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Woodloch: HOME EDITION: "Gingerbread Wars!"

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golf resort, family vacation

~shared by J. Ranner

In case you didn't get the hint from the displays at your local Wal Mart (mine since August!), it is certainly beginning to look A LOT like Christmas round these parts!  

For many of us, that means shopping, wrapping, decorating, cooking, cleaning, traveling and other things... all in preperation to spend time with family, friends and loved ones. Which hopefully will be a fun thing for you.

But maybe holidays aren't always so kind to you. What's the PG solution to the holiday blues? Some of my fondest family memories all came from us playing games together (who could forget the legendary Monopoly riot of '96?). As "The Gurus of Family Fun," we here at Woodloch Pines Resort in the picturesque Pocono Mountains sincerely believe that a great game can spice up even the most tepid of family affairs. 

A few months back, we gave you a step-by-step guide on how to create your own Scavenger Hunt.  In the spirit of the holidays, we thought we'd coach you along on how to also host your own "Gingerbread Wars"- our most popular holiday event. Tis' the season of giving, and this one's for you guys!  



PLACE: With family gatherings... any old house will do. Try to give yourselves a little bit of space (good fences make good neighbors, and the last thing you want is a REAL war).

TIME: Our contests usually last about an hour (10 minutes of rules, 40 minutes to build and 10 minutes of "judging") but adjust based on your participants.


  • Gingerbread - (cupcakes, sheet cakes, and krispie treats can be substituted... or used in addition)
  • Frosting (you can make different colors with food coloring)
  • Candy - we use dozens of different varieties but you a decent assortment will get you through.
  • The "secret" ingredient (kept confidential, and must be incorporated into the final design. We've used oranges, donut holes, waffles etc. - use your imagination. 
  • A "base" to build upon. Cardboard squares work well, but a large platter or plate will serve as well.
  • Some type of "currency" for your store. We use tickets, but coins or even slips of paper will serve. Every team starts off with the same amount of "currency"- we typically give you 10 tickets. 

GO: Gametime... have a "neutral third party" start the show as an MC of sorts, explaining the game rules and starting the clock. You will need to "staff" the candy store- teams will exchange a number of tickets for certain ingredients to enhance their creations.  For example, a single candy cane might cost you 1 ticket, while a bag of orange frosting will cost you 3 tickets. Adjust based on your needs. Once the clock starts, your "store" might decide to run "specials"- 1/2 off, "buy one, get one" etc. This adds to the fun!

When time has expired, GAME OVER. The team needs to safely transport their structure to a "Judging Circle" where voting will occur. Points are awarded for originality, overall design, and the incorporation of your "secret ingredient." 


Nothing beats a "Woodloch Medal"- even if you decide to make your own! Bottles of wine and champagne are great if you have an all adult contest. But remember, every team gets to keep their structure (for better or worse) at game's end, and the real reward is going to be having fun with friends and family this holiday season. 

So that's it. Rage your very own "Gingerbread Wars" this holiday season. It should tide you over until your next visit to Woodloch!  


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Woodloch Staff Share Their Favorite Holiday Traditions

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~Shared by M. Crandall

Everyone celebrates Christmas a little differently. Traditions vary from home to home. My family started a tradition years ago. We would buy pajamas to open on Christmas Eve; we'd all change into a PJ’s and wear them to bed and continue to wear them Christmas morning to open our presents. On Christmas morning, we would each open our stockings one by one. My husband always sneaks something fun into each stocking, you might find a can of spam, canned meat or something really ridiculous. It always makes us laugh.

I have some amazing co-workers that wanted to share some of their Christmas traditions as well.

Touzon Woodloch Christmas02 retouch

Laura Molins, Front Desk/Reservations, says, “Every Christmas Eve, we celebrate the Italian tradition of the seven fishes and eat a seafood feast for dinner in honor of my Italian heritage on my mother’s side of the family. We spend the day in the kitchen cooking all the seafood together, which always includes lobster, mussels, calamari, tilapia and scallops.”

