The Grand Bohemian Asheville is an upscale, art-centric mountain lodge steps from The Biltmore — but its COVID-19 protocols have room for improvement
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- I recently headed to Asheville, North Carolina for a fall getaway within easy driving distance.
- I chose the Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville in part because it falls under the Marriott-Bonvoy umbrella and I trusted their COVID-19 protocols.
- I stayed in a comped Standard Room, which typically costs $354 during the fall high season for a midweek stay.
- I was impressed with the art-forward design, but the hotel could have better enforced COVID-19 protocols.
As a travel writer, I had exotic trips to Turkey, South Africa, and Europe waiting for me in 2020 — and then a global pandemic hit that restricted my travel to adventures I could drive to from Miami, Florida. Long story short, the southeastern United States became my COVID-19 sanctuary, with travel safety becoming my biggest priority. To enjoy the fall season, I planned a trip to charming Asheville, North Carolina.
Like many travelers right now, I originally planned to stay in an Airbnb due to experts recommending vacation rentals because of reduced contact with other guests. Much to my surprise, however, the pandemic wasn't stopping high season in Asheville, and even cramped RVs and lower-rated homes were going for $200 a night. In an effort to find more affordable and comfortable options, I turned to hotels.
However, I wanted to find a property I trusted to handle the pandemic safely. As a longtime fan of the Kessler brand, I was drawn to their Asheville haunt: the Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville.
Kessler is part of Marriott's Autograph Collection and pre-coronavirus, Kessler properties offered an ideal getaway for couples, girls trips, families, and even business travelers looking for a luxury hotel that comes in at a more affordable price point. The brand's art-driven hotels are always in charming destinations, and their inherent creativity feeds into everything from the food and drinks to the in-house art program, the decor, and even the brand's signature Poseidon Spa. I have stayed at Kessler properties in Savannah, St. Augustine, and Mountain Brook and they've always been a treat.
Having familiarity with Kessler properties and knowing their attention to detail helped ease my mind. Plus, this particular mainstay was in a coveted location in charming Biltmore Village, directly across the street from the iconic Biltmore Estate. I booked a Standard Room with a King bed, which was priced at $354 per night, but was comped for review purposes.
I felt confident that a Kessler property in Asheville would handle the pandemic well, and, for the most part, I was right. As part of the Marriott-Bonvoy family, the Grand Bohemian adheres to the hotel giant's Commitment to Clean program, which has specific tenets regarding new cleaning protocols, social distancing, masks, limiting person-to-person contact, and more.
There were mostly couples staying at the hotel while I was there, staff was adhering to the new cleaning protocols, and the hotel didn't feel even close to full. That said, I was there on a Monday and Tuesday night, which aren't typically peak travel days, and I did find that the hotel could be better enforcing its mask-wearing policy with guests.
Still, with its luxury hunter lodge atmosphere, idyllic Biltmore Village location, spacious rooms, eclectic pop art, and tasty food and drink, Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville was a great place to call home for a few days.
- The first impression
- The room
- On-site amenities
- What's nearby
- What others say
- What you need to know
- COVID-19 Policies
- The bottom line
- Book the Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville, Autograph Collection starting at $158 per night
Keep reading to see why I was so impressed by the Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville.
When I first pulled up to the Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville, its impressive, Tudor-style exterior set the tone from the get-go. I drove around back and found the driveway, where drawn burgundy drapes added an air of luxury. I had found my slice of mountain paradise.
The hotel surrounded the valet area, so when I got out of my car and looked up, I saw four stories of hotel rooms on all sides and elegant light fixtures suspended from a covered deck above. In what otherwise gave off an Old English, Christmas-y vibe, there was an installation of a modern, funky, bright red cello, the first sign of the hotel's innovative art program.
The only parking option available to me was valet, and I was surprised there wasn't a self-park option in the age of a pandemic. While I wasn't fully comfortable with valet, I gave the hotel credit for ensuring the attendants were masked and practiced social distancing and reluctantly handed over my keys.
