Inn at Diamond Cove, Portland ME: A Maine Island Getaway
Though its address reads Portland ME, the luxurious, 44 room historic Inn at Diamond Cove is actually carved from a former military base on an island off the southern Maine coast. Getting there by ferry is just the beginning of the fun. Open Memorial Day to Labor Day, the Inn is a hideout from the crazy summer crowds in Portland, and a snug, intimate escape in the cooler shoulder seasons.
History of Inn at Diamond Cove
WWII Era Training Mine Diamond Cove Maine
Fort McKinley, on Great Diamond Island, was the largest of five military complexes constructed in Portland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, protecting Maine’s principal city in one of the most well defended harbors in history. During WWII, the US Navy built a training and command center on the north side of the island – what’s now known as Diamond Cove – and at its height over 800 personnel lived in barracks and officers’ homes.
Decommissioned in 1961, the structures fell into disrepair. In 1987, David Bateman mused to his wife, Robin, “let’s buy half an island!” It was a wreck. The homeowners on Great Diamond Island’s south side (separated from the military base by gates) had left cars to rot on the Parade Ground; almost every window in every building was broken. In short, the landscape was a gloomy tumbledown mess. Robin was wary, to say the least.
Private Home Diamond Cove ME
But the Batemans and their partners persevered through decades of red tape and setbacks: renovating officer’s homes and ancillary buildings (like the Bakery) into private homes and selling them off one by one.
Private Patios Inn at Diamond Cove ME
And then, the piesta de resistance: Bateman Partners fashioned the former brick barracks into The Inn at Diamond Cove – an intimate, exclusive Historic Hotel of America – leaving historical features like the standard stairway pipe railings and exterior walkways intact.
Getting to Inn at Diamond Cove
Casco Bay Ferry Portland ME
The Casco Bay Ferry terminal is on Commercial St. in Portland. If you arrive by car, valet park across the street from the terminal parking garage in a private lot adjacent to the Hilton Garden Inn Portland ($40 per night for guests).
Casco Bay Ferry Ticket Office Portland ME
Let the Inn know what time you’ll be arriving, so a bell-person can meet you at the dock with a “golf cart limo.”
Eagle Sighting on Casco Bay Ferry Great Diamond Island ME
No reservations are necessary. Just get to the terminal 20 minutes before schedule to purchase a round trip ticket to Diamond Cove ($10.70, let the cashier know you’re going to the Inn). The 25-45 minute trip itself is a quick immersion in local island culture. Families have had homes on these islands for years, sometimes generations, so for sure you’ll see islanders and summer home owners with dogs and groceries in tow.
Diamond Cove Ferry Dock Maine
The ferry will make several stops – the first or second at the Great Diamond Island dock. Stay on until you make your way around the island to the Diamond Cove landing. You’ll be rewarded with Osprey and Bald Eagle sightings in the undeveloped forest along the shoreline.
First Impressions of Inn at Diamond Cove
Entrance Inn at Diamond Cove ME
Sure enough, an amiable bellhop in the “golf cart limo” was waiting to transport me uphill to the Inn. Passing the former tony officers homes encircling the Parade Grounds (now in private hands), we parked next to the inviting landscaped pool and fire pit across from the Inn’s front door.
Lobby Inn at Diamond Cove ME
Early in the season, a gas fire blazed in a beautifully decorated shipshape lobby, where shelves were stocked with board games, and tables set for lunch (see below under dining).
The stained glass art panel over the fireplace depicts a phoenix in flight – a nod to the fire that nearly destroyed the place shortly after it was renovated five years ago. Along with geodes and fossils, ashes are incorporated in the glass. With just three walls left standing, the Batemans had to start all over again to open in 2016, but the result is both cozy and stunning.
The Lay of the Land on Diamond Cove
Fitness Center Inn at Diamond Cove ME
At some point, you’ll meet the exuberant General Manager, Gil Hartman, who’s got a knack for teasing repartee. He or one of his team will take you on a 20-minute (or 2 hours in my case) tour of Diamond Cove property in the golf cart limo. Take him up on it – it’s a great way to get a lay of the land and identify the Adirondack chair upon which you will sit with a beach read while overlooking the water.
Indoor Basketball Court Inn at Diamond Cove ME
Your first stop is the Basketball/Fitness/Yoga/Duck-Pin Bowling Arcade Buildings. Yep – there are all of these things, also available to the Home Owners Association, and available to all guests.
Though the Yoga/Stretching room is indoors, on lovely days, Yoga classes are held on the lawn.
Bowling Arcade Inn at Diamond Cove ME
The Bowling Alley and Arcade is a throwback to simpler times. I’m talking pinball machines and Ms. Pac-Man – all free to play as much as you’d like.
Overlooking Diamond Cove ME
There’s a old abandoned derelict hospital encased in foliage – with “future plans” – a mule barn for wedding equipment storage, an Art Gallery event venue with small military museum, two restaurants near the dock, mines, bunkers, and plenty of seating scattered about.
GM Gil Hartman and island resident on Seaglass Beach Diamond Cove ME
Hunt for shards of mess hall crock-ware, worn down bricks, and ocean tossed sea glass on “Sea Glass Beach.” Ask Gil (or anyone on staff) where to find it.
Rooms at Inn at Diamond Cove
Two story suite Inn at Diamond Cove Maine
Accommodations are not trendy frou-frou or kitschy. The 44 upscale rooms in 14 different configurations are sophisticated with a traditional-modern style; well crafted and artful.
Inn at Diamond Cove Bed Maine
My room was a two-floor suite with small kitchen, fireplace, and outdoor patio on the first level, and a large marble and tile bath and small bedroom below.
Marble Bath Inn at Diamond Cove Maine
The bathroom was my favorite – decked out with red, white, and blue painted starfish (aka sea stars), adding pop to the subway tile rain shower and marble sink.
Dining in Diamond Cove
Salad Inn at Diamond Cove Lobby Restaurant
The Inn’s lobby becomes a terrific restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, serving fresh salads, sandwiches ($12-$21 for lobster rolls), burgers, and more hearty fare. The Super Greens Salad enhanced with strawberries ($17) was picked-from-the-ground-fresh.
Crown Jewel Bar Restaurant Diamond Cove ME
Crown Jewel, near the dock, offers craft cocktails and artisanal bites in a cutie-pie space. Due to its rosy Floridian hue, neon flamingo, brass pineapples, yum yums, and savvy Instagram presence, Crown Jewel has given this otherwise sleepy island a total sugar rush: drawing mainland patrons who don’t even live or lodge here.
Diamonds Edge Restaurant Diamond Cove ME
Diamond’s Edge is Diamond Cove’s fine-dining establishment, with some of the friendliest servers you’ll find anywhere. The brand new chef (2019), Jason Kennedy, demonstrates a deft way with foodstuffs – and what emerges from the kitchen is pure joy. (He’s a keeper!). Surf, turf, field, and stream entrees range from $25-$45. Yes, please, to the toothsome lightly fried Calamari sprinkled with a savory sweet zesty cream my young cousin branded “a marriage of tartar and Vodka sauce.” And, I implored our waitress to keep Chef’s Potato Pancakes topped with Osso Bucco Ham and Succotash on the menu. A mélange of textures and flavors, I’d order it as my main meal every time.
Just the Facts
Rooms from $210 off-season to $550 in season includes wi-fi, use of recreation facilities, golf-cart tour and transportation. Casco Bay Ferry is $10.70 round trip. Valet parking in Portland $40 per night.
Resorts World Catskills, Monticello NY: Betting, Off-Roading, and Luxury in the Former Borscht Belt
Resorts World Catskills Monticello NY
From the 1930’s on, hoteliers have capitalized on the beauty of the Catskill Mountains, opening up resorts that drew a mostly middle-class Jewish clientele from New York City (90 miles away): so much so that by the 1950’s and ‘60’s, the area was referred to as “The Borsch Belt.” Grossinger’s, Kutsher’s, and The Concord dominated the hotel scene – giving comedians like Buddy Hackett, Sid Caesar, Henny Youngman, and later Billy Crystal, Jerry Seinfeld, and Joan Rivers a launch pad for their careers. (In one episode, the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel did a midnight stint at The Concord).
Blintz plate Resorts World Catskills NY
But by the ‘70’s, with the advent of central air conditioning and cheap airfare, those night quite of the jet-set could stay cool in hot summers without leaving home, or jump on a plane and travel elsewhere inexpensively. And so, those once grand resorts fell into decline, and after decades were sadly abandoned. What ever happened to them? Grossinger’s was just demolished in 2018, Kutsher’s was purchased by a billionaire from India and turned into a high-end Health and Wellness hotel.
Off Roading Author Monticello Motor Club NY
And the Concord? It was demolished and rebuilt as Resorts World Catskills– a gleaming glass tower of a casino resort in NYC’s backyard. With two hotel options, bars and restaurants, a great Spa, two indoor pools, a TopGolf Swing Suite, and affiliation with the Monticello Motor Club, (not to mention future plans to rebuild and revive the Concord’s famous Monster Golf Course), Resorts World Catskills plans to draw even non-gamblers to the mountains once again.
