26 May Omni Bedford Springs: A Restful Mountain Retreat
Located about 3 hours north of Washington, DC, Omni’s Bedford Springs Resort is a restful retreat in the heart of south Pennsylvania’s scenic Cumberland Valley.
The historic property first opened its doors in 1804 and has since been attracting weary travelers and distinguished guests (like Thomas Jefferson and Ronald Reagan!) seeking the curative powers of the property’s eight mineral springs. While the resort was closed for nearly twenty years from 1986-2007, the resort, spa and golf course have been lovingly restored to their former glory making a visit to the Omni Bedford Springs like a glimpse back in time.
I recently spent one night at the luxurious property during a “girlfriend getaway” with my friend Lauren. Here are our photos and reflections from our stay.
The land’s mineral springs first garnered attention from Native American tribes around the East Coast. The area around the springs were considered “neutral ground” and there the various tribes could all gather and partake in the healing properties of the springs together without fear of conflict. Eventually, America’s early settlers caught wind, and quickly word spread. Travelers would come via carriage (a coach from Philadelphia would take 7 days) and set up camp in the surrounding valley.
In the 1700s, Dr. John Anderson purchased the 2,200 acres around the springs, and built a small 24-room hotel– which still stands as part of the now-expanded 216-room hotel today.
Fun Fact! President Buchanan was such a fan that he spent 25 summers at the hotel and used the Bedford Springs hotel as his Summer White House during his presidency.
Upon arriving at the resort, it’s easy to feel a bit wide-eyed. The dramatic architecture and balconied exterior seems to go on. What the property has done so well is provide lots of places to sit, to relax, to contemplate. From the rocking chairs on the front porch to vignettes of armchairs throughout the ground floor to the cushioned loungers along the outside perimeter– visitors are encouraged to stop and take a moment to put your feet up.
The lobby is full of nods to the resort’s historic past. All throughout the lobby and common spaces are photos from times gone by.
Fun Fact! When you’re in the library, pay close attention to the windows. There, new brides etched the name of their beloved onto the window glass– a little hidden gem that is still able to be seen… if you know to look for it!
As you would expect, the mineral springs feature prominently in some of the hotel’s most popular features. The indoor pool, one of the first public indoor pools in the nation, is a real stunner. Fed with the Eternal Spring (the most recent spring to be discovered on the property) the temperate pool is a must-do.
Fun Fact! Back in the day, musicians used to serenade swimmers from the upper level. Neat!
The hotel has 3 restaurants on site: The Crystal Room (which is the main dining room), 1796 and –my favorite– the Frontier Tavern. Lauren and I enjoyed the Frontier Tavern’s laid back vibe, extensive cocktail/wine/beer list and creative American cuisine so much we ate there twice!
The rooms are very comfortable, clean, spacious and newly renovated! (Always a plus.) Our room was located in the Spa Wing, which was very convenient because the spa was a big part of our reason for visiting. Which brings me to the next section… the activities!
During a visit to the Omni Bedford Springs one thing you must do is explore to find some of the mineral springs. You’ll find 5 of the springs within easy walking distance of the resort, and there are many other trails around the property.
If you’re looking for a unique way to experience the grounds and see some mineral springs in the process, I highly recommend geocaching. Part scavenger hunt, part hike, part historical tour, I’ve done this activity at several resorts in the past, and think it’s a fun way to experience a property. (It’s not just for kids, I swear!) The resort has GPS devices available for rent at the Tally Ho Sport Shop for $15/ hr.
The Eternal Springs Spa is clearly one of the biggest draws for resort guests. The 30,000 square foot spa is a true destination, and is one of the few spas in the U.S. that uses natural spring water in all of its treatments. Lauren enjoyed a massage & scrub combo while I had the best facial of my life. Treatments don’t come cheap (hour-long treatments begin around $115/ each) but it’s worth the splurge when you also factor in the use of the Bedford Baths and deluge showers as well as complimentary snacks and tea and the oh-so-relaxing lounge for before and after your treatments.
There’s just one last feature I want to share… the s’mores! Yes, perhaps the best place at the Omni Bedford Springs to cozy up to after a long day of enjoying the property is at a seat by the resort’s fire pit. Grab a glass of wine and a s’mores kit from the Frontier Tavern and get ready for the ooey gooey toasted chocolatey goodness.