by Lisa Milbrand
Family friendly resorts usually skew their activities toward the preschool and primary-school set — and tend to go light on sophistication. But that isn’t the case at Nemacolin, a sprawling 2,000-acre resort set in Pennsylvania’s scenic Laurel Highlands. This swank resort has no shortage of activities that even jaded ‘tweens and teens will deem totally cool — and amenities that jet-setting travelers would come to expect, from a top-notch spa to a killer wine cellar.
Once a private game reserve for Pittsburgh industrialist Willard F. Rockwell, the resort has maintained its focus on the great outdoors, with activities you won’t find at your standard family resort. In the winter, you and your kids can mush through the snow on a dog sled, while in the summer you can take one of the resort’s Jeep Rubicons off-roading through their mountain trails. Even if the weather leaves you stuck indoors, there’s plenty to enjoy, from indoor rock climbing walls and kids’ programs to relaxing spa treatments for you (and the kids).
Nemacolin is about 70 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, so it’s a reasonable drive from most major Northeastern cities, making it the perfect spot for a quick weekend getaway splurge. With multiple styles of accommodations available, from private cabins set into the woods to the Continental, crystal-chandeliered glamour of the Chateau Lafayette, you’re sure to find the right place to enjoy the mountain splendor.
Our Editor Loves
- Wide range of activities year round
- Outdoorsy focus
- Variety of dining and accommodation options
- Horse Back Riding
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Nemacolin offers more than one way to stay within its 327 rooms, suites, townhouses and homes. The townhouses and homes offer larger spaces, full kitchens and two or more bedrooms for larger parties, but still come with room service and housekeeping. They are a great choice if you want the freedom to make some of your own meals. You can also choose more traditional hotel rooms from the English country-themed Lodge or the crystal-chandeliered Chateau Lafayette.
Even the most basic rooms at the Lodge are spacious enough for a family of four, with two double beds, a large bathroom and enough chairs and benches to allow for seating for the crew. Cribs can be provided free of charge, and there's plenty of floor space to accommodate one.
Another option for families, Maggie Valley is an RV site at Nemacolin where guests can park the RV, instead of staying at one of the onsite hotels.
The only accommodation on the grounds is not well suited for kids. This is the Frank Lloyd Wright-themed Falling Rock, which is recommended for adults and couples.
We relaxed and enjoyed the resort. First week in November was VERY quiet, seemed almost empty. Excellent meal at Rockwell's! The spa was filled with happy employees who were helpful and efficient. Close to Flight 93 memorial and 2 Frank Lloyd Wright homes. We want to return to use some of the other amenities.
Definitely need to make reservations far in advance. We could not get into Letrec with a couple weeks advance notice. We thought we'd wait until we got there for some other reservations (like tours, etc.) because we wanted to play a few things by ear. That did not work - everything was booked. Even just going to the tavern for a quick bite required a wait. It seems like the facilities do not have enough capacity to accommodate all the guests.
At Nemacolin, it's almost easier to list out the activities they don't have. Expect all the standard family-resort amenities, like kid-friendly pools, an arcade with climbing wall, kids' programs and a kiddie spa. But Nemacolin also has a slew of activities that are unique to the resort, including a safari tour of their extensive wildlife collection (where we got to feed lions, tigers and bears), a paintball course, a child-sized ropes course with zip line and dog sledding in the winter. Your teen with a newly minted driver's license can hit the resort's off-road driving academy, where they can learn to tackle the wild, rugged wilderness in a Jeep Rubicon.
While there's plenty to keep any family busy over a long weekend, many of the most adventurous activities have age, height and weight restrictions that keep younger kids out of the picture -- including horseback riding, dog sledding and paintball -- so be sure to check out the details on any key activities before you and your family get your hearts set on it. And keep in mind that Nemacolin is nowhere near all-inclusive, so expect to be charged significant fees for trying out anything beyond the absolute basic activities.
The indoor kiddie pool is perfect for little kid. It's three-feet-deep throughout, and well-stocked with floats, balls and other toys that will keep kids splashing for hours. It is on the smallish side, though, and can easily get overrun by older kids playing volleyball on the pool's net. Outside a large pool has a water slide.
The children's program offers arts-and-crafts, games and excursions for rock wall climbing and other activities, if the weather permits. The price ranges for a half day (9 a.m. to noon) to for a specialty, full-day program from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Evening programs are also available. For kids age 3 and under, you can utilize the Little Tykes program.
