As some of you may have noticed, I spent a few days last month being wined and dined at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.
The trip was thanks to a media package, which I eventually figured out was largely to support Nemacolin’s feature on the ABC show, The Bachelorette.
Many have asked how it was, and I can truly say I was beyond impressed. We were treated so well — spoiled may be accurate — and I would certainly return to Nemacolin for a number of possibilities (thinking a big group of us could split two nights at the massive house where The Bachelorette contestants stayed for sure).
Not long after we checked-in on Sunday, we donned our “cocktail” attire and met in the lobby with champagne to begin the property tour. I had visited Nemacolin one time before, but really hadn’t seen more than the lodge, spa and Aqueous, so this was particularly enlightening to me.
Nemacolin was purchased by Joe Hardy, he of Eighty-Four Lumber fame and wealth, in the 80s from the Rockwell family and began renovations. Today, it (along with Eighty Four Lumber) is owned by his daughter, Maggie Hardy Magerko, and has gone through several extensive renovations and expansions.
Our tour eventually took us to Joe Hardy’s home, where he regaled us with a bit of a father-daughter performance, sharing the tale of how Nemacolin came to be, expanded, almost died and is now — under Maggie’s helm — experiencing a resurgence. The property was nothing short of spectacular, with views looking over the western Pa. hills. We were invited to explore the home, which was clearly actually lived in, and it was quite the sight.
»» Read Daughter Knows Best: Inside the 84 Lumber Saga
We returned to the Chateau for dinner, where we were treated to a multi-course presentation at Lautrec, one of 27 restaurants in the country to boast Five-Diamond Restaurant (AAA) rating since 2007 and Five-Star Restaurant (Forbes Travel Guide) rating since 2009. It’s also worth noting this comes under the direction of Chef de Cuisine, Kristin Butterworth, currently the only woman in the world who can boast these honors.
We dined on escargot, Columbia River Salmon, Footprints Farm wood oven roasted hen, “Pittsburgh Style” Ribeye (no, it didn’t have fries and slaw on it), all of which was spectacular.
Dinner was outstanding, and we were plied with enough alcohol that I could barely make it through the tour de dessert in the adjoining room before heading back to The World’s Largest Hotel Room.
Before our trip, we were given the choice of golf at Mystic Rock, appointments at the Woodlands Spa (facial, Swedish massage or hot stone massage) or Jeep Off-Road Driving Academy. Most non-golfers chose the spa, and after a tour we were all ushered into the locker room to change for our chosen service.
The spa is gorgeous and serene, but I can’t help but compare it to Hershey. My only real complaint is the tiny waiting room we all shared — I’m used to the sprawling three room choices at Hershey, and this felt cramped and rushed. However, staff was polite and kind and more than happy to appease any wants.
I opted for the hot stone massage — not sure why really, but I will say it added to the relaxation quite well.
Afterwards, I was pool-bound. The spa has its own lap pool, hot tub and fitness facility, but the sun was out, and I wasn’t missing my chance to soak up some rays. Just this spring, Nemacolin added an “adults only” pool, complete with curved hot tub, fire pit and its own bar. It was practically my home base during any down time.
We even grabbed lunch here, snagging an excellent Greek salad.
Post-lunch, while some folks did sporting clays at the Nemacolin Field Club, I joined a few others for a Wine Academy Tasting at the Académie du Vin.
Here, we were taught the basics of wine tasting and explored three wines and cheeses, led by Nemacolin’s resident sommelier, Henry Hardin Hester (real name). We tasted:
- Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2014 from New Zealand
- Stag’s Leap Karia Chardonnay 2011 from California
- Trisaetum Pinot Noir 2011 from Oregon
The Sauv Blanc was everything I could want from a white wine, especially in warmer months. Lime zest, green pepper, grapefruit on the nose. And so pleasingly acidic.
The Chardonnay had legs “Like an ebbing wave,” I wrote in my notes, clearly already with my head at the beach. It was amazing with the bleu cheese; I find chard is always better with complementary snacks.
Meanwhile, the Pinot Noir had tart cherry flavors, almost overwhelmingly at first sip.
After wineing, I hit the pool again for an hour or so before returning to my room. Much to my delight, there was a treat waiting for me inside: Cocktail hour.
I almost missed the tray, which had been left on one of the side tables, where a highball glass with a large ice sphere (with orange twist adhered to it) sat next to three mini decanters, pre-measured with Campari, gin and sweet vermouth, and a little note from Nemacolin asking me to enjoy this little delight.
This might be the thing I talked most about from the trip. I was so impressed. The next day, I was lounging in my luxury bathrobe in-between the pool (of course) and the party (I’ll get there), and there was a knock on the door. It was a complimentary cheese tray! I ate the whole damn thing.
Night 2’s activity an evening at the resort’s luxury vacation home, Arden Estates, for dinner and a meet and greet with the Resort’s Executive team.
This private home, which rents for $3,000/night, is where The Bachelorette crew stayed during their visit. As we had everywhere else, we were encouraged to poke around into the rooms and check things out. We also ate a ton of food and lounged on long picnic tables, chatting with our new friends, even played a game of pool until we were shuttled back to the Chateau for the night.
