Passported co-founder, Henley, recently took a family trip to the Salamander in Virginia, outside of Washington DC. It was a pretty tall order to find a place that everyone from her 5-year-old son to 83-year-old father would enjoy, but this laid-back resort fit the bill. Read on to hear more about the secret to planning a multi-gen trip and the lowdown on this resort where you can even bring the whole fam and even your own horse!
I grew up in central Virginia, and I now live a solid 7-hour drive away in New York. For Easter Weekend, the kids (and their mom) wanted to see grandpa, but none of us wanted to fight the traffic in either direction. I had recently visited the Salamander, just outside of Washington DC, with college roommates on a pre-baby girls’ weekend, and I thought this might be a solution. Grandpa could cruise up familiar roads and pretty countryside into Middleburg, while we could throw some movies on in the car, leave at breakfast and meet him in the hotel by lunch.
Despite a few hiccups, everything panned out. But the reason the Salamander made this multi-gen get-together a success was only partially due to the location and almost none due to the way cross-generation travel is billed. Forget the glossy advertisements and magazine stories about toddlers and centurions happily traveling together. It’s tough work, and almost no one wants the same things to eat or the same activities to do. Grandpa doesn’t need activities; he mainly needs to sit. Meanwhile the kids haven’t sat down since my maternity leave ended (they are six and eight, it’s been busy), and my husband and I need to sneak away at least for a minute to check emails and deal with the running of two businesses, even on a holiday weekend. Some exercise would be nice as well, thanks.
The Salamander’s sprawling back lawn features croquet sets, corn hole boards, bikes to ride, paths to run, rocks to leap, and heaps of other children to chase. It also has a fire pit surrounded by comfortable chairs and a big porch that extends from the main lobby for those who want to observe, if not actually participate in, the fray. Grandpa could relax, read a book, and still be left in charge of the children for a minute. A waiter could bring coffee or wine. Snacks could be had. Tantrums could be avoided, or ignored. The sun came out (it’s Virginia, after all), and life was good.
Inside served our purposes equally well. Grandpa doesn’t have the energy to chase children on a nature walk through the trails that criss-cross the forested acres behind the hotel. Instead, he could take a stroll on the treadmill, while we went zip lining, swimming (there’s an indoor and an outdoor pool) and riding (there’s a stable, and you can even bring your own horse if you want). He could sit in the library, nap in his room, essentially take whatever time, and whatever space, he needed, while we kept the kids active and happy, all near enough to feel together while doing very different activities.
Rooms are large, and as far as high-end hotels go, reasonably priced, including ADA options and ground-floor rooms that open directly onto the lawn. For families with kids in town, the double queen rooms offer huge bathrooms as well as private balconies where parents can take a soak or sit outside after kids are asleep. Suites are even bigger, with sofa beds in the living rooms. The two restaurants, one casual and one less so, are decent if not gourmet. But Middleburg in general has a ways to go before anyone would consider it a foodie destination. (Not so for wine, as there are loads of vineyards to visit in the area, and most are family-friendly.) Town has a couple of cute restaurants, including the historic Red Fox Inn and the French Hound. The resort’s fleet of Audis are available to drive you into town or pick you up, a great option for families with elderly grandparents who may not want to make the walk (and parents who want a drink, not to drive).
The Salamander’s owner, Sheila Johnson, is a serious lady boss. She co-founded BET and became the first female African-American billionaire. This woman rules. She’s still young, only 67 years old, so unless she has her own elderly parents staying at the hotel, she may not realize how the various parts of her retreat work together to keep everyone from an eight-month-old to an octogenarian happy. If it were bigger, and the activities more scattered, Grandpa couldn’t keep up. If it were smaller and had less options, the minis might climb the walls. Somehow, Mrs. Johnson and her team have balanced Southern gentility with a set-up that satisfies even a fussy Yankee fam. We’ve already been twice, and we’ll be back.