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6 Classic Resorts that Deliver on Relaxation and Adventure

I am a married mother of two, but I still dream of a Dirty Dancing-inspired vacation.

Who of us that came of age in the 80s could resist the grasp of that movie? The classic summer lodge, the water, the woods, the summer romance, the dance lessons. The fictional Kellerman’s Resort had me thinking about a good, old fashioned summer vacation that checks all the boxes: Lovely accommodations, activities for all ages, somewhere to swim, and plenty of nooks and crannies to get lost in a page-turner. Wouldn’t hurt if the week culminates with a talent show (I was a theater major, after all!). Here are a few classic resorts that will leaving you having the time of your life. 

Mountain Lake Lodge – Pembroke, Virginia

Did you know you can stay at the actual Dirty Dancing resort? It’s not in the Catskills, but Pembroke, Virginia. Set in the middle of a 2,600 acre nature preserve and in the Appalachian Mountains, there’s lots to love about the historic Mountain Lake Lodge. From rustic cabins dating back to 1912 (you can stay in Baby’s cabin!) and cozy cottages, to lodging in their historic Main Stone Lodge, there’s a perfect accommodation for every kind of traveler.

Mountain Lake Lodge offers many exciting outdoor activities, from nature walks to a thrilling zip-line course. Explore 22 miles of scenic walking, hiking, and mountain biking trails; beach volleyball, arts and crafts, naturalist programs, movie nights and bonfires. They host special offer Dirty Dancing weekends, complete with lessons and a barn dance. Nobody puts Samantha in a corner.

The Grand Hotel – Mackinac Island, Michigan

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I am a sucker for car-free islands and fudge, which makes Mackinac Island a favorite destination. If you’re going to stay overnight, book a room at the Grand Hotel. Dating back to 1887, this elegant resort has welcomed its fair share of esteemed guests such as Mark Twain, JFK, Esther Williams and Samantha Brown. However, any visitor plays second fiddle to the property’s best known feature—the 660-foot front porch, which overlooks the Straits of Mackinac and the Mackinac Bridge spanning Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas.

Open seasonally (May – October), The Grand Hotel is the world’s largest summer hotel, with 397 uniquely designed rooms. A stay here includes a full breakfast and dinner in the room rates. Kids nine and under stay and eat for free, and tipping is not permitted on the property. Guests may enjoy the 18-hole golf course, Pickleball, tennis, lawn games including croquet and bocci ball, swimming in the Esther Williams Swimming Pool, biking and gardens. And I know I said the thing about no cars earlier, but seriously—zero cars on the island, only bikes and horse drawn carriages allowed. How cool is that?

Osthoff Resort – Elkhart Lake, WI

Built in 1886 by German entrepreneur Otto Osthoff and his wife Paulina, their namesake hotel became a favorite of affluent travelers looking to escape Milwaukee, Chicago and St. Louis. Today, its proximity to Road America (known for epic car racing) makes it a favorite destination for fast car enthusiasts, but the heart and soul of the property hasn’t changed much. While the grande dame building turns heads, it’s the spring-fed, crystal-clear waters of Elkhart Lake that drops jaws.

In addition to all the lake activities you can imagine (sailing, fishing, boat rentals, waterskiing, swimming, etc. etc.), there’s a 100-seat restaurant, pool, destination spa and fun outdoor restaurant and bar, often with live music. Nearby, Kettle Moraine State Park offers great hiking and biking. And the town of Elkhart Lake is just the sweetest, with great dining (try the Paddock Club), ice cream shops and bars.

Cabot Cove Cottages – Kennebunkport, ME

Some say bigger is always better. I tend to disagree. Some of life’s special treasures are found in small, charming packages, like the Cottages of Cabot Cove near Kennebunkport, Maine. This enclave of 16 tiny, waterfront cottages are simply adorable.  They are each uniquely decorated and include fresh-baked baskets of goodies, their own private patios and comfy kitchens. If you can bring yourself to leave the cottage, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to get active. Golfing, kayaking, fishing, yoga… or just sit on the beach or just laze around under a tree in an Adirondack chair and work the daily crossword puzzle.