This spacious abode had me mentally planning a 20-person trip (what could go wrong?). Figured it was plenty of space, considering it offered two hot tubs, pool table, full bar (I mean, I guess we’d have to stock it, but that was never the problem), and ample sleeping quarters.
That night, I smartly stayed in and watched the Pens playoff game while trying to do work.
Instead of what I thought would be a boring day at the Holistic Healing Center, I was one of a few who chose to do the Adventure Center Activities.
By the way, apparently the Holistic Healing Center was amazing, especially the acupuncture.
We could choose from Ropes Course, Target Paintball, Zip Line and Climbing Wall. Not sure if you know this, but I’m not a big fan of heights — so this was largely a personal challenge for myself. Especially since our group did everything but the paintball.
We were guided through the Ropes Course — why did I not even think this was majorly heights-related? I have no idea, but the more I watched people, the closer I came to wimping out. There were a couple of us in this boat. Eventually, I asked if I could try the 20-ft course instead of the 40-ft course. I made it up there, and was fine … until I realized I needed to then transport myself to the next obstacle. So, back down I went. I wasn’t the only one, so it was nice to have company. I hate feeling like a scaredy cat, but I just couldn’t do it.
Eventually, we did the kids’ course. It was easy, but at least I was off the ground.
After surviving this, I was the only one who wanted to do the climbing wall. Weirdly, this DOESN’T scare me, though I would never rock climb in real life. I made it about 2/3 of the way up before losing my mojo. I was grateful for a little workout, however, and this definitely tested my arm strength.
Next up: Zip Lining. I had never done this. It was pretty terrifying for the moment where you step on the platform and see the earth give way ahead of you, but once I sat back I could enjoy the ride and the view. And luckily, I didn’t have to worry about managing the brakes — Nemacolin’s staff did that for you.
Of course, there are a bunch of other things you can do here, including mini golf, biking and tennis (on the newly refurbished courts!), not to mention a slew of winter sports.
The afternoon was filled with additional myriad options, keeping us quite busy. The Hardys have a miniature zoo, basically, and you can take their Wildlife Academy Safari Tour. Or, perhaps a Golf Academy Lesson with their pros. They even have their own Paint & Sip Class at the Art Studio. Many of these have options for kids, as well.
I tried to golf, but soon it was back to Paradise Pool, where a bunch of us hung out and shared French fries and slushie drinks.
The Bachelorette at Nemacolin
It took me about halfway through this trip to piece together that this Bachelorette thing was a Big Deal. By the eve of the episode’s Tuesday airing, rumors began circulating about the VIP Premier Party and the bevy of celebrity guests we may encounter. Much of it was untrue (Mary!), but as a Pittsburgh sports fan, I was pretty excited for the opportunity to meet former Steeler, Brett Keisel, a.k.a. Da Beard.
We donned our party attire and returned to the Chateau Lobby, which had been closed the previous two days in preparation for the soiree. The lobby was transformed into a massive viewing party, with loads of finger foods, delicious desserts and of course, a themed cocktail (props for having The Rose feature tequila — woohoo!).
Nemacolin’s Signature Cocktail: The Sparking Rose
- .5 oz Silver Tequila
- .5 oz simple syrup
- .5 oz fresh lemon juice
- 4 oz sparkling rosé
- splash of cranberry and Sprite
Build in shake over ice: Tequila, simple syrup and lemon juice. Strain into flute. Top with rosé. Splash with cran and Sprite. Garnish with a lemon twist.
The event sprawled to the hotel’s front entry, where a second large screen TV was posted and surrounded by cozy couches and bars. By the show’s 8 p.m. airing, it started to get a bit chilly, but Nemacolin staff was at the ready with soft blankets for each and every one of us.
After the show — texting Intern Jimi the whole time as he is a fan, and it was my first viewing — we watched celebratory fireworks, and I slowly stalked Mr. Keisel, who was as kind a celebrity as any I’ve met.
Keisel, though retired, still bleeds black and gold and is often seen at Pittsburgh baseball and hockey games. He has a close relationship with the Hardy family and is an annual judge at their Five Alarm Chili Cookoff and participates in other events with the resort, often benefiting a local charity.
Red Rose Romance Package
“Experience Nemacolin like The Bachelorette Did” — Naturally, Nemacolin has put together a package for Bachelorette or romance enthusiasts to experience the resort as they saw it on the TV show. The package includes:
- 3 nights in Nemacolin’s luxurious accommodations
- Red rose and champagne welcome amenity
- Resort amenity credits that can be used toward the resort’s many activities
- Breakfast each morning
- Red Rose Petal Turndown each night
»» WIN a stay!
There is truly so much to do at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. You need not be seeking a romantic trip or participating in a reality TV show. It’s impossible to see and do it all in just three days. It’s a great way to experience Pennsylvania — just a three-hour drive from Harrisburg. Plus, add to your trip by nearby stops at Frank Lloyd Wright homes like Kentuck Knob or Fallingwater or Ohiopyle State Park.