent site. Luckily our cabin (464) was far enough to miss most of the lake noise (people swim until 9 and then a movie starts at the side of the lake at 9) and still be in close enough to walk back easily. Many cabins and tent sites were very close to the lake and must have had noise very late at night. Others were very far and were a car drive away from the main activities.
ACE: Please upgrade the a/c in the cabins. The cleaning crew admitted that it really doesn't work well. If you pay hundreds of dollars for a couple of nights in a cabin rather than $15 pp for a tent, you really want the air to be CONDITIONED! I don't mind being hot outside, but don't want to be hot inside.
ACE has spent lots of money on the lake. About 20 amazing different lake inflatables (slides, climbing, trampolines, rolling rocket, etc.) and tons of PFDs in all sizes in good condition. Several pro-active staff who make sure everyone is PFD-ed correctly, following safety rules, aiding guests using the zipline into the lake, the gulley washer (long fabric slide), and the blob (large inflatable that one guest jumps onto to launch another guest into the lake). It has a nice sandy narrow beach along the side for sitting, playing mega chess, rock climbing wall, etc. You need a bracelet to use the lake--you get a free half day of lake use with each guided activity that you purchase. Bracelets are available in the check-in building after you sign a release.
ACE: Why is there one release form for the lake and a different one for white-water rafting/ziplining, etc.? Why not combine them and then just have guests fill it in when you check in? It would streamline the check in process for guided activities.
White Water Rafting on the New River
DO! arrive an hour early at the check-in center. The guides really used all of the time to prep everyone. Bring good water shoes (old tennies, Keens, crocs are okay but not as good as shoes that are tighter) and wear water clothing. Put on sunscreen but bring more to reapply, esp on tops of legs and shoulders. Also bring full water bottles--either with a carabiner or your guide will put it in the dry bag. If you have seasonal allergies, be sure to take some medication--my son's eyes burned in the water.
Only bring things you don't mind losing. Bring sturdy neckguards for glasses. We saw one guy lose goggles when he jumped off the big rocks--he had a nice belly flop! Everything that doesn't float is gone forever in the river. They provide a great hot lunch of burgers, grilled chicken, and veggie burgers on the side of the lake. Yum! The trip lasts all day so eat a hearty breakfast. Soda and beer provided on the bus ride back. The company keeps your keys in a locked box--everything else should stay in your car or cabin. Have fun and don't FOFO (full-on freak out!) if you get an unexpected dunk in the river! PFDs, paddles, and helmets were all in good working order. Our guide was excellent! We had great instruction for novice and experienced paddlers alike and never worried about our safety for a moment...and I'm the first to notice a lack thereof.
It's not a cheap trip--esp. with the cost of the add-on activities (over $$$$ for two nights and two activities for two adults, two kids). But if your kids are adventurous, they'll have fun. Mine spent hours in the lake very happily.
Go, have fun, just make sure they have power first! And maybe stay in a larger cabin or in a hotel.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Featured on the Travel Channel, we offer amazing vacations, most of them wet! We are North America's largest outdoor vacation resort, where you can try whitewater rafting, zip line canopy tours, kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, paintball, ATV tours, a mud obstacle course, alpine tower, stand up paddle boarding, fishing, horseback riding, a bridge catwalk tour, or relax on the beach of our 5-acre lake full of inflatable toys. Come get away from it all on our 1,500-acre property in Southern West Virginia. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Ace Adventure Hotel Oak Hill
- Ace Adventure Center Hotel