Daytripping: Take the Waters
“On holiday at Bedford. Stop. Never want to leave. Stop.”
roasting s'mores at omni bedford springs resort / photos by chuck beard
Bubbling up through fissures in the earth, the waters pick up traces of salts, sulfur compounds, minerals and gases that are believed to alleviate what ails you — arthritis, circulatory complaints, tummy troubles, asthma, colds, fevers … even Aunt Nell’s tiresome “malaise.” (A few dunks in the spring-fed pool, and the old gal emerges jolly and ready for a sleigh ride.)
the famous Bedford Mineral Water
Bedford was built over these spring waters, and it now welcomes you to drop by for a spritzing.
Local Native Americans long believed in these waters’ curative powers, and Dr. John Anderson learned much from them. He purchased 2,200 acres around the springs in 1796 and built a home here; in 1804 he built an inn to house wealthy patrons who made the treacherous journey to see him for his balneotherapy prescriptions and springwater-based tonics.
Omni Bedford Springs Resort entrance
Knowledge of modern medicine was in its infancy then, and patrons flocked to the springs hoping to be cured by the chilly waters. The size of the inn grew along with the good doctor’s clientele, and over the next few decades his humble spa became the opulent Bedford Springs Resort. Wildly popular with the elite traveling class — even hosting several U.S. presidents — the grand retreat stood for years as the ultimate in American resort life.
rocking chairs on the grand porch at Omni Bedford Springs Resort
On Aug. 16, 1858, Queen Victoria sent the first transatlantic telegram to U.S. President James Buchanan — who received it at Bedford Springs. (Throughout his lifetime, Buchanan spent many summers at the resort, calling it his “summer White House.”) The 98-word message, celebrating the dawn of speedier transatlantic communication, took 16 hours to send via Morse Code, and began: “The Queen desires to congratulate the President upon the successful completion of this great international work, in which the Queen has taken the deepest interest.”
horn of plenty kitchen
Bedford Springs joined the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, but Americans’ changing travel habits led to the hotel’s closure just two years later. After flash flooding caused devastating damage to several buildings, all seemed lost — until a group of investors purchased the property in 1998. Their team of historically minded architects, engineers and designers set out to return the resort to its former grandeur. After a $120-million restoration, the newly christened Omni Bedford Springs Resort reopened in 2007 in full glory.
Cove Creek Outfitters
We’re all celebrities in our own minds, right? We stay at Bedford Springs and feel justified in our elevated self-image. From the nimble valet service to the guest rooms’ period decor to the elegance of dining in the Crystal Room, we feel quite posh. Was that Lady Mary and the Dowager Countess guffawing whilst making s’mores at the Fire Pit? Comme c’est gauche!
There’s world-class golf, as well as the Duchess of Bedford Tea Experience, cooking demonstrations, yoga and Pilates, hiking and biking trails for all levels, fly-fishing instruction, Segway tours and wine dinners, as well as trap shooting, horseback riding, tennis and more nearby.
We spend the better part of a day in the Springs Eternal Spa; the highlight is a 50-minute Eternal Therapeutic Massage under the firm hands of Croix. And don’t even try to make us depart too soon from the Gentlemen’s Bath area, with whirlpool, eucalyptus-scented steam, cooling pool, deluge showers and cucumber body mist. It’s the lush life for us.
To reclaim our manly vigor, we shred the rugged Evitts Trail, a 4-mile loop through isolated terrain winding among native pines and oaks along a creek bed.
spiced apple pie from horn of plenty
The borough of Bedford has many restaurants and shops in the quaint downtown area, a five-minute ride from the resort. For fresh farm-to-table goodness, head to Horn O Plenty. Our dinners — Country Chicken and Mushroom Gravy with biscuits and greens, and Stuffed Sweet Potato with chèvre and greens — were tasty and bountiful. Next time we’ll try the wood-fired Zing pizza (pepperoni, salami, beef sausage, thick-cut bacon, buttercream cheese, signature zing relish and fire-roasted onions). For dessert: spiced apple pie. Delicious.
My Neck of the Woods
For shoppers, My Neck of the Woods features industrial furnishings, local photography and handwoven throws. Get your holiday togs at Cove Creek Outfitters, with men’s and women’s wear designed to impress the resort set.
For history buffs, the National Museum of the American Coverlet exhibits antique woven bedcovers from around the country along with early-American spinning and weaving equipment. For the energetic, Founders Crossing Artisan and Antique Market features 140-plus artisan and antiques merchants in a historic building downtown.
Another claim to fame for Bedford is the annual Fall Foliage Festival, held over two weekends in early October. More than 400 craftspeople take over the beautiful downtown strip as an antique car parade putters by. Dry off Aunt Nell and bring her along.
Go on a GPS-powered treasure hunt at Bedford Springs. Your list of geocache objects awaits at the Tally Ho shop in the Springs Eternal House. The provided GPS unit will guide you close enough to find the object with the help of coded clues. When you find your hidden prize, follow geocaching’s first rule: If you take an object, leave an object of similar value. And don’t forget to log your success in the included notepad.
Discover America’s past at Old Bedford Village, a living-history museum/village with colonial craft exhibits, festivals and history reenactments.
Taste all things Italian at LIFeSTYLE with old-world ingredients, cookbooks and pastas lining the shelves. The weekend Trattoria dinners are not to be missed.
Wrap yourself in luxury at Backstage Alpaca Shop, offering downy-soft sweaters, socks, toys, scarves, blankets and more.
Want better travel photos? Stay out of them. The Eiffel Tower is magnificent on its own,without your goofy-smiling, fanny-packed self standing in the way. (Those photos scream “We were here!!”, and the response is a bored “We know.”) It’s infinitely more interesting to spend a few extra minutes to capture the tower at a clever angle, or at dawn or sunset. Your Instagram friends will thank you. Oh, and burn that fanny pack.