Autumn is Awesome at Crystal Springs

The sprawling, scenic Crystal Springs Resort in Hamburg offers luxury and leisure.

Nicely Nestled: The Grand Cascades Lodge of the Crystal Springs Resort. The glassed Biosphere looks out on the Cascades, one of the three nines of the Crystal Springs Golf Course.
Courtesy of Crystal Springs Resort

If fall foliage could talk, it would say, “Hey, you with the plaid scarf! Don’t just stand there gaping. Do something! It’ll keep you warm.”

It’s sound advice, and if you want a place where you can do much more than leaf peep, the Crystal Springs Resort in Hamburg abundantly fills the bill. A sybaritic duchy of 3,000 acres spread across Sussex County, Crystal Springs encompasses three hotels, 12 restaurants, two spas, seven golf courses, plenty of family activities and a glass-enclosed Biosphere with a pool and water slide suitable for year-round swimming.

The main hotel—the 230-room Grand Cascades Lodge—has four restaurants, from the Crystal Tavern (excellent at dinner, under chef de cuisine Scott Tolhurst) and the Italian Bistro to the NJM Top 25 Restaurant Latour of chef Jean-Paul Lourdes. The outdoor Chef’s Garden usually stays open until mid-October. Beneath the hotel, the late Gene Mulvihill built a catacomb to house his staggeringly deep and varied 135,000-bottle wine collection. No one knows it better than sommelier Susanne Lerescu, who conducts daily tours at 3 pm, with themed lectures the first Sunday of each month. Grand Cascades and the smaller 175-room Minerals Hotel have modern, full-service spas.

Every Saturday in October, Minerals and Grand Cascades each host a pumpkin-decorating class for kids at 2 pm ($10 per child). At 12:30 pm on Saturday the 25th, Minerals will throw a Halloween costume party with games, arts and crafts and snacks ($15 per child).

Year round, Crystal Springs brings in children’s entertainment every Saturday—a traveling zoo, a magic show, a reptile show, a ventriloquist—to Grand Cascades (at 3 pm) and Minerals (5 pm). For adults on November 15, Minerals will host a four-course Murder Mystery Dinner ($85) beginning at 7:30 pm, featuring John Avner and the Killing Kompany.

Back at the Grand Cascades, weather permitting, kids can enjoy free marshmallow roasts (and s’more making) on the Fire and Water Terrace every Friday and Saturday. Little ones ages 5 through 12 can join the Kid’s Klub ($40), also Fridays and Saturdays, for dinner (mac and cheese or chicken fingers), crafts, games and a movie. Saturdays at 8 pm, families staying at Grand Cascades are invited to enjoy the free movie night at the Biosphere.

After Thanksgiving, build and decorate your own gingerbread house in the Napa Room at Grand Cascades or the Art Room at Minerals. Sessions are held at 10 am every Saturday from November 29 through Christmas Eve. Cost: $30 per house.

The resort’s seven golf courses are open late into November, weather permitting. This fall, the Cascades nine-hole course is set up for a growing sport called footgolf. Each player kicks his own soccer ball from the tee to a wide round hole cut near the green. Fewest kicks wins. When snow finally blankets the ground, the resort organizes snowshoe hikes (snowshoes included) along the fairways of the Great Gorge course.

Mountain Creek, part of the mini-empire and the Garden State’s largest ski facility, gets going before the first flakes fall. Every Saturday and Sunday through mid- to late-October, Crystal Springs presents its family-oriented Adventure Center Mountain Top Experience—archery, canoeing and fishing at the lake (stocked with bass and pike) on the peak. The price ($49) includes all equipment and shuttle service to and from the mountaintop. See their website for all the details.

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