Ninety minutes south of Pittsburgh is not the first place most people would think to build a high-end property and name it Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, after a prominent Indian chief from the 1700s. But when you consider this 2,000-plus-acre wonderland is within a five-hour drive of most major northeastern cities, it starts to make sense. Tucked in the verdant Laurel Highlands, Nemacolin is a true getaway— that’s easy to get to.
Joseph A. Hardy III, the billionaire founder of 84 Lumber, saw the potential back in 1987 when he bought Nemacolin’s original 400-acre complex at auction. Steadily, and zestily, he added land, lodging, activities and amenities. (He’s 96 and still rides around the resort in a silver-blue Bentley.) Guests can choose from three hotels on property: The Lodge, an upgraded former hunting retreat that retains a rustic air; Chateau Lafayette, inspired by the Ritz in Paris, for those who like fancy living (and chandeliers); and Falling Rock, an earthy yet luxe 42-room hideaway. That’s where we stay—in a spacious, unfussy room overlooking the 18th hole of Mystic Rock, the older of Nemacolin’s two championship golf courses.
A team of butlers—available to Falling Rock and club-level Chateau Lafayette guests—caters to our whims. Yet you don’t really have to ask. We leave the room for an hour one afternoon to lounge by the infinity pool. When we return, the beds are remade and everything tidied up. After being seduced by a dazzling seven-course French dinner (the wine runneth over) at Lautrec in the Chateau—a more than two-hour “Leap of Faith” menu experience personally created and overseen by executive chef Kristin Butterworth—we’re welcomed back to the room with an aromatic bath and rose petals scattered artfully about.
Other than two extraordinary Frank Lloyd Wright homes—Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, both of which we visit and are a mere 20-minute drive from the property— there’s not a lot going on nearby. And that’s just fine. Nemacolin has everything a vacationing family, a couple or a group of golf buddies needs. Whether it’s an outdoor movie night, a fly-fishing lesson or a prime ribeye at Rockwell’s, there’s no excuse to be bored or restless. My most out-of-the-box experience at Nemacolin is at the Holistic Healing Center, where I do a 30-minute float therapy and a 12-minute cell-restoring NovoThor session. I emerge from my Saturday afternoon visit blissfully relaxed.
But then, I already was.