America's first spa was located in what is now known as historic Berkeley Springs, WV. Way before we had our first president of the United States, the wealthy and others were visiting the small town of Bath, Virginia, to soak in the warm mineral waters for the healing and therapeutic effects.
There is a lot of history associated with the small mountain town in current West Virginia. George Washington visited when he was just 16 years of age when working as a surveyor for Lord Fairfax and found the waters to be soothing.
Back then, it was just holes in the sand, lined with rocks, and the fresh mineral spring water flowed through the so-called "tubs." He fell in love with the area and purchased ground, and helped build America's first spa in Bath, Virginia, in 1776. It was named after Bath, England, where ancient Roman baths had recently been uncovered and was a spa playground for the British elite and royals.
Even after he was President, George continued to visit and bring family and friends to enjoy the mineral springs.
The first bathhouse, built in 1784, was rustic at best. It did provide a better alternative than the holes in the ground. There were separate dressing rooms and several baths, and an outdoor pool.
The town’s name was changed to Berkeley Springs in 1801 when the post-service set up a mail delivery station. The state changed after the Civil War when West Virginia became a separate state.
The original bathhouse was replaced in 1815 and is still in operation today. Renovations have taken place over the years, but visitors can still enjoy a traditional Roman bath.
Berkeley Springs is known for its historic spas. You can still soak in the waters at the state park in a full-service spa, or the historic Roman Baths. Within a block are two other full-service spas that use the mineral water. Berkeley Springs was voted the Best Spa Town in the Blue Ridge in 2020 by Blue Ridge Outdoors. One visit, and you will understand why.
Located less than a two-hour drive from D.C. and Baltimore, Berkeley Springs is an easy weekend getaway for many.
The Country Inn at Berkeley Springs hosted us for a night. All opinions are my own.
Things To Do In Berkeley Springs
When visiting America's First Spa, be sure to visit the springs, enjoy the mineral waters in drink, and the Roman and whirlpool baths. But there are other things to enjoy, including sightseeing, antique shopping, outdoor activities, and festivals. Berkeley Springs is a happening place throughout the summer and fall months and during special activities throughout the year.
Berkeley Spring State Park
The smallest state park in West Virginia, Berkeley Springs State Park is one block in size. There are two bathhouses in the park: a swimming pool, George Washington's bathtub, a gazebo, a variety of springs, a public drinking spring, a museum, and a few other structures. The mineral springs constantly flow at 74 degrees Fahrenheit at a rate of 1000+ gallons per minute. Learn more about this state park, which boasts the world’s only outdoor monument to presidential bathing, here.
George Washington’s Bathtub
The famous outdoor monument to presidential bathing, George Washington’s Bathtub is located within the State Park. It is located near the back of the park and is identified with a sign. It is about 2 feet wide and 5 or 6 feet long. The spring water inside the tub is approximately a foot deep and 72 degrees year-round. It is not the exact tub used by George but a replica of the one he used. The Old Bathhouse is located where George's actual tub was located.
Lord Fairfax’s Spring
George Washington was surveying the area for Lord Fairfax when he first soaked in the mineral waters. The largest spring in the park is named after Lord Fairfax. There are several running springs, and during warm months, visitors delight in wading through the waters.
Public Drinking Spring
Locals and visitors alike come to the public spring tap to fill their mugs and jugs with the special mineral water. On the day we visited, several people arrived to fill gallon jugs, and one man came with a wagon full of five-gallon jugs to fill. The water is free, and if you desire to purchase a jug, they are available in the Bathhouse. The public tap is located under the Gentlemen's Spring Building.
The Museum Of The Berkeley Springs
Housed above the Roman Bath House within the Berkeley Springs State Park is the Museum of the Berkeley Springs. Built in 1815, it is the oldest public building in the town.
The museum is free to the public and has activities, exhibits, and publications highlighting the story of the famous warm mineral springs and the town and its people. Check their website for open days and times.
Berkeley Springs Bathhouses
There are two bathhouse facilities operated by the state and both are parts of the park. One is the historic Roman Bathhouse with nine individual walk-in tubs, each holding 750 gallons of water in private rooms. The second bathhouse is a full-service spa offering saunas, Roman and whirlpool baths, massages, and other services. We enjoyed a Roman Bath when we arrived in town. It was a great way to relax and start the weekend.
