By Becky Ferrero
There are diamonds in the hills and valleys of Pennsylvania — AAA Diamonds, that is. Twenty-one of the state’s hotels and resorts have been awarded AAA’s Four Diamond designation.
None have been honored by the American Automobile Association longer than the Hotel Hershey, a Four Diamond property for 31 consecutive years, due in part to its constant improvements. Most recently, the 278-room historic hotel received a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification for a $67 million expansion unveiled in 2009.
The Carnegie House, a boutique hotel three miles from Penn State’s campus in State College, is a 16-year AAA Four Diamond winner, with a private boardroom for 20 and a library and main dining room to accommodate receptions of up to 50.
By early May, the property’s 22 rooms and suites will be refurbished, a new guest elevator will be added and its new day spa, ESSpa Kozmetika, will be open. The Carnegie House overlooks Toftrees Golf Course, recently awarded four-and-a-half stars in Golf Digest’s “Places to Play.”
Casino proposed for Nemacolin
A proposed Isle of Capri casino may soon add to the amenities at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, another perennial AAA Four Diamond recipient, with 32,000-square-feet of meeting space.
On 2,000 acres in southwestern Pennsylvania, the resort’s 327 accommodations include the AAA Five Diamond Falling Rock boutique hotel. The diamonds continue at Lautrec restaurant, which has received the AAA Five Diamond honor.
French chateau charms in Poconos
The Pocono Mountains can boast of having four of the state’s AAA Four Diamond properties, including the newly honored Lodge at Woodloch in Hawley and eight-time-designated French Manor Inn and Spa in South Sterling.
An authentic French chateau on top of Huckleberry Mountain, the French Manor is known for its setting as well as individualized attention.
“We try to exceed expectations for every guest, and pride ourselves on attention to detail,” said Bridget Logan Weber, director of sales and marketing. “We are a family-owned property, and we make every stay warm and inviting by personally escorting guests to their rooms, where the lights are already on and fruit and cheese await them.”
In addition to 19 individually decorated guest rooms, the French Manor has a AAA Four Diamond-rated restaurant that serves classical and nouvelle French cuisine.
“All these amenities make us the perfect location for 25-person corporate retreats and small executive meetings like the one held recently by ISS Solutions, a Pennsylvania technology company,” said Weber. “We also have the 1,000-square-foot Great Room, which can accommodate 75 people, and 1,200 square feet of outdoor space on the terrace, where we often hold receptions and dinners for 100 in warmer months.”
For free time, there’s golf, skiing and boating, and a green spa.
“Our newest addition is the Le Spa Foret, a full-service spa built with green building materials that makes use of organic products,” said Weber.
Lodge at Woodloch earns diamonds
The 57-room Lodge at Woodloch is a new Four Diamond designee.
“We are family-owned and run, and that means this is not just a business, it is a lifestyle for the owners,” said Laurie Guzda, marketing director, Woodloch Properties. “We offer unpretentious yet elegant service and treat guests like they are at home.”
Popular with executive retreats and small corporate meetings, the lodge has two new executive meeting rooms. Larger meetings as well as receptions for up to 100 are held in the Fireside Room and flow outdoors around a firepit.
Two sister properties offer team building and recreation; groups can do everything from boat building to beer tasting at the Woodloch Pines, while Woodloch Springs is home to an 18-hole championship golf course, tennis courts and pools.
There’s a focus on wellness at the Lodge at Woodloch, with a spa where treatments bring balance and a 100-seat restaurant that serves organic gourmet dishes. Options for group activities include cooking demonstrations and wine tastings.
“The fact that we can customize almost everything makes business more personal and creates a distinct personality for every meeting and event,” said Guzda.
A piece of Italy in Lancaster
The Italian-themed Inn at Leola Village offers different ambiance for meetings in the Pennsylvania Dutch stronghold of Lancaster County. The only hotel in the county to hold the AAA Four Diamond designation — which was also achieved by its Mazzi restaurant — the inn is a luxury property in an eight-building village.
“Our owner, Deborah Shirk, has been in the hospitality business for many, many years, and her philosophy is that this is our guests’ home away from home,” said Kelly Doutt, director of sales. “We do everything for our guests from escorting them to their rooms to bringing them homemade cookies, and this level of service has led to our eight-year Four Diamond rating.”
A member of the Historic Hotels of America, the Inn at Leola Village has 63 guest room and seven meeting spaces totaling 7,000 square feet. “We will also open a new building this fall for up to 120 people for meetings, receptions and banquets,” Doutt said.
The inn’s largest event space is the Casa di Fiori, which can accommodate 250 for banquets. The Lancaster House conference room seats 16; the Tea Parlor can seat 33 in a social setting and the Dietro meeting room can hold 20.
“We primarily draw regional and New England associations, religious groups and corporate retreats,” said Doutt. “With our Italian dining, team building at a local cooking school, pampering at our spa and recreational choices like our bocce court and lap pool, we know that once groups have been here, they’ll always come back.”