The Omni Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia has been on our must visit list for years and last week we were able to enjoy a few days at one of the most beautiful and relaxing resorts we have ever had the privilege of visiting. Located three and half hours southwest of Washington D.C. , the Omni Homestead is one of America’s first resorts, opening in 1766. Over the past 250+ years, The Homestead has welcomed 23 of the 46 U.S. Presidents, hundreds of dignitaries from around the world, and generations of families who visit each year to unplug, relax, and enjoy the beauty of the Hot Springs.
A brief history of The Homestead: The construction of the first Gentleman’s Bathhouse began in 1761, the first spa structure in America. Captain Thomas Bullitt received 300 acres of land on which the Bathhouse was built for his service in the French and Indian War. He brought his militia and their families to the area in the 1760s to build a lodge for guests who sought a cure for ailments from the rejuvenating waters filled with sulfur, iron, and magnesium. The hotel was called The Homestead to honor the Homesteaders who built the hotel and bathhouses. Thomas Jefferson, who lived (arguably) close by at his Monticello estate, visited for almost a month in 1818 to enjoy the hot springs. In 1832 Dr. Goode purchased the hotel from the Bullitt family and opened an even larger lodge for guests who wanted a longer stay in both Hot Springs and nearby Warm Springs and Healing Springs; when the C&O Railroad added a nearby branch in 1892, the hotel became more easily accessible and guests from around the country began visiting. Later, the Ingalls family bought the resort in the mid 1910s, followed by two corporations in the late 1900s and early 2000s, until the resort joined the Omni Collection of resorts in 2013. Over its history, the hotel was used as a Confederate hospital during the Civil War and a finishing school for girls and has only closed during the Civil War, World War II, and during the COVID19 pandemic.
In addition to the hot springs, The Homestead is known for its golf courses. The Old Course, the 1892 golf course, is home to the “first tee”, the oldest tee still in continuous use in America. The resort added the 18 hole Cascades Golf Course in 1924. A 1901 fire destroyed the original hotel, but the casino (used as clubhouse for outdoor sports) and the hot springs spa survived as they were separate buildings. The hotel was rebuilt the following year and has seen numerous additions and renovations over the years, including the famous copper tower in 1929. Today, guests can walk through the same Great Hall that was part of the 1903 rebuild. There are dozens of daily activities, tailored to each season, wonderful friendly and attentive staff, world class dining and shopping, and seemingly endless ways to spend time reconnecting with family and friends.
Special notes about The Homestead:
- The Homestead is open year round and offers a wide variety of special events and activities each season- check out seasonal weekends and traditions here.
- The Homestead publishes a weekly resort guide with up to date information on activities, programs, and hours for dining and shopping- find the guide here.
- Special events like concerts, wine dinners, and festivals can be found on the calendar here. Wine weekends are especially popular.
- Make sure to attend the daily Social Hour (from 3pm-4pm) which includes special treats, drinks, and live piano music played on a 1926 Steinway piano.
- Good resort maps for The Homestead can be found here and here.
- The Homestead is valet parking only.
Accommodations: The resort has over 480 rooms with feather beds, luxurious linens, mini fridges and coffee makers, wifi and on demand cable and movies; some rooms have fireplaces and private porches. Guest room options include traditional, deluxe, premier, and suites that increase in size and space, with suites offering multiple bedrooms and bathrooms.
- The Main Dining Room is open for a breakfast buffet every day and dinner buffet on the weekend. This is the fanciest option on the property with a beautiful, open space and views of the back lawn.
- Jefferson’s Restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner, and offers “modern American” food. Both indoor and seasonal outdoor seating overlooking the back lawn.
- Jefferson’s Taproom is open for lunch and dinner, offering more casual pub-style dining, a kids menu, a long bar, and large televisions. Both indoor and seasonal outdoor seating. No reservations accepted.
- Martha’s Market has the most flexible schedule, open from 6:30am-9pm. The take out spot offers snacks and homemade pastries; drinks; prepared pizzas, salads, and sandwiches; and a variety of ice cream flavors. There is plenty of indoor seating in the adjacent Washington Library and a few tables adjacent to the front porch.
- The Allegheny Springs Poolside Cafe offers great snacks, lunch options (shrimp tacos were our favorite) and drinks, and a kids menu. There is an indoor bar and a few tables and chairs if you don’t want to eat by your lounge chairs.
- Other options geared towards adults include Kober’s at the Mountain Lodge, open during the winter ski season, Rubino’s at the Cascade golf course open for breakfast and lunch Thursday through Sunday, the Lobby Bar, and the Wine Experience Room for drinks.
