A Family Travel Forum family takes their SUV to Homestead Resort in Virginia for some wintertime fun, indoors and out!
We’re always amazed that people continue to visit resorts in what can best be described as the middle of nowhere. The Homestead, one of America’s beautiful grande dame resorts tucked in several thousand acres of Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains, seems so remote as to repel visitors. But instead it’s been attracting them since 1766, for good reason: there is much to do indoor and out, the staff is gracious and its buildings are luxurious, without the stuffiness that often invades established resorts.
To get there from our own Virginia home, we took back roads per MapQuest’s suggestion. Bad idea–the misguided, near one-lane, white-knuckle drive up switchbacks with no guardrails was funny only for our kids, who watched Mom freak out. Later we realized there are less direct but more comforting routes than this, including flights into Roanoke about 70 miles away.
Arriving in time for lunch, we grabbed the quick shuttle to the cozy Mountain Lodge, the hub of winter activities: outdoor grill and fireplace, deck with picnic tables, food service and circle hearth inside. Oh, yes–and skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, ice skating and snow tubing.
After fueling up on burgers and fries by the outdoor fireplace, we walked to the snow tubing hill ($20 for a guest staying at the hotel; must be 48 inches tall or accompanied by an adult). The resort requires reservations (call the morning of or the day before), so there’s never a big queue to get towed up the mountain for repeated rollicking trips down the icy slopes. We thoroughly enjoyed our two hours, which seemed to be the ideal amount of time for young and old alike.
On our way back to our lovely room we popped into the elegant main dining room to warm up with afternoon tea (from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.). We were welcomed despite our snow gear and enjoyed tea sandwiches and hot drinks, although our kids were not big on the food selection– perhaps if they served s’mores at a proper English tea?
That evening our kids enjoyed the Homestead’s Saturday evening “Kid’s Night Out.” They ordered off the kids’ menu, played games with the active counselors and made a cute dog tag necklace. Sounds simple, but it was very well supervised and our kids were impressed.
One afternoon the girls took advantage of the Spa Suite that allows guests 16 and under to enjoy some special spa treatments (in turn, ruining them for life). Maddy (age 11) adored the Fancy Feet pedicure ($40): a foot soak in a chocolate milk bath, proper sloughing and moisturizing with cookies and cream lotion, followed by a very sparkly, very pink polish application. Mom enjoyed the less dessert-oriented Herbal Pedicure ($65) and sharing the blissful hour with Maddy. The full service, adult-only spa, which is fed by hotsprings, is quite new and attractive and is considered one of the best on the East coast.
Boys, as they say, will be boys. While the girls were enjoying the spa, Dad and Jamie (9-years-old) hopped on a snowmobile for a wild, guided tour up and above the mountain resort ($45/half-hour per person; must have valid driver’s license, be 16-years-old, or accompanied by an adult). The trails led through mostly untamed woods and offered incredible vistas overlooking the Virginia and West Virginia mountains.
While Maddy and Jamie went ice skating with the well-run KidsClub ($35/per child/half-day with lunch) prior to our late afternoon departure, we had one more leisurely lunch at the resort’s Casino Club, followed by a stroll through the lovely boutiques off the main lobby. We found ourselves planning to stake our claim next spring in warmer weather to play croquet and golf.
Next time, we’ll make sure to pick the slower, less daunting route to this palace in the middle of nowhere.
For more information, go to www.thehomestead.com or call 866/658-5580. For 2006, the lowest winter rate is a Kids Stay and Ski Free deal at $119/N pp, based on weeknight double occupancy (up to 2 kids free per room), including daily breakfast and afternoon tea. Children 4 years and under are free year-round.
Kid’s Night Out, the cost of which ranges from $25-$35/child, is offered on Saturdays nights from 6:30pm until 10:30pm. Pre-registration is recommended.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.