The Ultimate in Laid-Back Luxury
Story by Fyllis Hockman
was halfway through my Dreamcatcher massage when the masseuse started
dancing around the table. Now, I'm somewhat of an experienced spa-goer,
but this was new for me. As were so many other things at the Nemacolin
Woodlands Resort in southwestern Pennsylvania. I also drove an off-road
Jeep Rubicon over rocks, through streams, up hills, scaled a climbing
wall and shot a rare white buffalo with my camera.
The ultimate in upscale but with a sense of humor, Nemacolin
is a combination of sassy sophistication, world-class whimsy and pricey
Doubling as a top-of-the-line museum, the resort's art
and sculpture worth a mere $45 million would be equally at home in a
high-end gallery. Every corner you turn, each nook and cranny, lounge
and library, cubby hall and crevice features another piece of art, flight
of fancy or quirky creation to marvel at. You could walk the halls for
days and see something different each time.
Picture these: booths in the old time ice cream parlor
made from antique car seats; a replica of a bumper car stranded in the
middle of a hallway, a six-foot high unicycle and rider, and a dress
worn by Marilyn Monroe. Half the time, I couldn't decide whether to
ooh, ahh or giggle.
Oh, and then there are the real live animals cavorting
around the grounds. Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My yup, literally.
Also a herd of zebras, some llamas, and a couple of wolves, hyenas and
And did I mention they also have part of the Berlin
Wall on display and a building dubbed the Auto Toy Store full of grown-up
size vintage cars? Or the Fisherman, Gardener, Bathing Beauty and other
sculptures by renowned artist J. Seward Johnson, so life-like I tried
to engage several of them in conversation? Clearly, Dorothy, you're
not in the Holiday Inn anymore.
Now about that off-road driving. I watched with amazement
as the Jeep approached a large expanse of gray rock looming ahead; then
gazed in disbelief as I realized that we were in fact driving over it
casually mounting at a 60-degree-angle a sharp incline one would
not normally think of as a driving option. Even more amazing? Five minutes
later, I was the one in the driver's seat. Tilted at times at a 40-degree
angle, I felt like I was falling off the end of the world, and a moment
later it seemed I was driving straight up into the clouds. The instructor
was not exaggerating when he said: "You may be going no more than
five miles an hour but they'll be the most exciting five miles you'll
But the excitement didn't end there. I surprisingly
excelled at Paintball Target Practice in which you take aim at any of
the components, large and small, of a movie-set sagebrush town. As I
pointed out to my husband: "Well, I can drive a Jeep and shoot
a gun. I may be sent to Afghanistan any day now
Like everywhere else at Nemacolin, luxury shrouded in
a relaxed setting pertains to the accommodations as well. There are
definitely affordable options but we're not going to concern ourselves
with those. Nope we're going to take a tour of the hip, sleek
Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired 42-room boutique Falling Rock Hotel. All
angles and curves, the impressive structure with its sumptuous views
reflects the triangular theme of Wright's famous nearby Fallingwater
home in everything from tissue boxes to patio furniture.
Of course, many resorts boast of upscale lodging and
amenities, but how many come with your own 24-hour butler? A laid-back,
low-key, whimsical butler, of course, but still
After he unpacks your suitcase, ironing those items
which might have garnered a wrinkle enroute, and stows them amidst layers
of tissue paper, perhaps you'll be ready for your bath. Choose from
a selection of scented oils, revel in the soft music and candlelight
prepared to order, sip your champagne, nibble on your chocolate-covered
strawberries, and relish in pampered luxury until dinner is served
whether you choose to dine in or dine out. Did I forget to point out
the rose petals?
My husband and I scoffed, of course, at the garishness
of such pretention until we went hiking later that afternoon
in Ohiopyle State Park. Returning with muddied boots and soiled shirts,
I only half-jokingly lamented: "Now where's our butler when we
The butler's goal, according to Tommy DeWitt, Head Butler,
is to "anticipate the client's needs even before he knows he has
them." Preferences and peccadilloes of repeat customers are recorded
and remembered, whether it means they like freshly cut lilacs in their
room each day or absolutely must have a massage at three in the morning.
Euphemistically-sounding "sticky widgets"
refer to those requests it may not be all that prudent to fulfill. I
could not help but think that Louisiana Senator David Vitter might not
be all that happy here
But most people don't sit around being catered to; there's
just too much to do. This is what I did in the two days I was there:
Jeep driving, horseback riding, hiking, biking, archery, paintball,
miniature golf, ping pong, climbing wall, zip line and an aborted attempt
to tightrope walk on the ropes course. And if I included all the things
I didn't do, this article would be twice as long.
You should probably know, though, that there's also
a clay shooting academy, a baby animal nursery and in the winter, in
addition to all the basic snow diversions, dog sledding. But, by now,
that probably doesn't surprise you.
As Hope Adams from Marietta, Ohio, enthused: "What
an incredible combination of incomparable luxury within a laid-back
funky atmosphere! And the most accommodating staff I've ever experienced."
Oh, and that little dance I mentioned around the massage
table? Apparently my masseuse, through a series of very specific steps,
was attempting to facilitate "a life-affirming transference of
energy." What a perfect metaphor for the overall .Nemacolin experience!
Lodging prices range from $209-$479 midweek for standard
rooms per night, double occupancy; $399-$619 for suites, depending upon
accommodations and time of year. But be sure to check with your travel
agent before booking. Most activities, on the other hand, are a la carte.
For more information, call 866/399-6957 or visit nemacolin.com.
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