There are very few resorts that truly offer four seasons of adventure. Our staff discovered this firsthand when we went looking for resorts that offered a wide variety of fall adventure activities. We surveyed the market, combed through press kits, and talked to a wide variety of family travel experts. After all of this research, it quickly became clear that one resort stood out from the crowd: Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa.
Situated within easy driving distance of many major East Coast cities, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort is located on 2,000 acres in the Laurel Highlands Mountains of Pennsylvania. This 287-room resort clearly has it all. Adventure seekers are drawn to the Hummer Driving Club; the first-class equestrian center; one of the world's most impressive shooting facilities with 30 stations of sporting clays; and an adventure center complete with a ropes course, climbing wall, zip wire, paintball, mountain biking and hiking trails. A variety of whitewater rafting opportunities are located nearby on the Youghiogheny River. Sports lovers enjoy the 36 holes of championship golf, extensive tennis facilities, Orvis endorsed fly fishing, and downhill skiing in the winter. The resort caters to families with its year-round children's and teen's programs, mini golf, and babysitting services. For those who love pampering, the highly acclaimed Woodlands Spa indulges guests with a wide variety of treatments. There's truly something for everyone here.
Nemacolin Woodlands is no ordinary family-friendly resort, as we quickly discovered on our recent visit. Shortly after driving up the tree-lined entranceway, one arrives at the impressive Chateau LaFayette, a grand European style hotel closely modeled after the Ritz Carleton Hotel in Paris. Even though the Chateau features crystal chandeliers and coffered ceilings, the hotel doesn't feel stuffy. In fact, this relaxed feeling is pervasive at Nemacolin Woodlands, something that is rare and wonderful for families to find at a grand resort. Families can choose to stay at the Chateau, the English country-inspired Lodge, in townhomes, or at a number of private luxury homes scattered around the property. While there is certainly a feeling of luxury at Nemacolin Woodlands, the resort also manages to make families feel right at home.
We came to the property in search of adventure, and we were not disappointed. Many resorts experience "down time", a season or period in which only a limited number of activities are offered. Adventure activities are often cut back after Labor Day and resume with skiing in the winter. Such is not the case at Nemacolin Woodlands. Adventure was certainly in full swing during our visit.
Since we were only there for a long weekend, choosing from Nemacolin's many options was one of our most difficult challenges. I was visiting with my 15-year old daughter, Katie, and my husband, Jim, and each of us had our own preferences. We poured over the activity guides, and were delighted at the wide variety of choices the resort offered. After much discussion, we decided to cram a lot of activities into our short three-day stay. No one would be bored sitting in the hotel room on this trip.
The Hummer Driving Club was tops on our list, so that was the first activity we wanted to experience. Early the next morning, we walked out of the Chateau to find a bright yellow H2 Hummer beckoning to us like a beacon. We jumped in, and our driving instructor directed us on our way. The Hummer Driving Club takes guests out on challenging trails and courses through the Laurel Highlands' wooded terrain. We cantilevered the H2 over obstacles, traversed streams, drove up steep inclines through wheel-deep mud, and learned about the vehicle's impressive off-road capabilities firsthand. The program is available to any family member with a valid driver's license, so as you can imagine, it's a real hit with older teens and their families. Jim and I had a great time driving our Hummer beast, and Katie made us promise that we would bring her back in a few years when she was "legal".
Upon driving the H2 back to the Adventure Center, we got our first view of the climbing wall, the ropes course, and the zip wire. Being a hard-core adventurer at heart, Jim got his adrenaline pumping on the climbing wall and the zip wire. Although he had never tried a resort climbing wall before, the helpful, encouraging nature of the staff certainly contributed to his willingness to experiment. Of course, the fact that we had just watched a 10-year old easily top the climbing wall under the coaching of the Adventure Center staff helped as well.
Later in the weekend, we visited the resort's Equestrian Center for a family trail ride. Having been seriously injured on a horse earlier this year, I was a bit hesitant to jump back in the saddle once again. At the same time, I knew overcoming my newfound fear of horses would be my own peak adventure experience. The facilities at the Equestrian Center were magnificent, but it was the quality of staff that convinced me to take the next step. They were patient and reassuring, and allowed me to spend plenty of time getting comfortable with the horses. I was certainly hesitant, but our guide helped me every step of the way. Our family's trail ride through the woods was a rewarding experience, both in terms of enjoyment and personal satisfaction.
The supportive, friendly nature of the personnel permeates every aspect of Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, from the lodging staff to the people at the golf pro shop. It's just one of the aspects that makes Nemacolin a perfect place for families to come, relax, explore, and try out new things. We certainly tried out a wide variety of new things on our visit, from shooting clays to innovative teaching programs at the resort's Golf Learning Center. Although we crammed a lot into our short visit, there wasn't time to experience even half of what the property has to offer. That's okay, however - we'll just have to come back again.
Nemacolin Woodlands is a superb destination for all types of families. The resort caters to families and children of all ages - from toddlers to teens. One can see it in the details, from the children's menus to the mini-golf, from paintball to teen dance events. For those who love sports, action and adventure, the resort is unparalleled. If you're planning a family vacation this year, make sure to put this one on your "don't miss" list.
Winter is a great season at Nemacolin Woodlands, with skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing offered at the resort's Mystic Mountain Ski Area. This year, Nemacolin is offering an extra-special deal for families with their "Kidz Sleep, Eat & Ski Free Program". To read more about this offer, click here.
If you're looking for a top family-oriented adventure-oriented resort in another geographic location, here are several good possibilities: