Omni Homestead Resort, Virginia, review
Here’s a piece of trivia you probably didn’t learn in history class: America’s first resort predates the existence of the United States. In 1766—a decade before the signing of the Declaration of Independence—a land surveyor named Thomas Bullitt built an 18-room log lodge in Hot Springs, Virginia, deep in the Allegheny Mountains (the area was named for its natural mineral springs, which were said to have healing qualities). He called it “home.”
The property has changed hands over the decades and has slowly built into one of the most popular tourist destinations in the South. Twenty-three U.S. presidents have stayed at what is now the Omni Homestead Resort, and it is designated a National Historic Landmark. (Other famous guests include the Duke of Windsor and Cornelius Vanderbilt III.) In the 257 years since its founding, Homestead has become a place families return to year after year.
Omni Homestead Resort
- Sense of History – Homestead Resort has hosted more than 20 US presidents, dating back to 1766, making it the oldest resort in America.
- Surrounded by the Allegheny Mountains, the Homestead is a quintessential mountain retreat with a Southern flair.
- There are a range of activities on site: guests can go horse riding, play golf on one of the country’s best courses and “take water” in the natural hot mineral springs, all in one day.
Now the Virginia icon is ready to welcome the new generation. This October, the resort concluded its multi-year, $150 million renovation, which included all 483 guest rooms, the historic Warm Springs pools, 72,000 square feet of meeting space and ballrooms, as well as on-site bars and restaurants. Residence. A brand new 4,000 square foot event pavilion has also been added.
This project was a creative challenge for design firm Wimberly Interiors. “This is a multi-generational resort, and there is a lot of family history here, so it was important for us to not change how people feel about the property, but to help elevate it so it can continue for another 100 years,” said Leanna Hawes, creative director. For Wimberly Interiors, for T+L.
The goal was to showcase the history of the property, but to make it feel like a residence rather than a museum. To that end, the common spaces feature a carefully selected collection of archival objects, such as vintage skates, or a movie projector that was used in the 1920s theater (which was also part of the renovation).
During my visit this fall, I found one of the most striking visual moments to be the sprawling, colorful carpet in the Great Hall, which took nearly three years to design, according to Hawes Young. “The distinctive flowers, plants, birds and insects are all specific to Virginia,” she said.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Omni Homestead Resort and its recent renovation.
The Homestead’s 483 guest rooms have been completely renovated in elegant Southern design. Each suite at the resort features a distinct color palette (pink, blue, lavender, green) that extends from the hallways to the rooms.
I stayed in an Executive Suite (blue) that had a spacious living room, including a fireplace and multiple closets, which would be perfect for a family. Some suites also have balconies.
Against the clean, neutral aesthetic of the furniture, the dark pink Shumacher Pyne Hollyhock bed skirts and curtains definitely popped in my room and added a touch of whimsy.
The resort also features five President’s Suites, designed to reflect the tastes of the former US president after whom the room is named (Madison, McKinley, Taft, Wilson, and Eisenhower). Each 1,500-square-foot suite features a foyer and living room area, two master bedrooms, and two bathrooms with bathtubs.
Regarding accessibility, some guest rooms are ADA compliant, and all guest rooms and suites have Braille room number signs. There is ADA access from the front porch for those entering the hotel, and all pools have chair lifts, as well as the women’s pool at Warm Springs Pools, which has ADA access.
Food and drink
With so many restaurants, you’ll never be far from a good meal in Homestead. I appreciate the convenience of having coffee and donuts at Martha’s Market (a casual spot adjacent to the Washington Library) in the morning before heading out for the day’s activities and grabbing a casual lunch at Jefferson’s Taproom.
For drinks, head to the Presidential Lounge and Lobby Bar – the atmosphere is sophisticated and club-like, perfect for getting old-fashioned and admiring photos of the presidents who have stayed at the resort. Be aware that some restaurants, such as the American Audubon Dining Room, have a dress code.
Experience and facilities
No matter the season, Homestead has plenty of activities to keep you busy. There are two 18-hole golf courses, four tennis courts, a falconry center, ax throwing, fishing and kayaking trips, a zip line, lawn games, a small water park with a lazy river, water slides, and a family pool (an adults-only pool is also available) .
One of the most popular offerings is a guided hike to Cascades Gorge, a stunning waterfall on the Homestead’s private land, but the property is also just a short drive from the George Washington & Jefferson National Forest. In winter, guests can ski, snowboard and snowboard. There is also a wonderful indoor theater dating back to around the 1920s for movie nights.
During my stay, I visited the equestrian center and enjoyed a short ride on a cute mare named Shadow. It was a great way to get to know the land, as we walked through the forest, which was full of fallen leaves,
I also went to the shooting club to try my hand at clay shooting. My guide, Travis, patiently explained safety procedures and showed our group how to move through the trail that took us to eight different stops in the forest.
Spa and hot spring pools
If you’re looking for relaxation, look no further than the waters that first brought people to the area. More than 15 minerals (including calcium, sulfur, and magnesium) are found in natural springs, and pool temperatures generally reach about 98 degrees Fahrenheit.
The original stone tub used for bathing was built in 1761, making it America’s first spa structure. At this time, the bathrooms were open and intended for men only. (A second building for women was built in the 1870s.)
Today, after a recent renovation that preserved the historic structure, while upgrading materials, Warm Springs Baths are an unmissable part of the Homestead experience. Reservations are required for the 50-minute shower, and there are family soak times, as well as mixed adult times. (Gender-separated bathrooms are also available in the gentlemen’s and women’s bathrooms.)
In addition to the Warm Springs pools, the resort also features the adults-only Serenity Garden, which has its own mineral pools, a massage path, and an infinity pool. Spa services, such as massages and facials, are also available.
The Homestead is a place that families return to year after year, and it has a strong sense of community — manager Anthony, who also offers short historical tours of the main building, told my group that four generations of his family have worked at the Omni (he even threw a big concert at one dance halls).
It is this atmosphere of familiarity that gives the property a sense of home, and makes families feel particularly welcome. While there is a kids club for those ages 5 to 10, with craft workshops, treasure hunts, pizza making, and more, parents can also feel comfortable bringing their kids around the resort.
There are also age-appropriate movie nights, shown in the theater at 7 p.m., and during the winter holidays, special features, such as a six-foot-tall gingerbread house and cookie decorating for the little ones.
Omni Homestead Resort is located in the Allegheny Mountains in Hot Springs, Virginia. The nearest commercial airport is Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport, about a two-hour drive from the resort. Private air service is available at Ingalls Field Airport, about a 20-minute drive from the Homestead.
Find the best value
Although the property is great year-round, consider traveling during peak season to find a better deal. Traditional rooms with a king bed start at $399.