A castle is a great place to time-travel

Andy and Mel horsing around on the ice rink at Mohonk Mountain House

Eric Gullickson is playing with his four year old son and two year old daughter in the game room on a blustery Saturday morning. He knows Mohonk Mountain House  better than most. Gullickson is a member of the Smiley family that owns the place, worked here for years and now serves on the Board of Directors.

The aim: To maintain the character and history of the place while at the same time appealing to 21st century families who want to get their kids away from TV and the computers and outside. After 9/11, families who didn’t want to venture far from home discovered Mohonk—just 90 miles from NYC. The owners hope in this economy that will happen again but I think they will need to rethink their price structure for families with young kids — just as I think all resorts should right now.

This blustery morning as we head out for a hike to couples are learning to fox trot and tango under portraits of Albert and Alfred Smiley, the twin brothers who discovered this spectacular piece of land and first opened Mohonk Mountain House (www.mohonk.com) in 1869.

It’s cold but dry as we head up the Sky Top path to the Smiley Tower. The views are spectacular- of the mountains, Mohonk Lake that stretches for a half mile, the sprawling limestone resort. There are little gazebos all along the trails to take in the views –and catch your breath.

I feel like we’ve time traveled back to vacation style decades ago. Actually, even farther back in this case. The 265-room Mohonk Mountain House is celebrating its 140th birthday this coming year and is still owned by the same family that first started the place. In those days, of course, people arrived by carriages. There was no spa, no computer, no nightly movies.

But families come here for the same reasons they always have — to spend time together. I meet two multi generational families celebrating grandparents’ birthdays. “There is so much to do the only hard part is fitting it all in,” said Pat Fahey, who was here with her extended family celebrating a birthday.
Eight year old Jordan Phillips opined that he likes the indoor pool “because you stick your head under water and can hear music.”

The place is pretty busy for an off weekend in December before the holidays. Families like that everything is included- the meals, the activities, even the ice skating.“It’s a great place to spend some time with the kids,” said Ann Harvey, who was here for the weekend with her husband and young children.
It’s a good getaway for a family with older kids too. I had to corral my 24 year old son and 17 year old daughter to join us for the weekend but they are having fun hiking, skating and reading by the fire in their room.

We laugh at old family stories over lunch (huge buffet with everything from soup to salads to carved meats. I like that there is a Kids’ area with chicken fingers and fries!) and our four-course dinner. “Tell me more stories,” says Melanie.

Just having a 17-year-old who wants to hang out with her parents and hear old family stories — about her of course — is worth the price of price of the room.

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