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Pilot Getaways: Nemacolin Woodlands ResortPilot Getaways: Nemacolin Woodlands Resort

Enjoy the finer things in life at Farmington, PennsylvaniaEnjoy the finer things in life at Farmington, Pennsylvania

Editor's note: To give you some ideas for airports to visit when you attend the AOPA Homecoming Fly-In at Frederick, Maryland, on Oct. 4, we asked the GA travel experts at Pilot Getaways to share some of their favorite nearby fly-out destinations. This article originally appeared in the Pilot Getaways magazine. Want more? We've secured exclusive AOPA member-only discount pricing for a subscription.
  • Mike Filucci flies his Globe Swift on final to Runway 23. Photo by George A. Kounis/www.pilotgetaways.com.
  • The Chateau LaFayette right beside the airstrip is a fitting backdrop for this 1931 Pitcairn Mail plane, part of Nemacolin’s $45 million art collection. Photo by Jeff Green/Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.
  • Steep hills and inclines are some of the challenges at the Jeep Off-Road Instructional Series. (Jeep Rubicons are now used instead of Hummers). Photo courtesy Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.
  • The Caddyshack restaurant offers indoor and outdoor dining for lunch and dinner, and sits adjacent to Nemacolin’s airstrip, the Links golf course, and the Fallingbrook miniature golf course. Photo by Jeff Green/Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.
  • Kim Poremski takes sporting clay lessons. Photo by Heather Sanders Connellee.
  • Mulligan’s sits at the turn between holes 9 and 10 on the Mystic Rock golf course. Photo courtesy Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.

Subscribe to Pilot Getaways at a special AOPA members-only rate.Aerial photos by George A. Kounis

If you have sophistication and a sense of humor, then Nemacolin Woodlands Resort is the place for you. It is the kind of place where you can enjoy the finer things in life without taking yourself too seriously. A 2,000-acre destination in the Allegheny Mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania, Nemacolin is practically its own little town. Numerous hotels, buildings, and activity centers varying significantly in style, spread out across open fields and dense woods. Once you touch down on the private airstrip, and park your aircraft, you’ll never have to leave this remote resort.

Year round, this place is hoppin’ with activities at opposite ends of the spectrum. There aren’t many places where you can start your day with an off-road Hummer driving experience and end it at a AAA Five Diamond-rated restaurant. Look for fascinating “wacky factor” features like a piece of the Berlin Wall, Indian bark canoes, mountain goats, or Humphrey the Moose. This world-class vacation getaway has it all, from casual to classy restaurants, shops, kids’ activities, art tours, wine tastings, and cooking classes. This resort also features three hotels, the internationally acclaimed Woodlands Spa, Equestrian Center, Adventure Center, Wildlife Academy, and Shooting Academy. Of course, we can’t forget the two world-class golf courses: The Links and Mystic Rock. The Links is Nemacolin’s original course, and Mystic Rock, the former site of the PGA Tour’s 84 Lumber Classic, is said to “make most men cry for their mama.”

Subscribe to Pilot Getaways at a special AOPA members-only rate.
Pilots get a bird’s-eye view of world-class golf courses: The Links and Mystic Rock.Photo by George A. Kounis/www.pilotgetaways.com.

Flying There

The Nemacolin Airport (PA88) is a private airfield in the Laurel Highlands region of the Allegheny Mountains, 52 nm southeast of Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT). Its runway is in the heart of the resort, directly behind the Chateau LaFayette and Lodge.

Nemacolin is about 9 nm north of I-68, which runs east-west and is a good route to follow across the mountains. Watch for radio towers in the area, particularly along I-68 near the Grantsville VOR (GRV 112.3 MHz), 25 nm southeast. The towers average 320 ft. AGL, and the tallest is about 12 nm southwest at 518 ft. AGL. Additionally, two 315-ft. towers are just 1 nm south of the field, and two 328-ft. windmills are on the ridgeline 10 nm northeast of the field.

Aerial view of Nemacolin Airport (PA88) facing north. Photo by George A. Kounis/www.pilotgetaways.com.

The closest indicators of local conditions are the AWOS at Hardy Connellsville Airport (VVS), 11 nm northwest, on 133.32 MHz or (724) 626-8745, and the AWOS at Garrett County Airport (2G4), 17 nm southeast, on 120.125 MHz or (301) 746-8443. Since VVS is on the other side of a ridge and its elevation is 800 ft. lower, the weather there may be better than at Nemacolin; the weather at 2G4, which is in the mountains 900 ft. higher, may be worse than Nemacolin.

