The Best Vacation Spots in the US : Our New Series
The Best Vacation Spots in the US
The Elizabeth Reagan Series on the best spots to vacation in America
What’s a Made in America movement without exploring all the great vacations and resorts that are here in the USA?? Here at Elizabeth Reagan we think half the fun in bringing things back to the USA is going to be spending more time at the fabulous places that are right under our noses. Not only do we get some awesome getaways and vacations, it is actually going to be helping our country in SO many ways. I can’t believe that taking a trip is part of the “sacrifice” this generation gets to make to make America strong again.
So first let me say that I am writing about these vacation spots in America in the context for which I visited. For instance, while the Greenbrier is a top US family resort, and I certainly plan on taking my children back, this visit was a couple’s getaway. I was treated to this romantic vacation spot for my birthday by my guy, whom I’ll just refer to as Guy from here on out.:-) , So I will be writing about it from that perspective. Next, I would like to remind everyone that I am not a formal travel reporter or writer, just someone who likes fun getaways and is trying to highlight the best vacation spots in the US whether it be for families or couples. Basically, I am your average traveler. So you know what these vacations are like from an average traveler’s perspective. Ok, off we go! (Note: We visited the end of 2020 when COVID guidelines were In place so your experience will likely vary due to this difference.)
The Long Version
As any mom knows, vacation without the kids is very different than vacation with the kids. Heck, dinner without the kids is different than with the kids but I digress. We went away during the pandemic so I was definitely glad to get away but I can also say that it wasn’t the same as I know it would have been had the restrictions not been in place. The day we arrived was the day of the ACC Football Championship. And as die hard Clemson fans and alumni,Guy and I found a spot at Twelve Oaks in the resort to watch the game. We were lucky to get a little table where we could watch as the capacity was greatly reduced. But alas, it was what it was. The service was good, we had a few snacks and a couple of drinks while watching the game. (Clemson won, thanks for asking. ) So we enjoyed that. And while I am not a gambler and usually don’t play games in a casino, I do love the energy in a casino. Lots of people, lights, sounds…just makes you feel like you are a part of the action, even if you are usually just walking around taking it all In, as I am usually doing. The casino offers black jack, craps and roulette tables as well as a small sports betting area. But this trip, even the casino was eerily silent. Moms know what I am talking about. That suspicious kind of quiet that makes you wonder what the kids are up to because nothing good can happen when they get THAT quiet. It felt like that. Like something shady was going on because casinos are supposed to be the life of the party. Hard to be the life of the party with social distancing and hardly anyone around. Again, thanks corona. So I can’t really speak to the night life but that was ok as I didn’t come for night life. I came with Guy just to have a quiet weekend. And I must say that even with all the restrictions and limitations, it was one of the nicest weekend getaways I’ve ever had.
If you don’t know much about the Greenbrier, this place is steeped in history and for a history lover such as myself, this was a delight. The halls are lined with pictures of distinguished guests over the years. Princess Grace and Prince Albert, JFK, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to name a few. The Greenbrier was also the site of an underground bunker that was to house Congress in the event of a nuclear attack being that it is only a couple of hours from DC. The bunker is obviously not used for that now but you can take tours of it, which we did.
The Greenbrier also has its own escape room on the premises. The theme changes periodically. Anyway, Guy and I thought we’d flex our detective muscle and take a shot at this. At the time, it was set up as the Titanic and we had to escape before we went down in the icy waters. We rocked it. We blew right through all the clues like the geniuses we are. (That’s a lie. We didn’t make It out of the first room. We died a very slow and painful death by drowning in the icy waters. Basically what I am saying is, you don’t want your life to depend on my skills in finding clues.)
The Greenbrier is also home to the chandelier from the movie Gone with the Wind… a southern girl’s “gotta see this” item for sure. This was in the Lobby Bar which was named one of the 27 Best Bars in America in 2019 by Esquire Magazine which is pretty cool.. Which leads me to the next thing I loved about the Greenbrier...
It was decorated by the legendary Dorothy Draper. For someone who is an aesthetic person such as myself, this was a party for my eyes . If ever I’ve felt I was in the North Pole, this was it. And I don’t mean that because we were there at Christmas time, (although that certainly added to the magic). But rather in the way a kid’s eyes would light up were they to get to visit Santa’s workshop. The colors and the patterns and sometimes unusual pairings had my eyes dancing with excitement. Again, for a girl who is so visual this was like a party around every corner. Just walking down the halls held me in rapt attention to all the details that were happening around me. I felt like I had stepped back in time and half expected to see Don and Betty Draper walking around. (Pure coincidence that the characters from Mad Men have the same name as the decorator.) They even have a Dorothy Draper retail store. I love love loved it.
