The 25th season of The Bachelor, airing this spring and starring commercial real estate broker Matt James, marks only the second time the cult-favorite ABC show has been filmed entirely in one place. Nemacolin, which first appeared on the show for two episodes on JoJo Fletcher's season in 2016, has served as the ideal socially distanced stage for the production. The property is set on 2,000 acres about 90 minutes south of Pittsburgh.
Staff at Nemacolin joke that it's in the middle of nowhere, and they're not kidding. In January, my husband and I planned a romantic getaway there to experience a little of The Bachelor magic, alongside the resort's comprehensive safety protocols implemented largely because of the show. From our home airport in Huntsville, Alabama, to Pittsburgh International Airport (which now offers COVID-19 testing), including a stopover in Atlanta and private car transfer, it took us approximately 10 hours to arrive — about the same length it would have taken us to drive.
It was all worth it, though. Truthfully, our stay at Nemacolin felt spectacular — not only because of the air of excitement emanating from staff and other guests over the show, but also because it had been a long time since spent the weekend in a hotel.
Since the first episode of The Bachelor debuted on Jan. 4, searches for this remote resort have gone through the roof. In fact, Nemacolin had its busiest January in its 34-year history, even with limited inventory. (The resort is operating at approximately 55% capacity for safety reasons.) The most impressive part is how they're managing it all safely, going the extra mile with precautions to ensure guests and staff alike stay healthy. That includes a heavily enforced mask requirement in all public areas and major changes to how the resort operates. Previously, all of Nemacolin's nine dining establishments and activities, including two golf courses, were open to the general public. But since reopening in May 2020, after closing at the start of the pandemic, nearly every part of the resort is accessible to guests and members only, with the exception of the ski area and two restaurants. "This hasn't been a popular decision with the public, but it's been hugely popular with guests and members," says Donna Herto, communications manager at Nemacolin.
Those precautions start from the moment you check in. When The Bachelor crew was at the property for about two months this fall, ABC brought its own medical staff to handle regular COVID-19 testing for cast and crew members. Prior to their arrival, Nemacolin had already set up an on-site PCR testing facility for guests and staff. The resort also brought in Penn State's Gavin Macgregor-Skinner, MPH, to help develop COVID-19 safety protocols and update resort-wide procedures. This helped to elevate the overall level of safety and service at the property.
When my husband and I arrived — still giddy from pulling up to the main Chateau (modeled after the Ritz Paris, where the women met Matt on the red carpet the first night) and taking in the lobby filled with more than 500 vases of single red roses — we were whisked off to the private testing room, complimentary glasses of bubbly in hand (undrunk, since we were still masked up). The process was simple: After filling out a short form, we were instructed on how to perform a self-administered COVID-19 test and to download an app, through which we'd receive our results in about a day. It took less than that for us; the next morning, I woke up to a notification on my phone that my test was negative. (As of late January, Nemacolin has stopped offering regular COVID-19 tests for guests, but they are available for $299 upon request, and 25% of staff is being tested every week. Staff testing is expected to continue through the end of April.)
With our testing out of the way, it was time to explore the vast activities on offer at Nemacolin. Browsing the resort website ahead of our visit, I could easily see why this spot was desirable for The Bachelor. Not only is there so much room to spread out, but the date options are terrific.
Being spread out means not everything on the property is walkable, especially in the winter, but a complimentary resort shuttle can be called at a moment's notice. In a few minutes, we were transported from our room at The Chateau to a wide-open space where we'd check off a bucket-list activity: dog sledding. There wasn't enough snow to make the sled efficient, so the dog handlers hitched up a wheeled cart instead. At first, we were disappointed we wouldn't get to ride together — the cart only has room for one adult rider and the musher (who stands on the back), but it ended up being thrilling to do it separately. Afterward, we got to pet the dogs — all Alaskan huskies — and give a few extra head rubs to our fearless leader, Snowhook, who led the pack like a champ.
