- Biltmore Estate and Winery
The Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC is the largest home in the United States. Conceived by bachelor, George Vanderbilt, while in his 20’s, it was completed in 1890. The house was opened to the public in 1930, but is still owned by the family and George’s great grandson Bill Cecil, Jr. is the CEO of these extensive operations.
So where does one start when talking about the Biltmore? I would recommend this day trip for Gracehill guests who are staying here four nights or longer. That gives you a couple of days close to the inn before heading over the mountain to spend a full day at Biltmore.
Getting there is part of the experience. As you can tell by the map there are a lot of options. If you go to Google Maps they will want to send you via the purple/olive route. I recommend the red/olive route (alternate 1). It is a few less miles and scenic for at least the first 15 miles. In average traffic it will take 2 hours or a little longer. If you want to take three hours, and take the scenic route up and over the mountain, start off with the red route, then pink (alternate 2) to where it ties into the olive green. If you are going to use this route, I suggest getting an early start. I can pack you a picnic breakfast to go that you can eat at one of the overlooks in the National Park. You’ll still make Biltmore by opening time and can see the sunrise from 5500 ft.
Okay so most guests don’t want to miss breakfast here. If you don’t, don’t worry, your feet will still wear out before you run out of daylight touring the Biltmore grounds. If you are a glutton for punishment, don’t get off the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Soco Gap. Stay on the Blue Ridge where the map turns into burgundy. This route will be at least four hours. Basically what you are doing is driving through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and onto the Blue Ridge Parkway for the entire trip. I did it once and it was nice, but I’d only consider doing it again if I were just driving from Asheville to Gracehill without wanting to do a lot of other site seeing in Asheville. Whichever way you go, I suggest coming back to Gracehill the olive/red route (alternate 1), which means if you haven't eaten dinner in Asheville, grab a bite coming through Gatlinburg.
What will you see at the Biltmore House? “House” is a bit of an understatement. The Biltmore “Mansion” doesn’t quite do it justice either. It is more like a castle, but without the cannons on the ramparts and moat. Old George had incredible vision and the where-with-all to bring it to fruition. The generations since haven’t been too shabby either with their additions to the property these last 25 years.
A few stats- The Biltmore House covers roughly, 4 acres, 175,000 sq feet and encompasses 250 rooms, many of which are on the tour. Rather than feeling you are touring an enormous museum, you feel the family just stepped out a few weeks earlier to catch a flight to William and Kate’s wedding. As big as the house is, including it’s enormously high ceilings, I wouldn’t take the house tour if you have claustrophobia. There will be a LOT of people being herded through with you. For the average person, you won’t notice you’re bumping up against someone else, as you are too busy gawking at everything. So, what is my favorite part of the tour? The flower arrangements! I’d love to be a fly on the wall in the flower shop for a few days watching the Biltmore florists craft their particular brand of art.
Outside of the house, the gardens and grounds are extensive. There is the Biltmore Winery, River Bend Farm, the Deerpark area, restaurants, and shopping to name a few with many activities including bike riding, guided specialty tours, motor coach tours, horseback riding, etc.
So, while trying to decide which photo’s to use for this article, I saw the fine print in the Biltmore Estate brochure. I knew you couldn’t take photos inside the house, but they also say you can’t use any photos of the exterior of the house for anything other than personal use. I do consider My Guests to be in the realm of “personal,” but I decided to not push the issue and just picked a garden shot. Click on the link to their site and you’ll see enough pictures to wet your appetite. PS: Feel free to snap away at Gracehill. Bring a spare battery and memory card while you’re at it!
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View Biltmore Estate in a larger map