All-American family-owned resort in Capon Springs, West Virginia, is a retro wonder.
By Hope S. Philbrick
More than ever, the idea of riding a time machine back to a simpler time and place sounds wonderful. But you don’t need a souped-up DeLorean. Just head to Capon Springs, West Virginia.
Capon Springs & Farms, a family-owned resort located in Capon Springs and home to the eponymous waters, embodies the best elements of a retreat: It’s quiet, remote (surrounded by 4,700 acres of wilderness!), invites you to unplug and reconnect with yourself and/or your travel companions and/or forge new friendships, offers a comforting routine that erases stress, invites you to take part in large traditions (which can make you feel part of a huge extended family), and has genuine heart and soul thanks to its owners, staff members and guests. The place nourishes you from the inside out with fresh air, quiet woodlands, authentic humanity, and legendary water. Rich with history and tradition, this is a vacation destination to which some families have escaped for generations, literally: While standing in the buffet line you very well may grab the salad tongs after a smiling elderly lady sets them back after scooping up lettuce for her great grandson.
Jonathan Bellingham, one of the owners (and a third generation of the family of owners), says that Capon Springs & Farms is like a combination of The Greenbrier and the fictional Kellerman’s in Dirty Dancing but not as upscale and minus the dancing. That’s accurate. The grounds have a Greenbrier vibe (the historic buildings even have a similar exterior color scheme and arrangement) and there’s a daily activity lineup for multi-generational families like what’s depicted in Dirty Dancing. Another equally accurate description he favors is, “It’s run like a camp and cared for like a B&B.”
Capon Springs & Farms is an all-inclusive, family-friendly resort. At first glance it may seem less than ideal as an adult travel destination, and on paper it’s not a place I’d expect to personally adore or heartily recommend. In real life, however, while physically there, it seized my heart. It’s uncommonly quaint, a genuine get-away-from-it-all escape, a throwback to days of yore that seems of urgent need, and it at once celebrates two things that seem mutually exclusive: the great outdoors and pure Americana. It’s the sort of resort that was once common across the U.S., back in the days when people took weeks off at a time to spend quality time together with their families while meeting and mingling with other Americans, when people left behind routines to retreat into nature to bond with others and the environment, a 19th-Century tradition that endured long enough to be depicted on Dirty Dancing. In short, this is the sort of resort our nation needs and can’t afford to lose.
The guestrooms at Capon Springs & Farms vary widely: Some in the Main Inn are so rustic that there’s a shared bathroom down the hall. On the other end of the spectrum, the Honeymoon Cottage boasts total privacy, from the bathroom to the living room with fireplace, and inviting bedroom. My room in the Webster duplex was basic but private, with an en-suite bathroom, bedroom with two beds (a double and a twin), a table with two wooden chairs, plus one upholstered chair. The mattress was comfy and the room was clean, what’s most crucial. Most guestrooms are basic. None have TVs. Most lack air-conditioning (relying instead on cool mountain breezes). Wi-Fi connections across the property are spotty, but that compels true relaxation: Let the electronics go and take time to explore the various hiking trails, play a game with travel companions or fellow guests, savor time at the spa, or whatever piques your interest.
There are more excuses to get out of your guestroom than to linger in it. Play golf, basketball, tennis, shuffle board, badminton, horseshoes, volleyball or croquet, sit around a campfire, go hiking, fishing, or swimming, play Frisbee golf, join a special event (a schedule is posted on the bulletin board near the dining room), read a book (there’s a library among the common rooms, with a whole bookcase of tomes authored by past guests), or search out the source of the spring.
Time-honored traditions at Capon Springs & Farms include raising and lowering the American flag each day, serving meals at set times, quiet hours, and more. Many traditions offer children the chance to grow into responsibilities—as one example, the on-site store is run on an honor system so children must be age 12 or older to make purchases—which translate into a reasonable expectation that parents supervise their own children, which is great news for all of us other grownups.
Meals are served family- and buffet-style at set times (breakfast from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m., lunch from 1 to 2 p.m., and dinner from 6 to 7 p.m.) with an established weekly menu—long-time guests know exactly what dishes they most enjoy and plan visits accordingly. You’ll be assigned a personal table to use throughout your stay, and there is a hierarchy about who sits where in the dining room (so, great news, families with youngsters are grouped together!). The menu features traditional American favorites like blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs, barbecue chicken, meatloaf, apple pie, and nostalgic throwbacks like Jello salad and chicken a la king.
Capon Springs & Farms is simple, but experience the place for what it is and it’s simply fantastic, thanks to some mystical alchemy that proves irresistible.
#TheMagicOfCapon = H2O
It’s all about the water.
Originally, the resort was built at this site to give people ready access to fresh, clean spring water.
“The alkaline waters of Capon—mild and specifically light—are possessed of inestimable virtue and remedial power in derangements of the stomach and liver.” — A.M. Fauntleroy, president of the Medical Society of Virginia, in 1877.
Capon water bubbles up from the ground at a continuous 65 degrees and about 100 gallons a minute, according to Bellingham. The spring supplies the resort’s water needs, including all the guestrooms, kitchen, bathhouses, spa, pool and continuous fountains—so everywhere on the property all the water you drink up or wash in is Capon Spring water. Even if the spring stopped flowing, there’s enough water to last 70+ years, says Bellingham.
There’s a magic about the whole resort, but the water has legendary healing properties. “It can cure your –isms and –itises,” says Bellingham. In earlier days of medicine, doctors would prescribe the water to patients. It has slight alkalinity, so may help tip your internal pH back into balance. In any case, it tastes great: clean and neutral as water should. The on-site swimming pool is continually filled and drained naturally by the spring; the pool is heated only by the sun to ensure a pure, refreshing experience. Of course soaking in hot spring water at the spa is wonderfully relaxing.
“Since the early 1800s, people have traveled to Capon Springs for healing relief from pain and stress. Our baths were modeled after the original brick-style baths, allowing you to enjoy soothing water treatments reminiscent of days long ago.” —Hygeia Bath House & Spa brochure
- 14 guest cottages ranging from 2-20 rooms in each, plus 2 private lodging facilities for couples: the Honeymoon Cottage and restored Log Cabin furnished with antiques
- Free parking
- Meals are included; any dietary requirements must be conveyed at time of reservation
- Non-smoking property
- No pets permitted
- Alcoholic beverages are not available but you can BYO to enjoy in your room or on your porch
- Quiet hours begin at 11 p.m.
- Guests are asked to use earphones with all radios and musical equipment
- There are no phones, TVs or Internet access in guestrooms
- Some guestrooms are accessible and a few offer climate control for guests with respiratory challenges
- All sporting equipment is available to use at no extra charge
- A public phone is located in the Main Building; TVs are located in the Meeting House. Internet connections (wired and wireless) are available for free in the Meeting House
- The first 4 weeks in August are traditionally the resort’s busiest
- Hygeia Bath House & Spa is described as “an adult facility;” guests must be age 13 or older and anyone age 13-16 must be accompanied by an adult at all times
- 30-minute soaking baths start at $25
- Odds of Encountering Children: Inevitable, but you can escape into the woods for a hike or slip into a private soaking tub in the spa for an adults-only experience. For the best odds of an adults-oriented experience, visit during the week when school is in session.
Capon Springs & Farms
3818 Capon Springs Rd.
Capon Springs, WV 26823
2017 Season: May 4-November 12
– Photos © HSP Media LLC
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion. Capon Springs & Farms was an overnight host of a recent MATPRA 2017 pre-FAM media tour.