After a long day of travel dampened by tears and curses, I landed at the Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel & Suites in a fractured state. The front-desk clerk knew exactly how to glue me back together.
“You’re lucky you didn’t get stopped on a federal road,” he said, mitigating the sting of the speeding ticket that I’d received near Jamestown Settlement. “They double the fines.”
My spirits rose, then floated higher as he doled out more uplifting words.
To avoid the risk of another infraction, he said, I could leave my car at the hotel and catch the free shuttle or trolley to the Historic Triangle attractions. (I know, I know. I could also adhere to the speed limit, which I thereafter did.) In regard to the fitness center hours, he assured me that an employee could open the facility if I got back after the official closing time. Finally, he uttered a phrase sweeter than “your room is ready”: “You need a drink.” He handed me a map on which he’d highlighted the road to the Yorktown Pub.
Since evening was settling in, I decided to stick close to the 300-room, three-story brick hotel, which hardly qualified as house arrest. For a frosty one, I could grab a root beer on tap at Huzzah! BBQ Grille, visible through my guest-room window. Or I could walk without purpose around the pine-forested property. Secrets hid between the trees, such as nature trails, a mini-mini-golf course and shuffleboard courts. I could also take a pre-dinner dip in the outdoor pool. A half-submerged child made a compelling case for jumping in, informing me that the water was warmer than the air. I estimated the distance between the pool steps and the side door and deemed it not short enough.
The hotel is the newest member of the Colonial Williamsburg slumber set, opened in 2001 and replacing a dated 1950s structure. Because of the family tie, guests earn special privileges, such as discounted admission tickets to the Revolutionary City and a bump in the reservations line at the spa, the golf courses and the restaurants. Of the resort’s five properties, the Woodlands (one of two lodgings classified as deluxe, a half-step down from luxury) is the closest to the visitor center. I could throw a shoe at it from my window — well, more like a paper airplane, since the window only opened a slit.
Despite the CW connection, the Woodlands doesn’t choke you with revolutionary kitsch; it drops tasteful reminders of your historic surroundings. Photos of Colonial Williamsburg scenes adorn the hallways and the guest rooms. I shared my personal space with a costumed man leading an ox-drawn cart and a pair of bonnet-topped women tending sheep in a flowery field. When I was tucked into bed, the back of my head faced a blue-and-white toile wallpaper featuring a courtly lad and a coquettish lass. In my peripheral view, two chairs sat across a desk from each other, a perfect arrangement for a game of Scrabble or a he-and-she planning session of Historic Triangle attractions.
In the lobby, opposite the grand gas-lit fireplace, a gift shop sells a capsule collection of the larger retail store in the visitor center. The store is handy if your kid suddenly needs a drum to play with the fife band, but useless if you forgot your Tylenol and are suffering a searing headache.
Because of the hotel’s prime location, the clientele skews toward families and bus tour-goers. As the moon crept higher in the sky, I was alone in the hallway, roaming the floors with an empty ice bucket. Everyone but me seemed to need nine hours of sleep before a busy, busy day.
The hotel comes alive again in the morning, because only a fool snoozes through a free continental breakfast. I arrived 10 minutes before the end of service and fast-walked the perimeter of the dining room, scanning the various food stations: pancakes, sausage, cereals, oatmeal, cranberry muffinettes, sausage, fruit. I lingered over breakfast, then popped over to the visitor center to ask a long stream of questions and browse in the shop. I lost track of time, but unlike at Colonial Williamsburg, the clock at Woodlands keeps on ticking.
While packing up my room, I heard a knock on the door. An employee pleasantly informed me of the 11 a.m. checkout, which had come and gone. I apologized and told her that I was running a bit behind.
“Take your time,” she said.
Exactly what I needed to hear.
Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel & Suites
105 Visitor Center Dr.
A biweekly staff review of East Coast and regional lodgings.