No trip to Asheville is complete with a visit to the Biltmore Estate – an American castle!!
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Somehow, living the vast majority of my life in North Carolina, I have never actually been to the Biltmore Estate.
Arguably America’s most legit castle (but definitely the largest privately-owned home in the US), it’s one of the best tastes of old-world opulence here in the States. So when we got invited to a wedding in Asheville, my friends and I jumped at the chance to make a day of it by way of Biltmore!
Not knowing what to expect, the driveonto the grounds felt like the beginnings of a state park: a small unmarked road winding through woods and over hills with very few signs or turn-offs. Eventually we found a parking lot for the ticket sale booth with a guide who waved us forward after a look at our tickets.
After another five minute drive (are we really heading to a castle at this point, or a campground?) we hit another parking lot. We jumped onto a shuttle which took us straight to the Biltmore!
First impression: big. So big. Bigger than I expected a castle in the North Carolina mountains to be. I was also surprised that the front isn’t symmetrical, but the more I looked, the more I liked that about it.
We didn’t leave ourselves a ton of wiggle room before our entry time, so after killing five minutes in the front (taking pictures of course) we were ushered in the front door.
Right away, you’re smacked in the face with the sheer scale of the place. Every room on the main floor is enormous, larger than any stretch of need you could imagine. Pure lavishness. Room after room of luxurious decor.
The dining room had an organ. An ORGAN.
Still the dining room. Gorgeous!
One of my favorite things ended up being the ceilings. Seriously, this place has the most intricate ceilings I’ve ever seen.
Currently, Biltmore has a temporary exhibit – built right into the house tour – of period gowns and wedding dresses from films. I recognized a few from Sense & Sensibility and the Duchess, and they all were beautiful! Somehow it made it feel even more like you were just about to run into the Vanderbilt family straight from 1895 around every corner.
On the upper floors, we walked through at least 10 bedrooms. They ranged from Mr. Vanderbilt’s bedroom (separate from Mrs. Vanderbilt, because propriety I guess?) to other family members’ rooms to guest rooms, complete with personalized name cards marking where everyone was to sleep.
Next: the basement level contained a funny mix of servant’s quarters, kitchens, and some of the more unusual entertainments the Vanderbilts included, including a bowling alley…
And a pool!
After our “house” tour – I put it in quotations because can you really call this behemoth a house? – we explored the grounds. There’s acres of gardens, hiking trails, manicured lawns, and everything in between.
Also found: koi ponds. Armando and I of course tried to pet the fish.
Armando succeeded, much to everyone’s surprise. His advice: don’t pet the fish.
We lucked out with the timing of our visit: everything was at the height of blooms. I may have wandered off from my friends and spent a ridiculous amount of time photographing the greenhouses. There was even a harpist inside one of them, perfect for a moment to be still and soak up the lovely flowers and music!
To round out our Biltmore day, we headed over to the winery for a tasting!
With over twenty wines to taste, you’ve got your pick! We had the best time, especially because the gentleman leading us through the tasting was the perfect mix of not pretentious but knowledgeable. He would bring us one and have us guess which it was, or how to breathe a sip to get more out of the flavor.
If you find yourself in the Asheville area, Biltmore is a fantastic way to spend the day!
For weekends, get a reservation. Tickets are also cheaper in advance, so planning is your friend.