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Photo courtesy the Kingsmill Resort
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Photo courtesy the Kingsmill Resort
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Photo courtesy The Williamsburg Winery
I found the perfect way to get my neighbor's attention: Tell him I'm going to Kingsmill Resort for the weekend. He's an avid golfer, and the resort is home to three 18-hole championship golf courses as well as the LPGA Kingsmill Championship, so you can imagine why he was just a tad envious when I broke the news.
Situated on land that was a bustling plantation from 1619 through the 1800s, the Kingsmill Resort (757-253-3953 or kingsmill.com ) encompasses 2,900 protected acres along the James River yet is minutes from Busch Gardens. The two destinations are worlds apart when it comes to crowds and noise. This summer I had the pleasure of watching the park's nightly fireworks from the balcony of my room. Luckily, I couldn't hear any commotion from the park — not even the screams from nearby roller coasters. Everything on my end was peaceful and quiet.
Originally developed by Anheuser-Busch and now owned by Xanterra, the resort is undergoing a major expansion, with a new lazy-river pool complex overlooking the river. The complex includes a sandy beach, a zero-entry pool, a fire pit and a poolside bar. It is located near a new, exclusive riverfront community called Cottages on the James, which is currently under construction.
The new complex joins the resort's 2,200-square-foot fitness center, where you'll find an indoor pool, racquetball courts and a second outdoor pool. The tennis center, only a short walk from the fitness center, has 13 clay and two hard courts. The resort hosts two women's United States Tennis Association pro circuit tournaments each year, including the Kingsmill Resort Tennis Classic. I wandered down to the tennis courts with my husband, a passionate fan of the sport, and we watched a couple of players take lessons — the resort has a tennis academy, as well as a program that allows you to play with a pro. We were able to see the action from The Mill, a cute sundries shop with coffee, ice cream and homemade pastry. I recommend the raspberry sorbet.
Kingsmill's three 18-hole championship golf courses — the River Course, the Plantation Course and the Woods Course — are available for play throughout the year. Golfers love to play the River Course because of its 17th hole, which is not only challenging but also picturesque, especially at sunset.
A full-service, 15-boat slip marina with a sandy beach is just a short stroll away. You can rent a kayak, a stand-up paddleboat or a jon boat at neighboring Wareham's Pond (it's all done through the resort). Fishing is available from the resort's standing pier. Don't fret if you don't have a fishing license; you can get one at the harbor shop. We decided to have dinner at James Landing Grille, which is a short walk from the marina. The restaurant overlooks the river, and there's not a bad seat in the house thanks to its floor-to-ceiling windows. I was quite pleased with my crab cake, which was all crabmeat with very little filling. The restaurant's burgers must be "the item" to order, based on the number of waiters parading burgers around the room.
The resort has plenty of walking and jogging trails as well as bike trails. Bikes and Segways are available for rent. For those who just want to be pampered, the Spa at Kingsmill offers everything from a standard Swedish massage to a decadent chocolate wrap that begins with a sweet sugar scrub and ends with ribbons of chocolate body wrap.
The resort's villa-style guest rooms and suites, several of which overlook the river, suit the campus-like atmosphere. Dining options aside from James Landing Grille include Eagle's, a trendy chophouse; Regattas' Café, with pizza from a wood-burning oven and sumptuous beer-battered shrimp, and the Southern-style Bray Dining Room with views of the river. We pigged out on the huge breakfast buffet at the Bray, and I'm not ashamed to say that I made several trips for the warm biscuits and crispy bacon
If you're going to Kingsmill, take advantage of the resort's shuttle service and visit The
Williamsburg Winery (757-229-0999 or williamsburgwinery.com ), the largest winery in the state. The winery's tour and tasting takes you through the barrel cellar and production area before you settle in to tasting seven of the winery's selections. You also can choose to include lunch at Gabriel Archer Tavern, which overlooks the vineyards.