Just 84 miles South East of Gatlinburg, Tennessee – and all the beauty and fun the Great Smoky Mountains has to offer – is another adventure – Biltmore Estate. America’s largest private home is well worth a day trip to visit during your stay. Or consider a stopover to the French-style chateau when driving to or from the Smokies.
Located in Asheville, North Carolina, Biltmore Estate was George and Edith Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre country showplace. The estate includes the 250-room Biltmore House, 75 acres of famously landscaped gardens and an award-winning winery.
Biltmore House itself is 175,000 square feet – that is the square footage of four football fields. Consider that when you are watching the Super Bowl on Sunday.
George Washington Vanderbilt
George W. Vanderbilt was the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, who started the family fortune with a ferry service and a fleet of steamboats that made trips to Europe and Central America, according to The Blue Ridge Highlander. Later, Cornelius would invest in railroads to create a second family fortune and begin the family’s famous philanthropy endeavors. George W. Vanderbilt’s father doubled those assets as a financier.
George Vanderbilt traveled and appreciated the finer things in life – art, literature, fine furnishings, quality construction. He began building the Biltmore House in 1889 when he was 26 and before he married Edith Stuyvesant Dresser in 1898. George took on the job of leading the American aristocracy and expanding the family’s philanthropic legacy.
You’ll learn all about the Vanderbilts on one of the many tours offered at the Biltmore House. You will also hear about the 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and the full-sized swimming pool in the basement! You’ll learn about some of the many famous guests including English writer Henry James, who stayed for weeks at a time in one of the grand suites of rooms.
Tours and Tours and Tours
On a tour, expert guides either in person or recorded for a self-guided walk through, will take you through the art collections, the enormous library with its stunning ceiling mural and the bowling lanes. There’s a kid’s audio guide too – narrated by Cedric, the Vanderbilt’s Saint Bernard.
For even more at Biltmore House, consider also signing up for guided behind-the-scenes tour. The Upstairs-Downstairs Tour, open until Feb. 7, takes visitors down the backstairs and into the servants’ world and then into the grand bedrooms throughout the house. Biltmore Revealed Tour replaces Upstairs-Downstairs starting Feb 8 with an “exclusive glimpse of the Archives and unrestored rooms of Biltmore House.”
Landscaped, Renown Gardens
Whichever tours you choose, you’ll also learn about the more than 8,000 acres on which the Biltmore House sits, and the beautifully landscaped gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, considered the father of American Landscape architecture. You can take a Legacy of the Land Tour – a motor coach tour to “learn the history of the land, structures and former residents.”
Watch this short YouTube video with aerial views of the Biltmore house and the estate, along with the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.
The gardens and grounds began from seed by landscape architect Mr. Olmsted. He was hired by Vanderbilt to create a European country setting. He did that and more.
The Gardens and Conservatory
Biltmore gardens can be strolled and viewed year-round. Vanderbilt’s plans were for “several formal gardens – a four-acre Walled Garden, a 16th-century Italian Garden with three reflecting pools, and a dramatic Rampe Douce and Esplanade lined by an avenue of trees at the entrance to Biltmore House.” According to Biltmore literature, Olmsted also planned a Shrub Garden, a Lagoon and an elaborately designed three-mile Approach Road.
In winter, “the Spring Garden offers a glorious view on a clear afternoon. From the path above the east side of the garden, you can look back at the sun setting over the French Broad River and enjoy a view of the towering white pines silhouetted against the western sky.”
The Conservatory is filled with thousands of tropical plants and provides a warm and welcoming refuge on cold winter days. The Biltmore’s orchid display is at peak bloom January and February.
Admission to the Biltmore House, includes as much time as you like to walk the grounds. Could be a romantic February hand-holding, sneaking-kisses occasion. Valentine’s Day is this month, after all!
Vineyards, Winery and Food
While strolling the gardens or on a Biltmore House tour, you are bound to get hungry and thirsty. You’re in luck, because the Biltmore Estate Wine Company produces about 150,000 case of wine annually from grapes grown on its expansive vineyard. Check out this Biltmore Vineyard time-lapse video via Biltmore’s YouTube channel.
The estate’s winery includes free wine tastings as well as an indoor/outdoor wine bar. And of course, you can schedule a behind-the-scenes tour here as well. Or a red wine and chocolate tasting – yum! Attend wine and cheese hour on Fridays and Saturdays.
If you are craving something more substantial plus wine, Biltmore Estate offers several dining opportunities supplemented by the working farm on property and other locally sourced ingredients, including mountain trout and farmstead cheese, from farmers and suppliers.
From refined elegant dining – The Dining Room – to casual pub fair at Cedric’s Tavern, Biltmore Estate offers many food choices. Find a restaurant here. You don’t have to decide before you go, but you might have to wait. You can walk up, get on the list and get a pager to alert you so you can walk around and check out all the Biltmore shops with local art and jewelry, as well as plenty of souvenirs and even the Vanderbilt wines.
Formal, Casual and In-Between Food Options – All with a View
Did you find something you particularly enjoyed eating? Make it yourself when you get home with the recipes the Biltmore shares including this recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake, sure to be a favorite with dates, butter (a southern staple), dark brown sugar, molasses and vanilla. Mouth-watering sweet goodness.
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Contact and Follow Biltmore Estates
Hours: Jan. 7 – March 31 Admission gate daily 8:30-5:30. The Biltmore House is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Restaurants are open later, some until 11 p.m.