Mohonk Mountain House

A must-see Victorian retreat in New York's Hudson Valley

Vacation as they did in the late 1800s with a visit to Mohonk Mountain House. The seven-story, castle-like hotel dates back to 1869, when Alfred H. Smiley visited the area and decided to build a peaceful retreat where people could enjoy nature surrounded by the spectacular Shawangunk Mountains. Smiley and his twin brother, Albert K., tore down the 10-room inn and tavern that stood on the property and began building the enormous structure that today accommodates up to 500 guests.

The rustic Victorian wood and stone architecture, countless fireplaces and antique-filled parlor rooms transport you back in time so completely that you almost expect to run into a Smiley brother in the hallway. You’ll see plenty of pictures of the Smileys and guests in the many antique photographs, paintings and drawings that line the halls. As interesting as the hotel is, though, the real draw is what you find when you walk outside. In the winter months, guests can take in the gorgeous scenery while snowshoeing or cross-country skiing on 35 miles of groomed trails. The Victorian Pavilion is open for ice skating from November through March. Summer offerings include tennis, golf, rock climbing, lake swimming, boating and fishing, horseback riding and hiking.

If relaxing at a spa is more your speed, Mohonk offers a 30,000-squarefoot spa wing that includes 16 treatment rooms, steam rooms and saunas, a fitness center, a yoga studio, an outdoor heated mineral pool and an indoor heated swimming pool. The awardwinning spa, built in 2005, is the newest addition to the sprawling hotel.

Dining is a big deal at Mohonk, perhaps because guests work up such a big appetite with all the available recreation. Extensive breakfast, lunch and Sunday brunch buffets, plus a fourcourse, sit-down dinner (and afternoon tea and cookies) are included in room rates. Guests are expected to dress for dinner, with gentlemen required to wear jackets and a no-T-shirts-or sneakers- allowed policy. The formality adds to the historical feel of the place, as does the nightly entertainment: live-music dance parties or movies in the screening room. (You won’t find a TV in your guest room.)

Depending on the room you get, accommodations can look antiquated, but if you don’t want “Victorian” ambiance, you may request what the hotel calls a “Traditional” room, which is updated(but won’t have a wood-burning fireplace). A standard room with a double bed will cost you $510 plus taxes and gratuity per night for double occupancy, but most of your food, recreation, entertainment and even a kids’ club is included, and the unique charm of Mohonk is hard to match.

Mohonk Mountain House,
1000 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz, NY

Another great escape within driving distance: The Mayflower Inn & Spa in Washington, CT

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