Gliding up the long, winding drive to the sprawling Grand Cascades Lodge at Crystal Springs Resort, we realized that the brief hour’s drive from the George Washington Bridge was a subtle, quiet passage from the clamor of the city to the calming hush of the Kittatinny Mountains.
There seems to be a general consensus that if you, your family or your company are located in or anywhere around the five boroughs of New York, you must fly to somewhere far, far away to truly escape to serenity and sanity. Nothing could be further from the truth – or closer than this 4,000-acre getaway, sheltered in the picturesque rolling hills of Sussex County, NJ.
Just 47 miles from Manhattan, and even closer to most of northern and central New Jersey’s towns and cities, Crystal Springs Resort bills itself as the New York Metro area’s closest-in four-season resort. The Crystal Springs complex includes two hotels, the 250-room, AAA 4-Diamond Grand Cascades Lodge and the luxurious 175 room Minerals Hotel and Spa, both surrounded by three world-class golf courses.
We found our rooms in the Lodge to be luxurious, with capacious bathrooms and views from both the sitting rooms and bedrooms that literally go for miles. However Chris Mulvihill, the resort’s chief marketing officer, says in first quarter this year, all the guest rooms of Grand Cascades Lodge as well as the lobby and other common areas will be undergoing renovations. “For this project, we have retained New York-based INC Architecture & Design, who recently did a fantastic job for us on the renovation of our flagship restaurant, Restaurant Latour,” Mulvihill says.
Meet & Bleat
Meetings and events at Crystal Springs take on a life of their own. For Big Apple-weary corporate meeting goers looking for a change of pace, the bucolic location helps ensure that attendees get that resort experience and that mini-vacation, if only for an afternoon.
Conferences and events can range from 10-person pow-wows to lavish meet-ups for 200-plus with complex staging concepts and sit-down dinners. Some 100,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor gathering spaces spread between the two hotels. Spaces are divided among 29 meeting room options, the largest being 18,000 square feet and the next largest measuring 5,400 square feet. Outdoor options meander around pools with waterfalls, fire pits, scenic golf settings, terraces, while partnerships with local farms, ski resorts and stables can inspire creative planners. In addition, the resort’s grand ballrooms, rotundas and elaborate lawn tents are easily convertible for meetings and events.
For gatherings in search of wow factors, Crystal Springs Resort boasts a list of 250-plus things to do, whether it’s family outings, individual bleisure time, or corporate team building and bonding.
One our group signed up for was goat yoga. No, this is not a meditation exercise with bleating instead of ohms. Rather, as we moved into our planks and sun salutations, we were joined by around a dozen eight-month-old kids (goat types, not the human kind) in the pen with us. As the patter of little hooves jump from back to back and off heads and legs, the instructor guided the session without “missing a bleat.” We tried to keep up but it’s hard to resist the curiosity and playfulness of these creatures edging in on every pose.
Of course, goat-less yoga is also offered – as are meditation classes, Peloton journeys, skeet shooting, horseback riding, hiking and kayaking, fishing, paddle boarding, water trampoline, archery, even something called “footgolf” – not to mention plenty of the real kind.
Set in the Kittatinny range of the Appalachians, the resort offers an amazing collection of six upscale public golf courses within a five-mile radius. The golf experience at Crystal Springs has been designed by some of the world’s best golf course architects, like von Hagge, Trent Jones, George Fazio and Rulewich.
Spas and Ahhhs
And then there are the “spa meetings,” a trend that’s alive and well for meetings and conferences, and the ample spa spaces offered by Crystal Springs Resort can certainly accommodate.
At Grand Cascades Lodge, the Reflections Spa offers a stunning chamber with a ceiling of 8,000 quartz crystals that concentrate energy and healing powers. The spa’s 13 treatment rooms offer facials using spices, wines, crystals and herbs and decadent massages using gems, wines and extra sets of hands. Water, fire and earth elements are stressed in the décor and themes.
Similarly, The Elements Spa at The Minerals emphasizes energizing minerals of the earth in products mixed with copper flakes, or sodium scrubs, mineral water soaks and mud treatments, and mineral-based cosmetics, not to mention the CBD-infused massages. Some of the complimentary features that come with a treatment include a rose petal foot soak with essential oils, plentiful handmade granola and specialty organic teas.
