Early American elegance and a commanding view of the lake make for a picture-perfect visit. However, a seasonal staff inexperienced in high-end service make this more luxury camp than luxury resort.
Located in upstate New York approximately 3.5 hours due north of Manhattan, the historic Sagamore Resort sits on picturesque Lake George offering beautiful views and 19th century elegance. The Sagamore Resort is part of the OPAL Collection which boasts a total of 18 hotels and resorts along the east coast of the US from New England to Key West.
The property is unabashedly picturesque and features a variety of amenities and activities that will keep your family engaged. While the property and its surroundings are the high point, we found the service level lacking for the inflated price.
A view of Lake George from The Sagamore Hotel. Photo: RitzRoséRepeat
Who Will Enjoy It
This resort is ideal for those seeking a quintessential Instagram experience. A nostalgic air of elegance literally drips from the eaves of the formidable main lodge. As such, it earned our personal nickname of “Independence Hall on the Lake.” The view of Lake George is indisputably serene (except on holiday weekends when the water churns with hundreds of recreational powerboats). While we visited in the summer, one could imagine that the colors of autumn would present a stunning backdrop for wedding or family pictures. The strength of this property is its beauty and environment. Come for the photographs, stay a night if you like, but at nightly rates starting at $450, the value just isn’t there for an extended stay in our opinion.
For the luxury getaway that it was supposed to be, it didn’t seem that many people had really “gotten away.” We observed so many people that appeared to have brought along all of their stresses with them. Perhaps it’s difficult to let go of the competitive nature of big city life or the eyes-down-march-forward spirit that pervades the culture of the Tri-State area. Common courtesy was rare; a pleasant “hello” in passing was almost non-existent. It was a far cry from the light and happy attitudes we’ve become accustomed to from travelers in other locations. Perhaps The Sagamore just isn’t far enough away from home for some of these guests to truly relax.
When To Go
Our visit to The Sagamore was during Independence Day weekend. We would not advise this as an ideal time to visit. The hotel was at 100% capacity and the staff were simply unable to keep up. As such, service in all capacities suffered greatly. Every server was in the weeds, every housekeeper was rushing to and fro, every manager was racing to put out a fire. Our perception was that at best, they were just barely keeping up.
What Makes It Great
The Sagamore, Lake George, the Adirondacks, and the little neighboring town of Bolton Landing are beautiful. The Sagamore has some real strengths beyond its picturesque buildings as well. It boasts a substantial Rec Center with indoor mini-golf, ping-pong tables, foosball, basketball, indoor rock climbing, video games, even a mini whiffle ball field. Outdoors, there’s basketball, a small soccer field, volleyball, horseshoes, and four tennis courts (two clay and two hard courts).
For active kids, these facilities offer hours of entertainment and the Rec Room is a god-send if the weather is uncooperative. To their credit, all of these facilities were well-maintained and in good working order. They also boast a summer activity schedule with different options on the hour. Unfortunately the day that our children tried to participate in one of those activities they were turned away because the activity was full and required (an undisclosed) sign up.
As we pondered what the ideal scenario would be for a return visit, we imagined that a couple of close families with similar-aged kids in the 10-16 realm could have a lovely long weekend at this resort. There is enough for the kids to do to keep them engaged and active, hopefully providing some respite for the adults to relax by the pool, lake, or bar.
Needs Improvement & Buyer Beware
A stay at The Sagamore comes with a formidable price tag, and we can’t in good confidence say that it’s worth it. The suite we stayed in was comfortable, but not extravagant. The amenities were adequate, but not amazing. And the service was positively deplorable.
Wanting to get at the “why” behind these consistent and significant service failures, we looked to the staff. As is typical with resorts, theme parks, and summer camps in the northeast US, the staff are hired from overseas for short-term seasonal contracts. (We have experience in the summer camping industry and are acutely aware of how this works.)
These individuals are usually paid a paltry wage, given minimal training, and work long hours to fulfill their contracts. Those staff that don’t hail from Eastern-bloc countries are usually locals from the neighboring rural areas. They don’t have hospitality backgrounds, have had little fine dining or high-end service training, and little incentive to perform at a high level since their contracts at limited to seasonal terms.This lies in stark contrast to other properties we have visited and returned to. Brands with four and five star hotels like Marriott, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, and Park Hyatt have significant training programs and well-defined career paths for their employees at all levels.
The management was clearly unprepared as well. We spoke with both the Restaurant Supervisor and the Front Desk Manager about the challenges that we encountered during our stay. The Restaurant Supervisor assisted us with securing a dining reservation and we did have a wonderfully trained server that night, even if the food was poor quality and grossly overpriced. The Front Desk Manager did refund our “premium location” fee and discounted our first night’s stay, however she did not follow up with us during the remainder of our visit. When we happened to see her during check out, and had further concerns, her response was that she would be happy to upgrade our room on a future stay.
If you have kids, “The Rec” is the keystone to the whole property. It is a great place for the kids to congregate, enjoy a variety of activities, and hang out in relative safety. There is also a schedule of activities issued on arrival. We found s’mores around the campfire to be quite enjoyable, particularly with the addition of a talented guitar-playing staff member. If you’re so inclined, hop aboard The Sagamore’s replica touring boat The Morgan, for one of the twice-a-day tours of Lake George. It’s a beautiful way to see more of the lake and a standoff view of The Sagamore itself.
The hamburger at Mister Brown’s pub was very good; the service, in our experience, less so. The breakfast buffet (which happened to be included in our room rate) was typical with many options. Our only regret there was waiting until the last day to hit the omelet station, which was excellent. Lunch salads and hamburgers ran in the $20 range with cocktails and glasses of wine in the $15-$20 range. If you elect to dine at The Sagamore, you won’t be disappointed by the food quality, though you might be shocked by the bill.
What You Should Know (That No One Else Will Tell You)
There is no security at The Sagamore. You can waltz right in, stroll the grounds, enjoy a cocktail, and get that dynamite Instagram picture. Given the relative photo-worthiness of this property, we’d encourage you to do so. If you’re passing through on I-87, The Sagamore is just 11 miles or so out of your way — definitely worth a stop for a photo and a cocktail.
The Sagamore has several room categories in different locations. The main hotel offers traditional hotel room suites, seven lodges with multiple rooms and suites per lodge and then finally the Hermitage Building. Their website does a poor job describing the room details in each category. While we were booked in a “Premium Lodge Suite” we weren’t sure until we got there what that room would look like.
The Sagamore charges a premium for suites in Lodges 1-3 as they are closer to the Main Lodge, some of which have a “peek a boo” view of the lake. There is little advantage attached to this “premium.” All of the buildings are a significant walk away from the Main Lodge, so there is little advantage to being closer.
If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by The Sagamore for a taste of old world elegance, some gorgeous photos, and lunch overlooking the Lake George. Then press on and spend your hotel budget somewhere down the road.