Review of Greek Peak Hope Lake Lodge & Cascades Indoor Water Park
by June Santini
My 11-year-old son is walking happily up to the well-stocked lake to fish, with equipment borrowed from the concierge. He has been looking forward to this little side trip all morning. As I walk him part way up to the lake, we take in the view together. It is early spring, but it is easy to imagine how the mountains must sparkle in winter. I leave Alex with his rod and reel and head back to the lodge, ready for my upcoming treatment at the on-site spa. Hannah, my 15-year-old, heads to the water park. Later, we will go off-site for a little sight-seeing and history at the nearby 1890 House Museum. Then back to the resort for water-slides, arcade games, and more.
At the risk of using a cliché: there is literally something for everyone at Hope Lake Lodge and Resort. And it's a good thing, too, because we actually brought everyone: kids, parents, and grandparents all converged on Cortland, NY for a little rest, relaxation, and recreation. We went to the right place.
The most obvious but not the only reason to visit Hope Lake Lodge and Resort is if you like to ski. Greek Peak Mountain, central New York's dominant ski area, is directly across the street. The hotel provides shuttle service to the ski area every 15 minutes during the winter season. Renovations to the ski area begin in Spring 2010.
The Cascades Indoor Water Park was the main attraction for my kids when we visited in mid-April 2010. The water is a very comfortable 84 degrees. It has three body slides and one tube slide, a wave pool, an indoor shallow play pool, an outdoor heated pool, and an indoor/outdoor heated whirlpool. It also has also a dump bucket, water cannons, and an area for little kids. It is big enough to play in for most of the day, but small enough that parents can be quite comfortable giving their tweens and teens the run of the place. Unlike the ski area, it is only accessible to hotel guests. We felt very safe there.
At check-in at Hope Lake lodge, everyone is given an RFID bracelet. The RFID tag emits a radio frequency, much like a Thruway EZ-Pass, which opens your hotel room door, admits you to the water park, and can be tied to your credit card to charge meals, spa treatments, lift tickets, and arcade tokens. We did not choose to link the credit card to the bracelets, as I was reluctant to give my kids unlimited access to my credit card. Later, I spoke with the marketing director, Jeff Kryger, and he let me know that you can set a limit on individual bracelets, so it would act as a type of debit card for the kids. You give them $25.00, for instance, tell them to use it for lunch and arcade tokens, and when it is gone, they have no further access to money, unless you choose to replenish it.
My kids happily spent time at the arcade. It was a respectable size, with about 20 to 25 different games, including skee ball (my personal favorite), video games, basketball hoop games, and Dance Dance Revolution. Tickets from the games could be redeemed for typical arcade dime store stuff, the type that kids love and parents can do without.
One aspect of Hope Lake Lodge that I particularly appreciated is that the staff is happy to let you use the water park both before check-in time and after check-out time. If you arrive any time after 11:00 am, the bellman will store your bags in his bellman’s closet; then you can change into your bathing suit at the water park. Likewise, after check-out you can continue to use the park until 4:00pm. Hope Lake Lodge provides nice changing rooms with showers and changing tables, as well as lockers to store your things. Towels are provided, but we chose to bring our own beach towels.
The highlight of my stay was a treatment at the Waterfalls Spa. What mom doesn’t enjoy being treated like royalty while her kids are safely occupied? Everything about my spa experience was wonderful. The ambiance was peaceful, beautiful, and relaxing. The staff was accommodating and professional. I chose to have a facial, and it was so much more than I expected--as relaxing as any massage I have ever had. I also treated my daughter to the Teen Queen Bee package, which included a 30-minute massage, a 30-minute pedicure, and a 30-minute facial. She emerged feeling special and pampered. The hour-and-a-half package actually took nearly 2½ hours. The spa was also willing to accommodate a last-minute request for a haircut from my dad.
Perhaps the greatest thing about Hope Lake Lodge for families is that every room included a kitchen. We brought easy-to-prepare breakfast and lunch food. The kitchens are equipped enough to prepare simple meals, and with a little thought, I could probably have made something complicated. But I was on vacation, so heating up hot dogs for the kids for lunch and making scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast was about as complicated as I wanted to get.
If you don’t feel like cooking at all, the water park has a snack bar, and the hotel has a restaurant. The snack bar offers the usual fare of hamburgers, hot dogs, and nachos, but also offers beer and wine for mom and dad! The regular restaurant, the Acorn Grill, is very family friendly. We saw at least two kids spill drinks and the staff handled it with grace and aplomb, completely unfazed. There is a good selection of dishes to suit both kids and adults. One of my children ordered a chicken and broccoli pasta bake and pronounced it quite delicious; the other ordered the seafood pasta and thought it was not bad. The adults tried the prime rib and we were pleasantly surprised that it was cooked to the desired degree of rareness that we requested. (This is not easy to get when you like your prime rib so that it is barely warm in the middle.) Another serving was exactly medium rare. The service was good, the wine list had a nice selection of foreign and domestic wines, and the general manager of the hotel even stopped by our table to ask if we liked our meals and were enjoying our stay. This is definitely a family restaurant; it is not a nice quiet place to which the parents can slip away. That being said, you can leave your kids in the child care center while you have dinner if you like; there is an activity planned for every evening. There is an additional cost for the evening activities, or to leave your child in the child care center during the day.
The child care center is a bright, cheerful place with a soft floor, a nice view, and toys and games to suit kids from babies to tweens. Stay and play some wii with your older kids. Your toddlers can play with age appropriate games, puzzles, and toys. Babies can nap safely in portable cribs. You can feel free to pop in and play at no charge, as long as you stay with your child. Or, you can choose to pay an hourly rate and leave them in the capable hands of the staff.
Ours was not the only multi-generation family visiting the resort; we saw several families that included parents, kids, and grandparents. Hope Lake Lodge has suites that will sleep up to 10 people; ours had two bedrooms and a living room area. Rooms have racks by the entrances to store wet ski boots; they will come in especially handy during ski season as will the clothes lines in the showers for hanging wet suits. There are several fully ADA-accessible rooms; we were even able to borrow a wheelchair from the bellman’s closet for my father, who had broken his foot the day before. It was great that they were so willing to help and that we didn’t have to cancel our trip.
We really enjoyed our stay at Hope Lake Lodge. From the concierges who will supply you with board games, to the friendly bell staff who will take your luggage to your room, park your car, and then go back to your car to bring you the jacket you left behind, everyone makes sure you have a great time. We certainly did.