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“You'll Love It or You'll Hate It” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Mohonk Mountain House

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Mohonk Mountain House
1000 Mountain Rest Rd., New Paltz, NY 12561   |  
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Ranked #1 of 5 Hotels in New Paltz
New York
1 review
29 helpful votes 29 helpful votes
“You'll Love It or You'll Hate It”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 10, 2006

The names stand out as stars in Victorian sky; great elephantine resorts built as Victorian monuments to the transcendentalist aesthetic: Mount Washington, Algonquin, Greenbrier, Yellowstone. As June began the summer, trains full of families would deliver their guests to the station where waiting carriages would ferry them up to these cool mountain or seaside retreats for the entire summer. We have spas, they had leisure.

After the second world war, as air conditioning made city summers at least somewhat livable, and the pace of the world accelerated, these great palaces began to fade. Some burned, others fell into disrepair, but all were on life support. The nuclear age had no need for such places where nature was the principle entertainment, where tea-time conversation in luxurious public parlors was substituted for television, and where music, dances, and lectures comprised evening activities. The world moved too quickly, and these quaint relics faded into obscurity with bustles and hand fans and croquet.

Yet a few of these places survived, most now subsidiaries of giant corporations or governments more used to stamping out quarterly reports than understanding they are stewards of a bygone age. A scant handful remained as they were founded. Now, only one remains:


In the posession of the Smiley family since they bought it as a small tavern in 1869, Mohonk is still very much what it was back in 1869. As Quakers, the Smileys didn’t permit alcohol, cards, dancing, or swimming on Sundays, but that was ok by most of the guests. Indeed so many guests loved the pastoral atmosphere that Mohonk underwent nearly continuous building and expansion up until 1910, when the present structure was largely finished.... and what a finish! Artisans were brought in from all over the United States to build and hand-craft the woodwork, much of it in now nearly extinct but lusterous American Chestnut. The guestrooms in the stone wing all have fireplaces and individual porches, many of the bathrooms still have gargantuan claw-foot tubs, transoms vent the rooms and large windows bring in the cool air off the lake. The result is a quarter-mile long, rambling affair built by 2 different architectural firms and all of it is as done in the Victorian grand style.

Around the hotel span acres of prize gardens dotted with summerhouse gazebos, 80+ miles of hiking, walking, riding, and rock climbing paths, an 18 acre lake that still has fish (rare in the acid-rain soaked upstate New York), and all surrounded by over 8,000 acres of wilderness. It is, in short, a spectacular setting, and still, after all the years, Mohonk’s greatest asset among many.

All the other grand resort hotels had pretty much the same thing, so why did Mohonk survive? Why this place? I’d love to say it’s a complex mix, but it isn’t. It’s the management and the guests. I have never experienced anything like it. I’ve heard stories about some places in the Catskills like it, but it’s nearly impossible to imagine for anyone who doesn’t understand Mohonk. It’s the key to whether you will love Mohonk or feel ripped-off:


Mohonk is a community. Some places have long-time customers, but few can claim five or more generations of guests who come nearly every year (yes, my family among them), and even a few pensioners who still spend entire summers as they did when they were children. At Mohonk, the past and the present blend in an intoxicating experience of rustication without the inconveniences of camping. The Smiley’s have an unusual love of their national landmark and even more of a love for the delicate ecosystem within which it resides. “New” at Mohonk means air conditioning (2005), and a bar (2006). There are still no televisions in the guest rooms ( there are public rooms with televisions that nobody watches), but the guests of today will be glad to know women are now alllowed to bathe at the beach, dances are held in the lounge, and card playing need no longer be confined to one’s room. The latest newfangled arrival is wireless internet. Yaay! But none of that makes Mohonk what it is without the people. The employees love working there even if they don’t always love their jobs. How do I know this? Because long-time guests of Mohonk care about Mohonk and the Smileys are perceptive and gracious enough to know and appreciate this. And that is the magic. Mohonk is a happy place. People say, “hello” to each other, easy conversation between guests and employees is frequent, you get to know the people and they get to know you. It’s definitely Old Republic America, not the deferential, quiet, subservient, but efficient service one finds in most better city hotels. It was the guests that pushed to get air conditioning in the kitchen during the hottest summer Mohonk ever had. Guests didn’t ask for air conditioning in the dining room, though Mohonk did it anyway, they were more worried about the staff. Guests frequently donate funding for items found all over Mohonk. In plenty of places in the house and the grounds you’ll see little plaques given by families in the names of their departed who loved Mohonk. The Smileys aren’t absentee landlords either, they actively work to make Mohonk work. They ensure management isn’t tyranical, and that everyone, guest and staff alike, are well-treated. Arriving at Mohonk with an attitude of entitlement and superiority will virtually insure you won’t like it. You won’t be treated as well as other guests and you may get the impression that you aren’t welcome back. If the idea of dressing for dinner isn’t your idea of a vacation then Mohonk won’t make you happy.

