Ever feel like you need a vacation after returning from a family vacation? Have you thought traveling with kids is just parenting in another location? Join the club!!! The struggle is real, but there are some alternatives to just powering through. Today I've got 4 amazing tips for scoring FREE childcare on your next family vacation so you can feel like you actually ENJOYED the vacation with your family - both your kids, your partner, and maybe even some alone time!! Watch my video below for all the details including multigenerational travel, all-inclusive resorts with kids club, traveling and co-parenting with another family, and bringing along a babysitter on your vacation!
Have more tips for planning and carrying out the most amazing family vacations, momcations, or solo travels?? Leave a comment below!!
If you're like my family, you've been pretty much locked down staying at home for a good part of the last 8 months. Cooking wayyyyyy more than I was used to, researching endlessly to find safe places to take the kids on the weekend or to dine outdoors. Worried about illness, about school, about our SANITY! When Woodloch Resort (voted the #1 Family Resort in the United States) invited us on a weekend getaway I was a little nervous to be honest. We'd been there twice before and it is one of my all time favorite family vacation spots. But during a pandemic!? Turns out I had no need to worry, and it was just what the doctor ordered!! Sanity restored. Beautiful memories made. It was Heaven on Earth. Watch our video for as close to an in-person experience as I can give you, and read on for details!!
Pandemic Protocols - Safety First!!
Woodloch is on top of the game when it comes to pandemic protocols and covid safety. You're asked to take everyone's temperatures before heading to the resort, and upon arrival your car is directed to their station where you are greeted cheerfully with a masked and gloved staff member who takes everyone's temperatures (still in the car) without contact via one of those temporal thermometers. Once everyone passes, you're provided bracelets which prove you passed the temperature scan and have free rein of the seemingly endless amenities on their 1500 acre property with beautiful forest and a lake! Signs are everywhere asking you to wear a mask, at the front desk they have baskets with clean pens and used pens, in the kid's arts & crafts room they have bins for used items to be cleaned, heck, even in our guest room the remotes were in plastic baggies!
They opened back up in June and are currently limited to half capacity, with the option to dine in or grab a to-go bag from the dining room. They are using a very handy app for menus and to schedule reservations for many activities so they can limit capacity, meaning you no longer have to deal with lines and you feel like a total VIP with private sessions of things like go carts and bumper cars!
No matter what you're into, you'll find PLENTY to do at Woodloch! My family's personal outdoor favorites are the go carts (min 58" to drive, but kids 36"+ can ride with an adult), junior go carts (48"-58" to drive), scenic boat tour, mini golf, paddle boats, bumper boats, 2 playgrounds including one that was brand new for us with simply massive slides, and just walking around the property and exploring the beautiful nature.
If you keep your eyes peeled you'll be entertained by speedy chipmunks, curious squirrels, meandering deer, robins, Koi fish, and more! There are signs to watch out for bear but we've yet to come across any... On Sundays they also have animals brought over for pony rides and petting. During our stay they had bunnies, a 3 day old lamb, 2 month old calf, and 4 week old twin goats (all with their mamas, of course)!!
Our first stop, every time, is the Woodloch Forest Indoor Playground. It's a massive jungle gym structure that my kids are just bonkers for. They also have a cute baby/toddler area for ages 5 and under. Socks and masks required, no reservations needed but the hours are limited so check the app and schedule your day accordingly! We like to give our kids 30 minutes there at least daily! My personal favorite indoor activity this year was the bumper cars, because it was the first year every person in my family was tall enough to drive their own car (min 40"), AND due to the pandemic, you have to make a reservation and get a private session!!! Screaming. Laughing. Racing. Spinning. Crashing. So so so so so much fun!!! Other indoor favorites are the arts & crafts room (no reservations needed and you could use any supplies you want or use their pre-made kits for that day's suggested craft), the indoor pool (with kiddy splash zone, baby pool, family-friendly jacuzzi, adult-only jacuzzi and sauna, and big slide and splash zone - my kids were old enough for the slide but not able to do it yet since they can't swim independently without floatation devices yet).
When staying at the all-inclusive Woodloch Resort, you have the option of the 2 or 3 meal plan. We always go for the 3-meals a day because, quite honestly, they have the best food of any of the hotels and resorts we have been to! SO GOOD!!! As mentioned above, you currently have the option of dining in the dining room (some lunches are outdoor BBQ's) or having them pack up your meal to go (if worried about indoor dining). But, they did have the dining room at half capacity with tables spread out so we decided to keep it simple and eat in the dining room. Our table was right by the windows facing the lake, so, how could we pass that up!? They always have a couple of appetizers and several main entrees to choose from, family style sides for the table, and a couple of desserts to choose from. Food comes out really fast, and portions are HUGE but if you need to order more or something else, no worries, go for it!
It wouldn't be an all-inclusive resort without offering entertainment every night, now would it!? And they have got some great stuff going on!! They do require you get tickets, so they can make sure they stay under the safe capacity max, and we went to the 7pm show both nights and it was nearly empty. Sad for the performers but pretty awesome for us!! The first night we saw a band called Nowhere Slow and they did a medley of top songs from each decade, from 60's to to today. It was SO fun, our girls danced their booties off. Heads up though, it's VERY loud at the front of the house. We realized if you move to the back it was much better for our kids' sensitive ears. The second night was a comedy act which we didn't stay the whole time for, the content was definitely G-rated and kid-friendly but was just kind of above holding our young kids' attention. They were exhausted anyway, so calling it an early night was smart. In past stays, our kids were just too young to stay up for the nightly entertainment though we did make a splurge for a magician show last time and it was awesome. They even had my son up on the stage!
