Thursday, September 18, 2014

Biltmore Estate, Asheville North Carolina

We got up really early on Tuesday. After a quick shower and fresh-baked Trader Joe's Almond Croissants, we were out the door before 8 AM. I was disappointed when we weren't able to see all that we could have at the Ford Museum and Village, because we had gotten a late morning start. I felt the Biltmore tickets were pricey enough that we should make an effort to take full advantage of our day.

Note: To get the best price for seniors, plan your visit for a Tuesday or Wednesday. For non-seniors, the further ahead you book your tickets online, the bigger the discount. I believe I was told that online tickets purchased two or four weeks in advance are the same price as Senior tickets.  Also weekends tickets cost more. So if you every have the opportunity to go, plan ahead. Be sure to get the audio tour. It was chock full of interesting information and allowed you to go at your own pace. Also our early morning arrival was great because the house was far less crowded. We noticed how full it had become as we finished our house tour.

The Biltmore Estate in Asheville South Carolina is the largest single-family home in the United States. We learned so much about it, it is hard to summarize it all for a post. So here's what Wikipedia says:

Biltmore Estate is a large private estate and tourist attraction in AshevilleNorth Carolina. Biltmore House, the main house on the estate, is a Châteauesque-styled mansion built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895 and is the largest privately owned house in the United States, at 178,926 square feet (16,622.8 m2)[2] of floor space (135,280 square feet (12,568 m2) of living area) and featuring 250 rooms. Still owned by one of Vanderbilt's descendants, it stands today as one of the most prominent remaining examples of the Gilded Age, and of significant gardens in the jardin à la française and English Landscape garden styles in the United States. In 2007, it was ranked eighth in America's Favorite Architecture by the American Institute of Architects.

Photos of the inside of the house were not allowed. All I can say is it was amazing. I have been to Versailles and Windsor. The Biltmore Estate is on the same scale and level of luxury. 

Our next stop on the Estate were the gardens. September is an odd month. Far too late for spring Azaleas and Tulips, and a bit early for the Mums and other fall color, but the layout and variety of trees and bushes were outstanding. 

My favorite part of the gardens was the Conservatory Building. There were beautiful well-planned flower beds all around, and the Conservatory was bursting with exotic and native plants. Some in bloom, some just resting. Orchids to Cactus and many in between. 

We took many flower pictures. This was one of my favorites.

After enjoying the gardens we walked back to the house, boarded a shuttle bus to the parking area, and had a little lunch in the Jeep. There are several restaurants on the grounds, but making a take-along lunch is something I do to make our tourist dollars stretch a bit further.

We had been told to drive our own car to the village and farm on the estate. Originally the village was built to house the house construction crew, and the farm to grow food and raise dairy cows for use on the estate. After the house was finished the workers houses were removed, and it became a staff area. Much of the farm was destroyed by a big flood.

Now the village feels a bit "commercial quaint". There is a winery and we were going to partake in wine tasting (included in the ticket price) after looking around, but a busload of other guests had caught up with us and we decided it was too crowded for tasting.

There was a good collection of old farm equipment, and I found the signage well done and interesting.

One of the ongoing programs is a working blacksmith. We wandered over to watch and were delighted by the fact that the blacksmith was one of the guys we had enjoyed listening to at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial porch jam session a few days earlier. 

Doc Cudd
Doc Cudd is one of 5 people in the country that are considered masters of the playing the anvil as a musical instrument. After his blacksmith demonstration he played the anvil for us.  

I don't think he plays for everyone. After most of the other tourists had drifted away, we stayed and chatted for a few minutes about music. One of the others asked if he would play for us and he did. 

YouTube movie of Doc playing the anvil.

I know some of you don't watch videos in blog posts, but how else can I share this?

Fantastic.  I don't think we will ever have this experience again.  He is a treasure!

It was a long, full day, and when we returned to the Alfa we took a nap. We had leftover chicken stew and homemade bread for dinner.

Another plus of RV travel!  You don't have to find a restaurant for dinner when you're tired. I left the dishes for the morning.


  1. Oh I knew you two would enjoy your day at the Biltmore...... It is such a treat and walk through history......
    WOW WOW. WOW the music video was such a bonus !!!!!! Thanks for sharing ..... That was a once in a livetime concert piece by one man !!!! Great post, Merikay !!!

  2. I missed going to the Biltmore when we were in S. Carolina, but its still on my list! Great post.


  3. the purple flower in case you didn't know is a passion flower...

  4. We didn't get to the Biltmore on the senior days either, but it was well worth it. I sure would liked to have been able to take some pictures though.

    When did the Biltmore move to SC? kidding.....

  5. Heyduke, I think I remember passion flower in my mother's garden. We were in Milwaukee, while Wikipedia says they don't do well north of Ohio. My mom was always ordering curiosities...

    Karen, our posts are lagging our actual experiences a bit :-)

  6. The pictures are wonderful - sure makes me want to go back & this time take the Biltmore tour.
    Thanks for sharing.


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