Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Skytop Getaway and Review

As a child, my Uncle Edgar used to take our entire family as well as a few close friends to Skytop every winter.  This was a magical time of fancy dresses, roaming the halls with the other children, swimming in the indoor pool and ice skating.  One highlight was my Uncle Walter letting us each pick out a souvenir in the gift shop. We went to Skytop each winter in the late seventies and early eighties.

I have always wished to return with my own family. When Travelzoo listed a deal this past summer which was too good to pass up I jumped at the chance to return!  For $398 we had two nights' stay including 6 meals plus a $20 credit to use towards activities.  This past weekend we finally cashed in that voucher for a wonderful family vacation.

Before heading out on our trip, we had a few bumps.  Reservations were very difficult to make.  It took me several calls to the hotel to even speak to a human able to help.  Once I was connected with the right person, I was able to secure our date.  Sadly I never received the email with confirmation information, so again I wasted time once again before our trip trying to connect with someone to make sure we were all set.  I was once again told I would be sent a confirmation, yet never received anything but a blank email saying we were set.

I spent some time reading mixed reviews on Trip Advisor, but held on to the fact that I knew people who had been to Skytop recently and had a lovely time.  When we arrived, we were taken care of immediately.  Sadly, the king room within the lodge that I was told we were staying in was no longer ours.  We would be staying now in the cottages outside the lodge in a queen room with a smallish pull out.  I had not prepared for this but when we arrived to the room, we were happy with it.  There was a large closet for all our dress clothes and snow gear.  The room had a nice flat screen TV and fair sized bathroom.  It also had a nice little porch that had it been a different season we could have spent time sitting outside while the children played on the nearby playground. If staying in the cottages, Skytop provides a shuttle service that is prompt and friendly.  We often walked as it was very close!

Immediately, we headed back up to the lobby for tea time.  We loved this little event.  They served hot tea, coffee, hot chocolate and hot apple cider along with freshly baked cookies.  The lobby was gorgeously decorated for the holidays.  It is open and elegant yet the wood burning fireplaces and lovely seating areas make it also intimate.  The children then headed over to see the life sized gingerbread house.  This was absolutely amazing.  You could smell the scent of gingerbread wafting out of it.  The children enjoyed wandering about inside helping themselves to the candy treats within the window sills.  We then headed down to explore the game room.  There was free miniature golf along with other paid video games.  They cost $1, but we found a few that really took up a good bit of time like the Foosball style hockey.  There is a pub, my beloved gift shop, and a treat shop on this level that we never had the opportunity to visit.

After exploring the hotel, we were settled in to start really enjoying our trip.  The first night we had a wonderful meal in the dining room.  The dining room offers three meals a day.  Breakfast is served from 7:30-9:00, lunch from 12:00-1:00, and dinner from 6:00-8:00.  Dinner is a dress event and men are required to wear sport coats.  The meals may have been the highlight of our trip.  We loved the elegant factor of dressing for dinner and the opportunity it provided us with teaching our children etiquette.  No cell phones are allowed in the dining area and we respected that so we have no pictures of our delicious meals.  For dinner there is a child's buffet and for adults you select from a menu.  The meal plan provides you with an appetizer, soup or salad, entree and dessert plus non alcoholic beverages.  Cole did not want to utilize the children's buffet and was able to order from the adult menu.  His favorite dish was the grouper. While eying up Cecily's fruit from the child's buffet, he became envious.  Our server quickly came out with a huge bowl of fresh fruit for Cole.  The breakfasts and lunches were served buffet style.  They always had fresh salad or fruit.  At breakfast there was an omelet  station that Cole loved.  In two days he ate three omelets.  At lunch a chef prepared freshly grilled Reubens or Rachels.  The desserts were delicious and if you didn't like any of their choices then the server gladly would bring ice cream.

The service in the dining room was spot on.  They were kind and understanding with our children.  One server took the time to teach the children how to do fancy napkin folds.  She also made Cecily's tea for her then added ice to cool it off before serving it to her.  I loved to see the interaction between the staff and repeat visitors.  Much like my family had done many years ago, other groups come yearly and get to know the staff.  This speaks highly for the lodge as they must not have a high turn over rate.  I also liked the fact that we got to know other families by sitting near them at each meal.  It was great for our children to interact.

The activities offered were vast and there was no concern about being bored.  That being said, some were really costly and for the average family may be out of reach financially.  No concerns there though because we easily navigated ways to not spend a lot and still fully enjoy the resort.  We attended Gingerbread making, where for free the children made 6 fully decorated and delicious gingerbread cookies.  We watched Santa's elf pick up the letter's for Santa at the Gingerbread House, we enjoyed a few stories inside the life sized Gingerbread house, we visited and received small gifts from Santa, and we went swimming twice in the large indoor pool. Today we even received letters from the North Pole courtesy of Skytop to our home.   Our one paid activity was ice skating.  The skate rentals were $10, but if you bring your own skates then this activity is free.  None of the activities were too busy to enjoy, everyone treated us kindly and the children had a blast.  When we return, we will do the dog sledding.  It was just a little too cold and snowy this time for that splurge and the children probably should be a year older.

Overall I thought we got every penny out of this vacation.  The food alone was worth what we paid. Would we pay full price to go again?  Well the truth is I never like to pay full price for anything so probably not, but Skytop offers many deals and discounts so I will be on the lookout for those.  Many reviewers remarked about the dated decor and lack of upgrades for the hotel.  Yes this is true, but if you go into your trip not expecting something as fancy and modern I feel you will be pleased.  This is the perfect place for an outdoorsy family.  They have 5500 acres to explore.  The trip is what you make of it and I believe that you could be budget conscious while visiting a resort that offers many costly extras.  Simply choose to limit your spending and do what is included in your stay for free.  We will be back and hope to get the rest of the family on board to make this a new tradition.  When I spoke to my brother about the stay, he asked me if it was as I remembered from my childhood and it absolutely was.  His remark was, "so it is basically like a cruise on land?"  It is absolutely this way. My children made wonderful memories, learned about the finer things in life, and now want to continue this tradition.  Thank you Skytop and Travelzoo for giving us such a wonderful weekend in the midst of all the holiday hustle and bustle.

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