The info on the Mohonk Mountain House website is somewhat lacking in regard to day passes. As I understand it, you can get a hiker's pass that gives you access to the grounds but not the 'house'. If you want to get into the house, you must make a reservation for breakfast, lunch or dinner and thereby access both the house and grounds.
Can anyone tell me more about what to expect inside the house? By going with the dinner reservation option, would we have access to just the restaraunt and not much more? Or are there lobby areas, cocktail lounges and/or other public areas that would allow you to soak up more ambiance while on the day pass? Otherwise, based on the so-so reviews of the food and the high meal costs, I'd be inclined to get the hiker pass and bring picnic food.
On a separate note, can you get to the often photographed elevated viewpoint that overlooks the hotel and lake without being on hotel property? Say perhaps from the Mohonk Preserve?