The Asheville Allure

North Carolina’s charming city specializes in farm-to-table dining and imbibing, a tremendous art scene and a luxurious yet folksy ambiance



Grand Bohemian Hotel, Asheville

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A fire crackles softly in the center of the immaculately decorated room. People sit in antique, hand-carved chairs while sipping champagne. In another room, an oversized soaking tub beckons my attention, as does the thought of a soothing massage in a lavender-scented ambiance. Upstairs I encounter a lavish spread of raw oysters and crawfish piled atop mounds of ice. The scenario seems too good to be true, but it is just another day inside the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Asheville, N.C.

Mr. Richard Kessler, the owner of this grand establishment—as well as a collection of other extravagant hotels—furnishes each of his properties with his private collection of priceless items he’s obtained on his journeys. The hotel is modeled after an 1880s European hunting lodge and is adorned with collections of framed and mounted game.

“Anything with beauty interests me,” he explains. Each ballroom, each hallway and each guestroom is embellished with grandiose detail. The hanging Swarovski crystals are from Austria, the elevators are wrapped in black walnut, and the ceilings above the massive entrance doors were hand-carved in Bali.  

Kessler has many passions, but art and music are the most notable and can be found throughout the hotel. The Grand Bohemian Gallery is filled with rare pieces including paintings, sculptures and jewelry. Known as one of the most eclectic and visually stimulating art galleries in the nation, the collections are comprised of works from both local and international artists.

Music can be heard from the moment I enter my room as the Kessler Inspiring Tunes collection plays on the Bose radio. The sounds of this collection are a calming mix of contemporary jazz and even some revamped versions of reggae tunes. I enjoy the music so much that I leave it on throughout my stay—during the time I wind down in the oversized soaking tub and the peaceful moments when I drift off to sleep in the most luxurious bed imaginable.

Upstairs a different kind of music can be heard. The North Carolina Thumbpickers have begun performing live bluegrass tunes on the outdoor terrace. As I listen to the lively beats of North Carolina’s time-honored sounds, I enjoy a decadent spread of crawfish, raw oysters, pickled veggies served in Mason jars, fried pickles and barbecue stuffed inside hushpuppies while sipping on moonshine cocktails.