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Five Classic Mountain resorts for Families

A few years ago, weary from the non-stop pace of Disney-style vacations, my family and I set out for the Allegheny Mountains of Virginia, searching for peace, quiet, and character-free fun. At the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia, we hiked, fished and discovered the most pleasurable way to pass an evening was rocking on the porch, chilled by crisp mountain air. We ate dinner in the main dining room and watched families dance to a live orchestra, as guests have been doing for the past hundred years.

Classic mountain resorts like the Homestead and Skytop Lodge in the Poconos are still enticing families with their storied histories, grand architecture and timeless activities. In fact, historic destinations are experiencing resurgence in popularity for families hoping to connect in a meaningful environment.

“Historic resorts give families the chance to get to know each other again in a setting that builds wonderful memories of a special time together. For parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, a vacation at a historic resort gives them a chance to share their memories of growing up with their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews in a way that the younger travelers can relate to and experience in a fun way,” says Larry Horwitz, executive director of Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide.

“Best of all,” Horwitz says, “the historic resort is one history class where you can sleep through and still learn about the heritage and culture of our nation’s past.”
Hike for miles, leap into a glacial-fed lake, or treat your family to ballroom dancing lessons, like those offered at the Mountain Lake Lodge, the original filming location for the movie “Dirty Dancing.” Read on to discover five classic mountain resorts where the gorgeous scenery and old-fashioned fun continue to attract generations of families.

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Mountain Lake Lodge

Ever wonder if the resort in the movie “Dirty Dancing” was real? Well, it is, and you can stay there. Just twenty minutes from Blacksburg, Virginia and Virginia Tech, lies the Mountain Lake Lodge. Built in 1936, the secluded mountain resort looks much the same as it did in the movie. You can stay in the main stone lodge where rooms lack televisions so families can reconnect without distraction, or book one of the front lawn cabins, like the Virginia Cottage, also known as ‘Baby’s Cabin.’ The hotel offers 23 miles of hiking and biking trails and an adventure center with an extensive zip line course. Farm-to-table cuisine reigns at Harvest, the resort’s acclaimed restaurant. Or you can unwind at the Tavern, a casual restaurant with a cozy stone fireplace. For true movie buffs, visit during one of the resort’s four-times-a-year “Dirty Dancing Weekends” when the hotel is transformed into Kellerman’s, movie scenes are reenacted by professional dancers, ballroom dancing lessons are offered, and the film is screened round the clock.

115 Hotel Circle, Pembroke, Va.
Rates from $150
Distance from Annapolis: 5.5 hours

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The Homestead

Established in 1766 as a wooden hotel for homesteaders, the Homestead is known as ‘America’s First Resort.’ The Homestead has hosted 23 U.S. presidents, including Thomas Jefferson, who was drawn to the area’s natural hot springs. Today, the Homestead is a grand resort with 483 rooms and suites and a world-class spa with the same natural hot springs that first lured our nation’s founders. Take a hike on the cascades trail through the Allegheny Mountains past a series of waterfalls or learn the ancient sport of falconry. Spend the afternoon fly-fishing with an Orvis-trained guide or take a horse-drawn carriage ride up the mountain. The resort’s impressive pool complex promises hours of refreshment along with the hotel’s historic indoor pool (built in 1904), fed by naturally warm mineral water. The main dining room with live music offers fine dining with a nostalgic air, while casual options like Martha’s Market and Sam Snead’s Tavern have everything from sandwiches to ribs for the hungry family after a day spent exploring the mountain.

7696 Sam Snead Highway, Hot Springs, Va.
Rates from $259
Distance from Annapolis: 4 hours, 15 minutes

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Skytop Lodge

Skytop Lodge in the Pocono Mountains has been operating since 1928. Nestled at the base of the West Mountain, the Dutch Colonial style manor house overlooks pristine Skytop Lake. The Manor House has 124 recently renovated rooms and there are 12 four-bedroom cottages on the property. Dining is a treat at Skytop—from the casual Lakeview restaurant to the nostalgic Tea Room, designed to resemble a corner drugstore. Families can swim in the lake or in the indoor or outdoor pools, or spend a day canoeing, hiking, skeet shooting or golfing. Challenge your crew to a game of archery tag, a family-friendly game with foam-tipped arrows. No visit to Skytop would be complete without participating in the resort’s signature ‘Grand March,’ during which guests parade through the hotel to the live music of the Doug Smith Orchestra, a tradition dating back to the 1940s.

One Skytop Lodge Road, Skytop, Pa.
Rates from $200
Distance from Annapolis: 4 hours


Mohonk Mountain Resort

Mohonk Mountain Resort, a castle-style Victorian hotel in the Hudson River Valley, lies just 90 minutes north of New York City.The Smiley family opened Mohonk Mountain Resort in 1869 and fourth and fifth-generation family members still manage the hotel today. Designated a national historic landmark, Mohonk is surrounded by 4,400 acres of natural forest and has 85 miles of hiking trails just outside the hotel’s entrance. Accommodations feature authentic Victorian décor with views over the valley or Lake Mohonk. Activities range from culinary classes to rock climbing and canoeing, but it’s the kids’ program that keeps families returning year after year. The award-winning program includes lake activities like fishing and swimming, art classes and nature programs—all included in the nightly rate. As an all-inclusive resort, rates at Mohonk include three gourmet meals a day, afternoon tea, cookies, the kids’ program and most activities.

1000 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz, N.Y.
From $655 (includes three meals a day, afternoon tea, cookies, activities and kids’ program.)
Distance from Annapolis: 5 hours

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Mt. Washington Hotel

Families have been coming to the Mt. Washington Hotel since 1902, when it first opened near Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. Boasting spectacular views of the White Mountains, the hotel’s 200 rooms and suites have hosted three presidents and Thomas Edison. The hotel has undergone extensive renovations and is now owned by Omni resorts. Outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking and fly-fishing are the main draw, but you can also indulge in the hotel’s 25,000 square-foot spa after a day playing 18 holes on the golf course. Kids will enjoy spending the afternoon tubing down the Ammonoosuc River or taking a trip to the top of the mountain on the historic Cog Railway. Older kids seeking thrills will love the Bretton Woods canopy tour, one of the longest zip line courses in the country, that flies over sky bridges, treetops and scenic Rosebrook canyon. Dining ranges from the formal main dining room, to the Cave, a renovated historic speakeasy.

310 Mount Washington Hotel Road, Bretton Woods, N.H.
Rates from $359
Distance from Annapolis: 9 hours

—Katie Riley

Updated 2021

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