I also visited the spa where I had a massage and a Greenbrier Sulphur Soak. This treatment consists of a soak In their mineral water, as they are home to some mineral hot springs . And I know that the mention of sulphur may have some of you wrinkling your noses and thinking “But wouldn’t that stink to high heaven, sitting in a tub of sulphur water?” Normally, yes it would. But not at the Greenbrier. I don’t know what they do to eliminate the odor, but eliminate it they did. I loved this treatment as well but I can honestly see where some gals I know would not have loved the old bathtubs that are used for the soaks. They were clean but they were old and it was noticeable. Like I said, I don’t mind that kind of thing, but I know some people who are pretty insistent on “new” fixtures and amenities in spas. Not a biggie for me. But if it is a big deal for you, you may want to skip it. But the lounge where I waited between services was just a little slice of heaven for me. It had a Palm Beach vibe with the colors and large palm prints, I could’ve camped there all day. If only I had brought a book.
We stayed in a traditional room which is a normal size room that has a queen sized bed, a big window, a tv, a desk (or makeup table in my case), two chairs, and a small but functional bathroom.
They do have many other activities like horse carriage rides, falconry, fishing, biking, aerial adventure courses, geocaching to name a few. There is PLENTY to do with programs that are designed for kids and teens as well. But we didn’t do any of that since the whole idea was just to relax and not have too much of a schedule.
We had a late breakfast each day in the Main Dining Room. And it. was. duh.vine. I had the Omelette Lorraine with grapefruit juice. I only wish I had a little more arugula with the dish. I did ask but the message either never got to the kitchen or they didn’t have enough arugula. To be fair, I don’t imagine there are many people asking for more arugula, which I am sure was intended to be a garnish. But back to the breakfast. One could argue that since I got to wake up on my own, not with a little face three inches from mine wanting to know what I was cooking for breakfast, was what set the scene for a fabulous breakfast. And maybe it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d had pop-tarts, it would have been five star in my eyes. I won’t disagree that I was practically skipping to my table having slept in, so I dunno. Maybe there is some truth to that. However, I will say that the breakfast was ah-maz-ing. So much so that I ordered the same thing every morning. As a matter of fact, after the first morning, I’d say that knowing what I had to look forward to, it only added to my skip.
The other thing that stood out to me was their French onion soup at Prime 44 West Steakhouse. To die for. Seriously. I know they say all things in moderation but this stuff proved to make that piece of advice very hard to adhere to. They were even gracious enough to share the recipe with me. (For all those interested, it did NOT turn out the same way when I tried it at home. Shocker.) Southern Living named this restaurant the best in West Virginia so you know the food has to be good. All of the food was delicious but the breakfast and the French onion soup stood out in my mind as something truly special.
The resort also hosts an afternoon tea in the Main Lobby every day at 5 where tea and cookies are served.
We did leave the resort one afternoon to head over to The Salt Cave and Spa. Guy and I had a session in a salt room which is supposed to help clean out our respiratory systems. If you want to learn more about how and why salt therapy works, check out the Salt Therapy Association. We sat in zero gravity chairs and just relaxed in a dimly lit room that was entirely made of salt. The owners flew in some 17,000 pounds of Himalayan salt (if I am remembering correctly, which I may not be, so don’t quote me on this :-) to be used in this room. We shared the room with others but since the room is completely anti-bacterial and anti viral, we didn’t have to wear masks which was so nice. We both had separate massages there as well, which was great.
We spent the rest of the time walking about the grounds, checking out the shops and having an afternoon coffee or snack at the different restaurants within the resort.
All in all, like I said, it was one of the nicest weekends I have ever had and definitely plan to go back. I do want to take my kids so that will be an entirely different post if we do indeed make it back down.
The Short Version:
When to go: Christmas was a beautiful time to go, but if you want to take advantage of the plethora of activities they offer, then I recommend going in the season which you prefer to be outside. Basically, if you don’t enjoy being outside in the heat of the summer but can’t stand being indoors in the fall, then go in the fall.
Cost: The Greenbrier offers so many different accommodations, the cost is truly anywhere from around $500 a night to thousands for the presidential suite or one of the houses on the property.
Type of Trip: Couples weekend Getaway
Interesting Tidbit: It may not matter to some, but in this ever conforming world where everything is owned by multi-national corporations and all of our towns, shopping centers and landscape start to look exactly the same, no two rooms at the Greenbrier are identical. I heart this.
Best Thing: Outside of being able to lounge around and not be on a schedule? The French Onion Soup.