Without my kids, I felt young again at this all-inclusive family resort in the Poconos

In spite of being the only family at Woodloch without children, I didn’t feel like a square peg in a round hole.
Aerial view of Woodloch Pines All Inclusive Family Resort (Photo: Woodloch Pines)
Aerial view of Woodloch Pines All Inclusive Family Resort (Photo: Woodloch Pines)

My family moved to Rome when my now-young-adult children were in pre-school. My husband and I made an intentional decision to immerse ourselves in the local culture and not live like expats. The kids quickly assimilated, speaking Italian with Roman accents at school and twirling spaghetti on a fork like experts.

When my parents came to visit, my mother voiced concern that the kids might lose their fluency in English. My dad pointed out that while my mother’s linguistic concern was unlikely, what was at stake was American identity. That was food for thought. I wanted to raise bi-cultural kids, but it was still important to me that they had a profound understanding of being American. Pop-Tarts, Sesame Street, and Saturday morning cartoons were part of my ’70s childhood. Would American pop culture be imprinted in my children’s memory? Would they even feel like Americans?

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I decided to expose my kids to as much American culture as possible

The next time we visited New York, I booked a weekend at Woodloch Resort, an all-inclusive family resort in the Poconos mountains of Pennsylvania. I had been there way back when I was a pre-teen, invited by a friend to join her on a family vacation. I remembered it being the quintessential Northeast family resort, complete with marshmallow roasts and swimming in the lake, just like summer camp. 

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The Poconos were as different from Rome as you could get. My kids had a ball as we paddled kayaks and played shuffleboard. The other guests were all families with kids. There was no supervised children’s club, so family togetherness was the rule. After the kids got a little older and we moved back to NYC, we stopped going to Woodloch. Life went on with weekend activities, sleepaway camps, and college. Eventually, both kids settled in California. 

We loved visiting Woodloch Resort when our kids were little (Photo: Allison Tibaldi)
Vacationing at Woodloch Resort was instrumental in helping our kids hold onto their American identity while living overseas (Photo: Allison Tibaldi)

If it sounds like I closed the chapter on Woodloch, think again

This past winter, I started reminiscing about the good times our family had at Woodloch. I asked my husband what he thought about returning. He said, “You mean just the two of us to the Dirty Dancing place?” I had to agree there was a certain Kellerman’s ring to Woodloch. Somewhat reluctantly, he agreed to join me for a weekend. 

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Once I made the reservation, I started to have second thoughts. What could I possibly gain going down a nostalgic rabbit hole? Would it feel weird to be adults without kids at a resort that catered to families with kids? After all, there’d be no Dirty Dancing if it was just Baby’s parents without Baby.

What visiting Woodloch was like without kids

We arrived on a sunny day in April in time for lunch. After a hearty meal, our room was ready. It was functional and spacious, with two bathrooms, a bedroom, and living room with a foldout sofa. 

We glanced at a printed sheet with the daily schedule of events. The hard-working staff run nonstop contests, games, and arts and crafts projects. We had participated in these activities with our kids when they were little, but without them we could do whatever we pleased. Free as birds, we headed over to empty Lake Teedyuskung and hopped in a pedal boat. Next, we enjoyed a peaceful hike on one of the nature trails that circles the resort; we didn’t see another soul. 

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After dinner, most guests made a beeline for the live magic show. We played a round of mini-golf. The golf course had been crowded with kids during the day, but now we had the nine holes to ourselves. Before heading to our room, a peaceful walk around the lakeside promenade was an excellent nightcap. We were swimming against the stream and enjoying every minute of it. 

Without kids, we were able to choose activities without crowds (Photo: Allison Tibaldi)
Without kids, we were able to choose activities without crowds (Photo: Allison Tibaldi)

A serene spa day

Woodloch’s sister property, The Lodge at Woodloch, is an adult-only spa hotel located just down the road. Adult guests of Woodloch may book spa services or a day pass. With no drop-off kid’s club at Woodloch, it’s not easy for parents with young kids to enjoy time at The Lodge. Of course, this wasn’t an issue for us so we booked massages. After our treatments, we spent the entire afternoon exploring the grounds and eating lunch at the elegant restaurant.

You can’t go back in time, but you can still have fun

My husband and I cherished our time in nature and unwinding at the spa, but we also embraced the Woodloch spirit and joined families with kids as we drove go-karts, shot basketball hoops, and played bocce. While I did have a few momentary pangs of longing for my now-grown kids, they were fleeting. In spite of being the only family at Woodloch without children, I didn’t feel like a square peg in a round hole. The inclusive staff helped make us feel part of the fabric, gently encouraging us to participate without being pushy. 

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As we got into the car to drive home, I still couldn’t figure out what had motivated me to take this stroll down memory lane. It didn’t really matter. I had fun watching young families enjoying themselves as much as we had when our kids were little. Participating in these activities made me feel like a kid again, which is what counts.

Woodloch is a different but pleasant experience without kids (Photo: Allison Tibaldi)
Woodloch is a different but pleasant experience without kids (Photo: Allison Tibaldi)

Things to know about Woodloch

  • Located in the Poconos in Hawley, Pennsylvania, Woodloch Resort is approximately two hours from NYC and Philadelphia. 
  • Woodloch has been owned and operated by the Kiesendahl family since 1958. The children and grandchildren of the original owners continue to carry on the tradition of old-fashioned hospitality. Someone from the family is always onsite, asking you how your day went and making sure your coffee is piping hot.
  • The resort sprawls across over 300 acres with 160 guest rooms in four categories, most accommodating up to six people. 
  • Under the Kiesendahl family umbrella is the neighboring The Lodge at Woodloch, a destination spa, and Woodloch Springs, a golf community. 
  • Three wholesome meals each day offer numerous choices, including a kid’s menu. Home-baked cakes are a specialty. You are served at your own table by the same friendly waitstaff each day.
  • With all-inclusive pricing and a no tipping policy, there’s no sticker shock when it’s time to pay the bill.
  • Bumper cars, archery, swimming pools, tennis courts, mini-golf, and a lakeside beach are some of the many active options. Snowshoeing and ice-skating are possible in winter. 
  • There’s no drop-off kid’s club, but there are designated spaces where kids and parents can join supervised activities together. 

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Allison Tibaldi
Allison Tibaldi has written for publications including CNN, Business Insider, FamilyVacationist, HGTV, USA TODAY, and Travel Weekly. As a former early childhood educator, she is interested in the way kids experience the world, and thinks that travel is the best education for young minds. Tibaldi is based in New York City.