Mohonk Mountain House
New Paltz, New York
Americana Resort, $$$
I absolutely love Mohonk Mountain House.
How's that for journalistic objectivity?
I can't even pretend to be unbiased about this place, so I won't even try. I first discovered the resort inadvertently more than 20 years ago, when my boyfriend suggested we spend a crisp fall day hiking Mohonk Mountain. It was a scenic drive from Manhattan, and an even more scenic hike. Rounding a corner along the trail, I caught sight of a stately building perched alongside a lake below us, its grand mirror image reflected in the water.
"That? Mohonk," he answered, pretending he didn't know how impressed I'd be.
I've been visiting on and off ever since — for year-round day hikes, for springtime company retreats (twice: my small team liked it so much we came back the next year with the whole company), for weekends with my husband, and once for Wonderful Weekend of Words, the annual word puzzle event hosted by the New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz (my husband was a speaker, and it was all as sweet and dorky as it sounds). I've packed bathing suits and snow boots — to while away a sunny afternoon on a rowboat, to wander through the forest up to the scenic lookout tower.
But let's not pretend I've made a special discovery here. Time for a quick history lesson: Mohonk was a ten-room tavern with 280 surrounding acres in 1869 when it was purchased by the Quaker couple Albert and Eliza Smiley, whose descendants still run the show, five generations later. The resort's current 265-room look — the Victorian and Edwardian structure, those evocative turrets — was largely built between 1879 and 1902. In 1963, the Smiley family helped create Mohonk Preserve, the largest private nature preserve in New York State, with a mission to “preserve the beauty of the landscape and the integrity of the flora and fauna — with appropriate human use and enjoyment.” (An even quicker geography break: Mohonk Mountain House occupies 1,200 acres; the surrounding Preserve another 6,500 acres.) In 1986, the resort was designated a National Historic Landmark, and a terrific spa wing was added in 2005.
Which is not to say things are frozen in time. While the vibe and the decor are pleasingly old-fashioned — the rocking chairs, the fireplaces, the antique-style bedroom furniture — Mohonk has the modern amenities any sophisticated traveler would expect. It's just all delivered in a warm, unpretentious, and welcoming way.
Wellness has been a priority at Mohonk since its beginning, as evidenced not only in the many healthy outdoor activities and the spa, which deserves the countless accolades and awards it's received, but also in the extensive mindfulness program developed by Nina Smiley, Ph.D. and author of The Three Minute Meditator, which is on its fifth edition in seven languages.
Remember Kellerman's resort in Dirty Dancing? Mohonk always reminds me of that. When I'm here, I can't help but wonder how many generations of grandchildren have been scolded for sliding down the bannisters, how many teenage romances and furtive first kisses have blossomed on the lake, and how many families have spent their annual holidays here — long before "multi-generational travel" became the trendy catchphrase for "family vacation."
In short, everything around here screams of authenticity. And old-timey charm. I can't wait to go back.
Rates start at $820 for two, but the resort runs frequent specials that can bring that rate down to $492. Click here for reservations. Or contact the Fathom Concierge and we can book your trip for you.
At a Glance
The Vibe: An innocent, go-back-in-time, Americana-at-its-best getaway, whether that means taking a nap on a rocking chair, getting a massage, or being active as can be in the great outdoors.
Standout Detail: It's a toss-up between the vast nature preserve setting along Lake Mohonk, with views of the forest, Catskill Mountains, and Shawangunk cliffs — and the sheer endless options of things to do year-round.
This Place Is Perfect For: Families and groups, as things do not happen on a small scale here. That said, couples can carve out quiet space on all this property. This place is not perfect for travelers who prefer exclusive and pretentious hotel experiences.
Rooms: 265 total rooms in several categories. Mountain House has three suites with options like wood-burning fireplaces, claw-foot tubs, and balconies. Eight family suites in various configurations have views of the garden or the lake. The 19 large Tower Rooms in the turrets are ready to fulfill anyone's Rapunzel fantasies. Seventy-eight Victorian Rooms have wood-burning fireplaces and balconies. The 151 Traditional Rooms have antique-style furnishings and sleeping options including two queens, one king, one queen, one queen and one twin, one full, or two twins. The six luxury guest rooms in Grove Lodge have private stone patios and stone gas-burning fireplaces. Balcony bonus: rocking chair.
On Site: There's so much, I'll split this into indoor and outdoor options. (150 activities to be precise, according to the list they compiled to celebrate their 150th anniversary.) Inside, the Spa & Wellness Wing includes a full fitness center, yoga/motion room, a solarium with stone fireplace, a dry rock sauna, rooms for an extensive roster of treatments, and an indoor heated pool that plays underwater music. The communal areas — the living rooms, the porches — are set for individual use (the rocking chairs are especially nice) and extensive group activities like lectures, concerts, and a nightly movie. This summer, the entertainment has moved to the boat dock for easier social distancing, and the movies are shown in the Barn Courtyard and also in the parking lot that has been converted into a drive-in theater.
Which brings us to the many outdoor activities. Mohonk's 85 miles of trails are available for hiking and biking, walking and running, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing — or simply forest bathing, which they've been doing here since before that was a thing. The sporty list continues: horseback riding, rock climbing, archery, and ice-skating in the open-air pavilion. The lake is the spot for fishing, row-boating, kayaking, stand-up paddle-boarding, and swimming.
Mohonk programs an extensive roster of activities and special weekends year-round. In addition to the aforementioned Wonderful Weekend of Words every November, they include Mystery Weekend, Ballroom and Swing Weekends, Mindfulness in Minutes, along with many other culinary-, music-, art-, and nature-themed programs.
Food + Drink: Meals are included in the room rate, excluding alcohol. The Main Dining Room, built in 1893 with great views of the Catskills, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner at set times. As much as possible, the ingredients come from 50 nearby farms, as well as local breweries, distilleries, and wineries. In warmer months, guests can have lunch or dinner at The Granary, an outdoor barbecue that has alternating steak and seafood nights and, no surprise, an ice cream stand. Come happy hour, options include the Sunset Porch and Carriage Lounge, which also serves a la carte menu items.
A Resort For All Seasons
What to Do Nearby
When you're here, you're probably staying on site. But if you run out of things to do at the resort (you won't), Hudson Valley offerings within an hour of Mohonk include Franklin D. Roosevelt Historic Site, the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, and the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, all in Hyde Park. Kingston and Rhinebeck are charming towns across from each other on the Hudson River.