Another respite from a long day of business meetings can be found around one of the resort’s pools. The signature Biosphere at Grand Cascades Lodge is a 10,000-square-foot architectural jewel. This tropical indoor pool complex with its high-tech retractable roof and lush greenery lets guests enjoy tanning and swimming through all four seasons in an energy-efficient space, unique to the Northeast.
Other facilities dot the resort landscape, including the Minerals pool complex with year-round enclosed heated indoor and outdoor pools, and a large unheated outdoor pool open during the summer. Also available in-season is the Vista 180° Pool Complex with its water features and infinity edge pool overlooking the golf courses.
Both indoor pool complexes are outfitted with sauna, steam and hot tubs that are open year round along with heated outdoor snow pools.
Wine & More
Naturally, cuisine plays an integral role in shaping the character of this destination resort. With a total of eleven food and beverage outlets – from four-star dining to poolside eats and treats – Crystal Springs piles on the options.
At the top of the food chain, the Latour Room offers prix fixe pairing menus and special eight-seater chef’s dinners with exquisite seasonal dishes, farm-to-table and innovative locavore options. Located in the clubhouse at Grand Cascades Lodge, the Crystal Tavern’s seasonal menus showcase local New Jersey farmer products that pair perfectly with breathtaking mountain vistas. In the warm months, the Chef’s Garden is a complete al fresco dining experience with lively outdoor surroundings and a superb garden-to-plate menu.
For oenophiles, Crystal Springs’ labyrinthine subterranean wine cellar is celebrated for its breadth,holding an estimated 135,000 bottles. This veritable museum opens into rooms dedicated to Bordeaux, Burgundy, or California grapes, leading to others that are all the more impressive – such as the Latour Room, devoted to vintages from Chateau Latour, with the oldest bottle bearing an 1863 label. Nearby, a cubby contains the Courvoisier Erté Collection. The resort’s daily complimentary afternoon wine tours are well worth the wandering.
For special meetings, two large rooms in this underground maze can be used for small groups that may want to add some sipping and tasting to the brainstorming.
Keeping It Clean
For those making the 60-minute trek from the Big Apple to the countryside, Crystal Springs schedules shuttles that can head into the city and pick up the company team for stress-less and seamless transfers.
To meet growing demands for sustainable meetings, Crystal Springs recently installed a 25-acre solar energy field, effectively pioneering the hospitality industry’s largest sustainable energy project in the Northeast US. The 19,000 solar panels can generate 3.5 megawatts of electricity annually. Other environmentally-related steps include local farm tours, guided nature hikes, foraging classes, and the construction of bee hives to support the rebuilding of the local bee population.
“We recognize that our guests visit us, not only for our wide array of amenities, but also for enjoyment of the resort’s beautiful natural surroundings, so it is only fitting that we should take steps to minimize our impact on the environment to help preserve it for generations to come,” says Mulvihill. “While we are taking many other steps in the area of sustainability such as the use of LED lighting, paper straws, locally sourced menu ingredients, and biodegradable organic laundry detergent, we really like to be able to use superlatives when we describe the resort, so I am very pleased to be able to say that New York City’s closest resort is now also the Northeast’s largest solar powered resort.”
At A Glance
Location: Sussex County, NJ. 47 miles from Manhattan
Lodging: Grand Cascades Lodge (280 Rooms), Hamburg, NJMinerals Hotel (175 Rooms), Vernon, NJ
Conference & Meeting Space: 100,000 Square Feet of Flexible Indoor and Outdoor Meeting & Catering Space
Amenities & Attractions:• 2 Hotels (280 & 175 Rooms)• 2 Luxury Spas• 6 Golf Courses• David Leadbetter Golf Academy• 3 Clubhouses• 3 Pool Complexes• On-Property Nature Trails• Mountaintop Lake & Recreation Center• Sports Club & Wellness Center• 10 Seasonal Restaurants• Wine Spectator Grand Award Winning Wine Cellar• Adjacent to Mountain Creek Ski Area
Contact Information: Group Reservations: 877-703-1091
Individual Reservations: 855-605-8166