Our Visit to Biltmore Estate

Judy Hardiman Travel 2 Comments

Biltmore is located in Asheville, North Carolina and there is so much to see and do at the estate that it is hard to sum it up in just a short paragraph.  This estate is definitely worth a visit.  Jim and I visited in April of this year and we had a full day there.  We could easily have spent more time at this magnificent estate.  You really do need some time to plan your visit if you want to see it all.  If I lived close by, I would definitely purchase an annual pass.

Biltmore Estate includes Biltmore House which has 250 rooms, historic gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, a winery, plus 8,000 acres of Blue Ridge Mountain, farmlands and forests.  You will also find a variety of restaurants, gift shops and several outdoor activities on the estate.

The house tour is so popular that you really need to make a reservation well ahead of time to visit Biltmore House.  We called the day before and we were lucky to get tickets.  We ended up getting the last tour of the day.

George W. Vanderbilt officially opened Biltmore House on Christmas Eve, in 1895 after six years of construction.  The house was a collaborative effort between George, architect Richard Morris Hunt, and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.  George had a vision, he wanted to create an escape from everyday life for his family and friends.  It was a family home for George, his wife Edith, and their daughter Cornelia.

In 1930, Biltmore was opened to the public.  This allowed the family to preserve this national treasure and it helped increase area tourism during the Depression.  Today, Biltmore remains a family business and employs 1,800 employees.

Biltmore house is very grand inside and out and has many wonderful architectural details.  Here are a few images from the exterior and some of its sculptures.

NOTE: If you are visiting the estate with photography in mind, here is some information from the Biltmore handout: “No photography, videotaping, cell phone use, or sketching is allowed in Biltmore House. Taking photographs of the exterior of Biltmore House and grounds, or sketching images of estate grounds, is permitted for personal use only. Any commercial use of images of Biltmore House, the Inn on Biltmore Estate, or any other structure or grounds located on Biltmore Estate is prohibited without express written consent.”

Since our house tour did not start until 5:30 pm, we decided to start our day in the beautiful gardens next to Biltmore House. There are several gardens and trails on the estate. We spent our time photographing the flowers in the Walled Garden and the Rose Garden. If you enjoy photographing flowers, you will enjoy the gardens. We also visited the Conservatory which was designed by Richard Morris Hunt. This beautifully designed conservatory has a glass roof and is filled with exotic orchids, ferns, and palms. During the Vanderbilt’s’ time, this conservatory provided flowers and plants for Biltmore House.

Next, we travelled to Antler Hill Village and Winery which is also located on the estate grounds. Here we visited the Biltmore Legacy, enjoyed lunch at Cedric’s Tavern, stopped for an ice cream at the Creamery and then stopped by the Winery.

The food at Cedric’s was delicious and there was plenty of it. To top it all off, we had an ice cream at the Creamery which was well worth the extra calories. The Biltmore Legacy is an exhibition entitled “The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad” and is included in your day admission. This exhibit takes you through time following the lives of George, Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt at home and in their travels. It is very interesting and it is worth visiting.

Before we left Antler Hill Village, we stopped by the Winery where you can sample some of their wines and you can take a tour of the winery. This is included with your day admission. The winery also offers specialty tours and tastings for an additional fee. Not having been there before, we found it a little confusing where to go for the complimentary part of the tour and wine tasting. When we first came into the bar area, there was a very long line and it was not well marked as to where to go for the complimentary part of the tasting and wine tour. We could have asked one of the friendly staff at the winery but it was quite busy so we decided to move on. If we had had more time, I am sure we would have enjoyed the tour and wine tasting.

From Antler Hill Village we decided to take a drive around the estate which is quite large. As we were driving along Winery Road we drove past The Cottage which originally served as the residence of Biltmore’s market gardener. This cottage is now available to rent for an exclusive getaway. As we drove by some of the farmland, we noticed a field that was filled with a beautiful yellow and was contrasted with green in the foreground and background. It was so beautiful we had to stop. I am not sure what the yellow crop was, perhaps canola, but it was a must-have shot.

From there, we drove to the Lagoon which is a wonderful spot to stop for a rest. We noticed several families there enjoying a picnic and watching the wildlife. This location also provides an amazing view of Biltmore House. Thank you Carl Clay, a friend of ours from the Orlando Camera Club in Florida, for the tip.

Finally, it was time to head over to Biltmore House for our tour. If you are a fan of Downton Abbey, you will be happy to know that right now throughout the house there is an exhibition of exquisite costumes from the PBS Masterpiece Series. The costumes are showcased in the grand rooms. There is no photography allowed in the house so unfortunately we are not able to share any photos of the inside; however, it really is very beautiful and grand. There are several ways to tour the house. Your self-guided visit is included in the estate admission and for an additional charge, you can get an in-depth audio guide or take part in a guided specialty tour. We opted for the self-guided tour.

As you enter the house, you are provided with a small booklet which tells you about the various rooms, some interesting stories about the Vanderbilts and other interesting notes along the way. There are also hosts throughout the house who can share additional stories and answer some of your questions. It takes quite a while to walk through the house and is well worth it.

The tapestries and art work throughout the house are very beautiful. In the library you can look up and admire “The Chariot of Aurora”, which was painted in the 1720’s by Italian artist Giovanni Pellegrini, which originally graced the Pisani Palace in Venice. It was interesting to learn, from one of the hosts, that the library was designed around this painting. The painting was done on canvas which was then hung on the ceiling. There is a lot to learn at Biltmore House about the Vanderbilts and history itself.

Although I was not able to take any photographs in the house, I did step outside to enjoy the mountain views from the Loggia. The Loggia is on the back of Biltmore House and is accessible on the ground floor off the Music Room. The view from this balcony overlooks the deerpark.

Perhaps it was a good thing that we were on the last tour of the day because we had plenty of time to enjoy the house and we were not rushed.  Jim and I enjoyed our day at Biltmore Estate very much and we highly recommend it.  To get the most out of your experience, be sure to visit their website at www.biltmore.com .  As a matter of fact, you will find several suggested itineraries on their website based on the number of days you have to visit or based on your priorities.

Judy Hardiman

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