Earlier this fall I had the pleasure of returning to the 19th century, Victorian style resort Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York. Nestled into the Shawangunk Mountains in New York’s oh-so scenic Hudson Valley, about 90 minutes west of NYC, Mohonk has become synonymous with relaxation and comfort. A National Historic Landmark as well as a Historic Hotel of America, the 265-room hotel has been owned, operated and cared for by the same family, the Smileys, since 1869. They have made every effort to jettison their guests away from the chaos and stress of daily life and into a world of wholesome luxury and fun.
Blame it on a desire to squeeze every single hotel-sponsored activity into my visit but I never miss afternoon tea. In spring, summer and fall we sit on wooden slat rocking chairs and take in the views of the putting course, gardens and huge fish swimming in Lake Mohonk. In winter we curl up in front of one of the resort’s 138 working fireplaces and dunk our peanut butter, oatmeal raisin and sugar cookies into steaming cups of black tea. So winsome. So delicious. So Mohonk.
With the aforementioned fireplaces, parlors, balconies, gardens, spa center and 7,800 acres of preserved land I have endless places to get lost in a good book, indulge in a massage, take a yoga class or go for a stroll. Our most recent room overlooked the half-mile long, 60-foot deep, freshwater Lake Mohonk, so while Sean went off on an early morning kayak excursion, I lounged on our balcony, one of 238. Feet propped on the railing, a back issue of The New Yorker in my lap, I watched plump chickadees flit from tree to tree and the lone kayaker paddle across the water.
Tired of reading, I can slip off on a mule-drawn carriage or ride horseback around the hotel’s wooded property. When I go into museum-withdrawal, I can tour the Barn Museum and see not only artifacts from the Mohonk’s past but also artwork from regional artists. Forever the nerdy student, I can attend a lecture on NY woodland creatures, join an educational nature walk or try out birding.
With the exception of tennis I absolutely suck at sports. However, my clumsiness and lack of athletic prowess doesn’t stop me from having fun. Scratching at pool in the billiards room, swinging and swinging again at the 9-hole putting course, flailing in the indoor swimming pool or, in the summertime, the lake, tumbling onto the ice skating rink, or skinning my knee while rock climbing — you name it, I’ve done it with a smile on my face.
Luckily, I can redeem myself on one of two clay or eight hard tennis courts and hold my own on the game room’s ping pong table. Kayaking, canoeing, boating and fishing on Lake Mohonk as well as hiking to Sky Top Tower likewise allow me to save face among my more agile companions.
One activity at which I excel is eating. Unsurprisingly, Mohonk provides me with ample opportunities to do just this. Whether taken in the spacious Main or smaller East and West dining rooms or on picnic benches at The Grainary, three daily meals — plus afternoon tea! — are included with each stay. With an emphasis on local, seasonal ingredients as well as options for kosher and vegetarian diners, the fare is creative, flavorful and sure to satisify the most particular of eaters. And should I still feel peckish, I can always grab a bite at the hotel’s soda fountain or at the new cocktail lounge. At Mohonk I never go hungry.
During the summer months “after dinner” means movies on the lawn, campfires with music and s’mores and walks around the grounds. Wintertime there are sleigh rides, ice skating at the 18,000-square-foot pavilion and snowy night hikes. Square dancing in the parlor seems to be a year-round event, one that this uncoordinated guest has managed to skirt again and again. Likewise, theme weekends dedicated to astronomy, art, photography, chocolate, dancing, birding, mysteries and theatre occur throughout the year.
Mohonk Mountain House truly offers something for everyone. For me, it provides a little slice of heaven here on earth.