Tammy Compton in the reservations department says, “My mom would always allow us to open one gift on Christmas Eve. Sometimes we chose well and enjoyed a new toy for the night; sometimes we wound up wearing new pajamas. You know, the gift you love to get when you're older, but not so much as a kid. Then we’d gather around the Christmas tree and play 'I Spy.' Someone would find a decoration and describe it by color, and the listener would have to figure out what they were talking about. If you were close, they’d say, 'You’re warm or hot.' If not, you were cold. My sister, brother and mom were great at playing the game; I always seemed to get frustrated long before figuring it out. It was one of those games that didn’t cost anything but was loads of fun. I haven’t thought about that in a long time. My beloved mom has passed away. My siblings are older, but that was the good stuff. Great family at Christmas time can’t be beat.”

Colleen Mitchell in Reservations says, “We wake up around 9:30 am. Mom makes a pot of coffee; we play Christmas music and open all our presents. Towards the end of opening presents, my dad would make breakfast. We all get ready, dressed in nice outfits, take some family photos, and drive to Grandma’s house in New Jersey to have dinner with my mom’s side of the family. We enjoy great memories.”

At Woodloch, family and traditions are what it’s all about. What are your most memorable Christmas memories or favorite holiday traditions at home or at Woodloch?


"Brighten" up your holidays at Woodloch!

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~Shared by J. Ranner

Our waterski boats no longer sit in Lake Teedyuskung. We spend a few extra minutes each day to defrost thin layers of ice off of our cars. And we all pine for that extra cup of coffee or hot chocolate. To quote Ned Stark, "Winter is coming."

Yet we find a way to get through these long nights. In the spirit of the holiday season, strands of lights are strung from eave to eave of our houses, providing a much needed glow when we crave it the most.

2013 festival of lights 2

Holiday decorating has been a proud tradition for Woodloch Pines since opening in 1958. Our main lobby, dozens of trees, bannisters, shrubs and everything in between are instantly illuminated on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. That is also the debut weekend of our famous "Festival of Lights" rides along our mile-long nature trail.

From a staff standpoint, the most impressive part of all of the decorating is how much of it actually goes on behind the scenes. Weeks beforehand, my fellow co-workers are crafting wreaths, testing bulbs, building structures, and ascending skyward on lift trucks so that the tree lightings go off without a hitch. The prep work for the holidays begins just as soon as we begin our first Haunted Hayrides of the season in early October. It's a lot of work, but there's something to be said about smiles on everyone's faces in the warm glow of the lights.

Our Festival of Lights has steadily become bigger and better. In addition to thousands of lights, we now use pyrotechnics and computers to enhance guest experience. All in all, the experience amounts to about half-an-hour of illuminated joy through a dozen scenes on our nature trail. And if you're good boys and girls, Santa Claus just might show up . . .

This is really just the beginning of all the fun times that await you this holiday and winter season at Woodloch. Scavenger Hunts, snow tubing, walnut and yule log hunts and of course our Winter Olympics . . . we have it all! So bundle up, relax, and hang a shining star upon the highest bow. The holidays at Woodloch start right now


Celebrating a Lifetime of Love at Woodloch

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~Shared by Tammy Compton

Big red hearts hanging in windows signal the upcoming holiday.

Who's your Valentine?

For 85-year-old Florence Southerton of Honesdale, the answer is simple. It’s the man who’s faithfully been by her side for the past 60 years, her 91-year-old husband Bernie.

What makes Bernie the perfect Valentine?

“We’ve never had a fight. I know you can’t believe this, but we’ve never had a fight in 60 years. He’s just a good person in every way. I guess it takes two (to fight). And he never fights,” Florence said.

The two met when Bernie came out of the Service. “He was in the Army, a former POW (Prisoner of War),” Florence said. The World War II army veteran spent six months as a prisoner of war.

After the army, Bernie worked as an electrician at the Murray Company in Honesdale. He’s also well known for the 31-years he worked at the Honesdale Post Office delivering mail on his walking route.    

Florence and Bernie were wed on July 26, 1952 at St. John the Evangelist Church in Honesdale.

What’s the secret to 60 years of success?

“Faith has a lot to do with it. We’re both of the same faith, and we both practice our faith. And family has a lot to do with it. We have three children. They’re just all very close in relationship,” she said.

