A travel journal
to Berkeley Springs by annekmadison
Quote: Berkeley Springs State Park is only a city block square. There's no camping, hiking, fishing, or whitewater. Outdoor recreation involves strolling on paths beneath large trees, sitting on benches, and watching the birds. Why bother to go? This tiny state park is a full-service spa.
You can plan an entire mountain spa getaway weekend including hotel, good meals, and lots of pampering and still have money left over to shop the outlet stores on your way home.
There are lots of options for planning a weekend at Berkeley Springs. Accommodations and meals range from spartan to upscale. In addition to the state-run spa at the State Park, there are several private spas in the town that offer services ranging from purely medical to esthetic. Recreational opportunities range from antiquing to golf to rugged outdoor hiking and whitewater experiences. It's not difficult to tailor a getaway weekend to your tastes and pocketbook.
This journal details our preferred weekend, which is on the modest side. It includes two spa visits, one long and one short; accommodations at the nearby Country Inn and dinner at Tari's Restaurant. Wherever possible I've listed available alternatives.
Great Cacapon State Park, about 12 miles south of the town of Berkeley Springs, offers a full variety of outdoor experiences including hiking, horseback riding, a large lake, and a championship golf course. There's a lodge and cabins. The area is nestled at the foot of the rugged Allegheney Mountains, and outdoor scenery is glorious. There's excellent whitewater within easy reach as well. Contact the state of West Virginia for more information.
The entire town is accessible by foot. There are plenty of opportunities nearby for regular cycling or mountain biking.
Hotel | "The Country Inn"
Rooms at the Inn vary widely in price and amenities from an incredible $39.00 per night (shared bath) to about $150 (large suite). The Inn consists of two buildings: the older "Historic" section and a larger, newer "West" section.
We''ve always taken a double room with private bath in the "historic" building. We''re smokers, and the rate for that room is normally $69. (Non-smoking rooms are more expensive because they''re newly redecorated.) When they say "double bed," that''s exactly what they mean -- not queen or king. So be prepared to spend a cozy night or select one of the larger rooms.
We''ve found our "cozy" double rooms to be very attractive. They usually feature an iron or brass bedstead, comfortable rocking chair, and small cable television. But aside from the almost-mandatory nap after the spa treatment, nobody at the Inn spends much time in their room.
The public areas of the Inn are charming, furnished with antiques and decorated with the work of local artists and artisans. In addition to the lobby, restaurant, and gift shop, there''s a very comfortable bar and a "parlor" complete with grand piano and card tables. That same charm extends to the extensive gardens that surround the hotel. They''re perfect for strolling or sitting.
Although it might sound as though most of the visitors to the Inn are taking advantage of AARP rates (which are offered) you''ll find that the generations are about equally represented. The desire for a quiet country retreat seems not to be tied to one''s age. It''s a mistake to come to The Country Inn (or to Berkeley Springs) in search of exciting nightlife. Even on the weekends, when there''s dancing and a show at the Inn, the sound of the sidewalks being rolled in at eleven is almost audible. It''s best to take another sip of spring water, remember that you came to get away from all that, and turn in early. You''ll be up early in the morning, and you''ll have a real appetite for your breakfast.
IF YOU PLAN THIS TRIP: Reserve as soon as you can. The Inn is popular all year round, though it experiences a lull (of sorts) in the midwinter.
Be certain to inquire about packages. There are numerous package deals that feature various treatments at the Inn''s spa (called the Renaissance Spa). Many include room, meals, and spa services.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 28, 2000
110 S. Washington Street
Berkeley Springs, West Virginia 25411
Restaurant | "Tari's"
The restaurant includes two dining rooms. The simply decorated areas feature softly polished hardwood floors, pastel tablecloths, and fresh flowers. All of this adds to an atmosphere of calm spaciousness that lets you concentrate on the delicious food. The walls are decorated with paintings by local artists. There’s also a high-ceilinged bar, paneled in dark wood. It’s our most frequent haunt, since we are smokers. (No smoking in the dining rooms, of course.)
On our last visit, we hit Tari’s for both lunch and dinner. We ordered our lunch in the bar from the appetizer menu: Miniature crab cakes with sauce for dipping. As citizens of Baltimore, we’re pretty fussy about crab cakes, and Tari’s crab croquettes were more than equal to our tastes. Lightly browned, they included large lumps of that crabmeat we crave. The light seasoning complemented the delicate seafood without overpowering it. And there wasn’t a bit of shell in the whole plateful. (At home or in a restaurant, well-cleaned crabmeat is the hallmark of a good cook.) We added a local beer from the large selection and went away satisfied. The crab cakes are also available as a full meal.
For dinner (yes, that same day!) we pulled out all the stops and went with the Filet Merlot. Tari’s version is capped with large portobello mushroom caps and served in a light red wine sauce that doesn’t overpower the beef. Our two friends, who don’t eat beef, enjoyed their plain salmon as much as we enjoyed our beef. All of us started with salads of fresh field greens. I’m told that the veggies are grown by Tari’s father, and I believe it.
As for desserts, I can’t comment on them because I’ve never found room to eat one. But they do make a fine cup of Irish coffee.
If you visit Tari’s, which you should, don’t leave without looking at the local artwork on the walls. Visit the small gallery attached to the restaurant for a very good selection of work by local artisans and craftspeople. And be sure to take home a jar or two of Tari’s Wild Woman Salsa.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 1, 2001
33 North Washington Street
Berkeley Springs, West Virginia 25411
Of course the highlight of a spa weekend has to be a visit to the spa. We try to plan our spa visit early in the day on Saturday. The park opens for business at 10 a.m.
There are several options for your treatment. The most popular is the "relaxer." It consists of a soak in one of the private Roman baths and a half-hour or one-hour Swedish massage. Steam treatments are also available, and if the Roman bath is not appealing, there are enormous claw-footed Victorian bathtubs available for soaking. When you report for your appointment, you’ll notice that the ambience is pretty Spartan. The spa resembles a clinic more than anything else. Stash your clothes in the locker, wrap up in the huge sheet, and your attendant will take you to the private Roman bath which has been prepared for you.
The Roman bath is 800 or so gallons of warm spring water, more than enough for the average adult to float comfortably. The rooms are dim and quiet, and there’s a pitcher of cool spring water to sip as you enjoy your bath. It’s entirely possible to drift off to sleep in the peaceful, comfortable environment. The attendant will check on you (quietly) from time to time, and after your allotted 20 minutes -- not a minute more -- you’re ready for a massage.
The massage therapists are trained by the state of West Virginia in Swedish techniques. They’re more than happy to focus on whatever trouble spots you point out, or you can just enjoy a full massage. When your half-hour or hour is finished, you can shower the massage oil off in more of the spring water, or you can wear it with you and just finish off with a light dusting of powder. Either way, you’ll be relaxed and refreshed by your treatment.
The park offers several other options for enjoying the spring water. There’s a medium-sized swimming pool, chlorinated and mostly populated by youngsters. The original Roman baths are also open in a separate building. These can be rented by the half-hour by individuals or groups, but no massage or other treatments are provided. Finally, be sure to bring a couple of clean containers to take some of the pure spring water home with you.