Since tall trees and buildings line the north side of the paved 3,980 x 50-ft. Runway 5/23, expect low-level interference turbulence if winds are out of the north. The runway slopes uphill to the southwest, so landing on Runway 23 is preferred, wind permitting. PAPIs at both ends of the runway help you judge the correct approach angle, which can be tricky due to the runway slope. The runway is lighted with pilot-controlled lights, but night operations are not recommended unless you’re familiar with the surrounding terrain at this mountain airport.

There is no fuel on the airfield, but numerous airports nearby offer fuel and other aircraft services (the closest is VVS). Free tiedowns are on the ramp on the south side of the runway, across from the lodge. Though it may be tempting, it is prohibited to walk across the runway. Call on Unicom or via cell phone for a free courtesy van. Permission is required prior to landing at this private airfield; reservations should made with the Security Department of the resort, (724) 329-8555 or (800) 422-2736.

History

Prior to the construction of the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, the property served several purposes. In 1968, 400 acres was named Nemacolin Trails Hunting Reserve, established by Willard F. Rockwell of Rockwell International. The Rockwells used the land as a private game reserve and invited friends and associates to hunt and fish. A hunting lodge, golf course, and airstrip were constructed in 1968.

In 1979, the property was sold to Cordelia Mellon Scaife and used as a private conference center until it was returned to the Rockwell family just three years later. Willard’s son, Kent Rockwell, bought the conference center and opened it to the public. Townhouses and many private homes were established on the estate in the years following.

Then, in 1987, Joseph A. Hardy III, CEO and founder of the 84 Lumber Company, purchased a large portion of the property at an auction. His intention was to buy only a few wooded acres near a stream or lake for his daughter Maggie who loved to fish. Instead, he ended up purchasing the main parcel of land. Mr. Hardy and Maggie took on the task of transforming the property into the grand destination it is today. Maggie Hardy Magerko, now president and owner of Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and 84 Lumber Company, was transferred full ownership of the resort from her father in 2002.

What to Do

From paintball and pedicures to fly-fishing and rock climbing, there is something for everyone here. Start your trip with the 45-minute Hardy Family Art Collection Tour, lest you go breezing down hallways past millions of dollars worth of paintings and sculptures without giving them a second glance. There is no particular theme or era that categorizes the $45 million collection of original works, personalized pieces, and those with sentimental value. The collection includes works by Alexander Calder, Fernando Botero, Frank Stella, and Tiffany Studios. Look for the signed Wilbur and Orville Wright checks in the library, and learn about the history of the “fat bird,” Nemacolin’s mascot. You do not need to be an art enthusiast to appreciate this informative yet light-hearted art extravaganza. The free art tour meets daily, year-round, at 3 p.m. in the chateau lobby.

The tour doesn’t encompass the entire resort, so take a free self-tour to the Woodlands Airplane Hangar and see the rare and classic 1931 Pitcairn PA-8, which was in the collection of the late Hollywood movie star, Steve McQueen. Six of these airplanes were built, but only two are known to survive, open 9 a.m.–5 p.m., call security for entrance.

Once you’ve gotten a dose of culture, hop a shuttle to the Shooting Academy for some sporting clay shooting and release any pre-vacation frustrations. Instructors and packages are available for all skill levels. The academy has a premier clay-shooting course, with over 30 shooting and spectator stations, towers, stands, and a paved road for easy access. The course encompasses 140 acres; it is a safe haven for elk and deer, and presents all types of bird hunting situations. Shooting packages range $44–$138, instruction $55–$154, open daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m. in spring, summer, and fall, closed Tuesdays in winter, reservations recommended.

Show your softer side during a visit to the new Wildlife Academy. The kiddies and even the tough guys will want to coo and make kissy faces at the baby animals on this nursery experience. Among the babies you might see on this 45-minute tour are potbelly pigs, kangaroos, an alligator, a monkey, or a tiger cub. You may meet Bonsai, the tortoise, Vito, the miniature donkey, and Savannah, the baby zebra. Guests are allowed to pet and even bottle-feed some of the babies. You’ll learn about the animals’ habits and habitats as well as their origins. Nursery tours are held daily on the hour 10 a.m.–5 p.m. (times may vary depending on feeding schedules), adults $15, children 4–12 $12, reservations required.

