West Virginia Resorts
From whitewater adventure to a day at the spa, visit four Mountain State getaway spots.
Historic Journey: The Greenbrier
Since it’s located along a rail line from Washington, D.C., it’s easy to see why The Greenbrier is billed as “America’s Resort.” But it also has a bit of a covert past that visitors can explore.
In 1961, the resort, which covers 11,000 acres in White Sulphur Springs, became the cover for a more than 112,000-square-foot underground bunker designed as a safe haven for Congress in the event of an attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“It was big enough to house 1,100 people. The support personnel for Congress would have been down here, too,” says Bob Conte, the resort’s historian. “They would continue to function as the legislative branch of the government.”
Following a Washington Post article in 1992, the bunker was shut down, although it remains a visitor favorite. But that’s just a sliver of what The Greenbrier has to offer, including swimming, tennis, bowling and even paintball. There are four golf courses on the grounds (golf legend Sam Snead worked with the resort for 50 years), as well as family activities and a casino.
Surrounded by the Allegheny Mountains, The Greenbrier has 710 rooms, including 33 suites and 96 guest and estate homes. The renowned property has hosted 26 U.S. presidents over the years, dating back to its earliest days as a wellness retreat. A sulfur spring runs beneath the property that visitors once sought out for the purported restorative properties of the minerals in the water. Spa services are still available today, although Conte says they’ve been updated for the times.
“You can still bathe in the mineral water,” he adds, “although we do not claim it’s going to cure your rheumatism.” 300 W. Main St., White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia 24986, 855/453-4858, greenbrier.com
Hilltop Retreat: Oglebay Resort
The land Oglebay Resort calls home was left to the city of Wheeling following the death of Earl Oglebay in 1926. The gift was made with the intention that the property serve as a public education and recreation resource, and it’s been just that for decades now.
“Nature and education have always been at our core, and the first nature walk [here] dates back to 1926,” says Eriks Janelsins, president of the Oglebay Foundation, which manages Oglebay’s philanthropic funds.
Today the park is a 1,700-acre, year-round destination with the 257-room Wilson Lodge, an on-site spa and four golf courses, including one designed by Arnold Palmer. Overnight options range from traditional cabins to hotel rooms to posh suites and cottages with wood-burning fireplaces.
“We’re a public park, and people coming to stay here and enjoy this experience are helping invest in the future of the park,” explains Janelsins. Proceeds from paid services at the resort, as well as philanthropic contributions, account for nearly all of the park’s funding. “It’s part of our business model that the resort and the park work together that way,” he adds.
Oglebay also gives a nod to its rural roots (Earl Oglebay studied farming and raised Guernsey cows on the property) with a zoo, nature center, manicured gardens and both bridle and paved walking trails. But one of Oglebay Resort’s biggest draws arrives each November. Three hundred acres of the resort are part of the nationally recognized Festival of Lights, during which visitors can enjoy more than 80 illuminated displays along a 6-mile drive through the property. 465 Lodge Dr., Wheeling, West Virginia 26003, 304/243-4000, oglebay-resort.com
State Park Getaway: Stonewall Resort
For all its solitude — perched on a lake and surrounded by nearly 20,000 acres of forest — Stonewall Resort is remarkably accessible. Part of Stonewall Resort State Park, the destination is the result of an unusual public-private partnership struck more than a decade ago.
Originally purchased by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build a dam for flood control, the land was later leased to the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources. To generate funding for development within the preserve, private investors and a hospitality management company joined forces with the state agency, and in 2003, Stonewall Resort’s lodge opened its doors.
“It was very clear that this was to be a premier destination resort park in West Virginia,” says general manager Mike Hager. “[In] the long term, the property stays in the public domain. It always will.”
Stonewall Resort offers 191 rooms in its Lakeside Lodge, 11 private cottages on the grounds and plenty of pampering at the Mount Laurel Spa. It is also known for its Arnold Palmer Signature golf course. With some holes abutting the water and others taking players into the trees, the course treats guests to a challenge as well as great scenery.
“We’re consistently ranked No. 2 [in West Virginia],” says Hager, “and within the country, we’re always in the top 45 resort golf courses.”
There’s a 274-slip marina, as well as rental pontoons and fishing boats for sportsmen eager to try their hand at catching bass and muskie. Plus, 16 miles of hiking trails weave throughout the 2,000-acre grounds.
“It is upscale, but it is very much an outdoor experience,” says Hager. “More and more, that’s what our guests are asking for.” 940 Resort Dr., Roanoke, West Virginia 26447, 304/269-7400, stonewallresort.com
Outdoors Excursion: ACE Adventure Resort
The word “resort” is usually shorthand for pools, spa treatments and golf courses, but ACE Adventure Resort bends that perception with an exhilarating outdoorsman’s haven that spans 1,500 acres along the New River Gorge.
ACE Adventure Resort began in 1980 as a whitewater rafting company operating out of an old hotel before moving to the site of a former mine in Minden eight years later. Since then, the resort has blossomed into a destination for outdoor enthusiasts of all skill levels.
Visitors can schedule guided hiking and mountain-biking trips or saddle up for horseback riding, be it an all-day trek or a sunset trail ride. There’s also a nine-run zip line course that offers a new perspective on the gorge. Lodging ranges from tent and RV camping to deluxe chalets with air conditioning and hot tubs, and the three on-site restaurants offer a range of dining options, including a buffet that opens at 6:30 a.m.
When it comes to whitewater rafting, ACE Adventure Resort runs trips that offer Class I and II rapids for cautious first-timers, as well as excursions that have aggressive Class IV and V whitewater for more experienced paddlers.
“We’re running different trips every day,” says Steve Reid, a whitewater rafting guide with 12 of his 18 years of experience at ACE Adventure Resort. He adds that the resort offers more than 20 outings on the New and Gauley rivers. One of his favorite runs ends at a deck the resort built overlooking Sweet’s Falls, where spectators can watch serious adventure-seekers.
“The view alone is pretty amazing,” Reid says. “You’re watching people from all over the world dropping down waterfalls. You can almost smell the adrenaline.” 1 Concho Rd., Minden, West Virginia 25879, 304/469-2651, aceraft.com