NC Explorer: The Grove Park Inn – Asheville

The Grove Park Inn is one of the most iconic hotels in America. Built in 1913 in the Arts and Crafts movement style, this mountain retreat is more than just a weekend getaway – it stirs you with an experience to last a lifetime.

Located in the heart of Asheville North Carolina in the midst of the hauntingly beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, The Grove Park Inn welcomes guest to a rugged luxury – a mountain oasis that feels like a Castle on a Cloud.

Perched atop Sunset Mountains with stunning views of The Blue Ridge in the distance, The Grove Park Inn welcomes guests to relax and take in the view.

I’m a native North Carolinian, who works a day job so I can travel to The Blue Ridge Mountains every chance I get. While I’ve visited The Grove Park Inn at Christmas for a meal and to see the decor, I’ve never stayed at the hotel until this past week.

I was surprised with a last minute trip to The Grove Park Inn before starting a new job and hands down I can say that the Grove Park Inn did NOT DISAPPOINT.

In today’s post, I’ll share highlights from my Grove Park Inn experience, along with a bit of the history and mystery that makes this hotel so special.

One of my favorite parts of traveling is soaking in the history of a place and meditating on the people and cultures that helped to create a building or historic site. The Grove Park Inn is a treasure trove for history lovers. It is the time of spot you can get lost in and explore for hours – uncovering hidden stories about the people who build, visited and have worked at the hotel for over 110 years!

Rooted in History:

The story of The Grove Park Inn starts with the birth of its founder, Edwin Wiley Grove 1850 on a small farm in Whiteville Tennessee. Seeing the effects of The Civil War, Grove decided he wanted to focus on a career in the pharmaceutical business so he could rise from his early poverty to a place of financial stability.

He purchased a pharmacy in Paris, Tennessee (about an hour north of Nashville, TN) in his mid twenties. At the time malaria was a serious epidemic with many getting sick from the disease.

Grove put all his energy into formulating a tasteless qunine to prevent malaria. He experimented with his mixture for years before launching his Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic in the 1890s. It became a huge success and a household staple selling more bottles than Coca Cola.

After twenty years in business, Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic surpassed 1.5 million bottles sold.

Grove was prone to illness himself, especially bouts of bronchitis and exhaustion which led him to the serene and pure mountain air of Asheville.

Like his neighbors, The Vanderbilts (Biltmore) and other Asheville sojourners, Grove fell in love with the area and the beauty of the mountains.

He decided he wanted to share the beauty of Asheville with others and create a one of a kind mountain resort for respite and care. Thus the origins of The Grove Park Inn began.

Grove was in Detroit for business when he met Fred Seely, a fellow pharmaceutical colleague and they struck up a friendship and partnership. Seely was hired to work for Grove at his Paris Medicine Company.

It was during this time that Seely fell in love with Grove’s daughter Evelyn and they were wed.

It was during this time (around 1898) that Grove began to invest with Seely in the future of Asheville real estate. In 1909 Grove purchased 408 acres in north Asheville near Sunset Mountain. He focused on building residential neighborhoods and community before turning his attention to the formation of The Grove Park Inn.

In 1911, Grove began to plan the building of his hotel atop Sunset Mountain. Seely was a visionary and had a keen eye for architecture. When the initial sketches from established architects fell short, Seely himself designed a plan. Grove was so impressed he commission Seely to build the hotel.

This was no easy fear. Over 400 men worked ten hour shifts six days a week with mules, wagons and ropes to lift heavy granite boulders.

What is truly amazing is the hotel was completed within one year of groundbreaking – opening it’s doors on July 12, 1913.

The architecture of The Grove Park Inn is inspired by The Arts and Crafts or Mission Movement and is designed to mimic and find inspiration from the natural surroundings. The original hotel structure is defined by huge rock stones and boulders. At first glance the hotel looks like it is part of the mountain itself.

The interior has been updated a bit since 1913 but continues to keep this Arts and Craft and Art Noveau inspired theme. Reminders of the Roycroft designs that once filled the hotel are still on view. Small details like painted Art Nouveau rose work is seen on the ceilings and even printed on the elevators.

Fire place in Grand Lobby

Our Stay:

When we arrived at The Grove Park Inn we were greeted by the Valet Service. Heads up – it costs $35.00 for valet parking and $25.00 per day for self-parking.

I did later find out there is another deck that has different options for parking and fees, but alas we ended up going with the Valet. Sometimes it just isn’t worth saving a dollar to break your back with luggage.

Entering the hotel, I once again found myself awestruck at the soaring ceilings and massive stone fireplaces. Stain-glass Arts and Crafts meets Art Nouveau lamps hang from the ceiling. A bustling bar is open in the lobby for drinks and quick bites to eat as the windows provide views of The Blue Ridge Mountains outside.

