Hotel We Love: Windsor Boutique Hotel, Asheville, NC

By Liza Weisstuch
January 12, 2022
Cozy bed room at Windsor Boutique Hotel
Courtesy Windsor Boutique Hotel
Southern hospitality lives in this rejuvenated circa-1907 building featuring posh suites with old-timey charm and modern amenities.

With its cozy lobby arranged with old-timey furniture and antique décor and lighting, the Windsor Boutique Hotel, in Asheville, NC, does a terrific job at making you feel like you’re not actually entering a hotel at all. It feels more like the sitting room in a private home, and with the staffers helming a wide wood desk, it’s clear that all the formalities of check-in have been swapped for a laid-back personalized welcome.  


The Windsor opened as apartments in 1907, but over the years, downtown became quite unsavory, and many buildings, including this one, fell into disrepair. But an investment firm bought it and undertook an historical renovation, keeping as much of its architectural detail intact, down to the banisters on the staircases. It opened as a hotel in 2013, restored it to its former glory. And with 14 rooms set up like apartment suites, it’s a glorious accommodation indeed.


Each of the 14 rooms has its own unique décor that includes playful antiques. This being an old building, that aesthetic perfectly suites the original design elements, like dark, textured wood floor panels, soaring ceilings, tall windows, and brick walls. Bed sizes vary, ranging from a king, queen, and double queen. Each suite has a rain showerhead in the spacious shower, a sleeper-sofa in the living room, a washer and dryer, and a complete modern kitchen with a full-size stove, fridge, and microwave. Most also have a dishwasher.  


The Windsor is smack in the middle of downtown Asheville, on the same block as various cafes, a Thai restaurant, clothing boutiques, and local amenities aplenty, like a hair salon. Chocolate Gems, which offers decadent handmade chocolates and gelato, is a few storefronts away. The hotel does not have its own parking, but street parking is available and there are several city garages nearby, including a new one on the block. There are two more within two blocks.


The Windsor does not have a restaurant of its own, but there’s a small fridge in the lobby with complimentary soda, water, and snacks as well as both a Keurig and N’Espresso machine. Asheville is a popular destination for weekend getaways because it’s within hours drive from Charleston, Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta, and more. With guests’ ride home in mind, on Sunday mornings the hotel offers pastries from The Rhu, a bakery/café offshoot of Rhubarb, a celebrated locally minded restaurant from James Beard nominated chef John Fleer.  

One of the many benefits of its downtown location is that you’re never more than a few footsteps from a great place to eat or drink. Across the street, for instance, is Social Lounge, which is known for its rooftop dining. It’s open until midnight during the week and 2PM on weekends. Just around the corner, about a four-minute walk away, Sovereign Remedies, which serves elevated comfort food (bone marrow tater tots, anyone) and mixes some of the best cocktails in the city, is open until 2AM nightly. With a kitchen open late, expect to find plenty of industry people there after midnight.


The hotel lobby is connected to Desirant, a boutique that sells all manner of Southern living essentials (and a number of non-essentials) in a vintage Parisian flea market setting. Browse jewelry and accessories, books, home goods, cards, clothes, local crafts, and a few antiques that the owners handpicked in France. Hotel guests get 10% off. 

In a nice touch that gives the rooms a local flavor, each is stocked with a bag of freshly ground coffee from Dynamite Roasters a few miles away in Black Mountain. 


Starting at $200.

The Windsor Boutique Hotel  
36 Broadway
Asheville, NC 28801
(844) 494-6376 /

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Why I Jump in the North Atlantic on New Year's Day

It started, as most unlikely things do, with a great deal of hesitation. But it was the gut-instinct strain of hesitation, the kind that morphs into gusto, not the kind of reluctance that’s grounded in reason, which could make you think instead of act. It was four years ago at a New Year’s Eve party in Brooklyn at my friend’s house, we’ll call her Celeste. Her friend, we’ll call her Gretta, went home early because she was meeting her Cross Fit group in the morning to go to Coney Island for the annual Polar Bear Plunge. She wasn’t going to jump. She was going to join the thousands of onlookers whose respect—or schadenfreude, depending on their sensibility—was enough to draw them out of bed and to the chilly shore of the Atlantic on the one day it’s acceptable, if not endorsed, to sleep until noon. The Coney Island Polar Bear Club meets once a week to go swimming in the ocean when the weather gets cold. It was founded in 1903, but their big day is January 1. I wanted in. 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Hotel We Love: The Modern Hotel and Bar, Boise, ID

Over the last few years, Boise has become known as “Little Portland” for the independent-mindedness of its business owners, entrepreneurs, artists, and culinary types. Creative chefs prize local fare, stores feature items by local artisans and creators, and the JUMP Center, a massive sprawling incubator space opened by the Simplot family, known for their potato empire, sprawls at the edge of downtown. Though progressive, it cherishes its roots, its Basque traditions not least among them. In the 1930s is saw a wave of immigrants from the region and to this day it boasts the largest Basque population outside of Spain. The Modern Hotel and Bar taps into both the city’s lively, stylish vibe, but its origin is rooted in prized traditions. THE STORY The Modern, which is about a ten-minute walk from the heart of downtown Boise, opened in 2007. To hear owner Elizabeth Tullis tell it, the hotel business was, in a sense, her destiny. 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Hotel We Love: Gralehaus, Louisville, KY

