What kind of resort do U.S. presidents visit? Well, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and 20 other U.S. presidents spent the night at The Homestead in Hot Springs, Va. The Greenbrier in West Virginia has hosted 26 presidents. Both these historic places, which date to the late 1700s, have been somewhat overshadowed in recent years by newer resorts. Yet these classic resorts can match their younger counterparts in fine dining, entertainment, golf, shopping and everything else you expect in a luxury experience. Here are five historic U.S. resorts well worth a visit, whether you’re just looking for a day tour, or a place to spend the weekend.
5. Mohonk Mountain House (New Paltz, N.Y.)
Founded in 1869 by Albert Smiley, this resort is still in the Smiley family. The picturesque natural setting is the big draw here. Located on a large bedrock ridge, the Victorian-style castle overlooks Lake Mohonk and adjoins the Mohonk Preserve, created by the Smiley family to protect the wild natural beauty of the area. The preserve features more than 85 miles of hiking trails and some of the best rock-climbing opportunities in the Northeast. If you’re more the indoors type, check out the large spa — voted the No. 1 resort spa in the United States by Condé Nast Traveler — or the award-winning wine list in the Carriage Lounge.
4. The Broadmoor (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Spencer Penrose and his wife, Julie, were enthusiastic world travelers. They had an ambitious vision when they built The Broadmoor: bring the same type of luxurious resort they had experienced in Europe and the Orient to the American West. Opened in 1918, The Broadmoor has been hailed for its Italian Renaissance design. Expanded significantly in the latter half of the century, the 3,000-acre resort is now a major convention site. It’s also a popular romantic getaway for residents in the Denver metro area and the rest of the Rockies’ Front Range. There are three golf courses in the Broadmoor Golf Club, and other outdoor activities include everything from mountain biking to whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River. The many dining options include Colorado’s only five-star, five-diamond restaurant, the Penrose Room. The Broadmoor also has more than two-dozen specialty retail shops.
3. The Wigwam (Litchfield Park, Ariz.)
This resort began life in 1918 as a corporate lodge for the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. It became so popular with executives that the company president expanded it into a resort in 1929. There’s much to like here besides the great weather in the Valley of the Sun. Start with three golf courses, two of them designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. The 26,000-square-foot spa is the No. 1-ranked Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa in the U.S. Finish the day off with dinner in The Wigwam’s signature restaurant, Litchfield’s, one of the best places to see and be seen in the Phoenix area.
2. The Omni Homestead Resort (Hot Springs, Va.)
There’s plenty of history at The Homestead, which began when Capt. Thomas Bullitt built a simple inn on the site in 1766. Capt. In those early years, the inn hosted George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, among others. But Capt. Bullitt could not have imagined what The Homestead has become 250 years later. Covering more than 2,000 acres, the resort is much more than the two hot springs from which the site takes its name. The two golf courses are historic — the Old Course lays claim to having the oldest first tee in America — and challenging. The oldest ski resort in Virginia can be found here. There are several different dining options for every taste.
1. The Greenbrier (White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.)
The Greenbrier traces its roots to 1778, when local settlers came to take a dip in the soothing sulphur water spring. After the iconic hotel (nicknamed “The Old White”) opened in 1858, the Greenbrier blossomed into one of the most famous resorts in the world. Twenty-six U.S. presidents have stayed here. Luckily, a president never had to stay under the Greenbrier; in the late 1950s, the U.S. government built a secret bunker beneath the Greenbrier to house top government officials after a nuclear strike. Tours of this bunker, as well as the Greenbrier’s immaculately landscaped grounds, are available for day guests. There are plenty of other activities on hand at this posh resort, from golf and horseback riding to, yes, visiting the world-famous spa that started it all back in 1778. There is also on-site gambling in The Casino Club.
If you love history, coupled with a resort-style experience, check out some of these historic sites listed by the Historic Hotels of America.