A gurgling brook and three sleeping fawns, curled up under the pines welcomed us to Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains Skytop Lodge – a luxurious, all-inclusive mountain retreat. A Poconos oasis for 85 years, Skytop Lodge first opened in 1928, and has offered hospitality to families at its 5,500 acre mountain paradise ever since. Named one of the top all-inclusive resorts in multiple publications, it’s easy to see why – expansive gardens, luxurious accommodations, plentiful food and activities, and sublime surroundings make it easy to fall in love with the place. At this one destination you have it all: lake, beach, mountains, golf, gourmet food, and pampering, so much pampering. Yes, jackets are required for dinner in the main dining room (Windsor), but don’t let that intimidate you. Our children went from “this is supposed to be vacation! We don’t have anything to wear!” to “Can we please have dinner in the Windsor Room before we leave?” What caused such a dramatic shift in attitude? Why, Skytop itself – while jackets are required, the atmosphere is anything but stuffy. Don’t believe me? Continue reading to find out for yourself.
There’s a lot to cover in this review, so I’m going to break it into sections: accommodations, activities, and dining. If you want the CliffsNotes version, here goes: Skytop Lodge is one of those destinations that can entertain the whole family. We loved our over-sized room in the Inn overlooking the 18th green of the golf course. You need more than a long weekend to fully, experience all the activities, and with the changing seasons, there will always be something new to experience at Skytop. Fortunately, there are so many activities to keep the family occupied, because the food is so good. They will feed you and feed you with gourmet offerings, so take advantage of the hikes to work it off. Carry on for more details.
Our room at the Inn at Skytop was perfection. The building has but 18 rooms (some adjoining), ours was an Inn King, on the first floor (room 106), with gas fireplace. The room was large, and comfortably fit our family of four. My wife and I shared the king size bed, 15 year old on the pull out loveseat, and 12 year old on a rollaway (inflatable) bed. Plenty of room to maneuver with all beds opened, and our teen daughter loved having her head tucked in a little nook for reading privacy. The bathroom had a large double sink and plenty of room for a family of four and all the girls’ accoutrements.
The only possible downside to the Inn was the distance to the Main Lodge for breakfast and dinner. However, coffee service was set up each morning in Inn’s lobby, with pastries and Danishes, providing for a quick nosh before heading to breakfast (or 2nd breakfast depending on how much noshing occurred). There was also a shuttle van available to take guests to the Lodge. By far, our absolute favorite part of the room was the ample patio overlooking the 18th green of the golf course – a fantastic place to read, relax, or just people watch. My wife spent an entire afternoon relaxing on the patio reading a book while the girls and I tackled the Adventure Center ropes course.
Our last night was spent in a Cottage. Not streamside, but there was certainly an abundance of nature evidenced by three spotted fawns curled up and sleeping inside a cluster of trees next to our Cottage. One advantage of the cottage was closer proximity to the Main Lodge (good for meals and activities). Also, if you have a large family or group, one could book multiple rooms in a cottage, and open it all up for a shared family/group experience (we had one quarter of the entire building). All in all, we found our room in the Cottage a little smaller and more confined than the Inn. Once we opened up the pull out love seat and unfolded a cot, it was a little difficult to maneuver. It was manageable, but we preferred the Inn.
Where to start!?! Suffice it to say, families could easily spend a week at Skytop Lodge and not get bored. Golf is a big draw at Skytop, and the award-winning course surrounds all accommodations. A scheduled tee time is included for each day of your stay, and there are lessons available from juniors, to beginner adults, on up to more advanced players. Even though we’re not golfers in our family, we definitely were not lacking for things to do.
Of course, there’s the perennial kids favorite resort activity of swimming in the outdoor or indoor pool, and there’s also the option of swimming in the lake at the beach. The lake has a fun inflatable slide and trampoline, but that mountain stream water was freeeeezing! Understandably, nothing Skytop could do about the water temperature. Although they could use a little more beach front, it was a very popular area and got crowded at times. That being said, the girls swam and played all afternoon in the lake.
Skytop Sports Center offers kayaking, canoeing, and fly fishing lessons. There’s even a shooting range and experts to teach you how to shoot. You can rent a canoe, kayak, or rowboat, and paddle yourself around on the water, or hire a guide to give you a lesson and escort you around the lake. We took the guided option, and the girls felt more secure getting a proper paddling lesson (not just Dad pretending to be an expert like usual). We also enjoyed learning about the history of Skytop Lodge in a pleasant conversation with our guide on the water.
