Nemacolin Woodlands Resort - Attitudes and Latitudes Collide in Pennsylvania

By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Photos Courtesy of Nemacolin Resort


FARMINGTON, PA – Nemacolin Woodlands Resort’s slogan is ‘West Coast Attitude.  East Coast Latitude.’


By the sound of it, that means Nemacolin’s close to most of the population of the United States, yet carries with it the aura of ‘free-spirit’ that you’d find out west.  True, just by seeing the resort property you’d have a hard time placing this type of resort in a rural area of Pennsylvania, yet it’s style and luxury could fit just about anywhere.  Nemacolin is located only a little over an hour from Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania’s hilly Laurel Highlands, very convenient to several major population centers.


For those outside the region, impressions of Pennsylvania probably involve waves of farm fields, steel factories, Independence Hall, Amish brethren or maybe even the mean streets of Philadelphia that Rocky Balboa frequented in romantic theater.


Nemacolin Resort doesn’t fit the Pennsylvania stereotype, however.  It certainly has a west coast ‘attitude’ to it, with its mountain-style terrain and recreational offerings, but also a chic international ‘feel’ provided by its main hotel building, Chateau LaFayette.

Nemacolin's Impressive Chateu LaFayette


Walking into the entranceway, you’ll realize this isn’t your ordinary trip to the mountains, as the lobby’s well accented and luxuriously decorated.  The artwork throughout the resort is simply stunning, and accessible.  And despite the fact there’s valet service from the moment you arrive, you won’t feel out-of-place in casual attire.  I guess that’s the western ‘attitude’ part of the equation.


The Nemacolin experience began in the 1950’s, when Willard Rockwell (of Rockwell Industries fame) acquired the land and used it as a private hunting reserve for his business associates, building on-property accommodations to house them, too.  As time went on, the estate grew larger and passed through a couple different owners until Joseph Hardy (Founder of 84 Lumber) bought the property at auction in 1987.


Hardy immediately changed the direction of the resort, named it Nemacolin (after a Native American guide who laid out the initial trail into these parts in the 18th century), and set out to turn it into a world-class resort destination, complete with luxury accommodations, fine dining, a Spa and plenty of outdoor recreation.  Nearly two decades later, Nemacolin’s established a reputation as an upscale vacation place, in the same vein as its mountain resort cousins to the south, The Greenbrier and The Homestead.


Though we’d say the complete experience isn’t yet on the same level as the aforementioned resorts, we’ll pronounce that Nemacolin’s well on its way, and it’s clear the effort’s in place to get there, eventually.  Hardy is as dedicated an owner as they come, and he’s not shy about bringing in top talent (or spending money) to design or improve the resort’s facilities, including its headlining golf course, Mystic Rock.


The Pete Dye designed Mystic Rock is home to the PGA Tour’s 84 Lumber Classic, which in 2004, will host many of the world’s greatest players, including number one ranked Vijay Singh and eternal crowd favorite, John Daly.  Hardy’s working hard to boost the reputation of the event as well, which comes in a difficult schedule slot – in between the Ryder Cup matches and the American Express Championships in Ireland.

It's easy to relax by the pool at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.


He’s even chartered two 737’s to fly participating players to Ireland at the event’s conclusion.  How’s that for dedication?


Hardy will treat the players well while they’re here, too, with the course improvements made since last year, as well as the opening of Mystic Rock’s brand new clubhouse/luxury hotel, Falling Rock (which is discussed in a separate review).


On our visit, due to a lack of time, we regretfully only sampled a very small part of what makes up Nemacolin Resort.  Here are some general impressions and suggestions:


Accommodations – as a resort of this type should, Nemacolin offers several different types of overnight sleeping quarters, from single hotel rooms and suites to condos and townhouses – ranging from comfortable to ultra-luxurious.  We stayed at The Lodge, which worked well for families with young children (but could just as easily accommodate couples looking for a little space and privacy).  Our one-bedroom suite contained a king-sized bed, two TV’s, a balcony and a good-sized bathroom with Jacuzzi tub.  All the comforts of home, but a lot more fun.


Dining – Like Nemacolin’s accommodations, there’s a healthy variety of choices on where to eat during your stay.  One thing we particularly enjoyed – was the fact there’s really something for everyone at Nemacolin, perhaps more so than some destinations we’ve visited, which seemed to focus on the gourmet experience exclusively.  Dressing up with the best in service and cuisine is always appreciated, yet dragging the kids through a formal meal can sometimes be a pain.  Nemacolin offers fifteen restaurants and lounges of different types – where you can dress to impress and struggle to pronounce the entrees and sauces, or merely scarf pizza and guzzle soda pop.  I heard from a very reliable source that the Banana Splits at the ice cream parlor are huge and delicious!  Very nicely done, and family friendly, too.

A bit less relaxing, how about a Hummer ride over an off-road course?


What to do – Every resort offers you the option to do nothing, essentially relaxing in beautiful surroundings where the most work you’ll have to do is raise your hand to attract the waiters’ attention.  You can do that at Nemacolin, too, but if you fail to take advantage of some of the resort’s special activities, you’re missing out.


--Golf at Mystic Rock would be one choice, as well as Nemacolin’s other course, The Links, which is about to undergo some changes.


--The Spa.  Though we didn’t get a chance to visit, it certainly looks like it’s equipped with all the treatments and facilities that you’ll ever desire.


--Outdoors.  Here’s where Nemacolin excels, with perhaps a little of that western ‘attitude.’  Of course there are the usual hiking options, tennis and swimming.  But you’ve also got an equestrian center, fly fishing, a shooting academy and most unique of all, the Hummer Driving Academy – where you’ll not only learn how to pilot one of those off-road monsters, they’ll send you off onto a course where you’ll get to see what it can do.  Again, we didn’t get a chance to do it, but it certainly looks like fun!


--Art Tours – As mentioned above, Nemacolin Resort is a virtual museum of art to walk through, complete with paintings, etchings and sculpture.  Not to be missed.

If a picture's worth a thousand words, how about this view?


--Shopping – Though it seemed strange to us, at first, that people would actually ‘get away from it all’ and still go shopping, Nemacolin’s got stores to rival the best in resort destination shopping.  You certainly won’t have to worry if you forgot something at home, it’s just a few steps (or shuttle ride) away.


The convenient resort shuttle is available to take you throughout the property, and we never had to wait more than a couple minutes to get it.  You can also take your car for personal tours, which is a nice alternative, in addition.


You certainly won’t feel compelled to go off property to find more recreational choices, but several more are nearby, including Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Fallingwater, as well as whitewater rafting and a little bit of history at Fort Necessity National Battlefield.


To sum up, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort is really quite a place.  It’s a couple hundred years younger than the grand ‘old’ resorts in the region, yet it’s gaining ground fast in terms of amenities, service and reputation.  It’ll take some time and valuable experience to reach that top tier, yet there’s no doubting that Joe Hardy and company will do whatever it takes to get there.


We’d certainly recommend visiting Nemacolin, where you can get a little ‘west coast attitude’ for yourself, and it’s nearby, too.

How about an afternoon surrey ride?


Note:  Click here for a detailed look at Nemacolin’s Mystic Rock.


Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa

1001 LaFayette Drive

Farmington, PA  15437


The Man In Charge:  Joe Hardy

Director of Golf:  Dennis Clark


Phone:  (724) 329-8555; Toll-Free:  (866) 399-6957

FAX:  (724) 329-6947




Call the above number or visit the website for further information on resort packages and special events.

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