Hotel Review: Nemacolin Woodlands Resort an Unexpected Luxury Retreat

“Expect the Unexpected” – that’s the mantra of Nemacolin Woodlands Resort nestled in the Laurel Highlands region of the Allegheny Mountains an hour south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Ultra-luxury 124 room French Chateau… unexpected.  Forbes 5 Star & AAA 5 Diamond Lautrec restaurant… unexpected.  Antique 1931 bi-plane once owned by film legend Steve McQueen… unexpected.  Authentic section of the Berlin Wall… unexpected.  Lions, tiger, white buffalo… well, you get the idea.  Many resorts say they have something for everyone, but Nemacolin Woodlands truly does.  Five different lodging options, fine and casual dining, full-service spa, and activities for all seasons.  Continue reading for more photos and details from our recent visit to the beautiful and unexpected Nemacolin Woodlands Resort – a high-end luxury destination for the entire family.

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Chateau Lafayette Lobby, Tea Lounge, and Gardens

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort has undergone a $30 million rennovation completely re-designing the entrance to Chateau Lafayette.  Driving up reveals a sweeping entrance with breathtaking view of the Chateau where everyone checks in for their stay.

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort

Nemacolin’s Chateau Lafayette lobby is grand and opulent with glistening marble, crystal chandeliers, and rich dark wood paneling framing the Fat Bird icon of the resort.  The family sat on overstuffed chairs and couches while I quickly checked in and was directed to our room on the third floor.

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Directly behind the Chateau’s lobby was the Tea Lounge, an equally opulent space appointed with crystal chandeliers, sky blue ceilings, and plush seating overlooking the formal sculpture gardens.

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The allure of the gardens invited you outside to explore the space with its mix of Old-World European and Eastern Zen gardens.

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Art is a large portion of the Nemacolin experience throughout the property.  From outdoor sculptures to masterpieces hung on the walls, everywhere you look there are pieces of the $45 million dollar art collection to enjoy.

Chateau Lafayette Accomodations

As previously mentioned, there are multiple types of accomodations at Nemacolin Woodlands from the boutique 42 room Falling Rock with 24-hour butler service, to The Lodge – the original property that opened in 1970, to townhomes and vacation rental homes.  We stayed in Chateau Lafayette – inspired by the Ritz Paris, a grand luxury hotel built in 1898 steps from the Paris Metro and Louvre.  Spacious is an understatement to describe our Chateau Lafayette room, and immense might better describe the oversized space with its vaulted ceilings adorned with crystal chandeliers.

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We had two, queen-sized beds elevated high off the ground, and a comfortable sitting area with armchairs and ottoman.  There was also a desk, flat screen TV and stocked mini-bar.

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort

Our room’s marble bathroom was equally massive with a deep, jetted soaking tub, separate marble shower, and Molton Brown bath products.  Our 15 year old daughter reverted back to early childhood and enjoyed a bubble bath, complete with bubble beard and funny hair creations.

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If a French-inspired Chateau does not meet your family’s needs, Nemacolin Woodlands can accommodate all types of vacationers – even multi-generational groups.  The Lodge (pictured below) has less formal (but no less grand) family-friendly accommodations with convienent access to the pool area.

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort

Falling Rock overlooks the golf course, and is a tribute to the Frank Lloyd Wright architectual style of the region’s nearby Fallingwater estate.  While the townhomes and vacation homes are perfect for larger groups yet still offer the convenience of daily housekeeping service as well as access to all of Nemacolin’s amenities.

Pools and Recreation

There’s an incredible array of activities at Nemacolin Woodlands, and we certainly couldn’t fit them all in our brief stay.  Here are some of the highlights.  Of course, you can’t have a family resort without a pool, and Nemacolin recently rennovated its pool area.  The main swimming location is Paradise Pool located behind the Woodlands Spa.

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort

Tucked on a level below the Paradise Pool is a brand-new adult only pool that includes a spa to relax your muscles with the warmth of bubbling jets.

