Every once and a while you long to get away and do something different – really different. That was my state of mind when I heard Skytop Lodge, a family resort since the 1920s in the Pennsylvania Poconos Mountains, offered dog sledding. Now, that was different. And it turns out so was Skytop – refreshingly so.
Everything Old …
You don’t have to know that Skytop is a member of the National Trust Historic Hotels of America to be amazed by your first view of this majestic resort. The beautiful stone Lodge sits poised above Skytop Lake radiating old-world charm. Even though it’s winter, it’s clear the grounds carefully cultivated.
Once inside the main entry, a roaring fire, multiple comfy couches and chairs, and a wealth of decorative wood makes you feel welcomed and at ease. Although enough can’t be said about the physical beauty of the resort it’s the service of the staff that truly creates a caring ambiance. Attentive, without being cloying; friendly, without being intrusive; the staff sees to your every need in a calm, dignified and happy manner. Our dining room waiter Fernando toyed sweetly with the children at the table nearby. It was no surprise when later in the evening he admitted that he loves kids. That type of manner is reflective of the staff in general. There’s an air of pleasure as they see to their duties. That’s something rather rare to find today.
Is New Again …
The Lodge has been hosting families for more than 80 years, but it’s clear that they do not rest on old laurels. The dining room offerings are a perfect example of how they continue to please guests with what is both comfortable, yet a tad surprising and elegant. Our delicious evening meal of trout and beef tenderloin was plated with a modern flair. Kids have plenty to choose from here, with an evening kid buffet fit for mini-royalty. No child will be disappointed.
Evening dining in the main lodge requires men wear sports jackets and everyone else appropriate dress. The atmosphere was not stuffy, just refreshingly attentive. It’s an excellent environment to help your children practice table manners in an easy-going hands-on way. I was a bit surprised when the finger bowl of lemon water was set before me after the main meal. Yet as I dipped my fingers in the warmth the gesture felt more touchingly traditional than affected. The same might be said of the pat of butter molded into the Skytop crest. Yes there’s a sense of history here, but it’s meant to be enjoyed.
There’s plenty to be said about the wealth of activities offered outdoors. Make sure you get out and take advantage of it all. A quick walk on the grounds found areas for lawn bowling, archery, horseshoes, tennis and a walking path. Did I mention the golf course, skiing, ice-skating, sledding and the children’s playgrounds with climbing equipment? I especially appreciated the excellent placement of Adirondack chairs stationed in front of the playgrounds, perfect for adult viewing and relaxing.
We took a nature hike with Skytop’s naturalist Rick Koval to a local Beaver’s Den. The two-hour program was educational and intriguing. Everyone, from a 5 year old to a retired couple seemed to enjoy Rick’s nature stories and tips. The two-hour outing was well paced and appropriate for all ages in content and exertion. I can now tell the difference between a white and red oak leaf!
We also tried dogsledding with Jared O’Neill and the Snow Caps Sled Dogs, a group based in Breckenridge, Colorado. Even though there was no snow the 10-dog team pulled a golf cart along the trail. Jared supplied a little gas so as not to overexert the animals. Before we even set out on the trail there was plenty of time to talk about the dogs and dogsledding, which the staff maintains is not harmful or inhumane to the dogs. It was encouraging to see how well kept and how friendly and approachable the dogs were and how dedicated the staff was to making the experience for people and dogs a good one. A group of fathers and daughters were having a great time and took advantage of the unique photo opportunities. Plenty of information was shared making this an upbeat educational experience.
While the winds roared outdoors we took advantage of the indoor pool and hot tub. Little ones lounged in the kiddie pool and if the weather was warm we could have a got in a lap in the outdoor pool too. We checked out the workout room, which was small, but well appointed and the Skytop Spa located on the very top of the building. No doubt this space was renovated for this very purpose. The cozy, quiet service rooms fit the ambiance of the lodge.
On the lower levels we listened to live guitar in the Tap Room, explored snakes and turtles in the nature center and had hot chocolate in the old-fashioned Tea Room. Here a mini soda fountain looked just like the pharmacy setting in It’s a Wonderful Life, complete with padded stools and milkshake blenders. If we had realized it before we ordered our hot chocolate we might have gone for the egg cream!
Kids loved gathering on this level to take advantage of the arcade, a mini golf course, laser tag and ping pong tables. I myself liked the Tulip Tree gift shop.
Saturday evening dinner culminated with a live band and dance contest (not based on ability, don’t worry) held in the main lodge. There were as many children as adults on the dance floor, well maybe more children. The point is everyone got in on the fun. Punch and cookies were served and everyone grabbed hands for the traditional Grand March through the lodge.
The next morning at a sumptuous brunch guests nodded hello to new friends they no doubt met on the slopes, sleds or dance floor. All together it was a lovely weekend, the type of escape that only makes you want to come again in another season and explore everything there is to do then.
For more information:
Skytop, PA 18357