Biltmore Estate is America’s largest private home and estate, and it opened its doors to the public in 1930. This is where my mom and I celebrated Memorial Day weekend this year. I have never been to Asheville or Biltmore, so we decided it would be the perfect time to go. Plus it was the last weekend of the Dressing Downton exhibit, and I’m only
slightly obsessed with that show.
After arriving in Asheville, a big glass of wine was our first order of business. So, we headed to Antler Hill Village & Winery. The Winery is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary. The Winery itself is located in the original Biltmore Dairy Barn. It was a brief but informative tour, and then we were off to taste the wines of Biltmore. My favorites were the Limited Release Pinot Grigio, Limited Release Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, and House Red.
After our tasting, we explored the Village and available exhibits in that area. We learned all about the Vanderbilts with The Biltmore Legacy exhibit, and how the farm and dairy side of the estate functioned with The Farm in Antler Hill Village exhibit.
Dinner was most definitely in order after all our walking of the Village and exhibits. We opted for Cedric’s Tavern. We were able to grab a table on the patio, so we just enjoyed the evening, food, drinks and the band playing on the lawn.
The next two days we spent touring the house and gardens! Yes, a whole day does not do it justice. I mean, I’ve seen pictures of this place, but nothing touches how beautiful the house and surrounding gardens are in person! You cannot take pictures inside but just take my word, it is absolutely stunning! My favorite room was the library. It is two stories tall and contains 18,000 volumes (only about half of George’s whole collection). I felt like Belle from Beauty and the Beast!
So for our first round around the house, we opted to get tickets for the house and then supplemented the self-guided tour with the audio tour. We unknowingly were there for the busiest day of the season…8,000 guests went through the house that day, so it took us almost 3 hours to complete the house tour. But I enjoyed every minute!
Since I do not have pictures of the interior, here is a little background information on the house. George Vanderbilt, a grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, is the mastermind behind this great home and estate. Construction began in 1889 and Christmas of 1895 was the first house party. It took quite a bit of time to build this massive home! The house is made of 250 rooms – 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces – that equal 135,280 square feet of living area. That in and of itself is seriously impressive, especially if you consider it is only 30 years after the Civil War.
After our audio tour of the house, we grabbed a delicious lunch at Stable Café then headed to explore the gardens! I definitely recommend wearing sturdy shoes, because the gardens are quite extensive.
The estate originally consisted of 125,000 acres. George had big visions for his land so he hired Frederick Law Olmsted, a world-renowned landscape architect known for designing Prospect and Central Park, to design the grounds. Olmsted was instrumental in the design of Biltmore estate. He divided the land between gardens, farmland and suggested the rest of the land be replanted commercial timber forest. Based on Olmsted’s recommendations, Biltmore became the first place in the country to have a forestry education program, and later the land would become the first National Forest east of the Mississippi and the center of Pisgah National Forest. Today the estate consists of 8,000 acres with 75 of those being gardens.
Our last day we opted for the self-guided tour (took about 1.5 hours). We were able to admire things we had missed the first go around and ask the docents some questions. We then took a Behind-the-Scenes Guided Upstairs – Downstairs Tour. The extra tour was definitely worth the extra dollars and time as it helped explain the inner workings of the house, and how the whole layout of the house fits together. It was very interesting and definitely showed just how innovative George was in designing his house. I won’t give anything away…you’ll just have to find out for yourself.
And with that, Biltmore was officially conquered by the Norton women!