Our family travels with a couple of other families to Fern Resort for a week every August, and we've done this for the past 11 years. We love our week at Fern, not only because the food is great and there's lots to do, but also because we're all so familiar with the place so the kids have a lot more freedom there than they generally do.
Other than the obvious "someone else making meals for you", "you don't need to clean up", "lots of fun things to do" which are true for Fern and many other resorts, here are ten awesome things unique to Fern, in no particular order:
1. Peanut butter pie
A creamy peanut-butter-flavoured pie with a chocolate crust and whipped cream and chocolate syrup on top. Nothing else to say but OM NOM NOM.
2. Mike Stewart
Mike has been the sports director at Fern forever. If you have ever been to Fern, you have met Mike. If you've been a few times, he likely knows your name. He runs tennis, volleyball, basketball, badminton, bocce, shuffleboard, all the trivia games, and more. He is also the MC and one of the performers for the Show Time! show (see below). He's friendly, he's outgoing, he's helpful, he's LOUD, he's always smiling, and he don't take no crap from nobody. He's got a lot of good stories - ask him about the time he bought the Zamboni. Another good one is when a guest and her husband asked him to join them for... well, he may not tell you all of that one.
3. The Bad Boys line, the Irie line, the No Problem line, the Go Get a T-Shirt line, and the O Canada line
You haven't played bingo until you've played bingo called by an frenetic Jamaican dude with big mirrored sunglasses. Crazy D is the bingo king of Fern. Bingo can be a pretty boring game but when Crazy D is calling it, it's always fun. He's got more energy than half the Playvillage and always gets people pumped and excited about N34 and G49.
4. Four-way beach volleyball
This is an absolute must for me every year - Monday at 1:30. Standard beach volleyball except that there are four courts arranged in a square with nets between them in a cross. You can serve and return the ball to any of the other courts. Always a fun game even when there's eleven or twelve people per team, all playing at the same time.
5. Rolls and honey
Putting honey on fresh squishy rolls is definitely a Fern thing. Every year we buy a dozen rolls and some honey to bring home.
6. The kids programs
If this list was in order of importance, this might be #1. Kids from 0 to 17 have programs specifically for them run by counsellors who are fun and friendly and outgoing. For kids 0-6, we have the Playvillage. There's a nursery for babies, an area for toddlers with swings and stuff, a big climbing structure, a ball pit, diggers, a track for motorized jeeps, a couple of trampolines, a water play area, a little amphitheatre for shows, and the "craft caboose", where they make all kinds of crafts. They have snacks, go for walks around the resort, and take a tractor ride called the Honey Bee Express. I have to say it's awfully cute seeing a bunch of 3-6 year olds on the Honey Bee waving to everyone and singing their "mighty mighty Playvillage" song. The best part is that the Playvillage is open from 6-7:30pm, which is (not coincidentally) during dinner, so you can feed your kids from 5:30-6:00, take them to Playvillage, then enjoy a nice relaxing kid-free dinner, knowing that your kids are being cared for and are having fun.
There are also Junior programs (7-9), Youths (10-12), and Teens (13-17). They do lots of sports and other activities, crafts (tie-dye T-shirts are very popular), practice skits or songs for Show Time, and sometimes just hang out and chill. This year the Juniors and Youths began programs during dinner times so parents of kids that are too old for Playvillage can have a quiet kid-free dinner as well.
7. Chocolate monkeys
Invented by Lou, who's been a bartender at Fern for 29 years. Creme de Cacao, Creme de Banane, ice cream, half a banana, and chocolate syrup. Yummy. The kids can get a virgin one that's just as good.
8. The guest video and Show Time
There's a photographer / videographer walking around the resort all day every day. On Thursday night they show a video with lots of pictures and video of volleyball games, water skiing, dancing on the pool deck, kids playing at Playvillage, pedal carts, swimming, rock wall climbing, golf, tennis, and all of the other Fern activities. It's fun to look for people in your group, and of course the kids love looking for pictures of themselves. After the video is Show Time, a lip-sync show hosted by Mike Stewart and performed by the staff including sports, Playvillage, and kitchen people, the odd manager, and even the owner's kids. Some of them are well-choreographed dance numbers while others are comedy songs that have everyone in stitches. Either way, it's a lot of fun and the talent of the staff is evident.
Baseball with a mushy mini-soccer ball rather than an actual baseball so no gloves are needed. The staff play on one team, the guests on the other, and I've seen guest teams with 40 people. This makes for a long ad-hoc batting order that frequently changes between innings. Despite being vastly outnumbered and intentionally "blowing" plays involving small children ("Oh look, he dropped the ball, Ashley! Run to first, quick!"), the staff wins every week... or so they tell us. The game was a little different this year since they introduced paintball which happens at the same time, so all the teens were out doing that. The guest team this year consisted of about 5 adults and 20-30 kids under 12.
10. The Downings
With most resorts, the owner is an invisible corporation but Fern is a family business. The Downing family have owned and operated Fern for over 100 years, and the current generation running the place consists of Mark Downing and his sister Laura. Mark, Laura, and their respective spouses and daughters are frequently seen around the resort, and a couple of the girls are old enough now to work there. Mark is as friendly a guy as you'll ever meet, and both he and Laura host (and tend bar at) a cocktail party on Thursday nights specifically for alumni (i.e. guests who have been to Fern several times) where the drinks and snacks are free. Mark's father Robert is retired but you still seem him around the resort, driving his golf cart labelled "Robbie's Rocket".