Along with their three children, they’re equally blessed with 12 grandchildren.

Florence  Bernie Southerton

Asked what she’d like to share – heart to heart – with her Valentine this year, Florence said, “I said it all last winter. ‘I couldn’t live without you.’”

Last winter, Florence suffered with several stress fractures in her back. “I couldn’t move,” she said. On top of that, she was also dealing with shingles. “I couldn’t do anything on my own,” she said. But Bernie was there to help every step of the way.

Prayer also made a big difference, she said. Faith can move mountains. “Every week, we spend an hour at chapel,” she explained. It’s time spent praying “for others, for each other and being in the presence of Jesus Christ,” she said. “We’ve done that for 21 years.”

This Valentine’s Day Bernie is facing pre-op for knee replacement surgery. So, they’ll exchange Valentines and do what they do every day. “We’ll wait on each other, and be with each other, and enjoy each other,” she said.

They’ll also enjoy a special Valentine’s dinner at Woodloch Pines on Wednesday, February 13. It's Woodloch’s Broadway-style theme show “Everything Italian” and mouth-watering menu that has caught their attention.

Wednesday’s theme dinner features the following festive Italian food: wedding soup, caesar salad, parmesan encrusted prime rib, pan seared Jail Island salmon, mediterranean chicken, pappardelle Bolognese, roasted redskin potatoes with garlic & rosemary, broccolini with oven-roasted tomatoes, artichoke & spinach flatbread & Italian bread, and tiramisu for dessert.

“My husband looked at (the flyer) and said, ‘Why don’t we go?’” Florence said.

“And I said, ‘We will,’” Florence replied. “We’ve always enjoyed it. It’s first class."

“In the last five or six years, we’ve gone every year for my birthday in November. We like to be able to see every one of the shows. It’s just something where we can relax and enjoy. Good food, and most of all, everyone in the staff makes you feel special.”

“It’s all about love and family,” says Woodloch Special Events Agent Sharon Bedrosian. Call 1-800-966-3562, option 3 to make dinner reservations. The cost to attend is $29.99 per person, plus tax and gratuity.


Woodloch Staff Share Their Christmas Favorites

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"It's the most wonderful time of the year."

~Shared by Tammy Compton

When it comes to Christmas, I wholeheartedly agree with that song sung by the late Andy Williams.

I don't know about you, but it just seems like the world gets a little brighter, people seem kinder, and patience and forgiveness prevail. It truly is the season of miracles. The birth of the Savior. A time of renewal and hope and the realization that the seemingly impossible is possible. There are so very many things that I love about Christmas . . .

A Christmas highlight for Woodloch employee Sue Nordenhold is, "Spending time with family and friends, enjoying their company." It's a time of sharing, filled with fun and joy, a time of attending church gatherings, children's' Christmas concerts, and the talented singing of the Wayne Choralaires under the direction of Pat Sporer, featuring fellow Woodlochians Susan Guccini, Jim Mould, Mary Haag and many more.

Asked about her favorite part of Christmas, reservationist Alexa Peregrim readily shouted, "Ravioli." Huh?

"What's up with the ravioli?" is the annual, ongoing question from her uncle and cousins leading up to the annual family Christmas party. "There had better be ravioli, or I'm not coming," is the usual retort.

Alexa's grandma used to make the best homemade ravioli. When she passed, the family was grateful to find a sweet, "little, old woman" in the neighborhood who had the same gift. She made them fresh from her home, and Alexa's family were faithful supporters. But alas, with the neighbor now in her 80s, she decided to turn in her apron. And so, with grandma's recipe to guide them, the Peregrim family began successfully replicating her homemade treats, making 600 to 700 at a time.

"There are many things I love about the Christmas season," said Woodloch Guest Relations Manager Chris Bower. "I love the parties, seeing staff members out of work and being able to relax with them. I love the Chinese Auction to exchange crazy gifts. I love the music. I start playing Christmas carols right after Thanksgiving (sometimes a few days before if my family does not threaten me). I work very hard during Christmas week and especially New Year's Weekend, but I love the guests that come year after year to Woodloch. I enjoy seeing them and catching up.

