A couple of weekends ago, we returned to one of my favorite iconic resorts, the Greenbrier, and, today, I’m sharing with you my Wintertime at the Greenbrier review. A fair warning: there are 38 photos in this post because the property is GORGEOUS and I couldn’t choose just a few. So, here’s a quick rundown of what I’ll cover: Wintertime at the Greenbrier Review, Should I Visit the Greenbrier During the Winter, A Stay at the Greenbrier, What to Wear to the Greenbrier, Wintertime Activities at the Greenbrier, Dining at the Greenbrier, What to do Near the Greenbrier, and Book a Wintertime Stay at the Greenbrier.
When it comes to travel recommendations, most of the questions I get fall into two camps. There are the people who’ve found me via Google and are looking for a particular travel guide for a city that could be anywhere across the country and then there are those that live in DC and want to know, “Where should I go for a quick weekend getaway? What do you think of The Greenbrier?”
This classic resort is one that most people on the East Coast and across the mid-Atlantic have heard of (often, for its role as a top-secret Congressional bunker — more on that later in the post), but many of them have yet to make the trip out to the mountains of West Virginia. It was on my radar for years before I went and now it’s one of my favorite places to spend a weekend away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
WINTERTIME AT THE GREENBRIER REVIEW
The Greenbrier is known as America’s Resort and it has served as a getaway for those looking for a bit of respite and quiet since 1778. The resort was built in White Sulphur Springs due to the presence of natural mineral springs — the hot baths drew crowds looking to enjoy the health benefits and calming properties.
Sitting on 11,000 acres in West Virginia, the Greenbrier is a four-season luxury resort and I’m going to take a minute to pause here and discuss what exactly I mean by resort. I think that often millennials hear resort and think all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean. Our generation doesn’t visit resorts in the same way that our parents and grandparents did — and I, for one, believe that should change.
At a resort, you’ll find accommodations, dining, shopping, and activities all in one place — you never have to leave the property if you don’t want to (though, I would recommend exploring the nearby town of Lewisburg in West Virginia — more on that towards the end of the post). No, it’s not the same as visiting a new city, but you cannot discount the level of relaxation you’ll find when you go somewhere just to be. There’s something so lovely and magical about the familiarity and the thought that goes into a place like The Greenbrier.
When you visit the Greenbrier during the winter months, you’re taking part in what they call Wintertime. The resort is a cozy (and luxurious and expansive) hideaway in the mountains where you’ll find a timeless winter experience: winter cocktails, ice skating, and more make up a dreamy cold-weather weekend. Book the Wintertime package from January 3 through March 14, 2020, and you’ll get two nights for $699 with early check-in, late check-out, breakfast both mornings in the Main Dining Room, and $100 per room resort credit to use on activities or at the spa. Read on for why you should visit The Greenbrier during Wintertime.
SHOULD I VISIT THE GREENBRIER DURING THE WINTER?
Short answer: YES! As someone who loves winter, it’s no surprise that I would recommend a cold-weather visit (I’ve often said winter is the best time to travel anywhere at all), but The Greenbrier offers the coziest place to stay when it’s frigid outside.
You never even have to step outside if you don’t want to — you can spend your days relaxing by the fireplace, reading in a sunny nook, partaking in the countless activities and classes, grabbing afternoon tea, getting dolled up for dinner, and hitting the casino in the evening. And, seriously, you never even have to face the cold.
BUT, if you’re like me and feel invigorated by chill temps, you can schedule activities like the gun club, falconry, ice skating, carriage rides, and hikes. Time it right and you could find yourself in a snowy mountain paradise.
Plus, if you visit anytime from November through mid-January, the Greenbrier is dressed in its most festive fashion. We were there the weekend of January 11 and they were starting to take down the decorations the Monday we left.
Of course, I’ll add the caveat that I’ve never visited The Greenbrier during the spring or summer — maybe this year is the year!
A WINTERTIME STAY at the Greenbrier
When you stay at the Greenbrier, you’re transported back to Dorothy Draper’s paradise. Not sure who Dorothy Draper is? Well, she was an interior designer during the middle of the 20th century who loved color, color, more color, and LOTS OF PRINT. Traditional chintzes, loud florals, and bold stripes were her signature and the Greenbrier was one of her most recognizable projects and now it’s in the careful care of designer Carleton Varney.
All of the public rooms, as well as the guest rooms, are decorated in her timeless style. Whether you stay in one of the smaller rooms or one of the largest suites, you’ll be enveloped in stunning fabrics from the bedding to the wallpaper.