We were provided with an Edgewater Suite in the Springbrook Section of the resort, which is very convenient as you don't have to go outside to reach the indoor pool! It's just a short walk to the main lodge dining area and all activities! 2 bathrooms (1 with a shower, 1 with a tub), 2 queens in the bedroom and a pull out sofa in the living room, a microwave and mini fridge, and large closet / luggage room. It was the perfect size for our family! It did seem like musical chairs the first night with the kids figuring out where they would sleep. They finally settled with the girls sharing the sofa bed in the living room, my son taking a queen to himself, and my husband and I sharing the other queen. It had a balcony with a gorgeous view of the property and lake.
It happened to be the weekend before our twins' 5th birthday so I mentioned it at check in and they said they'd do something special! And they did!! At dinner they announced their birthday (along with several other birthdays and anniversaries) and the girls lit up hearing their names!!! Then, they brought over two cupcakes the size of their heads while singing happy birthday! Such a fun way to celebrate!!
Home Away from Home!!
Once you visit Woodloch for the first time, during a pandemic or not, you'll understand why families go back again and again and again. Some decide to buy a vacation home on the property, others simply book their family vacation there annually. Because, it really does feel like a home away from home. A much more fun and relaxing home, that is! Every single staff member you run across is friendly and goes above and beyond helping you in whatever way they can. On the last morning, after checkout, my husband lost his wallet. They sent someone back to the room with me to check, and then offered to drive me to all the spots we had been to that morning. Eventually we gave up looking and continued on with our day. A couple of hours later I got a phone call that the go cart staff member had found the wallet, and they brought it to us at the indoor playground. We really lucked out that they found it before we left, and were so incredibly grateful!! Friendly and helpful staff can really make or break a resort, and at Woodloch, they are everything!! Of course the grounds are spectacularly beautiful, the food is amazing, the activities are endless. No wonder they've been voted the Best Family Resort in America. You just have to go see for yourself!!! Located in Hawley, Pennsylvania, it's just a quick drive from NYC (they also have a shuttle from the bus stop if you don't have a car)!.
Don't miss our videos from our previous stays at Woodloch!! Summer 2016 and Winter 2018 (boy oh boy have our kids grown!!!):
If you have a city slicker family like mine, you like to get away every once in a while and let your kids experience different environments, am I right!? For your next family vacation, I highly recommend the uber family-friendly Pine Ridge Dude Ranch all-inclusive resort in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, named one of the top 10 family resorts in the USA, just a quick and easy 2.5 hour drive from NYC! Watch our highlights video and keep reading for more details about what you can expect, and don't forget to enter my GIVEAWAY at the bottom for your chance to win 1 night at Pine Ridge Dude Ranch, named the #1 East Coast Dude Ranch!
Disclaimer: We were provided a complimentary stay in exchange for our review, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own and complete unbiased!
Most activities are complimentary, including indoor and outdoor pools with water slides (no kiddie pools unfortunately), bounce pillow (my husband's favorite), playground, petting zoo (my son's favorite), rock wall, archery (watch the video, I was worse than my 3.5 year olds, yikes!!), tractor rides, paddle boats, sports and board games, after-dinner activity (like meeting a new baby animal or feeding horses), marshmallow roasting at the campfire, and nightly entertainment like magicians and comedians (though it starts at 9pm which was just too late for my kiddos), and really fun activities led by the social director throughout the day (things like line dancing, inflatable horse races, and water balloon battles).
Most packages also include a trail ride (ages 8+) and daily pony ride for younger kids, and extra experiences can be purchased such as private riding lessons, "own a horse for the day", hands on barn experiences, and more. If you need some kid-free time, they do have a half day camp for kids ages 3-10, which is extra ($35 for 1 kid, $55 for 2 kids, $70 for 3 kids). Other extras include the arcade, lasertag ($10/person), paintball ($35/person), and massage.
The ranch is well themed - very rustic with Western decor to the max! All staff were outfitted in flannel shirts and cowboy hats (and all were incredibly friendly and helpful!), most guests wore cowboy boots, it was kitsch in the best way! We were provided a large room in the Dakota wing that included a king bed, XL full bed, and bunk bed (which my kids went nuts for!). It was spacious, even with luggage, a stroller, and one of their cribs you still wouldn't feel cramped. It was also nice and quiet, which I find to be hit or miss at hotels - I always bring ear plugs but was pleasantly surprised to not need them at the ranch! The grounds were large with lots of greenery, but never more than a 5 minute walk between activities.
The food at Pine Ridge was SO GOOD!!! Check-in is at 2pm so your first included meal is dinner, from 6-7PM, which always includes a salad bar and a few entrees to choose from, as well as dessert (jello, ice cream, and a pie or cake). Breakfast, from 8-9:30AM, is buffet style with delicious hot treats such as eggs, bacon, pancakes with fruit topping, selection of cereals and oatmeal, fruit and yogurt bar, and pastries. Lunch varied, from 12:30-1:30PM, sometimes buffet style in the dining room and sometimes outdoor BBQ, and is your last meal on check-out day. They also have some food and beverage options that aren't included: alcohol in the dining room or at other bars, a Starbucks kiosk, poolside bar, and Chuckwagon Grill & Snackbar (open from 2pm). That said, we found eating their 3 meals a day was plenty and we didn't need to purchase extra.
