The historic Omni Grove Park Inn is one of the best hotels in Asheville and one of the most unique hotels in the Southeast. It was founded by Edwin W. Grove, who is now known as “The Father of Modern Asheville.” Grove was a self-made millionaire born and raised on a farm in Tennessee who had made his fortune as the inventor of the quinine Tasteless Chill Tonic to control the growth of the malaria parasite.
(Fun fact: The bottle had a hilarious drawing of a creature with the body of a pig and the face of a healthy, plump child because the tonic made “children and adults as fat as pigs.”)
Grove started coming to Asheville during the summers to improve his respiratory health and fell in love with the area. And the rest is history!
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The History of The Omni Grove Park Inn
The most iconic among Asheville’s hotels, The Omni Grove Park Inn was built in just one year and inspired by the rustic hotels of Yellowstone National Park, especially the Old Faithful Inn. Instead of logs, they used native boulders from the surrounding mountains.
Construction started in the spring of 1912. The legend says that 400 men worked 10 hours a day, six days a week, earning the best wages in the area ($1 a day). By July 1913, the opening banquet took place with many notable guests led by the Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, who gave the keynote address, describing the Inn as “built for the ages.”
Located 10 minutes from downtown Asheville, halfway up the slope of Sunset Mountain, and nearly 2,500 feet above sea level, the site gives guests a panoramic view of Asheville and the western rim of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Many things have happened since the foundation of the Grove Park Inn in 1913, including the addition of two more wings and a golf course, the renovation of the main building, and the construction of the underground spa, one of the best in the country.
“The idea was to build a big home where every modern convenience could be had, but with all the old-fashioned qualities of genuineness… Any attempt at the bizarre, the tawdry, and flashy foolish would be omitted,” said Grove. Fortunately, the following owners have respected the original inspiration, and the hotel continues to blend luxury and Southern hospitality with comfort, elegance, and a home-like feel.
The hotel’s history is fascinating. Think about famous politicians and celebrities who would stay for weeks or months, a suicide attempt by famous jazz-era writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, a president-in-exile, and a place where Axis diplomats were arrested during World War II. The list of famous visitors includes 10 US presidents!
“Ï did what I could to build a hotel worthy of these wonderful mountains,” Grove said in 1913. We couldn’t agree more! Here I’ve compiled a list of things you can do as a day or overnight guest of The Omni Grove Park Inn, from visiting for the day to lodging options, spa and wellness experiences, shopping, dining, and recreation.
Staying at the Omni Grove Park Inn (and Getting the Best Views!)
The Omni Grove Park Inn has three buildings: The Main Inn (142 rooms), the Vanderbilt Wing (167 rooms), and the Sammons Wing (204 rooms). The Main Inn’s rooms are historical and furnished with Roycroft Arts & Crafts décor. The other buildings were added between the late ‘70s and early ‘80s and offer a more modern vibe and bigger spaces.
All three buildings give guests spectacular views, although the Club Floor Premium and Panorama Corner rooms offer some of the best. In addition, there are pet-friendly rooms at the Vanderbilt Wing and accessible rooms at the Sammons Wing.
The Main Inn offers Traditional Rooms, Resort Rooms overlooking the landscape, and Mountain View Rooms offering views of Asheville’s skyline, the golf course, and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Vanderbilt and Sammons wings offer Premium Resort Rooms overlooking the spa gardens or the resort’s landscaping and Premium Mountain View Rooms with fantastic views.
Both wings offer exclusive adult-only (21+) Club Floor Rooms with personal concierge service, complimentary continental breakfast, a spa-like bathroom with a single effervescent bath, and a walk-in hydro shower. Plus, you’ll get other exclusive services and views of the spa gardens, the wooded areas, and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
However, the Club Floor Premium Rooms offer some of the best views in the resort. In addition, the luxurious E.W. Grove Penthouse Suite (the largest room in the inn) is also part of the Club Floor.
The Sammons Wing has oversized 400-450-square-foot Panorama Corner Rooms with amazing panoramic views, while the Vanderbilt Wing offers fully-equipped 1,000-square-foot Executive Junior Suites.
The Omni Grove Park Inn Restaurants, Bars, Lounges, and Cafes
Whatever your food or drink craving or mood, there is a place for you at the inn, and views are always guaranteed! The good news is that you don’t have to be a resort guest to dine here.
