9.16.2012

Pack Your Bags: A Traveler's Look at the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia

It’s been a very long time since I took a resort vacation. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever really taken a resort vacation aside from Walt Disney World, where I stayed on a hotel property the whole time, and never left a resort like I did recently at the grandiose Homestead Resort in the beautiful Allegheny Mountains of Virginia.

The captivating Homestead Resort
Before kids, Will and I chose to stay in hotels in cities with lots of sightseeing for vacations, but sightseeing can be exhausting, and you return needing another “vacation” from the vacation.  As parents, we are now learning the best way to travel with our kids because, let’s face it, kids change the dynamics of traveling.  

Our recent stay at the Homestead Resort was the perfect place for us to get back on the saddle and experience a quality family vacation less than five hours away from our home in Raleigh.

Riding Zip, the horse
I’m a Southern gal, and The Homestead Resort transports you to a genteel era that takes you back to deep Southern roots. You dress for dinner, you take tea at 3 p.m. if you wish, you dine on white tablecloths, you don’t go through the lobby without a cover-up, and you walk the same halls presidents, royalty, and celebrities have walked in the resort’s 200-plus-year history.  It is magnificent!

Is it stuffy? Absolutely not, and I cannot emphasize enough how at ease my very casual family felt there.

The Homestead has Southern tradition and charm

The Homestead Resort, established in 1766, is a very child-friendly resort and offers amazing family activities from golfing, hayrides, and hiking to horseback riding. Seeing my son on a horse for the first time was a tear-jerking experience for my husband and me.

Our trip to The Homestead was the first time my children have been this close to a horse
This resort even has its own movie theatre and shows movies twice a night.  In the winter, the resort changes over to a winter playground with skiing, ice skating, and an outdoor pool area that is heated and still ready for use in the frosty air.  It’s like a smorgasbord of fun where you can do as much or as little as you like. Being bored is just not a phrase in the vocabulary here.

There is never a dull moment at The Homestead

While at the resort, we stayed in a large junior suite, located on the west wing of the property, featuring two double beds.  This room had its own porch.  With over 400 rooms, the Homestead is huge. We were on the same floor as the grand lobby, shops, dining room, and the casual market, but it’s a good ten-minute walk to these areas, as well as the new Allegheny Springs pool area.  I love the décor of our room. With soothing greens and light blues, I joked that it was the perfect décor for a Carolina girl. 

Our room was a Preferred Junior Suite located on the West Wing

The Homestead is a historic property with a fascinating past, but our room was not aging at all.  The old-timey base heating system, window sills, and some paint chippings on the exterior porch were the only reminders we were staying in a structure built over 100 years ago.

Our bathroom was medium-sized and pristine clean.  With a pedestal sink, there is not a lot of counter space, but our family managed fine. All toiletries are specially made for the Homestead and can be purchased in the hotel’s spa and bath shop.

By staying in a junior suite, we had a sitting area with a pullout sofa.  Unfortunately, not one of our children wanted to sleep there and instead chose us as bed partners.  The living room space was great for us to spread out a little.


I loved the colors of our room, and the classic furnishings

At night, we would gather with other guests by the fire pit and strike up conversations.  We got to know others while staying at the resort.  We would see the same families in the restaurants, in the shops, at the resort activities, and at the pools.  Our kids would play croquet together on the lawn. The dining staff got to know my family as they served us in one of the resort’s five restaurants.  It kind of seemed like our home away from home in the few days that we were there, and, in essence, a luxurious summer camp.


The Homestead is my idea of a luxury camp

The Homestead operates an outstanding Kids’ Club for children aged 3 to 12. Our son attended an afternoon session for 4 ½ hours.  During this time, he bonded with other kids, had an archery lesson, and went on a short hike.  The kids’ club offers different activities for every day of the week. During that special time, I went to the spa, and Will stayed at the pools with our new “Resort Diva.”

It was relaxing to be surrounded by the beauty of Virginia’s mountains.  The wholesome family atmosphere has me smitten with this stately resort.  Like many other families through the years, I would like to return yearly to recapture some of the priceless family quality time we experienced.  



Leigh’s Insider Tips for The Homestead

Although delicious, food at The Homestead is expensive.  The breakfast buffet is $27 per adult.  The casual Casino Restaurant was my favorite. Sam Snead’s, the hotel’s second casual restaurant, was overpriced, in my opinion.  Classic fish and chips may be tasty, but $29 is a lot to pay for tavern food. The hotel offers a MAP plan, with food and tip included at a discounted price and added to your room charge. I would strongly consider this option, or a bed and breakfast package. The resort has exceptional fine dining restaurants on property, but we did not try those with the kids on this trip. 


Main Street of Hot Springs, Virginia
There are a few places to eat in the lovely area of Bath County in addition to the resort, so check that out as well.  For lunch one day, we went to the local Subway and had lunch al-fresco on our porch. I saw other families eating Subway sandwiches by the fire pit for dinner.  The Homestead doesn’t mind you doing this because dining reservations are always needed at night, and if you don’t make them in advance then this may be the only option you have that evening. Also, Martha’s Market, located off the grand lobby in the hotel, has great quick bites for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I loved getting a coffee and walking around the grounds. It also serves delicious ice cream at half the cost of ice cream in the restaurants.

About two weeks before your vacation, the Homestead will send you a virtual concierge to help you book activities and dining reservations.  Don’t ignore it.  I saw some guests who were disappointed because activities were full or not available at the times they wanted. It's very simple to fill out your requests, and all reservations will be made for you prior to your arrival. 

If a new-looking room is important to you, ask for one.  Preferred rooms on the west wing were recently renovated. With over 400 rooms in a historic property, renovations are always ongoing.  Also in historic properties, it’s no secret that some rooms can be small. The classic rooms are the smallest at the resort at 170 to 220 square feet.  Even though they are less costly, that may be cramped for a family of four staying longer than a weekend.

Consider booking a package with unlimited activities to save some costs.  Most activities at the resort, aside from swimming, have costs associated with them.  Also, the resort does have a 15 percent daily resort charge, in addition to room taxes, so add that into your travel budget as well. Rates for an unlimited activities package start at $325 for a family, and it includes discounts on kids' club, the spa, as well as other activities. 


I'll definitely be returning to The Homestead Resort

For more on the Homestead, including the tradition of “taking to the waters,” plus some mouth-watering food photos, read my travel features on Skimbaco Lifestyle.

Want to Go:
The Homestead
1796 Sam Snead Highway
Hot Springs, Virginia

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Disclosure: I was a media guest of The Homestead Resort so I could feature the resort as part of my “Pack Your Bags” segments.  My family did have out-of-pocket expenses while at the resort.  As with all of my hotel reviews, these are my honest opinions and are not influenced by the hotel.





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