One of the most well-known points of interest in Asheville, North Carolina is the Biltmore Estate. George Vanderbilt’s country home, intended as an escape from every day life for his family and friends, entered construction in 1889. Opened (officially) in 1895, the Biltmore Home has over four acres of floor space and 250 rooms. While generously designed for the convenience of guests, it was the family home for George, his wife Edith and their daughter, Cornelia. Cornelia Vanderbilt eventually wed John Francis Amherst Cecil. After a time of living at Biltmore, the Cecils chose to open the home to the public in 1930.
The detail around the front entryway, and curving around the staircase brought to mind Notre Dame in Paris.
Gurgling fish greet visitors as they walk down toward the main lawn…
… and even cherubs can’t stop looking at the view.
Today, the public is able to tour many parts of the grand home, as well as the extensive grounds of the Biltmore Estate. The home is a marvel of design and innovative function. One could spend days soaking in the luxury and attention to detail in each room. Some of my favorite parts of the home were the indoor pool – filled with natural water from the mountains that was then heated by the home’s boiler – and the elaborate cooking area, which was made up of a multitude of rooms, cupboards, pantries and storage areas. I thank Downton Abbey for helping me imagine the bustling activity that would have taken place around those tables, sinks and stations.
Unfortunately, Biltmore does not allow photography inside the home. For examples of the interior decadence, I must refer you to the Biltmore House Gallery. However, following our time inside the home (take the self-guided audio tour – it provides additional information that cannot be gleaned from simply looking around the home, as well as colorful anecdotes), we opted to walk the grounds and visit the many gardens.
We began with the Italian Garden, full of classical statues and water. I’m always a sucker for water gardens.
We wandered through the Shrub Garden until we came to the Walled Garden. The Walled Garden features flowerbeds planted in a formal, symmetrical style that was popular in the late 1800s.
Continuing on, we strolled through the Azalea Garden – with flowers no less beautiful and unique than the Conservatory.
Reaching the Bass Pond, we took several opportunities to sit and take in the natural beauty and peaceful waters. A rustic, yet delicate, Boat House sits quietly on one side of the lake, surrounded by greenery and silence.
We finally turned around and headed back, through the gardens, past the home and to the parking lot. We then drove alongside the gardens and stream until reaching Antler Hill Village, miles away but still a part of the Biltmore Estate. Antler Hill Village includes shops and spots to eat as well as the Biltmore Winery. Visually, it brings to mind the village in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
After first securing some cold water (we had walked nearly 7 miles by this time), we popped into the winery for a wine-tasting. (A tasting of Biltmore’s more affordable wines is included with admission to the Biltmore House, and a tasting of higher-valued wines is available at additional cost)
We visited the Biltmore on our last full day in Asheville. We spent the previous days waffling back and forth on whether or not to visit. The issue was the price. Visiting Biltmore is not a budget-friendly endeavor. Daily admission for an adult, which includes the house, gardens, village and winery (and wine tasting) is $64.20 for each adult (incl. tax). The self-guided audio tour was $10.70 per person (incl. tax). Bistro style lunch and several waters throughout the day (for two persons) came to just under $50.00.
In the end, we determined that our visit was absolutely worth the cost. If I were to do it all over again I might bring my own water bottle (I actually have no idea if they let you do that or not), but have no other monetary regrets. If you’re visiting the area, I highly recommend taking the time to visit.