Catering to champagne tastes with draws for all
FARMINGTON, Pa. - Billy Rivers wants to spoil you. He's paid to do it.
Rivers, a butler at Falling Rock, a hotel deep in the Pennsylvania woods about 70 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, will wait on you hand and foot. The butler service at Falling Rock, one of the accommodation options inside the sprawling 3,000 mountain acres of Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, allows even a poor working stiff to live a luxe life - at least for a little while.
Want a hot bath drawn at 3 a.m. with flowers and candles? Those wrinkled pants pressed? The blinds opened and the family gently awakened in the morning, with breakfast served in your room? Rivers and the other butlers here are your go-to people.
"I went to butler school in Holland; they sent me there," said Rivers with a smile as he delivered a pair of freshly pressed trousers. "Now they have butler trainers come here to do it."
If that sounds posh - it is. The resort offers a few lodging options. A presidential suite fetches $3,000 a night at the Chateau LaFayette, which is also home to Nemacolin owner Joseph A. Hardy III's $45 million art collection. Regular rooms, not too shabby in their own right, start at $379 a night.
At Falling Rock, rates run $479-$799 a night - including butler service, a 19-option pillow menu, 1,200-thread count sheets, and a positively sinful all-digital shower with nine settings for various multihead oscillating and pulsating functions.
Bringing a family here can be expensive. Three-night family packages in two-bedroom townhouses are just shy of $2,000, which gets you a $50 gas card and a $1,200 amenity credit - one eaten up in a hurry when you consider things like renting a Hummer to run around the woods for an hour and a half will cost $400. And if you just come for a night or two and want to do things a la carte, that adds up to big bucks.
But families come by the droves, said Chris Plummer, Nemacolin's marketing director. "Families are a major, major part of our business from Memorial Day through Labor Day," he said. "From June to August last year, 45 percent of our rooms were taken by families. And we consistently have a high rate of repeat family business."
And you don't have to stay at the resort to enjoy it, Plummer said. Nemacolin does a lot of day traffic with people paying to enjoy specific activities.
For families, the Kidz Klub program has day-long activities for all ages, babies through teens. And The Krew offers ages 11 and up a chance to mingle with kids their own age and take part in adventurous activities like shooting clay pigeons, a ropes course, biking, climbing a rock wall, and fishing.
If you want a place where the kids get so knocked out by a day's activities they sleep the second their head hits the pillow, this is it.
Activities include tennis instruction, boating at the Marina at Paige's Beach, an equestrian center, and the Hardy Girls' Gym, an 8,400-square-foot Olympic caliber facility for young gymnasts.
The Off-Road Driving Academy trains guests with a driving license to pilot Hummers or
Equally adventurous offerings include paintball on two courses in the woods; a ropes course that includes a 250-foot cable zip line; a 50-foot climbing wall; and a shooting academy that features 30 stations across two courses.
Nemacolin also has a wildlife academy and enclosed habitats for lions, hyenas, bears, and other animals. In winter, there are 10 downhill skiing courses, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, a junior ski program, and dog sledding.
Golf is a huge family draw here, Plummer said, with 36 holes offered on two courses, Mystic Rock and The Links, a traditional Scottish design course. Nemacolin also features the David Leadbetter Golf Academy, a 3,000-square-foot facility with four hitting bays.
While the kids are busy doing everything, adults can unwind at the Nemacolin Woodlands Spa, which offers treatments that last from 25 minutes to two hours. I opted for a two-hour sports massage administered by a muscular Russian who took away aches and pains I didn't even know I had. Parents also relax at the infinity pool overlooking the 18th green of the award-winning Pete Dye-designed Mystic Rock golf course.
It's impossible to go hungry at Nemacolin; there are a solid dozen dining options, from the casual P.J.'s, a family-favorite '50s-style ice cream parlor, up to Aqueous at Falling Rock, which consistently lands in Pittsburgh Magazine's list of top 25 restaurants.
Even more elegant is Lautrec in Chateau LaFayette. Try the grand tasting menu that runs $135 per person - $245 with wine pairings. On the night we tried it, we were treated to a heavenly corn soup with poached lobster and a chourico-and-truffle popcorn, among about a dozen other courses.
When the day is done, Rivers and the butlers will be there to draw your bath, clean your clothes, tell you the weather report, and review your itinerary for the following day.
"We're here for you," Rivers said. "24/7."
Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at PKandarian@aol.com.