Category Archives: Deep Creek Lake

The Official Guide to a Weekend Get-Away

Have you been to Deep Creek Lake yet?

Sunset over Deep Creek Lake, Labor Day Weekend.

Sunset over Deep Creek Lake, Labor Day Weekend.

Am I beginning to sound like a broken record? Anyone who follows my blog with some degree of regularity knows that every year, we spend Labor Day weekend there with three other couples and 8 kids total. It is an annual HIGHLIGHT.  For all 16 of us. Seriously.


Why? Why do we love it so? Why do we keep going back? What does it take to plan a great weekend up in Deep Creek?

Fret not, kittens, I will tell you. And today is your LUCKY DAY!!!! For those who enjoy my rare but always fabulous (Thanks to Born Lucky Studios) video blogs, I’ve got a new one in store for you today, so don’t miss out. It is 50 seconds of your life. And it will be GLORIOUS.




Step One: How the hell do I find a great house to rent?

Ahh yes, never an easy question. We are four years in and we’re still sorting through what makes the perfect group house for a long weekend.  We all have to compromise. There are 8 adults in our group. We all have opinions. Not all of them are the same. But we share one thing in common: the quest for the PERFECT home that we can keep renting each summer. Or – alternately – a wish that someone would just throw down the cash to buy a home up there. No one has yet done this.

#MorganFamily? #HintHint

Best place in DCL to rent a home from

Best place in DCL to rent a home from

When looking to rent, for the past two years, we’ve turned to Railey Mountain Lake Vacations for the following reasons:

  • They hold the largest inventory of homes in the Deep Creek area;
  • They have a wide variety of price points in rental homes;
  • The company is staffed with helpful and  accommodating employees;
  • It is the smoothest and quickest check in process I’ve ever experienced with a home rental.

In fact, this year, for sport, I was going to time the check-in process, except by the time I whipped out my iPhone and found the clock to start the timer, I’d already been checked in, handed the keys, given a map, and grabbed some free bags of popcorn for the always-scrounging-for-a-snack children in the backseat of our car.

What I can tell you is that while the home we rented last month was absolutely not our dream home, we still learned valuable lessons in how to fine-tune our search.

My advice to you is to consider – do you want a water view with no tree obstruction or a more wooded but obstructed view of the lake? Do you want a really developed outdoor living space with a big fire pit and lots of chairs or are you looking more for several big family rooms inside? Do you want a bedroom for each couple and then the kids have their own room or are the kids still young and you’ll do better with several master suites, putting the kids on the floor?  Look, we’ve tried all these variations.

Fun Facts about Maryland's Lake Tahoe

Fun Facts about Maryland’s Lake Tahoe

This past Labor Day, we went for the totally unobstructed view of the lake and a flat big yard for the kids to play, along with a direct shot to the lake. In past years, we didn’t mind a slope or hilly descent down to the lake because it disrupted a younger child’s ability to just dash into the water. Now our girls are all big enough that we felt more confident in giving them easy and quick access to the lake and we wanted to wake up in the morning and have a glorious view with no trees in our way. We also really thought the kids would get a ton of use out of a big, flat yard (and they did).

We were right in some respects but we also learned this: it turns out exactly where your home is located on the lake really matters if you don’t care for high traffic areas. The particular home we rented was in a high traffic area and honestly, we like feeling like we’re removed from busy lives during our annual Labor Day get-away.  In previous years, we’d always been tucked away into a quiet corner of the lake – and it turns out – we just never thought to ask specifically about its location on the lake. There you have it, four years in and we learned a lesson.

Want to know what else we got wrong? This is a big one. We learned this one the hard way. When renting a home, I would urge you to ask this question: Who cleans the home prior to your arrival? Every year we’ve always had lovely, perfectly clean homes. Naively, it never occurred to us that we wouldn’t have a sparkling, clean home. Guess what?

Oh. That happened.

The home we rented was old, it hadn’t been kept up in repairs and it was not clean. Not anywhere near what we considered an acceptable level. When I checked out, I asked to speak with a Railey rep and she was incredibly apologetic and open to hearing my long list of complaints. Then she noted the house is new in their inventory and the home owner refuses to use their cleaning service and insists on using his own cleaning service.


Don't you want to join us?

Don’t you want to join us?

Might I suggest they are a cleaning service that exists only in the home-owner’s head but not in reality?

That being said – this is a VALUABLE learning experience that I hope you will apply to your own rental experiences:  WHO CLEANS THE HOME. From our experience, not only will it be a future first question but if the answer is “the home owner provides their own service” – then our response will be the following:  “Oh hell no…moving on to the next property.”

