VIRGINIA

A Different Kind of Magic

Plenty of large resorts exist in the south, but how many are as big as a small country and not called the Magic Kingdom? Primland Resort, high in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia, is roughly the size of Bermuda and has a completely different kind of magic than that more storied Florida resort. With so much space in such a pristine mountain setting, outdoor activities abound, making it a nice spot to escape the heat of summer on a family getaway. But this isn't some dude ranch where you sleep in a hay loft, it's a high-end, luxurious property situated on what used to be a private hunting retreat. The main lodge sits on top of a scenic plateau about a 15-20 minute drive along a winding two-lane road from the gate house. The resort is so large and has so much to do that families won't find much time for exploring outside its grounds once they arrive, even though the Blue Ridge Parkway is nearby.

The original route of Appalachian Trail passes through Primland, now part of a geocaching scavenger hunt trail and a scenic nature hiking route. The resort has miles of other trails for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and ATVing. Other outdoor activities include tennis, golf, tree climbing and fishing. In the main lodge, there's an indoor swimming pool and a game room where kids can take a break with the Wii, Play Station 3 and Xbox units -- along with such non-video-based, old-school games as pool and ping pong -- during rainy weather or while Mom or Dad take in a spa treatment next door.

But what really sets Primland apart from other resorts is its observatory disguised as a grain silo attached to the main lodge. A resident astronomer conducts nightly tours of the universe through a high-tech 14-inch camera telescope housed in the silo's dome, which opens up to the nighttime sky and rotates in synch with the telescope to capture stunning views of stars, planets, cloud nebulae and spiral galaxies hundreds of thousands of light years away from this remote Appalachian mountaintop locale. Magical indeed.

If you go
The closest commercial airports are in Roanoke, Va., and Greensboro, N.C., both 90 minutes from the resort. Primland offers an airport transportation service for its guests.

Accommodations
Lodge rooms and suites, fairway cottages, mountain homes and even a luxurious tree house are available. Rates: rooms $279-$409; suites $425-$1,200; tree house $425-$549.

Dining
The lodge has two restaurants, one casual with things kids will love like burgers, the other a fine dining establishment in the evening but more casual in the morning when a hearty country-style breakfast is served.

Visitor info
Primland: 1-866-960-7746, primland.com.

Photos by Blake Guthrie

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