Two years ago when my sister got engaged, she told my family it was the happiest day of her life. Last year, when my sister got married at Omni Bedford Springs Resort & Spa in Bedford, Pennsylvania, she said it was the happiest weekend of her life.
How could I experience that same level of contentment, I wondered? I quickly concluded that what was missing in my life—that seemingly endless void—could only stem from missing out on some key Bedford Springs activities during my sister’s whirlwind wedding weekend.
Self-actualization like that isn’t easy to achieve, which is why, when it happened, I convinced my friend, Caitlin, who also attended my sister’s wedding, that we had to go back. We had to return if for nothing more than our emotional sanity. Certainly, a day of spa treatments, wine, desserts and luxurious accommodations would qualify as exciting as getting engaged or married.
A rich history
Bedford is seemingly another quaint town in the pantheon of charming areas in the Allegheny Mountains. But in 2007, when Omni renovated Bedford Springs with a US$120-million restoration, the resort, founded in 1806 when the mineral springs at the site were used to heal, was able to maintain its obsolescent quality as a therapeutic resort but with all the necessary and updated modern-day conveniences.
Driving down a windy road to the secluded hotel, hidden in the mountains, it’s as if you’re traveling back in time. The verdant and plush landscape that highlight the hotel in the summer gave way to an idyllic winterscape, as soft snowflakes descended upon the grounds. At Bedford Springs, its rich and storied history is one it’s most defining qualities. Each corner of the hotel satiates a nostalgic longing. Photos of guests from the early 20th century line the walls, as old guest books and artifacts festoon corridors of the hotel, encompassing all the authentic past experiences. Guests also quickly learn 10 U.S. presidents (including Presidents Taylor, Buchanan, Taft, Polk, Harding and Eisenhower) sojourned to the resort for a respite from the hectic political life.
Like those noted past figures, for us, the weekend also was about isolating ourselves from real world stresses with a little rejuvenation. The cure-all for this, we learned, included homemade potato chips, cupcakes, Bloody Marys, a satisfying dinner and a spa treatment—maple sugar body scrubs that were great for many reasons, but most of all, because we ended up smelling like a really tasty breakfast of waffles and pancakes.
But Bedford Springs is more than just a day at the spa. Caitlin and I spent our time relaxing by the indoor fresh spring water pool with the scenic snow-capped trees as our backdrop. Guests at the resort, too, were taking advantage of the serenity, often playing chess, reading books or solving a puzzle in the game room.
Though we had both been there before, this trip provided us ample opportunity to relax and take in our surroundings, even if the snowfall prevented us from taking an “epiphany” hike on the trails (where, we were told, we would still be able make out carvings from guests who stayed there during the 1920s).
Caitlin and I are (for the most part) adults, but we also can’t be contained by our childlike enthusiasm when something seems too good to be true. Because of this, we didn’t hesitate to order the cupcake and s’more package the hotel offers. Entering our room from our post-spa lounging, we came upon cupcakes awaiting us, with milk cooling in our ice bucket. Graham crackers, chocolate bars and marshmallows were organized in a to-go box for us make at the outdoor fire pit. The cold weather and snow thwarted our s’more-making plans, as it so often does, though it didn’t quell our excitement over the idea of s’mores. Rarely anything does.
When people think of going on a weekend getaway, it can be hit or miss. Things can go awry or the anticipation can lead to overinflated expectations that never come to fruition. This was not the case at Bedford Springs, where each moment was supplemented by something even more awe-inducing.
Side note: My giddiness may runneth over—I think the sugar maple body lotion still is running through my veins—but Omni was unaware of my job in the hotel industry. I was moonlighting as a regular civilian looking for some escapism, and the experience left an indelible impression on me.
A welcoming staff
There’s an excitement that pervades the hotel. This was personified in staff members, who were obliging to our requests, forthcoming with sharing Bedford’s history and vibrant future, and eager to participate in playful banter with us.
As we were waiting for our car on the large porch of the resort, we were informed by a staff member that we had to come back in the summer to enjoy more of the outdoor activities (golfing, the outdoor swimming pool, hikes to the springs, Segway tours of the resort, etc.). That’s all it took to sway us. That, and the unfinished business of making those s’mores.