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Best Resorts Near New York City

Who said New York City was the heart and soul of the Northeast? These lavish resorts may have you rethinking your next Big Apple getaway.

 

For years it bugged me that most resorts near New York City were either tacky or shabby. Outrageous! Is this not the Big Apple? Is this not home to Carnegie Hall and Carrie Bradshaw?

But in recent years, new resorts and upgrades to older ones have juiced Gotham’s hinterlands with world-class getaways. Finally. So if you live in the Northeast—or if you’re visiting Manhattan and want to see the countryside before heading home—here’s where to go.

Crystal Springs Resort & Golf Club 

Barely 50 miles from Manhattan, Crystal Springs is catnip for golfers. Its seven(!) courses include two by Robert Trent-Jones and Tom Fazio, and another two on national top 50 lists. Thanks to northwestern New Jersey’s endless forests, a birdie here means a red-tailed hawk. Great—but what about us non-golfers?

First, the resort includes two separate hotels: the family-friendly Minerals Hotel and the new, more upscale Grand Cascades Lodge—plus condos of all sizes. I like choices.

Second, Crystal Springs’ 12 restaurants and pubs include LaTour, a Wine Spectator Grand Award winner. I recently saw an MRI machine in the wine cellar. “Practicing medicine without a license?” I asked manager Rabih Younes. “No,” he explained. “The MRI tells us if an old bottle is still good. That’s why no customer has ever had to return a bottle here.” My eyes fell upon a bottle of Haut-Brion from 1900 …

Third, each hotel has a serious spa/fitness center and a vast, light-filled swimming complex. I actually used sunscreen at Crystal Springs; the special glass roof lets the rays in. The Minerals Hotel offers year-round tennis, daycare, horseback riding, entertainment and organized activities.

Fourth, this insomniac will tell you that the Tempur-pedic beds in Grand Cascades’ rooms are pure pleasure.

Crystal Springs Resort and Golf Club. Route 94, Vernon. Tel. 973-827-5996. Summertime rack rates start at $194 at Minerals Hotel and $269 at Grand Cascades Lodge. Candidly, I’ve never driven the 50 miles from Manhattan in just one hour, as advertised—but you probably knew that. www.crystalgolfresort.com

Mohonk Mountain House

I first visited Mohonk Mountain House, near New Paltz, N.Y., because its hiking-biking trails—85 miles of them—offer glorious cross-country skiing. That was 30 years ago, but don’t assume this Shawangunk Mountains getaway was new then. Albert Smiley opened the hotel in 1869, and since then his descendants have expanded it into a sprawling castle with 265 rooms and a National Historic Landmark.

Communing with nature was and is central to Mohonk. The hotel owns 2,200 acres, including a blue mountain lake with granite walls rising on one side. The lake has wooden rowboats, not powerboats, and that’s the way this crowd wants it. Similarly, guestrooms offer Wi-Fi, not TVs. Unchained from American Idol, I thrive.

Mohonk’s interiors feature museum-quality carved woodwork and furniture, and, everywhere I look, fireplaces. The Victoriana continues outdoors, where I gladly forego golf, tennis and a carriage ride to stroll with my lady through woods and gardens interspersed with gazebos.  

Mohonk’s Theme Programs are almost as central to the place as the nature and fireplaces. “We once went to Mohonk for a Mystery Weekend,” says one guest, “and now we keep coming back.” Themes range from cuisine to jazz, meditation to ballroom dancing, triathlons to crossword puzzles. One other Mohonk tradition: families with 8-year-old kids reading at 12th-grade level.

But here, as at Shawnee (see next page), I’ve also seen changes. Whereas the food was once OK, it’s now sophisticated fare. It used to bother me that Mohonk didn’t serve alcoholic beverages; now there’s an award-winning wine list. A new 30,000-square-foot spa offers myriad treatments and classes; the underwater sound system in the heated pool entices me to swim extra laps. And an ice-skating pavilion has replaced skating on the lake. I loved the lake, but now the ice is a sure thing—smoother, too.

