If you’ve followed our “Things We Love” series on the blog, you’ve heard me talk of my love for (or slight obsession with) the film “Dirty Dancing”. I saw this film when I was 8 years old (censorship wasn’t a big deal for us 80’s kids) and remember it being one of the first times I felt truly inspired as a kid, and having my 1st celebrity crush on the suave and striking Patrick Swayze (RIP beautiful man).
About 2 years ago, after seeing the film on TV replay, I googled “where the movie dirty dancing was filmed” and came across a search hit for the “real” Kellerman’s Mountain House – Mountain Lake Lodge. My heart went “ga-gung” and I couldn’t believe there was actually a place to visit where Baby had the time of her life with Johnny!
When we booked our road trip vacation to Myrtle Beach this August, and I saw that Mountain Lake Lodge was on the way, I knew stopping in was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. Filmed in 1987, this year marks the 30th Anniversary of the film, which just fueled my “hungry eyes” to see this place for myself and make a bucket list wish come true!
The hotel has a 2-night minimum stay restriction on weekends, so we were just going to stop by and take in the sights, but a few days before departing on our road trip I called the hotel and they were able to book us into a cottage that would fit the 6 of us! Excited was an understatement! We were going to THE KELLERMAN’S MOUNTAIN HOUSE!!!!
About 13 hours drive from Toronto, Mountain Lake Lodge is set at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Pembroke, Virginia. Virgina? I know, in the film Kellerman’s was supposed to be set in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. In reality, it’s in the state “for lovers” and probably, then, more suited to the love story of our fave dancing duo.
Mountain Lake Lodge served as the location for many of the most memorable film scenes, including the iconic “water lift,” dining room, beach games, gazebo dance classes, and Houseman family cabin scenes. Other scenes were shot at Lake Lure in North Carolina.
Driving 7 miles up the winding road (sans guard rails) to get to the resort is an experience in itself and where the anticipation builds (and I got my giddy on with “Big Girls Don’t Cry” swirling in my head). As soon as you arrive you’ll see the Main Lodge from the first scenes of the film.
You will then veer off behind to registration and check-in – the location where Johnny sped off in frustration in the film (except the opposite way). I didn’t get a picture ’cause I was too excited!
The front desk staff were super pleasant and accommodating and will give you a self-guided tour map to visit the locations where scenes in the film were shot.
What some may find this place lacking in 5-star luxuries, is more than made up for in it’s picturesque setting, historic charm and film culture coolness factor. Mountain Lake Lodge was built in the 1930’s, was updated in 2012, and maintains a rustic, dated feel, with modern amenities families will appreciate. There are four sections to choose from for your stay: Main Mountain lodge, Historic/Rustic Cabins (including the Virginia Lodge, best known as “Baby’s Cabin” in the film), Blueberry Ridge Mountain Homes and the Chestnut Lodges, where we stayed.
We booked very last minute, and were able to get the 2-night minimum waived, so was happy to book what was available. If we were to book again, I’d definitely try to get the Virginia (Baby’s) cottage, but the Chestnut Lodge suited us just fine for this visit. We even learned after our stay that these cottages are where the cast stayed during filming of the movie. We stayed in cabin 507 – it’s said Jennifer Grey stayed in 513!
The Chestnut Lodge area comprises of sixteen spacious lodges that can accommodate 4-6 people, and offer one king or two queen beds, a cozy living area featuring wood burning fireplace, comfortable sofa bed, cable television, hairdryer, iron and ironing board, microwave, mini refrigerator, complimentary wireless Internet and local calls. The beds were cozy (our 1st time ever sleeping all 6 of us in 1 room!), and while the fixtures and accent furniture were a bit dated, they added to the ambiance.
You also get your own private balcony overlooking the lush forest where you can take in the fresh mountain air. Note: this section is not accessible (no elevators) or ramps. These suites accommodate 4-6 people, and cost about $340 CDN/night (Summer rate). Not budget accommodation, but the experience was one of a kind.
Scene Locations Tour
We literally tossed our bags in our room and got right to our self-guided tour. There are things for the kids to do in between stops so they didn’t really feel like they were being dragged along. They haven’t seen the film yet, so didn’t really get why Mommy was cha cha – ing around the place, but got a kick out of my kid-like enthusiasm. 😊
The tour takes about an hour, depending how long you linger at each stop. I won’t spoil every detail for you – along each stop is a sign where you can read some neat facts you may not have known about the film, the characters and the locations before.
First stop was the “Dirty Dancing Remembered” lodge – not where a scene was filmed, but a small museum of sorts with snap shots, cast info, film quotes and more memorialized on the walls.
