One of our favorite highlights of 2020 was the opportunity to visit Crystal Springs Resort in northwestern New Jersey (an hour from New York City), and from the moment we left the resort property, our children have been asking to return. Since we first visited during the summer, we thought it would be fun to see the resort during the winter (ish) season. So this past weekend we headed back to New Jersey’s favorite resort (a well-earned title) for a Winter Wonderland weekend of holiday magic.
Crystal Springs is actually two resorts, located just five minutes apart. Grand Cascades Lodge is the larger of the two properties, with multiple dining options, several room types, and dozens of daily activities. Minerals Hotel offers similar amenities, with an added sports club. The two properties share six golf courses (Crystal Springs is the largest golf resort in the Northeast), almost a dozen restaurants, two spas, and three pool complexes. During the winter months, both resorts turn into a winter wonderland with decorations in every corner, fireplaces ablaze with the glow and warmth of fire, and tons of outdoor activities the whole family will enjoy.
Lodging options: There are almost 400 guest rooms and suites between the two resorts, with options ranging from traditional rooms to three bedroom suites. Suites include separate bedrooms and bathrooms, full kitchen with appliances, living room with fireplace and pull out sofa, dining area, washer and dryer unit, and outdoor balconies, many of which also have fireplaces. We enjoy Grand Cascades Lodge for its spacious rooms, numerous amenities, and beautiful ambiance. We have stayed in Long Pond Hearth Suite both times and it is the perfect for fit our family.
Winter Dining Options: During warmer months, there are almost a dozen various culinary options between the two resorts- check here for the complete list. Although winter month options may seem more limited, we thought there was a great variety of choices for every pallet, budget, and group size. Culinary options at Grand Cascades Lodge include:
Spring Bistro, which is open on Friday and Saturday evenings for dinner. The menu includes pizzas, pastas, a variety of antipasti, and chicken, steak, and fish. Our children enjoyed the options on the kids menu. During winter months, guests can also book private Champagne Chalets, heated, glass- surround lounges with special menus.
Crystal Tavern, which is open year round for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and features a menu of locally sources items. We had takeout for lunch and a lovely dinner. Our picky children didn’t like the grab and go options of the café, but loved the burgers and chicken fingers of the Tavern (great portions and reasonably priced, as well). The restaurant also has lovely views of the surrounding area.
Rosebud Roasters and Biosphere Café (inside the Biosphere), which offer grab and go items like sandwiches, mason jar salads, bento boxes, pastries, smoothies, drinks, and snacks. The Café also has a dozen plus flavors of gelato, made on sight.
The Schnapp’s Shack, located next to the Glice Skating Rink, which serves popular winter snacks likes warm donuts, pretzels, popcorns, strudel; plenty of cider, cocoa, and coffee; and specialty adult beverages. S’mores kits are also available to roast at nearby fire pits.
Restaurant Latour, the resort’s premier culinary experience. Diners must be 12 years or old and there is a dress code. The restaurant is open Thursday through Sunday and reservations are required.
Culinary options at Minerals Hotel include:
Kites, an American Grille, open daily for brunch during the week and dinner 7 nights a week with DJ entertainment Friday and Saturday nights.
Frosty’s Cantina, open on Friday and Saturday nights all winter, which features plenty of warm winter beverages, signature cocktails, and delicious snacks like warm cider donuts, chili, and chowder.
Zinc Cafe, which features baked goods and pastries, drinks, and grab and go sandwiches and salads.
10 Kid Friendly Ways to Explore Crystal Springs:
1. Take a hike on the Nature Trail at Grand Cascades Lodge. The 3.2 mile trail weaves through many areas of the resort, including the Biosphere and golf academy, and alongside parts of the Wild Turkey Gold Course, with clear signage. Parts of the trail are paved golf cart paths, but a majority of the trail is packed dirt or grass. The trail is dotted with several placards, designating the name and origin of many trees and plants- there are over 100 varieties spread throughout the resort. Each week, the resort offers Forest Bathing, a guided walk and meditation that focuses on sensory awareness.
