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The Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, bills itself as “America’s Resort.” This grand old hotel, which is nestled in the Allegheny Mountains about 240 miles west of Washington, D.C., is one of the Historic Hotels of America. One of its many claims to fame is that 26 presidents have been hosted there.
We had wanted to visit for some time, but it’s not exactly close by and the prices can be a bit steep in high season. The winter is slower, though, and we were fortunate to nail a good deal for a weekend getaway.
The room was nicer and larger than we expected. It was decorated (as much of the Greenbrier Hotel is) in Dorothy Draper’s “Modern Baroque” style that incorporates large patterns and unexpectedly bright, vivid colors.
Our bathroom was updated, but the faucet was low in the sink, so you couldn’t get your hands all the way under it. The bed was luxurious and it was hard to get motivated to extract ourselves from the pillows to take advantage of everything the hotel offered.
Many older hotels are in desperate need of renovation, but not The Greenbrier. The whole hotel was well maintained and the staff clearly worked hard to keep it that way even in low season.
The hotel added a casino in 2010 and features both card games and slots. The blackjack tables had a $15 minimum – a bit rich for our blood (clearly, we’re not big gamblers), but we had fun playing anyway. Judging by the crowds, the casino is one of the top things to do at the Greenbrier resort.
Laura lost on the first night while I came up big. On our second day, I choked. All in all, we lost a little, but it was an entertaining way to spend our evenings. Fair warning: The Greenbrier is not Vegas, and they charge for drinks while you gamble.
On our first evening, we had reservations in the Main Dining Room which is probably the fanciest place on the property. Service was top-notch, but the food was sub-par – the Caesar salad had too much dressing for my taste, the lamb was over-cooked, and although the fish was highly recommended by the server, it had clearly been frozen.
In the off-season, many of the restaurants were closed, so we ate both lunch and dinner at Draper’s on the second day. For lunch, we had the “Casino Club” sandwich and the BBQ sandwich – both excellent. For dinner, we returned and I had the Burger, which was juicy and delicious, while Laura had the shrimp and grits (also delicious).
Over the course of the weekend, we took advantage of the activities on the property. We went to high tea. It was very relaxing and we enjoyed the piano entertainment and light snacks. Later, we went for a swim in the beautiful indoor pool.
On our final day, we took the Bunker Tour. The Bunker is a hidden facility buried into a hillside that was designed to be a secret refuge for Congress to continue the government in the event of a nuclear war. Built as part of the West Virginia Wing addition from 1959-1962, it was meant to look like the rest of the hotel and once went under the code name “Project Greek Island.”
In 1992, the cover on the facility was revealed by Ted Gup in a Washington Post article, and the facility was declassified the next day by the Clinton Administration. The tour provides an unusual look at life frozen in time and is a really interesting way to spend a couple of hours.
The Greenbrier is about a six hour drive for us, but it was well worth it and we hope to make it back there – hopefully in high season next time.