Crystal Springs is close to home

A mere 90 minutes from New York City in northwestern New Jersey is Crystal Springs Resort, where the choices in accommodations and activities are abundant any time of year. This fall or winter, you can save time and money on the air fare, pack up the kids and be where you want to be in no time.

Crystal Springs, located in Vernon and Hamburg, N.J., is actually three properties in one, plus a whole lot of recreational choices. The luxury Grand Cascades Lodge or Minerals Hotel are the two resort choices, while Mountain Creek offers slope-side accommodations and town homes at the base of Vernon Peak. The resort’s complimentary shuttle service — available on-demand — takes you wherever you want on the expansive property, and even to a few restaurants located right outside its environs.

We stayed at Grand Cascades in a one-bedroom suite, which was perfect for our family of four. It comes with a bedroom with a King-size bed, living room with Queen-size sleeper sofa, fireplace, and oversized balcony and a full kitchen, which even includes a washer and dryer. The large bathroom with separate tub and stall shower is accessible from both the living room and bedroom.

We took full advantage of the kitchen, stocking up on breakfast and snack items at the nearby supermarket. Crystal Springs has 12 restaurants ranging from casual to gourmet, with kid’s menus available. DJ and dancing adds to the fun of dinner on weekends at Kites at Minerals Hotel. There is an official tour of Grand Cascade’s 135,000 bottle Wine Cellar, or you can request access at other times. Kids may not be impressed with the wine, but will like the cavernous cellar, which has a very “Harry Potter” feel to it.

The major kid-friendly attraction at Grand Cascades is the glass-enclosed Biosphere, perfect for cold weather inside fun. The indoor pool complex features an aquarium, heated pools, hot tub, caves, lush foliage and a 140-foot water slide. The Biosphere is also the site for kid-friendly, dive-in movies on a big-screen. A heated outdoor pool is adjacent to the Biosphere, which also opens many of its own windowed walls in the summer. The 18-hole natural grass putting course provides more outdoor fun.

Numerous outdoor seating areas with couches surrounding fire pits and oversized cabana beds provide cozy nooks for relaxing. At night, the amphitheater’s fire pit is the place to roast marshmallows, weather permitting. Reflections Spa is reserved for pampering for adults only at Grand Cascades. However, Elements Spa at Minerals Hotel welcomes guests 13 and older. My 15-year-old older daughter and I enjoyed turning the spa’s “Couples” massage into a “Mother-Daughter” massage. All treatments end with time in the lounge in a hot water foot soak to help continue the relaxation. This was a lovely way to sit and talk to my daughter without electronic devices distracting us.

Minerals Sports Club at Minerals Hotel was our recreational destination for much of the trip. In addition to three indoor and outdoor heated nature pools and hot tubs, there is a children’s spray ground, racquetball and indoor basketball, running track and tennis. The 6,000-square-foot fitness center and the selection of more than 80 weekly exercise classes (included in the rate for Grand Cascades and Mineral Hotel guests) helped burn off all those snacks in our kitchen.

For more exercise, we walked the Grand Cascades Nature Trail Hike. Crystal Springs also provides a brochure and information on how to access eight local hiking trails that range from easy to strenuous, and we spent one morning exploring beyond the property. Depending on the season, guests have a choice of seven championship golf courses and can improve their game at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy.

Mountain Creek offers skiing and snowboarding (including lessons) in the winter, with 167 acres of trails on four mountain peaks, 100 percent snowmaking and night skiing coverage. The area transforms into Action Park in the summer, where you can hike, bike, canoe, zip-line or enjoy the waterpark, with more than 24 different rides, slides and attractions; one of many reasons to plan a return visit this summer.

Crystal Springs Resort [Vernon and Hamburg, N.J., (855) 977–6473, cryst‌algol‌freso‌]

Stacey Zable is an award-winning veteran travel writer and family travel expert who has written about destinations, resorts and cruise lines around the world. Her favorite trips are those that she shares with her husband and two daughters. Send travel questions and comments to Stacey at [email protected]‌stace‌yzabl‌

Package It

Fall and winter packages are available that include accommodations with time at the spa, on the golf course or lift tickets to Mountain Creek depending on the time of year. Packages for guests of both Grand Cascades and Minerals also include complimentary access to Minerals Sports Club’s pools and fitness classes; guests of Grand Cascades get complimentary use of the 18-hole putting course (weather permitting) and access to the Biosphere Pool Complex as well.

The Biosphere features heated pools, a hot tub, aquarium, and more.
D. Becker Photo