Meet the North Carolina hotel where you can stay the night and leave with the dog of your dreams
By Si Si Penaloza
Asheville, North Carolina has always been ahead of its time. On a recent trip to the Smoky Mountain state, we delved into this cool community’s arty atmosphere and hearty culinary scene, and came away utterly enchanted. After all, there’s a lot to love about this mountain getaway. First off, the average local male looks like a hybrid cross between Channing Tatum and Tom Hardy; the kind of man who kneads homemade sourdough with their broad Paul Bunyan-esque forearms. By night, we find them by the open fire, stroking their deliciously bushy beards, wild and woolly, like a dandelion gone to seed. Between the state’s sexy facial hair farmers and its many pet-friendly hotspots, North Carolina is one of the best kept secrets for an all-girl getaway.
One of the most forward-thinking of these pet-friendly places is the Aloft Hotel, which is doing its part to make the world a better place for animals by having adoptable dogs on-site. Aloft Hotel regularly hosts a dog from a local shelter, with the hope that a loving guest will develop a natural rapport with the pup and want to take him home. Talk about perks upon checkout!
The pooches at Aloft are part of an adoption program run by the hotel and Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue. The rescue saves pets from possible euthanasia at area shelters.
There have already been 14 successful matches since the program launched last summer. In one particularly charming story, Caren Ferris of Amherst, Massachusetts met Ginger (a four-year-old terrier mix) while the pooch was “working” the hotel bar. By the end of their stay, both Caren and her husband couldn’t imagine leaving without lively little Ginger in their arms.
Charlie’s Angels has tough adoption standards, including a home visit. If a potential adopter is from another state, the rescue calls in the local shelter there to do the inspection. The hoop hurdling hasn’t stopped 14 dogs from finding homes since the program began. In fact, Charlie’s Angels’ placements have doubled since the hotel started stationing the dogs!
Upon arriving at Aloft, guests are welcomed with a wagging tail or a friendly lick on the hand. A dog scuttles out from behind the registration desk, clad in an “Adopt Me” vest, as visitors arrive. As far as we know, this is the only hotel in the United States where guests can adopt the dog that greets them upon check in.
Careful not to offend road-weary travelers or “I’m more of a cat person” types, the hotel fosters only one adoptable dog at a time, and always on a leash.
Hotel and rescue workers hope the program will spread to Aloft’s other locations. Aloft Asheville, which opened in 2012, has been pet-friendly from the beginning. Guests traveling with their pets are greeted with a special bed, food and water bowls in the room, as well as a cool doggie goody bag. All of this at no extra charge — this is what we call pet-friendly plus!
The hotel features a lovely little playpen by the front desk. Many a crowd will gather because a dog—as anyone who’s ever been to a dog park knows—is a sure-fire conversation starter. Aloft Asheville draws people together so they can share pet stories and maybe even fall in love with a new furry friend. It’s an ingenious way for the dog—and guests—to socialize without a hint of contrivance.
Here, guests organically begin to envision the dog as part of their everyday lifestyle and can observe the dog in social situations — a far cry from a trip to the dog pound. Although the pups aren’t allowed in guest rooms, they can accompany guests to the restaurant and other shared spaces for playdates. This provides real space and time for bonding in a more natural setting; we think it’s the perfect recipe for love at first lick.
Looking for other pet-friendly, posh hotel options in Asheville? The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa is now accepting guests of the four-legged variety for the first time in its 100 year history. A new section of pet-friendly rooms in the Vanderbilt Wing of the resort will come with a special turndown amenity. The Inn is offering guests who bring their pets a variety of trails and walking routes for exercising, as well as a special walking area for pets near the new pet-friendly rooms. By nightfall, cuddle up beside a roaring fire pit on a rustic outdoor terrace with panoramic mountain views.
The mountain motif gets the full treatment at the Grove Park Inn. Guests from all over North America can check in to enjoy pet-friendly Asheville and scores of outdoor activities, never having to worry that Pickles is back home feeling lonely. To ensure pets of guests at Grove Park Inn will experience the resort’s legendary service, there’s even a special in-room dining menu for pets, now featuring items such as Chicken “Pup” Pie and Meat Woof.
Built in 1913, the Inn is on the National Register of Historic Places and a member of Historic Hotels of America. On the Obamas’ Asheville vacation, they joined a legendary line of 10 US presidents who once stayed at Grove Park Inn, from Calvin Coolidge to Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Dwight Eisenhower. We’re not too sure if Bo Obama was along for the ride; surely he would have loved the woodsy landscape.
From homegrown craft beer to the great outdoors, Asheville takes its sensual delights very seriously. Cafes are littered with rosy-cheeked cherubs in hand-knit woolen caps. Local radio shows exhort citizens to buy local. At this mountain mecca, there’s just so much to do: you can tour the nation’s largest home, the Biltmore estate; cast a fly-fishing rod; or hoist a microbrew in what has been dubbed “Beer City USA.” With its funky architecture, independent spirit and thriving restaurant scene, artsy Asheville boasts major pet lovers travel appeal.