What did Railey Mountain Lake Vacations do about my long list of complaints, you might be wondering? Christmas came early, kids. About 10 days after our vacation, I received a check in the mail, it was a refund of about $500. I’m not sure how they arrived at this amount but we were happy to take it. I suggested to Mr. WM that we start a Deep Creek fund and put it in the bank. He ignored me, noted that we aren’t a commune or cult, and proceeded to write checks and divvy up the refund between our friends.

I thought we’d all be super psyched when next summer rolls around and we have basically boat rental money sitting there waiting for us. Anyone else with me? Bueller?

Okay, so given the fact that I keep reminding you just how many times we’ve had amazing trips to DCL, I’m going to offer you two more things. The Know-It-All top 10 list of what you should do during a weekend up there and the dramatic denouement of this brilliant blog post: a 50 second view, an insider’s peek, if you will, of what really goes down when we hit DCL each Labor Day.


Step Two: The Quick & Dirty Deep Creek Lake Bucket List

1. Boat rentals with tubes are a must-do for adult and kid fun;

The WM DCL Bucket List

The WM DCL Bucket List

2.  Rent a home with a hot tub;

3.  Grab at least one meal at the Mountain State Brewery – between the delicious pizza, the outdoor play space for kids, mountain and sunflower field views and fantastic beer;

4. There is no better people watching than the Honi-Honi. Just trust me. Oh. And it’s more fun to park your boat there than your car;

5. The Mountain Coaster at WISP. Personally, I hate it, but it’s like catnip for husbands and children;

6. Swallow Falls State Park. Trust me. Just go hike it and enjoy the views;

7. Swim in the lake. Again, just trust me. It is like an annual cathartic cleansing ritual for us;

8. Campfires and s’mores in the evening;

9. Take the chairlift to the top of WISP and hike around;

10. Deep Creek is a year-round destination, if you missed out over the summer, then head there for beautiful sweeping views and great hikes this fall or for skiing through the winter and early spring. As Mr. WM aptly said years ago, Deep Creek is Maryland’s very own Lake Tahoe.

With that, behold, our weekend in 50 seconds:


 Disclosure: Railey Mountain Lake Vacations offered us a discount on our rental property in exchange for writing about our experience. My opinions here are all my own.

Deep Creek Lake 2012 – A True Maryland Gem

For the last three years in a row over Labor Day, we’ve headed up to Maryland’s Deep Creek Lake to celebrate the end of summer with three other couples and all the kids. In total, it is a group of 16, eight of whom are girls from preschool to third grade. It’s become the annual not-to-miss tradition among our group and we can never believe how quickly time flies over the weekend.

What I’ve learned is this – much like a wine that improves with age, so does our trip. With every year we go up, we figure out how to keep making it better, just when it seems like it can’t get any better.

Oudoor Bliss at Life is Good in Deep Creek

This year, it started with the home rental. We broke from our old habits and instead worked with Railey Mountain Lake Vacations this spring to locate the perfect house. Railey Mountain Lake Vacations has the largest inventory of rentals around Deep Creek and I quickly discovered an extremely knowledgeable and attentive staff to help us determine the right property for our group. Instead of doing it all online, I actually picked up the phone to call their offices, which honestly, I recommend anyone do who is considering a rental in Deep Creek – it’s just a more efficient way to learn about various properties. What I appreciated about working with Railey, beyond the variety of homes in both size and price, was that each of their staff members have personally visited all the homes and can speak from experience about the features in the home. We knew we wanted several master suites because try as we might, we can’t seem to get the kids out of our rooms at night, and we wanted outdoor space that was slightly removed from the house (because we act like Frat boys at night. C’est vrai. Even moi). The Railey team helped us hone in on Life is Good, which aside from having 5 large rooms, each with their own private bathroom, had a three level deck with the largest deck space removed away from the back of the house so we could be as loud and raucous as we wanted at night without worrying about waking the kids.

Not only did Life is Good have amazing deck space, it had this beautiful outdoor fireplace and larger hot tub, with a view of the moon glistening off the lake.


Each Labor Day, minutes after getting out of the car, it always comes rushing back to me why I love heading up there so much. The mountain air is fresher, the stars shine brighter (or rather, you can actually even see the stars), the moon sparkles off the lake at night and the tall pine trees make you feel like you’ve been transported to the Pacific Northwest in only a three-hour drive from home. Do you recall how humid it was over Labor Day in DC?

Right – in Deep Creek, we were wearing sweatshirts by our outdoor fire-place while toasting marshmellows with the kids.


