Frankly, Lake George, New York has never been known as trendy. But it can be perfect for people looking for a quiet place to vacation where they don’t have to compete with celebrities for restaurant reservations. The grande dame Sagamore Hotel, for one, is a classy and historic way to spend a few days.
But aging hotels have their strengths and limitations, and the Sagamore has had to renovate to meet the changing needs of its clientele. Opened in 1883, the Sagamore was the hotel for the affluent back in the days of Teddy Roosevelt. In 2009, it underwent a multi-million dollar renovation, added a 10,000 square-foot outdoor pool, upgraded its lobby, built a new casual lakeside bar/eatery, improved air-conditioning, and installed Wi-Fi capability in all rooms.
Based on a recent visit, the target market of the Sagamore is clear: families. My wife and I encountered many intergenerational outings that included grandparents, parents and grandchildren. One family, in fact, was celebrating the grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary, a daughter’s 25th and another daughter’s 15th nuptials, and wore t-shirts emblazoned with each couple’s photo to prove it. Families of three and four children were plentiful, although couples could have a relaxing time, as well.
Indeed the children’s recreational center specializes in indoor soccer, billiards, ping-pong, miniature golf and computer games supervised by a trained, professional staff to ensure kids’ safety.
The Sagamore’s other main attractions include its three swimming pools (two outdoors) and an 18-hole, par-70 golf course situated on 188 acres, two and a half miles from the resort. Shuttle vans transport golfers, so there’s little waiting. The hotel charges a $25 daily resort fee, but a round costs an additional $125, including the cart.
The resort has also cordoned off areas for swimming directly in the lake. A fitness center includes Cybex machines, treadmills and free weights, and its spa specializes in massages, body wraps, facials and Stone Therapy.
Twice a day, at 11:30 and 2:30, the Sagamore’s replica of a 19th-century touring boat, the Morgan, sails for a 90-minute complimentary tour of scenic Lake George. Who knew that its shoreline is 32 miles long, and that it spans 44 square miles and includes 28 islands for camping?
I’m an active tennis player, so I felt the sport was treated an afterthought here. Despite possessing five lighted tennis courts, two Har-Tru and three hard, and a tennis pro, the Sagamore offers no clinics, round robins, or any weekday activities (there are clinics on weekends). Emphasis was on selling $90 an hour lessons and generating revenue. The affable tennis pro tried to arrange matches with guests but wasn’t able to. It’s exasperating that a hotel that charges resort fees doesn’t offer any organized tennis program or even a sign-up sheet to meet other players.
Dining at the Sagamore is appealing and easy. Lunch and cocktail service is available at the two outdoor pools. A bustling wait staff buzzes around filling drink and food orders as if they were on Rollerblades. Other eateries include Mister Brown’s Pub for burgers, sandwiches and salads, and La Bella Vita, an upscale Italian cafe. We had steak salads for dinner one night at the Pavilion, the lakeside restaurant, which was romantic, picturesque (particularly at sunset — ask for a seat near the water), and moderately-priced.
Outside of the resort, Bolton Landing is a quaint town filled with mom ‘n’ pop stores such as Next Summer, specializing in home decor, and Happy Jacks, a gift store. We ate at Cate’s Italian Garden, and enjoyed fried clams at Son of a Sailor.
Our most surprising experience was the Bolton Beans Bistro, a converted railroad car that operates as a coffee and muffin place during the day but transforms into a gourmet eatery serving salmon, Chilean sea bass, chicken martini, and scallops and shrimp at night. The food is first-rate prepared by owner/chef Katrina Dougherty, though the service can be slow, bordering on glacial.