Over Memorial Day Weekend, Monica came over to my apartment for a wine night and we started reminiscing on our trip to St. Michaels, Maryland last fall. We decided it would be fun to do another weekend trip this summer, and after some Google searches and calendar comparisons, we booked a night at The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia. Ever since I visited The Greenbrier last year, I’ve wanted to check out The Homestead to see how it stacked up as both are historic, iconic resorts within driving distance of the DC area. As soon as it was on the calendar, I was counting down the days and looking forward to a weekend of rest and relaxation with one of my best friends.
Since our room was about $400 when all was said and done—resort fees, state and local taxes, parking, the actual room cost—we decided to only stay for one night. To maximize our stay, we hit the road from DC around 7:30am on Saturday and arrived to The Homestead four hours later on the dot. It was a super easy drive down because we didn’t hit any traffic. Even though the traffic was heavier coming back, we were surprised it only took us four hours then, too! It’s a very manageable distance for a down-and-back trip, and I didn’t feel like our trip was rushed even though we were really only at the resort for 24. (Though let’s be real—I could have spent the entire summer at The Homestead’s beautiful pool.)
The Homestead has roots back to 1766 when an 18-room wooden hotel was opened by two militia men who were granted the land by Colonel George Washington after the French and Indian War. They were told of the healing qualities of the water in the area, and the land they were granted had seven natural springs. Throughout the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the hotel changed hands a few times, and then in 1881, an executive from C+O Railroad worked to purchase the property with investment help from JP Morgan and others. Within the first year of this new ownership, they were able to raise money to build an entirely new hotel. In 1901 though, the entire resort burned down, and the current iteration of the hotel was built in 1902, with its now-iconic tower added in 1929. The property underwent major restoration in 1993 and has been an Omni Hotel since 2013. Over the years, 22 Presidents have visited The Homestead, and they are honored by their portraits in the Lobby Bar—along with George Washington given his role in the hotel’s establishment.
Even though check-in was was at 4pm, much to our excitement, when we arrived our room was ready! The concierge told us we would be receiving an upgraded room (!) and I asked if there was any reason why since we were so surprised. She said it was because of my Omni Select Guest Loyalty Program status. I can assure you I have no special Omni status—this was my first night at an Omni property all year! As such, my recommendation would be to sign up for an Omni Loyalty Membership—it’s free—and book directly with the hotel for your best shot at an upgrade. (I’ll also note that I try to book directly with the hotel whenever possible—I find you get better rooms and the hotel is more willing to treat you/help you than when you book with a third-party vendor because it’s cheaper for the hotel.)
We had a double-bed room that overlooked the back lawn where two spring houses honor the mineral springs that drew people to this area centuries ago. The room itself was nice, but the bathroom was really where it shined—it was super spacious, which is important when two gals are traveling together! Everything in the room felt a little bit dated and well-loved, but it was clean and we didn’t spend much time in our room.
Once we were settled, we lathered up with sunscreen and made our way to the pool area.
The property has a two-acre water park called Allegheny Springs that any hotel guests can use. This is where Monica and I headed. When you first walk in, there’s a large pool and a cute poolside restaurant. To the left of that is a kiddie pool, and to the right of that, is a lazy river and a few waterslides. When we arrived, no one was in the pool because they clear the water for thirty minutes after thunder, but people were allowed to stay on the pool deck to wait it out. So, we grabbed pool chairs near the lazy river, but as soon as we got the cocktail menu, the lifeguards saw lighting and we cleared the pool deck. Womp—it wasn’t even supposed to rain that day! We thought the storm would pass quickly based on radar, but after waiting for about 45 minutes and hearing constant thunder, we decided it was time for food.
Right near the pool is The Homestead’s burger restaurant, Woody’s. There was a table outside with a beautiful view of the hotel and its sprawling lawn, so we grabbed it and enjoyed a great meal al fresco. I had a spiked lemonade to go with my classic burger and it was just what I needed during the rain delay. While our waiter was awesome, the restaurant was overwhelmed since they had an influx of guests from the pool, so service was a bit slow. They also messed up Monica’s drink order twice, and were extremely rude to us on the second time they brought the wrong drink. All in all though, it was a good way to wait out the storm, and given the vibe of the restaurant, I’m glad we ended up there for lunch—it felt a little too casual for dinner for what I wanted out of the trip.
After lunch, they still weren’t allowing patrons back onto the pool deck, so we grabbed a few rocking chairs and kept our fingers crossed. At 2:20pm we got great news—they were letting people back on the pool deck! So we headed back to the pool and grabbed two chairs under an umbrella in a prime location. Within a few minutes of us sitting down, the sky opened up and it started pouring—it was comical how much it was raining! But, after that, the sun came back and were able to enjoy several glorious hours of sun. I took a few laps around the lazy river and loved the pool chairs they had that were partially submerged in water. It was a wonderful afternoon and I’m so glad the weather eventually cooperated!
In addition to the pool we went to, there’s an indoor pool, which any guest can use, and adults-only pool called the Serenity Garden Pool that guests get a day-pass for with any 50-minute or longer spa treatment. Otherwise, you can buy a day pass for $75, available Sunday through Friday barring holidays. Monica and I heard amazing things about the spa, so if you’re planning a trip to The Homestead, definitely budget for that. We didn’t, but after all the DMs we got from friends telling us we had to go to the spa, we definitely will add it to the list for next time.
After our pool day, we showered and headed over to the Lobby Bar. When we checked in, the concierge gave us drink tickets, so Monica grabbed a beer and I grabbed a white wine. We sat in the bar for a little while, but eventually moved out to the front porch’s rocking chair. By this point in the day, it had cooled off a lot and was nice to sit outside and befriend other hotel patrons. One couple we talked to had the cutest little boy, and she had grown up coming to The Homestead with her family, and now she was doing the same with her own family.
After our happy hour, we headed over to Jefferson’s for dinner. We didn’t have a reservation, so we had to wait about 30 minutes to get a table outside, but it was worth it. We sat right under the iconic tower and had a beautiful view of golden hour. There was a wedding going on while we were visiting, so we got to see the bride and groom shoot some beautiful photos up on the golf course. The portions at Jefferson’s were huge—or at least compared to DC standards! We split the meatballs and fried green tomatoes, and then both got the Bath County Greens salad as our main. After dinner, we called it a night and enjoyed dessert in our hotel room—wine for me, s’mores cake for Monica.
If you’re looking to eat somewhere else other than The Homestead in Hot Springs, my friend Emily recommended Waterwheel Restaurant at The Inn at Gristmill Square. You get to go down to the wine cellar to pick your bottle of wine!
We enjoyed The Homestead’s brunch buffet in the main Dining Room on Sunday morning. It was $30/person for a delicious all-you-can-eat spread, including my own personal favorite at buffets like that—an omelette station! After we ate, we packed up and hit the road.
Now that I’ve been to both The Homestead and The Greenbrier, I have to say, while I enjoyed my trips to both, I’d recommend The Greenbrier over The Homestead. The Greenbrier’s Dorothy Draper decor is stunning, the property has been better maintained over the years, the food was slightly better, and I thought the atmosphere was more fun. Since I went to The Homestead in the summer and The Greenbrier in the winter, I’d love to do a trip to each in the season I haven’t visited so I can make a more direct comparison, but if you could only go to one and I was to pick one today, I’d go with The Greenbrier hands down.
I had the best time at The Homestead with Monica—it’s so wonderful to have a friend I travel so well with and enjoy spending time with! We made a pact to do a trip like this at least once a year, no matter how busy life gets. I can’t wait to see where our next adventure takes us!