WHERE IS IT? Set on a hill across the street from the hotel’s private beach club, this old world hotel which dates back to 1926 and is on the National Register of Historic Places seems plucked from a storybook. Virginia Beach’s numerous attractions are just a short drive from the hotel making this a popular stop on road trips, but it is really a destination in its own right for those looking for a staycation, work-from-hotel experience or luxury weekend getaway. For almost a century, the hotel has been a special memory for many of its past visitors.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? After falling in disrepair, the owners pumped millions of dollars into a four-year renovation that puts this place on par with some of America’s finest luxury hotels. Its Jeffersonian architecture is modeled after Virginia’s Monticello. Many of the building’s original windows were preserved, and much of the design detail in the terrazzo floor and ornamental plaster work was restored to historical accuracy. During World War II, the hotel was used by the Navy as a radar training school, but during its time as a luxury hotel, its guest list has spanned celebrities and even a dozen or so past presidents. Guests enjoy sit-down check-in before being shown past the chic Raleigh Room on the way to their accommodations. You will feel transported back to the glamor of decades past everywhere you look, and then suddenly, something surprisingly modern in the artwork or the décor will bring you immediately back to present time. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition of new and old that fills the building. Those particularly interested in its history can visit the small museum in the lobby or ask for a self-guided tour booklet; there is lots to see. Many may be surprised to learn that this is one of the most haunted hotels along the East Coast.
During my visit, the COVID-19 protocols in place were impressive, yet hardly invasive. Like everywhere else, masks and social distancing are a must, but there have been few alterations that affect the overall experience. Rather than Plexiglas barriers, sit-down reception is cordoned off with elegant stanchions, for example, assuring social distance without taking away that personal touch.
ROOM FACILITIES The rooms showcase incredible attention to detail from the velvet fabric headboards to polished chandeliers. Closets house cushioned slippers and robes plus ample storage space. Gold-framed prints blend a bit of historic and contemporary artwork into one painting; even the flat-screen TV is framed in gold like a work of art. Soft duvets cover the pillowtop mattresses with the hotel’s regal crest embroidered on an accent pillow. It’s the European elegance that sets the tone here. A welcome bowl of fruit served atop exquisite china plates, Nespresso machines with china cups and saucers, and a gold tassel serving as the Do Not Disturb sign remind guests of the elegance of a Parisian hotel. Bedside power and USB outlets plus turndown service with bottled water and freshly made cookies are always a welcome treat. Marble bathrooms have impressive shower pressure, the hotel’s own spa toiletries lining the vanity, and in many rooms, a soaking tub that supplements the spacious glass shower stalls.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS Live entertainment in the Raleigh Room is a big draw where drinks are a delightful experience. Beautifully framed art, a fireplace, and plenty of conversation seating areas fill this regal public space. The most attentive visitors will notice that lighting and music styles change throughout the day as the mood shifts from complimentary morning coffee to a stately afternoon tea service and then craft cocktails by sunset. Becca is the hotel’s all-day restaurant that delivers fine dining with genuine Southern charm and a regional menu of ingredients. As with the rest of the hotel, service is a hallmark. Expect Chesapeake-themed dishes like shrimp and grits and oyster platters in addition to a variety of other tasty plates using ingredients from the hotel’s organic garden. The dinner crowd loves the mix of indoor and seasonal outdoor seating with a firepit plus the homemade popovers that preface every meal. More live music and happy hour specials at The Hunt Room are a great way to start or end an evening with its own casual dinner menu. Tarnished Truth Distillery, the only craft distillery located inside a hotel, provides spirits for all the hotel’s food and beverage outlets. In addition to hosting a gift shop, it is open for tours.
LEISURE FACILITIES A sizable spa on the lower level offers an array of massage and beauty treatments with a strong local following. A fitness center stocks modern workout equipment and chilled bottles of water for guests to enjoy. The indoor, infinity-edge swimming pool features an enormous skylight giving guests the chance to appreciate the building’s architecture as they swim below. Fabric cabanas, splashing fountains, and blossoming greenery recall the glamor of the mid-1900s that is a classic theme throughout the hotel.
Guests have access to a seasonal beach club for additional dining, towels, bikes, beach chairs, umbrellas and an infinity-edge pool. The manicured lawn and gardens in front of the hotel are a popular place for concerts, festivals, and other events; the Virginia Symphony Orchestra even performs there from time to time. The hotel’s shuttle service also drive guests anywhere within a three-mile radius.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES Conference space features all the modern audiovisual needs and is suitable for small corporate groups all the way up to large-scale social functions. Weddings on the lawn are always elaborate affairs here, and a new kitchen closer to the lawn will make al fresco social functions even more convenient to host.
VERDICT This grand property, often referred to as the “magnificent hotel on the hill,” is a fitting member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection delivering a sense of the destination’s history while getting the attention to service detail just right.
HOW MANY ROOMS? 85 rooms and suites
PROPERTY HIGHLIGHTS Historic hotel reworked with elegant interior décor and exceptional dining
PRICE Internet rates for a partial beachview room start at $165
CONTACT 4200 Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach, VA 23451, Phone 757-425-8555 cavalierhotel.com