Jumping on the beds at the Hampton Inn and Suites Dartmouth CrossingAny hotel that offers guests a complimentary bag of microwaved popcorn is OK with me. When you add board games, cartoons in the lobby, movie nights, a mini-market stocked with ice cream and candy, and a 150 foot waterside, the Hampton Inn and Suites Dartmouth Crossing definitely earns its reputation as family-friendly hotel.

Game Night at the Hampton Inn and Suites Dartmouth Crossing

I’d heard rumours in the Mummy-world that the Hampton was a great place for kids, so we planned our stay-cation to coincide with Dartmouth Crossing’s annual Happy Haunting at the Village Shops event. I have never quite warmed to the “Village Shops” concept. The confusing road system, and the size of the big-box stores makes it impossible for me to forget that I am in fact, in the middle of an enormous tree-swallowing retail park.

This didn’t seem to bother the five billion other families that lined up for free candy at Happy Haunting. We saw bumblebees, skeletons, witches, ghosts, ghouls, princesses and pirates, lining up to infinity for the fairground games, free candy and fireworks in “The Village”. With two hungry kids and a mild case of enochlophobia (a fear of crowds), our family decided to go for dinner instead.

Happy Haunting 2016, Dartmouth Crossing/ Hampton Inn and Suites Dartmouth Crossing

The Hampton Inn recommends Alexandra’s Pizza pizza (which delivers directly to the hotel), but the neon Woody’s BBQ sign that we spotted from our hotel room was a beacon. The children ate from the kids menu, I ordered the St. Louis- style ribs, and my husband had a “Sloppy Woody” – their charming name for a pulled pork sandwich. Although the service was very friendly, we were disappointed with our tasteless meals.  “That’s why they have all those sauces on the table”, suggested my husband, “for flavour”. Worse, our family’s cardboard-flavoured dinner, including two Rickard’s Reds (the best-tasting thing we ordered), came to over 80 dollars. Now that’s scary!

Back at the hotel, my daughter tried out the waterslide. The pool was empty at first, but by about 8pm was teeming with kids. At one point I counted 11 children at at the top of the waterslide, pushing and shoving to get down. (There is no pool attendant or lifeguard.) On the bright side, the waterside itself is a slow ride, and ends in a flume, not in the pool. The swimming pool is pretty big with a depth of 3 ft gradually increasing to to 5 feet. There are two hot tubs at the side, and lots of seating for parents. Overall, the pool area feels really new, clean and bright.

No lifeguard or pool attendant: The 150 ft waterside at the Hampton Inn and Suites Dartmouth Crossing

The only thing better than watching an hour of cartoons after your bedtime, is watching an hour of cartoons, cuddled up with Mum and Dad in a nice hotel room. The pillows were great, the black-out curtains were dark. We all had a great night’s sleep at the Hampton.

At daybreak, the chaos continued. The Hampton Inn brand features a no-frills serve yourself breakfast, which I can compare to a low-cost airline: seat yourself, eat with plastic cutlery, and help clean up. But don’t be deceived: “no frills” does not translate to “no selection”. The buffet was vast, including ham, eggs, oatmeal, toast, muffins, fruit salad, yogurt, coffee, tea, juice, cereal – and even a waffle maker! Despite the crowds of pyjama-clad kids and teens reaching across each other to grab a juice, muffin or some waffle batter, it all added up to a pretty awesome breakfast. At least that’s what the kids told me, after their third bowl of Fruit Loops/Lucky Charms.

Chaotic Breakfast at the Hampton Inn and Suites Dartmouth Crossing

A late check out time of 12 noon meant that we had plenty of time to visit the pool again after breakfast, this time with both kids. Despite the continuing waterside antics, I had a fun time with my 3 year-old son in the water, before dispatching him and Daddy to the nearby Go Wild! Playground while me and my daughter packed up.

Check out itself was a breeze, with friendly, knowledgable staff members who sympathized with our Woody’s experience. In addition to Alexandra’s Pizza, the hotel recommends Moxie’s, Swiss ChaletSeamus David’s Irish pub, and -right across the street- the Greek restaurant Ela! for a good family meal.

So, if you’re looking for a quiet weekend away with your loved one, The Hampton Inn at Dartmouth Crossing is probably not the best place to be. But, if your family seeks a wild time on a waterslide and all-you-can eat Lucky Charms for breakfast, go ahead and book your room today. This is a place your kids will never forget!

Helen Earley is a Halifax-based writer. She was a guest of the Hampton Inn and Suites Dartmouth Crossing.