The Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Plantation

Luxury on the shores of Lake Oconee

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By Hope S. Philbrick

A swimming suit and wool socks.

Rarely do I find the need to pack both items into my suitcase for one trip.

Even more surprising is encountering the occasion to wear both at the same time. But such is winter weather in Georgia and the range of available activities at The Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Plantation.

First to explain how I found myself wearing a tankini and wool socks—and no, there is no photo. On Sunday morning before checking out of the luxurious AAA Five Diamond haven on the shores of Lake Oconee, Georgia’s second largest lake, I realized I had not yet made it to the pool. Yes, this visit was in January, but upon check-in I’d been informed that the outdoor pool is heated, even in winter. Loathe to miss an opportunity to swim, I made it a priority to get there before departing at Noon. An early-morning walk on the trails around the resort had acquainted me with the brisk temperature. Undeterred, in my guestroom I pulled on my swimming suit and then, realizing that I hadn’t packed flip-flops, my wool socks and boots. A robe emblazoned with the hotel logo completed the ensemble.

DSCN7462Fortunately, I avoided the paparazzi—that is, few other guests were outdoors—en route to the pool. And what a gorgeous pool it is, with an infinity edge that creates the illusion that the pool merges with the lake. The water was not steamy like a hot-tub, but it was warm-ish and once I got moving was very pleasant. And, best of all, my husband and I had the whole thing to ourselves. The pool area also has a hot tub, kiddie pool, bar and adjacent restaurant, and lots of lounge chairs so I imagine that in summer months it’s very popular.

We swam for about 30 minutes and in that time two different staff members strolled by to ask if we needed anything. Exceptional service is just one distinguishing aspect of this resort, which boasts stunning décor, luxurious amenities, and impressive attention to detail. Situated on 35 acres in Reynolds Plantation, a 10,000-acre golf and lakefront community, the resort rests under towering pines and faces the lake. Each of the 251 guestrooms offers a private terrace, feather bed and dozens more scrumptious treats (such as robes to use during your stay).untitled3

Swimming was not the first time I’d been wet then wrapped in a robe at this resort. The Spa boasts a menu of 90 spa treatments, many of which use local ingredients. I opted for The Oconee Rain, a vichy shower and massage treatment. While I reclined on a table surrounded by candlelight and tucked under a heated towel, a skilled therapist aimed warm rain-shower water to one side of me while simultaneously using a warm lavender stones (and, later, cool eucalyptus stones) to massage the other half. Tension melted away. I lingered after my treatment to relax in the lounge as well as in the steam room, sauna and hot tub, cold plunge pool and outdoor terrace before taking a long shower and heading back to the guestroom.

Of course, there’s something to be said for relaxing in a plush guestroom. Our terrace looked out over trees and, though it was too chilly to linger outdoors, the view was peaceful. Guests on the fifth-floor Club Level experience a hotel within a hotel, where a dedicated concierge quickly learns your name and provides personalized service. In the exclusive lounge, breakfast, light snacks, hors d’oeuvres, sweets and beverages are available throughout the day (from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.), so even without heading to any of the four restaurants on property.

DSCN7406There are miles of paved paths weaving through the 35-acre property, great for running, hiking, biking or driving a segway. Each guided segway tour (limited to a maximum of four people, so book a reservation in advance) begins with one-on-one instruction staring on flat ground and then up and down a short hill. Tours then take a route the expert tour guide feels best suits the demonstrated skill level of participants. If you’re a beginner, you’ll get lots of attention. If you’re experienced, you’ll get to navigate some challenging terrain. Either way, it’s fantastic fun.

The Linger Longer Steakhouse is an upscale-casual restaurant with a traditional American steakhouse menu, and the skilled chefs match expectations with each preparation. Service is, of course, superb. Dinner may, as the name suggests, be a leisurely affair. The reason: You’ll want to order the soufflé. That dessert takes 20 minutes to cook, so your server will suggest that you order it at the same time as your entrée. But you won’t, because you’ll think that you should ‘be good.’ Then you’ll remember that you’re on vacation, so you decide to go for it. In fact, because you can’t decide between the Valrhona Chocolate Souffle and the Grand Marnier White Chocolate Chip Souffle, you and your dining companion decide to order both.

