On our last day in Ashville we visited the famous Biltmore Estate, which is the main attraction around the Asheville area. It takes around 30 minutes to drive to get there from the city center.
Biltmore Estate is a huuuge area that includes multiple attractions, it really takes 20 minutes to get from the Estate entrance to get to the Biltmore House (or Biltmore Mansion). The main residence, is a Châteauesque-style mansion built for George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895 and is the largest privately-owned house in the United States, at 178,926 sq ft (16,622.8 m2) of floor space (135,280 square feet of living area).
Still owned by George Vanderbilt’s descendants, it remains one of the most prominent examples of Gilded Age mansions.
The tickets to get in are a ridiculous $120 USD and sell out months in advance, the price is about 4 times more expensive than the Palace of Versailles in France and Hearst Castle in California. Spoiler alert…. it is not better than either of those.
The ticket has a specific time when you are allowed into the house. The tour is a self-guided tour with an Audioguide that is interesting at times. It was pouring rain while we waiting for our entry time, so we took refugee until the rain calmed down a little bit.
We lined up when our time was callout out.
Each room is explained in detail with some interesting facts and other very boring explanations. It takes about 1.5 hours to walk through the house. There is very low light during the tour, so this photos have been processed to increase the light significantly.
The dinning hall looks straight out of a European castle. You don’t get much time to enjoy the rooms as there is a single one-way line walking from room to room.
The most interesting room (for Eitan) was this one as the story is fascinating. It was during the winter of 1942 when an unusual array of guests arrived at Biltmore House. Accompanied by guards on their journey from Washington, D.C., 62 paintings and 17 sculptures from the National Gallery of Art were carried into the house and placed in the Music Room (photo below).
It was a critical time in the nation’s capitol, and in 1941 during World War II, American leaders based there began to fear the possibility of an attack. An air raid on a major U.S. city seemed likely. German submarines had been sited along the Atlantic Coast from Maine to North Carolina, bringing the war uncomfortably close to the American shore.
The unfinished Music Room on the first floor of Biltmore House was refitted with steel doors and other protective measures were taken, as outlined by the National Gallery of Art. On January 8, 1942, the paintings and sculptures arrived in Asheville.
Every room had some interesting art and artifacts to see.
The famous straicase is very nice. But Sarah took Ariela up the 1895 elevator to the second floor! it is one of the oldest elevators still in operation.
The swimming pool does not have water, making it a walking pool. This one does not compare to the pools that you see during the Hearst Castle tour.
We continued the tour around the lower levels where you can see the kitchen, maid quarters, gym, etc.. it was sooooo hot in there that we really walked fast to get out of there.
Ariela was more interested in the ribbon than the actual house. Cant blame her for that.
It is known that ghosts make appearances around the property, and we were very lucky to see the ghost of a cleaning lady while we were there.
After the mansion, we stopped for lunch at the main restaurant. To our surprise the food was delicious! we ordered a sampler of BBQ food.
Ariela paid the bill.
After lunch we walked around the nice grounds around the mansion. Ariela was highly distracted by the rocks on the ground and made this small walk a very inefficient one! luckily the rain was gone!
We continued to the botanical gardens. Unfortunately, they don’t really have any stroller access. Ariela did great walking those hundreds of stairs!
The botanical gardens are pretty small and uninteresting.
The estate is huge! this map only shows the mansion area, which is like 10% of the whole grounds.
We walked back to the car to drive to the villa.
Vanderbilt’s idea was to replicate the working estates of Europe. He asked Richard Morris Hunt and Frederick Law Olmsted to design a village with architecturally compatible buildings and picturesque landscaping.
He intended it to be a source of income through rental cottages, a place to help carry out philanthropic programs, and an easy point of access between the estate and the train station. The result was Biltmore Village.
The ticket includes wine tasting with the caveat that you have to reserve it once you arrive at the mansion. People who don’t research this in advance will miss out on this. The wine surprisingly was pretty tasty. Sarah was in heaven.
After the tasting, we walked around the villa. There were a couple interesting stops to see here. Like a small museum with artifacts that the family had brought or were gifted throughout the years. Some cool stuff like samurai swords and antiques can be seen here.
The museum explains in detail the whole story about how the Vanderbilt family canceled their trip on the Titanic at the last minute, and how one of the family members was sailing in the RMS Lusitania when it was torpedoed by a german U-boat (submarine) during WW1 killing 1,200 passengers. If you are interested, the whole story can be read here:
There was a temporary small “Around the World” miniature exhibit made out of natural materials like wood, seeds, etc… pretty cool!!
They had a Monet exhibit, and while we didn’t go in because we are uncultured creatures, we took advantage of the outdoor exhibits set up for nice photo opportunities. Exhibit A: Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge (with a Sarah), Monet 1899 with a touch of 1986.
Another section had some farm equipment, but by then we were absolutely exhausted and decided to head back to town to have dinner and a a drink.
The price is enough to rate this attraction about 3 out of 5 stars because as you can imagine, it is not 4 times better than Versailles (Not even close to as good as Versailles), but this is what we have in the US. But what really killed this attraction was the lack of stroller/wheelchair access. It was nearly impossible to visit the Biltmore with the stroller and had to carry it and Ariela dueing most of the visit. It was seriously exhausting to visit the property with an infant and I do not recommend it.
Final family photo!! cheers!
After the visit to the Biltmore Estate we stopped at the New Belgium Brewery. We knew this brand and consume it at home but the beers here were quite disappointing, to quote Sarah: “they lack carbonation”. We thought we could have dinner here but they only had a small food truck with pizza. We got one small one to tie us over until we get to a good dinner place.
We found a pretty well-rated taco place that served very unique tacos like Kimchi, Gyro, Jackfruit, pork belly etc… Eitan was hesitant at first but we decided to try it out. It was very delicious.
Bonus Fact of the Day:
The Biltmore estate is a common place to take photos for Quinceanera parties and cant blame them. This looks like something that came out of a Disney princes movie.