Video Review of The Biltmore
Not to be confused with the famous Biltmore Hotel in Miami (which has the largest pool in America and was recently included on our list of America’s Ten Best Hotel Pools). North Carolina may not be at the top of your bucket list but you may be quite surprised to see what all they have to offer, with the Biltmore Estate earning the title as America’s largest home, which receives over a million visitors each year, and serving as home to America’s most visited winery. Anyone who lives a few hours away, in places like Chattanooga, Atlanta, Nashville, Charlotte, Pigeon Forge (or is driving through the area) should definitely check it out.
Fun Fact: The biltmore is said to be the size of 88 average sized homes. Twelve movies have been shot here, some of which were shot here just for the views, never even showing the mansion (wow!). The holiday season is one of the best times of the year to come, with Christmas trees galore, stockings (I wonder if they have them above every fireplace!), and all the workings.
Vanderbilt was constructed over a six year period, from 1889 to 1895 by George Washington Vanderbilt II. George died at age 51, in 1914, and left the house to his only child, cornelia. He gained his fortune through steamboats, railroads, and other business ventures. He frequently traveled to paris, which is where he got many of the furnishing and insoiration for his home. He was fluent in eight foreighn languages!
While he was a hard worker, he wasn’t entirely self made, especially considering that his father was worth about 200 million at the time of his passing. However, much of this fortune was split between his two older sons, leaving George with around 12 million. These are very significant number in today’s market but they really add up when you count in inflation. I’m sure he was equivalent to a billionaire in today’s market.
George was actually born in New York and visited Western North Carolina on vacation and decideed to build a country home there at a tender age of 26. He continued to buy land until he had 125,000 acres. why have that much land? I’m not sure for any reason other than for investment (and possibly egotistical purposes!). Those materialistic Vanderbilt’s loved to impress and entertain, showing off all their riches to presidents and high society.
It amazes me to think that they could build such an elaborate house, practically in the middle of nowhere, way back in the late 1800s. and it’s also hard to believe that all the Donald Trumps of the world haven’t built anything larger! And we have to remember that they did not have cars back then (or planes or private jets) so they were traveling by horseback. It is said that it would have taken a week on horseback to travel around the property.
All of the vanderbilts actually had quite impressive properties, and there’s actually a great wikipedia article that shows images of their homes and describes them, Other than the Biltmore, Cornelius Vanderbilt II owned a mansion that was and remains the largest private residence ever built in Manhattan – but sadly it was demolished after she sold it for 7 million to make way for the Bergdorf Goodman department store.
The Biltmore consists of 250 rooms; including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. It is modeled after the french chateaux of the loire valley, there’s a great Wikipedia article on that style of architecture. The Biltmore was designed by famed architect Richard Morris Hunt, who designed parts othe Metropolitan Museum of Art in nyc, aka the Met, which remains the largest art museum in the us; this architect also designed the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. The grounds of the Biltmore were designed by fredrick law olmsted, who helped design the landscaping around the us capitol building and New York’s Central Park.
The Biltmore today is open to self guided tours but you can pay $10 for an audio guide. Also, they say you can save up to $15 by buying your tickets online at least 7 days in advance. Tickets are around $60 for adults and children are free. It features both an indoor swimming pool, a 2 story library, elevators, an intercom system, and a 2 lane bowling alley, all of which are seldom found in today’s homes – much less in the 1800s. The Biltmore features many furnishings that are original to the home, including oriental carpets, tapestries, and paintings by Renoir and Whistler and thanks to a great preservation efforts. Actually, as you’re walking through the house you’ll see rooms that are completely empty due to remodeling.
George took an interest in making the Biltmore a self sustaining estate by experiemnting with scientific farming, bloodline breeding, and forestry. They’ve got 75 acres of lavish gardens on site where you will also find a large conservatory and there’s also a conservatory in the house itself. Adjacent to the outdoor type of conservatory is a plant shop.
After George’s death, his widow sold 86,000 acres at $5 an acre to create the Pisgah National Forest and sold additional land to help upkeep the house and 8,000 acres remain today. The mansion opened to the public in March 1930 to help with upkeep during the depression. …and family members continued to live there until 1956. I would have too!
Right next door they have a horse born converted to a restuarant and shops. Drive a few minutes away, passing by beautiful walking trails and horse riding trails – they actually have a herd of hourse on site. A river is nearby, it seems kind of strange that the house wasn’t built on it but I guess they wanted it up on the hill with the amazing view. Drive just a few minutes to their winery, which happens to be Americas most visited winery – there you will see George’s 1913 Stevens-Duryea c-six.
Fun Fact: To this day, the Vanderbilts remain the seventh wealthies family in history.
Stay on property at the 210 room 4 star Inn on Biltmore Estate. There are tons of nearby hotels, just type in Biltmore hotels on Hotels.com and you’ll see it. Look for the Biltmore in the title. we choose the Holiday Inn (who gave us a smoking room and when they saw we had kids with us they immediately knew it was a mistake)…we explained how upset we are and they gave us 30% off, so we saved $40 there.
Also on this trip: While in Asheville, I saw the historic Grove Park Inn, home to a $44 million spa with an underground grotto type of pool. I would have loved to video it for you but they do not allow that or even images but just Google it and you’ll see how stunning it truely is. FYI They did have a little window to peek in. to get to the pool they told me they could get a golf cart to pick me up to take me all the way around the entire resort, which really pissed me off when I later realised it was just right outside the back door of the lobby! (I’m guessing they saw my expensive camera and just wanted a good tip.) Before dinner we spent $40 a person to eat at their buffet, which was great, it offered views of the Asheville skyline and their golf course. The tip was included for 20% or something outrageous – for a buffet!!!! Thats rediculous, I wonder if we could have negiated about that before we sat down. But this place ain’t no golden corral – I’ll tell you that!
Then we went two hours further to Charlotte, which really was not worth it. It is actually the 25th largest metropolitan area in the US with about 2.5 million residents – which really surprised me. Therefore it’s larger than Vegas, San Antonio, Nashville, and New Orleans.. we started by staying at the Great Wolf Lodge, which was one of the worst experiences of my life, I spent nearly $500$ a night on their chepest room, which was nothing special, equivalent to a holiday inn and 4 times the cost. Why? Becasue there is an onsite waterpark – which was overcrowded, cold, and had no hottub or lazy river!
…Carowinds was basically equivalent to Six Flags: no special theming, plenty of large coasters, decent shows, no healthy food in the park… but they did just open a frozen yogurt place in the park which was quiet cool!