The Hotel: Woodloch Pines Resort
Where: Hawley, Eastern Pennsylvania
Woodloch Pines is an all-inclusive resort that sits on the rural edge of the Poconos. Rather than one large hotel, the resort has a series of small buildings and cabins that dot a woodsy campus on the shore of a picture-perfect lake. Getting out of our car after our three-hour drive from Brooklyn I smelled autumn air, looked around and said, “Wow, this is beautiful.” The remote location helps families to feel as though they’ve gotten away and is part of the appeal.
Think of the Catskills resort that was the setting for “Dirty Dancing,” updated with zip lines, yoga and music from “Hamilton” on Broadway-show night (yes, there are theme nights).
Woodloch Resort is a second-generation family business and that is important to its identity and the experience it offers. When we walked into the lobby the first thing I spotted was a homespun looking sign that said, “Welcome home!” The founders’ sons stand at the dining room entrance shaking hand with guests as they come in to dinner. Meals are served during set hours. You have the same table and server for your entire stay; returning guests sometimes request a favorite server.
Beyond meals, this Pennsylvania resort has a daily schedule of activities overseen by a cheerful staff. Kids roam the grounds in giggling clusters without a lot of supervision. It’s a place where you see groups of families and multi-generations.
While the friendly service and summer-camp-meets-resort vibe bring many families back year after year, I have to admit this isn’t the sort of vacation we naturally gravitate toward. However, we have come to appreciate that family resorts have their advantages when you are vacationing as a family and this is probably one of the best resorts in the Poconos.
We signed ourselves up for the pizza-decorating contest and did our best to keep up with 9YO Tiny Traveler, who had a blast.
Our room at Woodloch, a two-room suite, was exceptionally roomy; so much so that I almost felt bad we were never there. The bedroom had two double beds and the living room had a pullout couch. There were two full bathrooms (one with a bathtub; one with a shower) and a walk in closet with hanging space and a dresser.
You could probably put a travel crib in there if you have a baby who won’t go to sleep in a shared room. We had a nice balcony facing the lake but we didn’t have weather for sitting out. The room had a small refrigerator and microwave, too.
Parking and Wi-Fi are free.
The Activities at Woodloch
Water stuff: There was a lot to do and the days went by quickly. The best amenities are the pool complex and the lake. There are indoor and outdoor pools and three hot tubs (one is adults only). There are indoor and outdoor splash areas little kids; the indoor one is adorable.
And they’ve recently added a splash pad and big twisty slide for older kids. The layout is awkward because the big kids area is in a room by itself, off to the side. But there’s a lifeguard there all the time so I didn’t feel I needed to stay with my daughter.
The lake has a swimming area and a slide. It was too cool to swim outside but we did kayak and paddleboard. In the summer I would imagine this is where we’d spend most of our day.
Fun amenities: Tiny Traveler loved an indoor climbing playground, which came in handy when we had a gray afternoon. We all liked go karts where she could ride with one of us, junior go karts she could drive herself, bumper boats, indoor bumper cars. There was an arts and crafts room that we skipped because we didn’t see any projects; just paper and crayons.
You have to be 13 for both the zip line and climbing wall, which seemed on the old side. Kids 10 and up could do archery but TT wasn’t interested and headed off to one of two outdoor playgrounds while we gave it a try (it’s harder than it looks!).
Organized Fun: We skipped most of the organized activities (Family Feud and trivia contests aren’t our thing and we heard the scavenger hunt is quite competitive). But we did the block party with carnival games like flip the chicken and bean-bag toss. We liked the the jewelry making ($5-$10 extra), which was real jewelry, not just kids’ beads.
And despite not winning, Tiny Traveler loved a contest in which we had to create a fall scene on a pizza crust using icing, colored sugar, candy and other items. It required team work, which made it a pretty engaging family activity. I did yoga on Sunday morning while the other slept in.
Evenings: Nighttime activity included a magician who impressed Tiny Traveler with memory tricks and a horse-race game that was corny but fun.The Broadway review on Saturday night was of similar quality to what you’d see in a higher end show on a cruise ship.
Outdoors: Given the pretty fall weather and the rural setting we would have appreciated more outdoor activities. Woodloch Lake is gorgeous. We regretted it wasn’t quite warm enough to swim in it, but we did go out in kayaks and and stand-up paddleboards. And we took a motorboat ride, which I recommend for any age.
Opportunities for walking and biking are limited to a one-mile paved track and a dirt path near the lake, which we didn’t notice until the last day (it begins behind the pool). But walking the paved mile, we got a sneak peak of the haunted hayride that starts in October. It’s elaborate, well done and definitely for teens and up. Under-13s can stick to the non-scary fall activities.
Our meals were included in the rate and while we had been cautioned that the food was the resort’s weak spot, we were pleased with many of the things we ate.
An onsite bakery delivered light and crunchy crumb cake and apple crumb cake at breakfast and pretty good sourdough, rye, olive bread and a variety of rolls at other meals.
Breakfast featured very good hash browns. A buffet lunch on Sunday included standard hot entrées (carving station, stuffed shells, etc.) that we skipped in favor of the appetizer table, which offered a variety of tasty salads and a pile of cold shellfish.
We all liked the fried chicken, steamed clams and sides at the Saturday cookout. At dinner, Rich thought the prime rib was only so-so but enjoyed a chicken and crab dish he had. I opted for a few of the surprisingly good vegetarian dishes including stuffed peppers with quinoa, black beans and corn (they told me they’ve been working at improving their meat-free options).
Desserts always looked good but Rich and I were usually too full. Tiny Traveler ate a lot of house-made ice cream and we had cupcakes with autumn colors that looked too good to resist (they were) on Sunday.
The Bottom Line
We would go back to Woodloch Resort for a weekend vacation, ideally with another family, so we could take advantage of the very safe environment to let the kids roam around on their own while we kayak or relax (and maybe even try the spa at upscale Woodloch Lodge nearby).
We might research nearby trails for biking and hiking. We might also try winter when there are activities like snow-shoeing and tubing. Rates range from $115 during low season (fall midweek) to a well over $300 for peak school-break weeks. Given the big room, food, activities and setting we think it presents a good value, but if you aren’t tied to a school schedule, take advantage of the mid-week rates.
And who knows. maybe someone who looks like Patrick Swayze will ask me to dance next time.
[infobox]Planning a trip? Check reviews of Woodloch Resort on *Trip Advisor. [/infobox]