The Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina
This was my second stay at the Grove Park Inn. The first visit had been about 20 years earlier around the time I entered high school. Our summer vacation that year was a Southern tour of colleges my parents thought my older brother should attend. During that era, our vacations were typically road-trips in the ugliest minvan ever designed by General Motors (think of a blue Space Shuttle minus the wings). Hours on the road with my parents and two brothers in a cramped mini-van was not my idea of a great time. After a disastrous previous years’ trip visiting small, incredibly dull, ye-old-colonial, New England towns (I still get nauseous at the thought of Strawbery Banke, New Hampshire) I was less than thrilled with our vacation plans, which always revolved around whatever my mother’s Foder’s guide recommended. Evidently, Biltmore was high on Fodor’s list as a visit to Asheville was added to the trip.
From my first visit, my strongest recollections of the Grove Park Inn were of the impressive lobby, the expansive golf course vistas, and of our hotel room being a little underwhelming. My memory wasn’t far off. On this visit, the Grove Park Inn still impresses with it’s grand lobby and rustic stone architecture. The hotel feels a bit like a National Park lodge which works in this setting. Out the back of the hotel are sweeping vistas of the golf course and Blue Ridge Mountains. The staff were especially courteous and exuded Southern charm. At check-in, we were offered an upgrade from our “classic” room (at about $180, it was the cheapest available at booking) in the historic main inn. For a nominal fee of only $20, we accepted our desk clerk’s recommendation to upgrade to a Mountain View room in one the hotel’s two more contemporary wings. The rooms in these wings are are more spacious and generally offer better views (priced at $339 on the hotel’s website making the $20 upgrade fee a significant savings off the hotel’s published rate). Our desk clerk kindly offered to move us if we didn’t like our room, but in the end, we stayed.
As you can see from the picture, our room was not an amazingly luxurious room but nice enough that lugging our bags back to the front desk to switch wasn’t really considered. The rooms feature Mission-style furniture in keeping with the overall decor of the hotel. The room was clean and in good overall condition. Our room, and particularly the bathroom (which had a even lower ceiling), suffered from relatively low ceilings. The mattress was comfortable. The bathroom was nice, but not memorable enough for me to even bother with a photo apparently. Features of the room include a nice flat screen TV, a Keurig Coffeemaker, as well as a microwave and a mini-fridge. In addition to the Historic Main Inn rooms and standard contemporary wing rooms, the Grove Park Inn also offers special Club Floor upgraded rooms, as well as theme rooms and suites.
A visit to the Grove Park Inn is not complete without a visit to the spa. Located at the very bottom of the hotel and seemingly carved into the hillside, the Spa at the Grove Park Inn features over 40,000 square feet of space. While pricey, we thought the spa provided just enough value to be worthwhile. The Spa features indoor and outdoor pool areas, as well as separate men’s and women’s indoor spa areas. The indoor pool area (pictured below) is truly memorable, featuring rock walls and just enough natural light and torch lights to dimly illuminate the interior. The small skylights create interesting light patterns and water reflections on the ceilings adding to the rejuvenating and relaxing environment. It wasn’t very crowded when we visited on a Friday afternoon. The space really felt (almost) like our own private grotto.
The Grove Park Inn features a number of various dining options from casual to more formal dining. The most formal option is the Horizons Dining Room, featuring American cuisine made with fresh, locally growing ingredients. Horizons has won a number of awards including including the AAA Four Diamond Award (1993-2011). Entrees are priced from $17 to $39.
Another more causal, but popular option, which we tried, is the Sunset Terrace. The Sunset Terrace occupies the entire rear porch of the main hotel, offering sweeping views of the city and mountains below. The menu focuses on steak and seafood options, with entrees priced from $20-27 and steaks from $40-50. Overall, the food was merely above average, with the atmosphere and views easily surpassing the taste of the food. Service was slow, but friendly in a Southern way. We ended up with a free dessert because a lobster tail was dropped on the way to the table.
Golf and Entertainment
The hotel property has a well-regarded 18 hole mountain-style course that looked beautiful and appeared well-maintained. Designed by Donald Ross in 1926, the 6,720 yard, par-70 course was included in Condé Nast Traveler magazine’s “Top 20 Southern U.S. Golf Resorts” in 2011. The Grove Park Inn also features a Sports Complex featuring a fitness center (with classes and personal trainers available); indoor pool; indoor and outdoor tennis courts; pool tables and table tennis; and a racquetball court.
The main hotel lobby (known as the Great Hall) offers free live music several night a week. It was very popular (and crowded) with a respectable-sounding band playing oldies on the Friday night we stayed. Guests and locals were drunk and dancing. Another option is a dueling piano bar called Elaine’s on the very lowest floor of one of the two contemporary wings. We stayed for an hour or so and had a decent time (though, as usual, our song request never got played).
We enjoyed our stay and would stay again, particularly to return to the hotel’s spa. The spa, welcoming staff, hotel’s architecture, and the sweeping views are the resort’s standout features. The actual accommodations were nice but not especially luxurious considering the price-point. While we felt considerably poorer upon leaving, the Grove Park Inn makes for a memorable stay. It offers a reasonable value considering the breadth and quality of the resort’s numerous amenities.