DEALS & RATES:
Pine Ridge Dude Ranch by nature, as an all-inclusive resort, is not cheap vacation, but it's also not as expensive as you might think. Rates in summer go for as low as $209 per adult per night ($69 - $99 per child), and just $149 per adult per night in September! You can find some great deals on their website here, for example 50% off your 3rd night, 10% off for military and first responders. And don't forget, pretty much everything is included (except for tips), so when you calculate that, as well as not having to pay for air fare to an all-inclusive in the Caribbean let's say, it really is a great bang for your buckaroo!! They also have day passes if you live nearby or are staying elsewhere. These are $40 per adult, $20 per child, and include lunch, a pony ride per child, indoor / outdoor pools, tractor rides, bounce pillow, petting zoo, basketball, tennis, bocce, shuffleboard, and more. An extra $25 per trail ride.
Enter for your chance to win a one-night stay for 4 people in the Rafflecopter box below! Open to US residents ages 18+. The more actions you take, the more chances to win you will accumulate. GOOD LUCK!
Family vacations are so important, for making memories and experiencing new things together, but if I'm being honest, as a mother of 3 small children, they sometimes don't quite feel like vacation to me. I just kinda feel like I'm parenting in another location, and deserve a vacation after coming back from the vacation! But this past weekend, we found the answer to our vacation woes. A super duper family-friendly ALL-INCLUSIVE resort near NYC that includes, wait for it, CHILD CARE!!! This amazing place is none other than Rocking Horse Ranch in Highland, New York, just a quick 2 hour drive north from New York City (or hop on Amtrak and they'll have a shuttle pick you up from the station!).
Full disclosure, we were provided our stay free of charge in exchange for our review and promotion. But don't worry, as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own and completely unbiased - I'm no sell out!!!
Watch our fun video here and keep reading for details on the Rocking Horse Ranch accommodations, activities, food, and more!!
The main grounds of Rocking Horse Ranch are pretty compact, which made everything super convenient! Our room was located in the Main Lodge and we could get to the pool, dining room, arcade, and theater without going outside! And it was just a quick walk outside to the other areas including the playground, stables, day care, fun barn, etc.
They have rooms accommodating 4 - 6 people. We got the "Main Lodge AA" room for 6 people, which included 2 queen beds and a bunk bed, which my kids were over the moon for!!! Our 5 year old took the top bunk (which has built in rails) and our 3 year old twins shared the bottom bunk (I simply pulled 2 wooden chairs over to use as a makeshift rail and it worked like a charm. But frankly, everyone was so exhausted after a full day on the ranch that they crashed quickly and slept like the dead. The room was spacious and included a TV, fridge, shower/bath, toilet, 2 sinks, coffee table, dresser, and tons of hanging / storage space.
The room, like the entire hotel, had a fun ranch / cowboy / Wild West theme, and seemed newly renovated. Everything was in immaculate condition, super clean, and honestly impressed the heck out of me!
As you would expect at an all-inclusive resort, all meals were included. Breakfast and Lunch were buffet style, and dinner was sit down and order off the menu, however there was no limit on how much you could order. On your first day, you must make a dinner reservation and that same time will remain your dinner time for your entire stay. We struggled with what time to sign up for, not wanting it to cut into our fun activities and also not make us rushed to get to the 8pm nightly entertainment! We settled on 6:30PM and it was perfect. The dining area itself, just like the rest of the hotel, has a beautifully decorated rustic cowboy type theme, complete with dozens of antler chandeliers, views of the surrounding forest, and a gorgeous fireplace (bring your cameras, this is one of the many great spots in the hotel for some family photos)!
Breakfast was delicious, featuring eggs, pancakes, french toasts with strawberries, bacon, eggs, danishes, oatmeal and yogurt stations, tons of fresh fruit and individual cereal boxes, bagels, etc. You can also order eggs anyway you like, we got a bacon and cheese omelet that was ah-may-zing (be sure to scroll through the food gallery above)!!
Lunch had some standards like hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and DIY sandwiches, pastas, make-your-own bar like tacos, sloppy joes, etc. The fun part about lunch is the Character meet-and-greet. Even though they weren't well-known characters from TV, our kids were so excited to hug and high-five Betsy the Horse, a Prospector, and a Cowboy (see below)!
Dinner consisted of a soup, a salad, 2 appetizers, 6 or so main dishes, and 2 sides. Menus of all meals are posted before each meal outside the dining room, just in case you want to go over it before sitting down at the table, which can be a crazy time for families like mine! You could order as much as you wanted, and even order basics not on the menu that might be more picky-kid-friendly, pizza for example. As hard as it is with all that endless food to devouer, I encourage you to SAVE ROOM FOR DESSERT because they have a to-die-for selection of pies, as well as soft serve ice cream sundae bar, cookies, etc. YUMMMMMMM!!!!!
There are two self-serve drink bars in the dining room, with all kinds of sodas, whole milk, chocolate milk, water, and flavored waters. A separate server comes around in case you want to order alcohol at dinner, which is not included. There is also a 24-hour coffee / hot chocolate / pastry station located in one of the common areas near the lobby - all free, of course!