We then headed down the hill, with immediate familiar views from the film of the lawn where guests participated in activities (like the sack race).
From there it was off to Baby’s cottage (Virginia cottage). Surreal!
Off to the side of the cottage is a great little park for the kids and a sand pit.
Next was the Gazebo – famously known for where Penny taught dance lessons, and where Baby goes to get Johnny when Penny’s in trouble. This was a fun stop. How can you not be enticed to grab your Johnny and dance like no one’s watching!
Beside the Gazebo is the Patrick Swayze memorial and beautiful stone tribute. He would have been 65 this year.
Just a short jaunt away was the area where the iconic lake lift was filmed.
Sadly, the actual lake has dried up since filming wrapped, but you can still see the blocks Swayze stood on in the water to perform the lift.
The boardwalk is beside this area and a great location to get some family shots or your two-step on!
A great spot for a family hike is the hill Baby & The Houseman Family drove down in the first scene of the film – right beside Virginia Cottage, the pool and volley ball court.
And of course, don’t forget to grab a scenic shot in the spot the first view of the Main Lodge (Kellerman’s Mountain House) was shown in the film.
The one major scene that would have made this complete was the steps and boardwalk where Baby dances to “Wipe Out” – it was actually filmed in North Carolina. Bummer…
Food & Dining
We were glad we had made a stop before arriving at the resort to stock up on drinks and snacks, as we learned upon check-in there is no room service. It wasn’t a big deal overall, as our lodge was just a 5 minute walk to the main lodge where you can grab basic refreshments from Mary’s Market & Cafe.
Getting more of the Dirty Dancing fix, we ate at the Harvest for dinner – where scenes of Baby and her family eating breakfast were shot for the film.
The Harvest prides itself on offering a farm to table experience with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients and a menu that changes seasonally. The hotel highly recommends reservations, but we had no trouble getting a table for 6 around 5:30 p.m. on a Saturday evening. You can do a la carte or the buffet (and family-friendly) option like we did, which consisted of a small salad bar, chicken parm, various pasta options, veggies and various pies/tortes for dessert. Two of our kids had meals from the kids menu (chicken fingers and fries). The wait staff was very attentive and the food was simple, but satisfying.
While “Virginia is for lovers”, this resort is fantastic for both couples AND families to enjoy. While we spent much of our time exploring the scene locations from the film, there was lots of other things we enjoyed doing as a family in between:
– Chess board
– Kids playground by baby’s cottage
– Outdoor pool with incredible view of the resort
– Bean bag toss
– Game centre near Mary’s Barn
Other activities we didn’t partake in but would be fun:
– Mountain Lake Adventure Center is located just 1 mile from the Mountain Lake Lodge resort. The Adventure Center includes these activities: Sky Slide, Archery Tag, Bubble Ball, Treetop Adventures Course, and Zorb Racing.
– Hike through Jefferson forest and catch a glimpse of the 66-foot waterfall
– Play a game of Bocci
– Football fans may want to venture off-resort and catch a game at Lane Stadium – home field of the Virginia Tech Hokies
Go have the time of your life!
For all you other Dirty Dancing fans, you should know at least a couple of weekends per year, the resort hosts “Dirty Dancing Weekends” where you can step into Johnny Castle and Baby’s shoes for a few days and enjoy a full itinerary of the movie scenes tour, dance lessons, Saturday night party and watermelon toss (of course)! Our stay was just one weekend prior to this year’s August Dirty Dancing weekend, but I hope to return again to experience it. Check out the event listings for updates.
If you can’t fit in a stay, the resort is also very accommodating to fans who just want to do the self-guided tour.
As an all-season resort, you can book Mountain Lake anytime of year. The front desk clerk tipped us off that Winter is a romantic time to visit, and a lot less crowded.
Before you depart, don’t forget to pick up some Dirty Dancing apparel and souvenirs at Mountain Lake Outfitters.
This experience was a dream come true, and truly unforgettable. One of the best parts was how family-friendly the resort is with plenty of options for all ages, so it wasn’t just me dragging them along for my Dirty Dancing fix. My only regret is not staying longer. But we’d definitely return again, as would many others – this hotel has received Trip Advisor’s “Certificate of Excellence” for consistently earning great reviews from travellers.
For all you die hard Dirty Dancing fans, this month, Mountain Lake Lodge is giving you a chance to WIN a weekend at Kellerman’s and tickets to Dirty Dancing on Broadway in Roanoke, VA! Good luck to all!
We hope you found this review useful, and we hope you share your experience in the comments if you ever get a chance to visit! Seriously, don’t hesitate, make it happen and go have the time of your life!