The Biltmore Experience

BiltmoreThe Biltmore Experience

Biltmore

Part museum, part vineyard, part botanical garden and part outdoor adventure, Biltmore is much more than a house. George Vanderbilt’s French Renaissance chateau remains the largest private residence in America and offers a vacation experience for all five senses.

The House
Most first-time guests will start by touring Vanderbilt’s extraordinary house. Opulent beyond imagination, The Biltmore House covers four acres by itself, totaling 175,000 square feet. It has 250 rooms, contains priceless antiques and art from masters such as Renoir, 65 fireplaces, an indoor pool, and a bowling alley. You’ll delight at the sight of massive, magnificent 16th century tapestries, a library with 10,000 volumes, and even Napoleon’s chess set.

The Gardens
Outside the house, you can explore acres of beautiful gardens, which are actually a collection of individually themed displays. From the Italian Garden with its three symmetrical pools and classic statuary, to the glass-roofed Conservatory that grows tropical plants and orchids year-round, to the 15-acre Azalea Garden, Biltmore’s gardens can provide inspiration to even the most accomplished green thumb.

The Winery
The surprises continue when you step out of America’s biggest home and into America’s most-visited winery, a destination that welcomes more than 600,000 visitors each year, outpacing all the wineries of California. Take time to tour the cellars, fermentation room, and corking area, and then taste samples of Biltmore wine. Afterward, you can listen in as Biltmore’s chefs share some of their culinary secrets. You can also take part in the “Red Wine & Chocolate” seminar, a luscious and sweet treat that could totally change your appreciation of wine pairings.

The Village
Pedestrian-friendly Antler Hill Village, right next to the Winery, is a bustling center of activity, with live entertainment on the village green, food, shopping and an Outdoor Adventure Center. All village venues depict aspects of the estate’s history. The Biltmore Legacy exhibition features interactive displays, historic furnishings and current products from “Biltmore For Your Home,” dedicated to estate-inspired designs. Named after one of the Vanderbilt family dogs, Cedric’s Tavern offers classic fare in a relaxed pub atmosphere. You can top that off with ice cream and gourmet coffee at the old-fashioned Creamery.

Outdoor Adventures
But even after you’ve toured the house, explored the gardens, sampled the wines, and shopped a bit, there’s still more to do. Your Biltmore experience can also encompass a variety of outdoor activities: hiking, biking, kayaking, or horseback riding; tours by carriage ride, river raft, or Segway; lessons in how to fly fish, shoot sporting clays or drive a Land Rover through off-road obstacles. The Outdoor Adventure Center provides the perfect jumping-off point for an exploration of the estate’s 8,000 acres. Originally 125,000 acres, Vanderbilt’s widow deeded much of the land around the estate to the federal government to help create what would become the Pisgah National Forest.

The Forest
On the advice of Frederick Law Olmsted, the “Founding Father of American Landscape Architecture,” Vanderbilt hired a trained forester named Gifford Pinchot, who was succeeded by Dr. Carl Schenck. Thanks to the men dedicated to managing Vanderbilt’s land, the forest around Biltmore sparked the beginnings of American forestry and became home to a renowned forestry school. Because of the success of the Biltmore Forest, President Lyndon Johnson deemed it the “Cradle of Forestry in America” by an Act of Congress in 1968.

If you visit the Forest anytime except winter, you can take off on a guided trail and tour life in the late 1800s, complete with an antique saw mill and historic cabins. Kids will marvel at the workings of a 1915 logging train and modern-day, fire-fighting helicopter simulator. You can also explore the Forest Discovery Center and the nearby “Pink Beds” which begin to bloom with azalea, mountain laurel and rhododendron in late April and early May. A picnic break in this colorful spot is the perfect complement to a day of grandeur in the North Carolina mountains.

Malia Kline

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