Road Trip Destination: Berkeley Springs, W.Va.
In Berkeley Springs, W.Va., the secret lies in the water — and its many minerals thought to have healing and soothing powers.
In the heart of this small town — about 150 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, and 105 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. — five major springs spew out 1,200 gallons of mineral water per minute. Native American settlers in the 18th century, along with George Washington, discovered the springs and bathed in the water, which many said nourished the skin and promoted healing. Doctors in the 19th century sent patients to Berkeley Springs for a bath in the water, which contains mostly the mineral magnesium carbonate. This mineral was said to help with skin conditions, and even digestive and nervous disorders.
It’s not surprising that a spa industry sprouted. The spas seem to be the main draw for tourists, although visitors can enjoy many more activities other than spa treatments, says Jeanne Mozier, vice president of Travel Berkeley Springs.
Berkeley Springs draws many female groups, who are drawn to the spas as a girls’ pampering getaway, Mozier says. “This is a very girly town,” she says.
Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at [email protected] or 412-320-7824.
The town of Berkeley Springs is appropriately named. Its biggest attraction is its mineral water from the springs, and that’s why so many spas have opened there. The most famous spa is the historic Berkeley Springs State Park, which has a Roman Bath House that dates to 1815. Even George Washington’s alleged bathtub lies outside on the park grounds.
At Berkeley Springs State Park, which received a $2 million upgrade from West Virginia recently, you can bathe in a Roman bath in 750 gallons of heated water from the springs. The spa also offers massages and saunas, and when you’re done, you can shower in more of the spring water.
Berkeley Springs State Park (www.berkeleyspringssp.com) is not the fanciest spa in town, but it has the history and economical packages.
Several full-service spas call Berkeley Springs home, including the upscale Atasia spa, with private whirlpools of mineral water, different massages, facials, manicures and pedicures, and more, in an environment with Asian and Western decor. The Bath House Day Spa & Bath Shop offers various massages, exotic body treatments like a Thai body wrap, and more. The shop sells organic bath products.
Berkeley Springs offers numerous casual and finer eateries to satisfy your appetite; following are a few you might want to check out.
Lot 12 Public House, 117 Warren St., offers upscale comfort cuisine with food largely from local farms.
Panorama at the Peak, 3299 Cacapon Road, offers mostly local and organic food, with a scenic mountain view of the Panorama Overlook (shown at left).
Tari’s Cafe, 33 N. Washington St., serves home-grown ingredients in the restaurant’s cafe, tavern or gallery, where you’ll be surrounded by art from local artists.
If you’re the outdoorsy type, check out Cacapon Resort State Park, which is about 10 miles southwest from the heart of Berkeley Springs. The resort offers 6,000 acres of outdoor getaways with activities including golfing, hiking, horseback riding and lake activities. You can stay at the resort in the Cacapon Lodge, or in private cabins and bungalows. The Cacapon Resort State Park sits in the shadow of the 2,300-foot-high Cacapon Mountain.
A season for apple butter
In early October, you can take a road trip to Berkeley Springs and enjoy the fall foliage and a special, seasonal event: the 39th annual Apple Butter Festival, held Oct. 6 and 7.
The festival, which takes place in the heart of town, features live musical entertainment, the opportunity to stir and make apple butter in the town square, and the chance to learn about nature at Environmental Row.
The Apple Butter Festival also includes a parade, and quirky events like a hog-calling contest, turtle race and beard and mustache contest.
Within a tight radius through the heart of Berkeley Springs, you can find plenty of places to spend money on antiques, gifts and souvenirs, bath and body items like specialty soaps and lotions, and more. For antiques, try the Berkeley Springs Antique Mall, 7 Fairfax St., which offers antiques and collectibles from 30 dealers. Berkeley Springs Memories, 19 N. Washington St., sells many souvenirs and gifts. If you like art, you can check out and purchase work from local artists at the Ice House Co-Op Gallery, at Independence and Mercer streets.