The Grove Park Inn & Asheville
Making Business a Pleasure
The imposing Omni Resorts Grove Park Inn, originally constructed of millions of uncut granite stones and wrapped in a red clay tile faux thatch roof, would appear to be better suited to the Swiss Alps or a National Park in Wyoming. Instead, this amazing architectural accomplishment is built into Asheville’s Sunset Mountain with a spectacular view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Celebrating over 100 years as a place of healing and a refuge from southern summer heat, the Grove Park Inn was, and still is, a destination for those who benefit from the healing qualities of cool mountain air, resort-style.
Edwin Wiley Grove, a successful pharmacist, made his fortune developing a tasty syrup elixir containing quinine to prevent malaria. Marketed as Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic in the late 1890s, Grove sold over 1.5 million bottles over the next 20 years, making him millions of dollars. (Local connection: Grove’s company also manufactured Bromo-Quinine, partnering with Baltimore’s Bromo-Seltzer company.)
Grove Park Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, visited by 10 presidents and hundreds of celebrities. It is a vast property with multiple sections meandering across the mountain, interconnected by interior and exterior stairs. Guests may come for a weekend of golf at the award-winning par-70 course designed by the legendary
Donald Ross in 1926 and restored in 2001. Contoured out of the rolling landscape with tree-lined fairways, it includes challenging bunkers and top-rated bentgrass greens, with virtually no loss of surface speeds. It is considered one of the top courses among southern golf resorts. The Drive and Revive package includes a round of golf, a massage and breakfast.
Guests may also come for meetings, conferences or events. While there were several occurring during my stay, along with a complete sell-out of the 512 rooms, the Inn is so large it was not apparent in any of the public areas that the hotel was full. There was a nice buzz of activity throughout, including guests with dogs, but services and service was spot-on throughout my stay. Conference and event spaces are large and beautifully restored, offering exclusive patio access for evening gatherings with spectacular views of sunset.
Naturally, the restaurant offerings meet high expectations. Omni Resorts purchased the Grove Park Inn (and the Homestead) last summer, adding to their already impressive roster of award-winning hotels. They have reworked and renamed several onsite restaurants while maintaining the most popular, Sunset Terrace and Blue Ridge, known for its elaborate and amazing buffets on weekends, utilizing fresh, locally produced farm products. All the restaurants combine elegant furnishings, excellent wine lists and cuisine with large vistas and fabulous sunset views. A new concept and brilliant addition is Edison Craft Ales + Kitchen, which features locally crafted brews, handcrafted cocktails and casual Southern comfort food.
Asheville has long had a reputation for healing and rejuvenation. And, the AAA Four-Diamond Grove Park Inn enjoys an international reputation and is one of North America’s most sought-after Spa experiences. The $50 million, 43,000-square-foot Spa was constructed almost entirely underground and incorporates fire, rock, water and light into every experience. Access to the Spa allows you to embark from your room in the supplied bathrobe. A tunnel with rushing water moves you toward the entrance. As you are led down to your treatment room, you pass rock walls, arches and fireplaces; you hear water flowing quietly, hushed whispers of guests or complete quiet.
Beyond the Grove: ASHEVILLE
Surrounded by mountains and rivers, Asheville draws a wide array of visitors who want to be pampered at fine resorts, play in fast-moving water or hike the Appalachian Trail. Based on the amazing array of awards that cover a wide spectrum of interests, this is truly a playground with something for everyone.
FOODIES: Scattered among 15 closely configured neighborhoods, there are over 250 independent restaurants. A long-time leader in the farm-to-table movement, Asheville’s Foodtopia© culture connects restaurants with locally sourced producers, farms, breweries and the green movement. According to a story on HuffingtonPost.com, Asheville was named America’s Greenest Dining Destination in 2012, now with 20 Certified Green Restaurants (DineGreenAsheville.com). A new self-guided Artisan Cheese Trail tour links 10 area creameries and farms in the region, including tastings and lessons about artisan cheese making.
LIBATION: For four years in a row, beer fans voted Asheville, Beer City USA. With 18 independent, unique craft breweries (seven added just last year), it is said that there is one brewery for every 8,000 residents. And you thought micro-brews were all the rage. Check out the nano-brews served up at Thirsty Monk, where brewing smaller batches allows more flexibility to create unique concoctions like Coconut Porter, Cherry Chocolate Stout and their Scotland TrainWreck IPA.
With over 50 different craft beers available to taste on any given day, it’s difficult to decide where to start. To cover more ground, ask for a tasting flight of beer before selecting your big glass. We started at Wicked Weed Brewing, known for its commitment to hop-forward IPA’s and authentic Belgian ales. Named after “off with her head” King Henry VIII’s 1519 declaration that hops were “a wicked and pernicious weed destined to ruin beer,” the owners and brewers have embraced the hop to create beer that revels in the weed.
George Vanderbilt’s incredible 250-room Biltmore mansion and gardens are a top regional draw. As further testimony to his legacy of hospitality and taste, the Winery at Biltmore is one of the country’s most visited. Offering a Wine Bar with tapas, tours through the cellars, educational classes and a tasting room with nearly 50 different specially crafted wines, this is a destination in itself.
Rounding out the libation tour, you can also taste homegrown hooch at Troy & Sons Distillers, which uses locally grown heirloom corn, pure mountain water and love to distill the finest-tasting moonshine you’ll ever have the pleasure to enjoy. The first woman-owned moonshine distillery, Troy Ball and her family are making history from an historic curative and winning awards for their art at distilling.
OUTDOORS: The options for outdoor fun in this mountain and river playground are plentiful. Aside from canoeing, kayaking, rafting, hiking, mountain biking, fly-fishing and bird watching, there are 300 miles of the Appalachian Trail to explore in North Carolina.
For all water adventure, start with Nantahala Outdoor Center, the nation’s largest whitewater outfitter and named one of the Best Outfitters on Earth by National Geographic Adventure. The Nanty campus, located at the crossroads of the Nantahala River, the Appalachian Trail and the Great Smokey Mountain Railroad, serves as a destination with camping, dining and an outfitters store to serve App Trail through-hikers. You can talk to representatives at their Asheville office in the Grove Park Inn to plan your adventure.
A visit to Navitat Canopy Adventures is alluring. Accolades from national media tout that it is one of the best ziplines in the nation, a must-do experience. A canopy tour connects you to the treetops through ziplines, accessed through a series of sky bridges. Views of the Pisgah National Forest and Great Smokey Mountains are breathtaking at the topmost point. Both terrifying and exhilarating, tours take over three hours, climbing to 200 feet above the forest floor, using 10 ziplines, 2 sky bridges, 2 rappelling experiences and 3 short hikes.
ARTS & CULTURE: Is it the clean Appalachian mountain air and water that drive the creative arts? The convergence of intellectuals, brewers, hippies and Republicans is making this a regional center for arts and culture. Creative spirit has been a part of the literary history, with famous writers like Carl Sandburg, Thomas Wolfe and F. Scott Fitzgerald calling it home. Shops and galleries displaying handcrafted jewelry, paintings, textiles and glass line the main streets of town. Interspersed between are the Asheville Art Museum, Community Theatre and Contemporary Dance Theatre; there’s an opera company, a symphony orchestra and fine arts theatre. The street scene comes alive in the evenings with music and performers, as do the restaurants and bars. The cultural arts karma is really wonderful in this special place. I95
The Grove Park Inn