The Equestrian Center has activities for all ages, such as trail rides and pony rides. Photo courtesy Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.

Next to the Wildlife Academy is the Equestrian Center, where all ages can have a horseback adventure like trail rides, pony rides, sleigh rides, and other equine encounters built specifically for personal interaction with the animals. Depending on the weather, the peaceful, guided trail rides are $75 (May–Oct), 10-minute pony ride $20.

Wine is the name of the game at Academie Du Vin. In the chateau, the academy hosts wine tastings with a hint of wine education on Wednesdays and Fridays. A private reserve wine tasting takes place on Saturdays. So, brush up on your wine etiquette during the week and then use your knowledge during the private reserve tasting. Don’t be fooled by the classroom-style setting; this is one chemistry class you don’t want to miss! Both the tastings and the private reserve are intimate one-hour experiences that seat about 18 people and accommodate wine connoisseurs and wine “not-so-sures.” You’ll sample five to 10 wines, and learn about the history and region of each one. This event is quite a bargain considering that the average bottle poured has a $60 price tag. Tastings fill up fast, so make reservations early for the 4 p.m. weekend beer and wine tasting, $25.

Get in control at the Jeep Off-Road Instructional Series, part of the Adventure Center. No, you don’t want to jump in a Jeep directly after sampling some reds and whites, so start out the following morning behind the wheel as your Rubicon climbs over logs, fording water, and creeping up a 60 percent incline. Don’t expect to go ripping over rocks at top speeds. This is instruction for off-road techniques, but road rules still apply. At mild speeds, an instructor will guide you through “The Rock,” a course that prepares you with the proper skill set. Then, take on “The Crater,” a 7-acre course with water fording and climbs, and “The Trails,” 600 wooded acres and 20 miles of novice, extreme, and expert trails. The off-road instructional series lasts about 1 1/2 hours and ride-alongs last a half hour. Off-road experiences are offered daily at 9 a.m., 12:30 p.m., & 3:30 p.m., $75 per seat; ride-alongs 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., $75 per vehicle, advanced reservations suggested.

Located at the Adventure Center, the elevated Ropes Course is a test of guts and skills at heights of 20 and 40 feet. Photo courtesy Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.

Other Adventure Center activities include paintball on a wooded course or an Old West target range, private lessons and trips for the fly-fishing enthusiast, a 50-foot climbing wall, and a 20- or 40-foot ropes course challenge.

Nemacolin makes it possible to go from off-road mud bogging to an organic spa mud wrap. At the Woodlands Spa, you’ll enter a natural world of Zen with sounds of falling water, stone and slate surroundings, and warm wooden décor. With 32,000 square feet complete with 40 spa treatment rooms, salon, fitness center, indoor pool, and spa café, it’s easy to understand why it’s named a Mobil Four Star and AAA Four Diamond spa and resort. Treatments include massages, hydrotherapy, body scrubs, and skin care specialties, as well as nail and hair care, and spa packages. Spend 110 minutes in heaven with the Woodlands Hot Stone Shirodhara, a stone massage combined with healing energy work described as the ultimate in bliss! Another favorite is the 80-minute Spa Sauna Body Bliss that incorporates the use of clay and oils combined with a pressure massage and full body exfoliation. With over 100 treatments and services to choose from, you may find yourself going back for seconds, open daily, 6:30 a.m.–8 p.m., fitness/pool and locker hours 8 a.m.–8 p.m., spa treatments $50–$295, packages $350–$485, salon services $30–$200.

Your friends will be green with envy when you brag about 36 holes of championship golf on The Links and Mystic Rock. Both award-winning 18-hole courses have spectacular views of rolling hills and the Laurel Highlands mountains, and each has its own distinct design. The Links, a challenging par-70 with a 72.6 rating, is Nemacolin’s original course. The 6,658-yard course with a traditional Scottish design is surrounded by forests and lakes. The course naturally incorporates rocks and water. The legendary Pete Dye designed Nemacolin’s Mystic Rock course, which opened in 1995. The 7,526 yards of eye-candy and boulder outcroppings will test the most seasoned golfer on this par-72 course with a 77 rating. Golf rates include cart, caddie, and locker room access, $45–$65 for The Links, $90–$165 for Mystic Rock, open early Apr–early Nov (some winter hours), 724-329-6111.

