Tips for Visiting the Biltmore Estate
Beautiful oak trees and old buildings line the curvy roads of Asheville, North Carolina. Little would you suspect that Napoleon Bonaparte's original ivory chess set or a ceiling painting removed from an Italian palace is hidden away in a mansion near the small artsy town.
The mansion, the largest house in the United States, is part of the Biltmore Estate built by George Vanderbilt in 1895. George was the heir to a $10,000,000 fortune made by his grandfather, Cornelius, and his father, William Vanderbilt, who were in the shipping industry of steamboats and the railroad.
An impressive gatehouse bears entrance to the five mile long driveway. Yes, five miles. As the shuttle bus leaves the parking lot, the driver shows the first glimpse of the mansion. Was this really the private residence of a family of three? Why yes, yes it was indeed.
The front entrance is intricate carved stone. The stone was shaped by English carving masters. The inside of the house is just as intricate as the outside. The tour starts from the indoor garden and travels through rooms such as the billiard room, which has been exquisitely furnished with leather chairs, animal heads, custom designed billiard tables, and an amazingly detailed plastered ceiling. Be sure to notice disguised doors on both sides of the fireplace.
As the tour continues, step into an amazing room with 70-foot high vaulted ceilings, a dining table longer than a bus, a triple 30-foot wide fireplace, and a church organ. This room is the dining hall, and was designed to feel like an English castle. It is a house fit for a king. Some of the furniture is even painted gold.
Reading was one of Mr. Vanderbilt's passions. It’s no surprise he had a massive library. The library holds ten thousand volumes. A balcony winds around the room to a hidden passage leading to other floors of the house.
Not to be missed is the basement, which holds the first ever home bowling alley and the “Halloween Room,” a room where guests painted on the walls at a party. There are also dressing rooms to prepare for all of the different activities available on the estate such as hiking, carriage rides, croquet, and swimming in the 70,000 gallon indoor swimming pool. Being fit was in fashion even back in the early, and guests were able to work out in the home gym.
Want to stay the night? The Inn at the Biltmore Estate, situated on Antler Hill, opened in 2001. It has 201 rooms providing nightly turndown service complete with chocolates, wi-fi, -count linens, pool, hot-tub, and the Inn library with wonderful views. After a long day of walking, treat yourself to a massage at the fitness center or enjoy breakfast or dinner at the Inn dining room.
The Biltmore grounds has lots of outdoor activities such as segways, extreme driving lessons and ride alongs, fly fishing, kayak rental, bike rentals, horseback riding, and carriage rides. Prices vary from $5-$250. Or simply just stroll the gardens with the price of admission.
There are 12 restaurants on the property to fit every budget. Most of them serve locally-produced foods. A winery resides in the old dairy section of the farm. It was established in 1971 and has become one of the most visited wineries in the United States! Enjoy free wine tasting in an converted old milking barn.
The Biltmore Estate makes for a great day trip or weekend getaway. Prices vary from $60 for an adult daytime pass, $30 for kids 10-16, and free for kids 9 and under. Coupon codes can be easily found online. If you’re desiring a weekend at a French chateau but don’t want to cross the ocean, consider a visit to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.
Nathanael Nims is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program.
All photos courtesy and copyright Nathanael Nims