"I also love the decorations. Every year when I put up my Christmas tree with my family, there are so many memories. Our tree tells the story of our family. We have ornaments I owned before I was married, ones we received the year we got married, 'Baby's First Christmas' ornaments for our 4 children and even one of our grandchildren. There are hand-made ornaments that our children made in school, etc. It is always a trip down memory lane, and I enjoy looking at it the whole season," Chris said.

"There are two parts of the holidays that are not important to me are Christmas cards and presents. The real reason for the season is not about gifts and cards but keeping in touch, loving and helping one another and keeping Christ in Christmas," Chris shared.

"Christmas music is my favorite," said reservation supervisor Mariann Crandall. "I like serious songs, like Silent Night. But then I like silly songs too like Dominic the Donkey."

Does she wish radio stations started playing them sooner, or should Christmas music be relegated to two weeks before Christmas?

It's with honesty and a laugh Mariann replied, "I have them on my iPod, and I listen to them in July and August so pretty much all year 'round."

It's funny how the story comes full circle with the words of reservation manager Lynn VanBlarcom. "The music says it all. Listen to what this is saying," she exclaimed, referring to Johnny Mathis crooning overhead. "It's the most wonderful time of the year. The spirit is different, the caring, the compassion, and the music will tell this all to you if you'll just listen to the words. The music itself brings it all together from our beginning to where we are now. We are constantly striving for peace and forgiveness and hope. And that's what Christmas does."

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Thanksgiving at Woodloch: All About Family and Friends!

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~Shared by Tammy Compton

It was back in 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed November 26th "a national day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens."

If I say the word "Thanksgiving," what comes to mind? Friends and family gathered near, a time to reflect on one's many blessings? Helium-filled balloons of Snoopy, Bugs Bunny, and other beloved cartoon characters nodding their way down New York's bustling streets during Macy's Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade? Not to mention the marching bands strutting their stuff and filling the cold fall air with the warmth of their music.

Or perhaps it's a visual feast of football enjoyed from an overstuffed recliner, long after the turkey and all its trimmings have been savored and devoured. Thanksgiving is many things to many people.

reunions, class tripsHere at Woodloch, it's a time for families to be just that - family. A time to treasure each and every wonderful moment. And of course, a time to gather round the table and enjoy. It's where you'll find members of the Kiesendahl Family, Woodloch's owners, graciously greeting each and every guest and serving up a bountiful meal.

"Woodloch is the perfect place to spend Thanksgiving. Many of our guests feel like they are coming home when they come to Woodloch. There is a very warm feeling when a guest arrives. Our history and the buildings have strong character. The fireplaces are burning, and the staff is ready to welcome our guests. Our family style meals remind people of the traditional Sunday Dinner they may have served at their parents or grandparents' house as a child," says Woodloch family member and owner, Steve Kiesendahl.

"Waiting on guests at Thanksgiving stems from Woodloch’s mission statement. We treat guests like they are company in our home. In the early days, my entire family waited on the guests at every meal. Our house count in those days was 50 guests, but still to this day when we have 1,000 guests, we are all willing to jump in and pour coffee for our guests or bring a refill on entrees. We do whatever it takes to make guests comfortable and feel pampered. It is all part of the hospitality that we were trained on growing up. I say all the time, 'Our parents trained us well.'

"We serve over a ton of turkey at Woodloch on Thanksgiving Day throughout the afternoon and early evening. One of the things that makes it special for me is that after a hard day of work, we sit down as a family and celebrate Thanksgiving Dinner together. It is a late dinner, but it feels good to look back on a day of hard work and accomplishment. It is clearly a day that we thank God for the business that we have been able to sustain and the relationships we have built with great people over the years. We are blessed to have a wonderful staff and to have the opportunity to meet so many great people. We thank God for our family, our health and remember our relatives who have passed before us. It is a genuinely warm and touching time," Steve says.

Woodloch family member Brooke (Kiesendahl) James explains, "Our family is in the hospitality business, and we're all about family gathering together. And that's really the meaning of Thanksgiving, to give thanks to those you love and are close to."

