Is there anyone who doesn’t know you don’t put Baby in a corner? Or who doesn’t automatically hum along to “The Time of my Life”? Imagine revisiting “Dirty Dancing” at its original locale – and visiting the site where Baby and Johnny practiced “the lift” – possibly the most famous dance routine ending ever? Welcome to Mountain Lake Lodge in Pembroke, Virginia channeling the Catskills hotel — AKA the Kellerman’s Resort.
In case you’re one of the few who is unfamiliar with the cult classic, go stream it now. Right now. I’ll wait for you. Because this is just an adventure that is too much fun to miss out on! And that includes the sound track that seems to embed in the ear – from “Hungry Eyes”to “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” to the indelible “Time of My Life.”
Yes, you can go on a theme weekend and experience the movie from start to finish including dance lessons, trivia contests, costume parties, scavenger hunts and multiple viewings of the film. The lodge looms as large in real life as it does in the movie, and the resort itself promotes an immersive connection to the film. Having viewed the movie once again before arriving, we looked for many of the film’s key locales and couldn’t help but feel an immediate attachment not usually associated with other hotel visits.
Signs everywhere designate important locations – the gazebo where Penny gave dance lessons; Baby’s cabin where the Houseman family resided; the lake where Johnny and Baby practiced “the lift.” Dirty Dancing permeates the grounds – and once the guests arrive — seniors, couples, mothers, daughters, sisters, girlfriends on a weekend getaway — many in a variety of Dirty Dancing t-shirts — electricity abounds. Apparently, no age group is immune to the long-term appeal of the film.
Now I’ve seen the movie a couple of times but am anything but a devotee so I was unfamiliar with all the references I saw to “I carried a watermelon.” Apparently, this was the first thing Baby said to Johnny and immediately berated herself for it. The meme was everywhere.
Want to rent Baby’s cabin? No problem. Just start a year or more in advance. But try to leave everything in place. The hotel manager told me that guests kept stealing the plaque denoting Room 232 in the main lodge, the one Patrick Swayze stayed in during filming. Other lodging options include cottages dating back to the 1920’s.
First night – costume and dance party. Lots of Babys of course, a bunch of Pennys, a few Lisas (Baby’s sister), a couple of villain Vivians and you guessed it, a number of watermelons. And a surprisingly number of Johnnys of all ages – none of them exactly channeling Patrick Swayze but several sporting some impressive dance moves. He would have been proud! And all are so immersed in their individual characters. Are you with me yet?
Rita Lockton from North Dakota is celebrating her 20th anniversary. “When I was a kid my folks told me it was an R-rated film so my cousins and I snuck around to watch it all the time. I’ve been fascinated by it ever since and have always wanted to come here. I’m so excited and I haven’t even experienced anything yet!” Lots of revelers shared that sentiment.
Next day there’s a trivia contest, of course. An auditorium packed with Dirty Dancing aficionados. A round of 50 very detailed questions requiring an encyclopedic knowledge of the film, with the soundtrack playing in the background. The license plate number of Johnny’s car as he drove off? Seriously? Most of these folk had probably seen the film dozens of times but the plate number must have been there two seconds max. Still, easy peasy. I guessed at maybe five or six correctly. The winning couple correctly answered almost all.
Then the scavenger hunt took the 200 DD devotees all around the resort clicking pictures to prove their righteous reconnaissance. And off to the Kellerman Gift Shop to claim their prizes, a store devoted to all things Baby and Johnny related, from clothing and posters to gifts and books, both written by and about the protagonists. If it has anything to do with the movie, it’s there. And as a change of pace after scavenging, what more appropriate option than some salsa and meringue lessons from a modern-day Penny.
But before I left, I slipped in for one more replaying of the movie and practically shouted throughout: “There’s a trivia answer; there’s a trivia answer….” There was a noticeable gasp as everyone in the theater particularly noted Johnny’s license plate number.
For those of you who don’t care whether Baby is put into a corner, there are all kinds of activities that any normal resort might offer readily available to guests whether on a theme weekend or not: miles of hiking trails, ropes course and zip lines; ATV tours, clay shooting, escape rooms, bubble balls, arts studio and more. But, thankfully, you’re never that far away from a new Dirty Dancing discovery – all while having The Time of your Life! For more information, visit mtnlakelodge.com.
P.S. “Dirty Dancing 2” is in the works, produced by and starring Jennifer Grey – no doubt held up by the actors’ strike. To be filmed, of course, at Kellerman’s! Stay tuned – and get ready to watch this time!