Last month, I crossed an item off my travel bucket list with a weekend visit to one of the most historical and majestic resorts in America, the Greenbrier Resort. Usually in the heart of the winter, it’s hard to imagine a resort getaway to the mountains of White Sulphur Springs, WV, but it’s nice to think outside the box and realize that great getaways don’t always have to be a plane ride away.
With the help of a comfortable door-to-door Amtrak ride, getting to the Greenbrier was easier than ever (in fact, the White Sulphur Springs Amtrak station exists solely for the Greenbrier).The History
The Greenbrier Resort is an incredible property in the heart of America that you can only truly understand (example: the decor) by visiting and learning about how everything pieced together over the centuries. There’s so much history at this resort that there’s even have an in-house historian, Dr. Robert Conte, who offers a free daily history presentation in the theater. Since opening in 1778, a total of 26 Presidents have stayed on the property, as well as countless Hollywood iconic names.
The Greenbrier is also the site of a humungous underground bunker that was intended to serve as an emergency shelter for the United States Congress during the Cold War (known as “Project Greek Island”). The underground bunker was a secret community ready to be occupied at moment’s notice (but never was) and was only exposed to the public in 1992.
As someone who is the least bit of an American history buff, I have to say that the tour of the bunker was one of the most incredible things I’ve seen. I HIGHLY recommend taking a tour during your visit. Note: phones or electronic devices are not allowed whatsoever, so I couldn’t take any pictures, but I can assure you that when you see the bunker in person yourself, you’ll be amazed. Reservations are required; $34 pp.
The decor by Dorothy Draper definitely is a bit “busy”, but everything goes together in a way (just like Betsey Johnson), and that’s what makes it so special. Some components of the resort reminded me of Alice and Wonderland, while the next corner felt like Lily Pulitzer’s playground (especially by the pool and spa, which you’ll see further below).
To sum it up in a sentence, there were moments where I felt like I took a time machine and arrived at the most elegant ball in American history. There are so many beautiful chandeliers, and everything is big and open; hallways go on for days…The Service & Attention to Detail
The Greenbrier is hands down one of the most elegant and charming properties I’ve visited. When I say elegant, I’m referring to top-notch service inside out in a classy and proper environment. For centuries, the resort has been a self-sufficient kingdom of its own with virtually everything crafted in-house. Even the little things (like the turn-down chocolates on the pillow) are made on the resort grounds.
It’s also incredible that the staff pays attention to the small details of your preferences. On the second day at breakfast, the waiter remembered that I had ordered a cappuccino and freshly-squeezed orange juice as my beverages from the morning before, and without even asking me what I’d like to drink, he said, “Ms. Aucello, I’ll have your cappuccino with skim milk and orange juice out right away”. It’s the little things.
I also loved that there was a dress code for the resort, especially in the casino and main dining room where jackets and cocktail dresses were expected. There’s something to be said about dressing up once in a while when most people have adapted to a more laid-back and relaxed lifestyle while traveling.
The food at the Greenbrier is spectacular to say the least. I highly recommend dinner at Prime 44 West. Everything from the homemade cornbread to the filet mignon trio was to die for. I’d also suggest dining in the Main Dining Room for at least one night, especially if you’re traveling as a couple or celebrating a special occasion. With everyone dressed up to the 9s, I felt like I was dining onboard the Titanic in first class.
The breakfast buffet at the Greenbrier was easily in the top 3 of the best hotel breakfasts I’ve had (#1 is still the Andaz Maui at Wailea). The selection is endless, and you have to try the signature Greenbrier peaches (you’ll have to order them by request, but it’s included in the price of the breakfast buffet).
There’s nothing better than relaxing in a spa during the middle of the winter. It’s been many months since my last facial, so I was especially excited for the treatment. The Greenbrier spa is absolutely stunning, and it’s a great way to spend a day indoors.
I have a love-hate relationship with facials to begin with. I love giving my skin TLC, but I hate the painful extractions. Here’s where the Greenbrier does it right: as my facialist was steaming my face to open my pores, she skillfully proceeded to give me a hot-stone massage on my arms and hands. The stones were then placed in my palms to hold. Somehow with that little touch, I didn’t seem to mind the extractions so much – because I had something nice to hold instead of clenching my fists! At night, I especially loved the casino! I am a sucker for casinos and blackjack to begin with, but I loved that the Greenbrier casino was lively (and gorgeous), and the crowd is limited to resort guests only. What I really enjoyed most was leaving a few hundred dollars richer and mingling with the other guests. There’s also a complimentary nightly champagne toast at 10 pm, along with live music.
Costs can add up quickly if you’re not mindful. For instance, I am not a fan of resort fees to begin with, and the Greenbrier charges a fee of $39 per night (and a historic preservation fund tax of 6.5% as well). Granted the resort fee covers a lot of extras (such as morning coffee, afternoon tea, use of ice rink, nightly entertainment, history tours, wifi, and many other things), it still something to keep in mind.
A great way to keep the costs down in other ways is to book a room during a promotion ($99 nights). There’s also a neat Amtrak Vacations package to the Greenbrier. 3 days/2 nights (and 2 breakfasts) – From $359
If it wasn’t for learning about Amtrak’s convenient door-to-door service to The Greenbrier (literally), I probably would have never actually had a chance to visit for a while. The closest airport to The Greenbrier is Lewisburg (LWB), and let’s just say that it’s NOT exactly cheap to fly there being that it’s a very small airport. An 8-hour drive from New York is tiresome, so I am glad I was able to get there seamlessly with Amtrak
Once at the Greenbrier, there’s so much to do for every age group and virtually all interests. Since I was only there for 2 nights, I didn’t get to fully experience all of the activities that the resort had to offer (plus, it was cold, so I remained indoors). I’d definitely return again in the warmer months with my family.
Have you had a chance to visit the Greenbrier Resort? If so, feel free to share your thoughts and experiences!
*In full disclosure, my stay at The Greenbrier Resort was comped. All opinions and stories are my own, of course.