A Head-to-Head Comparison of 2 All-Inclusive Resorts in the US – Which is the Better Bargain?
Is there anything better than vacationing at an all-inclusive resort? When traveling with multiple kids and different generations, I’d say not. Over the past few years, my family has traveled to two of the three all-inclusive resorts in the Northeastern US – Rocking Horse Ranch and Woodloch Pines. We’ve had so much fun, that I’m not sure if we will travel any other way in the future (except, of course, for our upcoming Disney vacay).
As a young boy, my husband went to Woodloch Pines annually with his family. For years, he suggested a visit with our children. I’m not sure what kept me from going, except maybe the cost and the drive. After the arrival of my third baby, I was in need of some R&R and a change of scenery. We booked a trip to Woodloch Pines for the few days leading up to Halloween, packed our three (very) little kids and took a road trip to the Pocono Mountains. All in all, I would say the trip was a success minus some traffic and a terrible outbreak of inverse psoriasis on my face.
While my husband has a fondness for Woodloch, I still wanted to try something different. In September 2022, we spent a few days at Rocking Horse Ranch celebrating our middle child’s birthday. Having lived in Upstate NY for a period of time, the location certainly has a special place in my heart. Today we’re going to explore how the two resorts compare in terms of theming, lodging, dining, activities, staff, and the overall vibe of each place.
Rocking Horse Ranch is located about 90 minutes north of New York city, set among the beautiful Catskill Mountains. Woodloch Pines is located in the Pocono Mountains in Hawley, Pennsylvania, almost exactly two hours northwest of New York City. Personally, I enjoyed the drive to and from Rocking Horse Ranch more than the drive to Woodloch Pines, but this mostly had to do with having an affinity for the area and a longer drive to Woodloch. Either way, if you’re headed from a congested area (like NYC or Boston), once you get out of city traffic, the scenery is beautiful.
RESORT THEMING & DECOR
Rocking Horse Ranch has impeccable theming. It is styled with Southwestern decor – down to the in-room furniture. In my previous post, I likened it to something you would find at a Disney deluxe resort – and I stand by that assessment. The only area that is untouched by theming in the entire facility is the downstairs locker room and the outdoor pool. Rocking Horse Ranch really goes above and beyond in this area. Additionally, the landscape designers here do a fantastic job of both keeping to the theme, and ensuring the decor matches the season. When we arrived, the entryway was decorated with lush vegetation and summer flowers, As they were beginning their transition to the “Fall Fest,” the resort changed overnight and suddenly haybales, pumpkins, and mums were everywhere.
The theme at Woodloch Pines was certainly lacking. In fact, I’d say the theme was that there really was no theme. That’s not to say it wasn’t nice, but it was dated and reminded me more of Kellerman’s in Dirty Dancing (aka Mountain Lake Lodge). While it has been 17 months since we visited, I have not received any e-mail updates regarding any massive changes to the facility except for one awesome-looking playground. Checking this thing out is enough to make me want to go back. Our trip to Woodloch occurred the week leading up to Halloween, so while much of the vegetation had died back, but they did have mums and pumpkins out for decoration, especially around the main lobby area. The lack of overall theming probably makes decorating a lot easier.
BOTTOM LINE: Rocking Horse Ranch really nails it in the theming department. If an immersive experience is important to you, Rocking Horse Ranch is your best bet.
LODGING COMFORT & CLEANLINESS
Since I’ve written about RHR extensively in another post, I don’t want to rehash all my highlights. However, I do think it’s important to note that I constantly saw staff at RHR cleaning – windows, walls, floors, you name it. When we arrived in our room, it was abundantly clear the cleaning staff possessed incredible attention to detail. One feature my mom keeps raving about is that RHR still offers daily housekeeping – something many hotels and resorts have foregone between being environmentally conscious and COVID. Each day they cleaned the bathrooms, provided fresh towels, and made the bed. I don’t know about you, but for me, this is part of the luxury of going away on vacation – having a fresh room to come back to each evening. While I did not appreciate carpeting throughout the main spaces and in portions of the bedrooms (because horses + shoes + carpet = gross), the carpet didn’t appear dingy or visibly dirty in the slightest. Our room had plenty of space, especially considering the amount of time we actually spent in the room. We were able to request a connecting room to keep our traveling party together, which is a huge perk. Additionally, each of the rooms has a proper “mudroom” area which has Pergo or similar hardwood floors, as well as a well-sized coat rack and shelf for storage.