Spa Voyage Kidz Spa, the brightly hued kid and 'tween oasis, offers an array of treatments, from hair braiding to manicures to kid-friendly massages (fully clothed and with a parent present). The cheapest treatments start at $10 to $15 for basic manicures, an affordable luxury for kids five and up.
Outdoors is where Nemacolin really shines -- and you'll find an array of activities to keep you and the kids occupied, no matter what the season. In the winter, you'll find skiing and snowboarding, snow tubing, snowshoeing and dog-sledding. Most of the activities are available for kids four and up. Pricing varies, for two hours of snow tubing to a three-day snow and skiing camp for kids.
If you like to be outdoors in the summer, you'd be hard pressed to find an activity that isn't available. You'll find nice-sized playgrounds, croquet and tennis courts. For the more adventurous, there's a ropes course (available in kiddie, 20-foot and 40-foot varieties), the Fat Bird Flyer zip line that sends you soaring over the treetops and a large climbing wall.
Kids who aren't quite ready to take on the resort's two 18-hole golf courses can try their hands at disc or miniature golf. Or families can rent bikes and cruise through the hills of the scenic property. The marksmen in your crew can try paint ball, clay shooting, archery or even game hunting. Fly fishing excursions can also be booked, including lessons for your newbies.
Other than the swanky Lautrec, the 12 eateries at Nemacolin are all decidedly family friendly. The servers are friendly and attentive to kids, and provide the typical crayons and paper menus for pre-meal scribbling. The kids' menu at most of the restaurants is the typical fare -- chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese and the like -- but many of the eateries offer grown-up food that might be appreciated by kids with more sophisticated palates. Here are some of the most family-friendly options.
A good place to start is the kid-pleasing PJ's, where families can enjoy pizza and an ice cream parlor. A 50's-style pizza-and-ice-cream shop, this restaurant is located next to the Kidz Klub below Heritage Court. The ambience is casual and relaxed.
Another casual dining venue, the CaddyShack offers a barbecue menu, burgers, wings and other casual fare for lunch and dinner.
The Tavern is another favorite among kids. This restaurant features a mammoth aquarium filled with tropical fish that can keep the kids entertained during the wait for their meals. Fashioned after the traditional English pub, The Tavern serves English dishes, such as fish and chips, alongside pool tables.
A more grown-up eatery, Autumn specializes in ingredients sourced from local farms and waterways. The small plates at Autumn feature seared scallops with pumpkin risotto and truffled mac-and-cheese, are especially good for sharing.
A five-star, five-diamond rated restaurant, Lautrec mandates a 12-and-up age recommendation. Still, it is a prime place for parents to steal away for a romantic evening alone. European-inspired delicacies are displayed on a prix-fixe menu from which guests choose from nine courses.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Nemacolin regularly runs activities that suit the season -- keep an eye on the online events calendar to see what activities they have upcoming. Everything from nightly family movies to Easter egg hunts to golf tourneys could make your stay a little more special.
Private babysitting is also available, if you want a little quality kid-free time without sending your kids off to the clubs.
The Art of Smart Timing
Nemacolin has plenty to keep kids occupied, even during the brief shoulder seasons between the end of winter activities and the ramp up of warm-weather activities. Rates are cheaper during the winter, when there's still plenty of indoor activities and an array of snow sports to enjoy. But the Pennsylvania summer weather is wonderfully mild and enjoyable, making that a prime season to visit.
The beauty of Nemacolin is its gorgeous, remote setting, but that means it's a scenic drive away from most major cities. Pittsburgh is the closest, at 70 miles away, and Nemacolin can arrange transportation for you from the Pittsburgh airport or from the Connellsville or Greensburg train stations. The hotel also has its own private airstrip, if you'd prefer to jet on over to the resort instead.
A vehicle would be needed to venture off the property.
For Mom and Dad
There are plenty of diversions to keep you occupied during any pockets of kid-free time you have. Hit the top-rated Woodlands Spa, a mammoth oasis offering an adults-only pool, sauna and whirlpool to enjoy before and after your treatments or fitness classes. You can take golf lessons at the Nemacolin Golf Academy, or even develop a personalized training and nutrition regimen with their staff experts to give you a fresh start when you get back home.