Maggie Hardy Magerko has everyone fooled. To corporate America, she’s the tough, firecracker of a CEO at 84 Lumber, a building-supply chain that generated $2.9 billion in revenue a year ago. However, if you’re around her outside of a boardroom, you’ll encounter someone different — a sunglass-wearing, joke-telling barrel of fun.
These latter qualities especially help with running a hotel. And as the proud leader of Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, a family-friendly escape about an hour outside of Pittsburgh, she makes it her personal mission to ensure that everyone has a great time when they visit.
Magerko’s father, 84 Lumber founder Joseph A. Hardy III, purchased a 550-acre parcel of land back in 1987 with the hopes of turning it into a world-class destination. When Magerko took over the reins in 1992, she was determined to make that dream a reality.
Over the years, the property has not only grown to 2,000 acres, but it has added a clay-shooting academy, an adrenaline-rushing Adventure Center, an impressive Wildlife Academy and a 700-plus-piece art collection that rivals some city galleries — all in the name of having a good time.
Magerko reports that the company has spent more than $250 million over the past three years getting Nemacolin where it is today. “I feel proud [that the resort can] go up against anybody, anywhere, on any continent,” she said of her southwest Pennsylvania playground.
That declaration came after the July debut of Shepherd’s Rock golf course, a Pete Dye-designed masterstroke featuring waterfalls, fast greens and spectacular mountain views.
“We finally have our cherry on top,” Magerko said about this latest attraction.
If you’re hungry for a memorable fall getaway, we’re confident these five things will make a visit to Nemacolin more than worth it.
At Nemacolin, choices are important. And never is that more obvious than with the rooms. If you’re feeling an utterly relaxed vibe during your stay, you’ll want to reserve something at the 97-room Lodge or the 42-room Falling Rock. With the latter, you’ll have 10-option pillow menus and butler-drawn baths to pick from, but you’ll be so enamored with the wood furnishings, earth tones and golf course views, that you might not even notice all the extras.
At Chateau Lafayette, things skew a bit more grand and elegant, which makes sense seeing as how the 124-room treasure was inspired by the famed Ritz Paris. The lobby is a cathedral of crystal chandeliers, polished floors and mahogany accents.
Units have vaulted ceilings and upholstered benches. Some beds are so imposing that you need a footstool to get in them. Plush mattresses are so comfortable that you may require a push getting up in the morning.
Shepherd’s Rock puts the widest smile on Magerko’s face. Once you hear of the backstory behind the name — she calls her father the “shepherd” of the family — and understand everything that went into the course’s construction, you get it. This is a labor of love that she’s gifting to the world.
We want to “make golf fun for everybody,” she said. You get a sense of that from your tee shot on hole 1. There you’ll be greeted by a sweeping dogleg left that, even if you don’t have Dustin Johnson’s accuracy, affords you decent chances at a birdie.
The fourth is a doozy — 619 yards from the “championship” tee — but its incredible bunker with railroad ties is a sight to behold. The front nine as a whole is full of moments to be shared on your phone or in conversation over beers after the round.
But as is the case with Nemacolin’s other stellar course, Mystic Rock, there are challenges beneath the friendly façade. Get too comfortable with the scenery on the back nine, and you’ll need a search party to locate misguided balls hidden in Dye’s strategically placed bunkers and water hazards. But whether you’re a novice or a natural, you’ll have nothing but positive things to say once you get to the dramatic 18th green.
Though Woodlands Spa routinely handles 100 appointments per day, it’s still a bit overshadowed by some of the resort’s other offerings. But from the moment you walk into the reception area, you know you’re somewhere special. Walls are a calming brown. Columns appear to be made from just-chopped wood. A cascading waterfall serves as the area’s soundtrack.
Once you make a left down a hall, you’ll reach the fitness center, renovated less than a year ago, that feels like something from an Architectural Digest spread. An industrial-inspired mobile hangs above a room filled with stone, neutral hues and the latest Life Fitness workout equipment.
In the actual spa, there are 38 treatment rooms, all echoing the other spaces’ muted and meditative design aesthetic. The sanctuary’s expansive menu is worth exploring any time of year, but in the fall it bursts with interesting choices like the Revitalized Pumpkin Facial and the Garden Harvest Experience (a body massage and light exfoliation using customized oil from herbs you just plucked).
Pre- or post-service, you’ll find a relaxation area packed with pretzels and an indoor pool — because 40-degree November mornings in a swimsuit outdoors aren’t as fun as they sound — perfect for a plunge.
Like anyone who’s ever tried Kristin Butterworth’s lavender-and-honey-roasted chicken, we’re smitten with the young chef. She has a sincerity in her voice when she speaks of finding fresh produce or hand-making pasta that you simply can’t deny. (Indulge in more of our musings on the talented toque here.)
When you visit chef Butterworth at the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Lautrec over the next few months, expect her to back up any talk by cooking up quite the delicious seasonal roster. Recent dishes like wood-oven roasted rib eyes and smoked corn agnolotti just scream fall.
Aqueous and Autumn are two other fine establishments for a snazzy taste of the Pennsylvania Allegheny Mountain region. But if you want a more casual setting, Nemacolin delivers on that front as well. Otis & Henry’s (located in the onsite Lady Luck Nemacolin casino) cooks up a great burger. PJ’s hooks up a mean ice cream float. And during our most recent visit, we had a salmon sandwich at The Tavern that proved one of our trip highlights.
Of course, Nemacolin will pull out all the stops for its Thanksgiving Harvest Brunch. Taking place on November 23 in the Marquis Ballroom, the meal will include eggs Benedict, locally sourced turkey, yams and other holiday favorites.
This is the time of year when Nemacolin shines. Over Halloween weekend (October 27 and 28), the resort will get the holidays going with Boonanza in the Mountain, a two-day extravaganza filled with zombie-destroying paintball battles, wolf encounters (real ones at the Wildlife Academy, not the Michael J. Fox variety), costume contests and much more.
And if you thought the massive brunch was the only thing the property had cooked up for Thanksgiving, think again. Thanks to a Turkey Trot 5K, gingerbread workshops and a tree-lighting ceremony stuffing the weekend’s docket, your family may very well forget about the Black Friday shopping it had in mind.
But that’s precisely the point at Nemacolin — no matter your age, food preference or golf handicap, if you’re open to having fun, new experiences in rustic Pennsylvania, Magerko has created just the place for you.