As soon as you check in at The Greenbrier, you’re greeted by the friendly staff and offered an iced tea. It’s Southern hospitality from the minute you arrive and, even if you choose not to book your itinerary full like we did, you could have an amazing weekend just relaxing in the stunning common spaces and taking in the scenery. I love strolling through the bright, sunlit rooms in the morning, taking a brisk mid-morning walk outside, grabbing a few treats during the complimentary afternoon tea, and cozying up in one of the comfy sofas in the evening.
WHAT TO WEAR at the Greenbrier
If you haven’t been to a resort like The Greenbrier before, you may be looking at the dress codes on the website wondering, “What the heck?! What does “ladies and gentlemen in their finest” even mean?! What’s an evening suit?” Well, I’m here to break it down for you and discuss exactly what to wear at the Greenbrier.
Dining in the Main Dining Room? You’re going to want to get fancy. Yes, that means guys in ties and absolutely no jeans. I used this as an opportunity to pull my rehearsal dinner dress back out. And, since an older lady found me in the lobby the next day to ask if I’d been the woman in the gold dress the night before, I like to think I hit a home run with it. So, guys should be in suits. Women should be in a cocktail or semi-formal dress — something special that you wouldn’t just wear on any Saturday date night.
Going to dinner at Prime 44, the Forum, or Fusion? You’ll want to dress up, but you can wear nice, dark denim. I wouldn’t wear jeans, but, yes, you can if you’d like. I would typically opt for a dress, but, since we went to the Forum on a Sunday night, which I like to think is a bit more casual, I opted for leather leggings, velvet loafers, and a nice blouse. Adam wore a jacket, but no tie.
During the day, you can keep it more casual, but still opt for a tailored look. I went with a vintage St. John cardigan, a turtleneck, and jeans the first day — which I then wore wine tasting and felt terribly underdressed. The next, I wore jeans, a nice t-shirt, and a blazer. I wore a cardigan, jeans, and flats one afternoon, and, on our last morning, I went with suede leggings, a sweater, velvet flats, and a cape scarf.
Basically, it comes down to looking pulled together and nice. Dress up a little more than you would normally and leave the athleisure at home unless you’re truly working out.
WINTERTIME ACTIVITIES at the Greenbrier
Okay, y’all. Let’s talk ACTIVITIES. Adam and I like to stay busy and the Greenbrier has us covered — even when it’s chilly outside. There are still countless things we didn’t do that I would have loved to add to our itinerary: ice skating, escape room, carriage ride, Jeep off-roading, and more. But, instead of making plans for my next trip, let’s talk about what we did do during Wintertime at the Greenbrier.
- Bunker Tour: Mention the Greenbrier to anyone of a certain age and, if they haven’t been, what they know is likely colored by the 1992 revelation that the Greenbrier had housed a secret Cold War-era Congressional bunker for 3 decades. It’s fascinating that this massive space was built in plain sight and yet no one had the slightest idea it existed. While it was never put into use, it’s still crazy to hear how it would have served Congress, their families, and their staff had something happened. The tour is long — over an hour and a half — and you can’t bring cell phones, but it’s a piece of American history.
- Wine Tasting: I’m not a huge drinker, but I’ll never turn down a wine tasting. The resort’s charming food and beverage director walked us through 6 wines, 3 red, 2 white, and 1 bubbly, several of which we’d never tried before. We learned about some new-to-us varietals that we’ll definitely look for in the future. The pours were healthy so, for $45, this was 100% worth it.
- Gun Club: Overlooking Kate’s Mountain, you can’t beat the setting of the Gun Club. I’m not great at shooting, but our instructor, Jimmy, gave me some tough love advice and, before I knew it, I was hitting the clays (okay, maybe not before I knew it, but I DID hit 2/3 of my last clays). Adam hit most of his targets…but missed enough that he was glad he hadn’t mentioned that he’d grown up hunting in Texas, ha.
- Falconry: I had no idea what to expect when I signed us up for falconry, yet now I’m wishing we could go on a full day hunt. This has got to be one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen. Trainers work with birds of prey from the time they’re young to train them. The birds’ natural hunting instincts mean that they’ll catch whatever they can, yet their attention span is so short that they’ll drop it immediately when they’re tempted with something else. So, let’s say the bird spots a rabbit. It kills it. The trainer calls it back with a piece of chicken. The trainer picks up the rabbit. The bird, happy with its chicken, moves on to the next prey. And, it continues just like this until the bird has had enough.