When fall fades to winter, the fun does not fade away. Mystic Mountain offers snow sports including skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing. Rentals are available for all sports. Ten slopes for skiing and snowboarding range from beginner to expert and lessons are available. This is an ideal spot for those new to the slopes. Snow shoeing and cross-country skiing run $20, snow tubing $15, lift tickets $15–$43.

Most activities are available for day and overnight guests. For more information, contact the Nemacolin Resort, (724) 329-8555 or 866-344-6957.

Where to Stay

With a total of 335 guest rooms, lodging options suit a variety of clientele from families and couples to business executives. Many families opt to rent a townhouse or private home, while many individuals and couples prefer to stay at one of three resort hotels.

The Lodge Hotel, originally constructed in 1968 as a hunting lodge, is original to the resort. The 98-room, English-style Tudor hotel boasts the warmth and charm of a country cottage. The spacious rooms and suites are available with king or double beds. Extra amenities like cable television, mini bar, and Internet access are standard. Extensive renovations and expansions took place to make the lodge what it is today. It is home to the conference center as well as many common areas graced with welcoming fireplaces and lobbies decorated with rare art. Lodge rooms range $199–$439, lodge suites $259–$569.

Suites in the Chateau LaFayette are modeled after the Ritz in Paris, France, and come with either a king bed or two doubles. Photo by Jeff Green/Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.

Take a moment to pause as you enter the grand lobby of Chateau LaFayette. The soaring ceilings, glitzy chandeliers (some weighing one ton), and elegant décor give you a taste of what to expect upon entering your guest room or suite. Adjacent to the lodge, the chateau is a tribute to the grand hotels of Europe. Modeled after the Hôtel Ritz in Paris, Chateau LaFayette has 124 guest rooms with jetted tubs, roomy glass showers, mini bars, bathrobes, and king or two queen beds. The suites offer the additional comfort of a sitting area with sofa, chair, and armoire with a television, $309–$689. Guests may also choose the chateau club level with 24-hour butler service and a hospitality club lounge, $559–$959.

The grandest of grand is Nemacolin’s Falling Rock hotel, inspired by America’s most famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. It opened in August 2004. In the lobby, look up to see the stamped-copper ceiling, an interpretation of Chief Nemacolin built into the support structure, and stacked triangles portraying the image of falling rocks. No detail was overlooked in this 42-room boutique hotel with four suites, lounging areas, outdoor terrace, clubhouse, and pro shop on the 18th green of the Mystic Rock golf course. Rooms with marble baths, 200-gallon soaking tubs, handmade bed covers, flat-screen televisions, and balconies add to the level of luxury in this modernly tasteful, yet natural atmosphere. Special attention has been given to privacy with cork sound-reduction ceilings and walls and privacy tassels provided to decorate your door handle when you don’t want to be disturbed (ask about on-site babysitting services). Choose a pillow from the 10-option menu, have your bath drawn, and bed turned down courtesy of your 24-hour butler service, a standard for all Falling Rock guests. Complete with a heated triangular outdoor infinity pool, six private pool-side cabanas, and a 50,000-square-foot golf club house, it’s no wonder that Falling Rock has received the AAA Five Diamond award every year since 2006. Couples and adults will most enjoy this lap of luxury set in a secluded location on the resort, open Apr–early Nov, rooms/suites $409–$959, presidential suite $1,599–$3,099.

Townhouses and private homes, complete with wood-burning fireplaces and room service, are ideal for families and groups. Two-bedroom secluded townhouses have a kitchen, dining area, and living room, $259–$509. Private homes, with a two-night minimum, range from two to seven bedrooms. Each of the four unique private homes has amenities including full kitchen, dining room, laundry room, wet bar, outdoor patio, and fireplace, $759–$3,000.

Where to Eat

What are you in the mood for? Pizza and nachos in a nifty fifties style? Burgers and outside terrace seating? Gourmet Sunday brunch? You’ll find all of these at the resort’s more than 10 dining options.

For a fine-dining, French-themed fete of food, pack the jacket and cocktail dress for an elegant evening at Lautrec, a AAA Five Diamond restaurant since 2007. Located in the Chateau LaFayette, the restaurant is plush and posh, defined by deep reds and dark woods, wine racks, cushy high-back chairs, a grand circular threshold, intricate painted ceiling, dangling chandelier, and works of art by French artists.

