Top 12 Weekend Getaways

Got cabin fever from being cooped up all winter? Check out our first round of great weekend getaways, and start planning your first spring trip!

By Deborah R. Huso

The Greenbrier

White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia

One of the signature features of southern West Virginia is the historic Greenbrier. Situated on 6,500 private mountain acres, The Greenbrier has played host to guests seeking the medicinal properties of its sulphur springs since the early 1800s. The Old White Hotel is the resort’s best-known structure, and it continues to feature the over-the-top Dorothy Draper décor of aqua blue walls, black carpet sporting a giant green leaf pattern, red and turquoise upholstered chairs with an occasional tropical print sofa thrown in, Oriental lamps in every color under the sun and glistening chandeliers.

The resort spa opened in 1913, its main features including hydrotherapy and mineral treatments based on the healing power of nature. Guests here can enjoy sulphur soaks followed by steam and sauna treatments. But the resort is also famous for its three mountain golf courses, which have been played by golfing greats like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer and is part of the PGA Tour.

The resort now features a casino, a new steakhouse known as Prime 44 West, as well as a variety of other on-site restaurants and lounges.

For more information, visit www.greenbrier.com.

Helvetia

West Virginia

Helvetia is about as far away from anywhere as one can get in the southern Appalachians, which makes it hard to fathom how a small group of Swiss and German settlers were able to carve out a community here in 1869, in a stretch of West Virginia which even today looks like pure wilderness. Today the town is home to about 20 people, but around 125 more live on the outskirts, all of them descendants of the first settlers.

Colorful signage directs visitors to the town’s main attractions, including the historic town square, where Helvetia’s one-room school, the library and a historical museum stand quietly along Upper Trout Run. Also in town is the Helvetia Country Store, Honey Haus and Blue House gift shop.

Quaint buildings like The Hutte beckon visitors to come inside and sit a spell with tables tucked here and there in a series of rooms filled with antiques from local residents. The Hutte serves up delectable lunch fare of roast beef, bratwurst, sauerbraten and luscious plates of Swiss cheese. Associated with the restaurant is the adjacent Beekeeper Inn.

Twelve miles south is Kumbrabow State Forest, West Virginia’s highest state forest with elevations ranging from 3,000 to nearly 4,000 feet. The forest offers more than 9,000 acres of isolated mountain playground as well as camping and rustic cabin facilities.

For more information, visit www.helvetiawv.com and www.kumbrabow.com.

Blennerhassett

Island Parkersburg, West Virginia

If you’re looking for a getaway a little closer to home, head to Parkersburg and pick up sternwheeler tickets at the Blennerhassett Museum to ride the Island Belle from Point Park to Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park. This island in the center of the Ohio River is home to the reconstructed 1800 Palladian style Blennerhassett Mansion, constructed by wealthy Anglo-Irish immigrants. Once one of the largest homes in America, it is the centerpiece attraction of the island.

Visitors here can also take horse-drawn carriage or wagon rides, rent a bicycle to ride around the scenic island, take a nature walk or bring a picnic to enjoy. The weekend of May 7-10, island visitors can experience Rendezvous on the River, a living history experience of traditional mountain men, or reserve a spot on a Sunrise Breakfast Cruise to the island.

After a day of island exploration, one can spend a romantic night at the historic Blennerhassett Hotel on Market Street with its luxurious guest rooms and suites in the center of historic downtown Parkersburg. Dining is available at the hotel’s Spats Restaurant and Lounge or at one of the restaurants or cafés on Market Street.

For more information, visit www.theblennerhassett.com and www.blennerhassettislandstatepark.com.

Keeneland

Lexington, Kentucky

Few things are lovelier than a spring drive through the bluegrass country of central Kentucky with its miles of board fences and bright green grass peppered with grazing horses. One can add a little thrill to this springtime road trip to the “Horse Capital of the World” with a visit to Keeneland, home to Thoroughbred horse racing since 1936. While visitors can take a tour of Keeneland anytime and watch colts and fillies schooled in the paddock, the best time to plan a visit is, of course, during April with its host of prep races for the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks.

Spend the night at the Gratz Park Inn in historic downtown Lexington. This small boutique inn in the heart of horse country is within walking distance of downtown attractions, restaurants and shops and is a great home base for touring the region’s bourbon distilleries. Suites at the Gratz Park Inn border on decadent with 19th-century antique and reproduction furnishings, lush linens and silk fabrics, and even Italian tile showers for two in some rooms. Top off this luxurious experience by sipping bourbon in the inn’s library or ordering a special picnic package for a sumptuous lunch in Gratz Park, including dessert and wine.

For more information, visit www.keeneland.com and www.gratzparkinn.com.

Cheat Mountain Club

Durbin, West Virginia

Situated alongside the Shavers Fork River in the midst of the Monongahela National Forest, the Cheat Mountain Club is the ideal retreat for a large family getaway or a gathering of friends. Originally built in 1887 by the Cheat Mountain Sportsman’s Association, the club is now open for rental to the general public. The rustic 10-bedroom lodge sleeps almost two dozen people and is available for full rental; an on-site cook prepares three meals each day. This is the place to truly retreat from the world – there is no television, no radio and no cell phone service.

During the day, guests here can fly fish, mountain bike, hike or horseback ride. Two miles of stocked trout river front the property, and the club maintains two stocked trout ponds in front of the lodge. One can also arrange for guided fly fishing trips. Nearby, guests can take excursions on the Durbin Greenbrier Valley Railroad or the Cass Scenic Railroad. Then in the evenings, families and friends can gather before the stone fireplace in the great room or at the fire pit alongside the river.

For more information, visit www.cheatmountainclub.com.

Stonewall Resort

Roanoke, West Virginia

If a weekend retreat means hitting the links while still getting away from it all, then Stonewall Resort on Stonewall Jackson Lake is the ideal getaway. Located just minutes from Stonewall Jackson State Park and largely surrounded by the Stonewall Jackson Lake Wildlife Management Area, the resort offers lodge rooms and cottages fronting the lake (rocking chairs included!) as well as an 18-hole Arnold Palmer Signature golf course surrounded by lake and mountain vistas. Stonewall is the only lakefront resort in the Mountain State.

On site are three restaurants, a full-service spa, an indoor/outdoor heated pool and a fitness center. Fishermen and women can rent pontoon or fishing boats and spend a morning exploring the lake’s quiet coves, and the marina will provide a boxed lunch to enjoy on the lake. One can also canoe, kayak or paddleboard or explore the 1,900-acre resort and adjacent state park via hiking and biking trails.

For more information, visit www.stonewallresort.com.

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