The Greenbriar in West Virginia

Admit it-when you think of West Virginia, you think of coal mines, dog racing and mundane, country side activities. You don’t necessarily think of a luxury resort where rich families used to “summer” decades earlier-and still do. Let me tell you, this is a whole lot more than a nice hotel; it’s a true experience.

Some time back, in my traveling days before motherhood, my husband and I did a lot of journeying around the country for business. One such meeting took us to the Greenbriar for three days. I didn’t even want to go at first, even though it was only a few hours’ drive from our home in Pittsburgh. I had not yet done my homework. When I did, I knew I had seriously underestimated what little I’d heard. My actual visit showed me that I had even underestimated what my research uncovered.

Built on hot sulphur springs that reputedly have healing power (and a rather strong smell), the Greenbriar once was the getaway for folks who needed to rest and recuperate. The lovely grounds, removed from noise and congestion, lent an air to a setting of quiet contemplation…not even considering the resort which was built within its parameters. The building is huge, columned, and can only be described as reminiscent of the nation’s White House. To give you some idea of the size and landscaping, 17,000 tulip and daffodil bulbs are planted each fall, and professional quality golf courses, croquet and tennis courts, and biking and horseback trails don’t even come close to being seen by the casual observer. With fountains, lush foliage, and stunning scenery, a guest almost can’t believe they’re not in a far-off paradise.

If you’re really interested in rates, packages, and guest amenities, I’ll provide a link for your own knowledge, but I’ll use this opportunity to share feelings about my visit. First, know that I’m definitely a resort-kind of traveler. I love having so much contained in a maneuverable area, especially when time is limited. The group I was with had a theme party the first night in the form of a country hoe-down, and Greenbriar rose to the occasion, outfitting one of its magnificent ballrooms into a barn square-dance kind of setting. Stepping out of our temporary environment back into the elegance of Greenbriar’s stunning décor was culture shock-of a good kind. Appointed by famous designer Dorothy Draper, tours navigate the dozens of lushly decorated rooms, leaving most guests slack-jawed and mesmerized. (Some restaurants are so prestigious, you cannot even enter the floor that they are located on unless dressed in proper attire.) The next night was a formal occasion, and Greenbriar again did not disappoint. They are reknown for their culinary expertise, and even offers upscale cooking tutelage (the word “class” does not do the justice to the event) for those interested in spending a few days indulging their hobby. Of course, the pool grounds, spa, sauna and workout facilities were what one would expect from such a resort, but I must admit that I do not remember spending significant time in any of them. They offer a huge range of spa services, including several kinds of massages. My husband had one and swore it was not only an excellent decision, it was actually worth the price. I however, took a private horseback riding lesson on the grounds, and the opportunity to do so was so good it actually motivated me to take up my lessons at home once again-for a short while, anyway.

For that seems to be Greenbriar’s true purpose: suspending one’s reality and submerging them into a life that really is within their grasp, fulfilling fantasies of being a royal, a celebrity, or just someone whose problems are temporarily placed on hold. The price isn’t cheap, but the chance to feel exquisitely pampered is worth waiting for, especially for a special occasion. (Although we went in June, we hear that it is exceptionally beautiful at Christmas, well.)

If you are interested in visiting, do some planning ahead of time to make full use of everything they have to offer-and don’t forget to try the wonderful breakfast buffet at the Draper Café.

For more information, please check their website at

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