Steeped in history, this mountain resort offers a dizzying array of unique family experiences to ensure a memorable stay.
Perched in the Allegheny Mountains of western Virginia, The Omni Homestead is the perfect setting for a family getaway. Its grounds are impeccably landscaped, complete with a clear, mountain stream and hydrangea as big as your child’s head! The resort has a history that dates back 250 years. It’s played host to 23 U.S. Presidents whose portraits hang in the Lobby Bar. Famed golfer Sam Snead caddied here and later launched his career on the resort’s acclaimed Cascades Course. But a stay at The Homestead is not about someone else’s past; it’s about creating lasting memories with your family. And the resort offers countless ways to do just that.
What to do?
The Homestead offers one of the largest lists of family activities that I’ve ever seen. And while you’d probably love to try everything, you’ll need to be selective, as nearly all these experiences come with an additional price tag.
Let’s start with those activities that are included in your stay. The Homestead has a fabulous pool area called Allegheny Springs. It includes a large family pool, lazy river, and two fun water slides. At 3 p.m. every day, a rubber ducky race is run in the lazy river. Pick a ducky at the towel window before the race starts; the winner gets a free drink or dessert. The far side of the pool area is specially-designed for little ones with a splash zone and small sandy beach, conveniently surrounded by lounge chairs, making it easy for parents to keep a watchful eye on the action. Apart from Allegheny Springs, there’s another pool (adult-only) near the full-service spa and fitness center, where classes are offered including family yoga, plus a stunning indoor pool which is open until 11 p.m.
Enjoy the grounds, bursting with colorful flowers, while playing lawn games like corn hole or croquet or putt around the miniature golf course. Cost: Youth (12 & under) $8; Adult $14; day passes available. There’s even a children’s trout pond on the property.
Of course, The Homestead is a golf resort with two courses: the very challenging Cascades Course (a short shuttle ride away) and the Old Course, which is challenging in its own right. My family and I golfed the Old Course which has wide fairways but difficult up-and-down approaches with blind shots. Club and cart rentals are available; if you’re renting, you’ll need to buy balls, as well.
If you’d prefer to have an adult-only golf outing (or perhaps a trip to the spa), the kids can spend a few hours at the Kids’ Club (ages 3 to 12; must be potty-trained) with its full slate of kid-pleasing activities. Cost: Half day with or without meal $42-57; Full day with meal $77; reservations suggested. During the summer, there’s also a Kids’ Club Night Out option ($57-67) on Saturdays or in-room babysitting ($18/hour; two hour minimum).
During the evening, the resort shows complimentary movies in an old-style theater. Or you can head to the Downtime Lounge to play arcade games, video games, billiards, bowling or our family’s favorite, air hockey, all at additional costs.
The above may sound like standard five-star resort amenities, but The Homestead offers more unique family experiences including archery, canoeing, kayaking, carriage rides, hayrides, falconry, fly fishing, guided hikes to Cascades Gorge, mountain biking, horseback riding, tennis, paintball, and Segway tours. You pay for each activity separately; a free resort shuttle takes you wherever you need to go.
But I’ve left the best for last! Or at least, my family thought that it was the best. In fact, it was one of our very favorite activities in a 30-day trip across the country. We took a family skeet shooting lesson with the resort’s shooting club manager, David Judah. None of us had ever shot before, but David skillfully taught us, adding in an education on skeet vs. trap vs. sporting clays for good measure. My boys, ages 13 and 16, absolutely loved the challenge, as did I. Kudos to David! Group lesson cost: $30/person.
KidTripster Tip: Because of the diversity of activities, The Homestead also makes a great spot for a multi-generational vacation.
KidTripster Tip: During the winter, The Homestead transforms into a small ski resort with skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and snowmobiling. Next to the heated outdoor pool, the splash area becomes an outdoor skating rink. Magical.
Where to stay?
The Homestead is an enormous maze. In fact, you’ll probably spend your first night in the hotel getting lost. For example, to get to the 9th floor, you have to take an elevator to 10th floor and then go down a flight of stairs. Treat it like a scavenger hunt.
We stayed in an enormous two-sunroom/two-bedroom/two-bathroom suite that had a large soaking tub, in which my youngest son promptly drew himself a bath. The bathroom itself is larger than some New York City apartments! Traditional doubles start at $200/night; studio suites with two double beds start at $340.
What to eat?
Our favorite meal at The Homestead was breakfast in the Main Dining Room, thanks in no small part to the all-you-can-eat buffet. Don’t miss the made-to-order cinnamon waffles. Delicious!
For lunch, plan to grab something poolside at the Allegheny Springs Grill.
In the evening, dinner in Main Dining Room is a more formal affair, where men are requested to wear jackets. There is a kids’ menu, but my sons were more comfortable in Jefferson’s Restaurant and Bar. Ask to dine on the veranda and try the fried green tomato appetizer.
Lunch is also served at Casino Restaurant; dinner is served at Casino and Sam Snead’s Tavern, just across the street from the resort. The food at each was average, and service was painfully slow for families.
KidTripster Tip: Skip dessert and instead buy a s’mores kit at any of the restaurants. The kit costs $18, but you’ll likely get two or three nights’ worth of snacks. Or if you’re really thinking, bring your own supplies to use at the fire pit.
You reach Hot Springs via winding roads through the Allegheny Mountains. The resort is a scenic 3-hour drive from Richmond and a 4-hour drive from Washington, D.C.
Editor Shellie Bailey-Shah and her family enjoyed skeet shooting at The Homestead so much, they’re now looking into ranges closer to home.