Nothing stays the same and while Mohonk retains traditions it also explores new ones. Along with old croquet, there’s tennis, horseback riding, raquetball, soccer, ice skating, boating, swimming (at the beach and in the new indoor pool with (ahem) underwater speakers), golf, fishing, and every variation of mountain sport from outstanding cross-country skiing trails, to caving (if you know who and how). Who misses the TV? Kids are entertained with daily activities divided by age group and there are still theme weeks consisting of expert-led lectures and adult pursuits. One of my fondest memories of Mohonk was several weeks spent under the stars with a host of astronomers and planetarium directors, including Fred Hess, Isaac Asimov, and Joe Rao watching the Perseid meteor shower and filling my head with the more prosaic delights of amateur astronomy. The newest star at Mohonk is the spa and it’s magnificent. Done in the Adirondack style, the new spa wing has been discreetly added on to what we affectionately called, “The Rickety Wing,” which was the oldest part of the mountain house and still my favorite, if not the most fancy. Alas, rennovations have not only rid it of its rickety-ness, but downright comfortable with all rooms now having private baths (they didn’t used to!). The spa is, I have to say, a blast. The staff are great and the Mohonk Red massage is the stuff of legend. Every spa reviewer has loved this latest addition from its aromatherapy steam room and mineral baths to the overstuffed leather wing chairs in the men’s dressing lounge. It’s a heady experience and not as outrageously expensive as some spas with more pretense and less service or atmosphere.

I see many posts here from people shocked at the prices. Yeah, it’s not cheap, I can’t even say it’s reasonable. Mohonk is expensive but it is so because there is so much of it. Comparisons with city hotels are unfair. The Carlysle doesn’t have 8,000 acres to oversee nor an army of groundskeepers or a quarter-mile long antique building to maintain nor are your meals included. Mohonk’s food is up and down. It’s far better than it used to be and, on occasion, is fantastic, but more often it’s merely as good as what you’d find in your average better restaurant. Breakfasts are the execption with fresh waffles, omelettes, and pancakes made-to-order. It’s a great start for a busy day of activities or a lazy day of gentle walking, reading, and just idling at the views.

Mohonk is like a club without being a club. If you appreciate what Mohonk is and what it offers, you’ll be most welcome whether it’s your first visit or your fiftieth. While the atmosphere lends itself to genteel leisure, times are more casual and so are the guests. If you enjoy being outdoors or if you enjoy simple retired leisure spent in conversation and reading, you will love Mohonk and while it’s definitely family-centric, it makes for a marvelously cozy and serene couples’ getaway, particularly in autumn and winter. Though the hotel must walk a thin line between the needs of 21st century guests and retaining it’s Barbizon atmosphere, it has succeeded and done so with aplomb under the direction of its original owners. Mohonk will either be your idea of the ideal retreat away from the world where bad things can't happen or it will be a musty antique with the nerve to charge a modest fortune for the privilege of boring you witless.

  • Liked — It's home away from home.
  • Disliked — I had to leave.
  • Tips/Secrets — Avoid the Grove building in summer and try to get a room on a high floor for best views and airflow.
  • Stayed July 2006, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Business service (e.g., internet access)
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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1,312 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (358)
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English first
Top Contributor
79 reviews 79 reviews
23 hotel reviews
Reviews in 36 cities Reviews in 36 cities
73 helpful votes 73 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 1, 2006