At Rocking Horse Ranch, child care (or "day camp" if you prefer) is free of charge for ages 3 - 12, and $12 per hour per child under the age of 3! No reservations needed, just drop-in between 9am - 5pm and pick them back up whenever! Use as long or as often as needed during your stay! It was SO AMAZING, I don't ever want to go on "vacation" again without a child care option LOL! Not only was it great to get some (free) alone time with my husband, but the kids LOVED it there! They actually begged to go back!! They have 2 rooms, one for ages 0-5, and one for ages 6-12. They have tons of age-appropriate activities in the rooms, but they also give the kids the option to go on trips outside to the various activities. They took our kids moon jumping, to see the animals, to the play ground, etc!
PONY RIDES & HORSE BACK RIDING:
Now, it wouldn't be a RANCH without some horses and other animals, and they are certainly in abundance here! With over 100 horses to ride, they're able to guarantee a free daily trail ride to every guest (must be 48" and above, under 48" can take pony rides). You'll need to select a time (same daily) for your ride, but you can also get extra rides waiting standby at other ride times. We met some girls who were riding 3 times a day! They accommodate any level, from first-time beginners (like us) to intermediate (walk-trot) and advanced (walk-trot-canter). You can attend a demonstration to learn more about the horses, the stable, and how to ride, or you can wing it as we did - the staff will give you a 30-second instruction about how to hold the reins and control the horse, and then you're on your own to keep your horse in check as you head out with a group on your 45 minute trail ride.
I'm not gonna lie, I was rather terrified. Those horses are huge and while they're tame and more or less know what to do because they do the same trail ride several times a day, you had to be careful not to let your horse get too close to the next horse or else they might spook each other or bite or whatever, oh my gosh it was very nerve wracking for me. There are wranglers riding along with the group though, and they gallop over to come to help out within a few seconds (nothing major happened on our ride, just a few horses got out of line to munch on some grass and occasionally a rider needed help getting back in line). I'm very proud of myself that I did it, despite my fear, but we decided not to go back for a second ride haha! My sore butt thanked me.
Our kids, on the other hand, were absolutely in love with their pony rides!! The last time Emi had a chance to ride, a year ago at 2 years old, she was so petrified she wouldn't even touch the horse. But this time, she was so happy to be up on that pony. All of them were. And my heart nearly exploded with the cuteness of it all!!!
Rocking Horse Ranch has a great indoor water park area with a big pool in the lower section (with a fun bobbing platform area to walk across), a nice splash area for the younger crowd in the upper section (with 1 small and 2 medium sized slides), and a MONSTER of a water slide for the older kids and adults. That slide is 250 feet long, and let me warn you, you go FAST!!! It is really really fun!!! I was shocked my 5 year old was brave enough to go it alone, but he did and he loved it, rode it about 5 times during our stay!!
The water and air temperatures in there are kept at a balmy 85 degrees fahrenheit, so no chills to worry about, and they also have great life jackets for the kids to wear (for 30-50 pounds). Down one flight of stairs (which isn't kept as warm, so you'll need to dry off or bundle up) you'll find bathrooms, showers, changing rooms, and saunas. Or you can run through the hallways from your room to the pool in your bathing suits, as we did haha!
ACTIVITIES, ANIMALS, & ENTERTAINMENT:
No matter your age or interest, you will find plenty to do at Rocking Horse Ranch, and nearly all of it is free of charge for guests (the only things I ran across that cost extra were alcohol, arcade games, and mining camp, but anything that costs extra will be noted so on the daily activity guides).
In the indoor Fun Barn (pictured above) you'll find a bouncy house, large jungle gym with lots of foam ball shooting devices, badminton, ping pong, and electric rock climbing. Outside of that, you'll find 3 moon jumping trampolines (pictured below) and a rock climbing platform.
Near the stables, you'll find an enormous playground (pictured above), indoor BB shooting range & archery, Highland Cattle, zebra, camel, pigs, donkeys, and goats. You can watch a silversmith make horse shoes (they have over 100 horses, each needing new shoes every 6-8 weeks - be sure to watch our video to see them putting new shoes on a horse, it's fascinating!!).
Our favorite activity was definitely the mountain tubing. They have a "Magic Carpet Lift" that brings you and your tubes up, and fly down down the huge hill at super speed!!! You cannot double up in one tube, but even our 3 year olds were fine riding solo. Sometimes they'll let you go double with 2 tubes (1 person in each) and 1 person holding the leash of the other tube. We enjoyed that as well. At night they light it up in fun colors and it brings it to a whole new level of fun!
Inside the main lodge, in the basement, you'll find the Lucky Horseshoe Arcade with pay-to-play machines as well as 2 lanes of free mini bowling, and a fun interactive floor game.
Down the hall from the arcade, you'll find the Silverado Saloon where they have daily activities such as scavenger hunts, trivia games and nightly live entertainment (we saw a great magician there).
In the summer they have more outdoor activities open up including an outdoor pool and water slide, and in winter they have snow tubing and skiing! They also have a softball field, tennis courts, horseshoe pitching, basketball courts, shuffleboard courts, horse-drawn wagon or sleigh rides, and you can take a shuttle to a golf course and the Walkway Across the Hudson!
Seasonal, of course, they make a killer haunted house, with nighttime tours as well as "not as scary" (but still super creepy and gross) day time behind the scenes tours, which my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed. They tell you how they made it, how they mange from above the crowds, use trap doors etc. Be sure to watch my video for some of the cool behind the scenes tour!
So there you have it, our family vacation at Rocking Horse Ranch in a big amazingly fun nutshell!! I'm not going to sugar coat it, this is not a low-budget vacation. But you can find deals and make a splurge, because honestly, it's SO worth it!!! Prices I've seen on their booking page range from about $349 - $979 per room per night, but don't forget, this includes EVERYTHING during your stay!
