Gotta Get away: Resort living

The refurbished historic Grand Hotel Golf Resort and Spa overlooks Mobile Bay.   
Courtesy of The Grand Hotel
The Grand Hotel Marriott in Point Clear, Alabama, offers luxury accommodations, fine dining and a myriad of recreational activities. Courtesy of The Grand Hotel Marriott

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

Fall travel guide 2020

After months of seeing the same living spaces day in and day out, it’s no wonder we’re ready for a change of scenery. A little activity beyond a walk around the block would be nice, too, and what about a little pampering while we’re at it? A resort destination can meet all those requests and more. With a variety of recreational opportunities, spa amenities, dining options and picturesque settings, resorts can provide an escape for everyone in the family. And not to worry: Most are well-equipped with wireless internet in case the urge to take a Zoom call is overwhelming.

After surviving a hurricane, the Sheraton Panama City Beach Golf & Spa Resort overlooking St. Andrew Bay underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation.
Courtesy of Marriott Hotels
After it was damaged by a hurricane in 2018, the Sheraton Bay Point Resort in Panama City Beach, Florida, has undergone a multi-million dollar renovation. Courtesy of Bruce Buck

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

Panama City Beach, Florida

The 2018 hurricane that tore through this Florida town devastated beach-side property, but after extensive repairs and a multi-million dollar renovation, the 320-room Sheraton Panama City Beach Golf & Spa Resort is back better than ever. The AAA Four Diamond-rated, waterfront property overlooking St. Andrew Bay boasts interiors redesigned in the colors of sea and sand that that pull the beach vibe indoors. Guests can lounge on a real beach beside the calm bay waters or cool off in one of three pools. Dining options range from the elegant Tides Restaurant to the laid-back Bar 72 Pub, Pelican’s dockside and Flip Flops pool bar. Head to the marina for a jet ski or sail boat, or workout in the fitness center while the kids hit the game room. Relax in the whirlpool and sauna after treatments at the Serenity Spa and Salon, a rigorous round of tennis or a day on northwest Florida’s only Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course. (Sheraton Panama City Beach Golf & Spa Resort, $144-$209, 4114 Jan Cooley Drive, Panama City Beach, Florida. 850-236-6000, marriott.com/hotels/travel/pfnsi-sheraton-panama-city-beach-golf-and-spa-resort)

Chetola Resort's 78 acres are surrounded by the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 
Courtesy of Chetola Resort
Chetola Resort's 78 acres are surrounded by the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Courtesy of Chetola Resort

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

Blowing Rock, North Carolina

Guests at Chetola Resort will find endless amusement on the property’s 78 acres with more than a dozen on-site activities, a spa, dining and the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains all around. Try paddleboarding, canoeing or kayaking on Chetola Lake, or follow the paths to the adjacent Moses Cone Park, a 3,600-acre spread with 25 miles of old carriage trails. Other recreational options including tennis, disc golf, indoor swimming, a fitness center, outdoor yoga and fitness classes. Guests have access to the private Hound Ears golf course and fly-fishing excursions, as well as shuttles to the nearby Appalachian Ski Mountain in winter. Rejuvenate body and spirit at the full-service spa, and when it’s time to retire, Chetola has three options: one of eight individually appointed rooms in the Bob Timberlake Inn B&B in the property’s old manor house; the recently renovated Chetola Lodge, with 42 rooms and five suites with lake or woodland views; or one of the many condos, ranging in size from one to four bedrooms, on the resort’s grounds. While those units have kitchen facilities, guests may opt for a meal at the Headwaters Pub or Timberlake’s Restaurant, where take-out and family meals are available alongside a traditional menu. (Chetola Resort, $199-$449, 185 Chetola Lake Drive, Blowing Rock, North Carolina. 800-243-8652, chetola.com)

Point Clear, Alabama

For 170 years, guests have gathered at The Grand Hotel Golf Resort and Spa overlooking Mobile Bay. With its range of daily activities, kid-friendly happenings and extensive culinary options, it’s a bit like staying on a cruise ship that never leaves port. Extensive renovations have been made to the 550 acres and the 405 guest rooms, earning it a AAA Four Diamond designation. Food plays an important part in setting the tone. With seven restaurants and lounges, diners will find everything from farm-to-table cuisine in Southern Roots to the laid-back Bucky’s Lounge where cocktails are served around fire pits. High tea is an event in the Grand Hall every Thursday through Sunday, while the Sunday jazz brunch is a weekend highlight. Work up an appetite at the beach or pool, on the tennis court, with a round of lawn games, on a leisurely bike ride or stroll through the gardens. Fishing poles are provided for those who want to while away a few hours on the pier. Golfers will want to allot plenty of time to play both the Dogwood and Azalea courses that are part of Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Head to the spa for a day of pampering, and don’t be perturbed by the cannon boom at 3:45 p.m. each day — it’s a patriotic nod to the area’s history. (Grand Hotel Golf Resort and Spa, $261-408, 1 Grand Blvd., Point Clear, Alabama. 251-928-9201, grand1847.com)

Dating back to 1766, The Homestead is an historic property in the Allegheny Mountains that offers a wealth of recreational and relaxing pastimes.
Courtesy of Omni Hotels
Dating back to 1766, The Homestead is an historic property in the Allegheny Mountains that offers a wealth of recreational and relaxing pastimes. Courtesy of Omni Hotels

