The Homestead

By the look of the crowd at The Homestead over a recent holiday weekend, it appears American families are turning their backs on the economic crisis and going on vacation. Or staycation, rather. Luxury Travel Advisor checked out The Homestead—the Georgian-style landmark nestled in the Allegheny Mountains—and found that the storied Virginia resort has successfully positioned itself as a popular getaway for East Coast families by designing seasonal events and special programs to appeal to young and old alike. Even Fido is welcome, as guests are allowed up to two pets per room for an additional fee.

The Homestead has been in business since 1766, a decade before the American Revolution. Arrival at the resort still conjures up a sense of grandeur: The red brick tower presides over the valley, surrounded by rolling hills and woodland in a 3,000-acre setting. From the rocking chairs on the porch, guests can unwind and take in the scenery, Southern-style. Since George Washington and Thomas Jefferson first came here to “take the waters” at the hot springs and naturally heated pools, a slew of distinguished clientele has followed in their footsteps. In fact, the portraits of the 23 American presidents who have visited the resort—from the Founding Fathers to Bill Clinton—can be found hanging in the Presidents Lounge. Today, families continue the time-honored tradition of dancing in the Dining Room’s rotunda flanked by Palladian windows and columns.

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The Presidential Suite's décor is unique and tailored to honor each of the presidential guests who have stayed there.

The country’s first resort is blessed with a four-season climate, meaning a host of recreational activities for the whole family to enjoy—from falconry to lawn games, shooting clays to skiing, horse riding to fly-fishing. It’s a veritable sporting playground, complete with an eight-lane Bowling Center and turn-of-the-century movie theater. While children are happily entertained at the Kids Club, your clients can challenge themselves on one of three championship golf courses where legend Sam Snead got his start. The top track here is the award-winning Cascades Course, designed in 1923 by William S. Flynn and known as one of the country’s premier mountain courses.  The historic Old Course boasts the nation’s oldest first tee in continuous use. In addition to the ladies-only school, the Golf Academy has a new school just for families so that parents and juniors can improve their games together.

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The Cabana Tower looms over the outdoor pool, an alternative to The Homestead’s historic indoor pool, which was built in 1904.

The resort is not just for sports fanatics. The European-style spa pampers guests with mineral-fed springs and healing treatments that incorporate local flora from the surrounding mountains and Cascades Gorge, such as meadow wildflowers, Virginia Dogwood, buttercups, sunflowers and mountain laurel. For gentlemen, recommend The Sportsman at the Men’s Spa. The 80-minute treatment combines a soak, stimulating scrub, Swiss shower, 25-minute massage and steam bath. There is even a KidSpa for children aged 16 and under. Spa reservations are highly recommended. In fact, it’s best to make reservations for all activities and dinners at the time of hotel booking. Angela Kyle (angela.kyle@thehomestead.com; 540-839-7741) at the concierge desk is extremely helpful with questions about the resort’s recreational offerings and their prices. Note: Advise your clients that gratuities are built into the price of the spa services.

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Each Landmark Suite has an outdoor porch.

Managed by Sean Maddock (sean.maddock@thehomestead.com; 540-839-7793), The Homestead offers a full resort experience with 10 dining outlets—enhanced in 2008—and an American Meal Plan that includes a bountiful breakfast buffet and four-course dinner daily. (Note: There is a $35 surcharge for eating at the 1766 Grille when on the meal plan. For in-room dining, a delivery fee applies.) Of the 483 guest rooms, the five newly renovated President Suites in the East Wing are the top accommodations. Named in honor of the resort’s star-studded lineup of presidential guests (Madison, McKinley, Taft, Wilson and Eisenhower), the two-bedroom suites are appointed with décor to reflect each of their namesake presidents. Like the President Suites, the Landmark Suites also have private porches with mountain views. The smallest room category is the Classic, sized between 170 and 220 square feet, while the Junior Suites offer an enormous sense of space as “extra large rooms” measuring between 400 and 425 square feet. Though these oversized rooms have a sitting area with a sofa, they do not have separate living room and bedroom areas. For VIP bookings, travel advisors should contact Miranda Everett (miranda.everett@thehomestead.com; 804-338-6432), director of travel industry sales.