Like many “resort casinos” springing up all over the Northeast, Resorts World Catskills was built as a soaring mirrored monolith (the tallest building within three counties) seemingly in the middle of nowhere; literally reflecting the beauty of the surrounding hills. Creating casinos with slots and tables – plus room and board and other activities – seems to be the new template for repurposing old summer resort regions. Because of this, competition is stiff among these gaming venues, so each requires something to set it apart from all the others. Or, as my Grandfather used to say, “you need a gimmick.”
4-D Slots Resorts World Catskills NY
What’s Resorts World Catskills gimmick? Walk in the front door to the luxury hotel, and there is absolutely no doubt that you are in a casino. A massive arcade of blinking, bleeping, dinging slot machines – 2,100 of them, most state of the art, several 4-D – are right in view. Take a sniff, though, and you won’t smell smoke. Difference #1 – unlike most gambling halls, which are enveloped in haze, Resorts World is a no-smoking property.
Private Plunge Pool Resorts World Catskills NY
Difference # 2: the second floor houses one of the largest Poker Rooms in New York State, with a cloistered high limit ($100 minimum) table gaming area. Even more hidden, the highest-roller “Inner Sanctum” consists of seven private “gaming salons.” Catering to and bending over backwards for high-stakes gamers ($20,000 average per-hand), is one of Resorts World Catskills strong suits. Top clients are escorted by helicopter or luxury limo from the City, stay comped in two-level villas with private plunge pool and butler service, and have their preferred drink waiting at their table, among other perks.
Chinese-English Menu Lotus at Resorts World Catskills NY
And then there’s the high concentration of Asians here – by design. The third “gimmick” that makes Resorts Catskills stand out is its dedication to a demographic that loves gambling – 30% of the casino floor is designed for the mostly Chinese market. Table games – some very specific to Asian countries and only found here – feature tea service and are manned by bi-lingual speakers. Two on-site Asian food restaurants – Good Friends Noodle Bar and Lotus (with chef from Hong Kong) feature signs and menus in both English and Chinese. And, to allay superstitions of two cultures, the hotel has no 4th or 13th floors.
For now, 26 buses per day arrive here from NYC. Many people stay just for the day, but a growing number come for an overnight stay.
Guest Rooms at Resorts World Catskills
Guest Room Resorts World Catskills
There are now two hotel options at Resorts. The most luxurious (and costly) is in the casino building itself. All 322 rooms are regal, dressed in shades of blue, with windowed floor to ceiling walls that remind you that you are in the Catskills with every view. Even the smallest guest chambers are 600 sq. ft. and that includes a contemporary double-sink, modern-tiled bathroom larger than many New York City studio apartments.
Corridor at Alder Hotel Resorts World Catskills NY
All 101 pretty rooms at the new on-property Alder Hotel (which will sometime soon be connected to the main casino by an enclosed breezeway) are significantly smaller, but also significantly less expensive, starting at $99 midweek offseason.
Crystal Life Spa
Spa Pool Resorts World Catskills NY
Crystal Life Spa takes up a good part of the 3rd floor and is tucked behind the for-spa-guests-only donut-shaped cabana-lined indoor pool (next to the hotel guest indoor pool, also surrounded by private tented first-come-first-served cabanas). There are six treatment rooms, a steam room, dry sauna, and a pretty “relaxation room” with soft throws, low light, comfy settees, and snacks.
Entrance Crystal Life Spa Resorts World Catskills NY
The award winning, full service Spa draws both hotel and casino guests as well as locals for professionally rendered bodywork and skin treatments. Opt for a decadent massage on the Spa Wave by Gharieni – a newfangled massage bed and the only one of its kind on the East Coast – that integrates water, music, light, and vibration into the bodywork. My 60-minute massage, with concentration on my writer-tight neck and shoulders, left me headache-free and feeling mellow.
Dining at Resorts World
Food Hall Resorts World Catskill NY
Eateries range from an order-at-kiosk Food Hall to the celebrity-chef owned Callaio Steakhouse.
24/7 Restaurant Resorts World Catskills NY
24/7 is a 50’s style diner option with casual food, Belgian Waffles ($12), Cheese Blitzes ($12), burgers, salads, and a “Boozy Milkshake” menu – popular in the wee hours, as it’s open, yep, 24/7.
Dos Gatos The Adler at Resorts World Catskills NY
Dos Gatos, where tacos, guacamole, and other Mexican street food shine, is located in the Alder Hotel. It has both a food-truck’y component (order at a small counter), and a cool bar area where you can choose from 120 different tequilas.
Lotus Resorts World Catskills NY
Lotus, helmed by a chef from Hong Kong, serves up typical Chinese-American food: Pot Stickers ($10), Honey Lemon Chicken ($23) and the like – plus melt-off-the-bone BBQ Ribs ($15), and an excellent signature Peking Duck ($65) that can easily satisfy a table of 4.
Cellaio by Scott Conant Resorts World Catskills NY
Cellaio is the highest-end restaurant here, featuring dry-aged steaks (that are displayed a corridor window), and a large 500 bottle wine list. This is “Chopped” Chef Scott Conant’s third restaurant, and if you are a steak-lover, this will be your go-to place after a big win (or loss).
DJ at Resorts World Catskills Monticello NY
In addition, there are several bars scattered around, including the Empire Lounge and Doubletop Bar & Grill, because…it’s a casino.
Epicenter Resorts World Casino Monticello NY
Jerry Seinfeld opened the Epicenter (the cute name for Resorts 27,000 sq. ft. no-column event, music, and conference center) with a routine that no doubt harked back to his appearances at the Concord formerly located right on this land. While vast, the Epicenter does not have stadium seating (yet), has a ceiling high enough for an NBA game, accommodates 2,500 for a relatively intimate show, and 1,200 for a sit-down meal.
Off and On-Site Non-Gaming Adventures For Hotel Guests
Off Road Monticello Motor Club NY
3-Hour Off Road Adventure in a Polaris at Monticello Motor Club. This is probably the coolest, most exhilarating attraction that you can book exclusively through Resorts World. First off, the MMC is a private gated race club, so generally only the 500 members who belong and keep their racecars here can gain entry. But Casino players and stayers can also access through this Resorts package, allowing you to go off roading in the winter and on the 4.1-mile race course in summer. Drive a Polaris – an enclosed dirt bike – on snow between bare trees, over ruts, and through icy water (waterproof apparel loaned out). It’s a certified blast. The motor club just purchased tanks, which will bring a completely new experience to the varied terrain. Stay tuned. $689 for 2 includes overnight in a Resorts World Catskill King Suite, transportation to and from the Motor Club, a tour of the club and race-cars, and 3 hour Polaris off-road experience.
Karaoke at Doubletop Bar & Grill (on-site): Friday 8-11pm, free.
Trivia at Doubletop Bar & Grill: Thurs 6-9pm., free.
Cooking Class at Cellaio: Saturdays 1-2pm, free for guests.
Dos Gatos Tequilla Bar Resorts World Catskills
Tequila Tasting and Education at Dos Gatos, Sat/Sun 1-2, $49 per person limited so rsvp.
Empire Lounge Resorts World Catskills NY
Mixology Class, Empire Lounge, Sat/Sun 12-1pm, free for guests.
Indoor Pool Resorts World Catskills Monticello NY
Yoga by the Spa Pool, 3rd Floor, Sun 12-1, free for guests, $15 for non-guests.
Will arrange transportation to Bethel Woods (for a fee). Site of Yasgur’s Farm and the blowout 1969 Woodstock Music Festival is now both a music venue and fantastic Museum of the ‘60’s. Resorts World Catskills can arrange transportation to Bethel Woods concerts.
Just the Facts
Rooms in Resorts World Catskill Casino Hotel start at $140 off-season midweek to $920 in season weekends (includes taxes and fees) per night, suites higher. The Adler from $99 – $750 (includes tax and fees) per night.
Aspire at Mohegan Sun Casino and Resort, Uncasville CT
Approaching Mohegan Sun Resort Uncasville CT
The soaring geometric glass towers of Mohegan Sun Resort and Casinoappear suddenly – and startlingly – as you round a curve in the remote rolling hills along the Thames River in southeastern Connecticut. One of these modernist towers now houses Aspire, a “hotel within a hotel” with renovated rooms, butler service, complimentary breakfast, lunch and dinner, a “welcome gift,” and a quiet 4-table Blackjack room. I visited on a quiet January Tuesday to check it out.
Casino of the Wind Mohegan Sun Uncasville CT
Mohegan Sun, opened in 1996, and owned by the Mohegan Tribe, was the second “Indian Casino” to rise in Connecticut. (Foxwoods, managed by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe ten miles away, was built in 1986.)
Beadwork at Mohegan Sun Uncasville CT
The first time I approached the modernist towers of Mohegan Sun in 2002, I was, I admit, cynical. How does this glass and mirror Oz embody the essence of Native American culture, especially since gambling is the “Indian Casino’s” reason d’être? What do slot machines have to do with reverence for Mother Earth? Or for adhering to Tribal customs, for that matter?
Bead and Bark designs Mohegan Sun CT
And then, I walked in. Embellished with bead and bark designs, roaring waterfalls, a 25 ft. tall Chihuly glass centerpiece, and with two hotel casino towers identified as “Earth” and “Sky,” Mohegan Sun is arguably the most dazzling gaming resort in the country. And yes, its interior design celebrates the local Native American heritage in the most exquisite and spellbinding ways.
