Curious George, the lovable monkey whose antics have delighted children for decades, was born in the imaginations of H.A. and Margret Rey. But he and the Reys spent their summers in Waterville Valley, NH, a place that epitomizes Curious George's spirit of fun and adventure.
Early visitors to Waterville Valley Resort hiked, swam, played golf and took part in cultural events, surrounded by the awe-inspiring natural beauty of the White Mountain National Forest. Today's visitors do all that and more—tennis, skateboarding, year-round ice skating, mountain biking, boating, stargazing, or simply looking for a retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life, just as the Reys did in the 1950s.
The Reys were drawn to Waterville Valley Resort because Hans was revising his popular astronomy book The Stars and needed a place away from the glare of city lights to do observation. They quickly fell in love with the valley and spent the next twenty summers there, writing, drawing, and charming the community.
Hans was a Renaissance man, versed in history and natural history, while Margret was a potter and photographer. Villagers and visitors were drawn to their little home—now known as the Curious George Cottage—which soon became an intellectual center for the town, hosting book clubs, discussion groups, and best of all, the magical opportunity to watch a children's author at work. When the "author at work" sign was out, children would come and watch as he drew new adventures for George or his other characters. At other times, Hans would take the children on nature walks and delight them with his talent of throwing his voice.
Today, the spirit of curiosity and exploration lives on in the Margret and H.A Rey Center, whose mission is to honor the Rey's legacy by recreating the experiences they provided: nature walks, literary groups, writers workshops, discussion clubs, a monthly lecture series, art shows, and of course, activities for children.
There are hikes, including "walk-talks" with an invited speaker on topics such as the glacial history of White Mountains and alpine ecology. At times, hikers take part in the Appalachian Mountain Club's Mountain Watch program, identifying and cataloging local birds, mushrooms, and flowers as a way of tracking changes in the mountain habitat.
Three times a month, the center hosts astronomy nights under the dark skies that first drew Hans Rey to the valley. Local amateurs lead the stargazing sessions, along with a monthly visit by an expert from the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord.
The Rey's love of nature is reflected in the Center's strong environmental and conservation bent. Volunteers from the Center work alongside the National Forest Service doing trail work such as building rock retainers and creating drainage.
Visitors and vacationers are welcome at all of the Rey Center's events, where they will often find themselves rubbing elbows with locals. Today, as in the past, Waterville Valley welcomes the curious, the adventurous, and the inquisitive—young or old, human or monkey.