Travel Journal
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort

 

A Hidden Gem in the Rolling Hills of Pennsylvania

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, named after a local Indian Chief, is situated just 1.5 hours from Pittsburgh, on top of the scenic Laurel Highlands’ mountains.  Family-owned and run by the Hardys since it opened 31 years ago, Nemacolin is perhaps one of the best kept 5-star secrets we know.

We recently had the good fortune to spend a wonderful 36 hours at the resort.  Arriving early Friday morning, we were greeted as VIPs and headed right for our appointment at the spa and our tee time at the brand-new golf course, Shepherd’s Rock.  While the spa is one of the best on the East Coast, the real stars of this resort are the two Pete Dye designed golf courses.

The Golf:  Mystic Rock & Shepherd’s Rock

 The golf at Nemacolin merits a closer look, not only by local players but by those looking to play at world-class courses.  Mystic Rock is no stranger to the best golfers on the PGA tour:  once home of the 84 Lumber Classic, the event has featured Tiger Woods, Phil Mickleson, Vijay Singh, and the infamous John Daly.  This beautiful course takes its name from the natural rock found in the Allegheny mountain range, which one finds interwoven among the fairways and greens.

Mystic Rock Golf Course

Mystic Rock Golf Course

Mystic Rock Golf Course

Mystic Rock Golf Course

Tee Box View

Tee Box View

Shepherd's Rock Golf Course

Shepherd's Rock Golf Course

Shepherd's Rock Golf Course

Shepherd's Rock Golf Course

While Mystic is an old favorite, the newly-opened Shepherd’s Rock is arguably one of Pete Dye’s top courses, ever.  During the round, our pro shared that Dye used the surrounding mountain landscape to influence the course layout:  with the course measuring over 7100 yards of fairways and severely undulating greens, maybe it’s challenging enough for the pros to come back and play in another PGA event?  It certainly was for us!

The Resort & Our Room

Our one-night spa and golf getaway was just a glimpse of a perfect couples’ or guys’ trip.  We were also seriously impressed with how an extended family could indulge in just about any activity one could imagine.  Spa and golf are just the beginning…beyond that they offer wildlife safaris, ziplining, clay pigeon shooting, a teen center, skiing, Michelin star dining, a 50’s ice cream parlor, and so much more.  If you can think of an activity, Nemacolin probably has it – just ask!

Spread over 2000 acres of rolling hills, there are a variety of places to stay on property.  We settled into Chateau Lafayette, which takes its inspiration from the Ritz Hotel in Paris.  Our spacious suite featured floor to ceiling windows overlooking the resort’s private airport (great for those flying in from NYC or Washington DC for the weekend).   It was so beautiful we could have stayed forever, and indeed thought about extending our stay!

For families, we visited and recommend the newly-renovated townhomes which are perfect for groups with children (and pets!) that want a little more privacy and don’t mind a self-catering stay.

Chateau Lobby

Chateau Lobby

Chateau Tea Lounge

Chateau Tea Lounge

Chateau Suite

Chateau Suite

Falling Rock, another property at the resort, is inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece “Falling Water”, which is just 15 minutes away by car.  We somehow dislodged ourselves from Chateau Lafayette and made our way over to dinner at Falling Rock, in their upscale casual restaurant Aqueous, where we scored a sunset table overlooking Mystic Rock’s 18th green.

George Washington Townhomes

George Washington Townhomes

George Washington Townhomes

George Washington Townhomes

George Washington Townhomes

George Washington Townhomes

Speaking of food – they take it seriously here!  One must visit Lautrec, their 5-starred and 5-diamond restaurant, as this is about as good as it gets in Western Pennsylvania!  Try the Pomegranate Scofflaw- drink…

After dinner at Aqueous, back at the Chateau, we were spirited away through an almost invisible door, finding ourselves in the Cigar Bar.  With the ambiance of a Speak-easy, we felt as though we’d stepped into The Great Gatsby (is that Zelda?) with a roaring fireplace, aromas of rich cigars, mixologist cocktails, and one-of-a-kind cowhide and leather chairs adjacent to original artwork from the owners’ personal collection.  Golfers recounted their birdies and bogies, friends laughed together, and couples curled up by the fireplace.  We felt special and indulged.

Lautrec Entrance & Nemacolin Wine Cellar

Lautrec Entrance & Nemacolin Wine Cellar

After 36 hours, we came away impressed by the caliber and incredible diversity of this relatively unknown resort.  One could never be bored at Nemacolin Woodlands, no matter your age, no matter your hometown, and no matter with whom you are traveling.  Some day, we’d like to visit again and do every activity in a single visit; our rough (back of the cocktail napkin) estimate is it might take us 2-3 weeks!  Even if you don’t have that much time, let Cerulean plan your stay at Nemacolin, and we’ll make sure you enjoy it to the fullest, including VIP treatment and a number of value-added amenities.