When summer arrives, New Yorkers tend to turn to the Hamptons or the Jersey shore – depending on tax bracket. Many forget that the Adirondacks are only a few hours away. When reminded of this, the usual response involves “family destination” … and maybe a sneer. It also involves a mistake. While this corner of “upstate” remains family-friendly, there are plenty of upscale accommodations and experiences, without the traffic and travel headaches that New Yorkers find to the east and south.
The Sagamore Hotel is in the midst of a $20 million renovation, a rarity in today’s constrained market. But, the benefits of this investment are evident upon arrival. Much of the property has been redesigned rebuilt to reinforce the luxury experience. The on-property spa has 13 treatment rooms, obviating the need to wait, and the indoor pool makes it possible to take a dip even in the meanest of northern New York winters.
While the regular guestrooms are perfectly serviceable, drop the extra cash, if possible, to upgrade to a suite. Spacious doesn’t begin to describe … the bathroom. The elbow room available in the living room and bedroom is even more profound. Even for an intimate getaway, you don’t want to be crammed together – that’s a choice you’d prefer to make on your own! The bed is the star of the guestroom experience. Again, the king-sized scale makes close quarters a choice rather than a necessity, and the mattress is soft without swallowing you. In fact, it’s probably the best “compromise” bed available. Both my wife and I were happy, and I prefer to sleep on a board, while she feels that beds should be comfortable.
As you wander The Sagamore Hotel, you get the feeling that something is somehow different. But, it’s hard to put your finger on it. The menu is carefully crafted, and the guestrooms are large and inviting. The lobby is spacious with natural pockets for larger groups to sit and have a sense of being separated from others. While this is all advantageous, it’s similar to what you’d find in any ex-urban resort. The Sagamore succeeds, however, in making it all hang together. It just fits. The mystery behind this connectedness can be traced to the general manager.
Tom Guay, who runs the Sagamore, was previously the property’s executive chef. It’s a strange route to GM – which I was unafraid to tell him. Usually, the top dog comes out of the sales department. Chefs are crazy people that you hide from the guests for most of the day, only occasionally letting them appear tableside for brief periods of time. Then, they return to the familiar insanity of a busy kitchen. Guay did get a chuckle out of my reaction (and handled it well). Apparently, the number of chefs rising to the top is increasing, and he credits the ability to multitask under hectic conditions as the driver. The attention to detail for which successful chefs are famous, I realized, is what brings the Sagamore together.
The sense of cohesion extends beyond the core property to the “lodges,” which physically constitute a property-within-a-property at the Sagamore. This part of the resort is more economical, ensuring that the traditional Adirondack constituency – families on a budget – can continue to enjoy the quiet natural surroundings. The large guestrooms in this corner of the Sagamore come with living rooms that have pullout beds in the couches and in-suite kitchenettes.
Jeopardizing the continuity of the Sagamore is the fact that there is still plenty of construction across the property: the $20 million is still being spent. The outdoor pools are being built, and guestrooms are in their final stages. A new rooftop deck is underway. While some guests may find these efforts to be a bit of an eyesore, consider the works in progress to be similar to the last multi-course meal you ate. Did the entrée suck because it was being cooked while you ate your soup? Of course not. The ongoing construction only impedes the guest experience if you choose to let it. I sat outside both nights I was on property and worked (wireless internet access is available in the rooms and in outside seating areas) and had no problems at all.
If you’re looking for a quick dash out from New York City or Boston, the Sagamore is a great alternative. It’s about the same distance from both cities, and you won’t have to deal with the crowds that plague the Hamptons and Cape Cod. Get in early, and stake your space while the renovations are being finished: the crowds are already starting to pour in!
Disclosure: The Sagamore Hotel picked up the tab for this jaunt, but the observations are all mine!