I had stayed at a Marriott-Bonvoy property one other time during the pandemic, and was already comfortable with their COVID-19 protocols. Kessler is part of the Marriott-Bonvoy family, so the Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville adhered to the brand's Commitment to Clean program. This was confirmed when I walked inside and immediately saw multiple hand sanitizing stations and familiar signage mandating that guests wear masks and stay at least six feet apart.
We arrived at 2 p.m. on a Monday afternoon, and there was no wait at reception. The spacious lobby exuded an eclectic-chic, hunter lodge vibe. Details included carved wooden walls, hanging candelabra light fixtures, mounted deer heads, leather chairs, dark wooden desks with purple low-lighting, bear sculptures, and a statue of a wild hog wearing a tacky tourist hat.
The lobby was also scattered with colorful paintings and modern art pieces typical of Kessler hotels. Lights that looked like antlers hung from a limestone brick ceiling, hovering over seating areas of textured accent furniture below.
When we went to check in, I noticed there was no plexiglass at the front desk. I was surprised by this since it's part of Marriott-Bonvoy's protocols. However, the website did say that the rollout of plexiglass dividers would be gradual. Luckily, masks were worn by all throughout the check-in process, and the desk was deep enough to feel like you didn't have to get too close to one another.
It's important to note that I could have had a completely contactless check-in through the Marriott Mobile App, but I didn't know about that at the time. Instead, I gave the hotel my credit card information over the phone in advance, so the only time we exchanged anything was when I signed for the room and collected our room keys.
As I head to my room, I noticed an easel by the elevator with a mounted sign reminding guests to wear their masks, social distance, and wash hands. Right across from it was a hand sanitizing station.
Overall, the check-in process was smooth. The lobby was vacuous and there was no one else in there besides the friendly staff behind the desk, my guest, and myself. But not all guests were following the mask mandate and staff didn't seem to be enforcing it. Had there been more people, say during a weekend stay, I might have felt less comfortable.
I booked an entry-level Standard Room, which comes with a King bed or two Queen beds and either city or mountain views. These rooms start at $158 in the winter low season, but can soar into the $600s on weekends during the fall high season, which is when I visited.
My room was $354 per night midweek, but it felt worthy of the high price thanks to being a spacious corner unit with a plush King bed and a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. If possible, ask ahead for a corner unit with mountain views to get the most value out of a Standard Room.
Walking into our room, I entered a small hallway lined by cabinets on one side and a bathroom on the other.
However, it was the King bed and its velvet teal headboard that immediately caught my eye and made the room pop. Two nightstands flanked either side of the bed, complete with lamps with bases that looked like antlers. An antler chandelier over the bed completed the look.
While there was one window to the left of the bed, I was surprised at how small it was for the going rate and the room being considered "mountain view." I would have liked a bigger window, particularly because the Blue Ridge Mountains are especially beautiful during the fall.
Across from the bed, there was a mounted flatscreen TV, a six-drawer dresser, two leather accent chairs, and an alcove with a sleek white desk. The room also included a small closet with an iron, an ironing board, a luggage rack, and two plush robes wrapped in protective plastic.
The in-room bar had the standard offerings of a single-cup coffee machine, free coffee capsules, and tea bags. The only thing not standard about it was the bottle of Kessler red wine, which was available for $38 a bottle. I opted to buy it and was not disappointed.
There were also individual packets of hand sanitizer at the minibar, which was the only COVID-19 amenity in the room.
The bathroom was large and truly luxurious. Marble floors and a teal wall with candle sconces offset a quirky wood vanity, a large soaking tub, and separate toilet and spa shower areas.
In addition to the free Kessler-brand bath products, bath salts and aromatherapy bubble bath from Poseidon Spa were by the tub and available for $35. While I didn't take advantage of them on this trip, I have been to Poseidon Spa at other Kessler properties and can attest that their products are wonderful.
The only downside was that the bathroom only had curtains, rather than a true door, separating it from the bedroom. Whether or not this is a problem depends on who you're traveling with, but it's worth noting to avoid any potentially awkward scenarios.
Housekeeping gave us the option of declining their services, which I appreciated, and I did forgo housekeeping in light of COVID-19. If I wanted new towels or bathroom amenities, all I had to do was call the front desk and have them brought to the room and left at the door.