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort

In addition to swimming, there’s a host of other activities at Nemacolin Woodlands including championship golf – a Pete Dye-designed Mystic Rock golf course that has hosted the PGA tournament, and a second 18-hole Pete Dye course currently under construction.  Sundial Lodge is headquarters to the Adventure Center with a ropes course, canopy tour, Jeep off-road driving academy, Fat Bird Superflyer 3,000 foot dueling zipline that reaches 60 mph, paintball, mountain biking, minigolf, and more.  In the winter, the Sundial Lodge hosts skiing on Mystic Mountain.

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We have a family of animal lovers, and there were plenty of animal activities in the Wildlife Academy.  On Nemacolin’s 2,000 acre property you’ll find a private zoo with lions, tigers, zebras, camels, hyenas, wolves, bear, and mountain lions.  Families can go dog sledding in both the summer and winter.  We opted for the backwoods trail ride on one of Nemacolin’s stable of horses.

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There’s also traditional resort activities like tennis, squash, croquet, shuffleboard as well as a Field Club to teach outdoor sports such as fly-fishing and hunting.  Of course you can’t separate a teenager from their phone, and we discovered the trails of Nemacolin Woodlands were great places to hunt Pokemon as well.

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort

Dining and Restaurants

Dining is a point of distinction for Nemacolin Woodlands, and it doesn’t get any better than their Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five-Diamond Lautrec Restaurant, one of only 27 restaurants world-wide holding both distinctions simultaneously and perhaps the only one helmed by a woman, Chef Kristin Butterworth.  Unfortunately, because our visit was on a Monday, Lautrec was dark, and we did not get to sample its menu.  Oh well, a reason to go back.

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In addition to Lautrec, there are two other fine dining restaurants on Nemacolin property including Aqueous inside Falling Rock and Autumn.  We had breakfast inside Autumn, and enjoyed its farm-to-table inspired menu even if it wasn’t quite reflected in our daughter’s super-sweet s’mores French toast with graham cracker infused crust topped with marshmallow and chocolate ganache.

However, our family opts for more of the casual dining experience, and we thoroughly enjoyed The Tavern located adjacent to the Paradise Pool.  Here we found the jumbo wings and burgers we were craving.  We made sure to save room for a stop at PJ’s Ice Cream Parlor – a 50’s style establishment featuring old fashioned sundaes, floats, and more.

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I loved the decor of PJ’s, especially the booths made from the backseat and rear fenders of classic 1950’s roadsters.

Spa and Fitness Center

After all the fine dining and ice cream, perhaps you’re looking to burn a few calories, or maybe after all the activities your sore muscles need a massage.  Nemacolin Woodlands has an award winning spa, ranked as one of the top spas in the country by Spas of America.  An oasis in the Pennsylvania mountain paradise, the Woodlands Spa, offers services for moms and dads who want a little pampering, and perhaps a brief respite from parenting too as the spa facilities are only for those 16 and older.  Children up to age 15 have their own kids spa facility, The Grove, a Kidz Spa.  Woodlands Spa offers over 100 treatments (for an additional charge) including massages, baths, facials, manicures, pedicures, and a full-service salon.

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Within the Woodlands Spa is also a state-of-the art fitness center with treadmills, cardiovascular and weight-training equipment available for use at no additional charge.  There is even a cafe inside the Woodlands Spa offering fruit-smoothies, homemade granola, muffins, salads and sandwich wraps.

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In addition to the Woodlands Spa, there is a separate Holistic Healing Center with medical professionals specializing in mind/body wellness such as meditation, diet, and acupuncture.  Nemacolin Woodlands even has a pet boarding facility called Wooflands with its own spa offerings.  Therefore, you can have a massage in the Woodlands Spa while your kids receive their own treatment at The Grove – Kidz Spa and your dog gets a blueberry facial at Wooflands.  Unexpected!

For more of pictures from around the Nemacolin Woodlands resort, check out the gallery below.  Note: the photo gallery requires Flash Player, click here to view all the photos from the Nemacolin Woodlands if your device is not Flash equipped.

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort lives up to its “Expect the Unexpected” mantra.  There’s so much to do and so many levels of accommodations there’s bound to be something to fit every type of family.  Nemacolin Woodlands truly was an unexpected retreat deep in the Pennsylvania forest.

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort

DISCLOSURE: Dave Parfitt was hosted by Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and received breakfast, activities, and accommodations.  However, all opinions expressed are those of the author.  For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on Twitter and “like” our Facebook page, too.

About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.