The weekend before last, I was lucky enough to spend a weekend at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. I am not exaggerating when I say that it was one of the best weekends I’ve ever had—the resort was stunning, the service was incredible, and I was able to share the experience with my sister, Jennifer, which is a memory I know I’ll keep with me for a lifetime.
If you’re looking for an easy wintertime weekend escape, I can’t recommend The Greenbrier enough. Though the warmer months are the resort’s busy season—hello, world-class golf and incredible infinity pool—there’s still just as much to do this time of year. While my sister and I did venture outside to explore the resort’s grounds, you could easily avoid the cold inside all weekend and be entertained. Each morning, housekeeping leaves an itinerary highlighting all the activities happening that day. I’ll talk about what we did during our stay in detail below, but while we were in town, there was everything from tarot card reading to a live cabaret performance to a live DJ at 42 Below at the Casino Club.
Beyond the activities though, one of the things I appreciated most about The Greenbrier was its sense of place and history. Founded in 1778, “America’s Resort” has hosted world leaders, great thinkers, celebrities, and royals alike—and I loved seeing all the old photos spread throughout the resort honoring its history. The central section of today’s hotel was built in 1913, and it was used as an Army hospital during World War II. The C&O Railway acquired the hotel in 1946 and commissioned a redesign from famed interior designer, Dorothy Draper. The resort reopened in 1948 and its legacy of service and glamour continues through to present day.
HOW TO GET THERE /
The Greenbrier is very accessible from the DC area. My sister and I opted to drive, and left town around 3:30pm to miss rush hour traffic. We arrived at the resort around 7:30pm after an easy drive down Interstates 81 and 64. On our return trip, it only took us three and a half hours to get home!
If you don’t have access to a car, The Greenbrier is also right across the street from an Amtrak Station. Trains run daily from DC to White Sulphur Springs and back, and the trip is about six hours. However, tickets are really affordable with this option—the value ticket is under $100 roundtrip. Or, if you’re traveling from farther away, The Greenbrier is close to the airports in Roanoke and Charleston, WV, as well as the local Greenbrier Valley Airport.
Regardless of how you get there, you’ll be greeted with a glass of champagne upon check-in!
THE ACCOMMODATIONS /
When my sister and I checked in, we were shocked to find out that our room for the weekend would be the East Terrace Suite. When we opened its double doors, we were amazed to find a beautiful Asian-inspired sitting room, and quickly realized that there were two beautiful bedrooms and bathrooms waiting for us. I took the pink room, and my sister took the adjacent yellow room. Both were stunningly decorated and had amazing natural light. The bedroom furniture was so classic, I honestly felt like I was having a sleepover eat Mount Vernon or some other historic home.
My room had a beautiful view of the mountains, and from Jennifer’s room, you could see the terrace that was connected to our room, which offered a great view of the front of the hotel. The terrace had patio furniture, and it would be the perfect place to enjoy a pre-dinner glass of wine in the warmer months! We felt so at home in this space, and truthfully, didn’t want to leave. Before check-out, we literally laid in the plush king size beds for five minutes just to soak it all in.
THE DECOR /
Not only was our suite beautifully decorated, the entire resort was. As I mentioned earlier, Dorothy Draper was hired to design The Greenbrier, and her mentee, Carleton Varney, continues her vision today. The resort is filled with bright color and oversized patterns, and each room had its own unique elements. You could honestly spend an entire day just walking around the resort exploring each room and still probably not see everything. At one point during our trip, my sister and I decided to pop into random bathrooms just so we could see how they were decorated. It was incredible, and makes me want to be less fearful of color in my own design choices.
Dorothy Draper is the designer of the original banana leaf pattern Brazilliance, and it’s used heavily throughout the hotel. While we were at the resort, I commented to my sister that the design reminded me a lot of Palm Beach, specifically The Colony Hotel, that we spent an afternoon at last summer. Turns out, there’s a reason for that—Carleton Varney and Dorothy Draper are also behind The Colony’s decor, too.
One other thing Jennifer and I noticed is that there is no shortage of places to sit! There are chairs, benches, and sofas everywhere you turn, and at one point, we were commenting that if everyone at the resort sat down, there’d still be empty seats.
WHAT TO DO /
What’s great about The Greenbrier is that there truly is something for everyone—whether you’re if you’re in the mood for a relaxing respite or want a more on-the-go experience, The Greenbrier makes it easy to tailor your experience to your desires. There’s also something on-site for all ages—we saw a lot of families, older couples, and groups of friends our age and everyone seemed to be having a great time.
Our first activity of the weekend was the one I had most been looking forward to—The Bunker Tour. Commissioned by President Eisenhower, the US Government operated a top-secret fall out shelter for Congress at The Greenbrier for more than 30 years. The Bunker, known by its code name, “Project Greek Island,” was secretly constructed under a new wing of the hotel so as not to raise suspicions. In the event of a nuclear emergency, it was designed to house up to 1,100 people for 40 days. There were meeting rooms, a communications center, a medical center, dormitories, lounges, and a cafeteria was well as a full-scale power plant and decontamination systems. The Bunker was hidden in plain sight for decades, and only exposed when an article in The Washington Post broke the story in the early 90s. If you go to The Greenbrier, I can’t recommend this 90-minute tour enough.
Another highlight was our carriage ride around the property that departed from Kate’s Mountain Outfitters. Our horses names were Lady and Kate, and this half-hour ride was a great way to get a better sense of the size of the property and see the original spring, the wedding chapel, and the golf course. It was raining when we took our ride, but that didn’t detract from the experience since the carriage was covered.
