Mountain Air, Southern charm, and Fun Things to Do at the Omni Homestead
By Tab Hauser
GoNOMAD Senior Writer and Photographer
The Omni Homestead Resort is a magnificent five-star property hidden in the Allegheny Mountains in Hot Springs, VA.
It is here that President Thomas Jefferson went to “take the waters” and soothe his ailments in the enriched warm mineral springs. (Since then, he has been joined by 23 other presidents.)
A True Destinations Property
The Homestead Resort is a destination property. Within its 2300 beautiful acres, you can be active with a daily schedule of activities. It is also just as to easy get a book and cocktail and just veg by one of the pools.
It was back in 1766 that the resort got its start with an 18-room basic wooden lodge. It was placed near the hot springs for lodgers to “take the waters” to heal and rejuvenate. In 1832 the hotel was sold.
It was repurposed to look more like a European-style spa having medical treatments and later what would look like an early exercise facility.
Look for the old gym advertisements at the spa showing the equipment of the day used by gentlemen looking proper in their wool suits.
In 1901 the hotel was destroyed by fire and reconstruction commenced immediately. One year later, the main building with the great hall was completed.
The east west wings was added in 1904, the east wing in 1914 with the tower added in 1929. Driving up to the resort for the first time your eyes just stop and stare at this beautiful Colonial Revival style structure.
The Homestead was the place where the cultural, political, and business elite would unwind.
They would also bring their young adult children in hopes of meeting a potential suitor in what would be a fun and romantic atmosphere.
“Take the Waters”
According to Homestead historical notes, it was here in 1761, that founder Thomas Bullitt started America’s first mineral spa.
He laid out pipes diverting the hot springs water to pools where his guests could cure what was thought of as a host of ailments.
Today Omni guests can enjoy soaking in what is considered the oldest bathhouse in the country.
The original octagonal stone pool was built in 1761. In the 1820’s it was covered with an octagonal frame building you see today. The Ladies’ Bathhouse was built in the mid-1870s.
The bathhouses have warm, highly concentrated mineral water flowing at a daily rate of 1,700,000 gallons a day. After floating in it for an hour I felt very relaxed and my skin felt cleansed.
To get there, guests are driven in small groups five miles for a 50-minute session at $30. On arrival, you are shown a place to change and given a towel and floaty noodle to use if you wish. (Tip: If you take the first morning soak you may get an extra 10 minutes. Also, arrive in your bathing suit and be the first ones in the pool) Detailed information on the pool and its history can be found at here.
Golfing at the Homestead
The Old Homestead has two courses. The Cascades is considered one of the best mountain golf courses in the country. It has been rated by Golf Digest as “America’s 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses”. It is here that Sam Snead started his career. The state highway running next to the course is named after him.
The Old Course, laid out in 1892, allows you to golf in history. Hole number one has the oldest continuously used tee in America. It was also here that a young Jacqueline Bouvier (later, President Kennedy’s wife) came with her family and learned to golf.
Take a Hike
A highlight during our time at the Old Homestead was their three-hour Cascade Gorge guided hike.
The 1.8-mile one-way hike was led by a naturalist. She stopped along the way to point out the different plants, bugs, and an old bear nest high in a tree.
The walking was over an easy path that led to catwalks and bridges alongside the creek and over several waterfalls. The property also has miles of wooden trails you can walk on your own,
Homestead History Tour
Each day at 10 AM there is a free one-hour history walking tour of the property. It starts in the Jefferson Parlor which is a large round room containing 16 painted murals. Each mural depicts the history of Homestead in different phases.
The tour goes through different ballrooms, dining rooms, the old indoor pool, and theater, During the tour the different art and historical events that took place are explained. Off the Great Hall is the Presidential Lounge worth going in for a drink or a look.
Here you will find a classy wood and leather bar “designed for spirit and wine connoisseurs”. Inside are portraits of the different presidents that visited here along with a pool table.
Serenity Garden at the Spa
For a quiet day, I recommend purchasing a day pass to the Serenity Garden.
This is an adult-only oasis. The Serenity Garden features a shallow mineral thermal pool heated at 97 degrees and an infinity pool kept between 85 and 92. Next to the pool is the “Reflexology Walk.”
This is a narrow short walk submerged in warm mineral waters on stones placed ideally to soothe and massage the 15,000 nerves in your feet. There is also a hot tub kept at 103 degrees. Snacks and drinks are available here.
The spa building has saunas, steam rooms, and a well-equipped gym. The building here offers different massages, facials, body treatments, and salon services.
Spa treatments over $200 get a pass into the Serenity Garden.
There are many ways to enjoy the outdoors or try new things depending on the season. The activity desk can set you up with horseback riding, skeet shooting, axe throwing, tennis, archery, biking, skiing, kayaking, mini-golf, falconry and have you end the day making s’mores.
We enjoyed the horse-drawn carriage ride around the property that included two adult drinks and an impromptu short banjo concert.
Other things to do would include a Virginia wine experience, movie nights, lingering at a fire pit or just sitting on a rocking chair on their long porches.
Children have a kids club that can keep them busy from morning to night.
There is a main pool with slides and a lazy river in the summer season.
Falling Springs Falls
The Falling Springs Falls is probably Virginia’s easiest viewing waterfalls for its size. It is just off Route 220, ten minutes south of the Omni.
Up until the 1930’s the falls were wider and dropped 200 feet. A mining company repurposed the land moving the falls to its present day. While the waterfall only drops 80 feet, it still makes an impressive site.
Omni Homestead Lodging
In 2013 the Omni Hotels and Resorts purchased the Homestead. Between 2021 and 2023 it went through a 150 million dollar renovation.
It has 483 spacious and well-appointed rooms which includes 88 suites. The buildings, grounds, and swimming pools give the property a good look.
There is plenty of personal space at this resort. Large porches with gas fire pits make it a nice place to unwind at night with a cocktail. The Great Hall is also a place to linger.
Omni Homestead Food
You eat well at the Homestead. There are several restaurants and a market to keep you fed. A high-end breakfast buffet with an egg station is set up each morning in the impressive and airy American Audubon Dining Room.
There you will find traditional biscuits and gravy, daily specials, fresh fruit, and baked pastries. (The banana bread is as good as my grandmother’s.) Each day we were cheerfully greeted by the restaurant manager who has been there for over 40 years.
We had dinner twice at the resort. Once at the high-end Jefferson Restaurant and other time in their tap room. The restaurant is continental with a push on different steaks.
The tap room, adjacent to the restaurant has a large TV and bar. It is more of a gastro pub with game and regular burgers, trout, salads, and sandwiches.
We found the service attentive and the food very good on both dinners.
Service and Staff
The staff and service here are all Southern charm. We were not just given a friendly welcome when we returned from an activity but found the front door people engaged about our day. There is a camaraderie amongst staff you can see.
One reason is that the Omni is in Bath County with 4200 people of which 1100 work at the hotel. Everyone knows each other and it is not unusual for multiple generations to work here and sometimes at the same time. The people here understand the hospitality business.
Hot Springs, VA
Hot Springs is a small village with a one-block main street. In it, you will find a deli/market, a microbrewery good for beer and wings, a winery outlet, two boutiques, and a couple of restaurants. The Omni Homestead takes a little effort to get to but it is worth it. The closest commercial airport is Roanoke which is 90 minutes away. It is also a 3 ½ drive from Washington D.C.