Getaway: You Will Feel Like Royalty at Nemacolin
The luxury resort is surrounded by rolling hills and lush forest.
I call pull and the pigeon is released, hurtling away from me to the scrubwood. The 12-gauge — a Beretta Silver Pigeon Over-and-Under — kicks back on my shoulder blade. I’ve shot before I even realize it. A miss.
Pull again. My barrel follows the pigeon up and away. I wait for the drop — that moment when the pigeon has hit its highest point and turns to plummet back to earth. This time, it’s a hit. Bloodless. Clay shards scatter and fall to the ground, a cemetery of orange headstones.
“Good one. Next, close your eyes before you call. Picture yourself hitting the pigeon. Now open your eyes. Be ready.”
Who knew that shooting clay pigeons could be so Zen?
I’ve never been a gun kinda guy, but Ty Schaefer, Nemacolin’s field club director, makes me feel like one. On a sunny Wednesday afternoon, we hop between shooting stands on the sporting-clay course, part of the resort’s 150-acre playground for game enthusiasts. He says he’d rather take out a beginner, which I certainly am, because beginners tend to be more open to instruction. I see an improvement within the hour.
It’s all part of the Nemacolin (nemacolin.com) experience, provided to Pittsburgh Magazine to experience the amenities and preview The Grand Lodge. The resort aims higher than your typical vacation destination. Take your expectations and multiply threefold.
On my arrival, master mixologist Badr El Khessassi has a custom mocktail (huckleberry tea, lemon juice, mint syrup) waiting for me — it’s beyond delicious. At the spa (more on that later), even the door handle has been designed to stimulate the pressure points of my hand. After dinner on my first night, I find my phone-charging cord tied with a gold bow.
In 1949, Pittsburgh industrialist Willard F. Rockwell bought a 60-acre portion of land in Fayette County, just a short drive from Ohiopyle, to establish the Nemacolin Trails Hunting Reserve. Years later, Joseph A. Hardy III — founder of 84 Lumber Company — was looking to buy property near a lake or stream for his daughter Maggie, a fishing enthusiast. When he came upon the Nemacolin property, he purchased it and the surrounding land. Now at 2,200 acres, the resort boasts three luxury hotels, restaurants, bars, lounges, two spas, two golf courses (designed by Pete Dye) and a golf academy, pools, wildlife habitats, tennis, art tours, zip-lining, skiing and more.
The Hardy family’s art collection is a particular draw. The resort boasts that 95% of the extensive collection is on display throughout the hotels, on the resort grounds as outdoor sculptures and in three art galleries. Prints by noted wildlife painter John James Audubon are displayed on The Chateau Club Floor.
To soothe that recoil bruise from your day of shooting, book an appointment at the Woodlands Spa and Salon or the Holistic Healing Center. Massage, acupuncture, salt-water float therapy and yoga are on the menu, but a Fire & Ice session with infrared-light sauna and whole-body cryotherapy (chilled to minus-160 degrees) is a sensation you won’t soon forget.
Nemacolin’s Grand Lodge is undergoing a wall-to-wall renovation this summer, scheduled to be unveiled in August. The resort’s “whimsical and woodsy charm” is the inspiration with a new and dramatic porte cochère, distinctive color palettes, and Juliet or walk-out balconies overlooking the grounds.
The resort is famous for its vast wine collection (with 11,000-plus bottles valued at about $1 million), but the cigar shop in The Hardy Room is a fascinating stop. Like the immersive shooting experience at the field club, the cigar shop can guide you in the etiquette of cigars and teach you how to clip it, light it and smoke it like a pro. Go easy with a $14 Acid Blondie — or go big with a $5,000 Alfred Dunhill 1987-vintage antique cigar.
Lucky guests may hear whispers of the mysterious Bleu Room, which is hidden away somewhere on the resort. (I’ll never tell.) If you receive an invitation, don’t hesitate. Inspired by Marie Antoinette’s nap room at the palace of Versailles, this parlor — featuring afternoon tea, craft cocktails and light bites — is serenity within a puff of blue cotton candy.
Area sites not to be missed include Fallingwater (fallingwater.org) and Cucumber Falls at Ohiopyle State Park (golaurelhighlands.com/outdoors/ohiopyle). Fallingwater, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, never fails to amaze. For a new experience, book a Fireside Chat with noted thinkers in art, architecture, design and nature. Upcoming events feature cellist Mike Block and architect Daniel Libeskind, who is redesigning the Tree of Life building in Squirrel Hill.
Many consider the 30-foot Cucumber Falls to be the most photogenic waterfall in Western Pennsylvania, and it’s just a 10-minute drive from Nemacolin. There are three ways to see it: from above, from below (a steep climb down wooden steps), and best of all, from behind the rushing water.
Where to Stay
Nemacolin offers five options depending on length of stay and price point. The Chateau, modeled on The Ritz in Paris, is the most affordable, yet still luxurious. For a more opulent stay, book rooms at Falling Rock or The Grand Lodge (opening in August). For a more private experience, try The Homes and The Estates (for larger groups).
Where to Eat
The culinary team at Lautrec has long been famous for its masterpiece meals, having earned both Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five-Diamond Restaurant status. It’s been on hiatus during the renovation but is scheduled to reopen this summer. A cornerstone of the renovation at The Grand Lodge is Fawn & Fable, billed as an upscale steakhouse experience with a quiet and whimsical ambiance. Meanwhile, try the seafood-centered Aqueous (itself a Forbes Four-Star and AAA Four-Diamond Restaurant) for upscale fare in a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired setting. The Aqueous Seafood Tower is a lighted marvel and a must-share. For lighter eats, try wings at The Tavern and finish off sweet at the 1950s-style PJ’s Ice Cream Parlor.
When to Go
There’s plenty to do in all four seasons at Nemacolin, from Jeep off-roading, Segway tours, fly fishing and horseback riding in the warmer months to cross-country skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing and dog sledding when temperatures drop. Indoor activities include bowling, axe throwing, the Woodlands Auto Toy Store and the Pride & Joy Airplane Hangar.