Lakeside accommodations, farm-inspired cuisine and spa treatments await at this luxury Poconos retreat.
By Kelly A. Magyarics
I’m originally from northeastern Pennsylvania, and head back there every few months to visit family and friends. But it’s been years since I’ve been to the Poconos. Truth be told, when I think of my resort experiences in that area, they range from the not-so-luxurious (wood-paneled hotel walls and mediocre on-site restaurants), to the downright cheesy (Champagne glass or heart-shaped hot tubs.) So I was thrilled to discover another option in this bucolic area, when my best friend and I took a girls’ weekend last spring to The Lodge at Woodloch, an idyllic spa and resort in Hawley, Pennsylvania. As gorgeous as the grounds and resort were at that time, I couldn’t help but wonder how pretty they would look in autumn when the leaves were changing colors, rather than when they were just beginning to bud. In my opinion, now is the perfect time for a stay there; not too cold or too hot for a brisk walk on the property’s trails or a dip in the outdoor Jacuzzi, and perfect to grab a blanket and a glass of wine to lounge around the outdoor fire pit.
Each of the resort’s 57 rooms feature a private veranda with rocking chair. Our room faced the lake and was a gorgeous, relaxing spot to sip a glass of wine before or after dinner. Some rooms instead face the rock garden and waterfall. Amenities were posh and sumptuous: down comforters, a selection of pillows, marble bathrooms with double sinks, oversized showers with rain shower heads. All rooms also have refrigerators, high-speed wired and wireless internet and other amenities you’d expect.
Guests at The Lodge at Woodloch enjoy all their meals at TREE Restaurant and Bar, whose floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the woods and the lake. All packages include three gourmet meals per day, from dinner on the day of your arrival to lunch on the day of departure. There is an emphasis on farm fresh ingredients and healthy preparations, but this is no self-denial, must-starve-yourself spa cuisine. After all, shouldn’t part of any getaway that’s meant to revitalize the mind, body and spirit include enjoying great cuisine? I think so, and the Lodge at Woodloch thankfully subscribes to my philosophy. The culinary team hand selects naturally-raised meats and fish and organic, locally-grown vegetables. The resort has three functioning gardens on property; guests can attend cooking sessions that offer tips on planning menus around seasonal produce, including vegetables, fruit and herbs from the on-site gardens.
You can either order breakfast and lunch from the menu, or select from an ever-changing buffet (the latter is perfect when you need to grab a bit in between spa appointments or fitness classes.) We loved the seasonal farmers’ market omelet, which right now is made with butternut squash, roasted shallots, sage and baby arugula. Pair that with some fresh fruit from the buffet, and chef’s daily lassi (the delicious, creamy smoothie-like Indian drink) or one of the freshly squeezed juices (we were big fans of the apple, carrot and lemongrass juice.)
For lunch, don’t miss the farm vegetable dumplings. Served in a miso lemongrass broth with ginger, scallions, Swiss chard and shiitake mushrooms, the dish is aromatic and warming—I ordered it both days of my stay. My best friend raved about the herb-crusted salmon with stewed tomatoes, roasted garlic, shallots, parsley and aged Balsamic.
The dinner menu changes frequently, but is always served in a three-course prix fixe format, with several choices for each course. Chef may be making dishes like pumpkin bisque with toasted pumpkin seeds, mixed field greens salad with bleu cheese, dried figs and pistachios, and pan seared duck breast, with mushroom bread pudding, baby carrots and Port reduction.
Snacks and beverages, including fruit, trail mix, water, coffee and a selection of teas keep you recharged all day. All guests receive a tote bag and refillable water bottle, and there are ample stations to stay hydrated scattered throughout the property.
You can also attend a wine tasting in the demo kitchen on Friday and Saturday afternoons for a $30 surcharge plus tax and service fee. The 45-minute discussion includes six wines, as well as cheese and fruit. We found the tasting to be geared toward the very beginner, but it can be a nice afternoon respite after a day of spa-ing or other activities.
