Ok, I want to start my review on OEI by saying that after reading the previous reviews on Trip Advisor that I must admit we had very high expectations (likely too high). So, I want to give an honest review of the excellent, the very good and the not so good (notice I didn't say bad) of this property. I want to note that we typically go to Grove Park Inn as we just love their spa, but decided to give the OEI at Highlands a try, especially given the high praise that we keep hearing.
Upon arrival, my wife and I entered the property at the incorrect location, as we were booked in the Fall Cottages and arrived on a foggy night in the older section of the Inn. We were treated with two glasses of champagne and then given a brief tour of the Inn including the bar area and the complimentary Dove bars etc. We then got back into our car and headed to the "Lodge" check-in down the block. The person we just met, didn't think to call ahead to explain that we were first timers trying to find our way (which was ok). Upon check in at the Lodge, I asked to speak to the concierge regarding finding a restaurant off-site for a nice sit-down dinner (as we had been in the car for about 4 hours). The original person that we had met in the older section had explained to us that there were many fine restaurants near the property; however, come to find out, she was obviously not informed that many of these restaurants were closed during this "off-season" and hence we were quite limited on our selections. I was then told by the front desk that there was no concierge on duty (despite being only 6:00 pm on a Friday night). The front desk then offered to look on "Open Table" to find us a place to eat. With that I then said, no worries, as I was hoping someone would call and see what they could arrange, as we are perfectly capable of getting online and looking on "Open Table" ourselves. I think after I made that suggestion, she then decided to make a few phone calls for us. We then proceeded to our cottage and were greeted by the bellman at the Falls Cottages, who gave us a nice introduction regarding our room. He did note that he was "new", so I did have to ask to get more information which he kindly related. We were placed in a 2nd floor Falls Cottage room which turned out to be absolutely perfect (very quiet and relaxing). Simply, these newly completed "cottages" are fantastic with hard woods throughout, ireplace, heated bathroom floors, marble shower with multiple jets, soaking tube, DirecTV etc. I obviously can't say enough good things about the room selection. Only negative, would be the lack of a new movie selection (like you would have at a hotel). Shortly, after check-in, we had a knock on our door and it was the same front desk person with the bellman offering us a free bottle of champagne for any inconvenience. I felt this was a nice touch. She had also now taken the initiative to hold a reservation for us at Ruka’s table. This was also nice. Ruka's turned out very good (farm to table place) with a reasonable wine list -- found a 2009 Domaine du Vieux CDP at barely above cost. We slept well that night to say the least.
The next day, we explored the town on foot. Being "down-season" there wasn't much action going on which was fine for us. The pools were closed due to season and rain had gotten into the tarp over one of the pools so this had to be pumped out – hence no pool access. Jacuzzis were available 24/7 though. We then had late spa appointments (4 and 5) before our dinner at Madison's that night. My initial impressions on the spa: Very nice décor (“chocolate hallway”), well kept, clean as a whistle. I was somewhat dismayed at the plethora of people in robes – seems like people come and stay a long time!. I’m sure if the pools were open during “in-season” this wouldn’t have felt like a problem, but there was hardly a place for my wife and I to sit in either communal section. We each got a brief tour of the locker room areas – both getting the impression that they were on the smaller size. Steam sauna (but no dry sauna for the guys) and mineral whirl pool were nice. I went out to get a drink since my treatment wasn't until 5:00 pm. After selecting a glass of champagne, the server asked me if this would be my only glass (since she was leaving at 4:00 pm). I stated I hope not and let it go at that! I then moved around a bit eventually finding a chair by the fireplace and relaxed. My massage was nice, but nothing spectacular. I was never asked by the therapist if the amount of pressure was too little or too much, but this was ok. My wife's treatment was booked at 4:00 pm for a Stone massage, but unfortunately the therapist hadn't gotten this "stone" message (despite two prior phone confirmations) and had to leave the room to go get the stones etc. My wife felt this pretty much did it, as the massage therapist then seemed rush / out of sorts. I do agree with her, that from 4:00 pm until close (6:00 pm); everyone looked like they were getting ready to leave rather than tending to the late comers. My wife was not offered a cup of tea while waiting on me despite being passed by numerous employees with black plastic bags sorting linens and what not. In addition, she had to complete with ~6 recent college grads using 6 hair dryers at the same time rocking out to their loud music from their “beats-pills” in the locker room. Dr. Dre would be happy, but not this MD at these rates. I could not even believe this when she told me. It seems like they obviously need to do a better job at "policing" their locker rooms rather than cleaning up to get home on time – this seems incredulous to me for the #1 rated spa in North America. I then heard that they are planning on expanding the spa which is a must for the locker room areas. I would like to put my recommendation in for a lounge area for the guys who would prefer to separate from the hordes of ladies in robes (ok not most of us I get it). Maybe even a flat screen on mute with the playoff game. Four naked guys of various sized getting dressed in this space is a definite challenge. With that said, the manager of the spa was most apologetic, even offering us a credit on my wife's treatment and future treatments for both of us (which again is a nice touch), but why these things happen in the first place is beyond me. We have personally learned to never schedule late spa treatments ever again.
Then on to our dinner at Madison's. Clearly this was one of the highlights of our trip. Our server, Andy, was attentive and knew the menu to the T. One of our top dinners ever – reminded us of the Ocean Room in Kiawah.
So, in summary, OEI is a fantastic place for a nice relaxing weekend with your spouse. The spa is very good, with some flaws. The Fall Cottages are perfect. Madison’s is excellent. But, I would tend to stay away from low-season and late spa appointments. They did call again (as we were driving home) to discuss our experience and invite us back. We will likely take them up on that offer (but during higher season – spring summer fall, when we can sit at the pool and enjoy the area to its fullest!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- This European style luxury resort cascades over several scenic blocks in downtown Highlands, NC, offering multiple room types, suites, cottages and full guest estates. Two spectacular outdoor heated mineral pools with whirlpools and cabanas, a world-class spa and fitness center, award-winning dining, and golf at the private Old Edwards Club are signature experiences at this full-service mountain resort. All guests enjoy champagne arrival and complimentary Dove Bars, fresh fruit and bottled water. European bedding, fine Italian linens, plush robes & slippers, rainfall showers and heated bathroom floors enhance the in-room experience. Most rooms feature fireplaces as well as private patios or balconies. The restaurants serve farm-to-table fare harvested fresh from two gardens and a greenhouse. Craft cocktails are enjoyed around the resort at casual bars and upscale lounges, and several live music venues provide entertainment indoors year round and outdoors in warmer months. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- Old Edwards Hotel Highlands
- Old Edwards Inn