The Ritz-Carlton properties in Atlanta typify the cosmopolitanism that defines the hotel brand the world over. The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead, with its honeyed wood paneling and portraits that recall John Singer Sargent, basks in clubby stateliness. The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta, the Downtown sibling, distinguishes itself with abstract art and shiny, contemporary furniture in the lobby. (The clean-lined guest rooms of the two hotels actually look quite similar.) But their country cousin, the Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation, comes at luxury from a much more calming vantage. Seventy-five miles from Atlanta and situated on a jut of land surrounded by Lake Oconee on three sides, the resort is the closest retreat from the city to combine pastoral beauty and sumptuous trappings so seamlessly.
Wood-beam cathedral ceilings, roaring stone fireplaces, and plush, mismatched chairs set a welcoming tone in the lodge’s entrance. Staffers employ the signature Ritz politeness: Every other sentence ends with “my pleasure.” The decor—floral patterns; duck prints; lots of golds, greens, and burgundies—in the 200-plus rooms and six lakefront cottages is formal but not stuffy.
I’m the type who values stillness in this kind of setting. With book in hand, I want to find a spot by a window with a tranquilizing view of the lake glimpsed through spindly pine trees. But really, this resort is designed for restless Type A personalities. There are almost too many available activities. The adjoining Reynolds Plantation community includes five golf courses, designed by big names like Jack Nicklaus and Rees Jones. The lodge’s 1,700-square-foot fitness center has a heated indoor pool and offers yoga and Pilates classes. In suitable weather, the hotel can arrange for canoeing, kayaking, waterskiing, fishing, pontoon rentals, horseback riding, and skeet shooting. An ice-skating rink has been set up through February 15. Five miles of walking and hiking trails wind through nearby wooded areas. (The Reynolds family, who began developing the land in the 1980s, reportedly owes lenders $157 million. Courts have appointed a third-party guardian who is seeking new investors to maintain the community’s luxe standards.)
The resort’s swank spa offers all sorts of edible-sounding experiences (a blueberry facial, a chocolate latte manicure or pedicure), but if you’re after a consummate massage, ask for Eddie Abraham, a therapist for twelve years who also teaches at the Atlanta School of Massage. In April the lodge unveiled a complete renovation of its Linger Longer Steakhouse, which had closed in August 2009 after a kitchen fire. Housed in a separate building, its rustic grandeur mirrors the main lodge. The cocktail list often features fruity contrivances, but bartenders also know how to pour a stiff old-fashioned. Tuna tartare, nicely charred bone-in rib-eyes or Kansas City strip, and a finale of Grand Marnier–white chocolate soufflé make for a solid, sleep-inducing meal—though don’t come expecting Bone’s-level quality.
The lodge crams in events during weekends in December: workshops for decorating gingerbread houses, arts and crafts classes for kids, guided “sleigh rides” (on Segway Personal Transporters) around Reynolds Plantation, multicourse meals for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. But if you come to escape the holiday hustle and bustle, you can find solace in the property’s many quiet nooks, too.
The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation, 1 Lake Oconee Trail, Greensboro, 706-467-0600, ritzcarltonlodge.com. Rooms from $199 per night weekdays, $279 per night weekends; lakeside, two-bedroom cottages from $999 per night.
Photograph courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation