By Hope S. Philbrick
There’s a risk in celebrating a wedding anniversary at Old Edwards Inn and Spa, as my husband and I recently did: You may find yourselves wishing for a divorce. Not, mind you, because the place isn’t lovely and wonderful—in fact, it’s the rare Forbes Four Star and AAA Four Diamond property that actually deserves five stars and diamonds. Thing is, this is one of the best places to have a wedding. No one can blame you for wishing for a do over.
Some consolation comes with the realization that it’s better to arrive here late than never. And once you discover this haven in the western North Carolina mountains, you’ll find many reasons to celebrate. From anniversaries to birthdays, holidays to reunions, corporate retreats to girls’ getaways, or simply ‘just because’, this is an ideal destination any time you want to feel like royalty. After all, why should you only feel like a Prince or Princess on your wedding day?
Throughout the resort, the level of personal service and attentiveness surpasses what even the most devoted Maid of Honor and Best Man could provide. Doors will be opened, treats offered, questions answered—and all with a smile. Most magically of all, needs are anticipated. Amenities pop up in ways both expected and unanticipated. Drawers and closets hold items like robes and slippers, hair dryers, pens and other essentials along with several surprises. And services can be customized. Dislike turndown service? Cancel it. Want breakfast in bed? Order it. Want rose petals strewn across the dining table to surprise a loved one? Conspire with a staff member to make it happen.
Listed on the National Register for Historic Places, Old Edwards Inn and Spa boasts several different accommodation options, including the historic inn that feels like a castle, spa suites mere steps away from The Spa, cottages with a townhouse vibe, and new cottages currently under construction—the 22 new luxury guestrooms in the new Falls Cottages area are in nine buildings that resemble a quaint English village and are scheduled to open in July 2013. (We hope to visit again after they’re open; check back for updates.) Beyond the luxury hotel and cottages, three guest estates are also available: the four-bedroom Piermont Cottage in downtown Highlands; the four-bedroom Hutchinson House on lushly planted acreage; and the eight-bedroom Rockwood Lodge atop one of the area’s highest peaks. No matter where you choose to book your stay, all guestrooms are decorated in romantic English country style with modern conveniences and thoughtful touches like heated towel bars and tile floors, heavy drapes to block out sunlight for daytime naps, deep soaking tubs equipped with a basket to hold a book, and other considerations you’ll be happy to discover.
The overall vibe is peaceful and relaxing. For even more divine nurturing and pampering, visit The Spa. Voted the No. 1 hotel spa in North America by Condé Nast Traveler in 2010, it received the first ever perfect score in the 20-year history of the competition. With 12 treatments rooms, a full-service hair and nail salon, boutique, café, relaxation lounge, solarium and more, it’s easy to spend a day here. And trust me, you will want to. (Fair warning: This spa may spoil you.)
Whether you recline on a chaise and listen to the bubbling fountain in the solarium, soak in the hot tub, lounge in the steam room, or curl up with a magazine in a cozy upholstered chair in front of a fireplace, The Spa is a 25,000-square-foot oasis and an ideal retreat for “me time.” And it’s available to guests whether a treatment is booked or not.
For the most thorough recuperation and restoration, schedule at least one treatment among the lineup of possibilities including facials, massages, body polishes and masques, acupuncture, exfoliations, nail care, waxing and more. Featuring herbs and botanicals from around the world—and from the resort’s garden—all of the services are designed to provide wellness, rejuvenation and natural beauty enhancement.
My pick: A custom massage. Before the therapist begins, you’re asked if certain areas are bothersome. If, for example, back, neck and shoulders ache, the therapist can concentrate efforts there. Slip face down between silky clean sheets on a cushioned table, the kneading begins and stress vanishes.
One goal of the renovations currently underway at Old Edwards Inn and Spa is to provide guests with “a more integrated wellness experience,” says Amanda Sullivan, director of marketing and public relations. The Spa may seem obvious in line with that goal. Perhaps less well-known: The dining program already ensures health is on the menu.
“Food is the single most important thing in our lives,” says Executive Chef Johannes Klapdohr. “As a chef, you have a great opportunity to reach a lot of people.” At Old Edwards he and his team aim “to do the best possible things,” he says, referencing his commitment to growing and utilizing organic, sustainable, local foods as well as protecting the environment in behind-the-scenes ways such as by working with suppliers to combine shipments to help reduce emissions.