At Woodloch Pines, you’re assigned a room based on the size of your traveling party. Because we travel with a large-ish group, we were assigned The Cottage. Overall, I was not a fan. The positives – The Cottage had more than enough space for everyone. There were three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a pull-out couch, chair, mini fridge, microwave, and a very small table with an unfortunate number of chairs. There was a closet and dresser for clothing storage in each room. That’s pretty much where the positivity ends. The Cottage was severely dated, the carpet was gross, and I’m pretty sure the electrical wouldn’t have met the codes of the ’80s much less 2023. Everything down to the drapes and closets felt ancient. But they did have a flat-screen TV in every room! I’m not sure if it was due to COVID or an effort toward environmentalism, but there was no daily room service at Woodloch. Having traveled there many times, my husband felt very comfortable and didn’t hesitate to ask for whatever we needed, but it would’ve been nice to have a towel refresh without request. I did not see other rooms in the facility, but comparing The Cottage photos to photos of the other suites, it seems as if you could expect something similar.
Both resorts had TERRIBLE fluffy pillows. This absolutely sucks for side and stomach sleepers and seems to be a hotel standard that needs to change everywhere.
BOTTOM LINE: If room quality is a top consideration for your vacation, you’ll want to choose Rocking Horse Ranch, but if it’s the view you’re seeking, go to Woodloch and book a lakefront room.
NOISE & LIGHTS
With three small kids and a member of my traveling party sounding more like two hippos during mating season than a sleeping human, I never travel without a white noise machine. That being said, I didn’t find noise to be an issue at either resort. It’s also important to consider that we are flexible in timing our trips to mid-week or off-peak, and we take full advantage of this flexibility. I could see noise being an issue at either resort in peak times. For Rocking Horse Ranch, request a room on the upper floor of the main lodge, furthest from the elevator for your best chances of a peaceful evening. My feeling is due to the sheer volume of activities and their general location away from the sleeping areas, any room at Woodloch would probably be fairly quiet.
Light pollution is something that absolutely burns my biscuits in a way I can’t explain. I have legitimately come to blows with neighbors over this issue. Why? Because light pollution absolutely destroys your circadian rhythm which can cause everything from depression to cancer. Not liking your neighbor is one thing. Increasing their risk of cancer is another. I found that the blackout curtains at both Woodloch and Rocking Horse were more than sufficient.
BOTTOM LINE: Both facilities do a great job at controlling for lights. Woodloch seems like it is probably quieter during peak travel times.
ALL-INCLUSIVE RESORT AMENITIES
Dining at RHR
Breakfast, lunch, dinner and a 4pm “happy hour” with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres are included with the nightly fee at Rocking Horse Ranch.
The vibe of the dining room at RHR is cozy. Something I’ve always loved about upstate NY is the feeling of being immersed in the trees, even from the inside. We requested seating next to windows and it literally felt like we were dining outside. There is a massive fireplace in the main dining space and loads of windows looking out onto trees and the horse pastures across the road. Of course, the southwestern theme is etched into every detail, with the log-inspired furniture, carpets, colors, and lighting. While the ceilings are very high here, the combination of natural and warm lights prevents it from feeling cold.
I have no complaints about the food at RHR. My traveling party consists of people living both above and below the Mason Dixon and no one had any complaints about the menu. The biggest complaint from the older members of our group was having to get up to serve their own drinks. The rest of the traveling party enjoyed this opportunity. While we did enjoy chatting with the dining manager at RHR, we noticed that the overall service was hit-or-miss. Our waitstaff changed regularly, and as the dining room became busier toward the weekend, the service really went downhill. One night, we waited over an hour for our food.
