I love the history of this resort. It began in the 1700s as a place where people came to follow local Native American traditions of "taking the waters" using the springs of sulphur water. Years later, (some of which are supposedly still there today) cottages were sold, and a hotel was built on the property in 1858. It belonged to each the Confederate Army and the Union Army during the Civil War, reopened again as a resort, used as an army hospital during World War II, again reopened as a resort when it was then redecorated by Dorothy Draper. Apparently, it was a depressing time after the war and she wanted to change it with bright colors and mixing patterns (and 45,000 yards of fabric, 15,000 rolls of wallpaper and 40,000 gallons of paint). After nearly a hundred years and a bankruptcy, the CSX Corporation sold the resort to a local entrepreneur for an allegedly and measly $15 million (and a promise to pay off its $500 million debt with revitalization plans, a new casino and special events). If the Kellerman's Resort from Dirty Dancing and Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory conceived a baby on an LSD trip, then the Greenbrier would be that baby.
The first time I went to the Greenbrier, I had tagged along with my boyfriend on his work trip. (I tend to do that a lot. He loves it.) Located in, what is seemingly the middle of nowhere, West Virginia, it can be reached by car or even train. The place sprawls thousands of acres and I have yet to enjoy all of the amenities/activities. Hiking, off-road driving adventures, indoor and outdoor pools, bowling, gambling, arcade room, falconry, horseback riding, ice skating in the winter, restaurants and cafes, shopping, golfing, a spa, tennis matches, paintball, laser-tag, hunting, archery, fishing, canopy tours, glass-blowing, theater, fitness classes, afternoon tea time, and of course, the not-so-secret bunker tours. It really is endless.
It's easy to get lost in. One of my favorite things to do there is to just walk from room to room - admiring the colors, the decorations, the art, and the seating. Really. It's like this place was made for people to sit down, read, work, relax, and have conversations. Around every corner is another place to sit and enjoy; always different, and always with a bit of history behind it. There's even a wood-burning fireplace in the front lobby nearly large enough to stand in.
- Enjoy a delicious steak and cornbread at Prime 44 West.
- There are buffet options in the Main Dining Room.
- I lost count of how many restaurants and food options they had.
- After one of our meals, they sat a dish with hot water in it. It's a finger bowl, to clean your hands between meals. Ah, got it?
- With seven bars or lounges, I'm sure you'll be quite fine.
- There are a lot of rooms, suites, and cottages to choose from. At one time or another, I've stayed in each. They're all fabulously decorated. Price range can go quite high, but there are very reasonable specials and deals throughout the year.
- Relax. The staff was always friendly, the place is kept clean, and it has a history of prominent and famous visitors. So enjoy it.
- Know that you will not get to do everything. But hey, you gotta save some things for your next trip, right?
- Sign up for the bunker tour and a history tour. You'll get to walk through some areas of the bunker (some are still off-limits as it is a vault for documents). A history tour will teach you where some of the art pieces came from. That oriental screen you see in one of the rooms? It was the most expensive piece purchased in the entire resort.
- Check out the bathrooms. Seriously. They're scattered all over, of course, and each one is a different theme. You'll feel like royalty peeing in such refined areas.
- There is a dress code. Check their website for up-to-date info. No denim allowed in some areas, jacket and tie required in others. It seems snooty at first, but it's honestly not that big of a deal. Just go with it.
- A lot of those activities cost money, so be prepared and save up beforehand. Pace yourself in the casino.
- With everything in one massive place and endless nooks, you'll see how easy it is for you and your partner to have a couple of drinks and, uh, wander off alone..
- There is a historical fee tacked onto everything you purchase. You'll feel nickel-and-dimed, so just go in prepared to spend extra. The money goes toward preserving the place and grounds.
- The room outside the bunker was designed to be ugly and deter people from hanging around. The bad lighting, the awful wallpaper, the uncomfortable seating. It was all on purpose. Anything to keep people from finding the hidden entrance. Because who sticks a bunker in a mountain resort?
- If you begin to crave real life, there is a quaint town just outside the grounds. They have pizza.