Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C. first started in 1895 as a Vanderbilt family estate, and is still family-owned today even though it has become a popular tourist attraction. The grounds at Biltmore feature a historic house known as the largest in the United States on 8,000 acres of land. It also features a number of gardens and the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
It took six years for a group of builders to erect Biltmore, modeled after 16th century French chateaus. The mansion has 250 rooms, including 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. Biltmore’s basement houses a swimming pool, gymnasium, servants’ lodging, kitchens, and a bowling alley. George Vanderbilt had traveled the world and fell in love with the mountains surrounding Asheville, and commanded that Biltmore be erected on the site.
Today, Biltmore Estate has two on-site lodging options for guests, which are the Inn on Biltmore Estate and the Cottage on Biltmore Estate. The Inn is ranked as a four-star hotel by AAA, and offers luxurious hotel accommodations with a touch of historic elegance. It opened in 2001, and in 2009 that property will undergo extensive guest room renovations. Each room is environmentally friendly, including “green” mattresses and lighting, and Vanderbilt-style décor.
The Cottage is more intimate housing that offers the class expected from a Vanderbilt family residence. It is a personal cottage with two bedrooms and two bathrooms, and also comes with the services of a personal butler. The house was designed by Richard Howland Hunt, the son of Biltmore House architect Richard Morris Hunt. Over the years, the cottage has served as the private residence of Biltmore’s market gardener and also guest accommodations for VIPs visiting the grounds.
Biltmore Estate offers all ticketed guests, regardless of where they choose to stay in the Asheville area, a wide variety of recreational opportunities. Visitors can participate in a number of activities including Land Rover driving experiences, fly-fishing, horseback riding, carriage rides, biking, hiking, and river float trips. There are 80 miles of estate trails at Biltmore, some which flow along the banks of the French Broad River.
For those looking to experience more of Biltmore’s rich history, there are six estate dining options and a number of shops. One of the most popular attractions includes the Wine Shop and Winery. The Wine Shop sells gourmet food, accessories for cooking and dining, and fine Biltmore Estate Wines. Biltmore’s Winery is the most visited in the United States, drawing more than one million people each year. The first vineyards on the property were established in 1971, and current offerings include the award-winning libations Biltmore Estate® Chenin Blanc, Biltmore Estate™ Pinot Noir, and Biltmore Estate® Château Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
The gardens at Biltmore boast more than 250 varieties of roses and the first managed forests in the United States. The property also hosts River Bend Farm, an authentic working replica of farm life in the 1890s. River Bend Farm offers farm animals, antique equipment, craft demonstrations, authentic shopping and eating, and a kitchen garden.