Chihuly Sculpture in Sky Tower Mohegan Sun CT
The Tribal owners/managers of Mohegan Sun are so adept at building and running casinos and entertainment resorts, in fact, they are seeking to expand by acquiring or partnering with others around the country (soon, around the world – in South Korea) through Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment, and already have six properties. Mohegan Sun Pocono in PA, Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, Ilani in Washington State, and Paragon Casino Resort in Louisiana are all under the MGE umbrella. “The Tribal Members want to be right there with the Wynn’s and Caesar’s,” says a company spokesman. “They consider this a family-run business.”
There are 1,600 hotel rooms at Mohegan Sun, divided between the Sky Tower (1,200 rooms with 200 suites), and the newly opened – in 2016- Earth Tower (400 rooms). Aspire, carved from the Sky Tower’s former VIP levels, is the Casino’s latest exclusive luxury lodging.
As a Preferred Hotel, the guest experience at Mohegan Sun is already high-end, but Aspire takes it to another level. Literally. Aspire guest rooms and suites are situated on floors 31 and above.
Aspire Check In Mohegan Sun CT
There’s a private check-in area, formerly the VIP welcome room off the Sky Tower hotel lobby, where friendly, service-minded reception staff sit at desks, and right away offer a beverage – water, coffee, tea…champagne, perhaps? And then, a barrage of questions: Do you require your food and beverage butler at the moment? Would you like to schedule a meal brought to your room after 11pm when the 33rd floor food service ends? What time would you like to check out? Late? 2pm? Absolutely fine.
33rd Floor Hallway Aspire Mohegan Sun CT
Aspire rooms can be accessed by a dedicated but hardly discreet elevator found among six others (which also go to Aspire floors) in one of two Sky Tower elevator banks. Part of the Mohegan Sun Resort complex, the public is free to wander around the breathtaking lobby, but guests of the lower Sky Tower Hotel and those lofty Aspire floors must pass two levels of security: the first a manned guard at the elevators, and the second a room key card to activate the elevator.
It’s conceivable that Aspire guests could rub elbows with a high roller or two (for them, rooms are comped or drastically discounted), or a celebrity performing in the Arena that night. No celebrity sightings for me. As for high rollers, I just didn’t ask.
Aspire Guest Rooms
Aspire Guest Room Mohegan Sun Resort CT
Guest rooms are as calming as the resort’s casinos and public areas are electrifying. Swathed in shades of gold and grey, with direct views of sunrise on the Thames River (yes, get up for it), these chambers radiate class and tranquility.
Aspire Welcome Gift Mohegan Sun CT
Comforters, nearly as voluminous as the pillow top beds, invite a sleep so deep, I was out for eight hours straight – the longest I’ve slept in months. That might have had something to do with the small Dream Catcher, awaiting me in the room as my “Welcome Gift,” or a spritz from the tiny bottle of lavender spray, placed on my pillow at turndown.
Royal Suite Mohegan Sun Resort CT
The top of the line 3,700 sq. ft. Royal Suite features 180-degree views of the Thames River from its massive living room, where once, competing women dished on an episode of The Bachelorette. With two bedrooms, two baths, and beautifully appointed, this is where headliners or high rollers are generally put up. (Price on request).
Aspire Floor 33 Amenities
View of Thames River from 33rd Floor Mohegan Sun CT
Aspire guests have access to complimentary food and beverages at “Thirty Three” –private dining, bar, and Blackjack table rooms on the 33rd floor – all with a beautiful view of the Thames River.
Thirty Three Bar Aspire Mohegan Sun Resort
Top shelf liquor, cocktails, beer, and wine are yours for the asking (my preference was a Jordan Cabernet, and the pour is BIG) at the private Aspire bar.
Lunch on Floor 33 Aspire Mohegan Sun CT
Dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner are set out as a buffet throughout the day, making it possible to dine for free during your stay. In the morning, you can have ready-made eggs your way, lox and bagels, bacon and sausage – and more. Lunch might be salads, sandwiches, and sliders. When I stayed, dinner consisted of steak, fried jumbo shrimp, lamb taco’s, and salad. This is not your roadside hotel evening pasta and pizza.
Private Blackjack Aspire Mohegan Sun CT
At 3pm, the private 4-table Blackjack room within view of the bar opens up for Aspire guests who prefer to play in peace and quiet. Minimum, $200, open 3-11 weekdays, 3-2 a.m. Fri. and Sat. Under 21 allowed in the room until 1pm only.
Just the Facts
Aspire rooms start at $309 – $600 depending on what is going on in the complex and can climb exponentially during tough-ticket events (e.g. Bruce Springsteen). Suites are priced on request.
11 Things to Know about Mohegan Sun
Mohegan Sun Functional Artwork Uncasville CT
Mohegan Sun is owned and operated by the Mohegan Tribe on Tribal land, and attracts 9 to 12 million visitors a year. Even an “off-season” midweek day will see 10k – 15k guests. There are 7,000 employees – many of whom have Native American heritage (though not necessarily Mohegan).
Sky Tower Lobby Fountain Pool Mohegan Sun Uncasville CT
Décor at Mohegan Sun is “tribally influenced,” with symbols of the Mohegan Tribe throughout the property. Tens of millions of colorful beads were used to create vibrantly colored lighting and sail-like sculptures above. White birch bark around the Sky Tower ceiling represents the importance of basket weaving to the Eastern Woodland Indians. Everything – from trees to waterfalls, and even the color-rotating Chihuly glass sculpture – evokes Tribal imagery.
Todd English Tuscany Mohegan Sun Uncasville CT
Among the 40-45 eateries at Mohegan Sun, you’ll find restaurants owned by Todd English (Tuscany), Bobby Flay (Bar American and Bobby’s Burger Palace), Michael Jordan (MJ’s Steakhouse), a Pepe’s Pizza outpost (since 1925 in New Haven CT) and the Soup Man (made famous by Jerry Seinfeld in his “Soup Nazi” episode). Unfortunately for those watching their figures, there’s also a Ben & Jerry’s, a Krispy Kreme, and a Dylan’s Candy Bar shop. FYI – Tuscany’s lunch buffet, Mon-Fri, is the best deal on site. For $24.95 you get a selection of about 10 salads, entrees like sirloin steak, mussels in wine sauce, chicken, and pasta, and a host of desserts – all with that Todd English flair.
Mohegan Sun Arena – Setting Up for Event
Michael Jordan, playing with the Wizards against the Celtics, headlined The Mohegan Sun Arena’s opening event in 2001.
The Mohegan Sun Arena hosts over 100 sporting events throughout the year. It has its own WNBA Woman’s Basketball and Professional Men’s Lacrosse Teams. The NLL (Lacrosse) matches are wildly popular, drawing 6,000 people to the area per event.
Bruce Springsteen, JZ, Beyonce, and Brittany Spears have all played in the 10,000-seat Mohegan Sun Arena, which hosts top-flight celebrities – most recently Dancing With the Stars.
Wolf Den Earth Casino Mohegan Sun CT
A second music venue – the 350 seat in-the-round Wolf Den – sits right in the center of the Earth Casino and is free. Yes, folks – you pay nada to listen to any band booked there. Though most are not well known (yet), Eddie Money, MC Hammer, the Gin Blossoms, and more have played at the Wolf Den. Even if you can’t get a seat, the venue is somewhat open to the casino area, so you can just stand, watch, and enjoy.
Earth Expo Center Mohegan Sun CT
The Earth Expo Center, opened in May 2018, is the size of 4 football fields and recently hosted the largest Classic Car Auction in the USA. Column-free, painted bright white, and flooded with natural light, the space is attracting large-scale expositions – Boat Shows, Home and Garden Shows, etc. One of the biggest events – the 4-day Sun, Wine, and Food Festival – has brightened up the dark frigid days of late January for 17 years in a row.
Mandara Spa Mohegan Sun CT
The high-end Mandara Spa occupies more than 16,000 sq. feet, has 13 treatment rooms, and offers everything from facials to massages to sloughing exfoliations and wraps.
Indoor Pool Mohegan Sun CT
The large indoor pool inside a glass atrium is very popular with families, as are the Kid’s Quest supervised activity center for children 6 weeks to 12 years ($12.25 per child/hour), and Cyber Quest Arcade for unaccompanied kids over 12. When I visited on a recent January Tuesday, there were more families with their young offspring here than people sitting at the slots – ironic for a gambling resort.
Waterfall Sky Tower Mohegan Sun Resort Uncasville CT
If you noticed – the ten facts about Mohegan Sun above did not include anything about “Gaming.” That’s because you can walk clear around the resort and not even enter one of three Casino Areas (Casino of the Earth, Casino of the Sky, Casino of the Wind) that together measure 300,000 sq ft. Those adverse to gambling will find joy just lingering by the central mosaic fountain pool in the hotel lobby or strolling around the interconnecting sections of the resort to ogle the tantalizing interior design and artwork.
MGM Springfield MA: Not A Gambler? No Problem
MGM Springfield MA Sign
The Getaway Mavens are not gamblers. So, it’s really not like us to go gaga over a Casino where hoards of people stare banefully at bleeping, dinging, flashing slot machines – or at Blackjack and Poker tables – hoping for a payoff.
