SPA TOWN IN UNITED STATES
BERKELEY SPRINGS, WEST VIRGINIA
Berkeley Springs is a town of 663 people (as of 2000) in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, across the border from Maryland. "Berkeley Springs" is the name of the post office, but the town is incorporated as Bath. It's a vibrant artistic community, full of quaint inns and historical connections to George Washington, but it's most famous for its mineral springs, which are used both for drinking water and rejuvenating warm baths. Understandably, the spa (and pampering) business is big in the area.
For more than two centuries, folks have traveled to the tiny mountain town of Berkeley Springs to soak up warm mineral waters for the health of it. Friendly, safe, affordable and less than two hours from metro Washington and Baltimore, Berkeley Springs offers state-of-the-art spas, unique shops and local arts, all surrounded by West Virginia’s splendid outdoors.
Billed in all the travel ads as a romantic getaway, the Berkeley Springs area has another side — a family-friendly face that encourages visitors to “bring the kids.” Safe and quiet, with miles of beautiful mountains, ridges, valleys and rivers — Morgan County has been a popular destination since George Washington brought his family nearly 250 years ago. Lodging and activities are geared for weekend getaways, week-long vacations or regular visits year ’round.
Berkeley Springs State Park in the center of the historic spa town of Berkeley Springs is a unique natural playground and the family jewel of the area. The famous warm springs can be seen bubbling up through sand patches and overflowing into a narrow channel and several large stone pools. Almost any day finds a passel of kids diligently catching the minnows and crayfish that dart through the sparkling clear water . To help the game, small nets are available for sale in the main bathhouse. Even when a child falls in, the constant water temperature of 74° makes it an enjoyable tumble.
Older children may enjoy splashing with their parents in one of the Roman baths housed in the two-story building at the park’s north end. The tiled tubs in individual rooms are family-sized and can accommodate a swimming stroke or two. For serious swimming, the park’s outdoor poolwith lifeguards is open daily during the summer, with a modest daily fee.
There’s lots to look at in the tiny park including a picturesque bandstand, 18th century millstone and George Washington’s Bath Tub — a favorite with the kids. There are picnic tables, green lawns, and free summer concerts every Saturday afternoon in July and August. Candy, ice cream, tasty lunches and pizza are available at several restaurants and shops within a block of the park.
The town’s long history as a spa is traced in the family-friendly Museum of the Berkeley Springs on the second floor of the Roman Bath House. There’s an 800-lb local crystal, a light-up model of springs geology and an exhibit of antique bathing wear that delight the children. The Museum is open most days during the summer season.
A few miles south of town, the ridge turns into Cacapon Mountain and a second state parknestles on 6,000 acres of mountain wilderness. Cacapon State Park is a full resort with activities open to both daytrippers and guests staying at the park’s cabins and lodge. There is no entry fee to the park. When you want to “turn ’em loose,” Cacapon State Park is the place to bring the kids.
The park’s stream-fed lake features a sand beach, lifeguards and a flotilla of paddle and rowboats. Open daily for swimming, the lake is free to park guests; there are modest fees for day use. Fishing is free and no license is required for those under 15 years old. The dam on the east side of the well-stocked lake is often filled with folks fishing for abundant trout and bass.
Over twenty miles of marked hiking and bridle trails to and along the mountain’s summit range from easy to challenging and boast stunning views, odd rock formations and mountain flora. Other park activities range from an 18-hole golf course, volleyball and clay tennis courts (bring your own equipment) to horseshoe pits, skeet shooting and a children’s play area near the lake. On rainy days, children can play in the lodge’s spacious gameroom, well stocked with arcade machines, ping pong and shuffleboard. The park’s naturalist offers weekly programs including photo safaris, animal and tree guided walks. Horses can be rented from the park’s stables and overnight trail rides are available. The lodge restaurant offers casual family dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
With its many attractions, pavilions and literally scores of picnic tables, Cacapon State Park is a favorite for family reunions and group parties. There’s even a campfire circle, ideal for an evening of ghost stories — or tales about wayward relatives.