Not long ago, a Mid-Atlantic spa weekend typically meant a visit to stalwarts such as the Homestead or the Greenbrier. Now there are more options, thanks to the opening of Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Maryland and the massive restoration of the Omni Bedford Springs Resort in Pennsylvania.
These two hideaways offer distinctly different opportunities to relieve stress and enjoy a soul-soothing retreat.
Springs Eternal Spa—Omni Bedford Springs Resort, Pennsylvania’s Cumberland Valley
Drive two hours toward the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains and you’ll arrive at a place long ago visited by Native Americans and at a resort completed in 1806. The resort closed in 1987, but a meticulous $120 million restoration and expansion effort resulted in its 2007 reopening, complete with the Springs Eternal Spa, where staff members are determined to take in the frazzled and have them depart refreshed. Omni Hotels began managing the resort in January.
Bedford Springs was originally built for people eager to experience the purported healing properties of the area’s seven renowned mineral springs. Over the decades, it transformed into a resort and racked up an impressive history. It was President James Buchanan’s summer White House in the mid-1800s and has hosted 11 U.S. presidents, including seven who visited while in office. It was also one of the first resorts in the country to offer an indoor swimming pool (1905).
This history is on display in photographs, old guest ledger books and in period items that include everything from a Civil War-era flag to the first transatlantic cable (sent to Buchanan in 1858 by Great Britain’s Queen Victoria). The resort’s 2,200 acres include a renovated golf course, originally designed by Spencer Oldham, A.W. Tillinghast and Donald Ross; a spring-fed indoor pool; 25 miles of hiking and biking trails; lawn croquet; an outdoor pool complex; and the spa, which was built adjacent to the property’s newest discovery, an eighth spring.
What’s best about the Omni Bedford Springs Resort has nothing to do with its history or amenities, though. It is the sound of silence as you sit on a porch rocker and stare into the cloud-dappled afternoon light. You can’t help but slow down.
The property’s 30,000-square-foot spa is one of the few in the country that uses soft, natural spring water in each of its treatments. Arrive at least an hour before your scheduled service to take advantage of two of the spa’s best features: the “Bedford Bath Ritual” (complimentary with any service) and the relaxation room. The Bedford Bath (available on the men’s and women’s sides of the spa) begins with the spa’s Black Walnut Ginger Body Polish (also available for purchase in the spa shop). It exfoliates so well that arms and legs will feel as smooth as a child’s. Next is a “mineral deluge” shower. The bath ends with invigorating soaks in hot and cool mineral pools.
In the co-ed relaxation room you sit by the fire and nibble on freshly made trail mix or find a soft chaise lounge overlooking the private garden. Though many relaxation rooms offer tea and magazines, Springs Eternal takes things a step further, fostering self-reflection as well as serenity with baskets of interesting books from well-known authors on topics such as proper dieting, inner peace and the power of intention.
If you get hungry between spa treatments, order a fresh-fruit smoothie, a salad with pan-roasted sea scallops or grilled salmon, served in the relaxation room or in one of the spa’s hospitality suites.
The “Eternal Serenity Massage” begins with a dry body brushing to promote circulation and exfoliate the skin (80 minutes, $160). Several “cure” packages combine a guided hike, massage, facial and/or pedicure (starting at $305). The 25-minute Hiker’s Delight gets you access to the spa and a reflexology foot massage ($65).
Spa director Veronique Paquet forbids tours of the spa during business hours—as well as children under 16—to provide guests with as much peace and privacy as possible. Each of the resort’s guest rooms includes walking sticks for use on the trails.
The Omni Bedford Springs Resort offers 220 rooms and suites. Rooms in the new spa wing feature luxurious robes and built-in cabinetry on each side of the bed with plenty of storage space. Other perks include a clock/radio with an iPod docking station, 32-inch flat-screen TVs, down comforters and large bathrooms with separate soaking tubs.
Dine on classic American gourmet fare in an 18th-century setting at the 1796 Room (dinner only). The Frontier Tavern is the place for live entertainment (on weekends), local microbrews and pub-style food. The patio outside the tavern is a great place to sip wine around the fire and meet fellow guests. Che Sara Sara (“what will be, will be”) is the resort’s coffee and tea bar, offering grab-and-go sweets, salads and sandwiches.
The spa offers a guided stretch and walking tour of seven springs ($65 first person, $35 each additional); “Sunrise Hatha Yoga” (group class, $20 per person); and “One-On-One Hatha Yoga” ($65/hour). Take the history tour of the resort and see the etched-in-glass signatures of 19th-century brides who wrote their names (or “trued their stones”) with their diamonds on windowpanes.
Outdoor space for guest rooms varies. Some have no porch, a few have balconies and most open onto a long shared porch with rockers in front of each room—wonderful views but not much privacy.
Omni Bedford Springs Resort, 866-623-8130, www.omnibedfordsprings.com. Fall rates from $259 per room, per night double occupancy. The Eternal Indulgence Package includes a deluxe room, $100 per person spa credit, breakfast buffet, three-course dinner and a welcome amenity for $398 per night (single); $537 per night (double).