The next five months leading up to the election are going to be nail-biters as Washingtonians await who will take over 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Consider de-stressing with some me-time at The Omni Homestead Resort in Bath County, Virginia. Rising out of the small town of Hot Springs like a red brick phoenix is America's first resort, established in 1766. The 2,000-acre property is also home to other firsts, including the nation's first spa structure and the oldest first golf tee in continuous use, giving any getaway the gravitas of deep-seated historic significance. Twenty-two U.S. presidents have visited the resort.
What was then an 18-room lodge 250 years ago is now a fortress with 483 guest rooms and enough activities to cure someone with recreational attention deficit disorder: a shooting club, equestrian center, two golf courses, an expansive spa, canoeing and kayaking, tennis courts, pool facilities, falconry, fly fishing, eight dining and drinking options and more, all within a four-hour drive from D.C.
Here are five things to pack into a 3-night stay that will have you thinking more about George Washington and Thomas Jefferson than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Make it a Spa Day
"Where do I start?" That's the first thing that comes to mind when the doors swing open to a 60,000-square-foot spa. It's the same feeling you got as a kid passing through the gates at a theme park. The building is one of two originals on the property, but it received a complete overhaul, reopening in June 2013 as a modern escape. Have a treatment like Japanese-inspired "hanakasumi," which exfoliates skin with cherry blossoms and rice powder. Then, let morning spill into afternoon in the adults-only Spa Garden that boasts a spring-fed octagon pool, regular pool, hot tub, Finnish sauna and a "river reflexology walk" that stimulates pressure points on the feet -- part pleasure, part pain. Before retreating to your room, hit the Aqua Thermal Suite in the locker room. Steam, sauna or step into a futuristic shower that can mimic a Caribbean storm.
Float Back in Time
It was the healing waters of the hot springs that first attracted people to the plot of land that holds The Omni Homestead today. The most iconic place to soak is the Jefferson Pools, located a short shuttle ride from the main property. There, two octagon-shaped hutches hold warm water rich in iron, calcium and sulfur. The pools are co-ed during family time from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and single sex from 1 p.m.-6p.m., when bathing suits are optional and talking is kept to a minimum to preserve a tranquil atmosphere that has an uncanny ability to carry you back in time. The Gentlemen's Pool House has remained unchanged since 1761 and the Ladies' Pool House was built in 1836. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both sought out the pools to treat rheumatoid conditions or other inflammation.
Hike the Cascades George
Count how many waterfalls you pass on the Cascades George hike. The roughly two-hour trek is lead by a guide whose knowledge of flora and fauna puts him a notch above any Eagle Scout. Spot fossils in sedimentary rock that suggests they initially came from the sea; encounter edible, wild plants like watercress and stinging nettles (but don't touch); and snap as many pictures as you want of the waterfalls. Maybe your group will get to toss flies and other fish food into the Allegheny River below and count how long it takes for a trout to snatch it up -- it's like a real-life video game. With no cell service and no talking heads on CNN, you'll be fully immersed in nature.
Play A Round
Channel pro-golfer Sam Snead, who got his start in the area, and play a round of golf. There are two courses to choose from at The Omni Homestead: The Old Course and the Cascades Course. The Old Course (completed in 1892) is short enough that you'll have time to pack in other activities after 18 holes. The Cascades Course, designed by William Flynn, is significantly more challenging. Good luck on the fourth hole.
Engage in Horseplay
No prior experience is necessary to mount a horse at The Omni Homestead's equestrian center for a group trail ride accompanied by a guide. He or she will set the pace and choose which wooded trails to take to avoid run-ins with black bears. Rides are offered in 30-minute and one-hour increments and are slow and peaceful. During your ride, check out the fenced-in pasture with horses on the run. That's where roughly half of The Omni Homestead's horses take "vacation" for eight-week intervals when they're not living in the stable in anticipation of rides. At Omni The Homestead, even the horses get a break.
The Omni Homestead Resort, 1766 Homestead Dr, Hot Springs, VA 24445, summer weekend room rates start at $300 per night, more booking info here.