Decades ago, the resorts scattered across Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains were the places-to-be for a romantic getaway. Already known as a skier’s haven and an ideal escape for city dwellers (the region is just 90 minutes from Manhattan), during the ’70s and ’80s the Poconos hotels became notorious for jingle-filled advertisements touting their honeymoon suites and other amorous amenities. But once the 1990s hit, the area lost its appeal, forcing many hotels and resorts out of business and into disrepair.
The Mount Airy Lodge was one of these famous destinations left abandoned. So when the DeNaples family purchased the property in 2004, they knew it didn’t just need a makeover, but a complete overhaul and redesign. They demolished the building and started over. “We wanted to let people know this wasn’t the same Mount Airy they saw in commercials years ago. By the late ’80s it was a dilapidated, smelly building — that’s all gone,” says the resort’s Tonia Lewis. “We wanted to appeal to those who remember their good times in the Poconos, but also to the next generation of visitors — those who were more drawn to the area’s scenic beauty, especially during the fall. It’s a paradise for leaf-peepers.” The DeNaples family ended up creating an award-winning six-story resort containing 188 rooms and suites along with a slew of attractions.
While it’s not ideal for families with young children, the resort — which opened in 2006 — appeals to a wide array of tastes. “Our casino is a big draw — we have everything Las Vegas and Atlantic City have,” Lewis says. That includes 1,500 slot machines, 72 table games, and a high-stakes room. Five eateries — a retro diner, a buffet, a noodle bar, an Italian restaurant, and a high-end steakhouse — satiate a range of appetites and budgets. And Gypsy’s nightclub hosts events from comedy acts and concerts to all-male revues. (“We’re a very popular destination for girlfriend getaways,” Lewis adds.)
Across the grounds, there’s an 18-hole golf course complete with a pristine clubhouse and restaurant/bar. And then there’s the spa. Just walking into the waiting room, with its sculpted fountain and soothing music, you begin to relax. The staff is extremely accommodating, but not in that scripted, “I don’t care, I just work here” way often seen at resort spas. Try a steam shower or sauna, slip into a soft robe, then rest on a chaise lounge before enjoying a range of treatments. Ideal for autumn: the Serenity Dry Wrap ($138). You’ll be exfoliated, moisturized, then wrapped with warm blankets as acupressure is applied. The icing on the cake: The aestheticians use season-appropriate scents like crème brulee and pumpkin.
“What helps to separate us from other resorts and hotels is that we’re still family-run,” Lewis says. “Every detail you see was carefully chosen by Mr. and Mrs. DeNaples. Some of the rooms have been redesigned by their daughter, who went to school for interior design. Mrs. DeNaples is here every day to dine at the Italian restaurant and check on the well-being of the staff and the cleanliness of the building — that’s why everything still looks so new, even though we’ve been open for years.” To prove her point, Lewis swiped a random ledge with her index finger: “See? Not a speck. Mount Airy is clean, upscale, and the only four-diamond casino-resort in Pennsylvania. Whether you’re visiting as a couple, group, or solo, we have everything you could possibly want in a getaway.”
312 Woodland Rd., Mount Pocono, PA. 877-682-4791; www.mountairycasino.com
Room rates range from $179-$339; special packages available.
At Red Steakhouse, the menu is a bit on the pricier side, but the fresh, seasonal dishes are worth trying. Chef Luke Polles changes the menu from time to time; entrées run the gamut from sea bass to chicken. But this is a steakhouse; you’ll want to try the steak, no? Prime cuts and the 24-ounce dry-aged porterhouse are available, but the 22-ounce rib-eye seems to be the top choice for carnivores. Another recommended dish: Free-range, organic chicken from a nearby Lancaster farm with haricots verts and a lemon-thyme jus. Be sure to save room for dessert. The chocolate espresso crème brulee is so good you’ll want to hug the chef. 877-682-4791
Kitchen Chemistry provides gourmet homemade cupcakes, along with classes to create your very own culinary masterpiece. Aside from the array of cupcake-filled options, customers can enjoy a variety of other delicious treats, and shop for kitchen utensils and soap making supplies. 570-730-4944; www.kitchen-chemistry.com
On Sept. 28, the Fork & the Cork Festival allows guests to taste a variety of foods and libations from around the world. Held on the grounds of the resort, attendees can walk through the gourmet marketplace, take a ride in a tethered hot-air balloon, and more. www.forkandthecork.com
The casino has a variety of top-shelf acts performing this fall. Comedy Central star Jeff Ross performs on Sept. 14, comedian Amy Schumer brings the laughs Oct. 5, and rocker Aaron Lewis (lead singer of the rock group Staind) returns with his Unplugged show on Nov. 9.
Tour the historic Asa Packer Mansion, which was built in 1861 in Victorian Italianate style by the founder of Lehigh University; it’s just one of the many National Historic Landmarks in the area. 570-325-3229; www.asapackermansion.com
Between Interstate 84 and the resort, you’ll find Route 390, part of which is also known as Promised Land Road — named after nearby Promised Land State Park. This winding country road is lined with thick trees that burst with color during peak season (October). Along this route, you’ll also find a state park with hiking trails, a lake with boat rentals (and a sandy beach for summer visits), plus local shops, pubs, and eateries further down the road.