At most motels and hotels, if the restaurant is destination-worthy, it's an added bonus. At Gralehaus, in Louisville, KY, the dining option is a main focus, to the point where the locals who frequent the locally minded, beer-obsessed café often forget that there are lodgings upstairs. THE STORY The owners, Tyler Trotter and Lori Beck, partners in business and life, also own and run the Louisville Beer Store, which is two miles away. The couple has traveled through Europe extensively, and their Louisville B&B, which Trotter says stands for “bed and beverage,” is their way of further sharing their love for suds. “We fly brewers in from around the world and sometimes we have a hard time finding them a place to say,” says Beck, explaining the inspiration for the place. “In our travels to breweries, especially in Europe, we appreciated that a lot of them have inns on the property, even above the brewery. Now we can show them a similar hospitality.” Regardless of whether you’re in the industry, though, you have the option to purchase a beer or cider ahead of time so it's waiting in your mini-fridge when you arrive.  And in the spirit of a classic B&B, it’s self check-in and check-out. THE QUARTERS Each of the three lavish yet cozy rooms, which features either a king-size or queen-size bed, is designed distinctly from the others. That's a matter of happenstance, Trotter says. It turned out that way because as they designed the rooms, they discovered how differently the natural light affected each space. There’s a cowhide rug here, a vintage record player there. But while they look unique, they all share the owners’ love for Louisville. A local interior designer made all the curtains and local artists’ works adorn the walls. The fragrant bath products come from Peace of the Earth, a nearby boutique specializing in eco-friendly products; and the books that line the shelves, all chosen specifically to suit the vibe of each room, were purchased at Carmichael’s Bookstore, a longstanding independent shop. And if that doesn’t impress you, consider the decadent chocolates in the room from Louisville’s Cellar Door, which once was the featured chocolate at the Emmy Awards. THE NEIGHBORHOOD  Gralehaus is located in the Highlands, which is known as the oldest neighborhood in the city. It’s long been home to the city’s Restaurant Row. Today the whole area is jam-packed with bars and nightclubs, but standouts include Jack Fry’s, an historic restaurant known for its classic Southern fare and vintage photos of athletes, and Steel City Pops, an Alabama-based chain in the Southeast that peddles inventive popsicles made with fresh ingredients. There’s a Walgreen’s down the street. Street parking is available.  THE FOOD The ground-floor daytime café, a local hangout, features a fridge with about 75 bottled beers, from local brews to esoteric European options. There are also four taps and an extensive menu of coffee drinks. The from-scratch food leans Southern, but is thoroughly modern. (Think: country ham tartine, veggie hash, creative crepes.) ALL THE REST Beck and Trotter’s third business, Holy Grale, is an expansive beer hall in a church-like building that they opened in 2010. It’s right behind Gralehaus, so it’s really easy to hunker down with a brew or two and get back to your quarters without hassle. The only drawback is that with a bar outside and a cafe downstairs, it can get loud in the rooms, so each one is equipped with white noise machines. Look for the tokens in your room when you arrive. Each can be used for one of the expertly crafted coffee drinks in the café. RATES & DEETS Starting at $150. Extended-stay rates are available.  Gralehaus1001 Baxter AvenueLouisville, KY 40204(502) 454-7075 /


3 Warm Places to Escape Winter

Sure, cold-weather fun is all well and good, and we love skiing, skating, and sledding as much as anyone. But when the mercury drops a little too far for a little too long, it's time to grab your beach bag, swimsuit, and flip-flops and head for a warm escape. Here, we share three spots where the temperatures are high, but the prices are surprisingly down to earth. 1. THE BAHAMAS Beaches, seafood, and cool outdoor markets. Although there are 700 islands that make up the Bahamas, we suggest you head to New Providence Island, home to Nassau, where rates at reliable hotels such as Holiday Inn Express and Courtyard start at well under $200/night. Nassau is a quick flight from major Northeast airports, and you’ll get your fill of gorgeous beaches, outdoor markets packed with handmade crafts, and, of course, seafood, seafood, seafood: Cracked conch with peas and rice is as close to a signature dish as the Bahamas can come -- you’ll love the deep-fried cutlet and the pleasantly spicy peas and rice. Wash it down with Sky Juice, a refreshing gin-and-coconut-water cocktail. 2. MIAMI Style, Cuban cuisine, and a surprisingly quiet beach (really!). First of all, let’s dispel a common myth about Miami: The city’s stylish, Art Deco-inspired hotels don’t have to break the bank. We’ve got swanky lodgings like the Hotel Breakwater, an Ascend Hotel Collection Member, starting under $200/night. Another myth: Miami’s beaches are packed. While iconic South Beach may be lined with high-rise hotels and fashionable crowds to match, you’ll find a decidedly quieter side to Miami Beach at North Beach Open Space Park, a white-sand beach with picnic tables, a dog park, and the kind of peace and quiet you left home in search of. When it comes to food, Miami’s legendary Cuban fare is available in Little Havana -- and everywhere else. Try the cubano sandwich (pork, peppers, and cheese), chicharron (pork belly), and ropa vieja (essentially Cuban beef stew). 3. COSTA RICA Eco-lodges, tropical birds, and an active volcano. Sure, Costa Rica is on everyone’s must-see list these days, but prices have not yet caught up with all that demand. You can nab reliable hotels like Radisson and Wyndham for under $150/night. If you’re craving a warm-weather escape that offers some opportunities to get wild (in a nature-appreciation kind of way), Costa Rica is one-stop shopping for the aspiring adventurer. National parks, hiking trails, monkeys, tropical birds, and even the chance to volunteer at an animal rescue center on the country’s Caribbean coast. Hungry? Costa Rica is best known for casados, meat or fresh fish served with rice, black beans, salad, and plantains. Yum!