With my busy work schedule, I am always looking for a way to relax without having to travel too far. My place of solace has become Salamander Resort and Spa.
The 340 acre resort, founded by Sheila Johnson; entrepreneur, philanthropist and co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, is located about an hour outside of Washington, DC in Virginia’s wine and horse country.
I first visited Salamander two years ago and since then have visited more than seven times. Salamander is the place to visit when you want to experience nature, luxury, and feel at peace. I’ve come for beauty events, Easter brunch, wine tastings, countless spa visits, a babymoon with my bff, to tree top zip-line (the course spans over 20 acres and is over a half mile long), and for “mental health” days.
Out of all my experiences nothing beats my first visit. Here is a little rewind to when I first visited the resort.
It’s amazing how many things can be packed into one day…
I started my visit at the equestrian center which includes a 14,000-square-foot stable featuring 22 stalls. The resort offers lessons and rides to all ages and even offers a boarding program where guests who own horses can bring them with them for their stay. I did the mindfulness trail ride which allows you to get to know your horse, learn basic instruction, and then head out on a trail ride in the Virginia countryside. During the ride my instructor, Ashley, gave me a great outside tour of the resort and made me feel comfortable. Although my ride came to a bit of a bumpy ending, it was quite an enjoyable experience.
After leaving the equestrian center, I visited the main area of the resort. When you enter the resort, the lobby area, called the living room, is designed to model the private residence Ms. Johnson. Off to one side of the living room is the Gold Cup Wine Bar, which served some pretty amazing cocktails and has an extensive Virginia wine list, and to the other side of the living room was one of my favorite places in the resort, the library. The library’s fireplace served as the focal point of the room along with books from all genres, some from Ms. Johnson’s personal collection.
Attention to detail is something that you see continuously throughout the resort. The Equestrian theme is prominent throughout, and you can’t help but notice as you navigate the property. The staff wears equestrian attire, the private dining room houses trophies and ribbons from competitions, the bathrooms are octagonal, and even the room numbers are on placards shaped like equestrian helmets.
The hotel has 168 guestrooms, 17 which are suites. One of the unique things is that each of the four guest floors represents a different season. The coloring and detail are a hint to the season. Each room is outfitted with dual sinks, showers with body jets and a pedestal tub. As a woman I loved that the room also comes with a vanity table, that includes black washcloths for washing off your makeup, again attention to detail makes the difference. Another great amenity was a fireplace in the bedroom. That isn’t something you typically see at a hotel, but more half the rooms at Salamander have fireplaces. The resort also offers rooms on the terrace level to accommodate dog lovers. Those rooms include dog beds, food and water bowls and organic treats.
Food was a big highlight on this trip for me. The resort offers guests many options including The Gold Cup Wine Bar and Harrimans, a grill that pays homage to regional cuisine, and truly believes in farm to table, as was seen by the garden outside of the restaurant.
I had an amazing experience in the cooking studio where the resort holds classes throughout the week. The studio also allows chefs to interact with guests while preparing meals and guests to see how a kitchen runs. Before my meal the head chef came out and introduced himself, and I was lucky to experience an awesome tasting menu while in the studio. I tried a variety of things including burrata cheese topped with albino caviar and served with tomato, avocado, olive oil and aged balsamic; barbecued scallops and grits; and my favorite dessert “coffee and doughnuts,” which consisted of a homemade allspice sugar doughnut with a cafe-whiskey sauce on the side and passion fruit meringue.
After a long day, my final destination was the spa. The moment I walked in I was already planning my return. The spa offers a variety of massages, body treatments, skin care and salon services. You can also spend just as much time in the non-treatment areas of the facility as well. There is an aromatherapy steam room, a vitality pool, heated tepidarium loungers– that was perfect after my ride earlier in the day, and a spa pool with cabanas. They also offer a fitness facility and a variety wellness classes including equestrian yoga, where participants practice yoga on a horse.
One of the highlights of my trip was seeing the CEO of the resort Sheila Johnson in the lobby greeting guests as they entered. Her presence added to the attention to detail that I witnessed throughout my visit at the resort.
When I drove away from Salamander I was a bit sad that my time had come to an end. The bright side is it’s accessible enough to spend a lazy afternoon there but just far enough to do a staycation.