Pack Your Bags: The Historic Omni Homestead Resort
The Omni Homestead Resort is our home away from home. It is a special place for us as we chose to mini-moon here for a few days after our wedding in 2011. We look forward to a luxurious, relaxing getaway at the majestic 250 year old resort each year.
Located in the middle of the Allegheny Mountains, it's only a short 4 hour drive from Washington, DC, making it an easy weekend getaway. We don't always drive it in one shot. One of our favorite ways to road-trip is to just see where the road takes us. We have stumbled on so many hidden gems and unexpected sites that have ultimately become some of our fondest memories this way. Some of our detours have included Lexington, Winchester and Harrisonburg on our many trips to The Homestead. I will share itinerary tips for those stops with you in future posts.
The Homestead is an absolutely gorgeous property! When you round the corner on the drive in and catch your first sight of the impressive tower and southern rocking porch, you'll know you are in for a special visit. The property's beauty and charm shines at every turn - from the great hall lobby, to the welcoming seating areas, to the lavish indoor and outdoor pools, and captivating landscape of hydrangea gardens when they are in bloom.
The Homestead is a sight to see at every season. Our favorite times to visit are late summer/early fall when the evenings are crisp and we can dine on the terrace by the firepit AND during the Holidays to take in the warmth of the majestic Christmas tree in the Great Hall. Honestly though, there is no wrong time to visit The Homestead.
Any time of year is a great time to visit with an abundance of resort activities at your fingertips. Whether you are looking for a romantic couples retreat, weekend getaway with a group of friends or on a fun family vacation, there is something that will please anyone in your group.
In the warmer months, tee off at the nation's oldest first tee on one of two championship golf courses with incredible views, be adventurous and fly through the trees on a zip-line, hike to see a waterfall on the Cascades Gorge hike, play a round of mini-golf, or get some R & R ("Rays" & Relaxation) lounging in the lazy river.
In the colder months, take a festive fall hayride, hit the slopes for a day of skiing, snowtubing or snowmobiling, strap on your skates for a spin across the ice-rink, or take a dip in the heated indoor pool.
In my opinion though, any time of year is good for a round of skeet-shooting, some horseback riding, a relaxing spa day, and s'mores by the fire ; )
We can't forget about the famous Jefferson Pools! After all, The Homestead is in Bath County - the area has the largest natural healing hot springs in Virginia. Native Americans used the waters of the hot springs to rejuvenate. The natural springs have proven healing properties from a concentration of minerals. The pools are named after Thomas Jefferson who spent 3 weeks visiting the hot springs in 1818. Do a body good by taking a soak. TIP: If you have a platinum wedding band, be sure to remove it beforehand. The minerals interact with platinum and will turn your beautiful platinum black!
Photos of Jefferson Pools - courtesy of TCLF
Recent Update - On this most recent visit in January 2018, I was disappointed to find out the historic Jefferson Pools are closed until further notice based on directive from Bath County officials. Although Omni was trying to preserve history by keeping them in tact, it looked like they were in desperate need of repair at our prior visit in August 2017. We have just been told that they are currently working with the historical society and the hope is they will reopen by spring - early summer. Lucky for us - the octagon hot springs located in the Homestead's Garden Spa have the same healing 100 degree waters. You can pay $65 per day, excluding Saturdays, for access to the spa pools (including the springs) or if you have a 50 minute or longer spa treatment, you will automatically have all-day access.
Spa treatments are pricey, but are so relaxing it's worth it. I have had some fabulous massages. I wish they'd bring back the old reflexology treatments from prior ownership, but the selection of spa treatments does not disappoint!
The rooms stay true to the classic feel of the resort. The beds are comfy and cozy. We have stayed in King Premier room for most of our visits, but upgraded to a Premier View room in 2011 when we chose to mini-moon at The Homestead. We were welcomed with champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. What a nice surprise!
(excuse the quality of the photos for our gorgeous blue King Premier w/ balcony room - they were taken with a blackberry in 2011!)
When we score deals through the Omni loyalty program or through Groupon, we pretty much always end up in the same style room. Not the same views as the King Premier View rooms with private balconies, but great views of the property none-the-less. The bathrooms are all updated with a classic black and white tile.
