LIKE MOST OLD SCHOOL
resorts, The Homestead appears to be trying to fi nd relevance in a new century and under corporate management.
They each have extensive conference facilities that regularly draw Washington officialdom, but it’s possible to be a private guest and feel separate from all that, especially during big family holidays. Both resorts boast top-rated golf courses, tennis courts, outdoor and indoor pools, fishing, a range of water and trail sports and, interestingly, falconry. The Greenbrier’s “fitness and wellness” center is a large separate facility with all the latest equipment, plus trainers on hand, while The Homestead has a popular Winter Center with ice-skating, skiing and snow-boarding. It’s an ideal place for anyone taking to the slopes for the first time, but even seasoned skiers have fun. Because these resorts are in rural areas with little regional shopping, they feature corridors of small boutiques. At The Greenbrier there is a decidedly upscale angle, but nothing that will shock anyone accustomed to shopping in Chevy Chase. The Homestead boutiques tend toward more middle-brow shopping, but changes are in the works. Die-hard Homestead fans are upset that the resort’s new management, KSL, has emptied out most of the “Cottage Row” stores. For many Homestead regulars that’s a signature of the new regime. One only hopes KSL knows what it’s doing.
Dinner at The Homestead seemed much as it has always been: a little creaky around the edges, but strong and reassuring. The food wasn’t as good as in past years, and in addition to the regular main dining room fare, they have opened a more exclusive and quite handsome restaurant, The 1766 Grille, which offers a menu of classics, plus trends like a bottled water menu. There is a lot of tableside preparation, and service, service, service. We were attended to almost too much. Like most old school resorts, The Homestead appears to be trying to find relevance in a new century and under corporate management. If they keep it to details like upgrading the gym, investing in the food, expanding activities, and not messing too much with the old world charm, they might succeed. My advice: don’t undervalue your loyal patrons. The Greenbrier has also added an upscale restaurant to its dining program. It’s called Hemisphere, and rather than harking back to the past, it is all about the new. Much like The Greenbrier itself, the décor is bold. The theme encompasses small plates of architecturally exquisite “global cuisine,” and the food is delicious. Everything is clever, modern, Californian chic. Downstairs, they’ve added a nightclub which has alcoves and nooks for latenight action. But seriously, who goes to The Greenbrier for late night or disco? The new restaurants at both resorts are a nice diversion, but they can’t compete with the elegance and charm of the main dining rooms.
The spa at The Homestead contains many services, but it’s essential that you take the shuttle to nearby Warm Springs for an hour-long soak in The Jefferson Pools. The ancient warm mineral baths – one for men, one for women – that will leave you feeling like a brand new person. At The Greenbrier, don’t miss a tour of “the bunker,” the famous installation that was built during the Cold War as the go-to hideout for Congress in the event of an attack on the U.S. It was decommissioned in the ’90s and now offers guided tours, which are worth the time and very interesting. A new mountaintop restaurant has opened called The Summit Lodge, but you need to know a member to get in for lunch or dinner.
The Homestead: Rooms start at $199. 1766 Homestead Drive, Hot Springs, Va., 24445; 866-354- 4653; www.thehomestead.com. The Greenbrier: Rooms start at $259. 300 West Main Street, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., 24986; 304-536-1110; www.greenbrier.com.
Top: The most eagerly awaited event at The Homestead is their breakfast buffet, served daily in the Crystal Dining Room. Above: The Greenbrier has been hosting guests from around the world since 1778 and boasts over ten lobbies and fifty conference rooms. Below: Since President Thomas Jefferson’s stay in 1818, the Greenbrier’s Presidential Suite has had many upgrades and many visits from other Presidents.