The originaly hotel rooms are accessible via the historic elevator, although the majority of the Grove Park Inn’s 513 rooms are located in newer wings (built in the 1980s). The new additions continue the tradition and style of the original hotel and provide luxury modern accomodation with rustic mountain flair.

Usually when I visit the NC Mountains I focus my time driving and hiking on the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway, but as we only had one full day (two nights) at this exquisite resort, we decided to hang out at the resort the entire trip.

There is a lot to do on site – from wandering the hotels wings and taking an audio tour about the history. Meander the halls and discover artifacts like guest, Harry Houdini’s magical trunk or a typewriter used by frequent visitor F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The Presidental Bar area provides pool tables and libations with mountain views – this area was built to honor the many presidents from Coolidge to FDR to Obama who have visited The Grove Park Inn.

The Grove Park Inn has numerous dining options on site.

Vue 1913 is a brasserie style restaurant and the most high end of the on-site dining with chef curated fine-dining selections and prime cuts of Wagyu and seasonal dishes.

My mom and I enjoyed having dinner at the Gastropub themed Edison’s, which honors Thomas Alva Edison who stayed at The Grove Park Inn with other titans of industry like Firestone and Ford.

The food at Edison’s is a mix of basic pub fare like burgers to more eclectic meal options. The prices are fairly affordable and we had a wonderful server.

  • I ordered the Smash Burger with a Gluten Free bun and a salad with feta cheese (YUM)
  • The desserts are AMAZING too – especially the chocolate hazelnut crunch
  • Click here for the menu
Edison Restaurant – photo courtesy of Omni Grove Park Inn

My only complaint about the hotel is I have always wanted to swim in their unique rock cave pool. I looked forward to the experience and when I arrived I found out that I would not be permitted to use that pool unless I paid for a SPA treatment (upwards of $200) and day passes were limited.

They do have another pool on site (you have to take a shuttle to get there), but not allowing access to the much advertised stone pool was a poor experience in my book. Alas, I didn’t let it deter me from having fun.

The highlight of our stay was Elaine’s Piano Bar…I’m a musician and being able to spend several hours watching the talented Greg and Dana (two amazing pianists) play musical favorites by Elton John and beyond for hours was so much fun.

  • Elaine’s is in the ‘basement’ of the Inn and offers great piano bar fun from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday-Saturday nights.

Breakfast is not included with the cost of the room, but I definitely recommend splurging on the breakfast buffet.

It is $35.00 and includes everything from pancakes to fruit to meats, to omelets and even a Gluten Free area with muffins, toast and cereal. I didn’t need lunch after eating a hearty farm to table meal at the buffett.

The buffett dining room offers amazing mountain views that get you in the right mindset for a fun day.

  • If you are in the mood for a quick muffin and coffee – check out The Market Place store – it includes a barista bar, ice-cream bar and lots of pastries and snacks.

The weather was a bit rainy for a walk, but we did explore the grounds a bit (Even if we couldn’t do the onsite Sunset Trail Hike)

Planning YOUR TRIP:

  • We found a great deal on for this trip, but you can also book directly through The Grove Park Inn Website.
  • Remember this is a special excursion and you have to have a bit of grace with your budget. I’m a budget traveler, but this investment was worth every penny for the amazing experience, history and ambiance of the hotel.
  • If you can’t stay at The Grove Park Inn, but want to visit – you can! There is a three hour free parking area (near Vanderbilt lot) or you can use The Valet. I’ve done this before to check out The Gingerbread Houses at Christmas and/or grab a drink at The Sunset Grill area.
  • Bring your own wine and snacks so you can spend less on midday snacks and more on an amazing dinner.
  • Take time to watch the sunset from the lobby terrace – it feels like a Monet painting in action.

Things to do:

  • History tour: audio tour and video + exhibits
  • Read a book in one of the many relaxing seating areas with mountain views
  • Sit on the terrace and enjoy a glass of wine and watch the sunset
  • Hike on the Sunset Trail
  • Check out the neighboring shopping area and Antique Car Museum
  • Enjoy the adjacent gym and pool
  • Invest in a day at The Spa
  • Relax! This is the perfect place to get lost in and just let the mountain air and rustic luxury take you away. Leave your troubles behind because you are on Blue Ridge Time
  • Dance and sing along at Elaine’s Piano Bar
  • Enjoy a wonderful meal at one of the many onsite restaurants.
  • Play a round of golf

Discover Asheville…we’ll be blogging through my favorite spots in Asheville soon, but if you have more than a day or two at The Grove Park Inn and want to explore the area here are my fave highlights:

  • Drive on The Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Spend a day at Mt. Mitchell State Park – highest mountain east of The Mississippi River
  • Drive to Lake Lure and check out Chimney Rock
  • Spend the day at Biltmore – America’s largest home!
  • Hang out in Downtown Asheville and check out the craft beer and cider scene
  • Listen to music at local haunts The Grey Eagle or The Orange Peel

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