For the NY Daily News
Visiting Woodloch Pines in Hawley, Pa., is a lot like staying at a close friend’s house. The difference? This friend has his own private lake with paddleboats and canoes, a slew of activities planned from early morning to late night, an indoor playground, indoor pool, bumper cars and more. True, there are many all-inclusive resorts in the northeast, but Woodloch’s attention to detail sets it apart.
Even with the ability to have 1,000 guests at any one time, the staff remembers everyone’s name, their drink orders when they sit down for a returning meal, and more intimately, bits of conversation from the previous day.
And each staffer, from those at the check-in desk to the drivers of the trams, our waitresses, and each worker at a specific activity, seemed genuinely concerned about our experience.
When we ventured over to the Shooting Barn for a round of paintball target practice, the man behind the counter played checkers with our son while we waited for a booth to open up.
The young man who ran the bumper boats had everyone wait before boarding because there was an injured skunk close by. He called animal control and made sure we were at a safe distance just in case the skunk sprayed.
This is the heart of the Pocono Mountains, and wildlife is nearby. But we didn’t see any other animals besides humans and the one skunk. And as far as people go, the resort is spread out on the 1,000-plus acres, so it doesn’t feel crowded. In fact, we took a few hikes and were the only ones on the trail. The crowds could be seen at mealtime. However, the tables are a comfortable distance apart. Plus, there are so many activities scheduled during the day that the venues don’t feel crowded.
Just a few miles up the road from Woodloch Pines is The Lodge at Woodloch. Children are pretty much out of the picture here. This is the home of the spa and spa treatments are for those 16 and older. Parents without their kids, newlyweds, and even some singles are seen hiking the trails, taking exercise classes and dining at Tree, the spa’s restaurant that serves healthy and tasty meals. Kids’ items like chicken fingers and mac ’n’ cheese are not on the menu.
A few of the parents staying with their kids hired baby-sitters for part of the day so they could get some time away for quiet and deep relaxation. Most parents I spoke to said they come to the Pines because it is so kid-friendly. However, they want a bit of an escape. That is what draws them to the spa.
The elegantly appointed rooms are designed for couples — even though there is a living room area with a sofa bed. Most parents who stay at the Lodge and take full advantage of the classes and spa treatments leave their children at home or come for the day and spend the majority of their vacation at the Pines.
Right across from the Lodge is Woodloch Springs, which has guest houses for families. Guests staying at Woodloch Springs, which offers a much slower pace than the Pines, dine at the Pines and can participate in all of the activities there. One family said they prefer to stay at the Springs because the accommodations are great for large families. One family brought their parents, and all had plenty of room.
The outdoor pool, recreation room and tennis courts are for guests at the Springs. Also at the Springs is the 18-hole golf course. The course, 6,579 yards of fern-carpeted forests, lush wetlands and upland meadows, has four sets of tees to accommodate all levels of players. Throughout the morning it is rare to see children on the course. However, after 3 p.m. kids golf for free.
Woodloch is now on its third generation of Kiesendahls; that’s the family who run the resort. To the Kiesendahls, family is key and their goal is to make guests feel like family. That mind-set carries over because we met so many guests who are repeat customers.I know we will be back because on our drive home our son, who is 11, kept telling us how sad he was that the trip was over; in the car he kept asking “when are we going to return?”