amaze magazine :: winter 2005

with julie james

Mohonk Mountain House

The moment was almost surreal, as if we’d stepped back in time; Josh and I skating hand in hand on a rink to the piped-in strains of Strauss waltzes as we gazed out over miles of snow-covered forest.  We were trying out the Skating Pavilion at the Mohonk Mountain House, a resort built by Alfred and Albert Smiley in 1869 in New York’s Hudson Valley and owned by the Smiley family for 134 years, making it one of America’s oldest family-owned resorts.   

Mohonk is many things at once; a fine hotel perched on the summit of a glorious mountain, with comfortable, TV-less rooms, tall ceilings, lots of wood, and lounges with libraries.  It somehow manages to be grand and cozy all at once, a retreat where silence gently melts job stress, heavy traffic, car horns and deadlines away.  It’s chock full of activities if that’s your preference; skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and down-hill snow sledding and tubing are all on the complimentary docket for winter; for the warm months, boating or swimming the crystal-clear lake, hiking along 85 miles of trails, tennis, golf, children’s activities and other recreation are all included with your room price.

The 261-room house itself is a thrilling architectural wonder; it’s a turreted seven-story Victorian castle stretching nearly 1/8 of a mile, and is surrounded by more than 28,000 acres of state park land and private preserves.   For us New Yorkers, living in overpriced, undersized apartments, the spacious rooms and halls of Mohonk, just a 90-minute scenic drive away, seem like heaven. 

The 19th-century character of this historic castle, a National Historic Landmark, has been preserved throughout, with beautifully-carved woodwork, period furnishings, and cozy fireplaces. It has none of the coldness of other large hotels I’ve visited; it really feels like someone’s house, albeit one you might get lost in without a map.  Though rates start at $246 for single weekend occupancy, the great part is that in addition to all the recreational activities included, the price also includes three fine meals a day, which are served in a large but ambient dining room overlooking the incredible forest scenery beyond.

Warm up with afternoon tea and cookies daily, also included in the room price, as is nightly entertainment like movies, music or dancing.  You can get a better rate by staying from Sunday into Monday as we did, and prices also drop during the week if you feel like playing hooky from your life.  One idea I love that really sets this resort apart from the rest: there are a wealth of year-round themed programs available, from Ballroom or Swing Dancing, a Taste of Italy, Holistic living, or Women’s themed programs, to the Art of Chocolate, Just for Couples, Jazz on the Mountain or a Scottish Weekend, among others, many where children are invited to stay free.  And speaking of the kids, there’s lots to keep them occupied, too, from storytelling to magic to mime while you and yours explore the grounds or simply unwind. 

The Old-World charm of Mohonk has been given a 21st-Century spin at the recently opened Spa at Mohonk Mountain House.  You can find your own perfect balance of activity, rest, and play.  The Spa offers yoga, Pilates, Qigong, aerobics and water classes, as well as a full menu of services and signature spa treatments.  While in the Spa you can relax in the solarium or near the stone fireplace, take a dip in the indoor heated swimming pool, or if you’re visiting in the warmer months, in the outdoor heated mineral pool.  The Spa also houses a state-of-the-art Fitness Center, steam and sauna rooms, and The Elixir Bar, with a variety of teas, sports drinks and snacks.  Make your queenly visit complete with an Energy Balancing Massage, Stress-Buster Back Therapy, Cedars Exfoliating Body Glow or an Herbal Rejuvenation Ritual to balance body, mind and spirit before your return to the real world.

A scenic, easy trip by car, train or bus from most any location in the Northeast, Mohonk Mountain House is located in the heart of the Hudson Valley’s Catskill region.  Amtrak trains arrive and depart from Poughkeepsie, and Adirondack Trailways provides bus services to New Paltz.  If air travel is your bag, Stewart International Airport in Newburgh is 25 miles from the Mountain House, Albany Airport 70 miles out, and the New York City area airports are less than 100 miles away.  Mohonk will even provide transfer service from area airports, bus or train stations, prices available upon request.

Enjoy relaxation, recreation and renewal, in any combination, on your visit to the grand yet charming Mohonk Mountain House. 

Mohonk Mountain House
Lake Mohonk, New Paltz, NY
Reservations:  800-772-6646

AmaZing Tip:  Get your shopping fix at the nearby Woodbury Commons Premium Outlets, the largest upscale outlet center in the United States, located in Central Valley, NY


about julie james

Julie is not only a performer and talk show host, but has been actively promoting diverse body types in national media since 1995. She was one of several Fashion Retail Editors for MODE magazine as well as the exclusive host for the launch of the Tommy Hilfiger Woman Fashion line.  

She has performed in opera and musical theater productions across the country and with her husband, Josh Max, formed Josh Max’s Outfit, now called “The Maxes”. You can catch Julie weeknights during her own show on SIRIUS Satellite Radio. She stars as the "Retro Redhead" on Outlaw Country, channel 36, M-F from 8 PM to midnight. Then explores the other side of her split personality by hosting the Late Evening Opera on Classical Voices, channel 85, M-F at 12 midnight.

She and Josh, also a writer, enjoy exploring new and exotic destinations in the U.S.A. When not making music together, they journey to such places as Maui, West Palm Beach, Santa Cruz, Boston, Nashville, Memphis as well as dozens of getaways on the East Coast.

julie james

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