Asheville caters to all sorts of people. If shopping is your thing, they’ve got it on all levels. If nature is your thing, you couldn’t find a more beautiful setting. Good food? You got it. If a luxurious spa is your thing, look no further. Some of the wealthiest people in America settled Asheville in the early 1900’s paving way for some of the most beautiful retreats in the nation, all of which are surrounded by lush green foliage, majestic mountains, and the serene sounds of nature. The following spas some of Asheville’s favorites.
THE BILTMORE – After attending a conference ten years ago, I have returned time and time again to the timeless regal grounds of the Biltmore. So meticulously manicured are the grounds at the Biltmore it feels like a fairytale. The likes of Rapunzel wouldn’t mind being locked up in a tower on George Vanderbilt’s 8000 acre estate as she would be mesmerized by the stunning views surrounding the castle itself. The gardens alone will take your breath away, perfect for people who love photography or just want a nice quiet stroll through paths of vibrant colors including spectacular spring tulips, a perfect anecdote to relieving stress.
The Inn is extremely elegant. An old world kind of elegant with classic chandeliers, dark wood trim, simply graceful table linens, sophisticated in every way. Indulging in the spa services is like hitting the lottery, especially after a long day visiting the many attractions the Biltmore has to offer. The spa offers traditional services perfect after a long walk through the premises, a tour of the Biltmore Home, or a bike ride through the woods. Visiting the vineyard after a thorough pampering is a fabulous transition into the evening. Dinner will be served using only the freshest ingredients including berries, salads and vegetables, hormone free raised beef and chicken grown on the Biltmore grounds. And of course, my favorite way to end the day at the Biltmore requires nothing but a rocking chair on the balcony overlooking the tree laced mountains.
THE OMNI GROVE PARK INN – Think elegant rustic. The all stone hotel built in the early 1900’s sits secluded in the hills just outside of downtown Asheville. Immediately welcomed by the valet’s, you will feel like you’ve stepped back in time to another realm. The lobby alone is enough to make your heart skip a beat with its massive hearths and views of the mountains just beyond the glass doors. Rocking chairs and comfortable lounging fills the room with an inviting sense of peace, a place to unplug, let your hair down, and completely exhale. This hotel is not known for their food although there are several lovely restaurants in the hotel itself. The best place in my experience is the Edison just to the left of the lobby. During warmer months, seating outside in the open air is the place to be. The scene is picturesque with layers of mountains, still and quiet as you are placed before them. The feeling is complete serenity particularly if you have just come from a day at the Grove Park’s world renowned spa.
To clarify, the Grove Park Inn has two facilities in addition to the 18-Hole Donald Ross Designed Golf Course, the spa and an entirely separate building for exercise. The 50,000 ft sports complex is designed to accommodate all sorts of different interests including all year swimming in the indoor Olympic size pool, racquet ball, a state of the art weightlifting facility, tennis, and a plethora of classes and personal training offerings. It also houses pool and ping pong tables for good clean fun. The spa, however, is a completely different animal, like nothing I have ever experienced. And I’ve been to some pretty amazing spas worldwide.
The Grove Park Spa is known not only for their superior and abundant array of services, it is also unique in that their pools are nestled in a grotto like atmosphere. Swimming under water or floating with your ears submerged feels like heaven as the music is heard under water. One time I floated for two hours on and off because I could not tear myself away from the hypnotic cloud I was in while I was floating under the sparkling grotto. The hot tubs on either side of the pools contain huge waterfalls. If you were not able to get a massage during your visit, the waterfall pressure on your pent up shoulders will suffice. A third lazy river type pool is just outside the doors on the patio where you can order light fare and enjoy the mountain views in the distance. Separate facilities for men and women include a steam room, sauna, hot tub, and an ice cold contrast dipping pool. If you want complete silence, there is a reading room just above the pools where no talking is permitted. Read, shut your eyes, and meditate, whatever you want. All you have to do is take a seat, put your feet up and enjoy the fireplace. Keep in mind that if you are not getting a treatment, the spa does charge a pass for visitors which you can get in the morning. If you are not staying at the hotel, this pass will only be available weekdays. Of course, it is always best to call first.
THE SWAG – If you really want to unplug, this high end rustic retreat in Waynesville about 40 miles outside of Asheville fits the bill. Sitting high on the mountains along the Cataloochee Divide, 200 years of settler and Cherokee history can be experienced by walking the Divide Trail just beyond the Inn. Originally the home of an Episcopal Clergyman, the property began operating as an Inn in 1982. It was purchased by honeymooners, David and Annie Colquitt, who took over the property in 2018. Among other accolades, Conde’ Nastnamed The Swag the #2 “Top Resort in the South” in 2017.
Escaping crowds is the name of the game here. Private, secluded, abounding nature and Smokey Mountain views with an upscale cabin like feel, you won’t need Calgon to take you away as most of the rooms are well appointed with luxurious robes, homemade quilt bedding, beamed ceilings, hearths, steam showers and soaking tubs, some of which you can enjoy in the open air. While you are unplugged you can enjoy the library, puzzles, a game of croquet or badminton, a nice hot sauna, outdoor hot tub, as well as an indoor racquet and Wally ball court. Throughout the day elegant dining awaits you as this resort is all inclusive. The fare is fresh and local, some of which is grown in the gardens of The Swag. While it’s not likely you will be wearing a tux or gown, you can enjoy your award winning meal in casual attire. The best part? When you wake up in the morning either before your amazing made to order omelet or afterward, spectacular views of the Smokey Mountains await your presence. You have a front row seat. This resort gives new meaning to the term “getaway.”
While the Grove Park Inn and the Biltmore are great to visit anytime, it should be noted that January-March are great months to visit as they are the least crowded and the fresh air does the body good. They are also less expensive during the first part of the year. The Edison at the Grove Park Inn, however, does not have available seating outside during the winter months, but there are plenty of floor to ceiling windows to take in the majestic views. The Swag is not open all year long. The resort is open Mid-April through November but it holds normal business hours for inquires and reservations on off season weekdays from 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Christmas at the Biltmore or the Grove Park Inn are both spectacular, but this is one of the busiest times of the year to visit and would be best planned months in advance.