Driving through Virginia, I picked up a handful of brochures from a rest area and the one that really caught my eye was Bath County, Virginia. I loved the charming pictures and in a couple of weeks, my daughter, Peyton, and I set off to explore the stately countryside. We drove to Warm Springs, Virginia, from Charleston, West Virginia, and were taken back to a time when the simple things in life were all that mattered; where the windy country roads provided something beautiful to look at, with farms and livestock around every twist and turn. Huge trees swayed from the fresh air blowing their leaves, while flowers looked like they were posing for portraits along the drive. We encountered majestic deer eating apples beside the roads, country cafes, antique stores aplenty, and fat, happy cows grazing in the lush fields. The vague familiarity of this town, like so many other historic country towns in America, beckons travelers to stop, smell the flowers, and enjoy their offerings.
Hot Springs, Warm Springs; they are a bit confusing to keep straight and we will not even mention Boiling Springs, which we ventured into as lost tourists. Hot Springs is the jewel of Bath Country, housing the 18th century historic Omni Homestead Resort. I have stayed at the resort before and it is nothing short of spectacular; my favorites activities being the afternoon tea, enjoying the front patio rocking chairs, and swimming in the indoor pool which is fed by the local warm mineral springs water. Though the greatest pleasure is to enjoy afternoon tea in the Great Hall with guests and visitors between 3-4PM.
The Homestead is unique in that it truly looks like a massive hospital from the days of yore when you first drive up and see it poking through the mountains. However, as you snake you way to the hidden entrance, you will be impressed by the beauty and simplicity of this National Historic Landmark. The Homestead’s championship golf courses are within a short drive as well as the jewel in their crown, the Jefferson Pools.
The Jefferson Pools were the main reason I wanted to visit Bath County. These crystal clear pools have drawn visitors across the Allegheny Mountains for centuries, even Thomas Jefferson, who spent weeks there enjoying the rest and relaxation. The pools are supplied by mineral springs from a source at the Homestead, do not require chemical treatments, and are naturally heated. The price to soak is $17, which they refer to as “taking in the waters”. I will warn you that the building housing the Jefferson Pools is in shambles with paint peeling off the walls and the floors looking as if they could cave in at any minute. Peyton and I were there after 1 PM, referred to as adult time, in which talking is not permitted to enhance the guest relaxation factor. Men and women’s pools are separate and during adult time, bathing suits are optional. The river rocks on the bottom of the pool are slippery, but floats are provided so you can float around the serene waters. Soaking in the pool was very enjoyable and there is also a place you can sit for an energizing massage of rushing waters splashing against your body.
We both enjoyed exploring Hot and Warm Springs and found the town and its people lovely. This is definitely a great option for a weekend getaway, family holiday option, or a girls trip. We stayed in a lovely bed & breakfast and had absolutely incredible food. Here are the top things I would recommend doing while in the area:
5 Things to do in Hot/Warm Springs
- River rainbow trout and bass fishing
- Visit a swimming hole; some offer inner tubes and rafts
- Hiking and biking are both popular choices
- Explore a Civil War cemetery and admire the antique headstones
- Visit the Garth Newel Music Center; a concert venue for chamber music, jazz, and classical
- Shop at the local antique stores and art galleries
- Pamper yourself with a spa treatment at the Warm Spirit Spa
5 Places to dine in Hot/Warm Springs
- Fort Lewis Lodge- Reservations are required, but you can join guests of the Lodge for this home-cooked and grilled buffet style dinner in a gorgeous country setting, within 25 minutes of town.
- Milk House Market at the Old Dairy- An upscale market to pick up gourmet food items and grab-n-go sandwiches and sodas. They also offer items made to order and picnic lunches as well. We scored Hammond’s chocolate bars, gourmet chips, and Good Health Natural Foods crispy cinnamon apple chips at the market.
- The Waterwheel Restaurant-This restaurant in a historic setting has the perfect balance of relaxed ambiance, attentive service, and unbeatable dishes. Foodies will appreciate the artistic flair and creative cuisine.
- Sam Snead’s Tavern- This is one of the Homestead restaurants in the downtown setting that feature pricey, but quality dishes. The dark wood decor is perfectly romantic or quaint; reservations are recommended.
- Country Cafe- A local cafe serving home cooked basic meals offering a small salad bar with decent variety.
Places to Stay in Hot/Warm Springs
- The Omni Homestead is a historic icon featuring 483 guest rooms decorated with rich fabrics, stately furniture, and an attentive staff. The Homestead features photographic surroundings, killer restaurants, activities galore, and an outdoor pool and water slides that will leave your mouth agape upon seeing them.
- Warm Springs Inn offers 20 rooms located within 3 buildings on the property. The Inn dates back to 1802 and features an eclectic style in a charming country setting. Enjoy the wrap-around porches and on-site restaurant.
- The Inn at Gristmill Square is a B&B comprised of five 19th century buildings (blacksmith shop, waterwheel, steele house, hardware store, and home of the miller) with rustic charm and elegance. I recommend the Silo Room, a round bedroom with an enormous jacuzzi tub, separate shower, and fireplace. They also deliver breakfast to your door in a cute little picnic basket.
- The Fort Lewis Lodge is a resort in Millboro, about 25 minutes across the mountains, in a plantation style setting on rolling hills with a variety of lodging choices including hand-hewn log cabins, silo bedrooms, or typical rooms in the main lodge, and the Riverside House.
FYI: 22 American Presidents have vacationed at the Homestead Resort.
Trivia: Bath County is filled with lawn jockeys. Houses are decorated with them, lawns, buildings and stores in downtown Hot Springs; they just seem to pop up everywhere. Created in 1776 and called a groomsman jockey, the statue represents a hero of black history and culture. The term groomsman was changed to lawn jockey over the past 100 years. The original jockeys were used to tie up horses and made of iron or zinc, but now are more commonly made of aluminum or concrete. They are now strictly ornamental and cute as can be.