When traveling on the Pennsylvania Turnpike between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, you pass by the exit for Bedford, home to the historic Omni Bedford Springs Resort. Although I’ve driven on the turnpike countless times over the years, I’ve never stayed there even though the huge billboard for the resort right before the exit always looks incredibly inviting. Last year, my friend L and her husband stayed at the Omni Beford Springs to celebrate their first wedding anniversary (you can check out her cooking adventures blog here) and they just raved about the resort. Fast forward five and half months or so when I asked D if we could possibly do an overnight there. He agreed as he’s pretty amenable to most things so off I went to book our visit for a weekend in mid-March. Although there would be more to see and do during the warmer months of summer, I was looking for a little getaway that would give us something to look forward to before our bigger trips of the season.
The hotel is located in the Allegheny Mountains of south central Pennsylvania about a 90 minute drive from Pittsburgh, three hours from Philadelphia, two hours from Washington D.C. The hotel is more than 200 years old, as it first began its operations in 1806 under the ownership of a Dr. Anderson. He decided to build a hotel, The Stone Inn, for people who wanted to “take the waters” for their healing properties (there are eight mineral springs located on the grounds of the hotel). Although the hotel has changed hands numerous times and gone through much change (the Omni purchased the hotel in 1997 and undertook a $120 million renovation), its history is second to none. A total of ten United States presidents have stayed at the Omni Bedford Springs, seven of whom were in office at the time. The hotel became the “summer White House” of President James Buchanan (the only president from the state of Pennsylvania). All throughout the grounds of the hotel are prized historical documents including guest registries although Abraham Lincoln never stayed there, his cabinet members did) and a historical flag containing 37 stars that became the official United States flag in 1867.
There is no better view of the hotel than when you first arrive. Valet parking is included in the $25 daily resort fee and after being warmly greeted by the valet staff, we were welcomed inside by a doorman. The Colonnade Building where the check in area is located has multiple fireplaces and a baby grand player piano (at one point it was playing Cole Porter). Although I had completed the online check in a couple of days earlier (you can check in advance from a computer which allows you to bypass waiting in line as your check in packet is already prepared), it didn’t seem to go through. However, it wasn’t a big deal as we had our room keys in a matter of minutes. I had booked the AAA rate which was the cheapest (cheap being a relative word as the Omni Bedford Springs is an extremely pricey hotel), but we were upgraded to a room in the Stone Inn wing, the oldest part of the hotel.
Our room was charming and faced the front of the hotel with views of the mountain and the fountain at the main entrance. It also featured a porch complete with two rocking chairs. We said this quite often during our brief stay there, but had we had more time, we definitely would have taken advantage of just lounging outside on the porch since the weather was so extremely mild (at least for March) and pleasant. There is nightly turn down service in which fresh towels were provided and trash taken away.
We did eat dinner at their signature restaurant, the Crystal Room, but I’ll be posting about our experience there in a separate entry. Other eating options include 1796 Room, a steak and chophouse; Frontier Tavern, which serves bar style food in a more casual setting; and Che Sara Sara, a casual coffee and tea bar although light fare and alcoholic beverages are also offered. Each day we bought a monstrous sized delicious fruit salad from there.
Activities are definitely plentiful at the hotel. Year round on Fridays and Saturdays, cooking classes are offered two times a day for $30 each and also on Fridays and Saturdays there is afternoon tea which is $15 per person. Should we return to stay there again, I definitely would like to do both. A seasonal activity is the fire pit in where you can roast smores (smores kits are sold in the Bedford Market). We didn’t partake since we were stuffed from dinner but it seemed like a neat activity. We did do a free activity after arriving, which was going on one of their four hiking trails. The trails range from an easy level to a more advanced one (4.5 miles). We opted for one that was in between, the Springs Trail which was 2 miles. We both thoroughly enjoyed it even though it was quite arduous, at least the climbing up portion.
The hotel boasts an extensive spa with various options, but as I didn’t have any treatments, I’m not going to comment on it.
The hotel has two pools, indoor and outdoor. While the outdoor one was closed for the season (even though the temperatures were in the 70s, it still was March, a traditionally colder month), the indoor one is definitely its crowning glory. Debuting in 1905, the indoor pool at the Omni Bedford Springs was one of the first indoor pools in the United States. I’ve been to the famous Roman baths in Bath, England and the pool at the hotel was definitely reminiscent of them. Although the website had said that the temperature of the pool is always kept at 85 degrees F, it definitely felt colder than that unless you were standing right in front of the warm jet streams.
All in all, a short but fantastic stay. Hopefully we’ll be able to return again soon in the near future.