What do you think?? Is this on your list of places to visit? Have you been before? Have another place to recommend for us to try out? Be sure to head on over to our great FAMILY-FRIENDLY DAY TRIPS & WEEKEND GETAWAYS FROM NYC page for some other great destinations!!
We were just hosted for a long weekend at the family-friendly all-inclusive Woodloch Resort in The Poconos and had THE BEST TIME!! Not being a cold weather kinda girl, I was a bit nervous, but it was just as awesome as when we went in summer (see that review here). For a taste of what activities and food to expect, keep reading, and don't forget to watch our highlights video on our YouTube channel!
OUR RIDE THERE:
Last time we journeyed to Woodloch, we took the bus and got a complimentary shuttle from the station to the resort. This time, we rode in style!! We were provided a beautiful 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid LE from Toyota for the weekend. With seating for 8 passengers and producing a 280 hybrid system net horsepower with 30 city mpg and 28 highway mpg, the Highlander was just what we needed for our familiy of 5. Using the LATCH system for our twins' Combi Coccoro car seats (affiliate link) and our 5 year old sandwiched between them in his Mifold booster (my blog review here), we were able to easily fit all 3 in the center row. This meant I was able to hand them snacks and screens, and it was extremely helpful when my son got super car sick on the way home. Thankfully mama had thought ahead and brought some metal bowls just in case the Dramamine didn't do its job!
The 2018 Highlander has great cargo space, especially with the back row folded down (or you can utilize the back row's 60/40 split). It earned the "Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle" (SULEV) rating, which is surprising for a SUV, and its electric on-demand all wheel drive with intelligence (AWD-i) made driving on curvy mountain roads a dream (except for aforementioned carsickness...). With a MSRP starting at $36,670 it's a great option for families needing safety and space!
OUTDOOR WINTER ACTIVITIES:
There was a lot of snow, but we didn't cross a single slippery step. They do such an amazing job of clearing paths and roads, even the go carts were safe to race around the track! My kiddos loved simply playing in the snow, but we all had a blast on their complimentary Snow Tubing run!! It's a hike up the hill lugging the tube (especially with a toddler bumming a ride) but a great way to burn off that morning's breakfast LOL! We didn't partake in their "Winter Olympics" but watched others for a bit and it looked like a lot of fun!
Some of their outdoor activities are seasonal and thus closed during winter (such as lake and outdoor pool activities, horse-drawn wagon rides, and snow covered play grounds) but others are year round, weather permitting. We had a blast driving the go carts, even our twins got to ride along this time!! They also have a new outdoor covered 9,000 square foot synthetic ice skating rink, with skate rental ($5 per 2 hours) and walkers for little ones to learn to skate with.
INDOOR YEAR ROUND FUN:
Our go-to indoor activities at Woodloch are the bumper cars (1 rider per car, 40" and up can drive - this was the first time our son was tall enough and he looooooooved it!!!), Woodloch Forest Indoor Playground (a multi level climbing structure for ages 3+ though our 2.5 year olds did ok with our help, with zip line, slides, rolling barrels, you name it - SO fun for the kids and parents, you'll have to watch our video to get a better feel of it; they also have a 5 and under section for the littlest ones), and the Toddler Room (a small play room with TONS of toys, and parents can kinda sit back and relax). Our kids love the "kiddie cars" (electric kid-sized SUVs) but to be honest they make me really anxious since the kids are HORRIBLE drivers and crash into each other and parents as they try to supervise. It's hilarious, but nerve wracking haha!
And of course, the indoor pool complex!!!! Be sure to set aside at least 2 hours for this on the daily. There's a huge room with a big pool, a few hot tub options for various ages (one is adults only because it's so hot, one is 1' deep wading/infant pool), and one is an all ages not-too-hot hot tub LOL). In another section is a decent sized kid's area with lots of little water jet activities, and 2 teeny water slides. In a completely separate room, and not to be missed, is the Splash Zone with a huge double cork screw water slide (you must be 42"+) and 300 gallon bucket that tips over every couple of minutes!! They have a rack of PuddleJumpers and life vests to borrow (though I didn't notice any for under 30 pounds, so you may want to bring your own baby float or be prepared to carry babies and smaller toddlers)!
There were some new activities we didn't get a chance to do, but definitely worth mentioning!!! They have a new Escape Room (ages 13+) and mini bowling (extra charge for both).
You don't have to get a meal plan at Woodloch, but I highly recommend splurging for it (you can get a 2 meal or 3 meal plan). The food is phenomenal and meals are a highlight of our trips there!! A different character greets your children at the entrance for each meal, 2 of our 3 kids were over the moon about this, I loved seeing their faces light up as they run over and give hugs and high fives to them (our more reserved child was terrified of all except the "human" characters i.e. Minion was a no-no, but Captain America was great!).
Breakfast doesn't start til 8:30AM though, and if you have early 5-6AM risers like we do, it's pure torture waiting for food, and none of the activities open til 8-10AM, so consider bringing snacks to munch on and activities to kill time in the early morning - or make use of their cable TV and free wifi.
I can't even go into all the yummy food we had, so I'm including a slide show of some of the meals below. You're given a table that will be yours for the entirety of your visit, which is cool because you don't have to figure out seating and where to put the high chairs and all that, and the kids enjoy being the leaders and taking the family to your table each day!!