Embracing the role of servant in a service-centered business, the Kiesendahls willingly work side by side with their staff. "Because it's our business, we can't have off (on Thanksgiving)," Brooke says. But that's more than okay she assures. "It allows us as a family to be together and to help others and to help our staff."

It ends up being an all-day Thanksgiving for the Kiesendahls. "It's interesting because we end up getting together at the end of the day," Brooke says.

How does Thanksgiving evening end for the Kiesendahls? It's with a warm smile that Brooke answers: "With us all sitting around the table, laughing, sharing stories and being together."


YULEtide Tradition Carries on at Woodloch

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~Shared by J. Ranner

The last of the leaves are tumbling off of the trees. Nights are getting cooler. And Apple just released an armada of new products. Yup, it's safe to say that the holidays are looming closer and closer. 

History predicts that there will be much planning, shopping, cooking and stressing in store for us . . . in addition to all of the joy and happiness, of course. With of all the craziness, one can find release and escape (even a temporary one) by grabbing a hot toddy and taking a seat alongside a crackling fire. It not only provides heat to a room but also warms our souls and brings us closer together for much needed bonding.

One of the more interesting and ancient traditions that we still celebrate to this day is the Yule Log. Though it would later on have religious elements attached to it, the Norse tradition of finding a Yule Log stems back to ancient times. Every winter solstice, “the darkest time of the year," people would hunt down a giant log and then bring it back home to burn. This ceremony was symbolic to Scandinavians as a “rebirth” of the sun and the promise of longer days. “Yule” is the Norse word for “sun.”

This became a Christmas Eve celebration for many Christians. While the wood burned, families would admit their faults and mistakes and reconcile sour relationships. They would also eat, drink and be merry (another tradition proudly carried on by our Woodloch guests). Burning this log, starting with the ashes from the year prior, was said to bring good luck to a household for the year.

spa resort, class tripsThe tradition eventually spread all across Europe and evolved. The English would collect enormous logs; some of them would burn straight through the 12 Days of Christmas. The French even invented a desert cake that looked like a yule log called a “Buche de Noel.” Some Americans even continue the tradition today. For instance, local New York station WPIX created a television special aired every Christmas featuring the log burning for hours on end so that televisions would become a “fireplace” for the day.

Woodloch Pines holds a Yule Log Hunt throughout the holidays for guests staying at the resort. The log is carefully hidden somewhere on the 135-acre campus. The hunt begins, and guests scramble about hoping to be the lucky finders. When the log is found, everyone returns to the hearth for caroling, good tidings, and the burning of the log. The finders are given a bottle of champagne as the congregation heads indoors for holiday treats. And maybe, just maybe . . . they also get a special visitor from the North Pole.

Several times, I've had the distinguished honor of hiding the log, and it's great fun for me watching guests scramble to find it. Even better is the sense of comradery and togetherness that follows during the good luck burning of the log. There's something very warming about watching a group of 100 or more "strangers" come together to sing carols and spread cheer almost as if they are family

Then again, it seems behavior like that is a year-round occurence here at Woodloch. 



Helpful Haunted House Hints from the Pros at Woodloch!

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golf resort, family reunion

~Shared by J. Ranner

Woodloch Pines Resort offers up a professional’s perspective for spooking up your haunted house this Halloween.

Halloween is just around the corner. In addition to all the tasty treats that drive the little ghouls crazy, it’s also the perfect season to put your spooky ingenuity to the test and transform your house into the creepiest one in the neighborhood.

Joey Ranner, the Social Director at Woodloch, is also the chief scare architect for the resort’s annual haunted hayrides, where guests hop aboard a haywagon and travel through a forest of terror. He believes that many of the tactics used in the hayrides can be transitioned to work in your own home. “Although things are spooky at night, a trip through the grounds in sunlight reveals that some of the most effective scares at night are relatively simply constructed. Here are just a few steps you can take to frighten visiting goblins this Halloween:”