Don’t feel like water sports, fishing, or shooting? There’s also tennis and a whole host of activities on the south lawn outside the Main Lodge including: a putting green, lawn bowling, archery, croquet, and an extensive playground. If that’s not enough, head inside for crafts, indoor minigolf, video game arcade, and organized games. Don’t feel like being active? That’s OK too, there’s a grandiose porch with rocking chairs overlooking the lawn.
While in the beautiful surroundings of Skytop’s 5,000 acres of woodlands, you can hike on numerous trail, and the Lodge provides organized picnic hikes and nature walks to identify plants and animals; there’s also nature talks, campfires and s’mores, and stargazing opportunities.
Finally, there’s a whole separate Adventure Center offering a 3 hour Treetop Zipline and Adventure Course, paintball, rock climbing, mountain biking and more. By far, the BEST afternoon of my entire summer vacation was spent unleashing my inner-monkey climbing through the trees, soaring through the air, and being silly together with the girls in the trees. Ziplining was the #1 experience our youngest daughter wanted on vacation, and look for a more detailed account from her perspective to come. When we were through with our 3 hour Treetop Adventure, believe me we had worked up quite the appetite.
Dining is central to the Skytop Lodge experience – we’re talking cruise ship quantities of food, and all included with your stay. As mentioned above, there is a jacket requirement in the Windsor Dining Room for dinner, but do not let that be a deterrent to visiting the resort or eating in the Main Lodge. Before we get to dinner though, let’s talk about your other meals.
Breakfast is served in the Windsor Dining Room, buffet style, from 7:30-9:00am. There were made to order omelet stations, pancakes, waffles, French toast, eggs, hash browns, breakfast meats, fruit, cereal, bagels, pastries, etc. The food was wonderful, but my wife and teen never quite crawled out of bed in time. My 12 year old and I would have a nice Daddy/Daughter breakfast, and the wait staff would wrap plates for the sleepier half of the family for their breakfast. A daily lunch buffet was set up in the Windsor Dining Room from 12-1pm with fairly standard fare of sandwich items, salads, fruit and vegetables. Sunday offered a full brunch from 8am – 1pm; you can even come back twice – breakfast in the morning, nap, lunch before 1pm. Another lunch option is the Inn-Between Deli. Located at the Inn, closest to the beach, it was a great place for a quick sandwich (included in your meal plan) or salad. The nice thing about breakfast and lunch in the Windsor Room were assigned tables with the same wait staff (like a cruise ship) and a casual dress code. The servers got to know you and your family, and we thoroughly enjoyed our conversations with them.
For dinner the first two nights, we opted for the more casual atmosphere of the Lakeview Restaurant (pictured below). I did not pack a jacket because, prior to the trip, my family had no desire dine in the formal Windsor Room. The Lakeview Restaurant was directly upstairs from our room in the Inn, making it very convenient. It does not have the formal dress code of the Windsor Room, has spectacular views, and the food was delicious. They offered two different types of sliders, black bean or pulled pork, as appetizers… yummy! The New York strip, pecan crusted rack of lamb, and pork mignon entrees were family favorites as well.
Our final night the family wanted to eat in the Windsor Room, the girls dressed in the best clothes they packed, and I borrowed a jacket from the front desk (complete with crest for you Seinfeld fans). Our whole family wished to have the Windsor Dining Room dinner experience, in part, because of our servers. They made us feel comfortable and welcome, even if we weren’t dressed in the fanciest of clothes. Our meals were fantastic, but no better than the Lakeview (speaking to the quality of Lakeview’s food). Unlike the Lakeview’s menu that remains the same, the Windsor Room changes daily, and on this final night I had the boar (how many times can you order boar?).
A final fancy dinner was a perfect way to end our stay at Skytop Lodge, and left our family wanting more. There was so much we had yet to experience like, the Spa, the changing leaves on the mountainside, or sliding down the hill onto a frozen lake in the toboggan run. One gets a sense of history staying at Skytop Lodge, and senses families have come for generations, and keep coming back season after season, year after year, discovering new adventures. I know our family would return in a heartbeat.
For more photos from our visit to the Poconos’ Skytop Lodge, check out the gallery below. Note: the photo gallery requires Flash Player, click here to view all the photos from Skytop if your device is not Flash equipped.
DISCLOSURE: Our family was hosted by Skytop Lodge and the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau for the purposes of writing this review. However, all opinions expressed are those of the author. For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on Twitter and “like” our Facebook page, too.