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A Hotel Fit for Congress

Since 1778, visitors have trooped to the town of White Sulphur Springs to restore their health in the curative waters that flow from the town's spring. Today the spring in question is the centerpiece of the Greenbrier, 300 W. Main St. (tel. 800/453-4858;, a magnificent 6,500-acre resort that is rich in both history (it's hosted 26 presidents) and luxury.

Once the most fashionable summer resort in the South where Robert E. Lee built a summer home, it was forced to close during the Civil War when, depending on which side was occupying the property, it served as a hospital or as a military headquarters. At the end of the war, the resort once again rose to prominence, only to switch identities once more during World War II, when it was purchased by the U.S. Army and turned into a hospital. Following the war, the building was transformed into a luxury resort by noted designer Dorothy Draper (the exterior of the magnificent Georgian main building strongly resembles the White House), and counted the legendary Sam Snead as its golf pro (establishing the resort as a premiere golf destination) until his death in 2002.

But perhaps the most interesting bit of Greenbrier history is this: In the 1950s, the government built a secret underground Emergency Relocation Center under the resort that, for nearly 30 years, was maintained to serve as the emergency location of Congress should an international crisis ever force the legislative branch out of Washington. The shelter was finally closed down in 1995 (you can tour it along with other notable portions of this National Historic Landmark's interior and grounds on guided tours).

Today a stay at the Greenbrier features luxurious accommodations, unbelievable service, first-class dining, and an amazing array of recreational activities, ranging from the Falconry Academy and Golf Digest Academy to state-of-the-art fitness and tennis centers and a world-renowned spa. There's also a specialized diagnostic and health evaluation clinic. The resort renovates each of its guest rooms at least once every 4 years, which means that all of them -- from the small but elegant standard rooms to the two-bedroom cottages -- are exquisitely decorated and kept in tiptop condition. Don't miss having at least one meal in the elegant main dining room, renowned for its classical cuisine.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.