Go old school for a weekend of pampering and rejuvenation. For more than 200 years, travelers have shed their clothes to unwind in the soothing, mineral-rich therapeutic waters of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., which flow from the Warm Spring Ridge at a constant temperature of 74 degrees. In 1750, a young George Washington visited the springs and discovered more than 300 people of both sexes soaking in the spring-fed waters. He established a town at the site in 1776 and called it Bath, after the famous English spa town. This continues as the city's official name, but the post office designation of Berkeley Springs has been adopted by the outside world. Regardless of what you call it, this beautiful small town has grown into a Mecca for the arts, holistic healing and relaxation. Aaaahhh.
The centrally located bath house, built in 1930 and run as part of Berkeley Springs State Park (304-258-2711 or berkeleysprings sp.com/spa.html), completed a $2 million renovation in November. Using automated boilers and pumps, the spring water is amped up to 102 degrees Fahrenheit in Jacuzzi tubs and Roman baths. Each bath is actually a small pool encompassed within an individual ceramic-tiled room. Steps lead down into the 3-foot-deep pool, where one can wade or float or sit on a submerged bench and even read a book. (Just don't bring your Kindle.) The baths are segregated within men's and women's sides of the historic building, each side also having locker facilities, showers, saunas and massage-therapy rooms. Swedish massages are available in 30- and 60- minute sessions, and a separate Roman Bath House features nine 750-gallon chambers that can be shared coed by couples. Between these two bathing facilities is an outdoor pool that's open during the summer. The town also has three other spas, each offering a wide array of massages, body treatments and facials.
It's uncanny how many fine-dining restaurants exist within a city that is no more than four blocks wide by 10 blocks long. Tari's Cafe (304-258-1196 or tariscafe.com) delights the sense of sight as much as the senses of smell and taste. While noshing on creative appetizers, such as the Fire Roasted Red Bell Pepper, Spinach and Jalapeno Fondue, take in the vibrant local artwork on the exposed-brick walls — all of these paintings are for sale. Entrées include everything under the sun, from pecan-crusted salmon and jambalaya to filet mignon and vegetarian specialties such as curried hummus. The Lot 12 Public House (304-258-6264 or lot12.com) is a true upscale bistro where chef Damien Heath uses only the freshest local and organic ingredients from regional farmers and growers. The chef also maintains a large organic garden at his home and grows herbs in a small plot in front of the restaurant. This bounty of the land allows Heath to create gourmet delicacies in a menu that changes with the seasons. Also worth a try is the open and airy café at the Ambrae House (304-258-2333 or ambraehouse.com), where the menu runs from Asian-inspired dishes, such as Asian Beef Bundles, to fish tacos. And beer lovers can check out the Morgan Tavern at the Country Inn (304-258-2210 or thecountryinnatberkeleysprings.com) for hearty pub fare to go with the suds.
Typical of the inviting bed and breakfast accommodations within the Town of Bath, the Manor Inn (304-258-1552 or bathmanorinn.com) is listed on the National Register of Historic Homes. The grand Victorian, built in 1874, includes four large guest rooms, all with high ceilings and sumptuous antique furnishings. Trimmed in a regal purple, the expansive porch is the perfect spot for sipping iced tea and enjoying the summer breeze, and the delicious and seemingly endless country-style breakfast will keep you going all day long.
The shops on Fairfax Street bring new-age healing to everyone. The Sage Moon Herb Shop (304-258-9228 or sagemoon herbshop.com) has bulk herbs and teas, candles, massage oils, some bulk foods such as mushrooms and seaweeds, and even classes, including one on herbs and food for springtime that's scheduled for early April. The shop at the Bath House Day Spa (800-431-4698 or bathhouse.com) specializes in natural and organic bath and massage gifts (they also offer spa services), and Portals (304-258-5200 or portals ofberkeleysprings.com) sells a variety of homeopathic products. And as in most small towns, you'll also find a wide array of gift shops, antique stores and art galleries here. The Ice House (304-258-2300 or macicehouse.org), a four-story, yellow-brick, refurbished cold-storage building, showcases the talents of more than 20 area artists, with new exhibits opening regularly.
A part of the West Virginia Historic Theatre Trail, the Depression-era Star Theatre (304-258-1404 or starwv.com) has been screening films since 1928, the same year Richmond's own Byrd Theatre was built. (And, like the Byrd, it serves popcorn with real butter.) Movies are generally shown Friday to Sunday, with occasional 2 p.m. matinees of kids' films on Sundays. Tickets are $3.75 for adults and $3.25 for children. Pay an extra 50 cents to take a seat on one of three couches or in two overstuffed chairs, and you'll feel like you're kicking back at home.