While I was disappointed with the small, lone window, overall I found our entry-level room to be a luxurious and cozy stay. The bed was especially comfortable and the hotel was very quiet, which made for a great night's sleep.
Aside from Standard Rooms, there are also Manor House Guest Rooms, Premium Rooms, and Suites.
Manor House Guest Rooms are in a separate building just steps from the main building, and offer all of the hotel's standard amenities, plus complimentary wine and cheese on Friday and Saturday afternoons. These rooms start at $255 in the low season.
Premium Rooms and Suites have separate living rooms and some have private balconies that offer the best way to take in the sweeping views. These rooms typically start in the mid-$400s.
I was perfectly content with my entry-level room's spacious size and posh decor, but those seeking extra space or who want to ensure an exceptional view may find the upgraded rooms with balconies worth the additional cost.
Compare room types and prices for the Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville
The hotel's only bar-restaurant is The Red Stag Grill, which was open according to North Carolina's COVID-19 Phase 3 reopening rules. Guests and seating were adequately spaced out, and the restaurant staff was limiting the number of people allowed to sit at tables and around the bar.
All Kessler hotels are committed to culinary creativity, and here, guests can expect a European comfort food menu with an American mountain-town twist. The sultry decor included wooden tables, plush banquette seating reminiscent of Mad Hatter chairs a la "Alice In Wonderland," deer heads, tree branch light fixtures, and electric red lighting.
The same Kessler wine found in rooms for purchase is also available at the bar, along with an extensive list of creative cocktails, other wines, local beers, and spirits.
Being art-driven hotels, every Kessler property has an art gallery filled with pieces by local, regional, and internationally-recognized artists. The gallery at the Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville was open with limited hours and displayed everything from paintings and sculptures to glass art and jewelry.
The whole hotel functioned as an extension of the art gallery, however, with oil and contemporary paintings, out-of-the-box sculptures, and art installations scattered everywhere from the valet area to inside some guestrooms.
There is a 24-hour Artful Wellness Center with free weights, cardio machines, and other workout equipment, but due to COVID-19, it had a four-person maximum.
The onsite Poseidon Spa, a signature of the Kessler Brand, is a small, but relaxing space with multiple treatment rooms where you can get massages, facials, relaxing body treatments, and more. Because of COVID-19, access to the spa was by appointment only, a limited number of people were allowed in the waiting room and lounge area, and temperatures were checked at the entrance.
Usually, the hotel also has multiple boardrooms equipped with state-of-the-art technology, but these facilities aren't currently open.
The only outdoor space was a lovely covered deck that connected both sides of the fourth floor. The deck was scattered with tables and chairs and made for a nice place to relax and drink coffee while enjoying the beautiful fall weather. It wasn't particularly crowded except when one family used the space for a kid's birthday party.
I found protocols and cleaning standards were being enforced at all on-site amenities, except for the fact that guests weren't always being told to keep their masks on.
The Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville is located right at the entrance to charming Biltmore Village, one of the trendiest parts of Asheville. The Biltmore House and its surrounding 8,000-acre estate (inarguably Asheville's most iconic site) is directly across the street. This hotel is great for travelers who want to explore the gardens, history, winery, restaurants, trails, and picture-perfect views the Biltmore has to offer.
In Biltmore Village, there are a slew of shops, restaurants, and cafes within walking distance. Even though the Biltmore itself is just across the street, its sheer size means you'll still need to drive there. Give yourself at least an afternoon there — it's worth it.
You can get to downtown Asheville's popular strip of breweries, restaurants, and bars in less than 10 minutes by car, and the revered Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is a 25-minute drive away.
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The Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville earns an "Excellent" rating on Trip Advisor, with 4.5 out of 5 stars, and an 8.9 out of 10 on Booking.com.
Most of the reviews commend the hotel for its beautiful decor, relaxed surroundings, welcoming feel, first-rate service, and how well it's handling COVID-19.
