Author: Jeff and Stephanie Sylva
Tags : West Virginia
This historic resort pleases the fussiest family member with the same style it caters to dignitaries and celebrities.
Are kids and a famous, award-winning resort mutually exclusive? Not necessarily. Does a resort that has entertained numerous presidents and dignitaries make a good choice for a family vacation? It can, if the resort is The Greenbrier in West Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains, and you want to treat yourself and your family to a wonderful stay at one of the finest resorts in the world.
This National Historic Landmark is steeped in history dating back to the building of the Grand Central Hotel (commonly known as The Old White Hotel) in 1858, which housed visitors coming for the “healing waters” of the area’s sulphur springs. As many as 26 presidents and countless royalty, business leaders, politicians and celebrities have been guests and indeed, The Greenbrier has garnered an amazing collection of hospitality awards.
We spent three activity-filled days in the spring of 2007 at The Greenbrier, enjoying hiking a number of trails on the resort’s 6,500 acres, a carriage ride, historical tours of the grounds and the interior, some spa treatments, a presentation of the hotel’s intriguing Cold War bunker, an off-road driving lesson, and plenty of great meals. Because our 19-year-old daughter was off at college, we weren’t able to experience these activities with her; we know that she would have enjoyed most of them.
A Myriad of Outdoor Activities
Many of the outdoor activities, including horseback riding, are geared to adults and older children. If golf is your family’s choice, The Greenbrier offers an afternoon family golf package. From the history of its three courses to the immaculate attention to grooming, this resort takes great pride in its golf facilities. Younger children can enjoy pony rides, the pools and a supervised activities program.
An unusual activity that kids of all ages love is falconry. Yes, this is a bit different than arts ‘n’ crafts, but we saw kids enthralled when these majestic birds actually landed on their glove-protected hands. Beginner and intermediate falconry lessons are available.
Another unique activity for your older ones is the Greenbrier Gun Club, which has four combination trap and skeet fields and a 10-station sporting clay course. We didn’t do any shooting, but we did take a tour of the course through the woods on a golf cart and we very impressed. Children as young as 12 can enroll in the air rifle course, and 15- and 16-year-olds can take private lessons. These are not your routine resort activities, but they do reflect the exclusive nature of The Greenbrier.
Some of the 50 recreational activities available both on the resort and off are the Alpine Climbing Tower, croquet on a professional lawn course, fishing, mountain biking, kayaking, and whitewater rafting, and just plain swimming in the beautiful outdoor pool. Kate’s Mountain Outfitters and Greenbrier Outfitters, both on property, can help you plan these activities.
Indoor Fun Year-round
If the kids like more indoor activities, there are plenty of choices, such as swimming in the historic indoor pool. Adjacent to this pool is the bowling facility, with eight lanes, two billiard tables, table tennis, and electronic games. Complimentary movies are shown each night. There are five indoor tennis courts in addition to the five outdoor ones.
Or for some quieter moments, there is a variety of board games that the family can play together in the Main Lobby.
Noteworthy Style In Décor & Service
The Greenbrier's Future?
We admired the $50 million renovation project completed in April 2007, which added even more luster to the resort's facilities and gave it a firm foundation for a long and prosperous future. However, we heard the continuing labor disputes in 2008 by long-time resort staff caused some interruptions in the usually excellent service. And as the troubling economic picture of 2009 emerges, it seems that resort owners CSX Group may be putting the property up for sale. A January 2009 announcement that nearly 50% of the workforce is being let go due to poor occupancy levels left us feeling very sad, though one could say that the staff that remains will be as superb as ever.