Dining at Woodloch
While making reservations at Woodloch, you are able to decide whether you want the 2 or 3-meal plan, which will impact the cost of your stay. If staying in Woodloch Springs, you can add a meal plan, or choose to dine elsewhere. You will be assigned a table for the duration of your stay, and eat during designated time windows. Whatever is convenient for your family during that window, is when you go to your table and eat. Each meal is served restaurant style, and the meals options change daily. Woodloch does not offer a mid-afternoon snack. There are other on-site dining options, but they are not included in the initial investment.
The dining room at Woodloch is stunning. There is a large fireplace, and the back wall of the entire dining room is floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Lake Teedyuskung. I really can’t say it enough that the vibe of the entire place is that of Kellermen’s. (If you haven’t watched Dirty Dancing in a while, I really encourage you to get on it.) I will say that between lighting and layout, this felt more like a hotel ballroom or a Bingo hall than a family resort.
Service is something Woodloch blows out of the water. I never felt like we had to wait for anything, and we had the same server for multiple meals, over multiple days. This allowed my kids to become comfortable in learning to ask for things themselves! The servers become accustomed to the traveling party’s preferences and dietary restrictions, which gives the experience a very personal effect. Additionally, the “higher-ups” at Woodloch greet guests upon entry (and also make announcements… over a microphone), so you do get that family-run vibe here. The food itself was delicious. Breakfast and lunch had similar things each day, with a few changes throughout. Dinner was always something new and exciting!
BOTTOM LINE: Overall, if dining is a high priority, you’ll want to plan a stay at Woodloch.
ACTIVITIES AT RHR
Rocking Horse Ranch has a plethora of self-serve activities that you can enjoy at your leisure. There’s the obvious horseback riding, but also miniature golf, a playground, target practice, paddle boats, indoor and outdoor pools, shuffleboard, gem mining (nominal fee), mountain tubing, and a bungee trampoline. There were a few additional activities that were closed when we went (mid-week, off-season).
One thing that was severely lacking at Rocking Horse was indoor activities. It rained one of the days we were there and it was hard for us to find anything to do other than the indoor pool. One of my kids is EXTREMELY sensitive to cold, and a full day at a pool doesn’t work for us. Even though it was heated, I found the temperature to be barely above that of a non-heated indoor pool. I did notice some Bingo going on in the main lobby, but that isn’t something my crew can enjoy, yet.
ACTIVITIES AT WOODLOCH PINES
Woodloch has been around for ages and has the amenities to show for it. The activities vary seasonally with the weather, but a sample of activities includes go-carts, archery range, bumper cars, an indoor playground, a basketball gym, an arts & crafts room, an indoor pool & splash pad, disc golf, an outdoor playground, miniature golf, and others. When we went, there were also pontoon rides/tours, haunted hay rides, and trails for walking. Additionally, there are evening shows (for both adults and kids). Looking at their current schedule (March), it looks as if there is a skating rink, skiing, and snow tubing. Two of our favorite features at Woodloch are the indoor playground and craft room. Having a quiet space to sit and craft as well as a boisterous space for running off some steam indoors is absolutely imperative to a successful vacation with children, in my opinion. Wet weather should determine the outcome of your vacation.
Woodloch not only has an abundance of self-serve amenities to keep you busy, but they also have staff-led activities. As an example, we participated in pumpkin painting, a Halloween-themed family Olympics, a parade, and trick-or-treating. They have activities going on all day. You can get a feel for what’s going on here. One of our traveling party members even walked away saying they felt “overwhelmed” and it was “too much.”
BOTTOM LINE: If the pool or horseback riding is the most important feature of your trip, go to Rocking Horse Ranch. Otherwise, go to Woodloch Pines.
|Pool Complex||Rocking Horse|
|Self-Serve Activities, Indoor||Woodloch|
|Self-Serve Activities, Outdoor||Woodloch (Quantity) / Rocking Horse (Quality)|