Parking is free for the first three hours, but then there is a fee that changes seasonally, so please call if you have questions. They also offer valet parking for a fee. If you are planning on dining at The Omni Grove Park Inn, reservations are highly recommended for all restaurants.
1. Blue Ridge Restaurant
Located in the Vanderbilt Wing, the Blue Ridge Restaurant offers an extensive farm-to-table buffet and spectacular views. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. It features the award-winning Friday night seafood buffet and a Saturday night prime rib buffet. Plus, kids five and under eat free with paying adults.
2. Sunset Terrace and Sunset Cocktail Terrace
The Sunset Terrace is off the Great Hall, serving hand-cut steaks, premiere chops, and fresh seafood. The Sunset Terrace is a 10-time recipient of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. Weather permitting, you can also enjoy a cocktail or a glass of wine at the Sunset Cocktail Terrace (no reservations required).
3. Edison, Craft Ales + Kitchen
Edison, Craft Ales + Kitchen is named after guests Thomas Edison and his “Vagabonds” (Edison, Harvey Firestone, and Henry Ford), and it strives to give guests “a true Asheville experience.”
They partner with local farmers and producers like Bee Charmer, Sweet Grass Dairy, and Farm & Sparrow to offer regionally inspired farm-to-table cuisine and cocktails. The restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating, and the dining room showcases the work of local artists.
4. Vue 1913
The art-deco brasserie-style Vue 1913 is in the Sammons Wing and gets its name from the year The Omni Grove Park Inn was founded. It offers dishes with the best seasonal local ingredients, an ample selection of wines, and a panoramic view of the mountains.
Vue 1913 has repeatedly won Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence and is also one of only two AAA Four Diamond Restaurants in Western North Carolina. If you consider yourself a foodie, the restaurant offers a Wild Food Foraging Tour, during which you’ll learn to safely forage your own ingredients before having the chef cook the food you collected for you at Vue 1913.
5. Great Hall Bar
Then there’s the rustic yet elegant and cozy Great Hall Bar in the lobby, which offers an extensive menu of classic and signature cocktails. You’ll love chilling by one of the two 36-foot-wide fireplaces (a unique feature of these is that the elevators are concealed within them!) and enjoying live music. The Great Hall, with its 24-foot ceilings and roaring fireplaces, is the heart of the Grove Park Inn and the best place to feel its history.
6. Presidents Lounge
Located just past the Heritage Ballroom in the Sammons Wing, the Presidents Lounge offers a fine collection of wines by the glass, specialty vodka and gin, handcrafted cocktails, and tapas. It overlooks downtown Asheville and the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.
7. The Spa Café
The Spa Café offers juices and smoothies, champagne and cocktails, breakfast items, salads, sandwiches, and wraps in a relaxing atmosphere. We’ll get there later, but please remember that the spa services are only available for guests staying at the hotel.
8. Cabana Grill and Bar
The Cabana Grill and Bar is by the outdoor pool and the Golf Pro Shop, and it opens seasonally. It has an outdoor grill and a full bar. This is the place to go for sandwiches, salads, and snacks.
9. Elaine’s Dueling Piano Bar
Elaine’s Dueling Piano Bar is open from Thursday to Saturday and offers live music, dancing, comedy shows, and a menu of drinks. The doors open at 8:00 pm, there is no cover fee, and guests must be 21 or older.
10. The Marketplace
Finally, The Marketplace, located in the Vanderbilt Wing at the corner of the retail promenade, has coffee, hot chocolate, house-made pastries, pizza, and frozen treats.
11. In-Room Dining
The Restaurant in Room menu offers breakfast only from 6:30 am until 10 am. If you’re in the mood for something light, you can choose the Yogurt Parfait, the Chia Seed Pudding, or a freshly-made pastry.
But if you’re fueling up for an action-packed day, hearty options range from Steak and Eggs to Stuffed French Toast. There’s also a children’s menu if you’re traveling with your little ones.
Go Underground at The Spa at The Omni Grove Park Inn
The Spa at The Omni Grove Park Inn is a spectacular 43,000-square-foot subterranean spa, voted one of the “Top Resort Spas in the US” by Condé Nast Traveler. What makes this spa so special?