As one reviewer from September 2020 said, "Spent three days here on our first foray out since early March. Hotel in great location and staff was friendly. COVID protocols were in place and were being followed by staff and guests. Room nice, bed comfortable and very clean. Room was serviced upon request and we had it done when we were out for the day. Very quiet and relaxing."
That said, while few guests had anything bad to say about the hotel itself, it is important to note that some guests did comment that they didn't feel like COVID-19 rules, like ensuring all guests always wore masks, were being strictly enforced. I saw this too, but because I was there on weekdays and it was less crowded, I wasn't as worried.
Read reviews, compare prices, and book Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville on Tripadvisor
Who stays here: This hotel is great for couples, families, girlfriends, and business travelers who want to stay at an upscale property without the stuffy feel. With its prime Biltmore Village address, it's a great hotel for those who want to explore all the city has to offer.
We like: The Red Stag Grill somehow manages to be fancy, casual, and wickedly charming all at once. The vibe is relaxed, the food is European comfort food-meets-North Carolina mountains and the eclectic decor gives you plenty to look at while you nosh and sip.
We love (don't miss this feature!): The art-forward decor. Art influences every inch of the hotel, and no detail is overlooked. Every time I walked into a room, I noticed something new.
We think you should know: The bathroom is separated from the bedroom by a thin curtain rather than an actual door. However, a few rooms do have actual doors that close off the bathtub and bathroom area, so make sure you request that ahead of time if that's a necessity.
We'd do this differently next time: I was disappointed by my tiny room window. Next time, I'd ask ahead of time for a room with a larger window, or spring for an upgraded room with a balcony.
The Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville follows Marriott Bonvoy's Commitment to Clean program. This program outlines all health and safety protocols created in light of COVID-19, including:
- Mask requirements for guests and hotel employees in all indoor public areas
- More frequent cleaning and hospital-grade disinfectants, special air purifying systems and electrostatic sprayers used on all surfaces, property-wide
- Hand sanitizer dispensers in the lobby, elevator banks, fitness and meeting spaces and near the front desk
- Hand sanitizer wipes available in all rooms for guests' personal use
- Rearranged or removed furniture to accommodate more space between guests
- Signage in common areas reminding guests to wear masks and maintain social distancing
- Contactless check-in and check-out through the Marriott Mobile App
- Adding plexiglass partitions at front desks for safer in-person interactions, should they be necessary
- Flexible cancellation policies, with no-penalty cancellation available up until 24 hours before your stay
For the most part, I felt these policies were being strictly followed, but there were some areas for improvement. I stayed on a Monday and Tuesday night, so the hotel was not completely full. However, I wouldn't say mask-wearing was strictly enforced for guests, and I would have liked to see that. I was cognizant of the fact that this wary COVID traveler might have been uncomfortable on a more crowded stay.
Additionally, there were no plexiglass partitions at check-in and valet was the only option for parking, which not everyone may be comfortable with right now.
That said, I appreciated that housekeeping was optional and that all staff were strictly following protocols and wearing masks at all times.
Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville is a luxury hotel with an art-forward aesthetic mixed with a cabin-chic feel. Its prime location in Biltmore Village, less than a 10-minute drive from downtown Asheville, makes it a great place for travelers who want easy access to all the charm Asheville has to offer.
While the Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville might be out of reach during the fall high season when rooms can soar to $600, it's an exceptional value during the low winter season when entry-level rooms drop as low as $158 per night. I found my entry-level room to be spacious and well-appointed, but did find the lone, small window to be disappointing. For exceptional views, it may be worth upgrading to a Premium Room with a balcony.
Throughout my stay, all employees were masked, dining and common area furniture was spaced out, and there were signs demanding masks and social distancing everywhere. However, it's key to note that COVID-19 protocols could have been more strictly enforced for guests. While the hotel was largely empty during my midweek stay, during peak weekend days I may not have felt as comfortable since not all guests were always masked, and hotel staff did not comment on this.
That said, I am always an advocate for Kessler properties. The boutique luxury brand ensure a high-end stay with careful attention to detail, and the Grand Bohemian Hotel Ashville was no exception.
Book the Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville, Autograph Collection starting from $158 per night
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