Nemacolin Woodlands Resort: Hideaway in the Hills
At Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, guests relax and play amid spectacular surroundings.
Photos courtesy Nemacolin Woodlands Resort
A family of four zooms down a waterslide, climbs through a high-altitude jungle gym and travels on horseback to view a black leopard. Newlyweds wander through an art gallery before attending a wine tasting and enjoying side-by-side massages. Friends brave the rapids during a white-water rafting trip, then cook dinner together in their rented townhouse. A father and son hit the links before savoring scotch and Macanudo cigars. Three girlfriends sign up for snowboarding lessons, then find out what it’s like to be pulled by a dogsled team.
Five different scenarios, five different vacation destinations, right? Think again. Nemacolin Woodlands Resort offers all of these experiences in one spot stretching across 2,000 lush acres in southwestern Pennsylvania.
“The number of activities available sets Nemacolin Woodlands apart from other destinations,” says Zelma Kassimer, the resort’s guest and media relations manager and director of marketing. “It ranges anywhere from amazing spa treatments to a wild animal show. There just aren’t many other places where you could take advantage of things that are luxurious as well as so many family-friendly options.”
Whether you hole up for the weekend within Nemacolin’s expansive boundaries or use the resort as a launching pad to explore the surrounding Laurel Highlands region, here’s what you need to know before you go.
Lodging at Nemacolin can be tailored to your needs or desires. One choice is the Chateau Lafayette, containing 124 elegant rooms inspired by the Ritz-Carlton in Paris with crystal chandeliers in each room. Or consider hanging your hat in the Lodge, constructed in 1968 as a private game reserve. It has since been extensively renovated with lots of warm, wood accents. For larger parties—families or groups of friends—a two-bedroom townhome or stand-alone luxury home with a full kitchen may be the best option. RV enthusiasts can pull up to the on-site RV park, Maggie Valley.
Guests seeking a truly luxurious experience can book one of the 42 rooms at Falling Rock, Nemacolin’s boutique hotel. As a recipient of the prestigious Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Award, Falling Rock is designed on the architectural principles of Frank Lloyd Wright, who designed several famous homes in the region. “Everything is modern and sleek-looking,” Kassimer says. Rooms come with 24-hour butler service and amenities such as a 10-option pillow menu and 1,200-thread count sheets.
With more than 10 restaurants and bars on site plus several seasonal outlets, Nemacolin’s multitude of menus can vanquish any appetite.
Lautrec is one of only about 20 restaurants in the world to hold both a Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five-Diamond award. The fine dining spot features European-style cuisine with dishes ranging from smoked pheasant and brioche-herb-crusted sturgeon to Jerusalem artichoke potage and venison pastrami. And the truffle scones with aged Italian cheese, black truffle oil and a hint of scallion? “Addictive,” says vice president of food and beverage and executive chef Brent Wertz. “We sell them in dozens to almost everyone who dines at Lautrec—these scones have taken on a life and legend of their own.”
Another award-winning restaurant, Aqueous, is a fresh take on the traditional steakhouse. You can sink teeth into a Maytag blue cheese-crusted filet mignon or a chimichurri-sauced porterhouse, and also find sumptuous lobster bisque, birch beer-brined chicken and pierogi stuffed with vanilla mascarpone butternut squash.
Care for more casual fare? Grab fish and chips at the pub-style Tavern or brisket, baby back ribs and hush puppies at barbecue joint The Caddyshack. Share a banana split at PJ’s, a 1950s-style ice cream parlor, or enjoy adult beverages at several bars, including one specializing in cigars.
Whether you want to get up and go, or spend a few days lounging around, Nemacolin offers a variety of things to do. Hit the links for 36 holes of championship golf amid breathtaking scenery. During the cold months, six slopes are open for skiing and snowboarding. Or take target practice at 35 clay shooting stations. Also on the list are shopping, art tours, mountain biking, swimming, paintball, snowshoeing, paddle boats and tennis.
If you’re staying at the resort for only a few days, director of recreation Matt Grobe suggests a few top stops for time-strapped families. “I wouldn’t miss out on our safari tours,” he says. “There aren’t too many places in the country where you can feed a Bengal tiger within arm’s reach.” Tours take participants behind the scenes of the exotic animal habitats on location, including those occupied by lions, bison, bears, hyenas and wolves.
Want to become a true road warrior? Tackle 20 miles of rugged terrain in one of the resort’s Jeep Rubicons. “Our professional instructors can teach someone with no off-roading experience how to navigate up to 60 degree inclines, 40 degree side slopes, numerous water fording obstacles and log crossings galore,” Grobe explains.
