Adult summer camps are on the rise for burned out business babes and city dwellers this season, and we’re all for it. Whether it’s The Wing’s chic female clientele powwowing at Camp Echo Lake last weekend, or Well+Good’s earth angels practicing outdoor yoga at their Cedar Lake Estate retreat, bunking down is the newest way to chill out.
As Labor Day approaches and we cling to the last vestiges of warm nights, what better excuse to practice a group exercise in unplugging than turning your bridal party bachelorette into a mini sleepaway camp?
To try the new wave of bachelorette paradises firsthand, I turned to Deerfield Spa, an under-the-radar gem in the Poconos mountains that sits on fourteen acres of prime relaxation real estate. A family-run retreat for decades, it was named after the deer that still wander its lawn at dusk. Just an hour and a half drive from the heart of Manhattan, I arrived at the Old Victorian house with two of my wedding party members, Pam Carroll and Jesseca Jones, in tow. Stepping onto the perfectly manicured pathway to the property, we were greeted by the second-generation owner, Joan Wolff, with a welcome hug.
Already putting our group at ease, she told us what to expect. “We have guests that come year after year just to be with the friends they made while staying here,” she shared, a concept quickly proven true as we ran into patrons around the property, like Susan Terlep, an attorney who frequents Deerfield for its soothing setup and sense of camaraderie. Without hesitation, Susan respectfully showed us the ropes, from the best pilates class to the can’t miss hike along the Appalachian Trail. “She’s a great source for hot tips and cool jokes,” notes Pam, who still keeps in touch with our favorite camper, proving that fast friends are a real phenomenon thanks to the estate’s unique system.
Imagine rooms bedecked in cozy wicker furniture, a 24-hour heated pool and hot tub, and all of the homespun fitness classes you desire—like Cardio Salsa in the mirrored studio and Morning Stretch held on the old-school tennis court. “Bridal parties come to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and usually like to stay in the Annex rooms, which can accommodate three,” Joan explained as she gave us the tour of the varying spaces, some areas offer communal powder rooms, others (like the pool house) operate more like private suites. Guests can gather in the living area to eat popcorn and read magazines, or on Saturdays, compete for coveted prizes at high-stakes group Bingo.
Since Deerfield’s focus has always been health and wellness (in generations past it was considered a weight loss program), its culinary offerings are a measured blend of local ingredients and made-from-scratch recipes. “Meals felt a lot like a camp dining hall (featuring proper glass wear) with communal tables fortunately not restricted to your bunk!” says Pam about the property’s restaurant situated in the sundrenched main house. “It was fun to rotate seating meal by meal and meet the other ‘campers,’ and their famous corn chowder was reason enough to return!”
THE NATURE WALKS
The aforementioned daily hikes topped the activity list. “The highlight for me was hiking with our knowledgeable guide, Jon, who taught bird calls and let us stop to capture frogs and take photos along the way,” remembers Jesseca of our well-versed Poconos pro, who even steered the group in the right direction when it came to the plants we should and should not touch. The day wrapped, like a dream, roasting marshmallows and constructing s’mores around a campfire surrounded by our new friends before scooting back to the room and wrapping up in waffle robes for hours of overdue pillow talk.
The most surprising perk? Tucked away in the basement of the main house, next to a cozy sauna, are treatment rooms where local estheticians perform services with the kind of skill usually found in pricey LA boutiques drenched in crystals. “I hit the pinnacle of relaxation when receiving my facial,” says Pam. “It was so calming and refreshing, and I swear I glowed for like a week.” The fact that Deerfield’s in-house masters, Shelley and Cynthia, both happen to be energy healers did not go unnoticed. After my massage with Shelley, the lingering pain in my calves magically disappeared in the hours that followed and has yet to resurface.
After a weekend of country club elegance, the down-to-earth, multi-generational atmosphere proved as comfy for a tight group of bridesmaids as it would for mothers, and even grandmothers. The absence of cell phones was refreshing, allowing guests to wander the grounds in their coziest loungewear (we rarely parted from our beloved robes) and fresh faces, so surface-level worries like designer outfits were swapped for real connections. “Every experience was just the right pace and immersive enough without feeling too overwhelming,” Pam shares. “I found myself, on our last day, signing autograph books and hugging new pals goodbye, with a sentiment similar to the final days of summer camp.” What better way to celebrate new beginnings than an uber-social throwback to the classics?
—Arden Fanning Andrews