Kringle Candle Emporium Exterior MGM Springfield
But here’s the thing: though ostensibly a gambling hall, MGM Springfield, the first MGM Resort in an already developed urban center, has brought life back to what was a down in the dumps municipality. Some even claim that the MGM, opened in August 2018, is setting off a renaissance in this Western MA city.
Springfield YWCA Now MGM Resort
Through repurposing vacant buildings, creating an eye-catching entertainment Plaza, drawing headliners to the Mass Mutual Center (owned by the State of Massachusetts but now managed by MGM), opening fun restaurants and bars, offering the only full-service movie-theater in the area, and utilizing wit and nods to local legends in the construction of a very cool boutique hotel, MGM Springfield delivers a phenomenal “Staycation” beyond expectations, even for people who are adverse to betting.
MGM Springfield Plaza Armory Building
According to one spokesperson, “MGM could have plopped a new marble and glass building in the middle of Springfield, but didn’t.” It enfolded the Victorian-Gothic French Congregational Church (now Kringle Candle Emporium), the old YWCA, the façade of the former Union House Hotel (now The Chandler Restaurant), and castle-cool Springfield Armory into its complex, honoring the past while creating something modern. Poignantly, the “Barber Room” (in the salon) is named after the Mayor of Springfield’s father, Alfonso Sarno, a much loved Springfield barber for six decades.
Bliss St Tree Table MGM Springfield
Architects and designers went so far as to pay homage to what once stood on this site: fashioning en-suite dining room tables from trees chopped down on Bliss St. (now One MGM Way). It’s interesting to note that between the new and old buildings, there are 45 different window types alone. No wonder architecture hounds and new-hotel enthusiasts are starting to flock here.
Hat Lamp MGM Springfield
In fact, touches all over the place will make you smile, and are worth second and third looks. If you do nothing else, wander the casino property and study the chandeliers. Each one is a work of art, embellished with quirky artifacts: golf clubs in the TopGolf Swing Suites, band hats in one of the larger guest suites, trapeze bands in Tap Sports Bar, antique photos in the Commonwealth Bar and more.
MGM Springfield takes up a good chunk of downtown, though its size is initially tough to discern. If driving in, choose the free Self Park garage (yes, I said free!), with elevators that deliver you right onto the Casino floor. You won’t be able to avoid the labyrinth of slot machines in vast, seemingly endless, rooms as you make your way to the Hotel, but just go with it and follow signs.
Mia Pearlman Art MGM Springfield MA
If dropped off, you’ll enter the hotel at the corner of Main and Howard Street, where you’re greeted by the first of many art installations – this one a whirlwind of white ribbony steel by Mia Pearlman, reflecting the tornado that tore through Springfield MA in 2011.
Unheard of and pretty ironic for a gaming resort, the MGM Springfield Hotel is a paean to giants in the literary world who once lived in the area (Merriam-Webster of Dictionary fame, Emily Dickinson, Dr. Seuss and more). And so, the hotel lobby is designed like a library, lined with bookshelves filled with real books (e.g. a 1962 Agawam High School Yearbook favored by guests who graduated that year and were excited to see it), and knickknacks gleaned from nearby Brimfield Flea Market, which gives guest rooms and common areas a whimsical vibe.
Elevator Books MGM Springfield MA
The large HOTEL sign once graced the façade of the Golden Gate Hotel in Las Vegas, alphabet letters behind the reception desk look like enlarged Scrabble tiles, and check out the elevator bank! It’s like walking into a giant shelf of favorite tomes.
MGM Springfield Hotel Lobby Bar
Make yourself at home in this living room like space. According to some, it’s the best place on the property for funky-fun craft cocktails with names like Tequila Mockingbird, Gone With the Gin, and Fahrenheit 451 – the latter a Chartreuse based drink topped by fresh mint that is lit on fire.
Craft Cocktail MGM Springfield Hotel Lobby Bar
On Friday nights from 6-8, the Lobby Bar becomes a “Study Hall” where guests get a “Library Card” which is stamped every time you try one of the many newfangled cocktails.
MGM Springfield Hotel Rooms and Suites
MGM Springfield Hotel Hallway
There are 252 rooms, including 16 suites, on five floors – each slightly different based on the “literary” art on the walls. Every floor showcases an artifact from the Springfield Museums in a glass case just off the elevator. As you make your way to your room pay attention to your surroundings: lines from Emily Dickinson poetry are woven into the hallway carpets; arrangements of sculptural lighting on hallway walls incorporate Dr. Seuss spectacles; US Mail signs outside each guest room door serve as Do Not Disturb or Service Requested lights.
MGM Springfield Guest Room
The creativity of interior designers continues in the guest rooms, which are unlike any I’ve seen outside of a NYC boutique hotel. Steam-punk style reading lights loom over ultra-comfy fabric covered beds distinguished by slanted backboards that are ergonomically perfect for reading before sleep. Poured concrete ceilings, dark wainscoted walls splashed with bookish art, forest green cable knit throws, chairs upholstered in tweed and hound’s-tooth with a punch of bold floral pillows – it’s a masculine/feminine/Yin/Yang mash-up of a space that is at once giddily fun and seriously sumptuous.
MGM Springfield Guest Room Bath
Bathrooms, too, stocked with Bvlgari toiletries, are unusually stylish, with casement window doors opening into subway tile rain showers, and snazzy sinks.
MGM Springfield Garden Suite
The 16 suites, with ample room for entertaining and lots more features, are always the first to sell out. The Presidential Suite on the 6th floor is unmarked – making it a discreet romantic getaway for 2 or a party space for a group of friends.
Amenities for Hotel Guests
MGM Springfield Gym
A small but well-appointed fitness room on the 2nd floor is outfitted with machines, balls, weights, water and towels.
In season outdoor roof deck pool is available to guests only.
MGM Springfield Hotel Starbucks Machine
Starbucks coffee machine on 2nd floor dispenses free coffee at all hours.
A full service Starbucks can be found right off the lobby.
Room and suite rates from $189 to over $1000 per night depend on availability and time of year.
Leaving the MGM Springfield Hotel
MGM Springfield Endless Slot Machines
Just outside the hotel lobby – you’ll find two shops: Essentials carries sundries, t-shirts and canned beer. Hannoush Jewelers, a local enterprise, captures the high rollers who might wish to spend their jackpots on something diamond studded. It was important to the Resort developers to support regional businesses, rather than, say, a national brand like Tiffany’s.
Casino Perimeter Bar MGM Springfield
The MGM Hotel is obviously connected to the Casino, and once you step over the threshold from lobby to the gaming floor, you can’t avoid 2,550 slot machines in 125,000 sq. ft of space. A cordoned off Poker Room, designed with aesthetics based on the Rolls Royce Phantom (manufactured in Springfield MA in the 1920’s), is a hushed respite from the overstimulation of the rest of the place. Gamers can take advantage of free coffee, water, tea and Coca Cola products from automatic dispensers – and belly up to several bars – that line the outer perimeter of the casino.
MGM Springfield MA Immaculate Casino Bathrooms
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say something about the immaculate bathrooms in the casino area. Kudos to the employees who keep them sparkling clean. Each sink features a faucet, soap dispenser, AND an air hand dryer – something I’ve never seen before.
At all hours of the day, every day, people que up at the M Life Rewards counter to become a member of MGM’s Loyalty Program. Yes, it’s a business, and when you’re in the business of (mostly) taking other people’s money, it’s good PR to show you’re giving back in some way. In this case with points every time you load up your card for the slots, when you purchase food and drinks, or buy stuff in the resort’s shops.
Game Sense MGM Springfield MA
To its credit, MGM Springfield features a very visible Game Sense office – available to people who might be confused by the games, need the odds spelled out, or require counseling for gambling addiction.
Drinking and Dining At MGM Springfield
Commonwealth Bar and Lounge MGM Springfield
I love a craft cocktail with an outrageous story – and the Commonwealth Bar does not disappoint. The “Indian Sidecar” costs $25,000…. but comes with a motorcycle. Yes, the Indian Motorcycle was first built and subsequently manufactured in Springfield MA, and has recently made a comeback (though no longer made here). This very expensive drink honors that heritage.
The Chandler Steakhouse MGM Springfield
If you had a “good day,” or just want to dine in one of the finest restaurants in Springfield, book a linen covered table at The Chandler Steakhouse, a low lit establishment with all the accoutrements of a swanky steakhouse. Circular dining room with leather banquettes? Check. Fawning waiters? Check. Great wines by the glass? Check. (My Oregon sourced Erath Pinot Noir was lovely). Lamp shade votives? Yep. The bread course – an excellent pull-apart dense popover – came hot and fresh from the oven. Clubby appetizers, like Oysters Rockefeller ($18), Roasted Bone Marrow ($16) are good, steaks from $44-$58 are of course the featured meal, but even vegans can find something to eat (on the day I dined – it was a Cauliflower Steak for $24), and non-meat eaters can choose from several seafood and chicken dishes. My Caramelized Scallops over shaved Brussels Sprouts and cauliflower cream ($34) was peppery and tasty – a perfect counterpoint to that glass of Pinot.