And, of course, no trip to The Greenbrier is complete without a trip to The Greenbrier Spa. I’ve never been to a more tranquil spa—I could have stayed there all day! Jennifer and I were treated to facials, which also included an arm, neck, and shoulder massage. The beds were heated, and so, so cozy. I love getting facials because I think they really help clean up and maintain my skin, and was impressed with the professionalism of my esthetician—I only wish I lived closer so I could go back more often. The spa also offered complimentary snacks, waters, and juices and had a really clean locker room, complete with hair dryers, hair brushes, curling irons, and the like. It was great way to spend a rainy afternoon.
The other activity we were lucky enough to partake in was a tour of The Greenbrier Sporting Club, which is a private, gated residential community and club located on The Greenbrier grounds. Yes—that’s right, you can buy a house at The Greenbrier! (Talk about a dream vacation home…) Those who are members of the Sporting Club have access to a private golf course, member’s lodge, sports complex, a mountain top activities barn with an infinity pool, spa, and, of course, all the amenities The Greenbrier has to offer. If you have the opportunity to tour The Greenbrier Sporting Club or attend a real estate presentation, I’d definitely go—it was so interesting to learn about this lesser-known side of the resort.
WHERE TO EAT /
Rest assured, you won’t go hungry at The Greenbrier!
On our first night, we ate dinner at Prime 44 West. Named for Jerry West, the NBA legend from West Virginia, it ended up being our favorite meal of the trip. (Fun fact—Jerry West is the basketball player depicted on the NBA logo!) Our meal started out with an amazing bread basket that featured bacon biscuits. Yes, you read that right—bacon biscuits! They were so good that we asked for seconds. For our main course, we opted for the lobster mashed potatoes the restaurant is known for and filet mignon. Everything was so good, and y’all, those potatoes live up to the hype! There’s a reason they were featured on The Food Network’s show “Best Thing I Ever Ate.” We ate every last bite!
On our second night, we ate dinner at The Forum, a delicious Italian restaurant. To start, we enjoyed their amazing Italian bread, caesar salads, fried mozzarella, and the fried calamari the chef sent out for us to try. Truthfully, I could have stopped eating after our appetizer course, but my eyes were bigger than my stomach, and for my main course I ordered the orecchiette with sausage and broccolini, which was good—but I preferred Jennifer’s chicken parmesan, which was cooked to perfection. (I had wanted the gnocchi, but they were out!)
Breakfast is something to look forward to at The Greenbrier. We ate both of our breakfasts in The Main Dining Room, an elegant dining room with beautiful chandeliers, portraits, and columns. We took advantage of their breakfast buffet, which offered every breakfast food you could ever desire—made-to-order omelettes, hot waffles, eggs, biscuits, quiches, bagels and lox, a fresh fruit bar, breakfast meats, pastries, and more. It is on the pricier side—about $75 for two people—but the quantity and quality of food you get is unmatched.
We loved lunch at Draper’s Cafe so much on Saturday, that we went back for another meal on Sunday. A colorful, girly tribute to Dorothy Draper, this restaurant over looks the Casino Club and has the cutest ice cream bar—which even makes adult milkshakes! I loved the stylized murals on the wall that depicted The Greenbrier. The first day, I opted for a side salad with cilanto-lime vinaigrette—the dressing was so good!—and a BLT, on Monica’s recommendation. On the second day, I chose the chicken quesadilla, which was equally delicious.
WHAT TO WEAR /
One thing that I loved about The Greenbrier is they still have a dress code. Not only did this make it feel like we were walking in a bygone era, it was a fun opportunity to dress up! During the day, Jennifer and I stuck with business casual outfits—nice pants, cute tops, fun flats. At night, I wore nice pants with heels on Friday and a dress with pointy-toed flats on Saturday. The dress code made for great outfit-watching at the restaurants and in the lobby!
We were definitely a little nervous about making sure what we wore adhered to the resort attire standards, but ladies, I’d say as long as you avoid athleisure and opt for dark denim sans holes if you want to wear jeans, you’ll fit right in. I’d also say that Prime 44 West was a bit nicer than The Forum, so if I had to do it again, I probably would have worn a dress to the steakhouse and dress pants with heels for Italian. If you have any questions about the dress code, don’t hesitate to drop me a comment below!
THE NIGHTLIFE /
My favorite part of the trip—and trust me, it’s hard to pick just one!—was when my sister and I enjoyed a few post-dinner drinks at The Lobby Bar. A beautiful red room with lots of dark wood, it made me feel like I had been transported back in time. Paintings on the wall depict the founding fathers, and the 650-pound chandelier overhead is from Gone With the Wind. On Friday and Saturday nights, a guitarist plays at the bar, and he had the right mix of upbeat, yet smooth, songs that really created an ambiance. We tipped him to play Wagon Wheel, and his rendition was great.
We also really enjoyed “The Greenbrier’s newest tradition,” the champagne waltz. A complimentary champagne toast each evening at 10pm in the Casino Club, a pair of couples dressed in period pieces waltzes into the beautiful gazebo in the middle of the room. We played a few slot machines each evening after the toast—Jennifer did win $13!—but called it quits before we lost big.
Within the Casino Club, there are two bars—Twelve Oaks and Greenbrier Royale. We didn’t go to either, but instead opted to hit up the dance floor at 42 Below. I’d describe the scene as a wedding without a bride and groom as the DJ was playing great party hits that pretty much everyone, regardless of age, could dance to. We had a blast! If you’re looking for live music, next to the Casino Club is Café Carleton that is open on Friday and Saturday nights, and offers live piano music and a cabaret show.
As you can tell, we had the BEST time at The Greenbrier and can’t wait to return one day—hopefully sooner rather than later. A special thank you to The Greenbrier for hosting my sister and me for a truly memorable weekend at “America’s Resort.”