15 Ways for Families to Enjoy the Homestead During the Summer:
- Play golf. For the more experienced golfer, follow in the footsteps of former Presidents William Howard Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush and play on either the Old Course or The Cascades, both 18 hole, award winning courses. Both courses have clubhouses and driving ranges. Novice players and families will enjoy the 18 hole miniature golf course, located behind the Allegheny Springs. **
- Get wet! Guests of the Homestead have access to Allegheny Springs, a two acre water park with separate swimming pool (3-5 ft deep), large hot tub, a 400 foot lazy river, two water slides, a splash pad (and sandy beach!) and plenty of lounge chairs and deck chairs to spread out. Allegheny Springs is open year round for the pool and hot tub. The lazy river, water slides, and splash pad are open from May to September with generous hours from 9am-7pm. There’s also an indoor pool, built in 1904 and fed by the natural springs on the property. Guests ages 18+ should definitely check out the Serenity Garden (more info below).
- Compete on the back lawn. Lawn games, including corn hole, croquet, and bad mitten, are available all day and into the evening. Guests can also enjoy s’mores by the nearby fire pit and purchase s’mores kits or join the S’mores Express tractor driven wagon for an afternoon adventure.
- Giddy up! The Homestead is home to over 20 horses who live at the Equestrian Center and spend a lot of time grazing in the resort’s fields. The Equestrian Center offers 30-60 minute guided trail rides, family carriage rides, tours of the center, and even an hour long “Horse Camp” for kids. The Equestrian Center is closed on Tuesdays. **
- Hike or bike throughout the resort’s acre property. Bikes are available free of charge or guests can join a guided e-bike tour. Guided three mile hikes to Cascades Gorge are offered each day.** There are also six hiking trails, ranging in difficulty and length from one mile to six miles, throughout the resort property that guests can explore independently- see the trail map here.
- Watch a movie in the Historic Theater (while currently being renovated until fall 2023, screening locations change daily) shown nightly. Check the weekly guide for programming and location.
- Peek down into the wells of several hot springs through the resort property. Several natural mineral springs, containing warm sulphur water, are located in wells throughout the resort and are protected by small gazebos.
- Fly through the trees at the Ridge Runner Zip Lining Canopy Course, which offers two courses for a variety of experience levels and starts at the Mountain Lodge. **
- Try a new activity like tennis, ax-throwing, fishing, kayaking, or falconry. There are four Har-Tru tennis courts located adjacent to the miniature golf course. Ninety minute ax-throwing lessons are available for kids ages 12 and older. More experienced fishermen can check out the Orvis Fly Fishing School and various programs. Kids wanting to try to catch and release trout can head to the spring-fed Trout Pond near the mini golf course where rods and bait are available. Beginner falconry lessons are offered at the Falconry Center near the Equestrian Center. The whole family can kayak or canoe on the Jackson River with a 2-3 hour clinic that includes a scenic ride. **
- Check out the Adventure Kids program, geared towards children ages 5-12. There are daytime and evening sessions that include crafts, games, indoor and outdoor adventures and meals and snacks. There’s also a large, outdoor playground for kids to enjoy.
- Unwind with table games (like chess, checkers, and Connect 4), puzzles, and pool in the Washington Library (on the main floor next to Martha’s Market) and the South Parlor and Garden Wing promenade on the lower level. The front porch, with numerous rocking chairs and seating areas with fireplaces, is also a great spot to unwind and enjoy the scenery. Bonus: Sit on the front porch in late afternoon and early evening and you can listen to the live piano music, played on an original 1926 Steinway piano.
- Head downstairs (entrance by Jefferson’s Tavern) to the Downtown Game Room, which has a pool table, mini bowling alley, air hockey, and several arcade games.
- Learn about the history of the resort in the Jefferson Room, with several hand painted panels that visually tell the story of the Homestead and Hot springs area. Take a daily tour of the resort from one of the resort historians and learn even more about the history of the resort.
- Soak in the Warm Springs Pools, located 10 minutes from the main resort campus. The resort recently restored the 1762 octagonal stone basin, fed by four natural warm springs which maintains a consistent temperature year round and offers many medicinal benefits from the 15 minerals found in the springs. The bath houses are open Tuesday through Sunday and have special Family Soak Hours.
- Go shopping. The resort has a variety of themed boutiques adjacent to the Great Hall- everything from apparel, housewares, and gifts. Kids will surely love the Hobby Horse and Maybelle’s Candy Shop. During the summer, stores are open 8am-7pm (until 9pm on weekends)- check hours on the weekly Resort Guide.
** Additional fees apply
Additional Activities that Adults Will Enjoy:
- The Serenity Garden includes indoor and outdoor pools, a geothermal pool fed by hot springs (open year round and always a temperature of 97 degrees!), outdoor hot tub, Garden Cafe, gift shop, Fitness Center, an Aqua Thermal Suite (with Experimental Shower, Herbal Cocoon, Thermal Heated Lounges, and Aromatic Steam), full service nail and hair salon, body treatment suites, and luxurious lockers rooms.
- The Virginia Wine Experience is located near the main Dining Room and across from the Wine Parlor. There are several wine flight options showcasing the wines from Virginia vineyards, with a profile of a different vineyard each month. There are monthly wine weekends, seminars, and special events- check here for up to date schedules.
Special thanks to the Omni Homestead, who gifted us the experiences of a carriage ride and access to the Serenity Garden during our stay. All opinions expressed are my own.