Welcome to Wellville

Flotation tanks, salt cave, outdoor hot tubs beckon travelers to Asheville
Yoga is a popular pastime in Asheville, North Carolina, where a proliferation of wellness practice and treatment centers have opened in recent years. Contributed by ExploreAsheville.com.

Yoga is a popular pastime in Asheville, North Carolina, where a proliferation of wellness practice and treatment centers have opened in recent years. Contributed by ExploreAsheville.com.

For more than a century, the fresh mountain air of Asheville has lured tourists and newcomers in search of a healthy lifestyle. But the last 15 years have seen serious growth in a wide range of wellness-oriented offerings that go well beyond “taking the air” in Asheville.

The burgeoning “wellness” neighborhood in the Chestnut Hills Historic District is a great place to start. This hilly area just north of downtown is home to a host of options.

A good place to start is the Asheville Yoga Center. The terracotta-colored building with a striking black mural is home to more than 100 classes a week, ranging from beginning yoga to Ashtanga, Kundalini and Yin classes. There's also a boutique that not only sells clothing and gear but serves as a great resource center for information on other wellness offerings in the area.

Immerse yourself in the healing qualities of sodium chloride at Asheville Salt Cave, where 20 tons of pink salt saturate the air with negative ions and 84 trace elements and minerals. Time spent in the restorative cave is said to be great for the skin, respiratory relief, stress reduction and cardiovascular and digestive health. Sessions typically last 45 minutes and involve relaxing on zero-gravity chairs or plush pillows and blankets spread around the salt-covered floor. Massage is available in separate rooms.

Asheville Salt Cave offers restorative sessions in their salt-lined cave. Contributed by Asheville Salt Cave.

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Salt is also the therapeutic property at the center of Still Point Wellness. Individual flotation tanks filled with 1,500 pounds of Epsom salt create a unique environment of sensory deprivation. The warm water and weightlessness draw you into a deep state of relaxation, reduces tension and helps you unwind from the busyness of everyday life. Esalen massage, featuring long, slow, flowing strokes, is also available.

The neighborhood is home to Chestnut Street Inn, an eight-room bed-and-breakfast in an historic home built in 1905 featuring luxury amenities and a two-course breakfast. The inn offers a wellness package that includes a session at Still Point Wellness and a class at Asheville Yoga Center.

Maintain that glow from your wellness treatments at one of the healthy dining options in the district. Elements Real Food is a neighborhood favorite, thanks to tasty cold pressed juices featuring lots of fruits and vegetables, wellness shots, smoothies, smoothie bowls, broths, soups and an extensive café menu of salads and sandwiches. Called “one of the best vegan restaurants in the country” by Zagat, Plant is known for creative fare such as lasagna crudo and seaweed-smoked Portobello mushrooms.

Chestnut Street Inn is an historic B&B that offers a special package that includes a treatment at Still Point Wellness and a class at Asheville Yoga Center. Contributed by Chestnut Street Inn

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Beyond the district

In downtown Asheville, Wake Foot Sanctuary offers an array of soothing foot soaks in copper tubs with hand-made essential oil solutions, nourishing clays and revitalizing salts, as well as massage add-ons. It's the perfect stress reliever for solo visits over a cup of tea, date night for couples, or a group of friends with an added sparkling beverage. South Slope's Nordic-style Sauna House features sauna, cold plunge and showers, heated furniture, massage therapy and a tea café.

Among the healthy food options on the downtown dining scene is Posana, which features a dedicated gluten-free kitchen serving gluten-free bread, seed-crusted tofu and fresh trout from North Carolina’s Sunburst Farms. Rosetta’s Kitchen & The Buchi Bar serves a range of wines, beers, local mead and ciders and six flavors of kombucha on draft. The restaurant offers creative vegetarian fare such as The Mountain, featuring layers of organic long-grain brown rice, sautéed kale and fried local Smiling Hara hempeh, topped with their famous Korean barbecue sauce. Market Place, one of the region’s original farm-to-table restaurants, is where chef William Dissen dishes up specialties including his creamy Carolina Gold rice risotto with roasted oyster mushrooms, charred Brussels, cashew cream, tahini and pea greens.

Farther afield from Asheville just 15 minutes away is Shoji Spa & Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The eastern-leaning destination is a Japanese-style outdoor hot tub spa featuring a variety of private services and treatments including saltwater hydrotherapy tub experiences in the woods, tub side tea service, a relaxing cedar sauna, outdoor cold showers, massage and more. There are also lodging options provided in four large, suite-style rooms with fireplaces and kitchenettes.

However one defines wellness travel, Asheville has something to offer.

The spa at Omni Grove Park Inn is located in a subterranean grotto. Contributed by The Omni Grove Park Inn

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If you go

Asheville, North Carolina, is 208 miles northeast of Atlanta on I-85

What to do

Asheville Yoga Center. Class passes start at $29 for two days. 211 S. Liberty St. 828-254-0380, www.youryoga.com.

Asheville Salt Cave. A 45-minute session starts at $20. Massage extra. 16 N. Liberty St. 828-236-5999, www.ashevillesaltcave.com.

Still Point Wellness Massage and Float Spa. Sensory deprivation saltwater flotation starts at $69 for one hour. Esalen massage starts at $95 for one hour. 81-B Central Ave. 828-348-5372, www.stillpointwell.com.

Wake Foot Sanctuary. A 45-minute foot soak starts at $30. Massage extra. 1 Page Ave. 828-575-9799. www.wakefootsanctuary.com.

Sauna House. Hot sauna starts at $32. Massage starts at $140 for one hour including Sauna House amenities for an hour. 230 Short Coxe Ave. 828-505-6393, www.saunahouse.com.

Shoji Spa & LodgePrivate salt water hot tub experiences starting at $59 per person for one hour. 96 Avondale Heights Rd. 828-299-0999, www.shojiretreats.com.

Where to eat

Elements Real Food. Juice bar, café and market focusing on plant-based beverages and food. $14-$38 entrees. 233 S. Liberty St. 828-412-5701, www.elementsrealfood.com.

Plant. Creative vegan fare. $12-$20 entrees. 165 Merrimon Ave. 828-258-7500, www.plantisfood.com.

Posana. Dedicated gluten-free kitchen. $18-$32 entrees. 1 Biltmore Ave. 828-505-3969, www.posanarestaurant.com.

Rosetta's Kitchen & The Buchi Bar. Healthy vegetarian and vegan food. $5-$13 entrees. 116 N. Lexington Ave. 828-232-0738, www.rosettaskitchen.com.

The Market Place. One of Asheville's original farm-to-table restaurants. $10-$38 entrees. 20 Wall St. 828-252-4162, www.marketplace-restaurant.com.

Where to stay

Chestnut Street Inn. Downtown inn with a wellness package that's near lots of health-oriented offerings. Starting at $209, including breakfast, beer on tap, a rotating port selection, afternoon cookies and more. 176 E. Chestnut St., Asheville. 828-285-0705, www.chestnutstreetinn.com.

The Inn on Biltmore Estate. On the grounds of Biltmore. Spa package available. Starting at $269. 1 Lodge St., Asheville. 800-411-3812, www.biltmore.com.

The Omni Grove Park Inn. Historic full-service resort and world-class spa. Starting at $269. 290 Macon Ave., Asheville. 800-438-5800, www.omnihotels.com.

Tourist info

Asheville Visitor Center. 36 Montford Ave., 828-258-6129, www.exploreasheville.com.