May 2011 was our 19th wedding anniversary and we decided to do something extra special. We planned a trip to The Grove Park Inn Asheville, NC for the weekend. We had heard wonderful stories about the Grove Park for many years, and always wanted to stay there. Our weekend there was wonderful, and we had a great time together. We would highly recommend the Grove Park Inn to anyone.
Interested in hearing about the details of our trip, including our favorite restaurants and some “insider tips” ? Read on…
Grove Park Inn Asheville NC History
Construction for The Grove Park Inn began in 1912. The Grove Park Inn was envisioned and built by Edwin Wiley Grove and his son-in-law, Fred Loring Seely. Both met when working in the pharmaceutical industry and became very wealthy from the sales of Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic, a household staple in the late 1800’s.
Construction of the the Grove Park was completed in only 11 months and 27 days. More than four hundred men worked 10 hours days, 6 days a week to meet the demanding construction schedule. They were paid high wages to keep them focused and on schedule. Construction workers used Mules, wagons and ropes to lift the granite boulders in place. Some of the boulders weighted in excess of 10,000 pounds.
In 1955, the Grovepark became part of Sammon’s enterprises and was operated and expanded on my Mr. and Mrs. Sammons until Mrs. Sammons died in 2008. KSL Resorts acquired the Inn in 2012, and it was sold to Omni in 2013. The current name of the hotel is The Omni Grove Park Inn.
Being so historic, of course the Grove Park is full of various ghost sitings and stories, the most infamous being The Pink Lady. The Pink Lady was said to have fallen to her death near room 545 in the Palm Court around 1920. Many guests and hotel employees, including the current engineering facilities manager have reported very similar tales near room 545. Most often the tales are of severe chills as they approached room 545. Others have reported actually seeing her, including a current employee that has seen her a number of times over the years, and described what she has seen as “a real dense smoke – a pinkish pastel that just flows. It’s a real gentle spirit, whatever it is.”
When the Omni recently took over the hotel, they initiated a formal investigation. The existence of The Pink Lady, of course couldn’t be confirmed, but there was enough evidence to prohibit discounting her existence as well.
We sat in the Palm Court right where she is said to have fallen, and didn’t experience anything – thank goodness 😉
Our visit to The Grove Park Inn
As I mentioned, we stayed at The Grove Park Inn in May of 2011. We arrived on a Friday afternoon and parked in front of the entry area. We were immediately greeted by Valets and Bell Boys. Being a bit frugal, we declined both and walked into the hotel to check-in. We were immediately greeted by the gorgeous and large Main Hall. Something you notice right away are the two huge fireplaces on both sides.
Our experience at the front desk was very pleasant. They were all ready for us, and check in was quick and very friendly. One of the things that really struck me about the main hall was the various activities going on and the number of people “hanging out”. It became really clear to me that the main hall is definitely the “main hall”, and is the central location where people meet and spend time.
After checking in, we drove our car out to the main parking lot, and carried our luggage back into the hotel with us. As directed, we headed toward the main elevator.
The main elevator itself is a historic and unique experience. The main elevator is embedded into the chimney of one of the grand fireplaces. The elevator is a typical early 1900s elevator and looks and sounds very old. The elevator even has a dedicated operator, which was something I hadn’t seen in a very long time.
The only downside is the elevator is small and can only hold a small group of people and luggage, so you might have to wait a bit. But it’s worth it!
We did learn later that there is a door to the left of the main entrance to access the stairs. Our room was on the 3rd floor, so we just used the stairs the remainder of our time there.
One note, if you need to use the elevator late in the evening, finding an operator can be a bit difficult. So you’ll need to be patient. Guests are not allowed to operate the elevator themselves.
We elected to pay the extra money for a mountain view room, and The Grove Park delivered. Here’s the view from our from our room window:
The room itself was really nice, and what you would expect from a late 1800s hotel, but with all the amenities of a modern hotel, including a flat panel TV, refrigerator, hair dryer, iron and ironing board, air conditioner and wireless. The bathroom was small, but functional. Everything had a very historic look and feel, which was really nice and unique.
