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!
About Me ^_^
I'm a NYC metro area mom blogger living in NJ with my Japanese husband & our 3 kids (twins plus 1). This blog is chock full of product reviews, family travel guides, and giveaways galore! It's also home to Bay Ridge Families, and several guides focused on kid-friendly activities and guides to South Brooklyn, Hudson Valley, and New Jersey, as well as family-friendly destinations beyond the NYC area (check the menu bar!)