By Jane Gendron
There’s something magically old-fashioned—in the best sense of the word—about Homestead Resort. For 125 years, families have made vacation pilgrimages to this 130-acre, Midway resort.
They’ve relaxed in the shade of the ancient box elders, they’ve fed the ducks in the pond beside Fanny’s Grill, they’ve dipped in the natural crater’s restorative waters, they’ve teed off on the golf course and along the way, they’ve amassed a layered batch of memories. But old-fashioned and delightfully familiar doesn’t mean old. And after a four-month-long remodel, the resort—which in many ways resembles a mini college campus with an oddly wonderful, crater in its midst—is significantly spruced up, yet still true to itself.
It all began with a plan to “refresh” the 128 guest rooms within the sprawling property, says Tonya Hoopes, who acts as director of marketing for both Homestead and sister property Zermatt Resort. First, there were new linens, mattresses and showerheads. Then, came the new 37-inch flat-screen televisions and updated furniture. And, before long, remodel fever spread to the lobby, Simon’s restaurant and the golf course.
Now, guests walk into an expanded lobby filled with black and white historic photos, comfortable leather seats and antique furniture. This airy reception-lounge flows into the updated Simon’s Restaurant and bar, with its hand-carved, century-old fireplace (which had been previously tucked away in the Garden room). The culinary centerpiece is the new menu of elegant comfort food; Chef Joey Pesner’s creations range from “Meat and Potatoes” (beef braised in red wine with mushrooms and onions, parsley and whipped potatoes) to “Shrimp & Grits.”
Though the resort has a shiny, updated aura, there’s a convivial, genuine atmosphere that remains intact. No two rooms are alike and tidbits from the past serve as sentimental reminders; for example, squares of the handmade quilts that once covered the beds are now framed in the hallways. And, while it has successfully updated its interior design (the resort was last remodeled in 1986), it is a place steeped in history—with an extraordinary natural feature steaming at its core.
Founded in the late 1800’s by Simon and Fanny Schneitter, “Schneitter’s Hot Pots” began as a therapeutic curiosity. The 55-foot crater, filled with mineral-rich, hot water became something of an attraction with Heber Valley locals and miners. Today, the resort is filled with a new breed of vacationers, folks seeking SCUBA certification or a water yoga class. While there are conference groups that roam the grounds in name badges, the typical guest remembers coming to the Homestead decades ago.
“It’s not uncommon for a guest to stop me and tell me a story of a memory they have of the Homestead,” says Hoopes, adding that the vast majority of guests have come here with their grandparents, their parents and now their children—many of whom covet the property’s bunk house.
The Homestead is a place that makes the most of its outdoor setting with dining patios, room balconies and meandering pathways linking nine buildings, tennis courts, indoor-outdoor pool, hot tubs, crater and Bruce Summerhays-designed golf course (recently renamed Crater Springs). The grounds are surrounded by views of the Heber Valley, the snow-capped Timpanogos Range, Lime Canyon and the Wasatch Back. Making the most of the country setting, the resort has activities ranging from horseback rides to sidling up to a campfire for cowboy storytelling; these salt-of-the-earth entertainers carve children’s names into pieces of wood as mementos of the tale-spinning experience. The Homestead also hosts a free, outdoor concert series, featuring a mix of bands playing primarily bluegrass, folk, country rock and Americana, every Saturday from May 26 through Aug. 25.
The Homestead has always been a hive of nature-and family-inspired fun. It’s the kind of timeless place that defines summer. And while its new upgrades add elegant polish to its features, it remains an authentic, comfortable icon. For many, it is still home—away from home.