A December 2003 trip
to New Paltz by gorboduc
Quote: Perched atop its own mountain in the Hudson River Valley sits Mohonk Mountain House, a grand hotel that's like a journey back in time to the Victorian Era as we imagine it to have been.
If you need some pampering after all of this exercise, check out the Massage Center, where spa treatments are available for an extra fee.
It a car isn't an option, there are frequent train and bus connections to New Paltz, and if given advance notice, the Mohonk staff will pick you up for an extra fee.
My breakfast at Mohonk was served in the Victorian Main Dining Room, which runs the width of the building. The room is an impressive two stories high, with dark oak paneling and an imposing floor-to-ceiling fireplace. You can request a table with a lake view, a mountain view, or by the fire.
The breakfast is like a good Sunday brunch, with unlimited coffee, tea, cocoa, and juice. Ask your server if you want hot cereal with your breakfast.
The breakfast buffet includes a selection of fresh, dried, and canned fruit, granola, yogurt, scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, home fries, pancakes, mini Belgian waffles, homemade Danish, muffins, and croissants, bagels, and a selection of cold cereal.
In addition to this, there are two special hot dishes each morning--on my day, these were breakfast burritos and cinnamon-orange French toast--and an omelet station.
I highly recommend the mini waffles, which you can top with fresh mixed berries and whipped cream, and the buttery homemade croissants.
Dinner is usually served in the main dining room, but when I was there, the formal meal was served in the more modern West Dining Room, a circular room with floor-to-ceiling windows that provide a view of the mountains. The candles on each table help to create a warm, romantic atmosphere.
When you arrive for dinner, you are seated at your table and given a menu, from which you can select one item for each course: appetizer, salad, entree, and dessert.
I had an earthy mushroom consomme, a tasty salad with roasted beet vinaigrette and sweet slivers of deep-fried butternut squash, and an entree of roast loin of lamb with creamy mustard sauce and green beans. The lamb was well cooked--medium but not at all gamey--and the subtly piquant mustard sauce was an excellent complement to it. The green beans were just as I like them--just a little crunchy.
For dessert, I had an apple and pear turnover. The pastry was buttery and flaky, the dessert wasn't overly sweet, and I could live on the caramel sauce that garnished the plate, but the pear flavor was not particularly noticeable.
Dinner includes soft drinks and regular or decaf Green Mountain Coffee. You can also purchase wine and spirits or Starbucks espresso and cappuccino to go with your meal.
Service for both meals was excellent--professional and attentive, without being obtrusive.
All in all, all the food I ate at Mohonk was of consistently high quality. The resort really benefits from the fact that the head chef is a graduate of the nearby Culinary Institute of America.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 10, 2004
Mohonk Mountain House
1000 Mountain Rest Road
New Paltz, New York 12561
It's not the journey to Mohonk that causes the sensation; the Hudson Valley is one of the most beautiful places in America, but you wouldn't know it on the New York Thruway between Albany and New Paltz. The ride through New Paltz isn't that auspicious, either--though that was partially due to the season. The gray sky crowded around the town (equal parts bohemian and shabby), blending into the no-longer-pretty banks of frozen snow that surrounded the shops and houses like ramparts.
Once you get through town and cross the Walkill River, however, things begin to change. A right turn just past the bridge takes you across the fields of the flood plain and towards the Shawangunk Ridge. By the time you get to the Mohonk gatehouse, most of the Thruway's bleakness is receding into memory, and as you wend your way up to the mountaintop and the Mountain House comes into view, ennui is replaced by amazement--you're looking at a Victorian castle, an amazing survival, carefully preserved and expanded by the Smiley family, who purchased the property in 1869.
Drive your car to the entrance and you are greeted by friendly valets and bellmen who take your car and your bags--the former to disappear until you call for it at checkout, the latter to reappear in your room.
A stay at Mohonk is nearly all-inclusive; the rate includes breakfast and lunch buffets, tea and cookies in the afternoon, and formal dinner in the evening, plus a variety of sports and programs for children and adults. In the winter you can snowshoe and cross-country ski on Mohonk's trails or ice skate in the Skating Pavilion, perched on a cliff overlooking Lake Mohonk. Equipment is provided free for guests.
Rates start at about $400 per couple per night, but Mohonk does run specials. Visit www.mohonk.com for more information. The savings can be considerable--I stayed using a midweek special that included a Victorian room with fireplace and a private balcony that overlooked the lake, dinner, breakfast, and tea, for $160, and Mohonk has several periods each year during which kids stay free with their parents.
All of this makes the resort very family-friendly. I was there several days before Christmas, and the hotel was filled with families--grandparents, parents, and children. Mohonk has special programs and activities for children, and also had a special informal kids-only buffet dinner in addition to the standard formal (jackets for men and no jeans allowed) dinner.
Mohonk's decor is warm and homey. Many of the common areas retain their original woodwork and fixtures. Comfy chairs invite you to curl up with a book or take in the views of the lake and the mountains. Fires burn in the downstairs lounges, ready to warm up chilled skiers and snow-tubers.
Rooms at Mohonk come in several varieties:
I stayed in a lake view Victorian room, decorated in warm beige with burgundy drapes, the original dark oak woodwork, and a fireplace. The room was very large; it contained both a full-size and a twin-size bed, with a sitting area at the far end. The furniture was oak, with an antique writing desk. The room would be prefect for a small family.
The bathroom was done in a Victorian style as well. I especially liked its cute curved window overlooking the lake.
Both the bedroom and bathroom were spotlessly clean and had clearly been recently redone.
The fireplace was supplied with wood, matches, and firestarters, so I had no trouble starting myself a cozy fire in the evening.
The only regret I have about my stay is that it was only one night--something I hope to rectify soon.