We decided to look around a bit, found the stairs and walked down to the front of the hotel. Out of the entire trip, we only had one complaint about the Grove Park Inn. As we headed towards the stairs to walk down to the first floor, we began to smell cigarette smoke. By the time we got to the stairs the smell was overwhelming for us non-smokers. We later found out that the 2nd floor is a smoking floor. During our stay, we sometimes smelled smoke in our room and while walking in the hallways on our non-smoking floor. That really bugged us, especially considering how much we were paying. If you plan to stay in the historic part of the hotel, I’d suggest the 4th floor.
Outside the hotel, the grounds are gorgeous, full of lush green grass, well groomed trees and plenty of flowers. You can find benches all over the place where you can just sit and enjoy the scenery. Behind the hotel, are lots of rock walkways that lead you around the atrium. The hotel itself is a big U shape, and inside the U is the atrium, which includes the spa. We spent a lot of time walking around here and taking pictures.
Grove Park Inn Restaurants
After walking the grounds for a bit, we decided to head back to the main hall and relax before our dinner reservations at the Sunset Terrace. We grabbed some drinks and some pimento cheese and found a comfy set of chairs to sink into. The pimento cheese was incredible, and obviously made fresh there at the Grove Park.
We relaxed and talked until it was time for our reservations at the Sunset Terrace. The Sunset Terrace was our all time favorite dining experiences, and one of our most favorite things at The Grove Park. The Sunset Terrace is a on the back side of the hotel, directly off the main hall. You are outside on a natural rock patio, with a view looking west of Asheville and The Blue Ridge Mountains. If you time your dinner reservations correctly, like we did, you get to dine while the sun is setting.
Here’s a cell phone picture we took just as we sat down to eat:
The view, our waitress, the food, the drink, the experience…ALL incredible. Definitely not cheap, but one of the finest dining experiences we’ve ever had anywhere. We liked it so much, that we tried to get in again on Saturday night, but they were all booked up. If you want to dine at the Sunset Terrace, make your reservations early.
Tip: Book your restaurant reservations when you book your rooms.
Breakfast on Saturday and Sunday morning was at the Blue Ridge Restaurant and was excellent. They have a full buffet that has pretty much anything you can imagine, plus tons more. Here’s a picture of Jenn and I on Sunday morning having breakfast before checking out.
Lunch on Saturday was at the Spa Cafe. We spent most of Saturday at the Spa (more on that below). The Spa food is light and refreshing, but frankly really overpriced for what you get. We purchased Shrimp Spring Rolls, and ate them outside at the Spa. Don’t get me wrong, they were good, but not great.
Dinner Saturday night was at the Blue Ridge Restaurant. We had their buffet, which was very good, but not at the level of quality found at the Sunset Terrace. They did surprise us with a special treat when dinner was over, which was a very nice touch.
The Grove Park Inn offers a number of other restaurants including The Horizons Dining Room, Edison, President’s Lounge, and Elaine’s Dueling Piano Bar. We didn’t get a chance to try these, but hear they are all good. The Horizon’s Dining Room is a very high end restaurant that provides an elegant dining experience.
One thing you’ll want to pay attention to at the Grove Park is the “suggested attire”. I wouldn’t say the Grove Park is stuffy at all, but the attire for the hotel is “resort casual” and the restaurants often often have higher standards. The front-desk can help you what you should wear.
The Grove Park Inn Spa
The highlight of our visit to the Grove Park Inn was on Saturday, where we had massages scheduled for the afternoon, and a “Day Pass” to the spa. We went down shortly after breakfast, around 9 or 10am. To say we were impressed would be an understatement. We’ve been to a few other spas in the past, but the Grove Park Spa was incredible.
