I’d long been curious about the Grand Hotel. My husband visited as a boy and has fond memories of it. One story in particular stands out. Back in the day, guests dressed for dinner, and my husband—then seven—was not prepared. He had a suit and tie but nothing to wear on his feet besides purple tennis shoes. Thankfully, his grandmother knew what to do.
“Walk behind me, and keep your feet tucked under my gown,” she said, much to his amusement.
Today, the rules are a bit more relaxed (guests no longer dress for dinner), but the Grand Hotel’s remarkable history endures. Since opening in 1847, the resort has served as a Civil War hospital, hosted training operations during World War II, and welcomed such illustrious guests as Dolly Parton and President Jimmy Carter. So fascinating are the tales behind the resort, it employs a historian, who gives daily tours of the 550-acre property overlooking Mobile Bay.
But the Grand Hotel has an eye on the future. In 2018, it debuted the results of a $34 million renovation that updated the conference center, spa, and all 405 guestrooms and suites. Six new restaurants and lounges were added, and significant upgrades were made to the resort’s golf courses.
I don’t play golf, but I am an unapologetic connoisseur of spas, so when I visited, I was eager to check out some of the available services. I had a relaxing massage and full-body exfoliation. I also sipped Champagne and luxuriated in an elongated hot tub, all the while feeling pampered to the max.
Alternatively, I could have spent the afternoon fishing, using a supplied pole and bait. If I’d caught anything, a chef at Southern Roots, one of the hotel’s restaurants, would have prepared it for me. As it was, I ordered the benne-crusted grouper, served with greens, glazed turnips, and a tomato conserve. The menu was peppered with ingredients that were locally caught or produced, including produce grown in the hotel’s immaculate garden.
As I looked around the dining room, it was fun to imagine my husband in a similar space so many years ago. The formalities that tripped up a young boy are gone now. And I certainly didn’t see anyone in a floor-length gown. But those sorts of details aren’t what made the Grand Hotel so grand; what has always mattered is how the place makes you feel. And at the Grand Hotel, no matter who you are—a president or a seven-year-old boy—you feel like royalty.
One Grand Boulevard, Point Clear, Alabama 36564 • (251) 928-9201 • grand1847.com
While You’re There
Hone your drink-making skills at the resort’s Beverage Academy. Led by the hotel’s beverage manager, the class takes place one Friday a month. In April, the focus is gin; May’s class is dedicated to wine; and June’s subject is scotch.
This article appears in our Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Southbound.