GO! You should totally go! Everyone goes to the Biltmore house!
An Honest Biltmore Estate Review
So let’s just start by saying that few things make us more skeptical than “everyone goes to [fill in the blank].”
When thinking of a mega-popular tourist destination we generally picture a hostile environment with crowds, long lines, bad food and potential mayhem. No thanks, we’ll pass.
So when considering visiting The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC — which is billed as “America’s largest private residence,” our initial reaction was “that sounds insufferable.”
This is the story of how we were totally wrong.
Darren was especially skeptical, but having been won over by photos of the Biltmore Estate gardens I countered with “So what if it’s cheesy? We can go outside!”
And so a few weeks later we arrived at the Biltmore gates with a couple of picnic sandwiches and more than a little skepticism.
We parked, picked up a map and went inside to find that we were not allowed to take pictures inside the home but had the option of listening to a guided tour on a portable phone. “That’s different,” we thought, and (possibly foolishly) opted out of the phone tour.
While we will never know all of the juicy details we missed on the phone tour, we preferred to go rogue by asking specific questions of the very knowledgeable guides stationed in each room. And you know what? That was perfect for us. You’ve got to hand it to the guides, they know so much about the family and the estate, and we had our full attention on every detail of the environment.
Make no mistake – this experience will give you a taste of opulence at its peak. And while for most of us that’s not personally relatable, you’ve got to hand it to the Vanderbilts for dreaming up their own personal village and keeping it a bustle of industry over several generations.
If you’re a little nerdy, you may appreciate the history of this estate, which dates back to 1895 when they broke ground. Here’s a very abbreviated list of highlights:
- The estate was built between 1889 and 1896 by (auspiciously named) George Washington Vanderbilt, whose older siblings all built their lavish estates in the northeast.
- Having fallen in love with Asheville, he decided to build his estate there instead. “I’ll show them,” he must have thought, “I will build the most resplendent French Rennaisance chateau-inspired estate of them all!” And he totally did.
- The house is almost 179K square feet (yah, thousand).
- The property covers 8,000 acres and is divided by the French Broad river.
- Aside from the main house, there’s now an Inn, a separate village built for the estate employees, a dairy-turned-winery, and a small farm on the premises.
If you’re a fan of PBS’ Downton Abbey, you will geek out over being in a real-life version of that environment — there are servant’s quarters, a downstairs kitchen, and a massive, crazy indoor pool (with cabanas, even!). In fact, there was an exhibit of some of the Downton cast’s original costumes on display during our visit, so someone at Biltmore is savvy enough to tap into that trend. Honestly, with The Great Depression looming 30ish years in the future, we wondered how perfectly this estate captured the wealth and abundance of the time…which must have stood in stark relief against the harder times of the early 20th century.
And fast-forwarding to the grounds as a tourist attraction, there’s just no way to cover all of the details of the estate.
But to cut to the chase, the summary of our Biltmore Estate review is: GO. Why? Because:
- The grounds are so big that you will need at least a full day to explore.
- Visiting the house is a fascinating socio-cultural look at a page torn right out of history.
- This may be the closest the U.S. has to visiting a centuries-old European castle.
- The outdoor grounds are absolutely magical (see below), perfect for you fellow nature-lovers.
- Entrance gains you a winery tour replete with history and with the bonus of wine samples.
- There are planned/guided activities available if you are inclined.
If any of the above appeals to you, you will enjoy a day at the Biltmore. Take it from a couple of skeptics.
The Biltmore Estate appealed to our appreciation of nature, culture, history, and ummm…wine. Go on a beautiful day to enjoy the stunning grounds!
While Darren captures the eye candy, Lisa’s in charge of the words around here. She wants you to prioritize travel because self-discovery and wonder are good for you. Have you downloaded our free travel wallpaper files to remind you of this daily? You totally should.
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