The Lodge’s luxury adults-only spa offers a large selection of body treatments, massages, facials and salon services. You can also book an early morning outdoor spa treatment nestled among the trees and lake.
For the past few years, the Lodge at Woodloch has partnered with Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head Brewery (Calagione and the resort’s owner are college friends), to offer suds-inspired beer treatments. Heck, I’m game for any spa experience that not only uses beer in the treatment, but lets you sip a cold one during the treatment. Judging from the number of men I saw at the spa that day, beer-themed spa treatments are a great way to nudge reluctant male spa-goers into donning robes and hitting the Whisper Lounge (the pre- and post- treatment spot where you can relax on a lounge chair with magazines, tea, water or a snack.) Calagione was actually there that weekend to promote the beer treatments, and told me he was utterly relaxed after experiencing them firsthand.
I opted for both brew experiences. The Royal Revival (100 minutes, $260 weekdays, $270 weekends) began with a smoothing body exfoliation using hops, barley and honey, followed by a soak in a candlelit room in a bath that included a bottle of one of Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ales, and I appreciated that there was some left in the bottle for me to sip. Afterwards, my therapist gave me a massage with papaya- and melon-infused oil. Pure bliss.
The Muds and Suds Pedicure (50 minutes, $95) was inspired by Dogfish Head’s Palo Santo Marron, an unfiltered brown ale aged in South American Palo Santo wood, which lends it caramel and vanilla notes. While I enjoyed a brew, my feet soaked in a mixture of warm water and beer (in a pretty spot overlooking the woods of the property), followed by exfoliation of my feet and legs with hops and barley, and traditional trimming, filing and painting (guys can forego this last step…or not.) I do have to say that the name of the treatment is a little deceiving—I was a little disappointed that my legs didn’t get a mud mask—but I still enjoyed it.
If you aren’t into the whole beer spa thing, The Lodge at Woodloch offers lots of other treatment options, including seasonal ones like the Cranberry Body Polish (50 minutes, $125 weekdays, and $135 weekends). Offered now through November 30 and inspired by the property’s own cranberry bog, the body polish has hints of cranberry and spice, which hydrates and purifies the skin using organic sugar, honey crystals and cranberry seeds. After the scrub, a warming blend of vanilla and Shea butter leaves skin soft, smooth and moisturized.
Before or after your spa treatments, you can bask in the sun at the resort’s outdoor pool and Jacuzzi (the outdoor poor was a bit chilly for us when we visited in early spring), or the indoor pool with Jacuzzi and hydro waterfalls. Since the indoor pool was open through the late evening, it was also a great spot to work off our dinner and cap off the night. There are also saunas and steam rooms.
The resort offers an entire calendar of daily events, from water aerobics, yoga and meditation classes, to outdoor guided hikes and art classes, all of which are included with your room (unless otherwise stated). We found AM Stretch (25 minutes) to be a fabulous way to get going on the morning after breakfast; and Mantra Meditation (50 minutes) coaxed out our inner oms. A Pastels class (120 minutes) channeled our inner artist—and half the class was held outside to grab the late morning sunlight. There is even a Power Napping class (50 minutes) in the afternoon, when (first world problem alert) the pampering just gets to be just too much.
Packages at The Lodge at Woodloch start at $299 per person per night, or $399 per person per night with a $125 spa service allowance. All packages include accommodations, three meals daily, speakers and workshops, creative arts classes, scheduled group fitness classes and lectures, chef’s cooking and baking demonstrations, selected guided group adventure excursions, access to a Personal Spa Concierge, and health and fitness amenities including pools with hydro-massage waterfalls, indoor and outdoor Jacuzzis, steam rooms, saunas and a state of the art 3,000 square foot cardio weight studio.
Midweek Magic packages available Sundays through Thursday, through October, are $259 per person, per night double occupancy, with a two-night minimum stay. For more information, visit www.thelodgeatwoodloch.com.
Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter or Instagram @kmagyarics.