Travel

By Kimberly McDonald

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It seems impossible to me that when James Taylor penned his famous lyrics, In my mind I’m going to Carolina, he had any place but Asheville in mind. It’s just about the least shocking bit of trivia for me to learn that in 2005, the city, nicknamed Land of the Sky, was ranked ninth by RelocateAmerica (the ranking is based on education, employment, crime and housing). It’s even less surprising to learn that Asheville ranks as a top art destination in the United States.

But enough with the statistics. You just gotta go there! The perfect blend of small town southern hospitality and cultural mecca, this jewel sits safely nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Whether you’re into biking, hiking, arts and crafts, music, dancing, or just relaxing, this is the place to be. I may be a little prejudiced though, being born in Asheville. So, recently, when I decided to take a trip, I took a friend along, to get an unbiased opinion of the first city I called home.

Asheville happens to boast one of the biggest and most reputed spas in the nation. There is no question that The Spa at the Grove Park Inn is well worth a visit. There are amazing technicians to work on your mind, body, and spirit using a combination of massage therapy, aromatherapy, and good ole intuition. I would recommend booking a day-long adventure at the spa. I would not, however, recommend staying at the hotel. I found the service to be sub-standard, and frankly, the rates to be as high as the treatment of the guests was poor. Even the desk staff at the spa had an ‘edge’. But, once you make it past them, the technicians are, once again, phenomenal.

When staying in Asheville, there are two options for lodging. If you’re going to spend most of your time downtown, meandering the streets and shops, you’ll want to stay at the Haywood Park Hotel. Located at One Battery Park Avenue in the heart of gentrified downtown Asheville, it boasts spacious and comfortable rooms and well-appointed bathrooms. The lobby is about to undergo a much-needed facelift, and I hear that there may even be a couple of floors added to the hotel, rumor has it that some may be sold as residences. The two best things about this hotel are its location and its staff. You’ll get a taste of southern hospitality here. Hopefully, along with the plans to upgrade the lobby area, there are plans for some form of late night room service too. You never know when you’re going to want ice or something to drink. www.haywoodpark.com.

The other option, and my personal recommendation, is the Inn on Biltmore Estates. This four star Inn sits right on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate, (the largest privately owned residence in the United States, built by George Vanderbilt). This is where you want to go if you’re looking to relax, enjoy the scenery, and be treated like royalty. Settle in by the fire in the Library bar and have afternoon tea or simply walk about the property. Take the shuttle to the Biltmore House & Gardens or tour the winery (yes, they have award-winning wines in North Carolina). The staff here is as helpful as they are friendly, and you’re sure to relax under their watchful care. www.biltmore.com.

There are many reasons to vacation. You can satisfy them all with a trip down south, to Asheville, North Carolina. Just don’t blame me if you come home singing to yourself:

In my mind I’m goin’ to Carolina
Can’t you see the sunshine
Can’t you just feel the moonshine
Maybe just like a friend of mine
It hit me from behind
Yes I’m goin’ to Carolina in my mind

It’s contagious!

Originally published October 2005
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