Va. Inn Offers Full Service, Old-World Style

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The only full-service resort in the heart of Jefferson country here has the look and feel of an earlier era.

The rooms at the Boar's Head Inn & Sports Club emphasize colonial furnishings and art. The 175-room hotel is on 53 acres, just two miles from Charlottesville in the Blue Ridge foothills on Route 250 West and 20 minutes from Jefferson's Monticello.

Built into the main building is a whole gristmill, which provided the timbers for its main restaurant. Dating from the 1830s and originally located 15 miles away, the mill was dismantled, moved and incorporated into the design.

The hotel, however, dates only to 1965 when it opened with 54 rooms. It was created by a group of local businessmen who saw a need for a hotel with a country estate theme. View the hotel buildings from across its lake, and you see an English green, complete with ducks.

Just like the hotel's old-world name, the view is deceptive, too, for the cozy ambience belies extensive sports facilities that are just out of sight. Within walking distance along the lake is the Sports Club, which includes 23 tennis courts (three indoors) and two swimming pools (one a 75-meter lap pool).

The complex -- its rooms bustling with activity -- offers facial and massage treatments, aerobics, weight training, squash and racquetball. Adjacent is the Birdwood 18-hole championship golf course, with a clubhouse and pro shop.

Then there is hot-air ballooning. A company based at the hotel offers hourlong early-morning and late-afternoon rides.

A decade ago, the hotel was acquired by the nearby University of Virginia, which also owns and operates the Sports Club and golf course. The two were joined in a successful resort and community venture, providing a center for university faculty and students as well as hotel guests. Its location and ownership enable the hotel to tap into many markets.

According to sales manager Joyce Kaswandik, the hotel is a little pricey to be in the mainstream of overnight motorcoach traffic, but it gets tour luncheon business. Half of the Boar's Head business comes from groups, including corporate meetings and incentives, and university conferences. FITs range from Virginians on a weekend escape to business travelers and out-of-state tourists, with a fair amount of business coming from agents, including a growing group business.

"Much of our business is because of the university, and surprisingly, we can get sold out on winter weekends," said Kaswandik.

She mentioned that Monticello is open year-round; the university offers daily free tours year-round (with the Jefferson-designed Rotunda as the highlight), and Shenandoah National Park is 40 minutes away. Richmond, she added, is a one-hour drive, and Dulles Airport is reachable in two hours.

Kaswandik listed celebrities attracted by the hotel's "warm, intimate atmosphere": Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robin Williams, Barbra Streisand, Tom Brokaw and Sylvester Stallone.

Boar's Head Inn has 11 meeting rooms that hold from 10 to 250 persons, including a 3,000- square-foot ballroom and a temporary tent that accommodates 400 for dinner.

For fine dining, the upstairs Mill Room, specializing in Virginia regional cuisine, has won AAA's four-diamond award for 10 consecutive years. Off the lobby is The Tavern for informal dining; and the Sports Club has a restaurant popular with families. Other facilities and services include a business center, room service, afternoon tea and a store featuring gift items and wines.

Rooms have cable television, individual climate control and coffee makers. Some have fireplaces and balconies.

Rack rates range from $165 to $315. A wide range of packages is offered, from off-season deals and bed-and-breakfast programs to honeymoon plans. Sports packages include use of the spa, golf, tennis and ballooning. A wine package includes wine, a box lunch and a map of local vineyards.

Events created throughout the year provide opportunities for special promotions and packages. Christmas is celebrated with a Jefferson theme.

Earlier this year, the hotel's first garden symposium, which is open to the public, kicked off. The Fourth of July will be celebrated with fireworks (and a two-night package).

The Boar's Head Inn and Sports Club, Phone: (800) 476-1988.

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