Then you wait with anticipation. Each bite confirms you made the right choice.

LingerLonger_Bar2On select dates and times (contact the resort for details), restaurant manager Robert Ardinger hosts wine tastings. Fortunately, sparkling wines and champagnes were sampled during my stay. With each pour, the wine was introduced and cheese pairings recommended. As a special treat, Ardinger also ceremoniously opened a champagne bottle with a saber—and then invited me to try to do it. I say “try” literally; success eluded me. The short sword is heavy and the procedure intimidating, plus it requires strength to perform safely at arms’ length. File “sabering champagne” under “harder than it looks.”

The Campfire at The LodgeAfter dinner we joined others around the campfire to roast s’mores. The fire is lit each night and the s’mores tradition is complimentary for all registered guests.

And then it was off to the new ice skating rink, also known as the official reason why I packed wool socks in the first place. Skating and use of the skates is free for all registered guests. The rink is located inside a tent, because here in Georgia the lake doesn’t freeze. But it is chilly in there, so dress accordingly. The rink is large enough to get up sufficient speed to do twirls and other tricks if you know how; and there are plenty of railings to hold on to if you don’t really know how to skate (or, if it’s been awhile). The ice skating rink is a fun addition to the winter season activity roster.

More entertainment options are available than we found possible to squeeze into a three-day weekend. Golfing the 99 championship-caliber holes, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, lounging at the beach, tennis, fishing, yolo boarding and other fun we missed will have to wait for future visits.

We can’t wait.

Ritz-Carlton Lodge _side viewPlantation#5_Fall
Essentials

**Odds of Encountering Children: High. But some adult-oriented areas are available—and, based on feedback from Getaways for Grownups, the resort is considering adding more; we will report on enhancements and additions. Currently, The Spa is exclusive to adults age 18 and older and the spa pool is reserved for adults except during the hours of 3:00 to 8:00 p.m. when it’s made available to all guests. The golf course, bars and some seasonal workshops and activities are also geared to adults. Segway tours are limited to guests age 12 and older (within additional weight restrictions). And the ice skating rink will have couples only time periods on Valentine’s Day weekend, February 14-17, 2013.

Parents may be delighted to learn that there is a “Ritz Kids” program offering a variety of supervised physical and creative activities designed especially children age five to 12, with full or half-day options, seven days a week. Everybody wins.

  • Internet access is complimentary for Club Level guests.
  • Club Level guests receive complimentary pressing of two pieces of clothing per room daily.
  • In addition to 251 guestrooms, 19 suites, several lakeside cottages and a Presidential House are available.
  • Coffee makers with a selection of coffee and tea are available in each guestroom.
  • Separate showers and bathtubs are available in each guestroom. There is a hot tub, indoor pool, outdoor pool and kiddie pool on the property.
  • All guestrooms feature: Featherbeds, feather duvets and goose down pillows, Egyptian cotton linens and Italian wool throw blankets, lighted make-up mirror, hair dryer and scale, plush terry bathrobes, in-room safe, multi-line telephones with cordless handsets and voice mail with ability for customized greeting, fully stocked refreshment cabinet, AM/FM clock radio with iPod docking station, full-size ironing board and iron, twice daily housekeeping and evening turndown service and 24-hour In-Room Dining.
  • All accommodations include: Complimentary morning newspaper, complimentary overnight shoeshine and complimentary access to Resort Fitness Center.
  • Skating is complimentary for resort guests; non-resort guests price per session is $30 for children 12 and under; $40 for adults (price includes skate rentals, if needed).
More Information…

The Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Plantation
One Lake Oconee Trail
Greensboro, Georgia 30642
706-467-0600

Lake Oconee at Sunrise 2

-Photo Credits: pool and segway by Hope S. Philbrick; all other photos courtesy The Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Plantation

Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.

HopeP_144Hope S. Philbrick is founder and editor-in-chief of Getaways for Grownups. She became a freelance writer and editor because she believes that work and fun should not be mutually exclusive. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications nationwide. When not writing, she can usually be found on the road or savoring something tasty.

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