Mohonk Mountain House. 1000 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz. Tel. 845-255-1000. Rates through late October start at $510 per couple, including meals and most activities. Look also for 140th anniversary packages. www.mohonk.com

Shawnee Inn & Golf Resort

The Shawnee Inn opened in 1911 with an A.W. Tillinghast golf course, 24 of whose 27 holes occupy an island in the Delaware River. For decades Shawnee attracted celebs like Sam Snead (the course pro), bandleader Fred Waring (who bought the place in 1943), Jackie Gleason, Arnold Palmer, Mickey Mantle and more. In the wainscoted hallways, I see photos of Gleason goofing off with Arnie.

Shawnee, though, is more than nostalgia: It’s the only full-service resort on the upper Delaware River, most of which is pristine national park land. So this resort, 75 miles from Manhattan on the Pennsylvania bank of the Delaware, can boast its own riverfront beach. It also offers canoeing, kayaking, rafting, fishing and guide service. I’ve caught trout, bass, perch, even carp here; this river is wall-to-wall fish.

When floods creamed Shawnee in 1996 and 2006, management saw opportunities to renovate and innovate. Sure, Shawnee still has traditional furnishings, that Tillinghast layout, Broadway shows in the old Shawnee Playhouse and photos of yesterday’s stars. But now, the Tillinghast Golf Academy provides first-rate instruction, and Sam Snead’s Tavern features live music. In 2007, Shawnee unveiled a spa and the luxurious Legacy Collection suites. “I want to buy that Stickley-style furniture,” I tell a bellhop, jokingly. “You can,” he says.

Finally, a garden (2009) supplies Shawnee’s new, upmarket River Room restaurant. Organic salads, I believe, were not a compelling issue for The Mick.

Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort. 1 River Road, Shawnee on Delaware. Tel. 570-424-4000. Summertime rack rates start at $149 in the Inn and $249 for Legacy Collection suites. www.shawneeinn.com

The Lodge at Woodloch

“We put all our best ideas into The Lodge,” says Ginny Lopis. Quite a statement, because she and John Lopis have designed/managed many of the world’s top spas. But sure enough, this destination spa, which opened in 2006, has made Conde Nast Traveler’s Hot List and every other top whatever list.

About two and a half hours from Manhattan, the three-story, stone-and-wood lodge doesn’t just fit in with the northeastern Pennsylvania forests; its expansive windows seem to bring the outdoors indoors. Oaks and maples, orioles and woodpeckers, deer and VW-size turkeys; something tells me it’s all happening in the woods—but it feels as if it’s happening in my room. 

The entrance hall (yes, I played the chakra bowls) leads to the dining room and library. The 58 guestrooms to the left have private verandas and a low-key, restful ambience. But I can’t stay in my room; too many things are happening. I visit the spa, with its treatment rooms, salon, indoor pool, saunas, whirlpools, lounges and exercise rooms, and take a Below the Belt strengthening class. Marquita shows us routines we can do at home (and I do). The Aqua-Tone class in the pool works my triceps, biceps and pecs. We even box underwater. Suddenly, I’m buff.

The Awakenings massage—aromatherapy, exfoliation, soft music, etc.— stimulates all five senses, maybe six. At the end, the therapist hits a little triangle. “Mr. Wetschler, the service is over.” Din-n-n-n-g.  

I follow the path to the little lake. Too chilly today for swimming, so I kayak over to a hidden channel with beaver dams, redwing blackbirds and wildflowers. Later, a concierge reminds me, “You can play golf or tennis at the Woodloch family resort down the road.” Nah, I don’t want to leave.     

A guest who’s just taken a guided bike ride and a painting class confides, “I chose The Lodge as a gift for my wife, but now I want to come back too.”

Maybe that’s because this spa resort is as much resort as spa. Enlightenment matters here, but enjoyment matters more. No calorie counts on these menus, just flavorful food—even lamb chops—prepared in stealth-health ways. And you can order wine.

The Lodge at Woodloch. 109 River Birch Lane, Hawley. Tel. 866-953-8500. From July 10 through October 31 rates start at $335 per person, double occupancy. That’s a great deal, because it includes splendid lodgings, activities, and three superb meals. www.thelodgeatwoodloch.com



User Comments

I haven't seen Shawnee or Mohonk, but I have visitd the Lodge at Woodloch and Grand Cascades Lodge. Delicious food + at both; this review of them's a bulls eye.

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