But back to finding the perfect house – which frankly is one of the top questions I get from people who seem paralyzed and end up not going to Deep Creek. So many want to head up to Deep Creek because of its close proximity to DC but seem not to fully know how to find the right rental. My time with Railey didn’t end once I signed the contract on the house. It was almost like they were reading our  minds. Literally 10 days before our trip, the emails started flying among the sister wives wondering what we needed to bring, did we need sheets, what kind of kitchen supplies and boom – in my email inbox lands an email from Railey updating me on the house, what we needed to bring, and a reminder to use their services for extra discounts on boat rentals around the lake during our stay, and to download their new app loaded with information on Deep Creek and ideas for rainy days.


Impeccable timing on their part. I was grateful for the email because it saved me the time of searching my inbox to find the contract from months before.


If you’re wondering how far out you need to rent a place – I think it probably depends on time of year you are going. Obviously Deep Creek is a year-round destination with the lake, the mountains, the state parks. For our Labor Day trip, we usually try to reserve a place by March or April. I’ve gone up in October and found a rental weeks in advance and last December, we went on December 26 and we rented our place by early October. Again, these are better questions for the Railey team but I’ve never had trouble finding a great house no matter the time of year.

So what were our other discoveries to make this year’s trip even better than last year, you might be wondering?

Kids gearing up for some super fun tubing

First – for anyone paying attention – unlike last year when we almost sank the pontoon boat (and seized our electronic devices before our children), we managed to stay afloat this year and dressed up our boat adventure with the addition of a tube rental. We also got an earlier start on the day by reserving our boat the day before. This year, we headed out on a coffee cruise because the husbands went to pick up our rental by 8am versus last year when we scored the last boat by arriving around 10am that morning. I have to admit, heading onto the boat with coffee was a relaxing and refreshing way to start a Saturday morning. The tube rental  added another $55 to the bill (bringing it to about $160 per couple for the boat and tube) but pulling the kids and adults behind the boat all day was worth every penny. Not to mention a refreshing swim in the middle of the lake with your friends and kids – is there a better way to end the summer? I think not. And look, moi doesn’t particularly like swimming where she can’t see what’s swimming along side of her, but I make an exception for the annual Deep Creek Lake swim. This should speak volumes for how rejuvenating and fun it is.


Sister Wives loving the annual tradition of the Deep Creek dip. Safety first, kids

The only complaint out of the kids and adults was our boat couldn’t go as fast as we wanted it to when being pulled on the tube.



What else made our fine wine trip even better, you ask?

The discovery of the Mountain State Brewery – a delightful local brewery tucked at the side of Wisp mountain with delicious beer, an excellent blues band playing on Sunday afternoon and outdoor space for the kids to run, play, and pick wild flowers so adults can chat (and drink) without as much interruption. The food was also delicious – most of us selected the flat bread pizza much to our delight. We spent a few hours at this local watering hole and couldn’t believe it had taken us so many years to discover it. I absolutely wouldn’t go up there again without making a point to hit this brewery.

And finally, did we use that outdoor space, you might be wondering, especially because it did rain some

Outdoor play area at Mountain State sure to bring the Manny's

over Labor Day?

Mais oui! When you are hanging with a group who specializes in Flip Cup Foreplay…it begins with a sofa filled with half sleeping adults…then transitions to one or two adults migrating towards the kitchen bar….then suddenly someone turns up the music just a bit….then a few start dancing in their seats….then the music gets turned up just a bit more….then a few more stumble half asleep from the sofa to the kitchen….then someone quietly slips the Flip Cup cups onto the kitchen counter…then before you know it, the music is blaring, the beers are flowing and the minute the rain stops the game transitions to the outdoor deck.

It might have happened.

I might recommend it.

Especially because the women win every time which means we get to blare Belinda Carlisle instead of Alice In Chains.


So…summer’s over….you’re not likely to head up and swim in the lake…but I’d urge you to consider making a weekend out of a trip up there, whether it be this fall to enjoy the beautiful leaves (which noteworthy were already starting to change of the Labor Day weekend) and hike Swallow Falls State Park or this winter to ski and snow tube down Wisp Mountain…or make a plan for next summer…either way it’s seriously a mistake to miss this great weekend get-away spot so close to our area. Moi – I’m wondering if it’s Labor Day 2013 yet?

For more on Flip Cup Foreplay and other great ideas, be sure to “Like” the Wired Momma Facebook page.

Disclosure: Railey Realty offered me a discount on our rental home. My opinions here are all my own.