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

Hot Springs, Virginia

Billed as “America’s First Resort,” the Omni Homestead Resort has a history to support the claim. This National Register property dates to 1766. The destination in the Allegheny Mountains is renowned for its bucolic setting, rejuvenating springs and comfortable accommodations graced with working fireplaces and private porches. A two-acre water park, supplied by natural springs, has indoor and outdoor pools, two 100-foot slides, a lazy river, a beach and a whirlpool. A full-service spa and fitness center are on the property. Enjoy Continental fare and a lavish breakfast buffet under the shimmering chandeliers of The Dining Room, grab a burger at Woody’s or settle into the clubby Jefferson’s grill. In the winter, plan at least one meal from the smokehouse menu at Kobler’s at Mountain Lodge. Play pool or darts in the Georgian Room adjacent to the Lobby Bar where cocktails, wines and regional craft beers are served. One of the resort’s chief attractions is the great outdoors, where guests can ride horses, hike, take Segway tours, have a falconry lesson, play tennis, bike, golf on two courses and try their skill at archery. (Omni Homestead Resort, $199-$409, 7696 Sam Sneed Highway, Hot Springs, Virginia. 800-838-1766, omnihotels.com/hotels/homestead-virginia)

The vegetable garden, truffle orchard, lavender fields and mushroom farm at The Kentucky Castle produce about 90% of what's served on the dining room's menu. 
Courtesy of The Kentucky Castle
The vegetable garden, truffle orchard, lavender fields and mushroom farm at The Kentucky Castle produce about 90% of what's served on the dining room's menu. Courtesy of The Kentucky Castle

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

Versailles, Kentucky

There may never be a more apt setting for murder mystery parties than the roof of The Kentucky Castle, an exclusive resort on 55 acres near Lexington. Those eerie activities are just one of many events held at this destination, built first as a private home but turned into a hotel in 2008. Guests and visitors can enjoy chef-led cooking classes, bourbon and wine tastings, sunset and sunrise yoga sessions and a few other ingenious offerings. A recent Harry Potter Potions party featured cocktails and trivia based on the books. The setting for these events is the stone-walled castle with 30-foot ceilings, a library, spacious dining room and 12 suites, some with four-poster beds and sitting areas. The two-level turret rooms are outfitted with small kitchens. A glamping tent and a cedar cabin are also on the grounds. Dining experiences are built around the Castle’s extensive farm that sources 90% of the fare. (The Kentucky Castle, $475-$795, 230 Pisgah Pike, Versailles, Kentucky. 859-256-0322, thekentuckycastle.com)

The May River Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Course, is just one of the recreational options at Montage Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, S.C. 
Courtesy of Montage Palmetto Bluff
The May River Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Course, is just one of the recreational options at Montage Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, S.C. Courtesy of Montage Palmetto Bluff

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

Bluffton, South Carolina

Go for the Lowcountry food and history, but prepare to be awed by the extraordinary beauty of a Jack Nicklaus signature golf course. It’s all at Montage Palmetto Bluff, a 200-guest resort with a mix of cottages, rooms and suites. The 18-hole May River Golf Club is a star attraction with its setting of live oaks, waterside greens and 7,171 yards of play across the May River Forest. Other recreational options include paddleboarding, canoeing, tennis, bocce, pickle ball, biking, bowling, horseback riding, swimming in three pools and shooting at one of 13 sporting clay stations. Spend a day at the full-service spa and salon before dining in-room or at one of seven restaurants that feature locally sourced produce and seafood. A favorite activity is taking a scenic sunset cruise on one of the resort’s two yachts. (Montage Palmetto Bluff, $395-$1,160, 477 Mount Pelia Road, Bluffton, South Carolina. 843-706-6500, montagehotels.com/palmettobluff)

Connecting healthy lifestyles with exquisite views of the Smoky Mountains is the goal at Blackberry Mountain.
Courtesy of Blackberry Mountain
Connecting healthy lifestyles with exquisite views of the Smoky Mountains is the goal at Blackberry Mountain. Courtesy of Blackberry Mountain

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

Walland, Tennessee

Blackberry Mountain, the sister property to the famed Blackberry Farm, opened last year as a resort that focuses on connecting guests with nature. Nowhere is the stunning scenery of the lush Smoky Mountains more vivid that along the eight miles of protected ridge top that are part of the 5,200-acre property. Hike or take a horseback ride up the mountain, join a yoga class on a deck overlooking the valleys, paddleboard on the Little River or work-off stress in a spin class. Unwind with al fresco painting classes, fly-fishing excursions, cooking and cocktail classes or a visit to the spa. In keeping with its wellness and nature themes, Blackberry guests don’t just dine, they nourish. Menus at the Three Sisters dining room are built around locally sourced products that change daily. Pair each course with selections from an extensive wine list and craft beers from the Blackberry Farm Brewery. (Blackberry Mountain, $1,045-$2,328, including breakfast and lunch, 1041 The Loop Road, Walland, Tennessee. 865-518-0900, blackberrymountain.com)

COVID travel tips

Before traveling to resorts, check the website or query them to determine:

  • What is the resort’s guidelines regarding masks and social distancing?
  • Are there contactless services for check in, check out and food delivery?
  • What is the resort’s COVID-related cleaning protocol for guest rooms and public spaces?
  • If possible, request a room that has not been occupied in the last 48 hours.

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