The Wide Blue Yonder

Wintergreen's primary location atop the Blue Ridge Mountains boasts varied lodging, family fun and memorable views.
About halfway up the mountain, OnStar — our faithful navigator during the eight-hour trip from Cleveland — loses its way. To me, this is a sign that we're headed someplace interesting.

On our own now, we wind around a few more turns and make it to our two-bedroom condo. The space is clean and comfortable with wood floors and a fireplace, a nice backdrop for the real attraction — the lush, green Blue Ridge Mountains in which Virginia's Wintergreen Resort is set.

Our balcony wraps from the living room to the bedroom. For the next two days, I'll sip my coffee here in the morning and read books to my two girls here before they go to bed. Our place is about a quarter-mile down the road from the main lodge, where the restaurants and shops are located. We eat dinner at The Edge, a family-friendly restaurant. The salmon, club sandwich and kids' corn dogs are fine, but again, it's the view from the windows that line two walls of the room that makes the night.

My 6-year-old learns how to draw mountains. She draws arc after arc, overlapping them until there's room for no more. That's pretty much how it looks.

The next morning, if we were without the girls, there would be options. The Wintergreen Tennis Academy, which boasts 19 clay courts, is one of the top 10 ranked adult tennis academies in the world. We could golf at one of two courses: Devils Knob, which at an altitude of 3,850 feet is the highest course in Virginia; or Stoney Creek, located down in the Rockfish River valley.

Together, the two courses earned Wintergreen the designation of being named one of the Top 50 Golf Resorts in the World by Condé Nast Traveler. It'd be nice, after those activities, to unwind in the resort's Wintergarden Spa with a massage and more of those views.

But, of course, with a 4-year-old and 6-year-old in tow, there has never been any question of where we are going. To the slide! To the slide! The Plunge Tubing Park was originally built for snow-tubing but recently added a plastic track for summertime fun.

We load our inner tubes onto the track, get a little push, and we're off — whirling down the equivalent of 10 stories for 300 yards. If you don't mind bumpy — and my laughing, screaming kids don't — then it's the kind of thrill you want to do again and again. And we do, totaling about eight runs down the slide and back up the magic carpet.

If my kids were older, they could try the 900-foot zip line. Instead, they hit the climbing wall, mini golf and bungee trampoline. After all of that, we head for the outdoor pool, a peaceful oasis from which you see nothing but mountains.

Wintergreen is perhaps too long of a drive for just sliding and swimming, but it'd be a great base for exploring Monticello or the University of Virginia (30 miles away) or a nice add-on to a trip to Washington, D.C. (about three hours away).

>> Route 664, Wintergreen, Va., 800-266-2444,

In-Season Activities
Fall | Beauty peaks at this time of year. Thirty miles of hiking trails offer spectacular views.

Winter | Hit the slopes, then the greens. Thanks to Virginia's mild climate and the dramatic 3,300-foot change in elevation from the ski slopes to the golf course in the valley, Wintergreen offers the rare opportunity to do both in the same day.

Spring | This is the time to golf and play tennis. Rain? Hit the three indoor tennis courts for drills, private lessons or just to get some court time.

Summer | The highly regarded Wintergreen Summer Music Festival in July features symphonic and chamber concerts. In 2011, the festival will focus on music from the Mediterranean.
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