Having traveled to so many wonderful places, and seeing plenty of incredible things, I think I have finally found my dream house…that is, as long as I don’t have to do the cleaning! That’s because my dream house has 250 rooms, 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms…well, you get the idea!
I'm at the Biltmore House, the largest privately-owned home in the United States, in Asheville, North Carolina. The Estate was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895, and it’s still owned by one of Vanderbilt’s descendants. The house and its many other unique features have made it one of the most-visited historic tourist destinations in the nation, welcoming more than one million visitors each year.
But besides the grandeur of the building itself – an incredible four acres under one roof! – the contents of the house are equally impressive. Thousands of original furnishings decorate the rooms, including original art from masters such as Renoir, magnificent 16th-century tapestries, more than 40 bronze sculptures, Napoleon's chess set, and a library with 10,000 volumes. One room has an indoor pool and another contains a bowling alley. Although the scale and grandeur of the place can be quite daunting, the estate has gone to great lengths to make it welcoming and comfortable. Visitors can take self-guided tours at their leisure, but I recommend taking advantage of the audio tour on a first visit.
But it’s not just the mansion that makes this a must-see; everything about the Biltmore is awe-inspiring! The 3 mile long, winding road to the house is absolutely beautiful. I saw some deer, turkey, rabbits, geese along the way. And once you crest the hill, and you get your first glimpse of the place…well, I found it breath-taking! The gardens are also quite spectacular. And check this out: the most-visited winery in the country is not in Napa Valley – it’s the Biltmore Winery!
Adult tickets start in the $40 range and go up depending on day of the week and time of year (I did an online search for coupons and was able to get a 25% off promo code). Maybe that sounds a bit pricey, but this is an all-day event and there is so much to see and do at the estate and Antler Hill Village on the estate grounds. Plan on 5-6 busy hours to see only the major attractions and have lunch. Add another 1.5 hours if you want to include a specialty tour, do some shopping, check out some more museums, visit the petting zoo. You can even rent out kayaks or canoes, something I definitely plan to do on my next visit…Oh yes, there will be a next visit! I would actually suggest that you give yourself two days to take it all in.
Check out Biltmore's website for more information, to buy tickets online and to see some pictures of my not-so-humble Dream House!