Each breakfast you'll have a HUGE crumb cake waiting for you on your table. Lunch and dinner have a selection of entrees to choose from, but each meal is all you can eat, so you can select multiple entrees or custom order such as a half size of 2 different ones. Some side items are family style, and Sunday lunch is a buffet. They also have a selection of kid-friendly staples such as pizza, chicken tenders, PB&J, and grilled cheese. They have crayons and coloring booklets if you ask, and their high chairs are really great, escape proof for my little Houdinis!!
We were provided 2 nights in an Edgewater Suite in Springbrook on the main Woodloch Pines property. It was the perfect location in winter because we could get to the pool complex without going outside! And it was just a 5-10 minute walk to the dining area, indoor playground, and bumper cars, and a 10-15 minute walk to the go carts and ice skating area.
They do have a shuttle that goes around the property every 20 minutes or so, but mostly we walked because we were lucky with beautiful, albeit cold, weather and enjoyed walking around the property. Last time, we had our double stroller with us and found it doable, though some of the paths are quite steep!
The room was spotless, with gorgeous lake views from the living room (with balcony) and bedroom! A sleeper sofa and matching love seat, and they installed bedrails on both of our queen beds so we could co-sleep with our kids without worrying about anyone falling out! Every plug not in use had a baby proof cover on it - they really think of everything! The room also had 2 bathrooms (one with a shower, one with a tub) which was a treat since our own home only has one bathroom!!
So, pretty ahhhhmayzing, am I right!? It should go without saying that Woodloch is by no means considered a "budget" vacation. But you get what you pay for, and you get a LOT at Woodloch! You could spend well over a week here without doing all of the free activities they offer! With a 3 meal plan for a family of 4 during peak vacation times, you could easily spend over $1K for 2 nights (but don't forget, that covers your room, food, and activities!). That said, there are certainly ways to score a better deal, so check out the "exclusive offers" page on their website occasionally - off peak rates start at $159 per adult per night (plus tax and 15% gratuity that gets divided by all the staff).
Some offers they currently have going on include:
Have you been to Woodloch or any other family-friendly resorts or destinations? Leave a comment below and let us know!! And don't forget to check out our fun highlights video of our trip below (be sure to subscribe!)
DISCLAIMER: While we were provided complimentary room & board by Woodloch and a complimentary vehicle by Toyota in exchange for our reviews, all thoughts and opinions are our own - completely honest and unbiased - we're no sellouts!! We only share what we truly loooooove!!
Looking for an all-inclusive family-friendly resort with amazing and engaging activities for all ages, food for every palate, set in a beautiful landscape a mere 2-3 hours by car/bus/train from New York City!? Look no further than Woodloch Resort, ranked America's #1 Family Resort by Tripadvisor!!
After spending 2 nights / 3 days there with my family of five I can tell you one thing, it was not nearly long enough time in this city-escape paradise!! Sitting here typing my review is bitter sweet because it reminds me of the wonderful memories we made as a family there, but makes me want to turn off the computer and catch the first bus back!! Alas, I will stifle that urge for the greater good, because I just have to share with everyone all of the fun stuff we did and why Woodloch is such a fabulous place!
When we walked into the Main Lodge to check-in, I have to admit my first impression was "Hmmm... a bit out dated?". A mish-mosh of rustic plaids and patterns, a large (real) stuffed bear (which my toddler became obsessed with), several comfy sofas and chairs filled with happy guests chatting away. I generally prefer modern and sleek design, but you know what? It grew on me, and eventually I started to contemplate whether it was needing an update or if it was on purpose - nothing was actually old or dingy - it kind of adds to the charm of the place, it feels like visiting gramma's mountain house!
The grounds are enormous (1200 acres that can accommodate over 1,000 guests!!), kind of overwhelming at first but once walking from end to end (less than half a mile, and they have a free shuttle running every 15 minutes if you prefer) you start to get your bearings of where everything is. The lake is huge and pristine, absolutely beautiful!! The walking paths are a mixture of paved and gravel, and wind you through the property which is covered in beautiful trees and is just breath-taking. As you get further away from the lake, and cross the street you get deeper into the heavily forested area and find signs reminding you that you are actually in real-life nature and need to beware of bears! Yikes! We never saw any, thankfully, but did meet plenty of deer and chipmunks.
The buildings and grounds are meticulously maintained. Beautiful, clean, just spectacular! We were there in the middle of summer, outside at various points in the day from sunrise past sunset, and you know what? We didn't run across a single mosquito or bee. That was a very happy surprise!! Not sure how they manage it, but THANK YOU (I hate bugs, can you tell?)!!
At breakfast each morning, you'll find on the table the day's schedule, which includes everything going on for the entire day - things that are daily as well as events specific for that day only. Almost everything is included with your stay - water skiing, go carts, bumper cars, boat tours, climbing wall, indoor and outdoor pools, horse-drawn hay rides, bumper boats, kayaking, paddle boating, row boats, sailboats, lake beach and waterslide, volleyball, outdoor and indoor playgrounds (socks required at indoor playgrounds for kids and adults!), horse shoes, arts & crafts, bicycles (with helmets and baby seats), shuffleboard, bocce, mini-golf, trivia, scavenger hunts, and tons of games and contests (with award ceremonies) for the whole family!! There are some activities that cost extra, but are pretty cheap when compared to what you would pay elsewhere - an hour long segway tour for $50, 12 balls at the batting cage for $1, $30 for 250 paintballs, $20 for 1 hour zip lining, etc.
