It’s said that you can’t please all people all of the time. But if there’s one place that has a shot at achieving the impossible, it has to be the incredibly well-appointed Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, located in the Laurel Highlands of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
It might seem unlikely at first glance, but almost any activity you can think of can be done at this 2,000-acre playground, and we’re talking everything from clay pigeon shooting and wildlife academy tours to soaring across 3,000 feet of dueling zip lines.
On property, there’s a spa, holistic center, a ropes course, a bowling alley, golf courses, a casino, pools and several restaurants and bars. There’s even an on-property, private airfield with a 3,900-foot airstrip for guests who prefer to fly in. And to think, we haven’t even mentioned accommodations that range from the European-inspired 124-room Chateau Lafayette to the 42-room Frank Lloyd Wright-themed boutique hotel Falling Rock.
Narrowing down what we love most about Nemacolin was tricky, but we surely had fun giving it a try.
Nemacolin features five very different types of lodging options with a total of 320 rooms, but Falling Rock is probably its most unique. With a design stimulated by world-renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the boutique property pays homage to the design master in every detail, from its natural stone exterior to the geometric designs in the lighting fixtures.
For any fan of Wright’s work, staying at Falling Rock is a huge treat. Amenities here are top-notch — 24-hour butler service for all rooms, a 10-option pillow menu, a bath soak menu, and a milk-and-cookie turndown. You can even specify what kind of dessert you prefer before bedding down.
Each room is decked out with a 200-gallon soaking bathtub and stand-alone European-style shower. Falling Rock also has its own fitness room, hot tub and heated outdoor infinity pool.
Golfers love the fact that it’s located near Mystic Rock Golf Course’s 18th hole and its 50,000-square-foot clubhouse.
Lautrec restaurant, helmed so deftly by Kristin Butterworth, the youngest female chef in the world to run a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star restaurant, offers an over-the-top dining experience. The moment you walk into the 96-seat restaurant, you’re immediately wowed by authentic Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec lithographs.
The weekly changing prix-fixe menu (four or seven courses) features European-style cuisine made with local and international ingredients. You might start a meal with a grilled Romaine salad, made with lettuce sourced from an area farm, then move on to Georges Bank scallops with sweet butter poached King crab. Dessert might be local strawberries served with caramelized tahini mousse and miso chocolate.
Of course, the expert resident sommelier is on hand to perfectly pair your meal with flights of wine chosen from the resort’s 21,000-bottle cellar.
Every moment in this sanctuary has been thoroughly thought out, from the minute you pull open the heavy doors, intentionally designed to make you take notice that you are about to transition from one world to a different one that features an indoor pool, 40 treatment rooms and more than 100 treatments.
Signature services include the Woodlands Hot Stone Shirodhara, a warm stone massage where Ayurvedic oils are streamed on the “third eye,” intended to make the mind still and peaceful; and the Dream Catcher, a blend of Native American healing techniques. There is an impressive list of other massages, body scrubs and wraps, hydrotherapies, bathing rituals and facials as well.
Mystic Rock Golf Course
The highly regarded Mystic Rock Golf Course, designed by Pete Dye, sits on the Allegheny Mountains and spans acres of scenic highlands for exceptional views across the par-72 course layout.
Beyond the brilliant scenery, another plus about the 7,526-yard course is the fact that caddies are included in greens fees — and, trust us, they will come in handy during those moments when you need to locate your ball in the rock formations on 7 or figure out how to work around the water at 16.
In 2017, the front nine for a second Pete Dye-designed course will be unveiled. (The back nine will debut in 2018.)
In addition to these efforts, the Nemacolin Golf Academy offers a blend of golf instruction, club fitting and technology designed exclusively to help players up their game.
As far as pulse-racing activities go, there are more than enough of them at Nemacolin’s Adventure Center. From the Fatbird Canopy Tour elevated ropes course 40 feet up in the air — we’re talking nine obstacles that end with a 250-foot zip line — to a game of target paintball at the Quick Draw Alley, the property has something for the adrenaline seeker in your bunch.
Haven’t had enough? The 3,000-foot Fatbird SuperFlyer is a dueling zip line that lets you race alongside another rider at 60 miles an hour over the slopes of Mystic Mountain.
If you want to tackle the 50-foot, freestanding Climbing Wall, that’s another option. Other activities include learning how to knock down clays at the 140-acre Shooting Academy or fly-fishing at the Orvis Fly Fishing Center, which offers half- and full-day guided tours with casting, tying and fishing lessons.
Of course, when Old Man Winter checks in for his extended stay, a new roster of activities (everything from skiing to dog sledding) opens up the potential for fun at Nemacolin.