I am a firm believer in crossing things off your bucket list.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to visit The Greenbrier Resort. This is probably because the Greenbrier advertised its resort in the Sunday edition of the Washington Post, which I read a lot as both a child and later as an adult.
The Greenbrier’s ads sprawled across the center section of the Sunday travel section of the Post, a section I used to make lists real and mental to catalog the adventures I wanted to enjoy as an adult. Rob’s college roommate’s dad “worked at a hotel in West Virginia” and while Rob never went home with him for the weekend, despite many offers, he later realized he’d been invited to The Greenbrier but never gone—proof that you never know what you’re missing out on until after the fact.
So, when the time came to determine where we should celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, Rob was adamant—we were going to the Greenbrier. He knew I had always wanted to visit and just never made the time to go.
The Greenbrier is nestled in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia and has been welcoming guests since 1782. Its setting is tranquil, and the resort prides itself on offering, “Life As Few Know It,” which really means they take Southern hospitality and guest comfort very seriously.
Today the property is recognized on the National Register of Historic places—something that comes with the experience as guests pay a 6.5 percent Historic Preservation Fee. It’s money well spent because the property is well maintained by some of the most amazing and committed staff in the hospitality industry.
These staffers, many of whom are the second or third generation in their family to work at the Greenbrier lovingly maintain the property for generations to come with careful attention to detail that has preserved the property nicely.
While I had always wanted to visit the Greenbrier, I wasn’t sure if the resort would live up to the hype.
I am pleased to say that the resort, room, and most importantly, its staff were exceptional. I’m pretty picky about food—so if there were an opportunity area, I’d say the food was the area where improvement could be made—but that’s because I prefer farm to table cuisine, and part of the charm at the Greenbrier is it’s “somewhere-in-time” styled dining. I’d also like to be fair here—there’s not a celebrated chef or food program at The Greenbrier, I didn’t feel I was going there for the food and subsequently wasn’t disappointed. Additionally, the staff was so amazing and attentive, the food didn’t matter. In the photo below the staff signed a beautiful anniversary card and presented it to us before we left. I have the card framed by our bedside as a special reminder of our visit.
Rob was worried I was going to be disappointed by the food and sent me an article by Washington Post Food Critic, Tom Sietsema, titled, “At the Greenbrier, ‘everything is possible’ — except a great dinner”—Tom slammed the food with a one-star rating. I personally found that to be harsh and highly recommend he stick to the very yummy drinks served poolside in cored and frozen pineapples. It was a highly recommended liquid diet for sure.
The Greenbrier is a place where generations of families gather. With a Sulphur Spring spa, TPC golf course, falconry program, and a world-class tennis program, there’s a lot to do on the property if you’re interested in doing something more than relaxing.
About the Bunker Tour
While we don’t always plan, we were careful to book our Bunker Tour early. Space is limited so plan to partake in this fascinating experience in advance. Our tour guide was an animated and knowledgeable guide named John.
He was outstanding.
In 1992, Ted Gup, an investigative reporter from the Washington Post uncovered a government secret: that one of America’s premier resorts was also housing a secret hideaway for members of Congress in the event of a national emergency. His reporting exposed the bunker and led to its declassification in 1995. Today the Greenbrier leads tours and shares the elaborate detail of a secret that was kept for more than 30 years.
The Bunker Tour shows the hotel’s secret and fascinating labyrinth of rooms, briefing spaces—complete with cafeteria, clothing, and bunks. The tour is exciting because it was housed “in plain sight” and managed by the contractor that operated the audiovisual equipment and TV repairs for the hotel. Their real responsibility was the preparation of the bunker in case an emergency evacuation of Congress became necessary. If your travels take you to The Greenbrier, I highly recommend the tour. Both Rob and I enjoyed it.
The resort is located in the tiny town of Lewiston, West Virginia. We opted to take a direct flight from Chicago and were pleased that it was priced at less than $250 per ticket—a reasonable fee given the hassle of driving and paying for parking on property.
The airport is small, but the resort offers a shuttle service that can collect you from the airport. The shuttle is comfortable, and our driver was great. I suggest this option, as the shuttle schedule corresponds to incoming commercial flights.
About the decor
I’m a big fan of beautifully decorated spaces, and the Greenbrier is a beautiful mix of history, pageantry and lavish art deco design.
Designer Dorothy Draper was brought into the hotel to redesign and reclaim the space following the war.
Draper was at the height of her fame and was brought in to give the resort a unique feeling of glamour and luxury.
Her task to return the hotel to its grandeur was no easy one. During World War II, the hotel was used as a surgical and rehabilitation center.
Dorothy Draper was a pioneer in interior design and was named the most influential tastemaker in America.
She not only removed any trace of sterility from the hotel, but she also gave the property a bold patterned personality. The wallpapers and carpets play off each other to create drama in every room.
While all of the decor works hard to create an impressive collage of patterns and prints, the lavish wallpaper is one of the most memorable features of this already remarkable property.
At check-in, we recognized George Washington’s conquest of the Hudson Valley detailed in a beautiful and vibrant scene.
My favorite room on the property was the Victorian Writing Room. I don’t always sleep very well, so I enjoyed sitting in this room late into the evening and writing letters from its beautiful desk. I later learned that the room is quite legendary and that at one time it was the most photographed room in the U.S.!
The hotel also has a casino with beautiful and ornate decor. The casino is small but serviceable, and during our stay, we saw several wedding guests leave their receptions to enjoy the casino.
The rooms and restaurants are also decorated with attention to detail and are well-maintained artifacts from a more prosperous time.
About the golf
Rob played TPC’s The Old White golf course. Designed by Charles Blair Macdonald, America’s first notes golf course architect, the design of the course features legendary homes from classic links—favorites in Scotland and Ireland.
Golf has been played on the course for more than 100 years and The Greenbrier Classic, a PGA Tour Event is played annually on this historic golf course.
About the staff (and Frank Mosley, of course)
The staff at The Greenbrier was terrific. In 2016 terrible floods came to the area and many lost homes loved ones and valuables—many things that can’t be replaced.
When I asked staffer after staffer about working at the hotel, they spoke of their love for the hotel—which closed and housed many of them following the flood. Others were second and third generation employees who were committed to service and the honor of working at the resort. The hotel’s owner (who also happens to be the governor of West Virginia), Jim Justice, invested a lot of his personal funds in helping employees as insurance wasn’t comprehensive. His employees realize this and remain grateful.
No visit to The Greenbrier is complete without a hug and a photo with the hotel’s official ambassador and most famous staffer, Frank Mosley.
Mosley started working at the resort in 1958 as a temporary employee and just never left. Today, he’s the report’s oldest employee and most tenured.
Over the years he’s held more than 10 different roles—everything from janitor to busboy to bellman to greeter. Today, his son works at the resort too—and along with guests and other staff celebrates Mosley’s birthday each year on April 1st with cake, a party, photo opportunities with Frank and often late checkouts. A hug from Frank is as special as the resort itself.
Rob and I enjoyed our visit to The Greenbrier. He enjoyed the golf course and poolside relaxation. Both of us enjoyed a Sulphur Soak before flying out.
Since 1778, people have traveled to The Greenbrier to “take the waters” and bathe in the white sulfur spring water. The waters are a beautiful place to relax and soak in a private soaking room. The water at the Greenbrier is known for its composition and ability to soothe muscles and stimulate the circulatory system.
While I didn’t love the food, I wasn’t expecting to either. That said, the cocktails were great, and the service and resort itself were beautiful, relaxing and well maintained. The trip was an easy and inexpensive flight from Chicago, making it an easy resort to recommend. As always, if you go, let me know.