The Grove Park Spa is located behind and below the main hotel, down at the bottom of the atrium area. The Spa is a “Subterranean Spa”, and while not completely underground, absolutely gives you the feeling that you are walking into an old secret cave. You are surrounded by rock, with soothing and mystical music playing. The entire Spa area is beautiful, and you can tell the owners spared no expense. Unfortunately photography in the spa isn’t allowed, but I’ve included some photos from the Grove Park Inn site for you below.
We checked in and were given robes and sandals. A guide was assigned to both of us, and the guide takes you on a complete walkthrough of the Spa and the various Spa services. You first enter the changing area where you can change into a bathing suit, robe and sandals. You receive a key to a locker so you can lock up your clothing and valuables. The Spa is most divided into separate mens and women’s areas. The areas include a hot tub, a cool immersion pool, steam sauna, dry sauna and lounge area, complete with fireplace. Some elegant touches included ice cold spring water, mineral water, and cold clothes on ice.
The facilities are beautiful, clean and very very professional.
After exiting the the male/female specific area, you arrive at the main indoor pool. My personal favorite place.
This was where Jenn and I finally met up, which brings me to the one thing we didn’t like about The Grove Park Spa: Many of the areas cannot be enjoyed together by couples. My wife and I enjoy doing things together, especially given we were on an Anniversary trip. Both pools and many hot-tubs can be enjoyed together, but many other areas cannot, since they are “men only” and “women only”. I get why they do this, but as a couple it was a bit disappointing and we didn’t get to fully enjoy the facilities as we didn’t want to be apart.
Anyway, back to the main pool. As you can see in the above photo, the main pool area is beautiful. The pools water isn’t just regular water either, it’s mineral water. The pool also has underwater speakers, and when you submerge your ears, they are filled with soft and relaxing “spa like” music. Floating is very easy due to the mineral water, so it nice to just float on your back and enjoy the music.
What you can’t see in this picture is that the main pool is also surrounded by a few hot tubs. Of course they aren’t just normal hot tubs, they literally look like natural pools of steaming hot water. Even better? They have waterfalls of hot water falling into them. Since I have back issues, I really enjoyed putting my back into the falls and just soaking. We went back and forth between the pool and hot tubs for a long time.
We then decided to venture outside and see what was out there and saw this:
This is an area where you can enjoy the sun and heated pool water. The day we were there was pretty warm, and we found the pool a little too hot, but I can imagine how nice this would be in the fall, winter or spring when temperatures were cooler. All around the pool were tables and chairs, and many areas were you could go off and relax and be by yourself. We saw many women and men reading and sleeping here. They even have small fire pits for in the evening.
We relaxed outside for a bit, and then went to the Spa Cafe to get some lunch. We ended up bringing our food back outside and eating on the patio.
After lunch, we headed to the “sex specific” lounge areas to meet up with our masseuses. We both received individual massages. We wanted a couples massage, but unfortunately they were booked up the day we were there. This was a bit of a disappointment for us, but we still enjoyed the massages.
We went with the hot rock massage, which is just wonderful. Both of our masseuses were very good and very professional.
Once our massages were over, we met back in the pool area, and spent the rest of the evening relaxing and just enjoying some quiet time together in the spa.
While the Spa is by no means cheap, and frankly is very expensive, it’s certainly something we would recommend for a special occasion. We both walked away feeling that it was well worth the money and one of the most relaxing and enjoyable experiences we’ve ever had. Just wish we were rich so I could go more often!
Time to return to reality
We ate breakfast Sunday morning at the Blue Ridge Restaurant, packed up, checked out and headed home. All the while, miserable at having to leave.
We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend stay at The Grove Park Inn, and would highly recommend it to anyone. Definitely a place that should be on your bucket list to experience. The Inn, staff, restaurants and facilities are just incredible.
We hope to return again someday on a future special anniversary.
Have you ever been? Did you enjoy your stay? Tell us about your visit by adding a comment!