HISTORIC SETTINGS, MODERN FLAIR: Three family resort destinations

Text | Emily Grillo

The Upper Delaware River Valley is revered for its pristine natural beauty, serene landscapes and outdoor recreation. This was also the case at the turn of the 20th century, when tourists from metropolitan New York and New Jersey wanted to escape the city’s summer heat for the rural countryside. Just a short ride away were clear lakes and streams, lush green forests, spectacular mountain views and all-inclusive vacation spots. Resorts in the Poconos and Catskills rose in popularity through the middle of the century; the movie “Dirty Dancing” captures one such summer resort experience.

Resort popularity declined as airplane travel become prominent, and European and tropical destinations became affordable and family-friendly. The resorts that did survive developed trademark hospitality and diversified offerings that include wedding receptions, overnight stays, meetings, conventions, banquets and gatherings as well as summer stays.

With gas prices edging toward $5 a gallon and many still needing to conserve, we are once again looking closer to home for respite and relaxation. Here we introduce you to three prime family resort destination spots in the region.

Central House
The ringing of a bell has summoned guests at The Central House Resort each summer for over 100 years. The morning bell, a call to breakfast, originally rang at 7:30 a.m.; it now rings at a leisurely 8:30 a.m. The bell rings twice more through the day to call guests to lunch and dinner.

The Central House in Beach Lake, PA dates back to 1905 when boarding house popularity was at an all-time high. Urbanites took the train up to Narrowsburg, crossed the Delaware River and stayed at one of the many boarding houses there. The Central House is the last of the nearly dozen boarding houses that once existed in Berlin Township. The Thumann family took it over in 1946, and third-generation Fred Thumann works alongside his elderly mother Marge to manage the resort, which is small compared to some. They take pride in creating programs that are family oriented, and servicing their guests with good, old-fashioned country warmth. Located on the shores of Beach Lake, families enjoy water activities such as fishing, paddle boating, kayaking and swimming. The resort also has a pool, hot tub, swing set, volley, basket and bocce ball and lake frontage for walks. Home-cooked meals are served family style in the main lodge. Other activities include bonfires, magicians, hayrides, jugglers, square dances and old-fashioned lawn games.

The Central House resort operates from Memorial Day to Labor Day. During the off season, the venue is renowned locally for weddings. It also hosts dinners and parties, and rooms are always available for rent.

Guests come back to The Central House Resort year after year, because “it’s easy,” says Fred. Many multi-generational families vacation together, and this laidback and well-managed resort provides just the right touch of good, old fashioned family fun in a relaxed, no-pressure atmosphere.

The Central House Resort
Beach Lake, PA

Villa Roma
A devastating fire on the night of April 11, 2006 destroyed much of the main building of the Villa Roma Resort and Conference Center in the Beechwoods section of Callicoon, NY. Owner Marty Passante took the opportunity to re-build, spending millions to create a modern, luxurious décor with a hint of Mediterranean flavor. New floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the beautiful expanse of the golf course. While the new décor is definitely posh, the Villa Roma is a family vacation destination.

In 2010, the Villa Roma celebrated its 40th anniversary. Passante slowly developed the original 30-room boarding house from a small Italian resort to the combination of time shares, condominiums and hotel lodging that it is today.

The Villa, as it is known, offers so many amenities to its guests, both adults and children, that they never have to leave the premises. The 140-room year-round resort features a bowling alley, a ski/snowboard facility, a golf course, four outdoor pools, one indoor pool, horseback riding, bumper boats, a beauty salon/spa, Jacuzzi and sauna, shuffle board, racquet ball courts, a fitness center, a game room, a night club and five restaurants. The property includes 220 time-share units and 68 full ownership condominiums.

The Villa Roma offers several packages for its guests, from all inclusive to some ala carte options. Known regionally for their food, which is mostly Italian, the restaurants are open to the public as well as guests, and the Villa’s Clubhouse holds community events from time to time, including the recent Foodstock, a fundraiser for WJFF public radio, which drew a crowd of some 700 foodies. The Villa Roma’s many versatile spaces also cater to weddings, dinners, proms, reunions and conferences.

The 18-hole PGA golf course, renowned in Sullivan County, is designed to challenge experts in the latter nine holes, while the first nine are ideal for beginners. Golf Digest calls this course “a little slice of heaven.”

The Villa Roma Resort and Conference Center
Callicoon, NY

Woodloch Pines
The Kiesendahl family, now third-generation owners of the Woodloch Pines Resort in Hawley, PA, greet their guests each night as they enter the dining room. Woodloch is a massive, nationally acclaimed resort with nearly 2,000 acres of property that includes a world-class spa and an 18-hole champion golf course.

Woodloch, however, has humble beginnings. It dates back to a modest 1918 estate owned by Louis and George Lochwood, who reversed the syllables of their last name to name the property. In 1946, the property was bought and turned into a boarding house by Olga and George Svenningsen. When upkeep became too much,  the couple sold it in 1958 to Harry and Mary Kiesendahl.

By 1961, Woodloch became a small resort with one main house, an annex, two cottages, a large recreation hall, cabins and waterfront rights with canoes, rowboats and motorboats. From there, it grew annually into its current capacity for upward of 900 guests.
Woodloch is venerated for its hospitality. The staff is extra accommodating and friendly, a trait that’s emphasized during employee training. Woodloch’s motto: “We treat our guests as if they are company in our own home.”

Situated on Lake Teedyuskung, most rooms afford a view of this inviting natural lake. Outdoor activities include boating, swimming, water games, water skiing, hiking and sun bathing. And when it comes to programming, Woodloch has cornered the market.  Each day, 30-plus activities are designed to keep guests entertained. On-site amenities include water slides, pools, a sauna, mini golf, paddle boats, sail boats and nature trails. Less active offerings are rich in scope and variety as well.

Nightly entertainment at the Nightclub attracts visitors to the resort as well as overnight or “dinner and a show” guests. Broadway and cabaret-style shows, horseracing, comedians and live bands fill up the Nightclub in lively fashion. Themed evenings are featured as well, with Woodloch’s large and talented entertainment staff dressing up as real or fictional characters and parading through the dining room, much to the delight of the children.

The Lodge at Woodloch is a relative newcomer to the resort. Housed on separate grounds and gearing toward a premium spa experience for adults, guests at Woodloch can take advantage of Lodge services for respite and relaxation before returning to the family atmosphere of Woodloch Pines. Created in a manner that embraces physical and spiritual well being, The Lodge at Woodloch has been touted among the “Top 10 Destination Spas in the World” by Travel & Leisure Magazine.

The Woodloch Pines Resort
Hawley, PA


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