Biltmore Estate

Biltmore Estate

The Biltmore Estate is the largest privately owned house in the United States. It is an amalgamation of various styles, a smattering of the most favored details chosen by its primary owner, George Vanderbilt III, member of one of the wealthiest families at the time. Not having to administer the family business, George Vanderbilt, a humanitarian and art collector, set out to build a large estate fully supported with its own farm, dairy, and even power generation facility. It is an work of art in itself, a project dedicated to realizing the development of the full human experience. Included in it are rooms dedicated to hunting and shooting, exercising, billiards, smoking cigars, reading, socializing, and dining, the home incorporated everything George V wanted to dedicate his life towards. Full of art and antiques, it is a living museum.

The estate itself sits in Asheville, North Carolina. Although a large portion of it later became the Pisgah National Forest, the estate still incorporates nearly 8,000 acres. On it sits several hotels, a collection of restaurants and shops, a vineyard, and various experiences like horse riding, off road driving, and fly fishing.

Being the location of our original wedding engagement several years ago, we wanted to return to Biltmore to see it during the Christmas season. Inside the house are well over 40 Christmas trees and various other decorations. You can tour the house itself both in the day and at night, and we suggest doing both on your visit there. That way you won’t feel rushed in the evening when it gets busier. There are also great places to eat, and we suggest booking a dinner reservation to experience some quality dining. Of course, there is a winery on site so grabbing a glass of wine (we suggest anything white) is available and encouraged. Antler Village, an adjacent property to the house, also sports a new addition in 2017 called the Wine Bar, where you can grab a glass and relax.

Overall, despite the sophisticated nature of the experience, your children will find something to do here as well. We rewarded our son with time in their local farmyard and playground, where he ran around and burnt off some energy. Unfortunately, he did not fare well in the evening tour, but since our vehicle was so close to the house (because we arrived there first thing in the morning for an earlier visit), we could easily grab his stroller and let him relax as we toured the second time. Note: if you bring a stroller, you’ll get to ride up an elevator that happens to be one of the first in the nation installed in a private home.

This is a tremendous place to photograph, however, you are not allowed to shoot video or use a tripod inside the home, so you’ll want the earlier visit time to maximize usable light for shooting stills. Some popular areas include the basement layout, where you can tour the storerooms and kitchens and imagine the daily workings of the help who ran the place when it was occupied by the Vanderbilts and their guests. My favorite stop is the library, where you can actually see Napoleon Bonaparte’s chess set. Some art to notice are a pair of Renoirs in the Breakfast Room and a John Singer Sargent. I’d also suggest visiting the bass pond, a work of genius by Frederick Law Olmsted, who is also famous for designing New York’s Central Park. Created to maximize the habitat bass and panfish need to grow, you can walk around the edge of the lake and see the massive saucers that these fish create in the sand to build their nests when spawning. An adjustable skimming gravity fed gate at the end of the pool keeps the surface free of pond scum. It’s pretty impressive.

Although Christmas is an amazing time to visit, which was a favorite of the Vanderbilts, spring and summer can be just as rewarding. Given that the entire estate was designed to be a horticultural masterpiece, you can tour the gardens and see all of the various species on the property. We like the Italian Gardens especially (which is where we happened to get engaged.)

Front view of the Biltmore House
Garden Room
Breakfast Room
Master Bedroom