I’m so glad I arrived at the Omni Bedford Springs Resort at early evening on Christmas Eve.
Leaving the Pennsylvania Turnpike and driving about three miles into the snow-covered hills of south-central Pennsylvania gave me a chance to decompress and get in the mood for an old-fashioned Christmas.
Turning the corner of a winding road, the hotel came into view, its long majestic building popped into view, adorned with soft white lights and dominated by a towering 40-foot tall Christmas tree that sat on the lawn. Falling snow added its bit of holiday romance and it, indeed, was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Inside, another big tree decorated the lobby, and nearby, a couple sat warming themselves in front of the fireplace, logs crackling merrily. There were nutcrackers galore filling cabinets and tabletops and even a gingerbread house displayed in the lobby. In the library, instead of glass ornaments, another tree sported paper silhouettes of U.S. presidents (Over the years, 10 U. S. presidents stayed at the hotel, including James Buchanan, who made it his summer White House).
Dinner in the Crystal Room that evening proved a feast of seared scallops, lobster salad and Pekin Paradise Duck, elegant courses that also included very memorable lemon lavender scones. After a couple glasses of wine, I slept soundly, visions of sugar plums dancing in my head.
Christmas morning started with coffee in bed, an opening of gifts and a tour of the historic hotel with a truly remarkable man named Scott Mallow, who, for a small fee, shares his extensive knowledge of the 216-room hotel during a fascinating hour-long expedition into history and architecture.
Way before White traders arrived in the area, Native Americans frequented the site’s seven springs hoping their purported therapeutic properties would ease their ailments. Foreseeing the economic potential of the site, one of the early settlers, John Anderson, purchased 200 acres and began building the original stone section of the resort starting in 1808 as a place to stay for those coming to "take the waters." One of the first notables to visit was Aaron Burr, who came with his niece and her sickly child.