Named after French artist Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, this restaurant, which houses several of his original works, is a culinary masterpiece bordering on sensory overload. After being welcomed with a personalized menu, you’ll choose between two menu options: The 4 Courses and Dessert and the seven-course Tasting Menu and both options may be paired with selected wines. If you still have room, ask about the cheese display or squeeze in a few sweets from the mignardise cart (a.k.a. the candy cart). You know the folks at Nemacolin enjoy life when you are given the choice of fine chocolates, petite cakes, or a shot of Nerds candy. Reservations are strongly recommended, tasting menu $110–$145, with wine $200–$270; 4 Courses and Dessert $98, with wine $165, Tue–Thu 6–9 p.m., Fri–Sat 6–10 p.m.

Aqueous is an upscale steakhouse located in Falling Rock. This AAA Four Diamond restaurant features American cuisine, and prides itself on locally raised entrées of pork, poultry, beef, and lamb. Its interior has inspired touches of Frank Lloyd Wright’s style, including barrel chairs, warm geometric patterns, and the element of water via a view of the outdoor fountain. Try dishes like the 17-Day Aged Prime New York Strip with your choice of sauce, or the Skuna Bay Salmon, candied salmon toro, smoked wild rice pilaf, and artichoke and fennel salad. Reservations are required, dinner entrées $28–$85, open Sun–Thu 6–9 p.m., Fri–Sat 6–10 p.m.

If you want to swim with the big fish, then dine at The Tavern, a casual English-style pub in the lodge. Lunch, late night, or any time of day, this restaurant offers good food and a variety of seating at the bar, on the inside sidewalk area, or around the 8,500-gallon freestanding, cylindrical saltwater aquarium. Salads, like the Grilled Chicken and Brie, are popular menu items. This particular salad has pine nuts and raspberries tossed in baby spinach and raspberry-walnut vinaigrette, accompanied with blocks of fried brie. Other choices include pizza, sandwiches, and quesadillas. Reservations are not required, entrées $10–$33, open Sun–Thu 11 a.m.–midnight (dinner served until 10 p.m.), Fri–Sat 11 a.m.–1 a.m. (dinner served until midnight).

Also in the lodge is Autumn, serving breakfast and dinner only. Dine in a naturally elegant setting of fall colors, dark wood tones, natural light, and ornate glass walls with leaf patterns designed with a modern Milanese décor. You can start your morning with Swiss Chocolate & Bing Cherry French Toast or Jumbo Lump Crab Cake Benedict. Other eye-opening dishes include omelets, crepes, and sausage and biscuits. After a full day of activity, saunter back in for a hearty Italian dinner, where you’ll leave with a full belly and a relaxed state of mind. Expect dimly-lit evening ambience, exceptional service, and sizable portions. Dinner dishes include fish, chicken, beef, and pasta. The Wild Mushroom Cannelloni, stuffed with wild mushroom ricotta filling and served with arugula, Boursin cream, and heirloom tomato red sauce, is sure to hit the spot. Of course, there is always room for dessert and what better treat to top it all off than an assortment of seasonal gelato served in mini tart cups? That’s amore! Reservations requested, breakfast $7–$16, dinner entrées $28–$38, open daily 7–10:30 a.m., Sun–Thu 6–9 p.m., Fri–Sat 6–10 p.m.

Transportation

The free resort shuttle runs every 15 minutes and will pick you up at the airstrip and take you anywhere you need to go on the property. While the resort is a destination unto itself, if you want to explore the parks, attractions, or shops in the surrounding area, Enterprise in nearby Uniontown will pick you up at the resort if you want to rent a car, Mon–Fri 7:30 a.m.–6 p.m., Sat 9 a.m.–noon, 286 W. Main St., (724) 438-0333. The resort will also arrange private sedan or shuttle services to Uniontown and nearby Frank Lloyd Wright attractions for $60 round trip.

Whether you’re a fun-seeker, sun-seeker, or thrill-seeker, you’ll live the life you love at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Wacky attractions like rare animals, whimsical wine tastings, and worldly culture and art combine. The lifestyle of pampering and peril is addicting and you’ll find yourself craving more. This place is truly a diamond in the rough. Find out for yourself why folks make Nemacolin a habit.

Topics: Travel, AOPA Events, Events

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