More Than Just A Mansion
Dubbed “American royalty,” the Vanderbilts are one of the wealthiest highly influential American families. Among their legacies sits the vast and luxurious 125,000-acre Biltmore Estate.
Today, the incredibly ornate mansion, museum, cottages, and grounds are a draw for thousands annually, from tourists to travelers seeking quiet retreat.
Originally intended for George Vanderbilt to visit with his mother, George and his wife Edith also wanted to create a marvel of elegance and charm to provide an experience for their guests. On Christmas Eve 1895 they opened the magnificent house to friends and family which to this day welcomes guests with the same spirit of invitation, opulence, inspiration, and renewal.
Highly conscientious even in the 19th century, Vanderbilt wanted to assure a balance of excellence and environmental sustainability. Though it took an army of craftsmen six years to complete the herculean task, the goal shared by famed architect Richard Morris Hunt was to preserve the natural beauty and create a self-sustaining estate that would nurture the land and its resources for years to come.
From this vision came the nation’s first planned forestry program for the U.S. Forestry Service, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (landscape designer for the White House and Capitol building in D.C., as well as New York’s Central Park). Biltmore was Olmsted’s last design, about which he said, “It is a great work of peace we are engaged in and one of these days we will all be proud of our parts in it.”
Visit and Tour
While the Biltmore house is certainly the headliner, visitors are surrounded with possibilities including shops, walking trails, several ways to stay, restaurants and eateries, historic tours, a winery, and a quaint riverside village.
If you only pick one tour, it must be the main house where you can choose from a self-guided visit or a small group and several sections including the roof, Biltmore Backstairs, and gardens.
Beyond the main house, venture out onto 20 miles of walking trails with breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge mountains and Olmstead’s famous landscape design. To learn with an expert, “Explore Westover Woods” is a two-mile classic style hike behind Antler Hill Village and the Inn.
Fun fact: This year, the estate will mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Olmsted, who was also responsible for the design of New York City’s Central Park and the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and White House.
Eat, Shop and Wine(ry)
When you exit the main house, the Stable Courtyard and The Stables provide an array of shopping for high-end jewelry and fashion, gifts, chocolates, a Bake Shop and Café, and the year-round Christmas Shop.
In Antler Village, take your pick from Cedric’s Tavern, where Chef Powell makes classic English pub fare contemporary, to the European styled Bistro, an open kitchen concept where you can watch chefs prepare meals with award-winning Biltmore wines and menus featuring farm-to-table produce and meats from the estate itself.
When the winery opened to the public Vanderbilt grandson and current CEO William (Bill) Cecil proclaimed it was “the most historic event since my grandfather opened this estate to his family on Christmas Day ninety years ago.” Biltmore wines are available in 19 states and shipped nationally, but here, guests sample the finest reserve and sparkling wines right at the source.
Design your own stay choosing from the Village Hotel, Inn, and newest addition, the Cottages. The latter, four historic homes beautifully updated and offering an oasis of service, style, and charm, designed to make you feel you’re a personal guest of the Vanderbilts. Down by the river they provide a unique, secluded setting.
The Village Hotel invites a relaxing casual stay just a short stroll from Antler Hill Village.
Or wrap yourself in stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains at the four-star award-winning Inn on Biltmore Estate, which was opened in response to the chorus of requests to “stay in the Biltmore House.”
Whatever you choose, Biltmore is perfectly located among the history, art, architecture, dining, and natural wonder that Asheville has to offer.
Plan at least one full weekend at this distinctive estate for enough time to explore, and experience a visit worthy of the Vanderbilt legacy.