Salamander Resort & Spa
500 North Pendleton St., Middleburg, Virginia; salamanderresort.com. 185 rooms from $275 (U.S.).
In the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains sits the elegant Salamander Resort and Spa. Opened last summer, the five-star resort covers 138 hectares deep in the heart of Virginia's horse country, making this equestrian-themed hotel a must-stay for guests who love to ride or love to hang out with the monied horsey set.
Fly into Washington, and the resort is a 90-minute drive from D.C. Drive down from Toronto, and it's an eight-hour trek – just the right spot to stop for few days rest on road trips to warmer climes. Once you've arrived, the historic town of Middleburg is just next door – it's quintessential small-town America with delightful shopping and eateries, and is as much of a draw to the area as the resort.
It's easy to feel at home in these rooms swathed in equine luxury, each floor a replica of one of the four seasons. The first floor is dedicated to dog owners who are privy to dedicated events like "yappy hour" each week. Rich leather accents juxtapose the coziness of knitted bedding with a stirrup print on its edges. The bedside fireplace is a treat and makes up for playing hide and seek with the hairdryer in a clandestine drawer on the vanity. Likewise, soaking in the pedestal tub was a delicious respite from the television temporarily not working. Staff were quick to fix the problem, but a word to those who like to soak: Bring your own bubble bath or salts.
EAT IN OR EAT OUT
Stay on the resort and enjoy a number of gastronomic experiences. The Cooking Studio features guest chefs and cooking classes (soon you will also be able to watch it live from your room); or dine at Harriman's Restaurant, which is designed to look like an old stable. And make sure to order the 10-layer chocolate cake with maple bacon ice cream by pastry chef Jason Reaves – one bite and you'll wonder if he secretly made this for Canadian guests. The Gold Cup Wine Bar and Billiards Room is regal yet casual, ideal for sharing plates and perfectly executed cocktails.
Just one? The Equestrian Center has more than 12 different programs, including – wait for it – equestrian yoga. If you're flexible enough to downward dog on the back of your horse (seriously), the class consists of 30 minutes of traditional yoga in the stable and 30 minutes of back and leg stretches on the horse at sunrise. (Two spotters are on each side of the horse if your balance falters.)
WHOM YOU'LL MEET
Young and beautiful couples mix with the silver-haired and affluent in Harriman's Restaurant and the Gold Cup Wine Bar. You'll also run into corporate groups on team-building exercises.
IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING
Though the resort's cozy interiors offer ultimate relaxation, its lobby was a flurry of activity that borders on chaotic, especially on weekends.
ROOM WITH A VIEW
Opt for a grand lawn view with Instagram-worthy vistas through the horse cut-out on the balcony.
The writer was a guest of the resort.