Hello, Darlings! Today I am going to share with you my Trip To Asheville NC and Biltmore Estates. This trip was the second half of our first “retirement trip”. We started this trip in Highlands NC. The drive from Highlands NC is a VERY CURVY road with incredible scenery and several waterfalls that you would love to look at if you did not need to keep your eye on the road. If you get carsick, I recommend taking your Dramamine.
Trip To Asheville NC and Biltmore Estate
Driving From Highlands NC To Asheville NC
The trip from Highlands to Asheville North Carolina is about 1 1/2 hours. Make sure you go to the bathroom before you leave Highlands because once you are on the curvy road, there is nowhere to stop. There are a couple of places you could pull of the side of the road if you got sick to your stomach. Luckily, I do not get car sick, because keeping our eye on the road was all I could think about.
The drive from Franklin NC to Waynesville NC via US 74/Great Smoky Mountain Expressway is a little easier. There is a nice rest stop just south of Franklin NC to stop, go to the restroom. Between morning coffee and stress driving, it was nice to take a short break.
Once you get to Waynesville NC it is an easy interstate drive into Asheville via I-40.
Enjoying The Biltmore Estates
Completed in 1895, George Vanderbilt built the Biltmore Estates as a summer home to get away from the heat, nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains. This home and gardens are open to the public and have events and exhibitions throughout the year. Due to COVID, they request that all tickets be purchased online before you arrive. You will need your ticket to proceed through the guard gate. They do have a ticket office right inside the first gate that you can purchase tickets before you get to the checkpoint.
The tickets online are $76 and include an audio walking guide and complimentary wine tasting. Within your ticket confirmation email, you will find a link to download your tickets to your phone and/or print them out. I decided to print mine because I had been having phone/internet issues. Also, you will need to make your reservation for your wine tasting slot immediately upon arrival at the estate ( you can not do it ahead of time). You can easily do this at the guest ticket/information window.
Planning Your Day At Biltmore
What To wear to Biltmore Estates? Comfort is key! The day we went the weather was sunny and 80 degrees. Short/Skort and very very comfortable walking shoes were the fashion of the day.
You Will Need To Purchase Your Ticket Ahead Of Time Online
Because of the timed ticket slot and wine tasting slot you need to have a plan, especially if time is an issue. The Biltmore Estates is huge and there are lots to see and do. Many people who live nearby or just love Biltmore, purchase annual passes that allow them to come back time and time again. Several times a year, Biltmore will have traveling exhibits will be included in your ticket price.
You can spend an entire day at Biltmore or just a couple of hours, it is all up to you. For time management purposes, make sure you plan on at least 30 minutes from the entrance gate to the house. It is a long and winding road which gives a little better feel of how large the estate really is.
Parking At Biltmore Estate
Parking is free and you have 3 lots to choose from. Lots A & B are about a 10-minute easy walk to the door. Lot C is where you can take the trolley to the house. It was a gorgeous day so we chose to walk.
Touring The House At Biltmore
***At the current time, masks are required while touring inside of the Biltmore House.
The Biltmore has over 43 bathrooms inside and not one of them can you use. You will need to go to the restroom before you enter the house. There are several public restrooms located just outside the mansion in and near the courtyard area. Just look for the signs Also, there is a restriction on bags/backpacks. Look for the lockers to find where you can securely store your extra bags. Anyone carrying a bag/purse has to go thru a security bag check. At the current time, you can take in a water bottle with a secure lid.
You will need to get into the queue line at your ticket time. Do not go early, they will not let you in line until your time slot. Our ticket house tour slot was 1:00 which is one of the largest times. After we got into the queue line, it was 30 minutes before we were actually inside the house. Time in the queue line depends on the time of day, crowds, group tours. In some of the earlier time slots, the queue line was very short.
Take Note Of The Outside Of The Biltmore House
While in the queue line, make sure you take note of the interesting architecture of the home. Inspired by chateaux from France, notice the tile and copper roof. Biltmore offers specialty tours (additional cost/time) of the rooftop which I hear is super interesting. These tours you need to book before you come as they are limited to small groups.
Gargoyles And Grotesques
While we were in the queue line we took the time to discover the many gargoyles and grotesques found on the outside of the house. Thought to ward off evil spirits, several of the statues also serve to direct water away from the building.
The Self Guide Tour Including Audio Guide
The self-guided tour of the house using the handheld audio guide (included in your ticket price) will take you about 1 to 1 1/2 depending on the crowds. You will pick up your handheld audio guide after you go thru security. The rooms are numbered and you will punch in that room’s number to hear interesting facts about each room. Without the audio guide, you miss out on some of the history and unique facts about the home.
Biltmore does have guided tours that your can book (additional cost/ limited time slots) if you want to have an actual person guiding you throughout the house.
Look Up At All The Amazing Ceilings At Biltmore Estate
You are allowed to take photos but not videos. I am not going to show you all the house, cause you really need to experience it first hand. But, I am in love with all the ceiling details. So much time, money, and craftsmanship went into building this home.
My Favorite Room- The Library
So many interesting rooms. But as an avid reader, I fell in love with the library. So many books, so much detail on the ceiling, and oh.. the beautiful woodwork. It seems that George Vanderbilt was a collector of books and friends with many of the famous authors and artists of the time.
This house is huge with exercise rooms, dressing rooms, a bowling alley, and an indoor pool. The pool can no longer be filled because it has a large leak. The ropes along the side are for people to hang on to because many guests did not know how to swim.
