Why The Homestead is the perfect place for a family reunion

From outdoor adventures to dips in hot springs, this spectacular spot in Virginia’s lush Allegheny Mountains is an ideal multigenerational retreat.

After more than a year stuck at home, Americans are ready to hit the road. And, according to recent research, those Americans who have yet to travel since the start of the pandemic yearn for one thing most of all: to safely reunite with relatives and friends.

For many families, the ideal setting for a long-awaited reunion is one with a wide range of outdoor activities to share in, as well as opportunities to relax and catch up on everything they’ve missed. Vacations that are within driving distance are also in demand: according to one survey, 69 percent of people who plan to travel this year are going to drive to their destinations.

The Omni Homestead Resort, which stretches across more than 2,000 gloriously green acres in the charming village of Hot Springs, Va., ticks all those boxes and more. D.C.-area travelers can arrive in less than four hours by car and will find more than enough outdoor adventures and relaxing little luxuries to fill several days. While The Homestead is a year-round destination, the atmosphere is especially memorable during the warmer months. Throughout summer, weekly fireworks displays are held, and families can spend their days hiking and biking in the mountains, swimming in spring-fed pools and kicking back on the sprawling front porch. Many families have been returning to the resort for generations, but this season will be particularly special considering the past year.

“For the first time in 15 or 16 months now, we’re seeing people have fun again,” said Mark Spadoni, managing director at The Omni Homestead Resort. “So many people have been cooped up, and it’s the ability to escape and return to nature that makes The Homestead so special.”

Living the Allegheny Mountain lifestyle 

Research suggests that spending time together in nature can help bring family members closer. It’s even been found that families who make a ritual out of nature-based activities enjoy a stronger bond. According to Spadoni, “part of the magic” of The Homestead is the many families who have been returning year after year, generation after generation. On any given weekend, groups of relatives can be found sharing in the property’s many outdoor pursuits. Whether learning archery or fly-fishing, soaking in the mineral springs or horseback riding through the forest, families can leave behind the daily grind and immerse themselves in the Allegheny Mountain lifestyle.

Mark Mueller of Northern Virginia has been visiting The Homestead with his wife, daughter and extended family for nearly a decade. “It’s just a totally different world,” he said. “A lot of people feel it’s like going to Maine without the 15-hour drive.”

While the fantastic skiing opportunities initially drew the Mueller family to the resort, the property’s year-round outdoor activities have kept them coming back. The family loved the area so much that they purchased a fixer-upper second home nearby and have hosted numerous gatherings for relatives and friends over the years, always recommending friends stay at The Homestead. On a previous summer vacation, the dads took the kids swimming at nearby Lake Moomaw and kayaking on the Jackson River, while the moms visited The Homestead’s spa for Swedish massages and dips in the spring-fed Octagon Pool in the Serenity Garden. This summer, the family is planning another “Mueller Fest” with six families, capped off with fireworks displays over The Homestead’s sweeping lawn on Friday nights.

“It’s a happy place,” Mueller added. “People are relaxed, the air is clean, and there’s no shortage of outdoorsy things to do up in the mountains.”

Guests can also go hiking along the Cascades Gorge, a two-mile trek amid semi-tropical flora, or take a guided e-bike ride around the resort grounds to learn about local history. The Homestead has an intriguing past going back more than 250 years, including visits from several sitting presidents and an ex-monarch. Edward VIII stayed with his American wife Wallis Simpson (the duke’s relationship with the divorcee is the reason he famously abdicated the British throne). The resort is also home to a historic shooting club that first opened in 1933. There’s still an appreciation for tradition at the property; guests can get dressed up for dinner and have “a more formal experience” if they want to, said Spadoni.

A resort with something for everyone

The versatility of The Homestead — with opportunities to get active, relax or hold a more formal event — also makes it ideal for a multigenerational getaway. Betts McGurn of Richmond, Va., has been visiting the resort since she was in eighth grade, when she came on vacation with her parents. Since then, she’s taught each of her three daughters to ski at the resort and seen each of them get married there. Now a competitive amateur golfer and grandmother of six, McGurn regularly hosts family gatherings at The Homestead. She loves the resort so much that she purchased a home less than a mile away.

“To have the quality of outdoor experiences you can have here, all in one place, and without flying to Wyoming or Montana — it’s amazing,” McGurn said.

Although she’s teed off everywhere from France to Ireland, McGurn’s favorite golf course is The Cascades at The Homestead. Established in 1923, The Cascades is annually ranked among the top courses in the country, with “mountain scenery everywhere and streams running through,” McGurn said. This summer, along with playing as many rounds of golf as possible, McGurn is looking forward to reuniting with her daughters and their families at The Homestead. She’s already booked a spate of activities, including a kayaking trip for her oldest grandson and his mom, bike tours with tow-behind trailers for the younger grandkids and their parents, and a cabana at the pool for a day “so we can just be together,” she said.

In between activities, families like the McGurns can fuel up at one of the resort’s several dining options. The refined Dining Room serves seasonal cuisine and an expansive breakfast buffet, while Woody’s restaurant (beloved for its craft pizzas) occupies a historic building near the Old Course. Before dinner, members of the McGurn family often ride their golf carts down to the hotel to meet up with friends on the huge front porch overlooking the mountains. While the adults catch up over cocktails, the kids can run around on the lawn, make new friends and start forging traditions of their own.

For families like the Muellers and the McGurns, The Homestead is the perfect post-pandemic getaway: a true home away from home.

Plan your stay at The Omni Homestead Resort

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