Cal Mare MGM Springfield
At the other end of the casino floor, find Cal Mare Italian Restaurant – a pretty, open space with good pasta dishes, and a walk-up wood-fire pizza annex.
Tap Sports Bar Bowling Alley MGM Springfield
There are screens galore (60 in all) playing all manner of sporting events at Tap Sports Bar, and the food decent, pub grub (burgers, wings, smoked brisket chili, etc). But what makes this spot so alluring is the 10-lane bowling alley in the back: from the looks of it, a very popular spot for neighboring office workers during a winter weekday lunch break. I heard that all lanes are already booked weekends through the end of the year. Tap Sports Bar is known, of course, for it’s beer on “tap,” burgers and “super fun aps.”
MGM Springfield South End Market
Those who love the variety of choice in food halls and food courts will appreciate the South End Market Food Court. In addition to a coffee/gelato booth (I’ve been told the MGM Signature Hot Chocolate is “killer”), there’s a Jack’s Lobster Shack, Bill’s Diner, Wicked Noodles, and Hearth Grill.
10 Ways to Stay Out of the Casino (for non-gamblers)
MGM Springfield Regal Cinema Bar
Recline, have a glass of wine, and watch a first-run movie on one of 7 large screens at Regal Cinema. Head up to the escalator to the movie theater lobby where you can purchase tickets at self-serve kiosks, order a drink at the bar, and get a meal at the concession stand. This is the only luxury cinema of its kind in this end of the State and a destination in its own right.
Spa, MGM Springfield MA
Book a Facial, Massage, Wrap, or other signature blackberry-sage skin therapies at the Spa at MGM Springfield. A hit with locals as well, this professional spa has 7 treatment rooms, a steam shower, large private showers, and lots of infused water and dried fruit to keep you healthy inside as well.
TopGolf Swing Suites MGM Springfield
Rent one of 3 “Suites” –curtained off spaces – at Top Golf Swing Suites for an hour or more ($80 per hour) and bring your best buddies to play virtual golf, baseball, Zombie Dodgeball, carnival games, hockey and more – all with food and bar service. Choose among 95 famous golf courses (including Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines), a plus for serious golfers who want to keep their game fresh in wintertime or for anyone who wishes to avoid the hustle and bustle of the casino. Open 4pm-11 weekdays, 12-12 on weekends.
MGM Springfield Tap Bowling Alley
Reserve a lane at Tap Sports Bar Bowling alley. There may be other Tap Sports Bars in other MGM’s around the country, but this is the only one with a fully operating bowling alley (and arcade) in the back. Lanes go fast, so be sure to book well ahead. Even better – your food is delivered right to your bowling lane.
MGM Springfield Tap Bar Arcade
Play arcade games, old fashioned and new, at Tap Sports Bar. Initially, the arcade games were complimentary, but parents started dropping their kids off before heading to the slots. Now – playing will cost you roughly $10 for 2 hours – and kids must be supervised.
MGM Springfield Skating Rink
If it’s winter, plan a spin on the Plaza Ice Rink. In winter 2018, Nancy Kerrigan was on hand to inaugurate the rink by skating to the song, “Let It Go.” But you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete – or know what you’re doing at all – to rent some skates and get out on the ice.
Kringle Candle Emporium MGM Springfield
If you’re “Frozen,” the Kringle Candle Emporium, just steps away from the ice rink, sells hot chocolate both spiked and not. Goes down warm and smooth either way. Interestingly, in addition to candles, beverages, and deserts, Kringle Candle also sells cashmere scarves and other gift items. (A bit of trivia – Kringle was established locally by the grandson of the Yankee Candle Co. founder).
Plaza Springfield Armory MGM Springfield MA
Shop a pop-up, see a comedy show, or plan your own affair in the former Springfield Armory building at the center of MGM Plaza (not to be confused with the Springfield Armory National Historic Site up the hill). Now filled with “Christmas Kringle shops,” the castle-like building will become the Roar Comedy Club on Jan. 3rd 2019, and at times will be free space available for your own special event. A cool venue for sure.
Indian Motorcycle Merchandise Shop MGM Springfield MA
Buy Indian Motorcycle merchandise in the only store dedicated to everything Indian but the bike itself. If you’ve got an Indian Motorcycle enthusiast in your life – pick something up here. (Or, see above and buy the “Indian Sidecar” cocktail at the Commonwealth Bar in the casino. Just $25,000, the drink comes with a motorcycle on the side.)
Hershey, PA; Where Goodnight Kisses Are Wrapped in Silver
WHY GO: The product that made Milton Hershey a household name – chocolate – dominates everything here; at Hershey Park, in the Resorts, and on Chocolate Ave. downtown where the streetlights are shaped like Kisses. One of the most overlooked attractions in Hershey, PA is, arguably, its most important; The Milton Hershey School. If you come to Hershey and do nothing else, take a tour of this free residential school for 1,900 disadvantaged kids in K-12. A part of every dollar you spend in this company town goes toward the care, feeding, and education of the children there. Of course, most people come to Hershey for the amusement Park, the Chocolate Spa or the stars who appear at the Arena. But make it a point to learn a bit about The Hershey School. You will be moved.
Things To Do, Besides Hersheypark, In Hershey, PA
Milton Hershey School PA
VISIT: The Milton Hershey School. Built in 1909 by Milton Hershey and his wife as a school for orphan boys, it has grown from a handful of students to nearly 1,900 boys and girls today. Childless Milton left his complete fortune to the foundation that keeps this free sanctuary in operation for kids from broken families or dysfunctional homes. Dedicated teachers are of the Miss Honey variety; compassionate, engaged and warmhearted. You’ll stand within the World’s Second Largest Rotunda – Founders Hall – and learn about the difference this place makes to many kids. 10am-3pm daily to see Founders Hall and 15 Minute Video, Free.
Hershey Story Hershey PA
VISIT: The Hershey Story Museum. During WWII, when aluminum foil was unavailable, the Hershey Chocolate Co. stopped making Chocolate Kisses and churned out 1.6 billion Ration Bars for US Troops instead. Find this bit of trivia and the Parade Magazine version of Milton Hershey’s life at this engaging, interactive museum downtown. In response to the harsh and abusive conditions Hershey saw in other Industrial Company Towns, he vowed to make his a kinder, gentler, prettier place. He offered decent housing at reasonable prices for his employees and encouraged residents to start their own businesses. He built community buildings, two theaters, a school for orphans and a recreational park that would become roller-coaster central, HersheyPark. His Foundation established the Penn State Milton Hershey Medical Center in 1963, and according to one bank Chair, “Milton measured success not in dollars but in the usefulness of those dollars for the benefit of his fellow man.” Stop long enough to watch videos of the kids who went to or are attending the Hershey School; they talk about the stability, motivation and compassion they find there. I dare you to leave the museum dry-eyed. 9am-5pm daily in season, $10 adults.
VISIT: AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America) Museum. This showcase for dozens of iconic motorcars displayed in a hanger-sized building is fast becoming a hotspot for “quirky” weddings. Pick up a souvenir in the Dog House Garage Store on your way out. 9am-5pm daily, $10 adults, $7 kids.
Chocolate World, Hershey PA
DO: Hershey’s Chocolate World. It’s free, its fast (only 15 minutes) and it’s fun – just like a Disneyworld ride without the expense. Jump aboard carriages that convey you through the chocolate-making process. Animatronic cows croon “it’s all about the milk,” as you see cocoa beans roasted, milled, pressed and mixed with milk and sugar to become, ta-da, Hershey’s kisses and other chocolate products. Amazingly, Hershey Chocolate Co. still produces over 80 million kisses every day. Opens daily at 9am and closes at 6, 7 or 9pm depending on season. Check Website.
DO/SPA: Chocolate Spa, Hotel Hershey. Luxuriate in a 15 minute patented Whipped Hot Cocoa Bath ($50). Awarded a U.S. patent in 2001, it’s an experience comparable to sitting in a cup of hot chocolate and the spa’s most popular treatment. There are dozens of various treatments including a new, edible facial and Whoopie Pie Mani-Pedi. Leave it to the folks at Hershey to determine all kind of ways to be immersed in the sweet stuff; dipped like fondue, wrapped like a burrito and submerged — all without a single calorie! Contact the Spa far in advance to secure reservation, since they fill up quickly.
Melt Spa By Hershey Downtown Hershey PA
DO/SPA: MeltSpa by Hershey. Chocolate spa treatments are in high demand in Hershey PA. So, it was wise of Hershey Co. to open up a second Day Spa in town to 1) catch the overflow of guests at Hershey Hotel’s Spa, and 2) serve as an alternative for locals. I had a chance to chat with several local professional women who appreciate the fact that they can easily visit this in-town spa without all the rigmarole of checking in and waiting for services at the hotel. I’ve been to both now and can attest to the timesaving factor and similarities of services. Though the ambience at MeltSpa, including the small “Relaxation Room,” is not as posh as the hotel’s, the treatments are equally fine.
