1.800.447.8797 Official Website of Berkeley Springs, WV ~ The Country's First Spa
Sometimes it seems like there are so many choices and too many decisions. Wouldn't it be nice if someone who knew just laid out a plan for a visitor to follow. The Washington Heritage Trail is a driving tour that can occupy at least a day and take you to every corner of Morgan County.
A WEEKEND IN BERKELEY SPRINGS - GEORGE WASHINGTON'S FAVORITE SPA
While every weekend is an adventure in Berkeley Springs, the country's first spa, we have chosen to highlight the mid-March weekend that annually celebrates the town's most famous landowner, George Washington. George Washington's Bathtub Celebration highlights the town's history, shopping and spa activities. It is held annually on the weekend nearest March 18, the anniversary of Washington's first visit to "ye fam'd mineral springs" in 1748 as a 16-year-old member of Thomas Lord Fairfax's surveying party.
Arrive by 5 p.m. and bathe in the historic Roman Bath House in Berkeley Springs State Park in the heart of town, built in 1815 on the site of a 1784 bathhouse where Washington bathed. The private bathing chambers hold 750 gallons of mineral water heated to 102 degrees.
After your bath, dine at Tari's Cafe and Gallery just a half block from the springs and well stocked with generous portions of original American food that Washington would have loved. Or drive three miles west of town to the Panorama at the Peak overlooking one of the most celebrated views in the East and a stop on the Heritage Trail.
The Depression-era Star movie theater lights up the block north of the springs with its neon marquee. A traditional neighborhood mom and pop movie house with the best popcorn in four states, the Star shows a movie every weekend night.
For an authentic historic lodging experience, stay at The Country Inn, adjacent to the park and built in the 1930s on the same spot where the Inn at the Liberty Pole and Flag once stood—an 18th century lodging place that hosted General Washington and his wife Martha. With a nod to the modern, The Country Inn has jazz in its dining room on Friday nights.
For all this fun, no car is needed (except for the Panorama). Downtown is walkable: safe and compact.
Breakfast at the inn or stroll down Washington Street for a tasty breakfast at Maria's Garden. At 10 a.m., there are readings from Washington's journals and letters at the Morgan County Library in a resotred brick Victorian in the center of town. Pick up a self guided tour brochure of the Washington Heritage Trail sites in Morgan County and experience some of Washington's attraction in town.
Before lunch, stroll back to Berkeley Springs State Park and visit George Washington's Bathtub—the outdoor monument to presidential bathing, centerpiece of the weekend's tribute to the first president.
Lunch at Tari's or the Country Inn then spend the afternoon browsing the unique shops in town, many of which will be offering Washington Bathtub $1 specials. The shops are a special treat on any weekend. Shop for antiques or art (Berkeley Springs was voted #12 art destination in America), watch homeopathic medical remedies being made, or take home an edible West Virginia product. More than a dozen specialty shops are within two blocks of the springs.
Take time in the afternoon to drive some of the trail. Two hours takes you on a round trip along winding roads west through interesting geology to the Paw Paw Tunnel, largest manmade structure on the C&O Canal, successor to the Potomac Navigation Company founded by Washington. It has a walking or bilking path for its nearly one mile length.
For an afternoon of hiking, make the trek to Cacapon Rocks, Washington's favorite destination on horseback. Trails lead to the rocks along the top of Cacapon Mountain from Cacapon State Park or up the mountainside from Coolfont Resort, both stops on the trail and within 10 miles of town.
Evening brings fine dining at Lot 12, just a block uphill from The Inn & Spa at Berkeley Springs. If dancing with dinner is your choice, dine at the Inn which has a live band every Saturday.
For a night in the country rather than town, there are chalets at Coolfont Resort as well as a number of cabins scattered around the ridges and valleys of the area.
Morning dining is a feast with a view at the brunch buffets offered at both Cacapon State Park and Panorama at the Peak. Or for a lighter menu check out Donna's Coffee Stop for fair trade organic shade grown coffees & teas, a full espresso bar and fresh baked goods.
Spend the rest of the day sampling more than 40 different bodywork treatments at five full service spas. George Washington took the waters in Berkeley Springs, but he never imagined Thai massage, acupuncture, aromatherapy, mud wraps, sugar scrubs or European facials.
While George Washington's Bathtub Celebration may post the face of our first president in store windows around town, the other activities—eating, shopping, hiking, driving, and indulging in the spa experience—are waiting for you every day of the year.