A new farm less than a mile away from his kitchen takes that commitment to an even higher level. “We wanted to be in charge of the quality of our product,” says Klapdohr on the motivation for the farm. With beds for lettuce, herbs, root vegetables, squash, potatoes and more, the two acres already supply much of the produce for Madison’s Restaurant and Wine Garden.
While couples planning a wedding have the opportunity to create a custom menu with Klapdohr—a service extended to anyone planning an event, perhaps next year’s anniversary party?—all guests can enjoy delicious dining at Madison’s Restaurant and Wine Garden, Hummingbird Lounge and Library, Rooftop Terrace, Pool Cabana, Spa Café, Old Edwards Club Grill, room service and new venues underway.
At Madison’s Restaurant and Wine Garden the cuisine is approachable fine dining where familiar ingredients are masterfully transformed into fancy fare, artfully presented. While menus change with the seasons, food quality and mouthwatering deliciousness are consistent. This is a chef who may change how you feel about certain ingredients. Think you hate grits? Beets? Duck? Venison? One bite here can have you singing a different tune—Klapdohr smiles remembering previous converts. “The duck is now our second most popular dish after beef,” he says. (One current menu temptation: Slow rendered duck breast with roasted baby beets and greens, herbed goat cheese gnocchi and blackberry jus.) Breakfast, lunch and dinner menus abound with scrumptious options that challenge decision-making, but don’t fret. It’s not like you can make a mistake.
“We really care about our guests,” says Klapdohr. “A lot of people use that in marketing, but we mean it.”
It’s a difference you can feel at Old Edwards Inn and Spa, a place where the answer to the question, “Do I really want to go there?” is a simple, heartfelt “I Do.”
- Complimentary wireless Internet.
- Complimentary valet parking.
- Complimentary Champagne upon arrival.
- Bathrooms offer deep soaking tubs, rainfall showers, heated-tile floors and upscale bath and body amenities.
- Beds are dressed in fine Italian linens.
- Many rooms and suites offer private patios or terraces.
- A 24-hour Butler pantry offers complimentary fruit, beverages and ice cream treats.
- Madison’s Restaurant and Wine Garden has won the Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence” every year since 2005 and the “Best Of” award since 2008.
- All guests have access to Spa amenities, including the sauna, hot tub and relaxation areas.
- All guests have access to the state-of-the-art fitness center.
- The resort has several on-site shopping boutiques and is located downtown Highlands, North Carolina, which offers several boutique shops and some additional casual dining options.
- Two-night minimum stay required on weekends, holidays and other peak periods.
- 100% non-smoking and pet free.
- Check-in time is 4:00 p.m. and check-out is Noon.
- Wedding ceremonies may be hosted in several picturesque locations, including a 33-acre lush garden, a manicured lawn, an all-white wedding garden, a glass-enclosed pavilion, a rustic-yet-elegant barn, or a period farmhouse.
- Old Edwards Club features a golf course designed by Tom Jackson, a dining solarium, restaurant and bar, fitness center, outdoor heated mineral pool, clay tennis courts, event space and golf shop.
- Spa services from $20. The Custom Massage is $85 for 30 minutes, $145 for 50 minutes and $230 for 80 minutes.
- Rates from $199/night.
Odds of Encountering Children… Children are welcome at Old Edwards Inn and Spa, but (thankfully!) they are infrequent guests. At The Spa, children age 12 and older are permitted in the hair and nail salon; teens age 18 and older are permitted throughout the facility. Once construction is complete, the resort will have three swimming pools; children will be permitted to splash in any of them, but may be less frequently encountered at the mineral pool near Hickory Cottage. There is no hard and fast rule, but typically adults favor the Historic Inn and the cottages nearest to it while families may prefer the new Falls Cottages area, which has a more laid-back vibe and is near a game room. If you rent an entire cottage, no children will be in bedrooms with walls adjacent to yours. If you visit the property during the week when school is in session, as we did, you’ll have the best odds—we saw no children during our stay.
Old Edwards Inn and Spa
445 Main Street
Highlands, NC 28741
-Photos Courtesy Old Edwards Inn and Spa
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.