2. “Glice Skate” on the resort’s private rink. The rink, located next to The Schnapp’s Shack, is open every day all winter, and included skate rentals. Guests can also take ice skating lessons on the rink. Check in at the golf pro shop.
3. Play a round of “Glow Golf.” We fondly remember this activity from the summer and were psyched to learn Glow Golf is open year round (unless there is a large amount of snow on the ground). The 18 hole course is located in front of the Grand Cascades on a natural grass course. During the summer months, guests can see a variety of fish throughout the small Koi Ponds.
4. Take a horse drawn carriage ride and visit with animals from a local farm. Guests can visit with a variety of animals from the local Farmer Keith’s farm. Farmer Keith brings animals such as goats, bunnies, miniature horses, alpacas to visit both resorts on the weekends throughout the year. During the holiday season, guests at Grand Cascades Lodge can visit with Santa at the Christmas Corner, with animals and actors as part of a live Nativity scene. At Minerals Hotel, guests can explore Frosty’s Cantina for winter festivities and also visit with animals on the weekend. Goat yoga* is a popular resort activity, offered on the weekend and available to guests ages 8 and older. Horseback riding sessions* are also available at the stable across from Minerals Resorts.
5. Go swimming. Yes, swimming, even in the winter! At Grand Cascades, the 10,000 square foot Biosphere complex included a large indoor pool with waterfalls, a 140-foot waterslide, and the most peaceful, relaxing, tropical feel. There are over 30 types of flowers, plants, and trees that make guests feel like they are in the middle of the tropics. There is also an indoor hot tub and sauna (for adult guests) and a massive fish tank. Guests can swim (or walk) to the attached outdoor pools, which are heated to approximately 90 degrees in the winter and open on the weekends. At Minerals Hotel, there are both indoor and outdoor heated pools, open all year, and an underground aquarium. Bonus: Both resorts host movie night each inside the pool complexes.
6. Complete a scavenger hunt. The resorts offer a variety of scavenger hunts, including a photo scavenger hunt and a holiday elf hunt (the resort’s elf is named Tinsel). Adults will even enjoy the hunts as it affords everyone a chance to explore the beautiful grounds. The CEO of Crystal Springs is an avid gardener who takes great pride in showcasing her love of nature throughout both resorts and also plants many of the ingredients used in the Chef’s Garden (a must see in spring and summer!). There are over 100 flowers and vegetables in bloom during peak summer. Year round, guests can find signage describing various plants, flowers, and tree and descriptions of their origin.
7. Roast s’mores* by the fire. There are several places throughout both resorts to stay warm by the fire, including Christmas Corner at Grand Cascades Lodge and Frosty’s Cantina at Minerals Hotel. Complimentary marshmallows and roasting sticks are available to guests at both resorts; s’mores kits may be purchased from the Schnapps Shack or Rosebud Roaster at Grand Cascades Lodge and from Zinc Cafe at Minerals Hotel. There are also several fire pits areas spread out throughout both resort properties.
8. Create a keepsake craft*. Both resorts offer daily projects like gingerbread house decorating, ornament painting, birdhouses making, mason mug painting, wreath decorating and more. Some crafts change seasonally and some are offered weekly throughout the year. Check the weekly bulletin (print copies are available at the front desk and concierge of both hotels) for specific details and information about additional fees and registration.
9. Practice target skills with either archery* or ax throwing*. We had a lot of fun at our archery lesson last visit to the resort and noticed lot of people enjoying an ax throwing lesson near the festive Glice rink.
10. Learn all about the night sky with a Stargazing workshop*. Under the direction of a local astronomy club founder, guests will learn all about and hunt for satellites in the sky, using provided telescopes. This was a unique experience that our whole family enjoyed.
*Additional fees apply.
Crystal Springs is special place, worthy of a visit in EVERY season. We can’t wait to visit again- hopefully, as everything comes into bloom in the spring. If you’re considering a summertime visit, check out our post of 30 ways to have fun at Crystal Springs in the summer. And follow along on our adventures on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Special thanks to Crystal Springs for hosting our family for this magical experience.