It may be best-known for the Biltmore—the sprawling property owned by the storied Vanderbilt family—but Asheville has far more to offer.
Roughly a seven-hour drive from NoVA, this western North Carolina mountain town boasts natural beauty, abundant history and a relaxed atmosphere. For an out-of-town respite to recharge during the winter months, Asheville is the place.
Incredibly grand yet remarkably cozy, the Omni Grove Park Inn is the ideal resort for a holiday getaway. Since 1913, the mountainside inn has welcomed bold-faced names (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Helen Keller and 10 presidents) and the everyday tourist for a reprieve from the bustle of daily life. As you enter the lobby, also known as the Great Hall, it’s clear why: The mammoth room is bookended by two huge fireplaces and plenty of seating, meant for settling in and clearing the mind. Relaxation opportunities abound, with an 18-hole golf course, indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts, a 43,000-square-foot spa and kids activities. You won’t need to leave to find a sumptuous, locally sourced meal or inspired cocktail, as the property houses four restaurants and several other bars and cafes—including a not-to-be missed dueling piano bar. And in December, the inn offers an ample menu of Christmas and New Year’s events, including a New Year’s Eve package with tickets to a comedy show, dinner and Eric Clapton-tribute show, and a late-night Times Square-themed party to close out the year.
If you do venture off hotel property, head downtown to Green Sage Café for a healthy breakfast (served all day) or lunch. Try one of their bowls, such as the Baja Bibimbap (with brown rice, kimchi and mung bean sprouts), and pair it with a fresh-pressed juice or superfood smoothie.
When millionaire Edwin Wiley Grove finished building the Grove Park Inn, he thought it necessary to jazz up Asheville’s downtown with the Grove Arcade. Finished in 1929, two years after Grove’s death, the arcade was home to shops and offices in its infancy. After a period of federal control during WWII, and time as the National Climatic Data Center, the arcade was added to the National Register of Historic Places and ultimately renovated. In 2002, the arcade re-opened and now houses some great local finds, like the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar and Wake the Foot Sanctuary and Shop.
For a touch of culture, stop by the relatively new aSHEville (pronounced a-SHE-ville) Museum, opened in 2014 as a showcase of female stories, both international and local. Exhibits range from sexism in advertising to a history of Wonder Woman.