Spa at the Grove Park Inn, Resort & Spa
by Anne Dimon
It’s hard to believe that this is the same place that turned off running water at 10:30 pm in its very early days. Today water/hydro therapy is the major draw and theme of the experiential spa at The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa in Asheville, North Carolina.
Opened in the early 1900s with the novel-for-the-times philosophy of providing guests with “a respite from the outside world,” The Grove Park Inn, Resort & Spa is today a landmark hotel and tourist attraction plus a popular spot for meetings, banquets and weddings.
Even before stepping foot inside the massive lobby with its two mega stone fireplaces, one feels history practically billowing from old stone walls. Luminaries such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harry Houdini, George Gershwin, Dr. Deepak Chopra and 10 U.S. Presidents, including Barack Obama, have stayed here.
But history aside, it is the singular, water-themed spa facility that lures the spa enthusiast.
One enters the spa – blasted into the side of a mountain in a self-contained building connected to the inn – through a long, bolder-lined corridor punctuated with water features.
What you see and hear and feel is meant to create the feeling of walking into a rock cavern, and it does. While there are field stone floors and walls made from local bedrock, some of this grotto-like setting is man-made for safety, I assume, as much as for desired effect.
The heart of the spa – the huge co-ed pool area - is a collection of semi-private grottos seemingly carved into the mountain side. Pools and waterfall massages are built on a saline water system, and all are infused with minerals such as zinc, potassium, magnesium and sodium.
Arches and small coves create privacy and one of many cozy grottos built for two holds a therapeutic waterfall and whirlpool. There’s underwater music in all the pools and overhead fibre optic lights heighten the cavern feel.
As much as it is a serious, full-service spa, there is no doubt that it is also a tourist attraction. When I arrive at 9:30 a.m. people are already line-up to check-in.
On one side of the reception there’s a large retail area, on the other side a juice bar and all-day spa café serving a wide variety of items from hummus to soups, spring rolls and wraps. The café is open to all hotel guests but the spa’s Jeff Winkel says staff monitor the number of people dining “to avoid the loss of the feeling of sanctuary.” For the same reason, they also monitor the number of guests using the pools at any given time.
"Designers have done an exemplary job of bringing the five elements - fire, water, light, earth and air – together in one dramatic, 40,000 square feet of spa environment."
Spread out over two levels, the facilities includes more than 30 treatment areas, men’s and ladies locker rooms and lounges, a significant collection of private and co-ed indoor and out door pools, baths, waterfalls, showers, saunas and steams, and more fireplaces/fire pits then I’ve encountered in any one place anywhere in the world.
It’s huge spa (staff are on wireless radios) but it’s well laid out and surprisingly easy to find one’s way around.
Sitting in a big leather arm chair in front of one fireplace in the ladies locker room lounge, wrapped in a cashmere throw and munching on nuts and dried fruit, I’m thinking - what a lovely place for note-taking. Help-yourself refreshments also include fresh fruit and herbal teas, and calming music that changes with time of day and with each season, sets the tone.
Steps away, there’s a dry sauna and an inhalation room for breathing in essential oils – today it’s a combination of lavender, eucalyptus, tea tree and grape seed. There’s an open air, silent lounge with fireplace and stone walls, also a private outdoor terrace with fire pit, lounge chairs and a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. And, this is just in the ladies’ section of the spa.
Stone – natural and man-made is everywhere and natural light streams in from skylights and a walk out to a co-ed outdoor terrace with a mountain view, heated pool, lounge chairs and massive stone fireplace. Weather permitting it’s a lovely spot to enjoy a meal form the spa café.
Thoughtful amenities included monogrammed robes in an earthy sage tone, bags for wet bathing suites, a spinner for wet suites, an ample supply of signature line amenities in the locker room, ice towels and water stations set out at various spots throughout the spa.
The spa offers the full gamut of individual services, treatments plus day packages, but it is the pools and other water features in an authentic cavern-like setting that is the point of distinction. Beyond the spa there’s a separate building housing a fully equipped gym, a racketball court, three indoor tennis courts, a family swimming pool, numerous daily fitness classes – body sculpt, Pilates, aqua fitness and various levels of yoga to name a few - available free to guests.
Thanks to the meandering design of an inn that has expanded over the years this is not the place to go if you’re looking for calm and quiet in an intimate setting. But it IS the place to book if an experiential “taking of the waters” in an upscale, unique and romantic setting is what you seek.
For more on:
The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa
Spas in North Carolina
Our Serendipitous Spa Tour 2010
Other stories on
spas in the U.S.
Back to the top of Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa, North Carolina