Since we were already bundled up for the 20-degree day, we decided to squeeze in as many outdoor activities as we could. Next up was snow tubing, a new activity that Nemacolin added just this year. Located on Mystic Mountain, the resort's private six-slope ski hill, the tube tracks were a little quicker than we'd imagined. The recreation operations manager, Ty Schaefer, gave us each a push to get going — and we rapidly picked up speed. I screamed while flying down the track, then erupted in laughter at the end when my husband hit an unexpected jump on his tube and caught major air. I realized in that moment that, yes, we were visiting Nemacolin for a romantic weekend experience, but it wasn't all about candlelit dinners and roses.
After lunch, we tried our hand at sporting clays at The Nemacolin Field Club before heading back to the front of The Chateau to the Fire & Ice Lounge. This new setup has an ice-skating rink — rumored to have been installed for The Bachelor, then kept for guests — along with cozy seating nestled around fire tables and Nemacolin's food truck supplying cocoa and hot toddies. Curled up under a blanket, sipping our warm drinks and listening to Niko Moon's "Good Time" playing over the speakers as the sun began to set, it felt like we were on our own version of The Bachelor (luckily, I didn't have to worry about getting a rose).
I've always wondered whether anyone on The Bachelor actually eats the food on dates, as it appears untouched. Insiders at Nemacolin told me that the contestants usually don't eat at all during the actual filming of dates. Here, it's a shame, because the food is incredible. Our first evening, we dined at Lautrec, which isn't so much a restaurant as an experience. There's no actual menu; instead, you open a wax-sealed envelope from chef Kristin Butterworth and use a quill and ink set to mark your top 10 ingredients from a list of about 15. Then, she and her team craft an amazing event — complete with wine pairings — which culminates in a rolling candy cart filled with nostalgic treats. At every meal on property, we felt absolutely safe, thanks to tables spread far beyond the six-foot distance and all staff wearing masks.
As far as creative dates go, The Bachelor has those dialed in, however unusual they may be (remember the paintball scene in wedding gowns from episode two?). While exploring Nemacolin's grounds, it was fun to recognize the spots where Matt had one-on-one experiences with the women, including the meadow where he and Serena P. picnicked with donkeys and goats, and the fireplace-lit rooms where they had private conversations. Falling Rock, the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired property where the women primarily stayed, is currently closed for renovations, but will reopen this April with a gorgeous infinity pool and rooms featuring balconies overlooking the 18th hole of the Mystic Rock golf course.
The Chateau, with all its grandeur, keeps the excitement of the show alive by hosting socially distanced viewing parties each Monday evening. Any resort guest can book a reservation ($100 per person or $500 per group) in one of eight individual pods, designed in The Bachelor aesthetic (think patterns, florals, and giant floor pillows). Each can accommodate up to eight people, and light bites and drinks are served, too. Though we didn't stay for a Monday evening to experience this offering, Herto says the setup has been a huge hit among guests.
Our second day at Nemacolin was spent at Woodlands Spa. Normally, it would seem like pure paradise, but during a pandemic, a spa experience sounds risky, and I hadn't been to one in nearly a year, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Our time here, however, assuaged any concerns I had. Relaxing in the whirlpool before our treatments, I noticed all guests were wearing masks (yes, even in the steam room and sauna) and watched as staff sprayed down door handles, benches, railings, and any other high-touch surfaces every 10 minutes or so. We kept our masks on during the treatments, as did our massage therapists, and it was still completely blissful. Afterward, while enjoying lunch by the wood-burning fireplace on the spa's third floor, we noticed staff disinfecting every seat as guests came and went. It truly was a team effort that went a long way toward making us feel comfortable.
While Nemacolin has always been a spot for couples wanting to get away, the resort is leaning into its romantic side following its rise to stardom on The Bachelor, says PJ Magerko, Nemacolin's vice president of brand and strategy. Wedding inquiries are higher than they've ever been, and requests to recreate dates as seen on the show are flooding in with reservations, he adds. While a lot of the activities seen on the show existed at Nemacolin already, the property will launch new packages after the final episode with a focus on couples' adventures. (Unfortunately the wood-fired hot tubs were a special prop brought in by the show, but as Herto says, anything is possible to recreate if you give the resort enough advance notice.)
While my husband and I didn't tackle the biplane ride that Matt and Sarah took on the show, we were adventurous in our own right. We left Nemacolin feeling rejuvenated, refreshed, and reconnected — and pretty excited to catch the next episode of The Bachelor together.
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