  • “The BOOM Effect”- String together chilling sound effects and music on a special mix CD then crank the volume up on an old boombox, or have a special “monster” clatter pots and pans together. It works especially well after a period of silence.  Aluminum pie pans clang and send off misguiding reflections.
  • “Scare from Above” – Craft a lightweight spider, bat or creepy crawler out of basic materials like foam, pipe cleaners or paper mache. Using fishing line or thin rope, suspend them from a high point, such as a chandelier. When your “victims” are in place, let go and drop from above!
  • “Under the Cover of Darkness”- The most essential element working in your favor. To extend the advantage of the night, seal off windows or doorways with black trash bags to rid your house of any unnecessary light. Add a one-two punch by using a camera flash or strobe light to further impair your guests’ sight.
  •  “Smoke and Mirrors”- literally. It is fairly easy to disorient someone who isn’t seeing things clearly. Gather up as many mirrors as possible and place them all around a room, or, acquire a fog machine and fire up some creepy clouds. Pounce on your visitors in the midst of confusion (be safe about it, of course!)
  •  “Decoys”- keep your audience guessing. Set up decorations that could, in your visitor’s minds, be scares, but in reality are nothing. Scarecrows, dummies, or just a pair of boots behind the curtain will do the trick! Then spring at them from another angle!

All of these tactics can be employed on a modest budget, but remember that the most important aspects of the rides (and now, your scare house) are execution and heart. Allow yourself to get caught up in the craziness of the season and have FUN. That makes the difference between a good haunted house and a spooktacular haunted house!

Woodloch offers haunted hayrides on select nights through November 8th. Call 800.WOODLOCH for details!


The Poconos are your other home for the holidays!

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Best Poconos Resorts

It's the most wonderful time of the year... to bring your family and friends to Woodloch for some holiday fun! Fun for all ages awaits you for the start of winter in the scenic Pocono Mountains. 

For the weekends of December 2nd-4th and December 9th-11th, we will be offering our first "Magic of the Holidays" weekends.  Come revel in the holiday spirit with our "Festival of Lights" hayrides- an illuminated tour of our picturesque Nature Trail accompanied by your favorite holiday music. Sunday of each respective week will feature our annual "Holiday Craft Show"- plenty of hand-made crafts from dozens of vendors will please everyone on your shopping list!

To really begin the "magic" of your holiday stay, please join us for our magic shows AND children's magic workshops.  World-class magicians John Graham (Dec. 2-3) and Jay Mattioli (Dec. 9-10) will perform shows featuring awe-inspiring illusions. The next day will then feature each magician in a Woodloch exclusive workshop for kids- they will learn how to perform simple magic tricks using everyday items. For December 9th-11th, we will also be joined by writer Anna Prokos for a reading and signing of her children's book "The Lucky Cake."

Of course, you can always expect the same great meals, activities, and entertainment that only Woodloch can provide, including our "Holiday Yule Log Hunt" and caroling. Book now, as great accommodations are still available! We can't wait to share our holidays with you!

LIGHTS ON! Brighten up your holidays in the Poconos!

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Festival of Lights in the pocono Mountains

The last of the brilliant autumn foliage fell to the ground weeks ago in the scenic Pocono Mountains, marking the advent of snow and chilly temperatures that will surely follow. What better way to lift your spirits in these days than with some brilliant holiday lights? Family Holidays in the Poconos

If you haven't ever joined us here at Woodloch during the holiday season, you are missing quite the spectacle. After the last crumb of stuffing leaves the Thanksgiving table, the resort is transformed almost instantaneously overnight into a vibrant display of illumination. With the resort lit up across its 135 acres even the coldest of winter nights seem warmer.


On top of that, Woodloch's special packages also offer the annual "Festival of Lights," a magical hayride through our Nature Trail. You will enjoy some holiday music, good times with family, and if you behave yourselves... maybe even get a visit from Santa!

Though our guests may not realize it during their stay, preparations for the holiday light displays begin even before October! Little by little, behind the scenes, our staff spends many countless hours scaling trees, testing bulbs, and rearranging fixtures to ensure that everything looks picture-perfect for the traditional lighting on Black Friday.

So, if you are looking to spend some quality time with family and friends this holiday season, join us in the Pocono Mountains for a little bit of illumination. Our Festival of Lights tours will run through New Year's, while displays around the resort will be shining through the Russian Christmas. Brighten up your holidays with a visit to Woodloch!

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