Aerial antics round out the options: A 1,060-foot zip line reaches up to 45 miles per hour and towers over the property, offering the best view of the resort.
Tons of events are hosted at the resort, too, ranging from a Rocktober beer fest to the Five Alarm Mountain Madness Chili Cook-Off. And options for fun are about to expand—even more —as the Lady Luck Nemacolin casino is slated to open in late 2013.
For those seeking peace in the lap of luxury, the on-site Woodlands Spa is a place to relax, rejuvenate and refresh, says spa director Lori Shubert. “One way to do that is to experience our signature treatments.” From aromatherapy facials and hot stone massages to acupuncture and reflexology, the spa menu serves everybody—even kids and men.
The Ways to Explore
But it’s not just Nemacolin’s all-inclusiveness that makes it such an attractive destination. Rather than being the lone star in an otherwise featureless landscape, the resort is nestled within the Laurel Highlands, a pristine, mountainous region dotted with historic and cultural sites.
“Columbus residents come here for the topography of our land, our downhill skiing, our trails, our rivers ... plus all our other cultural and historic sites,” says Julie Donovan, director of marketing and public relations for the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.
Visit one of the most famous homes in America: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, located 11 miles from Nemacolin. Two other Wright homes in the area—Kentuck Knob and Duncan House—are nearby. For history buffs, Fort Necessity (where a young George Washington began his military career) is right down the road. And thrill-seeking families can check out amusement parks Idlewild and Soak Zone.
Nature lovers and adrenaline junkies alike will find paradise while hiking, biking and taking to the water. “It’s a beautiful mountainous region with rolling countryside, sparkling waterways. Our landscape provides this fabulous setting for all these outdoor activities,” Donovan says. Ohiopyle State Park (7 miles from Nemacolin) is a major hub for white-water rafting, and has a trailhead for the Great Allegheny Passage, a 141-mile rail trail spanning western Pennsylvania to Maryland. Winter sports enthusiasts can make tracks at Seven Springs Mountain Resort and Hidden Valley Resort.
Kimberly Byce is a freelance writer in Columbus.
Five Things to Do
If you’ve got time to venture off the grounds at Nemacolin, here are some local highlights not to miss.
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Kaufmann family and built between 1936 and 1939, this famous cantilevered home stretches out over a 30-foot waterfall and is essential viewing for all art and architecture buffs. Two other nearby Wright homes—Kentuck Knob and Duncan House—are worth a visit, too.
Ohiopyle State Park
These 20,500 acres beckon hikers with 79 miles of trails, and lure rafters and kayakers to the rushing waters of the Youghiogheny River Gorge. Bikers and cross-country skiers stretch their legs on the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail, which winds for 27 acres through the park and beyond. You can also pitch a tent, go rock climbing and ride down natural waterslides.
Fort Necessity National Battlefield
Young George Washington had his first military engagement—and only surrender—at this battle, which marked the start of the French and Indian War. The site also contains a furnished historic tavern museum, which tells of life along the National Road, America’s first federally built highway.
Flight 93 National Memorial
Opened on September 10, 2011, this permanent memorial commemorates the courage of the 40 passengers and crew of Flight 93.
Seven Springs Mountain Resort
This winter sports destination has 33 slopes and trails for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities, plus snow tubing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.
Dine & Sip
A few off-site eateries worth seeking out.
Out of the Fire Cafe
An open kitchen forms the centerpiece of this welcoming eatery in Donegal, Pennsylvania. House-smoked salmon is a main attraction, along with dishes such as roasted mushroom bread pudding and wood-grilled burgers served with white truffle fries.
The Historic Stone House Restaurant & Inn
As one of the original inns along the National Road (now known as U.S. Route 40), Stone House sits just down the street from Nemacolin. Opened in 1822, the restaurant serves sandwiches, pasta dishes and steak, and offers upward of 20 beers on tap, including several local to the area.
This Wright-influenced restaurant is located inside Polymath Park Resort, home to the Wright-designed Duncan House in Acme, Pennsylvania. Visitors will find a fine dining menu composed of fresh ingredients and organic options.
Christian W. Klay Winery
Opened in 1997 inside a restored 1880s barn (complete with Queen Anne cupolas), this winery sits among rolling rural hills and boasts an outdoor deck, pond and pavilion for live music performances.
Dine on shepherd’s pie, watermelon salad and artichoke dip inside this colorful, renovated Victorian home. Then wander through historic downtown Ligonier, site of more than 60 specialty shops and restaurants. “When you walk down the streets of Ligonier, you think you’re in New England. It’s just charming,” say Julie Donovan of the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.