It’s finally time for me to take a peek into the iconic hotel that is always on everyone’s lips when you talk about Asheville. No, not the Biltmore – that one costs money to get into and I’m not employed yet. I set my sights on the century old hotel nestled into the side of Sunset Mountain that overlooks the city – The Omni Grove Park Inn. I slipped past the guard shack as he helped another guest, then sheepishly drove up to the plethora of valet attendants who were enthusiastically waving at me as I rounded the corner to the Inn. After a few pleasantries, I admitted that I was not a guest at the hotel, just a new, curious resident of Asheville with time on my hands. No problem, I was given directions to the self-parking garage and told that I could park there for free for up to 3 hours. This was my lucky day!
The original structure was completed in 1913 and at that time was originally comprised of five sections that majestically adorned the mountain ridge. It is hard to describe the uniqueness of this architectural beauty that has been created out of native uncut granite boulders quarried from Sunset Mountain. It is a stunning example of the American Arts & Crafts Style. In the 1950s and 60s, two additional wings were added that compliment this style. Along the corridors of the Sammons wing you will find historical photographs and fascinating details about how the Inn was originally conceived and build by Edwin Grove and Fred Seely.
I explored the place top to bottom – literally. At the top are several restaurants, gift shops and historical tidbits – including a 1913 Model T Ford in the main lobby. Apparently, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone, aka “The Vagabonds”, liked to take road trips together and made a stop at the Inn one summer. Many artifacts from former guests can be found in the Vanderbilt wing, including a desk and typewriter used by F. Scott Fitzgerald during several summers when he stayed at the hotel in the 1930s. There are lots of fun and interesting things to discover in the nooks and crannies throughout this spacious lodge.
The main lobby is impressive in so many ways, but what captured my heart were the HUGE fireplaces that flanked each side of this room. Literally, they are large enough to walk into, but surrounding them by rocking chairs makes them oh so cozy. If you love the Arts & Crafts style of furniture, then you will love strolling through the lobby and its corridors which are adorned with both original and replica pieces. The showcase piece is the Roycroft grandfather clock in the main lobby that recently appraised for $1,000,000. It is one of only five of its kind made by Roycroft, and the only one known to still exist. All the parts, both interior and exterior, are original, and the clock is still perfectly operational…and it’s time matched that of my FitBit.
As you step outside from they main lobby, you are treated to fantastic, long-range views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are many seating areas terraced along the hillside to enjoy a cocktail, small plate or dessert from the Great Hall Bar Menu. You can also get a full meal from several of the upscale restaurants with a terrific view either sitting outside or behind huge glass windows.
As with any true resort, you can enjoy a round of golf on the 18-hole course that has been played by many PGA stars and former President Obama. Or perhaps you’d rather relax the day away in their 43,000-square-foot subterranean spa. I discovered that I can get a day pass Monday-Thursday as a non-guest and enjoy this luxurious spa. I will definitively be back for a day of pampering …perhaps this would be a good mother-daughter outing!
I will definitely bring family and friends back here for the ambiance, history and gorgeous views…and of course, a touch of southern hospitality.