They also have daily evening entertainment for kids and adults (and an adults-only nightclub!), but with start times of 8 to 9pm it was simply too late for my family to enjoy. We opted instead to take a sunset walk after dinner each night and hit the hay early, since our twins wake me up 3+ times a night and our toddler is up by 6am *yawn*!
It's hard to know what to expect of the food at an all-inclusive resort... will the food be marginal or exceptional? Will they serve enough to fill me up? Will I need to bring or purchase snacks to get me through the day? Well, I can tell you, the meals are huge and delicious. Expect to gain a couple of pounds!
Each meal has a 1-hour seating window for all guests to arrive (and stay until they finish, no pressure). The dining room is HUGE and has a great view of the lake. The seating times vary but are around 8:30-9:30 for breakfast (which I found to be WAY too late for our family, with the kids up by 5:30 or 6 I was STARVING by breakfast and had to pound a pre-breakfast snack bar from home), lunch at 12:30-1:30, and dinner at 6:30-7:30pm. Breakfast and dinner were usually a mixture of la carte and family style (but you can get as much as you want), with lunch being buffet style. I was very impressed with the food, stuffed myself silly at each and every meal and don't regret it one bit!! It's vacation! The French Crumb Cake greets you each morning and you can even order it (and other baked goods) to take home with you. They are extremely accommodating making special requests, and the service is FAST and friendly. It's amazing how they can serve so many guests at the same time, but they've worked out an impressive system and everything arrived piping hot and YUMMMMMO! Alcohol is not included, nor are the super cute kids' cocktails which all come with some sort of toy or gadget.
A dozen or so staff line up at the restaurant entrance to greet you at each meal, and the owner (or another manager) makes a public announcement at each dinner - announcing each and every celebration going on that day - every birthday, anniversary, graduation, you name it. They also have some sing-alongs and similar quick activities that are lots of fun and just another way they are able to make all the guests feel like one big family. Someone mentioned to me Woodloch is like a real life Kellerman's (you know, the lodge in Dirty Dancing), and I have to agree. All of the little touches add up to make such a difference and give such a friendly and home-like atmosphere!!
The Family-Friendly Aspects
They seriously thought of everything, down to the nitty gritty details. Our hotel room had child-proof plugs in every single outlet. The cribs? Not pack 'n plays but ACTUAL CRIBS!! I've never encountered this in over 3 years of hotel stays with babies. I was thrilled my babies could sleep on comfy mattresses in metal cribs that could be cleaned properly rather than fabric pack 'n plays that get dingy with mats that are so uncomfortable!
Every public bathroom, both men's and women's, had changing tables and built-in step stools for kids to wash hands. High chairs in the dining room, a pretty decent kid's menu for every meal (though no baby food or offer to make purees, which was a bit disappointing). Activities for all ages, several play areas for babies and toddlers (including a huge indoor jungle gym that is seriously like a kids' version of American Ninja Warrier - SO fun!!!), a huge rack of various sizes of life jackets and puddle jumpers for kids to borrow at the pools, several 1' deep heated pool areas for the babies/toddlers, and lifeguards at every indoor and outdoor water area.
Overall I would say it was quite stroller-friendly, though there are a few places (such as the Woodloch Forrest indoor play gym) that have stairs and no elevator, and the grounds are quite hilly. We didn't have much trouble getting around with our double-wide stroller (it's a great glutes workout!), but opted to wear the babies and leave the stroller in our room or in the coat room near the restaurant much of the time.
Another really cool thing they have is a character greeting families as they enter the restaurant at breakfast, lunch, and dinner! It was so fun to chat with our son on our way to each meal about which character he thought might be there, and to see his face light up in delight when he discovered who it was - running into their arms for a big hug (and photo of course)! During our stay he got to meet Cookie Monster, Elmo, Mike from Monster's Inc, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and Winnie the Pooh!
Woodloch highly encourages families to spend their vacation together making memories, but understands sometimes parents need some time alone. They have amazingly affordable babysitting services, provided by local sitters as well as Woodloch staff during their off-hours. They charge $10 per hour for 1 child, and $1 per hour for each additional child. We were about to jump on this until we saw the fine print - they may require another sitter for more than one infant or toddler, and the minimum for each sitter is $40. So for our family with 3 under 4 years old, it wasn't such a great a deal anymore, but still a nice option if you want to enjoy the spa or night club or just take a much needed nap! In the end we decided not to get a sitter, but maybe next time...
The Customer Service
Yet another thing that completely blew me away at Woodloch? The customer service and staff. The most friendly bunch I have ever come across. Every single employee, whether at the front desk or walking past you on a path in the woods, smiles and waves and says hello, and will stop what they're doing to take you where you need to go. Many of the guests are there for family reunions (all wearing matching t-shirts of course), and many others come back year after year. Guests and staff alike will stop and talk to you about their past experiences and recommendations. You start to get the feeling that you have been welcomed into the big happy Woodloch family with open arms.
At every meal, at least 3 different non-server staff stop by to chat and ask you how you're stay is going and if you have any questions. Even the owner came by at each dinner, dressed festively each day in a different pair of pants and tie featuring various cartoons and characters. So fun!
