Apple pie. Blue jeans. Football. Whether you lean red, blue or purple, these are still a few things that no one will deny are quintessentially and unequivocally American. Another is West Virginia’s The Greenbrier, a meticulously maintained property that, over its 238-year existence, has become better known by its nickname: America’s Resort.
On the site of a sulfur water spring that’s drawn wellness-seekers since 1778, The Greenbrier, which first opened as hotel in 1858, has to date welcomed 26 U.S. Presidents. Over the years, the resort has grown to include accommodations that range from private estate homes to quaint cottages, five golf courses, up to 20 eateries and cocktail lounges (depending on the time of year you check-in), two spas, an internationally-recognized health clinic, and the country’s only private casino. In a nation built upon the principle of an individual’s right to choose, it could be argued no other grand resort upholds this philosophy as strongly as The Greenbrier.
That’s one reason why it’s earned a place among those few resorts that inspire even the savviest of travelers to say, “you could leave, but why would you ever want to?” After all, the only thing more American than having a choice is choosing to do it all. Here, our guide to a perfect weekend at the Mountain State’s singular escape.
Friday evening: How better to kick-off your stay than with a cocktail? We suggest retreating to the handsome upstairs lobby bar for two reasons. One: to watch the comings and goings of elegant fellow visitors passing through the adjacent upper lobby. Two: because you won’t get a better mint julep (the cocktail was invented on the premises in the late 1830s).
Saturday morning: Because no hotel stay is complete without breakfast in bed (and because every bedroom is adorned with pillow top mattresses), sleep in and take advantage of any number of The Greenbrier’s in-room “signature” morning fare, which ranges from sweet (Tiramisu French Toast) to savory (Traditional Slow Cooked Corn Beef Hash).
Saturday afternoon: With five unique courses (and a sixth, designed by a quartet of legendary sportsmen who include Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, on the way), it’s easy to see why golf is a big draw for new and returning Greenbrier guests alike. Overseen by golf professional emeritus Lee Trevino (who spends his entire summers on the property), hitting one of the resort’s many links is a must-do for any guest.
Saturday evening: Hobnob with the lucky few—resort guests and members only—allowed entry to The Casino Club, the property’s recently refurbished 100,000-square-foot gaming mecca. The post-7pm “dinner jacket required” policy for men harkens back to a more elegant era, before hoodies became boardroom appropriate. Upping the elegance factor is the casino’s regular 10pm champagne toast, during which, glasses of complimentary bubbly are clinked to good health while The Greenbrier entertainers perform a ceremonial rendition of The Greenbrier waltz.
Sunday morning: Cleanse any lingering toxins with a rejuvenating treatment at the property’s natural mineral spring-fed spa, where patrons have come to “take the waters” for more than 230 years. Its menu includes standard services like massages and facials in addition to treatments like hydrotherapy and spray tanning. And while we might not recommend it as part of a 36-hour tour, those looking for a more lasting fix should visit MedSpa, where a range of cosmetic enhancements can be performed by The Greenbrier’s resident plastic surgeon.
Sunday afternoon: No visit is complete without a tour of the resort’s top secret, Cold War-era underground relocation bunker. First reported on by the Washington Post in 1992, the secret facility was built in the late 1950s as a safe house for government officials in the event of an attack on nearby Washington, D.C. For more than 30 years, the 100,000-square-foot facility was kept at a constant state of readiness for high-profile bureaucrats; now, it receives equally distinguished Greenbrier guests daily for its can’t-miss 90 minute guided tours.