What is over 178,000 square feet, has over 250 rooms, 33 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, a seven story formal dining room, is the largest house in the United States and was the one destination that Mama Nomad asked for as a Christmas present? That would be the awe-inspiring Biltmore House located at the heart of The Biltmore Estate.
The Nomads made a trip to this 8,000 acre estate, complete with gardens, bass ponds, America’s most visited winery and, of course, the palatial Biltmore House. There is so much to see at The Biltmore Estate that you literally cannot get it all completed in one day. As such, we’ll cover the highlights here and you can visit the grounds to experience the details.
We began our exploration of the estate with the main house. We have many pictures of the outside. The exterior of the house has so many intricate details chiseled into it. It seems with every turn there is a V for Vanderbilt, some sort of face or creature and an abundance of acorns that adorn the outside.
However, they do not allow pictures to be taken on the inside. I inquired as to the reason and they said that some of the art in the house is copyrighted and that the camera flash can damage paintings. So, we’ll just have to rely upon my ability to convey in words. Which, I am forewarning you, nothing will compare to seeing it all for yourself.
As you walk in, you are greeted by an attendant wanting to check your tickets. Afterwards, as we entered the main foyer, we were told that they were offering complementary audio programs to the guests. I am not sure if this costs extra at other times of the year. However, if they do charge and it is not outrageous in price, I would highly recommend it. It really added a super enhancement to our experience. It does a very good job of describing everything you see in each room.
We grabbed our complementary audio programs and began our tour, which started with the winter garden. This is essentially an indoor garden a couple of stories tall with a glass ceiling. It allowed guests to enjoy greenery even in the dead of winter.
As we progressed through all of the rooms, one thing that we all noticed was the attention to detail. There were so many intricate details in each room’s decorations, construction, furniture and accompaniments that it was truly mind-boggling. I swear I said “wow” in almost every room!
As previously stated, there is simply too much to try to cover in one post just within the house alone. So, I’ll give you a list of all of the rooms you will explore and then give you a few interesting tidbits we learned while we were there. The following are all of the rooms that you will explore.
2nd Floor Living Hall
Mr. Vanderbilt’s Room
Oak Sitting Room
Mrs. Vanderbilt’s Room
3rd Floor Living Hall
|3rd Floor Hallway
Louis XV Hallway
Tyrolean Chimney Room
Louis XV Room
Louis XV Bath
2nd Floor Hallway
Swimming Pool (Indoor)
Servants’ Dining Room
Main Laundry & Drying
Bachelors’ Wing Hallway
Three tidbits that we learned that I found very interesting were hidden doors, the story of Cornelius and white floor stones.
Mr. Vanderbilt built hidden looking doors into the walls that allowed for the continuity of the rooms to not be disturbed as well as convenience to the guests. For instance, there was a hidden door that went from the male guest rooms down to the billiard room. There was a similar door for the library that allowed guests to go straight to the library, get a book and return to their room.
While in the Breakfast Room, you will see a painting of Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt. He is the grandfather of George Washington Vanderbilt. Cornelius was the one who began the family’s fortune. He borrowed $100 from his mother to buy a boat and ferried people across a waterway. He liked the transportation industry and he grew than $100 into a $100 million fortune.
Finally, with so many rooms comes a lot of doors. When they are closed and you need to find a bathroom, how do you do so? Each bathroom has white marble laid across the floor of the threshold of the bathroom. It can be seen with the doors closed. So, when the urge hit a guest, they could easily find a bathroom.
We concluded the self-guided tour in about 2 hours. Afterwards we exited the main house and took a left towards the area where the horses and carriages were kept. The area has been converted into shops and a restaurant. When you go into the restaurant, each stall that housed a horse was converted into a dining table. And the hay loft was converted into overflow seating.
We left the stable area and journeyed to the rear of the home where the South Terraces, Italian Garden, Walled Garden, Conservatory, Bass Pond and other seasonal gardens are located. When you walk out onto the South Terraces, you run into Greek looking statues and you have a breath-taking view of the mountain range.
Walking down the back side of the South Terraces will lead you to the Walled Garden. This is a four-acre formal garden planted in the “bedding out” style that was popular in the 1800s. When you walk down its main 236 foot arbor walkway you will arrive at the Conservatory.
When you enter the Conservatory you are met with a plethora of plants and floral scents. There were hundreds and hundreds of different plants, trees, flowers and cacti within this building. One rooms was completely filled with sweet-smelling orchids. Walking around this building full of life in the dead of winter can really make you forget the cold outside.
Once we were finished exploring all of the various garden areas, we decided to take the shuttle back to the free parking lot where Ebony was parked. We jumped into our SUV and decided to head to Antler Hill Village. This is where the Vanderbilts had an operational dairy. It is still on the 8,000 acre Biltmore Estate property. Although it is a five-mile drive to get there.
Antler Hill Village is no longer a working dairy. It was relocated and then finally sold to PET. Once the dairy was no longer there, George Vanderbilt’s grandson, William A. V. Cecil, decided to carry on his grandfather’s agricultural focus and converted the dairy buildings into a winery.
The winery opened its doors in 1985. It now sells over a million bottles of wine a year and is the most visited winery in the United States. There are multiple entrances to get into the winery, wine tasting and store. We opted to take the “tunnel.” This was a tunnel that went underground down a long stone tunnel that had various educational stopping points to learn about the history of the place.
At the end of the stone tunnel, The Nomads engaged a guide and we were afforded a private winery tour. That’s right. Just The Nomads and the guide, Decland. He walked us through the history of the property, explaining the various stages up until present day.
On a side note, he showed us a four-sided clock tower that is still all original from when the building was constructed in the early 1900s. The clock does not run off of electricity. It has a 200 pound bag of sand that works with pulleys and gears. Every week they have to pull the bag back up to the top of the clock and its weight keeps the clock going for another week.
As we entered the winery, we saw a unique piece of history that was not wine related. We saw George Vanderbilt’s first car. It is a 1913 Stevens-Duryea, 7 passenger, 54 horse power automobile. They actually drove it on the property until the 1970s. After which they took it out of operation and placed it into a showcase. It is one of only 10 of these models still in existence in the world!
After the history of the car The Nomads were given a wine 101 class on the tour. We learned about horizontal tanks, vertical tanks, hydraulic presses, French oak barrels, American oak barrels and more. We were also taught how champagne is made and why some are higher quality than others. It was all extremely educational and fascinating all at the same time.
The end of the tour dropped us in the wine tasting room. We were given a list of wines and their characteristics. There were a total of 25 or so on the list. You can try all 25 if you wish. The server attends to all who are at the tasting and continues to ask what next and then pours another tasting. Some wines were average and others were great. We did not try any that we thought were horrible. They even had grape juice for The Nomads that were under 21.
After a fine time at the wine tasting, we traversed into the wine and souvenir store (which was between us and the exit). Some of us goofed around with the souvenirs, specifically the hats. We keep it entertaining. Once we were finished goofing around and finished with the store, we decided to call it a day. Our trip to Biltmore Estates was one filled with wonderment and fascination. It was equal mixes of history, education and entertainment. Mama Nomad was happy with her Christmas present and is already talking about a return trip in the future to be able to hike all of the trails that we did not have time to explore.
If you are in the Asheville area, I would recommend that you take some time and visit the Biltmore Estate. It is definitely worth exploring and we all considered it time very well spent. Safe Travels.