Address: 136 East Francis Street
Web Address: http://www.colonialwilliamsburgresort.com
Sometimes the unexpected turns out to be something really special. We found ourselves traveling through Virginia and decided to visit The Williamsburg Inn in Colonial Williamsburg as a possible weekend destination. My memory of Williamsburg dates back to a high school trip and I had visions of school groups and tourist crowds. In fact, I don’t even remember the Williamsburg Inn. But, our research told us the resort had the kinds of things we look for in a weekend retreat, so a visit was in order.
The historic village is fascinating and worth some time during your trip, but even if you have no interest in history, The Williamsburg Inn is a wonderful weekend destination with well appointed rooms, delicious food and lots of non-historic things to do, including some pretty wonderful golf.
The Inn was conceived and built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1937. whose vision for a luxurious guest experience lives on today at this remarkable property. Rockefeller and his wife were involved in every aspect of the design and traveled throughout England in search of furnishings. They even had a “sample” guest room built so they could visualize the décor. The attention to detail and the desire to preserve historical authenticity is quite extraordinary. It is evident in grand gestures like replicating original wallpapers down to a guest services directory that resembles a period scrapbook in a raw silk fabric binder.
A meticulous renovation in 2001 brought together historians, architects and craftsman to restore an authenticity to the Inn. Ceilings were hand plastered, historical paint colors were selected and guest rooms were hand brushed to replicate original painting techniques.
Colorful gardens frame the driveway and lawns as you approach the stately white colonial building with porticos reminiscent of the White House. Your car is met by uniformed bellman and you are whisked to reception which is quick and efficient. Star Gazer lilies scent the air in public rooms that are elegantly appointed with 19th century Regency style furniture and accessories. A number of cozy sitting rooms provide ideal spots for curling up with a book with views out over the gardens or golf course. Brick paths meander between buildings and through lush gardens and are set with benches and sitting areas....perfect for thoughtful contemplation or reading a good book.
Guest rooms average a generous 500-square-feet and floor to ceiling windows look out onto gardens, the golf course or Historic Area. They are decorated with 19th century English Regency style furnishings, original artwork (some wonderful oils in ornate gold frames) and handmade silk window treatments. Couches and chairs are upholstered in silk damask and beds are covered in luxury linens and spreads.
Marble bathrooms are oversized and feature twin vanities, marble soaking tubs and marble showers. The towels and robes are plump and soft, the shower wonderfully powerful and The Spa toiletries refreshing and aromatic.
Cocktails are served in the clubby Restoration Bar, lite fare in the Terrace Room and dinner in the Rockefeller Room during the week and the elegant Regency Room on weekends where dancing is also offered. Happily, the Regency Room was open on my Monday visit. Even on a Monday night we were entertained by a tuxedoed piano player.
The spacious dining room is decorated in soothing shades of green with crystal chandeliers and windows on three sides overlooking the terrace and golf course. Two sided curtains of olive and salmon were complimented by salmon colored roses on the table. Olive tablecloths are covered with crisp, white linens and the tables are set with heavy silver tableware, small shaded lamps with silver bases and hand painted plates. Service by white jacketed waiters was perfectly paced and flawless.
The menu changes often, but on this night I enjoyed a delicious shrimp amuse bouche, a kind of chopped and stuffed chicken with spinach and pumpkin ravioli, and a duck breast with a cherry sauce and scallion potatoes. Paired with a wonderful half bottle of Fess Parker Syrah, this was a deliciously satisfying meal.
This is a good wine list, if a little pricey. The very good sommelier will help you find the value items. Try the Virginia wines, some are excellent. The half bottle list is exceptional.
Appetizers: $9-$18, entrees: $29-$39, desserts: $6-$12. Jackets required.
The gracious, old world hospitality reminded me very much of The Greenbrier, the standard for southern charm and sophistication. There is a kind of gentility to places like this that is hard to replicate. The staff is friendly without being familiar, helpful without being solicitous, discreet without being formal. Thoughtful touches like porcelain dishes in bathrooms, a single rose on the sink, a rose on your breakfast tray illustrate the attention to detail.
WHAT OTHERS SAY
“Do Williamsburg right” at this “elegant” inn “in the center of it all” where the rooms are so “comfortable and luxurious” that “even a Rockefeller would feel at home” (he built the place in 1937); there’s a “beautiful new gym”, golf, mint juleps and a “pleasing” (if “out of the ’50s”) dining room; as for the service, “every staff member addresses you by name.” ZAGAT
From $329 slow season to $459 high season. Specials throughout the year.
WHILE YOU ARE THERE
There is, of course, history, history and more history here. The wonderful exhibits and programs in the Historic Area could take up your entire visit and would be well worth it. But, for a little balance, there is a new state-of-the-art fitness center and spa, indoor and outdoor pools, croquet and lawn bowling, tennis and biking… all on the property. A carriage ride through Colonial Williamsburg is a great way to get acquainted with the area.
For golfers, The Golden Horseshoe Golf Club features two 18 hole championship courses and a 9 hole executive course. The signature gold course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. who called it his finest design.
New York: 6 hours 43 minutes
Philadelphia: 5 hours 17 minutes
Washington, DC: 2 hours 37 minutes