The Journey There
Of course if you have a car, that is the way to go (directions here), but it's also pretty easy to get to Woodloch via public transportation!! We took the Short Line bus (Coach USA) bus from NYC's Port Authority to Hawley (3-4 hours) where they had a complementary shuttle waiting to pick us up! They have complementary car seats as well, though for liability reasons the guests are required to strap them in (which literally took us 20 minutes the first time since all 3 car seats were different styles and we were clueless - a bit of a nightmare but it was nice to have car seats for the 15 minute ride). You can also take the train to Port Jervis where they have a shuttle (for a fee), and they'll even come pick you up at AVP airport or beyond.
Woodloch is not a low-budget vacation, but that's not to say it isn't totally doable for just about any family! Depending on your budget, you can go without a meal plan or get the 2 or 3 meals a day plan. You can get a small room, a large suite, or even a whole house! You can go peak (July/August/Christmas/New Year) or off-season - for example you can book mid-week in October or November for as low as $108 per adult! Now that is a great deal! And don't forget there are tons of indoor options, including pools for kids and adults, so whether you go in the middle of summer, for fall foliage, or in the winter wonderland, there will be plenty of fun to be had! Check out their booking options here, and see their accommodation options here.
And finally, don't miss my video montage - check out our family in action enjoying all that Woodloch has to offer, including a tour of the property and our suite!
So what do you think? Have you ever been to Woodloch or are you planning to go? Share in a comment below!!
Disclaimer: Although I was provided a complimentary stay in exchange for my review, all thoughts and opinions are my own - I'm no sell out! Woodloch is truly a magical place and I can't recommend it highly enough for a fabulous family vacation!
Each year we spend a good chunk of time and money going to my hometown to visit our family. My sister's family comes in from Montreal and mine from NYC. All of us are avid travelers and wanderlusters, so we sat down last year and unanimously agreed that we would start taking trips somewhere new rather than just going home, as much as budget allows.
This year marked our first attempt and it was, in a word, A-MAY-ZING!!! As word spread of our exciting plans, extended family jumped in and we ended up with a group of 19 adults and children joining from USA, Canada, and Japan!! And the location? Puerto Vallarta, Mexico!
Our requirements were:
Meeting all of our requirements was the Crown Paradise Club Puerto Vallarta. For my family of 5 (granted the 2 babies were free), one week including flights, hotel, all food and drinks, was $3,000. Awesomely budget-friendly!!
For us, 2 best things about the Crown Paradise were:
1) Their pirate-ship themed kids' pool, featuring a bunch of water slides (9?), which was SOOOOOO much fun for the kids and adults!
2) Their kids' programs. They have a "Baby Paradise" where you can drop off kids ages 18 months - 4 years, for free!! Unfortunately our son lasted all of 5 minutes in there before our pager went off and we had to run back to pick up our sobbing child. Ugh. Apparently another child wanted to share, and ours did not... But he did love the little ride-in car we got to borrow from them. He was riding in style around the resort!! They also have a "Kids Paradise" for kids ages 4-12, and this was great. During the day the leaders would walk around the pools collecting kids for games and contests, and in the evenings they had "parties" the kids could attend while parents went off to have romantic child-free dinners.
Also amazing was the food. Their buffet was great, TONS to choose from and even a kids' buffet corner. They had 3 a la carte restaurants which were great (Italian, Asian, and French), but a bit annoying because you have to call a day ahead, from your room, to make a reservation.
The beach was beautiful, though I'm not much of an ocean girl. Some of our party did the free kayaking, and my hubby and his family paid extra for parasailing!! It was really exciting to watch, maybe I'll get the guts to actually do it next time!
The rooms were nothing special, but they were clean and ours had a nice balcony with views of 2 pools and the beach. I enjoyed nursing my babies out there while people watching!! We got 2 complimentary pack 'n plays for our girls, and there was plenty of room to fit them, but they were very dingy and disappointing. Our babies are only 5 months so clean sheets fitted over the mat was fine, but if they had been older and standing and chewing on the rail of the beds, yikes, I would have been really upset... So, if this sounds like your situation you may want to consider bringing along your own baby bed (like a blow up Dock a Tot perhaps).
The free nightly entertainment was also a bit disappointing. First off because it was not quite the level of professionalism and excitement as I was expecting, but also because it was so late. Most shows didn't start til 9, and after bringing all the kids to 2 shows I quickly realized it wasn't worth it. For the rest of the week we all went back to the room after dinner, nursed the babies, and were in bed by 9pm.
The only other negative thing at all I have to say about the resort was that several underwater steps in the kids' multi-level water park were no longer marked. I tripped going up and down steps that I didn't see, and I witnessed several children unexpectedly going under water because they missed steps down. We had water wings on our toddler and he was never out of reach, but this seemed a bit dangerous. Also, there were no life guards. So, long story short, please keep a close eye (or hand) on your kids if they're not very good in the water.
If you start getting antsy to get out on some adventures, there are TONS of excursions you can book right from the hotel (and if you have the time to sit through time share spiels, you can free excursions or other goodies). We did a full-day city/tequileria/jungle tour which was pretty cool, but I would have been 100% fine with just staying on the resort property for the full week! With all of our family with us, they were so helpful with watching the babies while we swam or ate, it was so relaxing and one of the most amazing vacations of my life... so far!! I really hope we can visit the Cancun location of Crown Paradise sometime soon!!!
Here's a video montage of our stay in Puerto Vallarta, enjoy! We sure did!!!
I'm a NYC metro area mom blogger living in NJ with my Japanese husband & our 3 kids (twins plus 1), focusing on fun and honest product and travel reviews, saving moms time finding the best for their families! Find what you need in the menu bar or search section above!