I once saw the Biltmore Estate in a television show about old homes in the United States and was amazed, not just by the large size of the “house” (the largest house in the U.S. at 178,926 square feet) and the property (8,000 acres still belongs to the estate which originally had over 200,000), but for it’s incredible attention to detail. The Biltmore was built in the late 1800s to be the private home of George Vanderbilt and is still privately owned by the family today. Every room was had a detailed purpose and it was the first house that had electricity in the country. It even had two walk-in refrigerators! I thought it was stunning, especially as a park that welcomed guests. I never imagined that we would have the opportunity to explore it ourselves.
We took a spontaneous road trip to Tennessee to visit my fiancé’s oldest brother and family. After our visit we were supposed to see Graceland in Memphis Tennessee for my birthday, but large storms and flooding prevented that, which I am sure Matthew was very thankful for! It is an extra five hours past where we were (and it had already taken us a sixteen hour drive to get there!) My future sister-in-law recommended the estate in Asheville, NC, which was less than to hours from where we were. We are so thankful we took her advice!
There are many reasons why you will want to plan your own trip to the Biltmore Estate.
Even though the skies were cloudy, it was a gorgeous day. We arrived by 9:30 in the morning, although I wish we had taken the time to visit even earlier. If you’re planning ahead of time you can save $10 per ticket by ordering them online two weeks in advance. It costs $65 per person, which was shockingly pricey, but so very worth it once we made it inside. The estate is very busy and the lines do add up so set your alarm early so you can make the most of your stay. There is a luxury hotel on the property for those who plan to stay overnight and beat the crowds in the morning.
The property has numerous restaurants. My favorite was the Biltmore Bake Shop. Teas, breakfast sandwiches, and simple choices for a lovely breakfast to the right of the house where a carriage house used to be. It felt like Belle walking through that “small provincial town.”
Over breakfast we made fast friends with a middle aged couple visiting for their 30th anniversary. Their names were Bubba and Esther and they came up from Louisiana. Bubba offered to take our picture together. After a relaxing breakfast we were off to explore the grounds before our house tour.The size of this house is hard to describe and the pictures make it look so small in perspective. We had planned to take photos right in front of it after our tour to get a better picture on how large the house really is, but it down poured as soon as our tour had completed. You will want to bring a light bag or basket to carry what you need (sunblock!) because the parking lot is a shuttle ride away. I have a love affair with greenhouses. One day I hope to have a miniature one attached to my future home. The Vanderbilt’s collected all sorts of exotic plants.My Belle moment:A perfect treat for a hot day. It was still early yet so the parlor was not packed with guests. The Biltmore used to make their own ice cream on their farm, but they now have another company prepare the ice cream for them now. Their vanilla recipe is still an original and I was even able to try a sample. At 11 a.m. we went inside for our tour. Before we entered we went to the information desk and upgraded to the audio tour for an extra $22 per person. It sounds outrageous, but you will want the audio. I have never ben a big audio tour fan, but there were so many rooms and the tour explained them all beautifully. It costs less than going with a guide and you will get so much more out of your experience. I also learned so much about the Vanderbilt family from the audio. One of the things I learned from the audio tour was that the tapestries on this wall are from the 1500s! I was very delighted by the amazing art collections we came by. There are so many rooms to see (250 total), including 34 bedrooms and 42 bathrooms. I will give you one guess which room is my favorite!George Vanderbilt started collecting books when he was twelve years old. He personally handpicked every single one of his books and had them specially bound in Moroccan leather. He owned more than 23,000 books. 21,000 of them are here in his personal library where he let friends read as much as they wanted. The chess set pictured below belonged to Napoleon, another fact I was able to learn from the audio tour. Edith’s bedroom was lovely. She had her own bedroom specifically for changing outfits numerous times a day, and to have privacy from the male staff members and her husband’s butlers during these changes. The tunnels to the basement were as eery as you might expect. Bowling, anyone?This pool is truly spectacular (as are the large row of private changing rooms to go with it). This pool was built at a time when most people did not swim for leisure and didn’t even know how to swim. Water was brought in form the mountains with a pump and heated with a large heater as the pool filled. Underwater lights in a time where no one even had regular lights at home was extraordinary. Unfortunately, the pool now leaks so it is no longer in use. The servants’ bedrooms are close to the kitchen and they have their own dinging room as well. Most of the rooms in the house were very dark. The kitchen was by far the lightest room we saw and it had this really unique coffee grinder and maker:This pantry reminds me of the kind of pantries a hobbit would have. The Biltmore Candy Shop had some really delicious chocolates. The gift shop was fun to walk through. If you are to bring something home, I would highly recommend a tin of Biltmore tea, a handkerchief, chocolates, or a book from the Book Binder’s. There are numerous restaurants at the Biltmore. My only regret is that we did not make it to the Library Lounge for high tea. If we ever return again one day I will need to make a stop.
We also never made it to the boat house because it started to downpour as soon as our tour was complete, but you can rent a boat to paddle around and it sounds like fun! It was still raining lightly when we made it to the Antler Hill Village and Winery, but that did not stop me from parching through the sunflowers! Matthew always stops us to make a wish when he sees a nice fountain. After walking through the winery entrance you will walk through a long tunnel to get to the wine tasting rooms. Wine tastings are completely free. I enjoyed the Library Series white wine. After you have had your fill of the Biltmore (how can one day ever be enough?) take a drive into Asheville right outside of the gates. We had dinner in Asheville right before our drive home and we both wish we had more time to explore the little city. There were really great restaurants, artists, street performances, museums, boutiques, and Malaprop’s bookstore. We promised ourselves that we will come back again one day.
And then we started our long drive home and made a few scenic stops along the way.
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