An Enchanting Escape
By Charlene & Richard Mixa
Memories! A fall mountain vacation 20 years ago is my first memory of visiting the renowned Grove Park Inn. One morning we hike Chimney Rock Park followed by an afternoon at the Biltmore Estate. Before sunset, we arrive at the Grove Park Inn. A massive unique stone structure on Sunset Mountain, the Inn exudes an enchantment with an aura of being in a Fairy Tale. Finding a convenient parking spot, it’s a quick change of clothes in a restroom. As we stroll into The Great Hall, flanked by immense 14-foot stone fireplaces with roaring fires, we sense the grandeur of the Inn with its old world charm. A finale for our wonderful day is a savory dinner in the Blue Ridge Dining Room watching a picturesque sunset. Since then when visiting the mountains we often stop for lunch, dinner, the spa, a history tour, or golf at this grand historical resort.
Fast forward to 2014! No more sneaking in to change clothes before dinner. Entering The Great Hall of this 100 year old Asheville resort, it always feels being in a fairy tale. On the way to our Premier Mountain View room in the Vanderbilt Wing, we pass the Blue Ridge Dining Room. Grinning, we recall our first visit of changing clothes in the restroom before going to dinner. The Grove Park Inn, a four-diamond world-class resort, is an enchanting stress-relieving escape!
More than a mere place to rest while visiting Asheville, the Inn is an attraction in its own right. Boasting a 100-year history, fascinating tales, luxurious accommodations, spa services, fine dining, and a range of unique amenities and attractions. Last year we took the informative History Tour, so today its further exploration. Wandering the resort we admire the original Arts and Crafts furnishings in the expansive hallways for relaxing while enjoying panoramic scenes. Views! The Grove Park Inn has a plethora of views! The Inn’s restaurants, large terraces, balconies, and rooms all flaunt stunning vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Asheville.
Roaming the Inn’s Vanderbilt Wing, we find the Shops at the Emporium 1913. Offering a diverse shopping experience, these interconnected shops provide everything from logo merchandise and local crafts to gourmet chocolates. Across the Grand Hall in the Sammons Wing Promenade are a seasonal home décor shop and the Gallery of the Mountains featuring handcrafted items created by artists of the Southern Appalachians. I am delighted with a pair of handmade earrings.
Across from the Inn entering the rustic iron gates of Grovewood, we discover a magical combination of art, craft, and history in these stone buildings. After a tasty lunch at the Grovewood Café, we step in the Grovewood Gallery, showcasing traditional and contemporary crafts. Representing more than 500 American artists and craftspeople, the Gallery has an impressive array of jewelry, glass works, pottery, amazing woodwork and more. The North Carolina Homespun Museum gives a history lesson of this Arts & Crafts enterprise. Supported by George and Edith Vanderbilt, it became the Biltmore Industries that was renowned for wool cloth. The Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum has rows of sparkling antique cars. Outside we snap photos in the Sculpture Gardens.
Ah! Now to immerse ourselves in the ultimate relaxation! The world-class Grove Park Inn Spa is a 43,000 sq. ft. spa carved into the mountainside. Muscles mellow in the hot whirlpool. Take the COLD PLUNGE! I bravely go from the 115 degree whirlpool to the 64 degree plunge pool. Shocking, yet invigorating. The Spa has so many choices! In the Eucalyptus-infused steam room, the steam opens airways, relaxes stiff muscles, and cleanses skin. Sitting in the inhalation room, I lean back taking deep breaths. The hot Sauna clears the pores. With private indoor and outdoor lounges for men and women there are so many places to escape. Joining Richard in the Couples area, a huge cave, we gently float in the large mineral pool. Whirlpools with therapeutic waterfalls take kinks out of neck and shoulder muscles. Stepping outside, it’s a respite with a serpentine whirlpool and outdoor terrace offering panoramic mountain views. Inside we sit in the overstuffed chairs in the Couple’s Fireside Lounge, while sipping herbal infused water and enjoy healthy snacks. Totally relaxed, we close our eyes for a welcome nap. The Spa is a mountain paradise where one can easily escape for the day or afternoon.
Whether seeking breakfast, lunch or dinner the resort teems with ways to please the palate from upscale sophisticated to cozy casual. For an evening dinner, we select the Vue 1913, an American Brasserie. A comfortable setting with stylish art déco decor, our table is a few steps above the main floor with expansive views of the mountains and a glorious sunset. The Vue 1913 is excellent! Blending American and French cooking, the Vue 1913 chef showcases the best local rustic ingredients each season. An abundant French cellar offers a marvelous selection of wines. Our entrees of the Lobster Pasta and Roasted Duck Breast are succulent and luscious. Afterwards, we visit The Great Hall Bar to sip wine and listen to some relaxing music.
The Blue Ridge Dining Room’s Breakfast Buffet is endless! A farm-to-table artisanal buffet offers fresh fruit and berries, home-made pastries, biscuits and gravy, and prepared-to-order omelets, waffles, and French toast. My favorite is a bagel with cream cheese topped with smoked salmon. Over a leisurely breakfast, we enjoy more scenic vistas of the Mountains.
Fore! Mountain golf creates the excitement of standing at the tee box looking down to a small green, staring up a hill to a green high above, rolling terrain along the mountainsides or valley holes with majestic mountains surrounding you. Today, we introduce friends from Florida to golf at the Grove Park Inn Golf Course. With grand views of the resort’s glorious stone structure, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the city-scape of Asheville, we tee it up on this historic 18-hole Donald Ross golf course. Considered among the top golf experiences in North Carolina, it celebrates the spirit of mountain golf. Donald Ross stated, “A course that continually offers problems – one with fight in it, if you please –is the one that keeps the player keen for the game.”
Recently touted in Golfweek’s 2014 Best: State by State Courses You Can Play (North Carolina), the course is consistently among the top ten courses 100 years or older according to Golf Digest. It definitely has plenty of “fight.” Tackling the course does keep us each “keen on the game.” Demands are extreme elevation changes, frustration with bedeviling contour greens, uphill and downhill fairways and some super nasty rough. Standing at the elevated tee boxes, we stop to admire the amazing views. Where is the green? What club should I use? It is an exhilarating battle between the player and the course as we attempt to tame the Grove Park Inn Course. Greens are often huge, undulating and extremely difficult putt. Some holes bring smiles and fist pumps of victory and others result in sighs of frustration.
After golf we take the shuttle to the Inn. Our lunch at the Sunset Terrace with its scenic views is a great way to relive our exciting morning of golf. A wonderful finishing touch for the foursome is an afternoon at the Spa. Relax! Each finds their own unique favorite spa activity. Later we have drinks at EDISON, an upscale inventive bar and restaurant serving a variety of foods with local flavor. Outdoor seating is huge sofas and chairs with spectacular views of the mountains, while indoor is a long bar and high tops in a contemporary, fun, and artistic setting.
Located in the newly renovated Vanderbilt Wing, our Premium Mountain View room provides views of Asheville’s city skyline, the Donald Ross designed golf course and the Blue Ridge Mountains. A spacious King-room that creates a historic experience with a modern twist. Providing comforts of built-in computer desks, mini-refrigerator, flat-screen HD Television, a comfortable sitting area, and up-to-date bathroom.
Vacationing at this top-notch resort is the perfect way to unwind and pamper ourselves. The Omni Grove Park Inn brings an enchantment where we easily escape from the stress of everyday life. Situated on the slope of Sunset Mountain, we discover a refined mountain elegance in the North Carolina Mountains.
If you go: Omni Grove Park, 290 Macon Avenue, Asheville, NC 28804 (800) 438-5800 www.groveparkinn.com