Relaxing in West Virginia

Come sample the refreshing springs in the nation's first spa town.
Annette Thompson

Take a dip into the town of Bath, better known as Berkeley Springs. About 90 minutes west of Washington, D.C., you'll discover a charming resort hamlet that's rejuvenated visitors since George Washington tested its waters. Today a vibrant community thrives here. These are our favorite spots for a relaxing retreat.

Fabulous Fridays
Plunge into the water at Berkeley Springs State Park in the town center. Opt for a private Roman bath ($20 for a half hour), or try the steam shower or bath with a vigorous 30-minute massage ($38-$43). This no-frills spa uses the natural properties of the spring water to replenish your spirit.

Afterward, settle into your lodgings. For in-town stays, try the Highlawn Inn, which has 12 plush guestrooms in 4 restored Victorian buildings ([304] 258-5700 or 1-888-290-4163); rates from $85 include breakfast. Or stay in a rustic cabin deep in the forest at Coolfont Resort (1-800-888-8768); rates range $203-$263. This wonderful family spot includes two meals a day, use of the indoor pool, and a broad selection of wellness classes.

For dinner, join the fun crowd at Tari's Cafe. We like the Caribbean pork glazed with a mango barbecue sauce and served with ginger-smashed sweet potatoes ($15.95).

Instead of dessert, munch on popcorn next door at the 1940s STAR Theatre, and catch the 8 p.m. show ($3.50 adults; contact [304] 258-1404 or www.starwv.com for a schedule).

 

Satisfying Saturdays
If you cherish sunrises, then motor to Cacapon Resort State Park and follow the road up to the mountaintop. A 15-mile trail hugs the ridgeline, providing gorgeous dawn hikes.

In town, you'll be ready for a big breakfast at Stella's Restaurant, where the locals gather. Leave your car while strolling to shops. Find alternative cures at Homeopathy Works. We tried their poison ivy pills and haven't scratched since. Look to Mountain Laurel Gallery for regional artwork, handmade jewelry, and natural fiber clothing. Antiques browsers prefer Old Factory Antique Mall, while coffee lovers cherish Simple Gifts and the Fairfax Coffee House. Over at Ice House Co-op Gallery, enjoy local artwork in an original 1911 apple cold-storage warehouse.

Walk to Inspirations Café, known for salads, sandwiches, and hot baked goods for lunch. You can sit inside or on the shady porch.

Visit another spa this afternoon. Choose from our two favorites, Atasia Spa (toll free 1-877-258-7888) or The Bath House (1-800-431-4698). At Atasia, owner Frankie Tan gives Thai massages along with steaming towels to relax and energize ($55). Over at The Bath House, join Evelyn Garcia for hot stone therapy; she uses hot and cold river rocks to massage and stimulate circulation ($75 for one hour).

Before freshening up for the evening, catch the Morgan Arts Council 5:30 open-air concert in the park ([304] 258-2300 or www.macicehouse.org). Reserve a porch dinner table at Lot 12 Public House, where local chef Damian Heath cooks up memorable meals.

 

Serene Sundays
Start your day with breakfast on porches at the Highlawn Inn or Coolfont. Then stretch your legs with a mountain hike, a splash in the lake, a horseback ride, or a round of golf at Cacapon Resort State Park. Later meet the farmers who set up a small market from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Sundays in the center of town.

For lunch, go to Maria's Garden and Inn for down-home Italian and American food. You'll find an amazing collection of iconography of the Virgin Mary throughout the dining room and in grottoes. Like the rest of Berkeley Springs, it's an inspiring place.

This article is from the July 2003 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.