This property is a unique experience. You need to be in the right frame of mind to fully enjoy what it has to offer. Don't expect the ritz or four seasons. Step back in time. Forget your Blacberry, notebook computer, cell phone, and tv and relax. Bring your family or close group of friends and get out to enjoy some quality time in the mountains. If you want posh hotel rooms with modern luxurious amenities like jaccuzzi tubs, this is not the place. The rooms are suitable and comfortable but the focus is on the outdoors - don't bring your armani suit, jewels or gucci handbag here. This is rustic elegance at it's best. Khaki shorts and a nice hiking shirt and you'll fit right in. Bring your camera. Mohonk goes to great lengths to perpetuate an old fashioned, wholesome, outdoors escape for those of us who crave to be close to nature and unencumbered by technology. You'll see snakes, turtles, fish, birds... and more. It's expensive but that covers the cost of three meals a day - all you can eat - buffet style. There is no lack of healthful options for those of us who want to watch our waistlines. But there are also steaks and desserts... pannacotta, mousse, lemon tarts, chocolate decadence buttons, the list is far too tempting. There seems to be a great appreciation for the visual and a real care for historic preservation at this establishment. If you want modern - the latest and greatest - go elsewhere. The charm is in the history, the generations that return to visit, the beauty of the scenic views, the fresh air, and the lack of plastic and noise that accompany so many other places. This is turn of the century charm at it's best. Peace. Quiet. Solitude if you want it. Or an chance to catch up and make plans for the next day with family and friends at tea on the porch. Our visit was too short. We are planning our next trip already.

  • Liked — porch with rocking chairs
  • Disliked — only two pillows on bed (prefer four)
  • Tips/Secrets — checkout before noon or you'll wait in line
  • Stayed July 2006, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Business service (e.g., internet access)
Was this review helpful? Yes 19
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Top Contributor
57 reviews 57 reviews
19 hotel reviews
Reviews in 32 cities Reviews in 32 cities
53 helpful votes 53 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 31, 2006

I had read some of the reviews posted about this hotel, and frankly wonder if we are talking about the same place. We first stayed here in March (where we got engaged), and stayed in an incredible suite with a woodburning fireplace and walked along the lake trails, coming in to a hot cup of tea and warm cookies.

The spa was impressive! I travel all over the world, and this is world class.

We vowed to return. And did. I arranged for our corporate retreat to be held at the Mohonk Mountain House. Our top executives flew in from around the world and the US and were as impressed as I was. We spent time rowing on the lake and eatings our hearts out.

Like a cruise, the meals and room service are included. The service was incredible with caring management and laughter heard everywhere we went.

It has become our "SPECIAL PLACE" and we book it whenever we can. I intend to have our bridal party stay up there after the wedding and have some fun and get some massages and facials.

so, don't believe everythig you read online. I run the world's largest cybersafety group, ---. You can check me out and know that I mean what I say.

I love this place and wish I had visited it earlier.

Parry Aftab

  • Liked — the fairytale location and the amazing views
  • Disliked — nothing
  • Tips/Secrets — leave your cell phone home...
  • Stayed June 2006, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 4 of 5 stars Business service (e.g., internet access)
Was this review helpful? Yes 11
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New York City, New York
Top Contributor
79 reviews 79 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 25 cities Reviews in 25 cities
54 helpful votes 54 helpful votes
1 of 5 stars Reviewed July 4, 2006

My husband and I recently visited New Paltz area for a long weekend and great hikes in Minnewaska State Park. Before heading home to New York, we decided to visit Mohonk Mountain House since we were considering this place as a destination for another long weekend. To our great surprise, we weren't even allowed to enter the property. We wanted to see the setting of this place if it's something that would suit us for holidays. A very rude man at the office box told us all rooms are booked, all parking lots are taken and we are not allowed to enter the property even for a few minute stay. He didn't have a better explanation than that.
It's a great "warm" welcome from Mohonk Mountain House Management. We will be sure to let our friends know about this place - not to go there of course!

  • Stayed July 2006
    • 1 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 19
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New Jersey
Senior Contributor
36 reviews 36 reviews
28 hotel reviews
Reviews in 31 cities Reviews in 31 cities
51 helpful votes 51 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed June 26, 2006

Let's start with the good:
1) The Spa - new, clean, calming. The services were average to above average.
2) The fitness center. Took a "class" with two others and actually received a personal training hour with the instructor.
3) The overall atmosphere - It is an old fashioned and comfortable place. The common areas has many nooks and cranny's and I have never seen so many rocking chairs. The night we went there was a big band playing in the main room - corny, but it seemed right at the Monhonk.