MeltSpa by Hershey Interior Hershey PA
My 90 minute “Dark Chocolate Immersion” ($145) – first a full-body exfoliation with Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Sugar Scrub, followed by an application of a chocolate moisturizing cream all over my body, then wrapped in cling-plastic and blankets – made my skin softer than it’s been in decades. Additional massage on my troubled tight muscles rendered this treatment both decadent and beneficial. I also tried the 60-minute Hershey’s Sweet Treat Dark Chocolate Pedicure ($65), which incorporates a lower leg exfoliation and massage. The mani-pedi space features walls of windows that look out to main street Hershey – so while my feet and toenails were quite expertly tended to, I enjoyed people-watching on the sidewalk outside. All in all, MeltSpa at Hershey measures up to the Hershey name.
DO: Learn Falconry. “There’s nothing like calling a hawk and seeing this small bird getting bigger and bigger as it approaches your gloved hand,” says Master Falconer and NBC News 8 Naturalist, Jack Hubley. Take a 1 ½ hour lesson, then holler for your own hawk. Wed – Mon Memorial Day to Labor Day, Weekends in Spring and Fall, April – October, 11am- 12:30, $75 if staying in a Hershey Resort.
What To Eat In Hershey, PA
EAT: The Circular, Hotel Hershey. After an extensive renovation, The Circular has been updated to reflect the tastes of today’s foodie traveler. An O-shaped bar and baking station takes up the center of the whitewashed room (no more mural). Gas-light-style lamps illuminate wood furniture made in the USA accented in various chocolate hues. Gone are “bartenders” and in their place inventive “mixologists” who use house-made infusions in artful (and delectable) cocktails. Chefs and managers have been culled from Four Seasons Hotels, so they understand the new au courant – small-plates market. Sit at the circular bar (hey ladies, it’s got built-in purse hooks!), graze on absurdly scrumptious “Wild Mushroom Wellington” ($20), Pretzel-Crusted Rock Shrimp ($9) – the PA Dutch version of Popcorn Shrimp and infinitively better – or go full-tilt for the 18oz “Prime Cowboy” steak ($49, but big enough for at least two). End with the Chocolate Fondue for Two ($12). The Circular is Hershey Hotel’s return to excellence and relevancy on the upscale, destination dining scene.
EAT: Trevi 5, Hotel Hershey. You can hear screams from the nearby roller coaster riders while enjoying your meal on the patio of this lovely linen-tabled Contemporary Italian restaurant. The food is terrific, and service warm and gracious.
EAT/BREAKFAST: Hershey Pantry. Go “off campus” to the local favorite breakfast place, The Hershey Pantry, where you can stuff yourself with Stuffed French Toast and other only-on-vacation breakfast splurges.
EAT: The Chocolate Avenue Grill, downtown– offering an inventive and delish take on burgers, sandwiches and salads. Try the Grilled Cesar Salad with Grilled Chicken ($12) – crisp, smokey, fresh, tasty, and not an ounce of cocoa in it.
Where To Stay In Hershey, PA
STAY: The Hotel Hershey. Philanthropist Milton Hershey put 600 people to work during the Great Depression in 1933 to build this marquee hotel. Though a bit bland on the outside, the interior, particularly the colorful Moorish Fountain Lobby (designed like the Heliopolis Hotel in Egypt), and The Circular Dining Room, are magnificent. Family-crest chic rooms in soothing neutral shades of creams and butterscotch, are lusciously appointed. The Chocolate Spa is located on premises, as are a slew of resort amenities and of course lots of shops that carry all things Hershey. $279 and up per room includes chocolate bar at check-in, discounts to Hershey Park, free shuttle to local attractions, free passes to area museums, and a host of amenities.
Hershey Lodge Guest Room Hershey PA
STAY: Hershey Lodge. Once upon a time, this was the more rustic, “family friendly” brother of the upscale Hotel Hershey. But most of the 665 rooms and suites at the Lodge have been refreshed to luxury standards, and the lobby sports a large and impressive four-sided stone fireplace around which HersheyPark-weary parents take a much-needed load off.
Hershey Lodge Lobby Hershey PA
Of course, as a Hershey Co. property, you get a full-sized Hershey’s Chocolate Bar at check-in, and your room includes an hour early access to Hersheypark, complimentary admission to Hershey Gardens, complimentary admission to the Hershey’s Story Experience, free front-gate shuttle service, and discounts on Park Entrance fees. Room rates from $179 off season to $479 in season.
STAY: Inn at Westwynd Farm. Not every lodging in the Hershey area is part of the company town. Take this 32-acre working horse farm /B&B, just three miles away. With an ambience ripped from the pages of a romance novel, 11 pasture-view rooms have a fireplace and bedside Jacuzzi and are done up in whites and creams offset by deeply colored window treatments and bedding. Watch a variety of horses, alpacas and donkeys gambol all over a vast expanse of farmland. Westwynd Farm is known for its three course hot breakfast served in the cathedral-ceiling great room or on an outside patio besides a koi pond. $109-$209 per room gets you unlimited baked snacks, soft drinks, beer, wine and gourmet 3 course breakfast for 2.
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Omni Bedford Springs Resort, Bedford PA With Flight 93 Memorial Excursion
In the late 1700’s, Dr. John Anderson learned that Native Americans used the water emanating from the springs at what is now the Omni Bedford Springs Resort in Bedford PA, for healing. Believing the springs to have curative properties, Anderson purchased over 2,000 acres and began to bring patients to this western area of Pennsylvania. Word spread, and when wealthy people started making the pilgrimage here, in 1806 Anderson built the Stone House as a sanatorium where weary patients could drink and swim in the restorative water. Thomas Jefferson stayed a few weeks in 1819, James Buchanan considered this his “summer home,” and other US Presidents have visited since then. As a favorite mid 1800’s vacation spot for Southerners, Bedford Springs was one of the only northern resorts not burned down by Confederates during the Civil War.
Over the years, the property morphed into a summer resort for the rich and famous, and more and more buildings were added on, lending a unique asymmetrical multi-architectural style to the meandering building. Bedford Springs resort featured one of the first golf courses and one of the first indoor pools in the United States. The property remained a popular hotel until the 1980’s when resort travel the world over declined. In 1984, the Bedford Springs Resort was named a National Historic Landmark, and in 1986 it closed. Enter new owners in the 1990’s who sunk $120 million into renovations, reopening the hotel as the luxury 216-room Omni Bedford Springs Resort in 2007. Renovations were cleverly and appealingly done – using fixtures and colors matching the hues and period amenities of each distinct building.
Even on a dreary, grey, and drizzly day, eye-catching landscaping and gardens brighten up this imposing place. The Colonial-style lobby is large and appealing, with a fire in the fireplace, lots of windows and natural light, period décor, and a double split staircase leading to ballrooms on higher floors. There’s a rare 1889, 39-star US Flag behind the reception desk – one of just several in existence worldwide.Each room and corridor throughout several buildings serve as museum galleries showcasing photos, art, and artifacts from the resort’s early years to present. There’s so much to take in, I recommend taking a $10 hour-long tour of the property offered daily at 10am, and additionally on Friday and Saturday at 1pm.
Rooms at Omni Bedford Springs
Guestrooms are designed to best represent the time period in which each corresponding building was constructed. The new Spa Rooms exemplify an atmosphere of serenity, in a pastel palette of whisper blues and greens. The wood sleigh bed is topped with cloudlike bedding and the softest of sheets. A balcony with several chairs overlooks hills and hiking trails. Bright French Doors enter onto a Carrera marble and subway tile bathroom. Understated opulence.
Dining At Omni Bedford Springs
There are four full time restaurants on site, including the upscale steak house, 1796 (referencing the year Anderson purchased the property), the casual Frontier Tavern, Tillie’s at the Golf Clubhouse, and my favorite, the Crystal Dining Room, a fantasia of white, with black and white portrait photographs blanketing the walls, and glittery crystal chandeliers. It’s like dining within a 1920’s movie.
One of the Top 100 Golf Courses in the USA, the 18 hole Bedford Springs course was first designed by Spencer Oldham, and then redesigned by A.w. Tillingast and Donald Ross.
Built in 1905, this indoor mineral spring-fed pool was one of the first in the country, originally 9 feet deep from end to end: just the right depth to inspire guests to swan dive from the overhead balcony. The pool has since been reconstructed with a shallow area, but remains spring fed and crystal clear.
Hiking and Biking
There are miles of footpaths from easy to difficult ranging from half a mile to 4.5 miles, as well as 2 dedicated mountain bike paths – one moderate, one difficult – on the property.
In addition to a full-service Spa, An on-site outfitter arranges Segway Tours, Archery, Fly-Fishing, UTV, horseback rides, and trap shooting.
Just the Facts
Rooms from $239 per night include parking.
Venture Out: Things to Do in or Near Bedford PA
Bedford PA has significant frontier history, best explored at the Fort Bedford Museum – a 1958 recreation of a 1758 French and Indian War Era fort right on site – and the Espy House – President George Washington’s headquarters during the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion (which caused nearly as much agitation as the earlier British tax on tea).
VISIT: National Museum of the American Coverlet, Bedford. But the best and quirkiest use of your time away from the Omni Hotel would have to be a visit to the National Museum of the American Coverlet – situated in the 1859 Bedford Primary School. Weird and wonderful enough to warrant mention on the Atlas Obscura website, antique coverlets earn their stripes, so to speak, as an American art form here, displayed in all their magnificence throughout a labyrinth of old classrooms that now serve as soaring galleries.
