I think the biggest lesson I learned from my recent stay at West Virginia’s Stonewall Resort is that holiday rates are not worth the extra money. I’m fine with weekend versus weekday rates, but when a room is almost $100 more per night because it’s a holiday, you should probably look elsewhere or travel during another time. But first let me give you a little background.
Originally, I had planned on traveling to Ohio’s Amish country since, as I mentioned before, I still had to work part of the weekend and it was a doable drive. I found a terrific looking bed and breakfast, reasonable rates, good reviews. But it didn’t have a pool and even though we have a pool here in our community, I just thought that for the holiday weekend having access to one would be nice. So I kept looking for other areas to visit and came across the Stonewall Resort in the Weston, West Virginia area. The resort is located within Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park and from the website (yes, don’t fall too head over heels for a place just by its website), it looked gorgeous.
When I read some reviews on TripAdvisor, I got a tad worried. For the most part I’ve found that many reviewers on TripAdvisor like to embellish and be overly dramatic. Well, some of the negative things I read about the Stonewall Resort actually turned out to be true as I encountered them myself. Here’s the thing-it’s a resort in the sense that if you didn’t want to ever have to leave the property, you wouldn’t need to (a feature that many people love about resorts). However, in no way, shape, or form is it comparable to anything you would come across in places like the Caribbean or Hawaii. I know the term “lodge” can perhaps give off unworthy connotations, e.g. plain rooms with minimal furnishings and amenities. But I would describe the Stonewall Resort as more an upscale lodge. Since there are many areas to discuss, I’m going to break them out individually.
Location: I mentioned that the resort is actually within the state park so after turning off of Route 19, you check in with an attendant. Guests of the lodge are merely given a tag for their car, while visitors who may be visiting the state park for recreational purposes pay a fee. Stonewall Jackson Lake is extremely beautiful and with the backdrop of the forested trees all around it, well, that can’t be beat. Should you tire of the resort ambiance, the town of Weston is only about a 20 minute drive away (non-resort dining options).
Check-in: Excluding the actual outdoors, my favorite part of the resort was its lobby area. It was simply stunning as you can see from the photo below. I just wish other areas of the resort looked as pristine as this. We arrived at the resort around 3:30 PM and were able to check into our room (official time for check in is 4 PM).
Room: Our room was on the top floor (there are only three floors total). While nice, you could tell certain areas and things had never been updated. My one critique is that the walls were very thin (one morning we could hear almost word for word the conversation of the occupants in the room next to ours), and the same went for the doors, which looked very old. It did have a flat screen TV (which we didn’t turn on once). You could open the windows but while the weather wasn’t overly hot, we didn’t feel the need to do so.
Pool: One of the things I was most excited about was that the pool was both indoors and outdoors (there is a door that is open between the two during the warmer weather). Our first day there we went down about 5 PM and both pools were mobbed. The indoor one was slightly less crowded so we went into that one, only to never really be able to relax as one family (a dad with at least four children) was playing a game of catch and thought it perfectly fine to use the entire length of the indoor pool for their game. There were also two hot tubs in the pool area, both of which on the first day were completely overrun with children, very young children. Besides the fact that signs clearly said that children under 12 should not be using them for health reasons, you had 3 year olds and 8 year olds running in and out of them. Meanwhile, adults like myself had to fight for space, all the while getting splashed from obnoxious children who were jumping from the hot tub to the pool. We swam the next day which was better since we went much earlier and didn’t have as terrible a time. At the pool, you are asked to sign in; you are then given wrist bands to wear. Instead of using your staff to sign people in and give them wrist bands, it would be better if your staff actually patrolled so when child guests are running and having horseplay, you can warn them to settle down. Needless to say, parents never seemed to be around. It also would be better if you would actually designate one hot tub for those guests at least 18 years and older. Couples who don’t have children shouldn’t be forced to put up with such undisciplined behavior when paying so much.
NOTE: There is a campground area within the state park, very near to the resort. I learned that campground guests can actually pay a fee to use some of the resort’s amenities including the pool. This undoubtedly contributed to the pool area being as overrun as it was.
Dining: The resort isn’t lacking in food options. On site at the resort, there are two restaurants, Stillwater’s and TJ Muskies Lounge, along with a coffee shop that is operational from 6:30 in the morning until 2 PM. At the golf club house, up on a hill across the road (there is a shuttle that transports guests from the lodge or you can also easily drive yourself), there was another restaurant, Lightburns. Its website bills Stillwater’s as being a more upscale casual dining experience. We ate there our first night and I was less than impressed. The food quality just wasn’t anything too spectacular. I had a tortellini dish for my entree and the sauce was incredibly lacking in taste. D went with a chicken lasagna and he seemed to like his a bit more. My appetizer, a panzanella salad, and the dessert we split, pineapple upside down cake, were much better. Our second night there we dined at Lightburns which beat out Stillwater’s due to its awesome location as it offered pristine views of the state park down below. That night they were having a special buffet; once again, the food was just average. Nothing wowed me and as is often the case with buffets, many of the dishes were lukewarm. I heard that the Fourth of July weekend is their busiest at the resort with guests and day visitors, so I guess food quality probably suffers as a result of this. The coffee shop was great to have-we got drinks each morning and they also sold freshly baked scones which were delicious. This was definitely a nice perk to have on site.
Activities: All guests are charged a $15 resort fee each day. It includes things like valet parking/free parking, wifi, admission to the state park, use of the pool, local calls (all things that a place should already offer for free), but it also includes excursion boat tours and use of paddle boats, canoes, kayaks and more. We probably didn’t take enough advantage of this but on our full day there we did go out in a paddleboat on the lake which was fun, albeit a bit hot. The standup paddle boards which I first saw in Hawaii seemed to be immensely popular. They also had bikes you could rent, although these had to stay on resort property (you couldn’t go onto a trail in the state park) and games like badminton and corn hole. There is also a steam/sauna room and exercise area for visitorsIn addition there is the Roanoke Activity Plaza; it’s not right on the resort property but is about a 10 minute walk. It has games, basketball hoops, and miniature golf-all I can say is that if you don’t have children under the age of 10, don’t even scout it out. We were intrigued by the idea of miniature golf and walked up only to see that the course was nothing more than plywood greens. For young children that’s fine, for two adults not really. The Activity Plaza does have separate (nominal) rates.
Spa: A spa is on site and while I contemplated going, I decided against it and knowing how the rest of the resort was, I probably made the smart decision. I’m not a savvy spa person to begin with but prices seemed on average with other places I’ve seen.
Miscellaneous: Near to the pool area is a fire pit which is lit in the evenings. It’s also here where you can make smores (smores kits are sold in TJ Muskies Lounge). It didn’t get cold at night but it was cool enough to appreciate the fire even if this area was (understandably) mobbed at night. There were also Adirondack chairs set up to gaze out at the lake and on two separate occasions we sat here simply relaxing and taking in the view.
As it was a holiday weekend, the resort actually put on their own fireworks display which was very cool and unique. I will say that’s the first time that I ever got to see fireworks without ever having to go anywhere.
Conclusion: I think if there was ever a special promotional rate, the Stonewall Resort would be a fun getaway. But it is not the type of place to pay a premium for. The “resort” name is a bit misleading although I guess if you haven’t done a lot of traveling before, it may seem like one. But if you get a good rate and are outdoor enthusiasts, it’s a place you most likely would love. I personally just found it somewhat disappointing.