America’s First Resort

It’s 1917 on a hot summer evening. You’ve just finished your filet from dinner and can’t decide on what to have for dessert – perhaps just Amarula and coffee, you think. No; you have your wine. The table decides on tiramisu to share. Delightful.

After supper the family heads down the Great Hall of the resort, past the parlor and onto the front porch of the main building. The hardwood floors creak along the way. The touch of the cool, evening breeze as you walk through the terrace doorway makes you feel at ease. The sun, slowly setting. The kids run off to play lawn games down by the fire pit. Their parents not far behind, strolling the mountainside hand in hand. It’s the perfect end to a beautiful day in the countryside.

Fast forward 100 years, and the story remains the same. Built on rejuvenation, The Omni Homestead is a hybrid of old-fashioned luxury, Southern hospitality, charm and modern conveniences. It is a true nature-filled getaway, with historic buildings constructed in 1766 around the natural Hot Springs of Virginia, a full ten years before America’s founding.

Designated as a National Historic Landmark, the resort is home to thousands of big-name visitors throughout the years, from our forefathers and foreign royalty to celebrities, business executives, politicians and professional athletes. In 2015, it was even ranked one of the Top 20 Resorts in the South by Condé Nast Traveler.

Don’t Miss Out

As a visitor myself, I was entranced by The Homestead’s luxurious, yet rustic mountain lodge vibe similar to how I imagine the resort in one of my favorite famous movies, Dirty Dancing. While the stay can be a bit pricey, the experience is worth the expense. The service is timely and top-notch, the accommodations are unique, the food is mouth-watering, there’s a kids camp for the little ones, and at the end of the day, all activities, whether indoor or outdoor, are within reach. The Homestead is truly a place of timeless elegance built around nature with activities and events for individuals of all ages – a hard feat to accomplish. When you visit, be sure to check out my top 10 takeaways from my trip:

1. Homemade Recipes
Stop by the main dining room for a sumptuous breakfast buffet filled with made-to-order omelets, waffles, and recipes dating back to the 20th century. Recipes so good, in fact, their homemade donuts could make even the most anti-sugar, health fanatic come back for more (trust me, I saw this first hand). At night, throw on your best evening wear for a classic dining experience with cuisine reflecting fresh ingredients from the resort’s natural surroundings accompanied by sophisticated, live piano music. Don’t worry, there’s a kid’s menu.

2. The Washington Library
Named after America’s first president and his personal friendship with the Homestead’s founder, Captain Thomas Bulllett, visitors of the resort can enjoy all of the activities that George Washington loved most: reading and board games. In addition, explore more than two centuries of history about the Hot Springs, the hotel, and the families who made Bath County what it is today. It’s definitely a top contender for downtime while at the resort. Pro tip: make sure to learn about the famous fire of 1901, the completion of The Tower, and the Japanese Room.

3. Vintage Theatre
At The Omni Homestead, you and your family can enjoy nightly movies at the onsite theatre. However, this isn’t just any theater – it’s the Homestead’s original, vintage theatre from back in the day. Grab the popcorn from the machine and kick back in your red velvet seat as you watch the big show – a true resort tradition (hopefully the film in the movie reel doesn’t get stuck!).

4. Lazy River
There’s nothing better than relaxing poolside with fun-filled options to keep everyone in your family occupied. From the 400-foot lazy river to the private cabanas, beach play zone, hot tub, kiddie pool, and multiple water slides, the two-acre water park at The Omni Homestead is fed by the water from the natural springs and has entertainment for everybody. Bad weather during your stay? No problem – there’s an even larger indoor pool with a Jacuzzi!

5. Spa and Hot Springs
Your oasis awaits! You can’t visit the Homestead without taking advantage of their full service spa, salon, and Hot Springs. Accompanied by their year-round outdoor spa garden, Finnish sauna, and aqua thermal suite, the spa and salon offers hair care, manicures, pedicures, and a range of exclusive massages, body and facial treatments. To indulge in the Hot Springs, visit the legendary Jefferson pools, named after Thomas Jefferson himself who visited back in 1818. The mineral waters are naturally heated and available for both family and adult soaking sessions.

6. Lobby Bar
One of the more casual places within the resort, you’ll see the bar walls adorned with the portraits of all 23 presidents who visited the Homestead during their presidency. In talking with the bartender, you’ll feel a sense of comfort in both their charm and courtesy. At all levels, the staff makes you feel at home and is extremely helpful and kind should there be any issues. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to order a signature cocktail and play a round of pool.

7. Allegheny Waterfalls
Plan a day of exercise! The Cascades Gorge Hike takes you away from the main buildings of the resort and out exploring the nearly 3,000 acres the Homestead owns. Led by a naturalist of the area, the tour allows you to discover the abundance of waterfalls, flora, brush and trees of the Allegheny Mountains and all of the medicinal and edible properties the land has to offer.

8. The Old Course
Tee off at two of the most beautiful and challenging local fairways. Rated Virginia’s #1 Golf Course by Golf Digest, the greens at The Omni Homestead include a driving range, two historic courses, and instruction from seasoned golf professionals.

9. Zip Lining
High atop of the ski area, spend the morning zipping down the Allegheny Mountains treetops on eight different zip lines spanning more than 4,000 feet. Opened just last year, the new adventure offers options for thrill seekers of all levels, with a full three-hour long zip tour or a separate, duel racing course with speeds up to 35 mph. The choice is yours!

10. The 14th Floor
Legend has it, a distraught bride-to-be in the 1900s hung herself on the 14th floor after it was revealed her groom had run away before the wedding. It’s said her spirit now roams the floor asking guests and staff for the time, hoping her love will return. Now, I cannot confirm whether it’s haunted, but I’d like to point out that the 14th floor is really the 13th floor, since the resort skips level 13 and goes straight from 12 to 14. Coincidence? I think not.

Book The Homestead

The Homestead boasts 483 guest rooms and suites, 26 meeting rooms, 10 outdoor wedding spaces, four ballrooms and restaurants, two hot springs, and endless adventures. Check their website for special offers and packages available for spa, golf, weddings, bed and breakfast, and conferences, www.OmniHotels.com/Homestead.

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Rachel Lytle
Rachel Lytle is a digital marketing coordinator for MedStar Health and contributing writer to WOMAN Magazines. Rachel has a degree in Journalism from the Pennsylvania State University, but grew up in Southern Maryland. She has a passion for digital communications and has previous experience working for advertising agencies, college publications and as a writer for MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital’s Marketing and Public Relations Department. Rachel likes to play tennis, travel, and spend her spare time with family and friends.