“People know about quilts, but not about coverlets, which are made on a loom,” says Melinda Zongor, who, with her husband, Lazlo, founded the museum in 2006. All 500-600 coverlets, dating from 1771 to 1889, have been donated and are in beautiful shape. Most have the owner’s name and date woven into the design, and some of the more dramatic ones feature silhouettes of buildings and nature scenes. All coverlets are juxtaposed with complex looms of the day. The Museum also offers classes in weaving and spinning – and is gaining aficionados – though if you come midweek on a summer’s day, the place may seem closed. Even if you don’t see a car in the parking lot, if within stated operating hours, go to the front door. The museum will most likely be open. Open daily, Mon – Sat 10-5, Sun 12-4, $10.
VISIT: Flight 93 National Memorial, near Shanksville. On a much more somber note – if you are heading West to Pittsburgh, or even if you are not, drive 30 minutes to the place where, on September 11, 2001, heroes on board Flight 93 forced down a hijacked plane heading to the US Capitol building. The Memorial – now a National Park – is composed of several structures, including the Visitor’s Center and Memorial Plaza, within the crash site bounded by the hilly Allegheny Mountains.
You’ll likely encounter groups of sobbing people entering the Visitor’s Center, which tells the story of the 33 passengers and 7 crew members who deliberately thwarted a terrorist attack, knowingly risking their own lives.
According to Park Rangers, like Thomas Burnett, Jr., who give talks several times a day, the fact that Flight 93 took off 24 minutes late made all the difference in the world, allowing passengers, in contact with loved ones, to know what was happening that morning. Travelers on board made a total of 37 calls – some leaving tearful messages on answering machines, now part of the heartbreaking multi-media exhibit.
Flight 93 crashed at a 40-degree angle at 563 MPH with a full tank of fuel, leaving a 40 acres debris field and an impact crater 30 feet wide and 15 feet deep. It missed Shanksville’s Elementary School, with kids just back from summer break, by three seconds. The footprint of Memorial Plaza runs along the debris field, and extends to a Wall of Names at the impact site. Come to pay tribute to those who lost their lives to save others. Open daily 9-5 (except for New Years, Thanksgiving and Christmas), free.
Migis Lodge on Sebago Lake ME: 100 Years of Lake Cottage Traditions
By day’s end, the Sebago Lake (ME) chorus reaches its crescendo – repetitive loon calls, frogs that trill like never-ending car alarms, murmurs of mothers and fathers putting their kids to sleep in nearby cottages – all merging into one great Migis Lodge reverie. It’s a symphony that singles, couples, and families have been listening to at this upscale but down to earth Maine resort for 100 years.
Though there are other ways to access Sebago Lake – camping at Sebago Lake State Park, renting a condo at Sebago Point, staying at non-lakefront hotels on main roads – Migis Lodge is a self-contained summer camp, mostly for a highbrow clientele, but also for those who’ve saved up to splurge, with everything you need right on the grounds. The restaurant is the finest in the area (three meals a day included), and there are many ways to get in or out on the water, from the swimming platform, sandy beaches, canoes, kayaks, sup’s, sail, and motor boats.
Legend has it that Migis is Native American for “A place to steal away,” and though that might not be completely fact checked, the translation certainly fits. People have called this place “magical” – which is the real reason guests come every year, generation after generation.
Driving in, my first sense of Migis harked back to my days at sleepaway camp in the Adirondacks, with dirt roads and rustic cottages peppered throughout the woods.
That initial impression – of moldy towels and hard bunk beds – was quickly dispelled at first view of the country-posh reception area in the Main Lodge with its view of the pristine lake, and the incredibly personable, anticipatory Migis staff and family, which includes, happily, a tropical bird.
If owners Tim and Joan Porta are around, you’ll meet their African Grey Parrot, “Deets,” who apparently has a vast vocabulary but was mute on the day I arrived.
The main lodge features couches in front of a roaring fireplace (all summer long!), reception, the dining room with outside deck, and upstairs, several guest rooms. As I checked in near the dinner hour, I saw men and boys, dressed in jackets for dinner (required), appearing as if they’d just walked off a Ralph Lauren shoot.
Rooms and Cottages at Migis Lodge
Cottages are upscale-country, with great internet service, lots of outlets, travertine marble tiled bath and showers, and cathedral ceilings.
Daybreak, a one bedroom cottage overlooking the resort’s sole sweat-lodge – aka a dry sauna hut heated by firewood, its little chimney pumping out smoke – also has a living room with fireplace and porch with views out to the lake.
All cottages and houses have been refreshed, some with renovated bathrooms, and are kept up and furnished as befits first-class lodging.
Dining at Migis Lodge
Three meals a day are included in the cost of a stay. Breakfast and lunch are informal affairs, but Migis has kept up its dress-for-dinner tradition. Men must wear jackets – and for women, resort casual dress applies. Seasonal wait-staff, like the genuinely friendly Anna Bolduck, are unpretentious as can be, and make sure that everything goes well, and is to your liking.
Each 5-course dinner includes a starter, salad, soup, main dish with side, and dessert, which you choose from a menu that changes often. On the menu the night I dined were old-fashioned favorites like Pan Seared Cod Loin, Veal Oscar, and Baked Lobster Thermidor. But chefs are adept at catering to a variety of dietary needs – so vegans will find several options, like the Vegetable Pad Thai, as well. I could have slurped down several bowls of Wild Mushroom Ginger Soup, a sweet and hot consommé loaded with chunks of al dente mushrooms. A groaning dessert table, presided over by two young pastry chefs, featured Migis Lodge’s signature chocolate chip cookies and almond brittle, among other delectable desserts. This is not the place to start (or even adhere to) your diet.
Migis serves most meals in the dining room, but does have its annual traditions. Wednesday Lunch is “Island Cookout Day” – when guests are taken to Migis Island for a swim and meal. Every Friday Evening, it’s the popular Lobster Bake. Saturday night is Buffet Night, and Sunday morning brings Breakfast Cookout at the Point.
Amenities at Migis Lodge
Explore Lake Sebago via kayak, rowboat, SUP, or canoe (complimentary use), or motorboat (nominal fee). You can spend a whole day on the 5 mile by 7 mile lake (43 miles of shoreline!) paddling, rowing or motoring to Eagle Island (protected, with lots of Bald Eagles), Frye Island (where locals used to jump off the cliff at “Frye’s Leap” – no longer allowed), or spend most of the day cruising from Sebago to Long Lake via the Songo River and it’s one ancient lock.
It’s a bucolic ride to the lock and its adjacent hand-cranked swing bridge– either by car (very fast) or boat. If Migis takes you back to a simpler time, this bridge and lock experience will cement you there. (Songo Locks are open May 1-June 15, and Labor Day to Oct 15 8am-4:30pm, and June 15-Labor Day 8am-7:30pm.
Weekly activities are part of the fun here, and are included in the nightly room/cottage rate. There’s a Migis Cocktail Party on Mondays (complimentary cocktails), A Lake Cruise on Tuesday and Thursday, Bingo on Wednesday Night (with great prizes!), and Karaoke after Friday’s Lobster Bake.
Besides the above, Migis offers water-ski and wakeboard instruction three times a day, and fishing poles for those so inclined to drop a line.
There are several tennis courts and a 9-hole Disc Golf Course with equipment loaned for free.
The open-air Fitness Center has the most updated machines.
And the supervised children’s programs keep little ones busy, with hands-on activities like tie-dying and crafting.
Just the Facts
Rates range from $334-$434 per person per night in summer and $204-$296 from after Labor Day to mid-October (depending on accommodation), and includes three meals a day, complimentary use of non-motorized watercraft, children’s programs, fitness center, Waterskiing and Wakeboarding group instruction. Though open seasonally from Father’s Day weekend in June until Columbus Day Weekend in October, high season is July and August. To avoid crowds, the best time to come is in mid June or September, when the weather is still warm enough to swim – or at least take advantage of the lake. Just be warned: Migis takes check or cash only for payment. No credit cards.
Cliff House, Cape Neddick ME: Newly Hip
InStyle Magazine called the re-imagined Cliff House on Cape Neddick ME one of the best spots in the world to get engaged, and when you drive past lovely shore homes, pull into the long drive, and at last enter this Oceanside resort that conjures up images of Jane Eyre on the moors, you’ll understand why. You have to make a concerted effort to reach the new and vastly improved hotel, just a 10-minute drive from York Beach or Ogunquit. Once you get here, however, you may not want to venture out to those crowded locales.
Walk through the blue front door into a sunny lobby, and although the dark reclaimed wood floor is as old as the hills, the whole blasted place feels as fresh as the breezes that blow over the moody Atlantic Ocean– right outside a soaring wall of windows.The Cliff House has been in existence since Captain Theodore and Elsie Weare built a lodge atop these rocks in 1866. Back then, you could stay a whole week for a mere $6. The hotel stayed in the Weare family until 2015 when it was purchased by Rockbridge as a Destination Hotel, and then basically gutted and rebuilt for today’s luxury traveler.
There are few resorts on earth with the kind of unspoiled beauty you’ll find at the Cliff House. Generally, a wild location like this with unparalleled views would be crammed with commercial development, but that’s not the case on Cape Neddick, a few miles and worlds away from Maine’s most populated tourist towns.
