In the Fall I had the opportunity to visit the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina as part of Type-A Parent’s Summit.
The entrance to the estate. You’ll drive through a windy, wooded path to get to the home.
I’ve visited once before and absolutely love to see houses and estates that are part of a bygone era. The Biltmore is the most impressive of these homes, it’s the largest home in the United States. It appears like a castle on the flat lawn it sits in front of, but overlooks the mountains of Asheville like the stately manor that it is.
The home was built in 1895 by George W. Vanderbilt on an 8,000 acre estate. It now includes the house and gardens, dining and shopping, and Antler Village & Winery. The nearby village is the former village of the workers that the Vanderbilt family employed, but has been transformed into shops and restaurants.
The Biltmore and the surrounding estate is still owned by the family as a family business. Mr. Vanderbilt’s grandson, William A.V. Cecil, Jr. serves as CEO.
While the Biltmore itself is worth the visit it’s also important to note that there is an amazing exhibit featuring costumes from Downton Abbey through May 25th. If you plan to visit and are a fan of the show this is the perfect time to book a trip. Find more information about Dressing Downton here.
In Edith Vanderbilt’s bedroom, Lady Mary Crawley being dressed by her lady’s maid in a green silk evening dress, with black net overlay and black and silver starbursts, worn at dinner for Matthew’s arrival at Downton.*
When you first arrive you see the front facade of the Biltmore where you can first appreciate the scale of the home. It sits at the end of a long front driveway where you can arrive via footpaths or a shuttle bus.
Once you arrive at the front of the home you will be amazed by how large it looms over you and the attention to detail that is everywhere. While the home was completed in the early 1900s it harkens back to castles and manors from the English countryside.
We arrived just after the estate got decked out for the holidays, so the two lions that guard the entrance were festooned with wreathes around their necks. Inside there were amazing Christmas trees and holiday decorations.
Unfortunately, you can not take pictures inside the home due to items that are on loan from collections, so I don’t have photos of the rooms to share, but trust me they are spectacular.
Admission will allow you to tour the rooms and speak to knowledgable guides along the way. The tour itself requires quite a bit of walking, so wear comfortable shoes and be sure to leave yourself plenty of time for the tour-at least 2 hours.
The Biltmore has an audio tour ($10) you can take as you walk through the home to learn more about the history of the home, its’ inhabitants, and the furnishings. The audio tour is available in multiple languages. If you have kids along with you they can take the special kid’s audio tour.
Additionally, you can take guided tours (for an additional fee) of other areas like the butler’s tour, or the architect’s tour, or the rooftop tour. Find more info about these special tours here.
The home featured many innovations that were ahead of its’ time so keep an eye (and ear) out for information about those during the tour. The home had central heating and 43 bathrooms (when most people were just adopting running water).
The home was built for entertaining with a grand entrance hall, huge banquet hall with an organ loft, billiard room, salon, and breakfast room (where lunch was served), a music room, a gallery, library, and tapestry gallery. These rooms make up the first floor of the home and were the public areas of the home during the time when the Vanderbilts lived in the home.
The tour consists of several levels of the home including the main living areas, the private bedrooms that the family once used, servants quarters, the kitchens, indoor pool (!), and so much more.
Upstairs you’ll find the family rooms which were private family rooms and bedrooms. Additionally, there are guest retreats on the third floor for visiting guests.
The tour will next take you to the recreation area where you’ll find the first bowling alley in a private residence an indoor swimming pool and changing areas, a gymnasium, and the ‘Halloween’ room where the family celebrated New Year’s Eve one year after spending weeks elaborately painting the walls with scenes from a ballet.
Finally, you’ll see the servant’s area where you’ll get a peek at how this grand estate was run. Multiple kitchens, a pantry, and servant’s bedrooms are on view.
After your tour you can visit the stable areas which have been transformed into a café and shops. There are tons of great gifts, books, and lots of great café treats. You can also have a sit down meal in their restaurant.
The home is beautifully decorated and maintained with a serious attention to detail. Each room has so much to admire and take in. Then you look up and see the ceiling and you’re in awe again!
Every room has a use or theme that includes decor and furnishings to suit it. My favorite has to be the library with TWO stories of books preserved for the future meticulously. There are ladders to access upper shelves and even a spiral staircase to climb to the second story. Right off the library is a gorgeous patio. I could spend a lifetime there either in front of a cozy fire or out on the patio overlooking the mountains.
Find ticket and more information at the Biltmore website. Nearby Asheville is a wonderful town with tons of great shops and restaurants so you’ll find plenty to do, though you may never want to leave the Biltmore!
Update: A note about saving on admission: a twitter follower shared this great advice, “in summer kids are free – a huge savings.”
Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to the Biltmore.
*Photo credit: The Biltmore Company, all other photos copyrighted by Whalen Media, LLC.