The excellent quality of the wellness treatments and the creativity of its architecture plays a big role. It’s hard to believe that 8 million pounds of stone were used to build its many caverns, rock walls, arches, and tunnels!
The spa is connected to all the buildings by descending steps, surrounded by waterfalls, pools, and natural gardens. There is a cafe and a specialty spa boutique inside the spa.
To add to the luxury, both the men’s and women’s changing areas have luxurious fireplace lounges. Of course, and like every experience at The Omni Grove Park Inn, views are always part of the equation.
The Spa at The Omni Grove Park Inn offers 20 water features, including mineral-based pools, therapeutic waterfalls, and a lap pool blanketed with 6,500 fiber-optic stars and underwater music! You’ll love the contrast pools, inhalation rooms, saunas, eucalyptus-infused steam rooms, and multiple facial, body, massage, and pedicure treatments.
Spa day passes and treatments are only available to overnight resort guests by reservation (day passes are limited). Therefore, it’s recommended that you book your day pass and spa experiences while making your hotel reservations.
From Golf to Tennis: Stay Active During Your Stay at The Omni Grove Park Inn
1. Sports Complex
The Omni Grove Park Inn guests have complimentary access to the 50,000-square-foot Sports Complex, which boasts an indoor pool, True and Precor treadmills, Peloton bikes, elliptical trainers, free weights, and more than 20 Paramount strength-building stations. It also offers instructor-led classes – from yoga, meditation, and body sculpting to cycling and Aqua Fit.
2. Tennis Center
The Omni Grove Park Inn has been named one of the “Best 50 Tennis Resorts” by Tennis Magazine. The Tennis Center has six courts (three indoors and three outdoors), so you can swing your racket year-round. It also offers private classes and clinics. There is also a racquetball court!
3. Donald Ross-Designed Golf Course
The resort is famous for its 6,055-yard, 18-hole Donald Ross-designed golf course, visited by Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, and Jack Nicklaus. Even President Obama played golf here!
No worries if you would like to play golf but don’t know how. They offer introductory classes. You just need to show up wearing golf-appropriate attire. If you didn’t bring an outfit, you can get it at the Golf Pro Shop!
4. Nantahala Outdoor Center
Finally, and because the Asheville area is all about celebrating the outdoors, the Nantahala Outdoor Center offers endless outdoor adventure.
This is the nation’s largest outdoor recreation company, and it has an on-site office in the Sammons Wing, where you can book fun outdoor experiences for the entire family. From guided rafting trips and guided hikes in the Blue Ridge Mountains to zip lining and canopy tours, there’s something for everyone.
Check Out the National Gingerbread House Competition at The Omni Grove Park Inn
The now-famous Gingerbread House Competition at The Omni Grove Park Inn began in 1992 with just a few gingerbread houses. Today it is a competitive event and one of the best things to do in Asheville in the winter. The display starts at the end of November and ends during the first week of January.
Western North Carolina families cherish this tradition very much. Besides choosing your favorite gingerbread house, you’ll love walking around the resort to admire the 80 illuminated Christmas trees while sipping hot chocolate.
Guests not staying at the resort can only visit the exhibition on certain days and times during this time of the year. Please call or check the hotel’s website before heading out. Parking is limited, and there is no three-hour complimentary parking for day visitors during the holiday season (October to December).
You can call to find out the parking fee or take an Uber to avoid frustrations. The good news is that the Grove Park Inn donates a portion of the parking proceeds during the exhibition to local nonprofits!
Indulge In On-Site Shopping at The Omni Grove Park Inn’s Lovely Stores
While I don’t recommend staying at The Omni Grove Park Inn and never leaving to explore anything else, you can certainly do that if you want. This hotel is a micro-town and has every need covered, even buying unique Asheville souvenirs.
1. Emporium 1913
Emporium 1913 in the Vanderbilt Wing hosts The Marketplace. In this little shop, you can find everything from lattes and homemade treats to locally sourced gifts and Grove Park Inn-related souvenirs (clothing, mugs, books, stuffed animals, ornaments – you name it!). There are also boutiques, accessories, jewelry, and lounge shops.
2. Sammons Wing Shopping Promenade
The Sammons Wing Shopping Promenade offers a collection of home accessories and unique gifts that change with the seasons. I love going here during the December holidays to see what’s new. There is also an outdoor gear shop and an art gallery featuring locally handcrafted items.
