ENJOY A LUXURY WEEKEND IN ASHEVILLE
In recent years Asheville, N.C., has become a local blueprint for many Lowcountry entrepreneurs on how to grow a thriving and passionate craft brewery scene. It’s just the latest creative and artistic revival to occur in this gem of the western North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains.
While the majestic natural vistas, the arts and architecture draw millions each year, the city has some of the more luxurious weekend getaway spots for explorers looking for a quick weekend escape.
The family home of George and Edith Vanderbilt, this master class in elegance is evident in every inch of the 8,000-acre estate. The Inn on Biltmore Estate was first planned by the Vanderbilts in 1900 and finally opened to the public just over a century later in 2001.
The gardens and grounds feature more than 20 miles of nature trails that sprawl across the various formal and informal gardens designed by legendary landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The estate’s winery features more than 20 handcrafted vintages and multi-award-winning reds, whites and roses.
And make sure to take in two of the newer editions to the estate.
Antler Hill Village, built in 2010, offers six different dining experiences, unique shopping adventures, historical exhibits, a barn that highlights life working the Biltmore farm in the 1890s and a farmyard and playground for the kids to interact with farm animals.
The Village Hotel was built in 2015 to provide a more affordable taste of Vanderbilt hospitality for overnight guests.
The Biltmore runs several holiday and winter specials to experience the estate, with inn suites starting at $1,200 per night and hotel rooms starting at $400 per night. For more information, go online to biltmore.com.
GROVE PARK INN
While not quite as old as the Biltmore, this Omni Hotels property has been serving guests for over a century. The Inn has become known during the holidays for the National Gingerbread House Competition.
The 29th annual competition will unveil a finalist per day beginning Dec. 1 during the 12 Days of Gingerbread, with the winner announced on Dec. 12. Hands-on gingerbread-making classes will be offered throughout the holiday season.
Grove Park’s 43,000-square-foot subterranean spa was voted one of the top resort spas in the U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler. And the 50,000-square-foot sports complex features Pelotons, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, a fitness club and racquetball and squash courts.
There is also an 18-hole Donald Ross-designed mountain golf course on the property, indoor and outdoor pools and a myriad of casual and formal restaurants – each offering breathtaking panoramic mountain views.
One of the more unique offerings at Grove Park is the wild food foraging tours, where visitors will learn to safely identify, gather, serve and preserve mushrooms, plants and other extreme cuisine during an entertaining walk through the woods.
You can snag a mid-November club floor room for two for $900 per night and up. Go online to omnihotels.com/hotels/asheville-grove-park for more information.
Part of the magic of a wintertime Asheville getaway is that you can experience a true winter wonderland scene (with temps often dropping into a below-freezing snowfall possibility zone) and still be a day’s drive from the ocean.
The Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum are one of the newer experiences, with a cascade of LED lights illuminating the sprawling gardens. Enjoy live music, hot cocoa, fire pits and s’mores as you make your way through the Arboretum, which has returned to a walk-through experience after going drive-thru only for 2020.
The lights are on from 5:30 to 10 p.m. every night and tickets begin at $30 per vehicle.
This is just one of a series of light events throughout the city. The Local Lights displays downtown at Pack Square and Pritchard Park are more of an urban outing with shops and dining nearby.
Biltmore Village, just outside the estate, offers a Dickens in the Village Festival in early December that transforms the shops to the Victorian era. The village is a lighting marvel throughout the holiday, as is the 55-foot Norway spruce tree adorned with 55,000 lights on the Biltmore grounds.
If Christmas trees are more your passion, the Monte Vista Hotel offers a Deck the Trees event, filled with art, live music and locals competing for the most elaborately decorated tree.
Go to exploreasheville.com for a full selection of winter lights tours.
The hiking trails around Asheville offer leafless trees and endless deep blue skies with the briskness of a mountainside workout.
The Bearwallow Mountain Trail, less than 20 miles from downtown Asheville, is one of the shorter hikes with the reward being 360-degree summit views on the western rim of the Hickory Nut Gorge. The one-mile trail also offers a perfect picnic setting near the historic lookout tower.
Moore Cove Falls near John Rock offers a .7-mile family-friendly hike full of wooden bridges, steps and boardwalks that end in a 50-foot waterfall over an awe-inspiring rock ledge. Walk under the ledge and hide behind the waterfall for some of the most jaw-dropping, memory-making moments of your getaway.
If you’re looking for more of a challenge, the 1.5-mile roundtrip hike on the Lover’s Leap Loop Trail in Hot Springs offers a unique experience – a trail that runs along Main Street but will take you to several rock outcrops atop ridges and allow you to soak your feet in a hot mineral spring.
Inside the Pisgah National Forest you will find a 5-mile loop of the John Rock Trail, which leads you to a 3,320-foot rock summit and Instagram-worthy views of Looking Glass Rock and Blue Ridge Parkway. All this just over 35 miles from downtown Asheville.
Don’t just take our word for it. Plan your hiking escapades with a visit to Asheville.com.