A resort for all seasons BY KATHERINE SNOW SMITH HOT SPRINGS, VA.
pend a weekend at the 2,000-acre Omni Homestead Resort and you will understand how 23 presidents, from varying parties spanning 200 years all managed to agree it’s a wonderful getaway. I joined the ranks of Thomas Jefferson, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, Bill Clinton and both President Bushes last November when a college friend held her 50th birthday celebration at the hotel. It turned 250 years old itself in 2016. Just as the historic Don CeSar in St. Pete Beach is nicknamed the “pink wedding cake,” the Georgian-style Homestead, with a 12-story clock tower at the center and 250-foot-long front porch, is sometimes called the “red brick wedding cake.” It opened as an 18-room wooden hotel in 1766 so guests could enjoy the warm spring waters flowing on the property. Native Americans believed the springs, naturally heated to 104 degrees, had healing powers. Guests can still soak in the springs. There was a fire along the way, reconstruction, renovations and additions. The hotel, which now has 506 rooms, was bought by Omni Hotels & Resorts in 2013. Yet it still maintains much of its independent, historic feel with rooms offering a variety of striped wallpaper, bedspreads of chintz and white wicker towel stands. When my husband and I first stepped into the 215-foot long lobby called the Great Hall, I went straight to one of the roaring fires in the fireplaces taller than I am and vowed not to leave.