3. The Spa Boutique and Golf Pro Shop
The Spa Boutique sells items from the signature spa line, clothing, and beautiful gift baskets, and the Golf Pro Shop offers everything golf related. Of course, you can also buy GPI gift cards!
Visiting the Omni Grove Park Inn for the Day
It is possible to visit this incredible Asheville hotel for the day, and I highly recommend doing it because it’s beautiful, an extremely Instagrammable local icon, and the views are always amazing. Remember that parking is free for the first three hours, but then there is a fee that changes seasonally, so please call if you have questions.
Also, there is no complimentary parking during the holiday season (October to December). Parking is limited, so taking an Uber, Lyft, or AVL ride from your location during peak hours or during the holiday season is easier.
With all the information you’ve gathered about the hotel throughout this article, it’s now up to you how you want to spend your visit. You can choose between four excellent restaurants (remember to make reservations), go with the flow and get drinks and tapas as you go, or get a hot chocolate and a homemade pastry and walk around the hallways and the terrace. But, of course, the afternoons offer the best views.
If you are into history, you’ll love taking the 45-minute self-guided Audio History tour covering the early years of the hotel, the Arts & Crafts style furniture collection, and the visits of many famous guests (George Gershwin, Harry Houdini, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and even President Obama have stayed here!). Bring your headphones.
The atrium of the Vanderbilt Wing shows informative short videos from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm. You can also buy the excellent book Built for the Ages by Bruce Johnson on one of the retail promenades and read it in the Great Hall by one of the gigantic fireplaces while sipping a cocktail.
The hallway’s walls feature the many stories (including ghost stories!) this hotel is made of. My kids used to be obsessed with the friendly, kind ghostly presence of the Pink Lady of the Grove Park Inn. I won’t tell you more, but her story is dated in the 1920s and featured in one of the halls. Don’t worry – she’s a cute pink presence!
The Grove Park Inn also has a Winter Concert Series, and there are individual tickets for purchase for guests not staying at the hotel.
Business Meetings, Conventions, Weddings, and Other Special Events at The Omni Grove Park Inn
The Omni Grove Park Inn offers 31 meeting rooms for those planning a special event, including the 17,760-square-foot Grand Ballroom and the 8,800-square-foot Heritage Ballroom. No matter how big or small the event you’re planning is, there will be a perfect space for it, and world-class services are included to make it successful.
The open-air Vanderbilt Terrace overlooking the mountains is the perfect venue for smaller summer weddings. At the same time, the Mountain View Terrace and the Skyline Room (both indoors) boast floor-to-ceiling windows and gigantic fireplaces and can accommodate more people without resigning the views.
The historic Country Club building and the Seely Arts & Craft-inspired Pavilion offer lovely, cozy settings for weddings, featuring gigantic fireplaces and views of the mountains and the golf course.
The Omni Grove Park Inn Neighborhood
The quaint neighborhood surrounding The Omni Grove Park Inn is beautiful, and the wide, wooded streets are perfect for walking and jogging. You can even walk downtown if you have the time and get to explore North Asheville. Three of the neighborhood’s areas, Grove Park, Proximity Park, and Sunset Terrace, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Also, the Grove Park plan was the first in Asheville to implement curvilinear streets, parks, and trees in a naturalistic setting, abandoning the grid street layout. Edwin Grove purchased the land surrounding the Grove Park Inn and sold it to developers.
Richard Sharp Smith, the supervising architect of the Biltmore Estate, was responsible for the neighborhood’s architectural style known as “English Derived Craftsman,” inspired by the American and English Arts & Crafts Movement.
Historic Charlotte Street became the home of many local businesses and continues to be one of Asheville’s most beloved streets. There are great places to eat in this area, and many are off the tourist track. Charlotte Street is home to three Asheville favorites.
City Bakery has been awarded for its artisan bread and pastries, and its sandwiches are amazing (try the Breakfast Torta!). Owl Bakery sells naturally leavened bread and beautifully presented European-inspired pastries made by hand using local, seasonal ingredients (try the Cardamom Buns and the croissants). Finally, Taco Temple serves some of the most creative tacos in town! (I’m a big fan of the Tacos Al Pastor.)
There you have it! Our guide to visiting The Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC. Did we miss any of the Grove Park Inn’s hidden gems? Let us know so we can add them to the list!
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