Pennsylvania Getaway: Some Quick Trips Worth Your Summer
Does gas at $4 a gallon have you rethinking summer vacation plans? No need. This year, you can make lemonade from lemons both literally and figuratively and the taste is sweet either way. The following destinations are within a few hours of Pittsburgh and sure to please.
The Omni Bedford Springs
was the beneficiary of a $120 million restoration in 2007 and the property, a National Historic Landmark nestled amid the rolling hills of central Pennsylvania and graced by lacy verandas with gleaming black rockers, is the perfect place to unwind. A long wooden swing hangs from a towering oak near the entrance and you can take the bait or step inside and feast on color-saturated walls and stylish furnishings that would make Martha Stewart swoon.
As the name suggests, the springs were central to the property for generations and you can partake of the "Bedford cure" in a luxe spa where the swimming hall alone is stories high and awash in soaring arches and dramatic staircases (the pool itself a perfect warm temp). The Old Course is the place for golf, the burger at the Frontier Tavern a winner and nightly s'mores under the stars at an expansive fire pit invite you to seal this day with a kiss.
Did someone say kiss? There's plenty of 'em at the Hotel Hershey
, where The Chocolate Spa is a must (we told you this summer would be sweet). Step into the Spa's Quiet Room overlooking formal gardens and tuck into a dewy, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate muffin that confirms your presence in chocolate heaven.
Soon, an attendant will whisk you away for the likes of a Chocolate Fondue Wrap, where an exfoliation is the precursor to body as canvas for chocolate "paint" rich in cocoa powder and oils. Wrapped tight and baked for 25 minutes, you're then rinsed by a Vichy shower that's followed by a chocolate moisturizer that seals you like a (Hershey's) kiss.
While the Spa's chocolate treatments and massages may prove irresistible, a line of Cuban-inspired treatments including a Mojito Sugar Scrub and Green Coffee Body Wrap will also appeal. Don't leave town before stopping in at The Hershey Story, a fresh retelling of the company tale where the chocolate tasting at Cafe Zooka features six shot glasses filled with warm, single origin chocolate from countries including Mexico, Ecuador and Tanzania.
Lancaster City should not be confused with Lancaster County and its many Amish residents since the city is slicker and home to a burgeoning farm-to-table movement (thank you, Amish farmers) and vibrant shopping and gallery scene. Check in at the Lancaster Marriott
on downtown's central Penn Square and snug inside the much-loved former Watt & Shand department store. A stunning example of adaptive reuse, the hotel's soaring great room is a cosseting space whose backdrop is a historic brick house actually inside the ample lobby.
Lunch is at the Marriott's Penn Square Grille, where Chef Bob Rothfus, a Culinary Institute of America grad, whips up goat empanadas with local cheeses and light-as-air chicken pot pie. The Central Market is an accessible farmer's market-cum-food hall dating to 1730 and flush with local, organic purveyors; must-stop shops include HMB Designs and Bella Boo downtown and Mommalicious and My Aunt Debbie in the funky N. Queen shopping district.
Arts-wise, the Demuth Museum
is ensconced in the childhood home of Lancaster native and pioneering American modernist Charles Demuth while the Fulton Theater is a lovingly-restored jewel box of a venue staging cutting-edge plays and Broadway musicals. The piece de resistance is dinner at John J. Jeffries, a sliver of a restaurant inside the Lancaster Arts Hotel. Here, chef and Pittsburgh native Sean Cavanaugh imbues his food with a fierce passion for quality based on organic, sustainable principles. A "gordita" filled with juicy pork belly astride a sweet corn cake segues into a Jamison Farms lamb shank so tender it melts into a puddle of sweet potato mash keeping company with crunchy green asparagus. The accompanying Waltz Merlot from Lancaster County is another revelation.
From the farm to the pond -- the natural water slides at Ohiopyle State Park in the Laurel Highlands. Located at Meadow Run, this geologic formation consists of smooth channels carved out over thousands of years. Cascade down in one fell swoosh or pause in one of several refreshing pools.
Nature is nurtured at Powdermill Nature Reserve
near Ligonier. The biological research station of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the facility conducts educational programs for children and adults and hosts special weekend events.
New Girl In Town Elaine Labalme thinks every thirty-mile bike ride should be followed by an hour-long massage. Her husband disagrees. Send feedback here.
Captions (from the top): Omni Bedford Springs exterior and pool; Hotel Hershey; Lancaster City.Photographs copyright Elaine LaBalme except Hershey (including home page thumbnail) copyright Hershey Entertainment and Resorts.