Yes, there are several private homes wedged into neighboring cliffs, and the Cliff House itself is building a second wing to nearly double its number of rooms (from 126 to 226), but other than that, it’s pretty remote.
The Cliff House is luxurious, but not flamboyantly so. TrueXCullins designed the interior in modern Scandinavian style, with a nod to the property’s nautical lineage. Deck-like wood floors hark back to the days of sailing ships, ships knots are arrayed behind the reception desk, and of course, a bank of two-story windows overlooks the endless Atlantic and those bald cliffs that give this hotel its name.
Rooms at Cliff House
Guestrooms are ship shape in nautical navy, ecru and white. The bedding is so incredibly soft, voluminous, and snuggly, this place could be a waterside shack and the sheets/duvet/mattress combo would render it a 5 star hotel.
The King Deluxe room features a linen-clad couch, round ottoman, large flat screen TV and plenty of storage space. Two khaki-colored canvas captain’s chairs and yachting cocktail table sit beneath an enlarged section of a nautical chart. The lines are simple and clean – as opposed to the temperamental Atlantic a swan’s-dive from the balcony.
Designers have updated the room for modern travelers. There are several outlets within reach of each bedside, and lights in the room are easy to turn off right before snoozing.A blue and white plaid plushy micro-fiber robe hangs in the small, but pretty bathroom, with flattering and ample light for makeup application (just sayin’ – it’s the small things that excite this traveler). Linen repeats in the textural tile glass rain shower, large enough for two.
Dining at Cliff HouseTiller: If available, ask for a window seat facing a rectangular cove where the Atlantic runs up against the rocks. It’s a show better than anything on TV or your electronic device, so please leave those in your room. From here, you can enjoy excellent food, a glass of wine, and, if lucky, leaping whales or gallivanting seals right outside.
Yes, these creatures have been known to show up, though dishes like the Cider-Glazed Brussels Sprouts ($7), Peppers and Potatoes ($7), and larger plates like Day Boat Scallops with Pork Belly ($41) and other entrees ($31-$41) will hold your attention as well (though not as dramatically).
Breakfast, often with fogged-in view of the jagged, angular rocks outside, is a la cart – with offerings like Zucchini Bread French Toast, Cracked Oats with Maine Maple Syrup and Continental Breakfast breads.
Nubb’s Lobster Shack: Near indoor pool, this very casual eatery highlighting Maine’s most notable dish, includes an arcade space with foosball, darts and shuffleboard.
The Spa at Cliff House
This is a full-service spa with 9 treatment rooms, a “movement room” offering yoga classes, and other “Holistic Wellness Experiences” that focus on mind, body, and soul rather than exterior beauty. During high season, you must book a treatment to use the dry and wet saunas, but all guests are invited to use both the indoor and outdoor pools and fitness center. “Escape and Wonder” body treatments – Water, Stone, Sun, or Sea, $200 for 80 minutes. Massage from $80 for 25 minutes to $200 for 80 minutes.
Amenities at Cliff House
Gallery at Bald Head Cliff – in the underground connector between the main building and indoor pool building, showcasing some of the best local artwork, for sale.
Fitness Center with machines overlooking Ocean.
Indoor and Outdoor pools
Just the Facts
Cliff House is open year round. Rooms from $209 low season to $750 high season per night, plus resort fee $22 per day per person. Through July 31, $150 resort credit as a part of a Summer Solstice package, based on availability.
Castle Hill Resort and Spa: Proctorsville VT
Built, in 1901, in the “English Cotswold Style” of rough-hewn granite as a summer home for industrialist Allen M. Fletcher (who was elected Governor of Vermont in 1912), the 10-room Castle Hill Resort and Spa, the first home in Vermont to be wired for electricity, is on the National Historic Register and a Historic Hotel of America.
Owners have lightly updated rooms and amenities for modern visitors, but Castle Hill retains its original beauty. On 100 landscaped acres, it sits atop a hill overlooking its sister property – The Pointe– below. If you’re a rambunctious family, or are looking for a lower cost lodging, The Pointe, with motel-like rooms, is fine. But for something special – baronial even – stay in grand style at Castle Hill.
The approach to the stone mansion is impressive – taking in a view of the 1889 Carriage House that now serves as the Spa and Fitness Center and a stunning stone pool area. A walk around the manor yields some cool surprises, such as “angels in the architecture;” cherub faces in the intricately carved wooden trim around the roofline that lends Bavarian embellishment to an otherwise English design.
Walk inside, and your eyes have to acclimate to the darkness of the polished paneled walls and 12 ft. high molded plaster ceilings. Fletcher went all out, apparently, with an eye for detail, right down to the wallpaper (original) in the staircase that mirrors the design in the library ceiling: glamorous in a clubby, masculine way.
Every room is a “Man Cave” – dark paneled wood, fine fireplaces, and the comfiest of beds. All bathrooms are en-suite and are slowly being updated, though for now, some remain “vintage,” but impeccably clean.
Dining at Castle Hill Resort
For $9.95 per person, guests get Continental Breakfast featuring yogurts, granola, fresh fruit, freshly baked pastries (my favorite), bagels, hard-boiled eggs and hot scrambled eggs. It’s served in the “Oval Dining Room” – a curved-wall, woodworked, mirrored door feast for the eyes.
For dinner, though the menu items are also available a la cart, opt for the three-course price fixe, which turns a meal into a lingering experience. What is now the dining room was once the mansion’s billiards room, and you’re made to feel right at home. The library has been updated within the year (2016), so there’s plenty of silver grey seating that brightens up an otherwise dark space. In winter, start with drinks beside the vast fireplace, topped with original Tiffany sconces, and plastered with field and farm themed tiles. Or, in warmer months, sip wine on the patio overlooking the surrounding mountains.
Chef Alphonsus Harris has helmed the kitchen for 17 years, presenting patrons – at classy candlelit tables covered in linen and set with crystal wineglasses and china – classic chicken, rack of lamb, and steak dishes. Service is warm and gracious – with a cut lemon after finger food to clean those sticky fingers
Amenities at Castle Hill Resort and Spa
The stunning saltwater pool (a quick walk across the driveway) is heated year round, and is especially popular après-ski. The poolside solarium is heated in winter, air conditioned in the summer, and it’s where Yoga sessions are held for guests.Right above the pool, you’ll find hard tru tennis courts – which are lit up at night for evening play.
The Aveda Concept Spa and Fitness Center is right beside the pool in what was the mansion’s Carriage House. You can actually see original harness marks on the wood-slat walls, and stall doors leading into the dry sauna area.
The fitness room – with state of the art equipment – features the original wood floor. The Spa is full service, with body treatments, hair, nails, and even couples massages.
Just the Facts
Room rates from $229-$309 include parking and wifi. Continental Breakfast an additional $9.95 per person.
Silver Birches Resort on Lake Wallenpaupack, Hawley PA
The owners of the Arts and Crafts Settler’s Inn and trendy, modern Ledges Hotel in Hawley PA have done it again, with a complete overhaul of an archaic family cottage resort right on the banks of Lake Wallenpaupack.
The Settlers Hospitality Group has successfully imbued the former 1929 Ehrhardt’s Waterfront Resort with new life as The Silver Birches Resort, a small but very appealing collection of cottages, houses, suites and rooms right on the water.
This is no sprawling resort. You don’t need a bellboy in a golf cart to squire you around the grounds. Park near the main building, one of a few on the property that backs up to the lake, and check in. You can walk easily to all the rooms and cottages, which cluster closely around the Reception/Inn Building.
The welcome is friendly and very casual. You’ll get the lay of the land, a map of the property and an invitation to a “Sunset Champaign Toast,” that’s complimentary with your room.
Common areas are thoughtfully and pleasingly composed – with the lake, of course, getting top billing right outside the sunroom’s picture windows.
If it’s chilly, a fireplace warms the common area stocked with books and games, a perfect place in season, too, to hang out when it’s raining.
But on fine days, you’ll want to be out on Lake Wallenpaupack or in the Silver Birches Pool.
OMG – the bathtub! I want it. That was my first thought when I scouted out the King Deluxe Suite in the Inn building – Room #14. A curvaceous sea foam-green glass-ceramic silver claw foot tub; it’s momma-and daddy-don’t-wanna-bring-their-kids-here sexy.
But that’s not the half of it. Any fan of hotel bathrooms will love this one – roomy with hardwood floor and a sundrenched glass shower as well.
The Tartan carpeting in the otherwise country-fied sitting room is a nice touch.
But you won’t be sitting much on those couches with a view like that out of the windows.
Bedding in the bright nautical bedroom is as comfy as it gets. Each room category is furnished differently, but all are newly updated, eye-catching, and country-contemporary.
Dining at Silver Birches
The Dock has the best view of the lake and is great for a drink. But for the most outstanding dining – best to go to the Settler’s Inn for farm to table cuisine, or Ledges (Glass Wine Bar and Kitchen) for small bites.
Daily Sunset Champaign Toast
Campfires with Adirondack Chairs for evening wine and conversation
The Recreation Center – for kayak, SUP, canoe, and power boat rentals.
Just the Facts
King Deluxe Suite from $210-$360 depending on season.
Rooms from $135 off season. All include wifi, parking and drink at sunset.