Now the not so good (in no special order):
1) The rooms - our "upgraded" room smelled like dirty feet when we walked in. It was a nice size, but we would not have been able to stay it we didn't open the balcony door to let fresh air in. The furniture was dated (antique or thrift shop, we were not sure).
2) The prices - our three person room cost a little over $800. In most places, this would get you something special. At the Mohonk it got us the above mentioned room and three meals.
3) The service - the service at the hotel was friendly, but substandard. One should note "service" was added as an percentage of the room price on EVERYTHING. The young people serving could not understand simple questions, neglected to bring our wine with dinner until reminded, got our order wrong, dropped/tossed utensils rather than placing them next to the plate, the list goes on, but you get the point. The food, when served was good/above average.

Disappointment to us was the weather, you can't control it, but we were unable to see the beauty, go hiking or do anything outdoors. We asked for a simple request, the opportunity to come back and use the facilities for a day for free (usually $20) and were told it was not possible, in a not so friendly way.

Would I go back - maybe, if I got a great deal and I knew the weather would be nice. Otherwise probably not.

  • Stayed June 2006
    • 1 of 5 stars Value
    • 1 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 17
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New York, NY
5 reviews 5 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
15 helpful votes 15 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 24, 2006

We stayed on the 5th floor, tower room...nice! Absolutely beautiful. Bright, sunny, balcony, comfortable bed. We really enjoyed our stay. Saw Cousin Brucie, his wife, and beautiful daughter. That was cool.

Stayed June 2006
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New York, New York
Senior Reviewer
8 reviews 8 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
102 helpful votes 102 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 8, 2006

My wife, our 8 month old baby and I just finished a five-night stay at the Mohonk Mountain House, and we had a great time.

The “House” is in fact a row of interconnected, sprawling buildings which -- apart from the brand new spa -- were constructed between 1879 and 1910. Although the place has been modernized, of course, its décor remains largely faithful to its Victorian era origins. If you don’t like antiques, you’ll probably not enjoy the look of the public rooms. The style is more comfortable and homey than polished. In typical Victorian fashion, most public rooms have far too much furniture for modern tastes.

Our bedroom was good; the décor was basically Victorian as well. (I’ve never stayed in hotel room with working transoms before.) The bathroom was completely modern and the view on the mountainside was beautiful, but the too-thin walls meant we could hear our neighbors sometimes. The hotel supplied at no charge a crib and a small refrigerator.

There are many activities; chief amongst them is hiking. It is a particularly attractive feature of Mohonk that you can just walk out of the hotel and start your hike. No need to drive somewhere, find parking then hike. Just step out the door and you’re on a trail. There are many trails with different levels of difficulty. We used one of the hotels many jogging strollers to take the baby on easy hikes, but if you enjoy rock scrambling, there’s plenty of that, too. Another great feature of hiking at Monhonk are the 135 or so wooden shelters that are perched at scenic points on the property. (The hotel and surrounding nature trust hold 20,000 acres.) The shelters are simple rustic benches with a roof overhead, and they’re great for resting, reading, etc. We also enjoyed boating on Lake Mohonk. There are many other activities described on their website, but I won’t list them because I didn’t do them.

The new spa is first rate. The big swimming pool is terrific. (The baby loved her first time ever in the water.) And my wife reported that her facial and massage were amongst the best she’s ever had.

The food ranged from good to great. The weekend outdoor BBQ at the Granary should not be missed. Breakfast and lunch were buffets. For breakfast, you’ll want to try the omelet and waffle stations. Dinner is a four-course meal. You choose two appetizers, an entrée and a dessert. Dinners are hearty American fare, but lighter dishes of fish or vegetarian offerings could also be found. The soups were consistently amongst the best items on the menu. The wine list was adequate, but could stand a lot of improvement in the category of less expensive choices.

There are no TV’s in the rooms, but there are evening activities such as square dancing, marshmallow roasts, lectures, recently released movies, etc.

  • Stayed June 2006
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 39
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Mohonk Mountain House

Address: 1000 Mountain Rest Rd., New Paltz, NY 12561
Location: United States > New York > New Paltz
Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 5 Hotels in New Paltz
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Number of rooms: 265
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
A hotel, built in the 1860's and filled with charm...ideal for families in summer. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Mohonk House
Mohonk Mountain Hotel
Mohonk New Paltz
Mohawk Mountain House
Mohonk Mountain House New Paltz Ny
Mohonk Mountain New Paltz
Mohonk Mountain House New Paltz New York
New Paltz Mohonk Mountain House Resort
Mohonk Hotel New York

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