Vacation Like a President in Williamsburg, Virginia

Wish you could spend a night at The White House? Want to know where presidents and celebrities go for vacation? Here’s some insider information for you!

A long winding road shaded by canopy of trees leads you to an expansive resort in the woods. You pass by homes of all sizes, lush golf courses, manicured tennis courts and natural ponds, arriving at a 7,000-square-foot private estate with panoramic views of the James River, where notable individuals such as President Barack Obama, President George H.W Bush, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have previously stayed.

This 4 bedroom estate has housed America’s Presidents!

The Estate at Kingsmill

Formally known as Pettus House, Kingsmill Resort has gated, manicured, residential grounds. It was the private mansion for the Busch family, who is known for Budweiser Beer and Busch Gardens.

Hire a private chef to cook in this kitchen for $4,000+ per night.

After a $3 million worth of renovations, – featuring beautiful interiors transformed with distinctive furnishings, lighting, textiles and décor from RH, Restoration Hardware – the Estate at Kingsmill looks like a modern villa with high ceilings, teardrop glass chandeliers, luxurious bathrooms (bigger than some of your lofts), distinctive art, gilded mirrors, retractable glass and floor to ceiling windows. A private terrace overlooks an infinity pool, hot tub, and perfect sunrise and sunsets over the James River. And if self pampering is your style, bring your private chef along or hire a butler to cook meals for your family in this state of the art kitchen.

While you can rent this four-bedroom Estate for your next vacation, small wedding, a milestone birthday getaway, or a corporate retreat, there are other more affordable accommodations on the property at well.

Old world charm and modern amenities are available at the condos.

The Resort

I stayed at one of the condo style accommodations at Kingsmill Resort. My private unit had parking directly in front of the building. In addition, it did not have hotel hallways or corridors. The entrance truly made me feel like I am walking into my private apartment. Inside, there was a spacious living room with fireplace and television, a dining room, full kitchen, laundry, separate king bedroom, bath, and a balcony overlooking the river. As the units were well spaced out and there were hardly any guests at the resort, it was peaceful and quiet. I mostly watched ducks, rabbits and deer enjoying the vast green spaces while sipping wine from my patio.

Spend the summer with your family at a cottage by the river.

A few people decided to rent Cottages at the James for a long term stay during COVID-19. Surrounded by mature trees, wildlife, water and cooler temperatures, Kingsmill Resort has 3,000 acres. Also, it is the perfect escape from busy and cramped city spaces. Pets are also allowed!

Kingsmill Resort also offers onsite amenities such as golf, tennis, spa treatments, yoga and Pilates classes, two luxury SUVs, customized golf carts, private jet skis, personal shoppers, laundry service, and personalized menus and music selections. There are four restaurants on site. However, dining services have been modified and there’s to-go menu only through Kingsmill Express.

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Enthusiastic from around east coast come to play at one of the best golf courses in Virginia.

Championship Golf

Kingsmill Resort is Virginia’s Only AAA Four Diamond condominium resort. Moreover, it features two renowned 18-hole golf courses, a celebrated golf academy and year-round golf instruction. There’s a good chance that your fellow celebrity guests and diplomats have practiced their swings at the River Course, rated one of the best golf courses in Virginia.

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Spend the day on the river boating, fishing or jet skiing.

Water Activities

One of Kingsmill’s popular activities include the marina located on the scenic James River, which begins in the Appalachian Mountains and flows 348 miles to the Chesapeake Bay. While you can sit on the deck or beach and enjoy water views, you can also kick up your adrenaline on a jet ski, kayak or paddle board. Boat and pontoon rentals, as well as fishing equipped is available just a few feet from your room. Enjoy summer with a dip in the outdoor swimming pool or slide along the lazy river.

Historic Williamsburg

Williamsburg was the capital of the Virginia Colony from 1699 to 1780 and played a significant role in the American Revolution. It forms the “Historic Triangle” together with Jamestown and Yorktown. It is noted that the British settlers first arrived in the Williamsburg area in 1607. This is also where Pocahontas once walked and where America was born.

There are numerous attractions located within minutes of the Kingsmill. You can learn about American history, taste some of the best pancakes in the country, and enjoy some thrilling rides. Further, plan to visit Colonial Williamsburg,  Jamestown Settlement, American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, Historic Jamestown, Yorktown Battlefield, the Williamsburg Winery, and Busch Gardens – to name a few.

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Get this guide book to learn about the Historic Triangle.

Getting There

Kingsmill Resort is located on the James River off I‐64 between Richmond and Norfolk. You can fly in to either airport and rent a car or taxi to get to the resort. You can also do a road trip from Washington DC, while checking out other historic sites and Virginia beaches along the way.

Staying Safe

As destinations continue to reopen safely, please make sure to check out the local Williamsburg tourism website and Kingsmill Resort for updates on travel restrictions, social distancing and mandatary protocols. The state of Virginia requires everyone to wear a mask indoors in public places.