In terms of meals, you have many dining options all on property. You have your choice of a fancy date night (The Main Dining Room), a casual or family meal (The Casino), or a more modern culinary experience (Jefferson's).
The meals at the Casino tend to leave us underwhelmed, but if we had kids this would be the preferred restaurant. Their pizza is good!
We prefer Jefferson's and try to dine al fresco while taking in the beautiful golf course views during the summer or we might go for small plates in the comfy leather chairs by the fire, while grabbing a late night drink or catching part of the football game.
Often we'll skip lunch and enjoy a very filling delicious and extravagant breakfast buffet in the Main Dining Room instead. Later, snack on pastries at the daily afternoon tea held in the Great Hall lobby to tide us over til dinner. For the Main Dining Room pics below - we happened to be visiting after the Holidays and mid-week. It was the slowest we have ever seen the Homestead. Usually, the Main Dining Room is packed for the breakfast buffet! I love the coffered ceilings in this room!
For a quick on the go snack, coffee, or sandwich - hit up Martha's Market. They also serve the same delicious donuts that can be found at the breakfast buffet!
Although you truly have no need to ever leave the resort, we are always sure to dine at our favorite gem, The Waterwheel Restaurant, located a few short miles away in nearby Warm Springs, VA. The husband/wife owners of the Waterwheel at Gristmill also recently took over management of the old Sam Snead's Tavern in downtown Hot Springs, walking distance from the resort. It now goes by Snead's 1912 and is an upscale steak house. We are looking forward to trying it at our next visit.
However, during this last trip in January 2018, we dined downtown at Les Conchon d'Or for the first time. We loved our meals and will definitely return again at our next visit! The fabulous french bistro is owned by another husband/wife duo. Everything was cooked perfectly and so incredibly tasty! I also discovered that the owners of LCD are in partnership with the owners of the Waterwheel at Gristmill. No wonder we loved it!
Another off-resort must-see are the Falling Spring Falls. Thomas Jefferson visited the falls once and noted that "the only remarkable cascade in this country is that of Falling Springs in Augusta...it falls over a rock 200 feet into the valley below". Mining operations required Falling Spring Lime Company to relocate the springs, where it now plunges only 80 feet. I can only dream of what it would have been like at 200 feet - Thomas Jefferson named it one of the natural wonders of the world. Even at only 80 feet, it's still a beautiful sight! I was told a few weeks prior to our visit in January, the falls were totally frozen. I would have loved to have seen that. The falls are about 5 miles from the Homestead toward Covington, VA. You can no longer hike to the bottom of the falls and take a dip in the swimming holes, but the views from the overlook are great and there is plenty of parking.
If you like to explore - I also recommend the drive up to the Ingalls Field Airport for amazing views. The drive to the other side of Warm Springs Mountain, leading to Clifton Forge, VA is insane! The mountain road has super steep drops and is only about one and half car widths wide. The locals who travel the mountain every day FLY, making it a very scary drive. The GPS is notorious for taking people up this mountain, so if you are afraid of heights or windy roads with steep drop-offs (and no railings!) then you'll want to stay on Route 220 and bypass this mountain detour all-together. However, to get to the Ingalls Field Airport from the Homestead you don't need to go over the mountain. You'll turn off just before the road gets scary. Check out these views!
In recent year's, the resort has become much more family friendly and more affordable after Omni purchased in 2013. Of course, this means more visitors which leads to more wear and tear. The decorative carpets could stand to be replaced or be given a deep cleaning at a minimum, but overall the historic charm and true beauty has been preserved. She is an old hotel at more than 250 years old, but she has great bones and anyone will see the inner beauty shining through.
In my opinion, the noticeable foot traffic patterns on the carpet are a small price to pay for the room rate reductions we have seen since Omni's takeover in 2013. We paid substantially higher rates under previous ownership. Since Omni's takeover, we have scored some fantastic deals through Groupon and Omni's loyalty program! For example, this last visit we paid just $66 per night for a King Premier room (plus the resort fee) thanks to a special deal Omni was offering to their loyalty customers! With rooms that can go for upwards of $400 a night in the summer months, I jumped to take advantage of the deal!
If The Homestead is on your bucket list, which is really should be, be sure to join Omni's loyalty program and be on the lookout for deals on Groupon for the best rates!!
Have you been to the Homestead? Are you planning a visit soon? What's your favorite Historic Restort?