The Greenbrier: America’s Resort!
Rubber Meets the Road
As part of our effort to feature travel by car on this site, we packed up our Ford Explorer and made the 4-hour drive to an American Standard: The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, WV.
By Les & Anne Heintz
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A reader sent in a question recently asking for our definition of a “grand hotel.” Honestly, that’s harder to answer than it seems. But when it comes to The Greenbrier, the answer is easy.
The Greenbrier is a “grand hotel!” More importantly, this jewel embraces its history and keeps its eye on the future at the same time.
Here are the details.
The Greenbrier is a luxury mountain resort situated in the Allegheny Mountains in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. It is unique, spectacular and huge! There are 710 rooms spread over 11,000 acres. Most of those rooms, 528 of them, are in the central resort building. Another 128 are in Estate Homes and Legacy Cottages.
That’s a lot of people, especially right now. But the resort takes advantage of all those acres and does a good job at keeping people separated.
We arrived on a Monday and departed on Thursday morning. We’re told the occupancy was about 85% during our stay. On the weekends, it can easily be 100% full. Clearly, people want to travel and The Greenbrier is a logical destination for a lot of reasons.
Now a days, the first question always seems to be “how do I get there?”
Under normal circumstances the answer would sound like a Steve Martin movie: Planes, Trains & Automobiles! But nothing is normal right now and a car seems to be the preferred mode of transportation for many.
The Greenbrier is about a 4-hour drive from DC, Pittsburgh and Charlotte. Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Cleveland are all less than 6-hours away. People coming from NYC or Atlanta should expect about a 7-hour drive. If it seems too far you still can get non-stop flights from Chicago O’Hare and Washington Dulles on United.
We pulled up to the resort shortly before noon. We have to say that the arrival experience is very positive. The resort itself is impressive… even breath-taking. The people are warm, friendly and genuinely welcoming.
At the guard house, we fumbled for our masks and before we could get them on were handed masks and a small card with suggested safety protocols. Our temperatures were also checked. When we arrived at the main building, the bell staff greeted us with the kind of southern hospitality that was pretty much constant throughout our stay.
All staff wore masks and those handling credit cards or serving food used gloves. Sanitizing stations were present near dining facilities and elevators. Signs requesting guests to wear masks, social distance and the other seemingly “typical” common sense reminders during these unusual times were in public areas. They even have a sign outside of the elevators asking for people’s patience as they wanted only one person in the elevator at a time unless of course you were traveling as a family or in the same room with the other person.
There is something about the mountain air, wide open spaces and so much history that makes one think about the past through rose colored glasses. So many families have made memories here throughout the years. Anne’s extended family of 20+ used to celebrate Thanksgiving Wednesday to Sunday together. Her mom would pick a different place every year and off we would go! She twice broke her rule of trying something new. One was here at the Greenbrier.
The main house is a tribute to all things old world. It might even be considered a bit retro with black and white tiled floor. By far The main ingredient though is the bright and bold decorating of Carleton Varney of Dorothy Draper interiors. For me it’s wild and wonderful and makes me smile but for most it’s a bit over the top. To make it more “acceptable” in present day vernacular Dorothy Draper was Reese Witherspoon’s grandmother. She named her company Draper James as a nod to her two grandmothers
This place is massive with every kind and style of room, cottage and residence imaginable. We chose cottages for our Thanksgiving celebrations, which worked nicely. We had time and privacy with just immediate family members at in cottage breakfasts and late evenings, and then chose activities around the property and dinners at the main house.
For this experience, the two options are Legacy Cottages or the Greenbrier Estate Homes. The Cottages come in 1-4 bedroom options. The Estate Homes have a few as three bedrooms or as many as six. They’re all very nice. Our personal favorite are the homes on Copeland Hill.
For this visit, we chose the main hotel. We were in a deluxe room which was spacious with updated double sinks and separate bath and shower. I would probably choose a Draper Suite if you were planning on spending more time in your room for not a whole lot more money. Another option would be the Windsor Club, which is their equivalent of a concierge floor with 18 rooms in total and 7-bedroom Presidential Suite. In the Windsor you can avail yourself of food and drinks throughout the day.
Don’t shudder. It sounds overwhelming but you can easily social distance here. The majority of public space is vast and ceilings high. There are twenty different bar and restaurants to choose from. They range from southern, Asian fusion, Italian, Farm to Table, Steak, Quick carry out breakfast, pizza, smoothies, wine and bourbon tasting in conjunction with Woodford Reserve just to name a few.
Our favorite this time was Prime 44 West. Named in honor of West Virginian, Jerry West who played many years for the LA Lakers. The steak was cured just right, but the headliner had to be the lobster mashed potatoes!
If you are interested in having social interaction there are also activities planned with social distancing built in. A three page list of daily activities is provided. There are over 55 options! The more unusual would be touring the bunker that was built to protect Congress if there should be an attack on Washington. Any history buff will not want to miss it!
After that there are different hiking, biking, riding, shooting, zip-lining, Segway, off-road jeep adventures and a sort of primitive batmobile Polaris Slingshot experience. Of course they have the usual golf, tennis, both indoor and outdoor, exercise facility and classes, indoor and outdoor pools and wonderful spa.
They have a kids club program that runs all day and into the evening One of the highlight seems to be the Oz Escape Room. Or the Titanic Escape Room.
The “gaming” set will enjoy the beautiful underground Casino Club. It’s an elegant environment with live entertainment, 35 tables, 320 slot machines, designer boutiques and a separate FanDuel Sportsbook room. At 10PM you can join in the nightly champagne toast and waltz. How decadent!
This was our 5th visit to The Greenbrier but the first since the property was purchased out of bankruptcy in 2009 by businessman Jim Justice. Justice is now Governor of West Virginia and his daughter Jill serves as the resorts President.
The Justice family has invested heavily in The Greenbrier over the last decade. Their commitment and compassion were on display in 2016 following devastating floods in this area. With the golf courses looking more like raging rivers, the Justice family closed the Greenbrier to guests and converted it to a shelter to feed and house local victims of the disaster.
That fact may be one of the reasons there is such a family atmosphere at The Greenbrier, which by the way, is truly impressive for a resort this size.
This dedication has restored The Greenbrier's “world class” status. We tip our hat to this wonderful property and can't wait until we go back!
** Anne and Les Heintz are Co-founders of TravelAnne.com. Anne is a Travel Advisor. Les is a television & media producer. They are based in Washington, DC and have been traveling the world since they met in high school more years ago than they care to admit. They can be reached at info@TravelAnne.com.