Over the past two weeks, we have whisked our readers through a historical tour of Biltmore, the largest home in America. Within the stone walls, each sculpture, staircase, and piece of furniture has a plethora of stories to tell.
We only scraped the surface of those throughout our excursion in an effort to spark your interest, so that you too will want to venture into the estate’s rooms and hallways to experience this fascinating piece of American history. While the house has the ability to capture visitors interest for hours on end, there are almost seven thousand more acres of Blue Ridge countryside on the estate that await your discovery.
When Vanderbilt originally purchased the land, his vision included almost one-hundred thousand acres that stretched from the French Broad River well into the Great Balsam Mountains south of Asheville. In 1914, Edith Vanderbilt sold over eighty-thousand acres to the federal government in an effort to make the estate size more manageable. Those mountainous acres became a part of Pisgah National Forest, which was established as one of the first national forests in America. After finishing your visit on the grounds, consider hiking to the top of Mount Pisgah or driving the Blue Ridge Parkway to experience this former portion of the estate.
Modern Biltmore Estate still covers a sizeable chunk of southern Asheville, starting at Biltmore Village and continuing south all the way across the French Broad River to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Winding country roads, bicycle trails, and walking paths crisscross the open meadows and thick forests. Lush gardens spill over walls and vineyards dot the hillsides. Waterfalls, rivers, and a fishing lake offer inviting spots to cool off during hot summer afternoons.
Once you finish up your tour of the house, stop by the historic horse stables adjacent to the front plaza. Here you will find shops which offer a variety of unique gifts, from tasty dips and sauces in the Biltmore Carriage House to collectible ornaments at the Christmas shop. Before venturing to the gardens, grab a bite to eat at the Biltmore Courtyard Market or the Bake Shop, which offer snacks and lunch items. The Stable Café provides a full dining experience for those who wish to take things at a leisurely pace.
The Biltmore Gardens and Conservatory stretch out to the left of house. It’s best to bring walking shoes if you intend to explore them in their entirety, as there are several miles worth of trails which wander through the lush landscape. The Italian Garden features all manner of water gardens filled with water lily, lotus, and beautiful koi fish. Beyond that lies the shrub garden, whose paths lead into the Walled Garden on their way to the conservatory. Here the scenery changes throughout the months, with spring featuring the tulips for which Biltmore is famous. Summer sees annuals and perennials growing in immense numbers.
Surrounded by the delicate blooms of the Rose Garden sits the Biltmore Conservatory. By far our favorite area outside the main home, this brick and glass building is home to an astonishing variety of tropical plants, from cacti and palm trees to pitcher plants and orchids. The exotic colors, shapes, and smells engrossed us for well over an hour on our visit. If you want to take some of these plants home, stop by A Gardener’s Place, the gardening store located on the lower level of the Conservatory. Here you will also find the Conservatory Café, an open air dining area with light snacks and wines. Beyond lies the paths through Biltmore Azalea Garden and on to the Bass Pond.
After finishing up at the main house and grounds, drive on to Antler Hill Village, where shopping, dining, and more fun await. Start things off at the winery, where a behind-the-scenes tour offers a fascinating look at the process of making Biltmore’s exclusive line of wines. You can add several different wine-tasting tours, or opt for the candlelight tour which comes with wine and cheese tastings afterward. You can pick up a number of wines and other treats at the winery’s gift shop.
The village offers an entire day’s worth of activities. Three different restaurants provide plenty of choices for dining, while a working farm and playground will provide the kids with many things to do. Stop by the Biltmore Legacy Museum to discover more about the Vanderbilt’s long history, listen to a classical performance on the lush lawn, or check out the Outdoor Adventure Center. Here you can sign up for all kinds of outdoor activities.
Whether you enjoy horseback riding, cycling, or leisurely carriage rides, Biltmore will surely have something to fit your style. You can go rafting and paddle boarding down the French Broad, or fly fish along its peaceful banks. Hiking is an activity that is free with admission, so why not explore the twenty miles of trails which wind throughout the estate? More unconventional adventures wait for those who sign up for the off-road Land Rover tours; you can even have a sporting clay shooting class!
If you decide to base an Asheville vacation around Biltmore, they offer three different lodging options. The recently-opened Village Hotel sits in Antler Hill Village and offers mid-priced lodging close to all the activity of the village. Luxury awaits visitors who choose to stay at The Inn or the Cottage, both of which specialize in four-star accommodations for those who want to stay in style. More options are located just outside the grounds in historic Biltmore Village. Economy options such Hampton Inn contrast with the five-star excellence of The Grand Bohemian to provide are plenty of choices for any visitors. Whether you decide to visit for several hours or several days, we are sure that you’ll enjoy visiting this incredible piece of history and walk away just as awe-inspired as we were.