The Cavalier Hotel

An $85 million makeover ushers in a new golden age for the Virginia Beach icon.

Photo by Robert Benson Photography / courtesy of The Cavalier Hotel

Since its opening in 1927, the Cavalier has been a magnet for Hollywood stars, world leaders and the beau monde, including Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Bette Davis and 10 U.S. presidents, from Calvin Coolidge to Jimmy Carter. Over the decades, the hotel, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, has survived periods of decline, multiple owners and even temporary closure, but today, following a four-year top-to-bottom restoration by developer Bruce Thompson’s Gold Key|PHR, the famous Virginia landmark gracing Atlantic Avenue has returned to its glamorous roots.

Fun Fact: 195 — Number of rooms when the hotel opened in 1927. Now it’s 85.

Ring in a weekend here poolside at the Oceanfront Cavalier Beach Club or enjoy a relaxing marine- or even bourbon-inspired massage at the luxurious Sea Hill Spa, where you can choose from among nine treatment rooms. Don’t miss afternoon tea outdoors served in the lush and breezy Sunken Garden, then book a table for a late supper at one of the hotel’s three restaurants offering farm to table cuisine and spirits distilled in house. Taste the jumbo fantail Carolina shrimp at the Hunt Room or chilled Maine lobster tail with whipped avocado and grapefruit relish at Becca, and sip on a Sinatra cocktail—Jack Daniel’s rye, absinthe, vanilla syrup, angostura and Peychaud’s bitters—at the Raleigh Room. 

Fun Fact: 72 Feet — Length of the indoor pool. Until the 1970s, it was filled with filtered water from the Atlantic.

Retreat at the end of the evening to one of the hotel’s 85 spacious guest rooms and suites, where classic appointments, including clawfoot tubs and plush fabrics, meet contemporary style and convenience.

Tarnished Truth?

Photo courtesy of The Cavalier Hotel

The name of the Cavalier’s on-site distillery is inspired by its sensational past.

Founded by Virginia Beach duo Andrew Yancey and Josh Canada, the Cavalier’s in-house Tarnished Truth Distillery Company produces bourbon, vodka and gin, which are served in the hotel’s bars and also available for guests to buy. The curious moniker comes from a Cavalier legend—as the story goes, President Richard Nixon, during one of his visits to the hotel at the height of Watergate, torched a stack of documents in the fireplace of the Hunt Room, the hotel’s historic social lounge that is today connected to the distillery. But there is no cover-up when it comes to the distillery’s High Rye ($65 for 750 ml), its signature three-year bourbon. If you visit, make sure to book a tour of the distillery. 

Fun Fact: $100,000 — Cost to reconstruct the fireplace in the Hunt Room using the hotel’s original bricks.

A Brief History

1927 — Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the Cavalier Hotel opens after 13 months of work, quickly becoming one of the East Coast’s landmark destinations.

1929 — The Cavalier Beach Club, a popular entertainment venue for three decades hosting concerts by Glenn Miller and Cab Calloway, opens. 

1942 — During World War II,the U.S. Navy takes over the hotel and transforms it into a site for radar training and housing for sailors. 

1973 — The Cavalier’s sister hotel of the same name opens, also on the oceanfront. The original “Cavalier on the Hill” closes for three years of renovations. 

2012 — A feud between the Cavalier’s owners and concerns over the property’s structural condition prompt a sale of the iconic hotel.

2018 — The Cavalier Hotel reopens in March following a four-year $85 million renovation by developer Bruce Thompson’s Gold Key|PHR.

Click here to get the recipe for the Grand Dame, one of our favorite cocktails from The Cavalier Hotel.

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