3 Affordable Resorts Near New York City

July 20, 2009 at 9:18 am | Posted in golf, resorts, United States | 1 Comment
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by Ed Wetschler

Eastern Pennsylvania's Shawnee Inn

Eastern Pennsylvania's Shawnee Inn

The one-tank vacation is for real: In a July ’09 survey of New Jerseyans, half the respondents said they’ll take this year’s vacation within their own state.

The good news, at least for folks in and around the tri-state (New York, Connecticut, New Jersey) area is that there are now resorts nearby that offer both taste and value, a combo that used to be scarcer than white rhinos. So I’m tempted to write a dissertation on why/how this miracle happened, but I’ll spare you, because what really matters is this: Which resorts are worth the (little) trip?

All three of the getaways described here offer stunning scenery and a sense that you’ve left the city far behind, even if you haven’t. Golf is big, but not monolithic, at these resorts. They also offer spa services, updated cuisine, activities for all four seasons, and spectacular fall foliage. Rates mentioned here are for summer; the deals get even better after foliage season.

You can pay beaucoup bucks for a “Legacy Suite” at the Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort (www.ShawneeInn.com), in Shawnee, Pennsylvania, but I’d book a $149 double. Why? Ed’s Rule #1: The guests who stay in the least costly room get the same smiles and scenery as the spenders.

Built in 1911, the 99-room Shawnee Inn is big on golf history, entertainment history, and the Delaware River. Grandfathered into the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (which it predates), Shawnee is the only full-service resort on the river. Besides a beach, it offers boating and fishing, as well as hiking and biking in the national park. There are also organized activities, tennis courts, an indoor pool — and a unique golf course.

Most of that course, designed by golf deity A.W. Tillinghast, is on an island in the river. It has hosted the PGA, and its pro was Sam Snead. Jackie Gleason and Mickey Mantle used to swat dimpled balls here with Arnold Palmer, big-band leader Fred Waring once owned the place, and the walls are festooned with photos featuring yesteryear’s stars. I’d like to see a little less yesteryear and a little more today, but I’ll admit that Waring’s old Shawnee Theater is a great venue for plays and musicals. And thank heaven (OK, the Feds) that the river remains pristine.

Although Milford, Pennsylvania’s Cliff Park Inn (www.CliffParkInn.com) also lies within the park and boasts a historic inn and golf course, there’s no way you’d confuse it with Shawnee. With just 14 individually decorated rooms (from $141), a cliff-top setting high above the river, and a culinary emphasis on local ingredients, this place is geared mostly toward couples.

The vistas from the trail along the ridge are breathtaking, guests can go fishing in a pond on the property (or cross-country skiing in winter), and the front desk arranges canoeing on the Delaware. Nearby Milford has lovely galleries, antiques shops, and historic buildings.

And did somebody say historic? President James Buchanan’s uncle acquired the place around 1820, and you can still admire the building’s 19th-century features. In the early 1900s one of the Buchanan women lost her husband, went to Scotland to grieve, took up golf, and upon returning home was outraged that ladies weren’t allowed on local links. So she built her own course in 1912 — the first ever built and owned by a female. Another reason why today it’s gratifying to see women, as well as men, playing it.

Crystal Springs Resort & Golf Club (www.CrystalGolfResort.com), in the forested hills of northwestern New Jersey, has a split personality. Its Minerals Hotel (from $194) is family-oriented; the more upmarket Cascades Lodge, where the cheapest room costs $269 in summer, is très romantic. But romance depends most on the romancers, so consider staying at Minerals and spending the difference on an unforgettable meal at Restaurant LaTour, which serves exquisite contemporary cuisine and boasts one of America’s greatest wine cellars.

Besides, Minerals does still have it all: a big spa, an even bigger fitness center, indoor tennis and racquetball, indoor and outdoor pools, guided hikes, kids’ activities, live music, horseback riding, and access to seven top-rated golf courses designed by the likes of Tom Fazio and Robert Trent Jones. And don’t forget your camera: You might spot deer, hawks, even bears on the fairways.C

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  1. Hey Ed,
    Great piece! Certainly makes me want to explore that corner of the country some more. Reading about Crystal Springs made me wonder if their spa is centered around their own mineral spring waters, or is it just a name? Having soaked in a host of spring waters in Karlsbad and Mariánské Lázně in the Czech Republic a few years ago for a piece for Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel, I am fond of those treatments, if a bit skeptical of some of their claims…


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