Have you ever been to Biltmore Estate? Until this past weekend, I had never been to visit the 250-room chateau in Asheville. Let me just say, it is breath taking and impressive. I purchased tickets through Costco for a reduced rate (approximately $42, I can't remember the exact cost), and upgraded to the Candlelight Christmas Tour for an additional $10 fee. My friend and I left Greensboro on Friday afternoon, and checked into a hotel about five miles away from the Biltmore estate. We allowed ourselves a bit over an hour to get from the hotel to the estate, drive through the winding drive, park our car, and catch a shuttle to the front entrance in time for our scheduled entrance for the Tour.
The Biltmore House was beautifully decorated for Christmas, and the Candlelight Christmas Tour was definitely worth the upgrade fee. The guide book provided information on each room and key pieces of artwork and history, while the staff stationed throughout the house were able to share additional insight. My favorite room was the Library - two stories of books! Much of the house has been preserved and renovated, and history on the family and renovations is also part of the tour.
After the tour, we took the shuttle back to our car, and drove over to Antler Hill Village and Winery. We sampled a few wines, and walked through the underground tunnel over to Cedric's Tavern for dinner and drinks. We decided on a beer flight of local brews, and two appetizers - the Whiskey & Pepper Cured Scottish Salmon with pickled vegetables, creamy boursin, and toast, and the Ham & Cheese, thinly shaved country ham and Gruyére cheese fondue served with grilled sourdough bread. It was all delicious!
The next morning, we returned to the Estate for our daytime tour, which was included in our ticket. We grabbed some coffee at the Bake Shop and waited for our entrance time to the House. The tour was much more crowded on Saturday during the day than it was the night before for the Candlelight Tour, and we actually decided to escape the crowd and skip the majority of the tour after realizing how difficult it was to navigate the House with such a large crowd of people. We thought that since we had an assigned time to enter the house, it would be comfortably crowded and the crowd would be similar to what we experienced on Friday evening; however, it was at least 3-4 times more people during our entrance time on Saturday morning, which meant there was no escape from the crowd inside the home.
After we decided to skip the remainder of the House tour, we walked the grounds a bit and explored the gardens. It is the end of fall, so everything was barren, but the view was amazing! Having such spectacular long range mountain views from the home and balconies is likely the reason Mr. Vanderbilt chose this location for his home.
We ate lunch at the Stable Cafe and dined in a renovated horse stall. We drove back to Antler Hill Village, toured the Winery and sampled some more of the Biltmore wines. We also explored The Village Green and Farm, and learned about life on the Estate at the turn of the century. The gift shops on the Estate had some wonderful samples and products, and we ended up starting our Christmas shopping while we were in Asheville. Don't miss the Porter Music Box in the Carriage House near the Stable - such an awesome piece! I even upgraded to an annual passholder (for only $29!) and now I am able to return anytime in the next year at no additional cost. Children under 16 are free, so my kids can go with me and enjoy the beauty of the Biltmore Estate. I can't wait to go back in the spring to see the gardens in bloom!
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