7 Things You Might Not Know about The Umstead

This tucked-away hotel, restaurant and spa in the Triangle is known for its luxe accommodations — but it has a few surprises, too.
by Addie Ladner

The Umstead Hotel & Spa was first opened in 2007 by Ann Goodnight and her husband, Jim Goodnight, the CEO of SAS Institute. The story goes that Ann wanted to open a desirable overnight destination for SAS’ international clients and media. She initially approached several upscale hotel chains about the venture, but they declined, saying that the Triangle area did not have the luxury demographic needed for their brands. So she decided to open her own independent property, naming it after the nearby state park. 

Today, The Umstead Hotel & Spa has grown in local and international notoriety and become a luxury hotel destination unto itself with its award-winning restaurant, top-rated spa, lush grounds, impressive art collection and 150 serene rooms and suites. If you’ve never stayed there — or even if you have — click here for a chance to win a two-night stay!

And while you probably know the hotel by reputation there are a few surprises within its 12 wooded acres. Read on for 7 things you might not know about The Umstead Hotel & Spa.

It’s got Triple 5 Stars

The Umstead Hotel & Spa is one of only eight properties in the world to have five stars at its restaurant, hotel and spa from the prestigious Forbes Travel Guide, the highest honor in the restaurant and lodging world. Furthermore, it’s the only AAA Five Diamond rated hotel in North Carolina. 

You Don’t Need a Reservation to Dine

The Umstead’s onsite restaurant, Herons, is a destination unto itself — but you don’t have to book a month in advance to enjoy the food. While the dinner tables are usually booked up, the nearby Umstead Bar and Lounge is open for drop-in dining — and, surprise, the lunch menu is the same as the one at Herons! Herons is also open for breakfast, lunch and brunch, which are easier time slots to snag for lunch meetings, date nights or celebrations. 

It Has a Farm

Less than a mile away from The Umstead on SAS’s main campus is One Oak Farm, a sustainable farm helmed by farm manager Daniel Holloman. The 3-acre property produces about 70% of the produce used at Herons restaurant, including tomatoes, sweet potatoes, heirloom corn and edible flowers. It’s also a source for loofahs, lavender and eucalyptus for the spa! 

Its Brought Scott Crawford to North Carolina

Scott Crawford worked in kitchens all over the country, including on Amelia Island, Sea Island and San Francisco — but it’s The Umstead that made him a celebrity chef here in North Carolina. Crawford was the executive chef at Herons, as well as food and beverage director for the hotel, from March 2009 to May 2014. These days, he has four restaurants of his own, including Jolie, Crawford and Son and the new Brodeto. Pastry Chef Daniel Benjamin, now the owner of Lucette Grace in downtown Raleigh, also worked for The Umstead from October 2006 to May 2014. 

It Supports Local Businesses

While The Umstead may, technically, be for visitors, it leans on many small businesses to elevate the overall experience. A few examples: Herons’ kitchen and waitstaff wear custom Raleigh Denim aprons and serve Spring & Mulberry Chocolate. The hotel serves Larry’s Beans Coffee and has worked with Bond Brothers on a special brew of beer. And the gift shop is filled with pieces from favorite North Carolina makers such as pottery by Ben Owen and woodwork by Jason Van Duyn.

It’s a Rotating Art Gallery

One of the things The Umstead is known for is its impressive art collection — including a Dale Chihuly in the foyer and Mark Hewitt pots in niches throughout the lobby — but it’s not just big-name artists on display.  The Umstead Art Gallery is used as a rotating exhibition space, showcasing local and visiting artists curated by director of marketing, Leah Goodnight. Among recent shows: Shelley Smith, Linda Ruth Dickenson and Lynn Boggess. 

It Takes a Village

With this many amenities, you can bet there’s manpower behind The Umstead — in fact, takes nearly 400 people (378, precisely) to keep the institution running flawlessly. Many of the staff members have been a part of The Umstead since its inception. Among the longest-running employees: Chris Rawls, a naturalist and head landscaper, who has been with the SAS and The Umstead group for 35 years, and Marcelle Kick, the hotel’s art coordinator, who has been with The Umstead since 2006.

Click here to enter to win a two-night stay at The Umstead Hotel & Spa Plus a 4-course dinner at Herons!

This article was originally published on waltermagazine.com on April 22, 2024.