- The Greenbrier Spa: I’ll never turn down a spa day and, somehow, the Greenbrier has managed to create the most serene, calming retreat that still manages to look totally on brand with that signature Dorothy Draper style. I opted for a facial, while Adam went for the Greenbrier Treatment: a mineral bath in the healing waters that White Sulphur Springs is known for, followed by a Swiss Shower and Scotch Shower, and, lastly, a massage. He dubbed it “life changing” and I’m thinking I 100% need to book this next time.
DINING AND DRINKING at the Greenbrier
There’s a restaurant for every type of taste bud at The Greenbrier and we’ve now tried several of them.
- The Forum: I have to talk about this first because this was the dark horse. I didn’t know what to expect from an Italian restaurant at a resort, but OMG, this was incredible. We got fried mozzarella, pasta carbonara, fettuccini alfredo, a lobster pizza, tiramisu, AND one of the wines we’d tried the previous evening at wine tasting. This was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. There’s nothing better than a Sunday evening with hearty Italian food.
- Prime 44 West: We didn’t eat here this team because it was totally booked up — and for good reason! Prime 44 West is the Greenbrier’s classic steakhouse and this is where you go if you are h-u-n-g-r-y. The decor is masculine and the steaks are well-cooked.
- Main Dining Room: If you feel like an elegant old-school experience and getting super dressed up, the Main Dining Room is a good splurge dinner — don’t miss the Soupe à l’Oignon. However, I’d actually recommend doing the brunch buffet in the Main Dining Room (which is part of the Wintertime package!). Just know that you may want to settle in for a mid-morning food coma afterwards.
- JJ’s Sports Lounge: We’ve always visited the Greenbrier during football season, so it should be no surprise that we’ve spent some time in JJ’s. It’s exactly what you’re looking for in a sports bar: unhealthy bar snacks and good food.
- Draper’s: Looking for a step back in time? This casual and colorful spot is a great place to grab a quick bite. We didn’t order the Fried Green Tomato Sandwich, but we’ve heard tell (after we went!) that it’s the best thing on the menu. Of course, we couldn’t resist (splitting) a milkshake.
- Twelve Oaks: While we didn’t eat at Twelve Oaks, we did enjoy their Happy Hour specials with a few beers while we watched football. The decor here is right up my alley — equal parts horsey and timeless.
- Fusion: Whenever I go to a resort, I do like to have one meal that switches it up a bit. The Asian fusion at this restaurant located in the casino is just what I’m looking for.
WHAT TO DO NEAR THE GREENBRIER
While you can stay on the property for your entire visit to the Greenbrier, I would recommend getting out and exploring just a bit. The nearby town of Lewisburg is one of those cities that is having a Southern hipster renaissance as I like to call it. There are multiple delicious restaurants (seriously, we didn’t have time to even get to half the recommendations people sent my way!), wonderful antiques shopping, and little storefronts to pop in and out of.
Here are a few of the places you should add to your list of spot near the Greenbrier:
- Hill & Holler Pizza: We’ve now been to this pizza joint twice and, each time, it was super tasty. Craft beer and gourmet pizzas never gets old for me and this place delivers.
- The Local Café & Grocer: We picked up a hot coffee for Adam and a nitro cold brew for me, along with some locally roasted whole beans, at this adorable quick and casual spot.
- Stardust Cafe: I was so bummed we couldn’t fit this into our schedule as it came highly recommended, but we’ll save it for next time. It’s supposed to be a delicious lunch spot.
- The French Goat: Another place we didn’t have time to try, this came recommended by a friend who grew up going to camp nearby and has spent lots of time in West Virginia.
- Yarid’s Shoes: I picked up a pair of Kate Spade blue heels here last time I was in the area for just $60. It’s a crowded little spot with deals to be found on designer and mid-range shoes. They also have a location in the Greenbrier where I was tempted (well, not actually tempted because $$$) to pick up a pair of Ferragamo pumps.
- Brick House Antiques: Of course this antiques lover found a place to shop in town. We didn’t get to swing by this time, but I loved exploring this two-story house on our last visit.
We’re actually considering making a trip up to The Greenbrier where we spend at least half our time exploring Lewisburg. There’s so much to do near the Greenbrier that, while I love being on property, I’m also super curious regarding what’s around.
BOOK WINTERTIME AT THE GREENBRIER
So, if these photos have you thinking it’s time to explore one of America’s great resorts, definitely book the Wintertime package — it’s an awesome deal at two nights for $699 with early check-in, late check-out, breakfast both mornings in the Main Dining Room, and $100 per room resort credit to use on activities or at the spa. Just make sure you do so before March 14! Of course, if you prefer to visit in the spring or summer, you can’t beat an afternoon spent lounging at the infinity pool overlooking the West Virginia mountains.
And, if you’re curious about my last trip to the Greenbrier, you can check out my previous review here.