Upstairs/Downstairs- Downton Abbey Style
Anyone who is a fan of the tv show Downton Abbey will enjoy the “downstairs” servants area and kitchens. These areas include servant’s rooms, laundry/ironing, several kitchens including a rotisserie room, and even a walk-in cold storage room. This was the precursor to the modern refrigerator. There is also a specialty tour (additional cost/time)that takes you on many of the secret stairways that the servants used to get around the house.
End Of House Tour
After the servants/kitchen area, the tour will end and you will be asked to return your handheld audio guide. The tour ends at the side entrance to the house where you can use the restroom, retrieve any items left in the locker room, and check out the dining/restaurant/ and shopping in the courtyard/stable area.
**Due to Covid restrictions, the Stable Cafe was limited seating but you could make reservations online ahead of time. There is a grab-and-go Courtyard Market along with cold drinks, wine, and beer. Some limited outdoor seating is available in the courtyard area.
On To The Gardens
We actually did the gardens first. I am a plant lover but not a green thumb. Unfortunately, our timing was off the see the gardens in their full glory. They had just planted a fall garden with hundreds of mums but we were about a week away from seeing them bloom. Also, there had been a traveling exhibit that had closed the day before.
***Masks are required for touring the indoor conservatory area
For planning purposes, give yourself 1 to 1 1/2 hours to tour the gardens. If you are not a “plant person” this may not even be something you enjoy, especially if the gardens are not in bloom. Your time spent in this area will also depend on whether there is a traveling exhibit at the time.
Spend Time In The Conservatory At Biltmore Estate
Every Changing Gardens At Biltmore Estate
8,000 Acres Of Biltmore Estate Including View Of Blue Ridge Mountains
Originally the Biltmore Estate was over 125,000 acres, but after the death of George Vanderbilt, his wife sold around 90,000 acres to the government to create the Pisgah National Forrest.
On To Winery And Wine Tasting
In scheduling your complimentary wine tasting, you need to take into account the time needed to get back to your car and drive to Antler Village And Winery. It is about a 5-mile drive along the windy road so give yourself an additional 10-15 minutes to get there. Parking is plentiful and it is a short walk from the parking lot to the entrance to the winery.
*Masks are required inside the winery. The walk from the entrance to the wine tasting room/wine shop includes this long stone walkway with secret tasting rooms and events spaces. We were running late so I did not have time to check out any of the informational exhibits along the way.
Review Of Wine Tasting
Due to Covid precautions, they limit the number of people allowed in the Wine Shop/Winery. You will need to tell the person at the door your reservation time. Inside you will walk along an underground well lite hallway and upstairs to the Wine Shop/Tasting Rooms. Once you get to the Wine Shop, you will tell the hostess your time and she will check you off the list. Then you are back into a queue line as you wait for available wine tasting stations to open up. Another hostess will show you to your wine tasting station. The line went rather quickly and the wait time was about 5 minutes.
Complimentary Wine Tasting At Biltmore Estate
We were shown to a wine tasting station where our wine host was working 3 additional stations due to lack of staffing. This really diminished the wine tasting experience. Plus, because of the mask situation and large noisy room, you could barely hear. The pours are small compared to other wine tastings so there is no chance of getting inebriated from your tasting session. Also, many of the wines have low alcohol content.
We were allowed to choose 5 wine tastings from the preselected wine menu. They had this menu on display along the queue line in the wine shop so we had already had in mind which wines we wanted to taste. We had several whites/reds/ and one rose to choose from.
Biltmore Estate Winery Is Number One Visited Winery In Nation
Most of these types of wineries grow “some” grapes, but their wines are blended from grapes they purchase elsewhere and stick their own personal label on them. As a whole, the wines were “okay” but nothing fabulous. Their best-selling wine was a merlot. They also featured their Christmas limited edition red and white wines touting their artistry on the labels. We sampled both of these wines and they were WAY TOO SWEET. Almost made me nauseous.
Take Home Your Favorite Wine From The Wine Shop
After you complete your wine tasting, you can visit the wine shop and select wines to take home for personal enjoyment or as gifts. We did choose a Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blac to take home as a gift.
The winery also offers guided tours and specialty wine tastings (additional cost/limited numbers).
Antler Village Shops And Dining
This area has several options for dining, and ice cream, and retail stores. Many of the restaurants had the option to make reservations ahead of time. Some even had outdoor seating. We did not choose to eat on the estate due to limited seating and expensive limited menu options.
Biltmore Estate Village
Right outside the estate property are shopping and dining options. We decided to eat an early dinner at Cantina Mexican Restaurant.
Overall Review Of Biltmore Estates
I loved viewing the property and house and would plan to go back at Christmas time. They were just starting to decorate. The Biltmore Estate has many traveling exhibits including the Downtown Abbey Exhibit and The Van Gogh Live starting in November. I am glad the wine tasting was included because I was disappointed in that experience. A A more attentive wine host would have made the difference.
Evening Back At The Hotel
There are many hotels in the area, we stayed at a brand new Hampton Inn. Exhausted from a day of touring the Biltmore Estate, all we wanted to do is crash. To close out the evening, I chose the movie of the night, Gosford Park, a murder mystery at a weekend house party in the country. Set in the 1930s, this movie brings a group of pretentious rich and famous together for a weekend of relaxation at a hunting resort. But when a murder occurs, each one of these interesting characters becomes a suspect. Similar feel to Downtown Abbey with the upstairs aristocrats and downstairs servants.
Check out the first part of our trip- Highlands NC And Cashiers NC