Renaissance Spa At The Country Inn Of Berkeley Springs
Perfect when staying at The Country Inn, located next door to the State Park, is the Renaissance Spa at the Country Inn of Berkeley Springs. Located on the fourth floor, you can view the entire town while enjoying a whirlpool bath in the mineral waters. We visited this full-service spa while in Berkeley Springs and enjoyed not only the whirlpool bath but a couple’s massage.
Just one block from the park is the Atasia Spa. It is a full-service spa with whirlpool baths that utilize Berkeley Springs’ therapeutic waters. It also boasts a eucalyptus steam room.
Old Time STAR Movie Theatre
The STAR Theatre shows a first-run movie every Thursday through Sunday at 8 p.m. It’s a historic, mom-and-pop theater offering hot-oil popcorn with real butter at reasonable prices.
Antique Shops In Berkeley Springs
Several antique shops and unique stores dot the streets of Berkeley Springs. Spend an afternoon browsing and finding that perfect item to take home with you.
Take a stroll around the town with two self-guided tours. The Treasure Tour of Berkeley Springs State Park focuses on the State Park and its history. We enjoyed the Treasure Tour and learned a lot about the springs and the park.
The next time we visit, we plan to do the Walking Tour of Berkeley Springs, which takes you all over town to all the historic spots and special places of interest.
Best Restaurants In Berkeley Springs
Angus And Ale
Located a bit out of town but worth the short drive, Angus And Ale has an excellent menu, including prime rib, steaks, seafood, ribs, sandwiches, and more. I ordered their half rack of ribs, and they were falling-off-the-bone delicious!
The Country Inn Restaurant And Morgan Tavern
Located in the Country Inn of Berkeley Springs, we enjoyed breakfast in the main restaurant and lunch in the Morgan Tavern. Both were excellent. I especially like the Bavarian Soft Pretzel Logs on the appetizer menu. They are served warm with a cheese dip. (I don't eat cheese, so I opted for mustard.) They were scrumptious.
During the summer months, dining is available in their outside garden, decorated with twinkling lights.
Berkeley Springs Brewing Company
Known as the "Bath Water Brewpub," this restaurant is near the Coolfont Resort (more on the property below), between Berkeley Springs and Cacapon State Parks. Berkeley Springs Brewing Company is open Thursdays through Sundays, and they offer craft beer brewed on-site with Berkeley Springs mineral water and a full menu.
Best Hotels In Berkeley Springs
The Country Inn Of Berkeley Springs
This is the perfect place to stay if you are coming to enjoy the state park and any of the spas. It is right next door to Berkeley Springs State Park in the center of town, and you can walk to everything. The Country Inn of Berkeley Springs is a hotel rich in history with a touch of elegance. I loved the Gallery Room with the board games, piano, and sitting areas.
The Historic Inn part of the property offers rooms and suites with a touch of charm that feel similar to a bed and breakfast. Our suite had a separate sitting area, the bedroom with a king-size bed, and a large bath with both a tub and a stand-up shower.
The West Inn part of the property provides modern accommodations in their spacious rooms. There are restaurants on-site, and the Renaissance Spa is located in the West Inn. During the warmer months, you can enjoy the English Country Gardens and the twinkling lights during the evening.
Note: The Historic Inn does not offer an elevator, only steps. The West Inn does have an elevator.
The Coolfont Resort is located five miles from Berkeley Springs and is a wooded resort property offering lodging, a restaurant and lounge, and an indoor pool. There are hiking trails and a lake.
A beautiful restored Victorian bed and breakfast overlooking Berkeley Springs offers 10 rooms and a carriage house, all with delicious gourmet breakfasts. The Highlawn Inn often has specials that include spa discounts.
Whether you come to Berkeley Springs to explore the historic town, take in the waters, or visit the quaint shops, you will understand why readers voted it one ofUSA Today’s Top 10 Best Small Historic Towns in 2020. With miles of beautiful mountains, valleys, and rivers, Berkeley Springs is safe and quiet. A place to get away from it all and relax. Come and see America’s First Spa for yourself.