Continue learning about USA at home with this jigsaw puzzle appropriate for adults and kids.

Heart of lightness

Plaza Mayor in Lima
Plaza Mayor in Lima

I own it.  I’m a shallow traveler.  When choosing a destination my top criteria are visual drama and cultural civility.  In other words, a beautiful place with a relative absence of war, crime, despots, or other forms of antisocial behavior.  Delicious cuisine and interesting culture or wildlife are also high on the list.  So when I had the opportunity to travel toPeru, it seemed like a great fit on all those dimensions. Plus there was another exciting aspect – I was also going as a Cross Cultural Solutions (CCS) volunteer.  But more on that later.

City of Cusco
City of Cusco

Cusco is a breathtaking little city, both metaphorically and literally.  Situated at an altitude of over 11,000 feet, the air is thin.  One is advised to hydrate and rest upon arrival in order to acclimate to the altitude – advice I promptly ignored in favor of taking photos of the quaint cobblestone streets and surrounding mountains.  For this I was punished with a blazing headache.  This did not stop me from touring the nearby Incan complex Sacsayhuaman, a UNESCO World Heritage designated site with a spectacular view of the valley below.  But as the evening of the first day wore on a merchant took pity on me and gave me an aromatic herb called muna (pronounced “mun-ya).  Her advice was to inhale the aroma of the foliage to alleviate symptoms.  Along with a good night’s sleep, it did the trick.  The next day I was as good as new.

Local musicians
Local musicians

My friends and I ate several times at the same restaurant in Cusco.  We’d randomly picked it out for lunch while walking around the lovely Plaza de Armas our first day out.  It was so good that we went back.  The name is Papillion and it has a great view of the Plaza from the balcony.  What a find!  The quinoa soup was mouthwatering and I spent the rest of the trip stalking the recipe.  Quinoa is a nutritious staple of the Peruvian diet and was considered sacred by pre-Columbian civilizations.  At one point one of my travelling friends also shared a bite of her alpaca.  Tender, mild and nicely prepared.  Our last night there a local band played traditional music as we sipped Pisco sours.  It may have been the effect of the notoriously lethal Pisco, the altitude, or the good company, but it felt pretty magical.

Machu Pichu
Machu Pichu

The legendary Machu Picchu embodies the cliché “pictures do not do it justice.”  The scenery along the way to Aguas Calientes is just a prelude.  It is a lengthy trip (early morning bus ride to the train station) but the time flies with so much see.  Since at all times we were treading the well-worn “Gringo Trail.”, there was of course evidence of this – merchants selling their wares.  But it was not obtrusive.

I found the people of Peruto be approachable and warm.  How many major cities could you ask a police officer in a foreign language to help you flag a cab, and have him drop everything to help?  This happened our last day in downtown Lima.

This leads me to less shallow criteria for choosing a travel destination – historical and cultural significance.  I’m embarrassed to say these criteria are not always high on my list when choosing a destination.   Witnessing the location where someone did something important or where something significant happened  are not in and of themselves what are compelling to me – it’s the ‘whys’ and the implications that are the interesting bits.  And since travel is logistics-heavy by its very nature, more often than not there isn’t the opportunity for deeper reflection.  Which leads to an experience many travelers have shared – the dull, 10 minute guidebook spiel, and then it’s off the next thing.

So I was caught off guard by the sheer poignancy of the historical elements that I experienced in Peru.

Volunteering with CCS

First, there is the small matter of Machu Picchuitself.  The fact that it represents a human feat of such awesome magnitude rendered in such beautiful form that one cannot help but be humbled in its presence and ponder the exceptional characteristics of the civilization that created it, cannot be overstated.

Next was Villa El Salvador.  This is where I volunteered with CCS while inLima.  Travelling as part of CCS was not new to me.  The previous year I’d travelled to Morocco with Sucheta, spending time at a local orphanage in Rabat.  It did not prepare me for what I was about to experience in Peru. Villa ElSalvadoris a marvel of the human spirit’s drive for self-organization and democracy.  The origins of this community as a suburb of Lima are as compelling asAmerica’s fight for independence, and it has gained notoriety internationally for its unique origins and successes. The abuelos, or elders, that I worked with there are as sweet as they are heart breakingly vulnerable.  I was deeply moved by their circumstances.

And finally, an exhibit at the Lima Museum of the Nation has left its mark on my soul.  On the upper floor, isolated from the rest of the museum, is a chilling black and white photography exhibit on the history of The Shining Path.  I wonder how many Americans know about this dark and recent period in Peru’s history – a political insurgency that turned citizen against citizen, government against citizen, and led to the tragic death or disappearance of nearly 70,000 people between 1980 and 2000.

As a destination Peru has it all.  You don’t have to be a “shallow traveler” like me to appreciate its beauty and culture.  And having visited, I’ve come away a bit deeper for the experience.

~ By guest blogger, Cheryl Garin, who traveled with me to Morocco and has become a dear friend and supporter.