Experiences over gifts. It’s a pretty common goal, but not one that is always easy to put into practice. Before kids, David and I stuck by this pretty well. However, sometimes it’s easier to Amazon a gift than to plan and execute a getaway, especially with kids. However, we’ve been talking more about putting it into practice, and got to do so this past weekend with a quick, but invigorating trip to The Omni Grove Park Inn and The Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina!
Usually Asheville is an easy 2-2.5 hour drive from our home. We planned to drive up Sunday morning, see The Biltmore, then head to The Grove Park Inn by dinner time. However, last week the weatherman started predicting snow to hit our area, something that’s not all that common for December. And, sure enough, we woke up Sunday morning to roughly 8 inches of snow. It was beautiful! Immediately we all bundled up and headed out to sled and make snow angels. I assumed our getaway was cancelled.
David asked me what I thought about the trip and I told him if I could magically be transported to Asheville, of course I’d go. After all, I had been so excited. However, with the weather, it just didn’t seem feasible. Well that kicked David into research mode and an hour after making some phone calls, watching web cams and traffic flow reports, we decided to go for it. With four new tires on my car and a big bag full of snacks, we hit the road! The neighborhood roads were a little thrilling, but the highway wasn’t all that bad, and roughly 4 hours later, it was all worth it because we were pulling into one of my most favorite spots- The Omni Grove Park Inn!
The Grove Park Inn is a historic resort hotel on the western-facing slope of Sunset Mountain within the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a AAA Four-Diamond Hotel and it feels every bit of it. From the ambiance of the over-sized fireplaces to level of attention to detail from the staff, staying here is the most incredible treat. David and I have been a couple times, but it was our first time bringing the girls, and watching them experience the magic was incredible.
The magic to me, of course, is the snow, the pictures and stories of historic guests on the walls, the view of the rolling hills and city, the crackling fires, and more. The magic to the kids, however, was the Gingerbread House Competition and hot chocolate topped with peppermint marshmallows, whipped cream, and caramel drizzle.
We settled into our room, a resort room with two double beds. The plan was to have the girls in one and us in the other, but I called to see if they had a cot, and a few minutes later a plush roll-away twin size bed appeared at our door. It worked out perfectly for Kaitlyn to have her own space!
We didn’t stay long in the room, just long enough to drop our things and grab Ticket to Ride. The girls have been so into this game lately, that we decided to pack it. What a good decision that was! First David and I got in on the specialty drink action- coffee with Bailey’s topped with whipped cream and creme de menthe for me, and an Irish coffee for him. Then we found a corner of the hotel with the most beautiful view to set up our game.
We grabbed a couple of snacks from the nearby bar and finished up our game around 5:30 PM. At this point Kaitlyn was yawning and asking to go back to the room, but poor kid didn’t know we were only here for one night and were definitely not planning on calling it an evening that early. We did go back to the room, however, but it was to change into bathing suits, not pajamas.
Somehow in our multiple visits, David and I never learned they have a 50,000 square feet sports complex with everything from ping pong and pool tables to an indoor pool. A short shuttle ride across the parking lot later, and there we were, with two giddy girls.
The pool was not cold, but I wouldn’t really call it warm either, but still, the girls had a ball swimming around and looking at the snow just on the other side of the glass. We showered afterwards in the locker room and played a little Skee-ball before heading back to the main hotel to get ready for dinner.
We grabbed a local flight of beers at The Edison, a restaurant just off the main lobby. I went with the Caesar salad and butternut squash soup while David ordered the Hopping John Cakes. We both agreed the food was good, but not great. I would have loved to try their upscale eatery, Vue 1913, but The Edison was much more of a kid-friendly spot! And still, the evening was just lovely. The service was wonderful and after our meal we wandered the hotel, checking out all the gingerbread houses and spending some time in the rocking chairs by the fire before finally calling it a night around 10:00 PM.
To our surprise, all of us slept pretty well. With the curtains closed tightly, the room was incredibly dark and both girls slept until about 8:30 AM. By then I was hungry, so we got dressed and headed to the incredible Blue Ridge Buffet. Two adult buffets were included in the package we booked, and Kaitlyn was free (4 and under!), so the incredible spread for all of us was covered by the $12 it cost for Hailey’s meal (plus tip and tax of course). Even at full price, the buffet is worth it. Not only does the room have the most gorgeous view of the mountains, the spread is impressive and delicious!
Hailey zoned in on the bacon while Kaitlyn was enamored with the donut display. David hit up the omelet station and grits bar while I tried the scrambled tofu with turmeric, and snagged my favorite- a toasted bagel with cream cheese, pickled onions, boiled eggs, and capers. It all was so tasty; the perfect way to start the day!
Feeling completely peaceful and spoiled, we stretched it out a little further with some time in the rocking chairs by the fireplace before finally heading back to our room to check out by 11:00 AM. Our stay had been everything I could have hoped for, and even though it was only for a single night, I felt relaxed, and filled with joy at the new memories we had made. It was truly wonderful, but our getaway wasn’t over yet.
We said goodbye to The Grove Park Inn and drove the 20 minutes down the road to The Biltmore Estate. Neither David nor I had ever visited America’s largest estate, built by George Washington Vanderbilt between 1889 and 1895. I had heard good things, but truly wasn’t sure what to expect. I wondered if the kids would enjoy it, too. To my delight- they had a ball, especially Hailey who was enthralled with the kids’ audio tour.
The home itself is gorgeous, of course. It is over 175,000 square feet and has over 250-rooms, each one decorated intricately with the original furnishings and art of the Vanderbilt family. The highlight for us though, was the audio tour. You can pay an extra $12 to get the phone-like apparatus that tells you the history behind each room. The have an adult version and a kid version. We rented four kid-versions so David and I could hear what the kids were hearing and it is so well done! The Vanderbilt family dog, Cedric, leads the kids’ tour and tells stories and history throughout. It was so entertaining!
There is so much to do at The Biltmore, but by the time we finished the tour it was nearly 3:00 PM, and with the snow, we decided to just grab a cup of vegetable soup at the cafe and head back home. I’d really love to come back in the spring when we could explore the gardens and hiking trails. But for now this quick, wintry getaway was just the gift I wanted most- new memories with the people I love, and a new appreciation for coffee and Baileys (mmm, mmm, good!). And the ride back home wasn’t too shabby either… those mountains, though!
Where is your favorite getaway for just a night or two away?
Gifts or experiences?
Which do you prefer?