Resorting to options: Nemacolin Woodlands Resorts

April 2nd, 2012

Famous for its golf and spa, Nemacolin adds activities so that guests can do as much or as little as they like

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Article from The Columbus Dispatch
By: Cindy Decker

FARMINGTON, Pa. – A mud facial was not among the services I had booked at the spa, but there I was, speckled with the silty loam of southwestern Pennsylvania.

The mud was an unexpected, um, benefit of a dash across the soggy grounds of Nemacolin Woodlands Resort behind a team of sled dogs.

Still, it was a glorious outing on a fine February day, with blue skies and gentle, unseasonable temperatures.

Such is a visit to a spa these days.

To lure guests to the properties – which usually come with big bills at checkout – resorts are adding all manner of activities. Guests want to relax and be pampered, yes, but they also want to try new things, to be mentally or physically engaged.

For more than a decade, Nemacolin's spa has drawn me almost yearly for a girlfriend getaway. My visits always mix a dash of the active with a pinch of pampering, making for a well-rounded long weekend.

We usually devote one day to the spa, booking appointments late in the morning – allowing for a leisurely breakfast – followed by an afternoon spent lounging by the pool watching snowflakes fall outside its glass walls.

The spa exerts some kind of hypnotic effect from the moment I slip into a fluffy white robe and settle into the waiting room with its sleekly styled furnishings.

Perhaps it is the light herbal scent or the exotic teas. Perhaps it is the gentle music.

Whatever the reason, I immediately forget the world outside. On a recent visit, a newspaper lay on a table, an unwelcome reminder of unemployment, war and all of the realities I wished to escape, if only for a few moments.

With a highly trained staff, the spa is exceptional; Forbes Travel Guide has rated it four stars.

Massages work out the kinks, manicures erase the ravages of dishwashing and facials brighten the skin. The spa offers myriad other services as well, but I am so partial to those few that I've tried only a few others.

Everything about the spa is geared toward creating tranquillity: trickling water, soft lighting and quiet. Visitors won't hear any of life's irksome noises – no leaf blowers, no car horns. In the absence of these intrusions, it's possible to enter an almost meditative state, with heart rates falling along with stressors.

After the pampering, I don't feel like being too active. Why quickly undo the good of all that relaxation?

Booking a spa service gives visitors access to the sauna, steam room and whirlpool, great places to continue the indulgence on one's own. Children are barred from the pool area, guaranteeing quiet while I read a book or take a few laps in the pool.

But one cannot live by massages and whirlpools alone, and a multiday visit to the resort demands exploration beyond the spa, lest one drain the checking account with $125 Swedish massages.

During mild weather, golfers can enjoy the resort's two golf courses, the highly rated Pete Dye-designed Mystic Rock and the older Links course.

Through the years, Nemacolin's activities have evolved and widened far beyond golf and the spa.

Today it offers a range of adventures, including fly-fishing, skiing, off-road driving, horseback riding, zip lining, tennis, paintball, mountain biking, squash and more.

Many of these pursuits veer from the sophisticated allure of the resort overall. Nemacolin holds wine-tastings and offers free tours of its $45 million art collection. Its Falling Rock hotel has butlers, for goodness' sake.

But then there are the down-to-earth pursuits such as those found at the new WildSide activity center. On a lark, my travel companion and I stopped at WildSide to see what it was all about, and we ended up staying to bowl.

I bowl as well as I sing, which is to say not well. I harbor a wild inconsistency, clearly evident when I finished one game with a score of 86 even after bowling four strikes.

Still, we had a great time in the eight-lane bowling alley with its highly polished blond floors, spending less than $30 to bowl four games. We were in no rush as we enjoyed a few icy beverages and listened to tunes by Prince, the Rolling Stones, Billy Idol and Tina Turner via the sound system.

Both adults and children should enjoy WildSide, which has more than 60 arcade games, an indoor climbing wall, pool tables, a sports bar and an exhibit of miniature trains.

The area also boasts a modestly priced restaurant with family fare: hand-tossed pizzas, pulled-pork sandwiches, nachos, soups, salads and the like. It should be a welcome respite for the far more expensive resort restaurants Lautrec, Aqueous and Autumn.

We didn't make it to the Hitchin' Post Saloon at the ski lodge, which is a pity. I wanted to ride El Torro, the mechanical bull.

Even just a walk around the grounds will delight. In the past few years, Nemacolin has added animal enclosures around the grounds – moose, bears, buffaloes and hyenas among them.

For those looking for an activity beyond the ordinary, they will likely find it here.

Original Article can be found here: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/travel/2012/04/01/1-resorting-to-options.html

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