Time Travel: A Currier and Ives Winter at Mohonk Mountain House

Time Travel: A Currier and Ives Winter at Mohonk Mountain House
Imagine a sprawling, century-old hotel with massive covered porches and spiraling turrets beside the lake, rising from the stone. This is the Mohonk Mountain House, a family-owned mountaintop resort located in Hudson Valley, New York just 90 miles northwest of Manhattan.

My husband and I head to Mohonk for a weekend-long family reunion. A cousin, who makes a yearly pilgrimage to the resort with his wife and three children, is the organizing force. His wife contacted Mohonk's family reunion coordinator to reserve rooms and arrange a private dinner. We received emails with a link to the property's web site that included directions, descriptions of activities, and even the opportunity to sign up for spa treatments in advance! Appreciation for our family organizer is undiminished, but credit for seamless plans clearly belongs to the Mohonk staff.

Thirty-some members of our extended family answer the call and arrive from all directions on Friday evening. One couple comes from the Netherlands. Another makes the trek all the way from Cyprus. Many bring children, ranging in age from 2 to 16. The resort provides babysitting and youth activities, but our nieces and nephews are soon off on their own to explore. For once, older siblings offer to watch younger ones—perhaps the first sign of Mohonk magic?

In our high-ceilinged, Victorian room, we find a wood burning fireplace, but no TV. Mohonk invites guests to return to a simpler time and a slower pace. When the resort first opened its doors in 1869, guests were transported the final six miles from New Paltz in mule-drawn wagons. The mules advanced at a leisurely mile per hour pace so the final leg took six hours, and many guests—typically Manhattan socialites—stayed a month! Today the resort is still owned by the original Smiley family, but rest and renewal are more likely penciled into a long weekend. Still the priorities remain the same: relaxation, socialization, and plenty of fresh mountain air.

Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style, while dinner is a sit-down affair ordered from a menu that includes meat, fish, and vegetarian options. Some younger family members express disappointment that soda dispensers are absent; parents are quietly pleased, and the children’s attention is soon diverted. Round tables for ten are set aside for our group, but others can dine in smaller units. Family members choose a different configuration at each meal. The children establish their own table and revel in their "independence."

We have planned a number of group activities beginning with a guided orientation hike on Saturday morning. A few opt for spa treatments as an alternative, but the rest are enthusiastic despite the frigid weather. The pace is leisurely and the panoramas spectacular. The "child pack" alternately follows along, rushes ahead, and doubles back. An afternoon visit to the resort's outdoor skating rink is tempting, but I decide to work out in the fitness center and take a pilates class. Both are first rate, but what is even more impressive is the Olympic-size swimming pool that would please the most serious lap swimmer.

Saturday night is our private dinner. Again the Mohonk staff has guided the planning, and our family comes together to share remembrances and good cheer. Several are glowing from their spa treatments. Others have enjoyed afternoon tea and a nap. My sister spent the afternoon snuggled with her children before a roaring fire, drinking hot chocolate and telling stories. We find ourselves viewing each other with new found indulgence. Mohonk has, indeed, worked its magic! The reunion is an unqualified success!