Revisited Retreat

The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa has grown from a rambling, rocky-faced summer retreat built in the early days of cars to a full-blown resort with an underground spa that would make former Asheville resident Walt Disney jealous. It’s a magical kingdom up there on Sunset Mountain

Photos by Chris Edwards 


The Grove Park Inn's subterranean-like spa is one of its most luxe amenities.

The Grove Park Inn’s subterranean-like spa is one of its most luxe amenities.

I visited in June to hear about the new wines the inn is producing under its own label. The 2005 Sonoma Chardonnay was luscious—you can try a glass for $8.75 ($32 per bottle) at the bar in the epic Great Hall. With fireplaces big enough to stand in, the hall—which is the main lobby—also has a spacious terrace for sunset dining. If you’re a romantic, make a reservation.

The honest craftsmanship of the inn’s Arts and Crafts design is awe inspiring. Solid oak furniture, hand-wrought iron, thick doors, and sayings written on clocks and benches speak of an era marked by hope. New wings continue the spirit, but my room on the fifth floor of the main building (a double with a mountain view goes for $365 per night)—reached by a tiny elevator up a stone chimney shaft—could not be copied by moderns. I loved the old casement windows that opened to an expansive view of the golf course below.

The food is fabulous—restaurants and cafes appear in all the right places. Dining on the Sunset Terrace, after a subterranean swim in the spa’s warm mineral pool under twinkling rock ceilings set with faceted skylights, casts a spell even Tinker Bell would approve of. —Laurie Prince
200 Macon Ave., 800-438-5800,

The Eats
Early Girl Eatery
Meat lovers and vegetarians flock to Early Girl Eatery. This retro-themed, scratch-kitchen diner is sought after for its local pork sausage with homemade biscuits or vegan tomato gravy on stone-ground grits. It’s a three-square-meals hangout. (Meals range from $4.50 to about $14.95.) 8 Wall St., 828-259-9292

Tupelo Honey Café
Across from gritty Pritchard Park, Tupelo Honey Café serves organic grub from the owners’ farm, such as fried green tomatoes over goat cheese grits with basil. Get there early because seats go fast and they don’t take reservations (the sweet-potato pancake breakfast
is $3.50; lunch salads are $8-$12; dinner entrées begin at $10). 12 College St., 828-255-4404

The Market Place Restaurant
Mark Rosenstein, chef-owner of the Market Place Restaurant, has been praised by critics from The New York Times to Wine Spectator for his fresh take on local foods, including mountain trout and produce from the Biltmore Estate. The walls outside—sunset orange trimmed in vibrant purple—declare the drama inside. Dinner only, beginning with the early-bird Rose Plate Special — a three-course dinner for $26. 20 Wall St., 828-252-4162

Inns Worth Your While

Down a side street near The Grove Park Inn is the Albemarle Inn (800-621-7435, ), a grand neoclassical home (pictured) boasting AAA’s four-diamond rating. You’ll find canopied beds, claw-foot tubs, and a sunny dining room furnished with white wicker, the setting of a chef-prepared gourmet breakfast. (Weekend rates begin at $170 per night.) In the nearby Montford Historic District is The Black Walnut Bed & Breakfast Inn (800-621-7435, ). Shrub roses lean over heavy chains spanning stone columns along the property’s edge; inside, a hodgepodge of design styles makes a comfy setting for the popular 5:30 p.m. tea, a soiree of hors d’oeuvres served with a half dozen wines. Sandra Bullock stayed in the Dogwood Room; weekend rates begin at $195 per night. Three miles out from the city is the lovely Richmond Hill Inn (800-621-7435, ), a nineteenth-century mansion on a hilltop surrounded by Victorian gardens. Opt for a room in the Garden Pavilion (weekend rates start at $340 per night) and dinner in the main house to get the best of new and old. – L.P.



Categories: Feature