Kennebunkport village, Dock Square, smooth-sand beaches and wonderful restaurants are just a short stroll or bike ride away. Cape Porpoise Maine’s coast has over 60 lighthouses for you to explore and photograph. I adore Goose Rocks Beach, known for its gorgeous, smooth sandy (and secluded) beach with over 3 miles of natural, virtually untouched coastline. You can hike down the beach or kayak over to local islands. I’ve always dreamed of owning a vacation home in Maine. Until then, I’m staying here.

The DeBruce – The Catskills, NY

At its height in popularity in the first half of the 20th Century, the Catskill’s Willowmec Valley had as many as 20 hotels in operation. Today, there’s one: the Debruce. The 100+ year-old property has had many iterations, but it’s current one makes for an unforgettable romantic getaway.

The 14 guest rooms boast Sferra Linens and spa-inspired bath and body products. Outside, you’ll have access hundreds of acres of private land spanning two mountains, five miles of hiking and biking trails, a river (take a fly fishing lesson!), several ponds and a private pool. Oh and did I mention the spa and cozy fireplaces? But what truly makes the DeBruce extra special is the food. I’m talking gourmet, multi-course meals featuring local ingredients like venison and trout. Both breakfast and dinner is all included (yes, even gratuities) in your stay. Where do I sign?

Salishan Coastal Lodge – Oregon Coast

I’m not sure anywhere is quite as breathtaking as the Oregon Coast. Enjoy the rugged landscape, complete with towering trees and ocean views, at the Salishan Coastal Lodge. Open since 1965, this property seamlessly melds natural beauty and outdoor activities with modern luxury. Go mountain biking; head to the spa. Adventure through their ropes course; lounge on the beach. Hike the trails; taking a wine tour highlighting the region’s award-winning wines. Play tennis; relax at the brewery.

When you’re done exploring, you’ll love plopping down in an overstuffed chair near a roaring fire—both available in many guest rooms. Honestly, it might be enough for me to sit on my balcony and watch the waves crash into the shore. We’re a long way from Brooklyn, people!

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Dirty Dancing’s fictional Kellerman’s Resort has me craving a good, old fashioned summer vacation that checks all the boxes: Lovely accommodations, activities for all ages, somewhere to swim, and plenty of nooks and crannies to get lost in a page-turner. Here are a few classic resorts that will leaving you having the time of your life.


Photo by Steve Saunders on Unsplash

Photo by leah hetteberg on Unsplash

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. I’m headed to Mohonk Mountain House at the end of the month. I saw Samantha stay there many years ago. This is my third year in a row after having on my bucket list for so long.

    1. I also saw the episode where Samantha visited the hotel and decided I had to stay there. It was a great experience, almost like going back in time to an era I had only read about or seen in period movies. I can see how you return every year. Now you have me thinking I need to go back!

  2. My family stayed at Salishan coincidentally when they were filming Sometimes a Great Notion with Paul Newman, Henry Fonda and others. We ate in the same restaurant. Can’t tell you how many times my dad told me to stop staring. The place is spectacular!

  3. I love reading about these types of destination hotels. I am disappointed not to see the Mount Washington Hotel and the Mountain View Grand, both in northern New Hampshire, and the Wentworth-By-The-Sea Hotel on the ocean New Castle NH weren’t mentioned. These are all beautiful old ‘destination’ hotels from the era when people went to those hotels for the ‘season’. Both of these beauties are magnificent and a real treat to get to stay there. Maybe they’ll be included in a future list….

  4. I need to add one more. The Old Faithfull Inn, located in Yellowstone National Park. Built in 1902-1903, the largest log structure in the world, spectacular scenery and thousands of acres to explore.

  5. I was surprised that Samantha did not mention the Grand Hotel’s film connection as the setting for Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. Another movie that stoked many a woman’s romantic fantasies1

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