Friday, September 21, 2012

It Smells Like Christmas

Candler, NC  (high 78, low 54)

Yesterday was the day to go visit the largest home in America, the Biltmore Estate.  It’s 175,000 square feet.

George Biltmore fell in love with this area of North Carolina and in 1895 the house was officially opened after 6 years of construction. There are 250 rooms, including 43 bathrooms.  George was a 33 year old bachelor at the time the house was completed.  Some bachelor pad, huh?

Three years after the house was completed, he brought his new bride Edith there, and they set up housekeeping in this  “family” home.  They actually lived in the house, and raised their daughter there, along with give St. Bernard dogs, cats and numerous other pets. 

The house was decorated with the finest items money could buy, most of which came from Europe.  George was a collector and even had a chess set and table belonging to Napoleon.

A tour to the Biltmore Estate is not cheap at $59 per person and if you want the audio tour (I highly recommend) it was an extra $10.  Senior citizens can go on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and get a  $15 discount.  I don’t know why we didn’t find that out first, but we didn’t.

We decided this place was worth the expense, and after the tour, we felt we got our moneys worth. 

We arrived about 10:am, parked and walked down a beautiful path  to the house, which was about 8 minutes away. 

It was a beautiful walk, but you could also catch a shuttle bus, if you liked.

The walk was beautiful and it smelled like Christmas with all the beautiful Christmas trees throughout the estate.  In fact through out North Carolina, we frequently pick up that wonderful Christmas tree fragrance. 


Mr. Vanderbilt hired a landscape architect to landscape the property.  It was the same man who designed New Yorks Central Park.  He did an amazing job.

As we walked up towards the house, we were amazed at the enormity of it.


It looked like a castle both inside and out.  It was an amazing piece of architecture.



You are not allowed to take photos inside the house, unfortunately, and I didn’t even try to sneak one.  Smile

There were security cameras everywhere, lots of other tourists and plenty of employees all over the place, so even if I had have been tempted…….

The extra $10 we paid for the audio tour, really helped us to learn about each room as we went into it.  It also explained how they lived.  For instance, they changed clothes 6-8 times a day and both George and his wife Edith had personal valets to make sure they were all dressed properly. 

The servants worked long days and were always on call.  I think they got a half day off a week. 

The Vanderbilt's entertained a lot and the guests were treated like royalty.  There was an indoor swimming pool, a gym, and even the first bowling alley in a private home was in this house. 

I sure wish I could have taken some photos…..I guess you’ll just have to visit!

We spent about 3 hours in the house, and only covered a small percentage of the rooms.  The entire house is not open for tourists.   The descendants of George Vanderbilt run this historical site and the profits are said to entirely be used for maintenance and restoration.

After, we toured the house, we were hungry and our feet hurt, so we went out to the car and ate our Subway sandwiches we had brought.  They have several restaurants on the property, along with a winery and creamery, but we went with a Subway instead.

From the parking lot, you have to drive a few miles over to the other areas of the estate.  The roads are now paved, but that wasn’t done until the 1950’s, long after George died.


There were some trails leading to a bass pond, waterfall and a lagoon.





There is a big equestrian center and this week-end there is a big horse event of some sort.  LOTS of horses!

There were nice trails to ride on and we saw lots of riders out enjoying the day. The horses were enjoying the cool weather and were playing together in the huge pens.



A lot of the horse people have trailers with little living quarters, so many are staying right there at the Biltmore.  We saw one big motor home, but mostly horse trailers.  We didn’t see any electrical hook-ups, but there was water.  It would be a nice place to boon dock.


We visited the winery and sampled some Biltmore made wines.  We had already spent all of our money, so we didn’t buy any wine. 

We walked through the kitchen gardens and also the livestock areas.

It was beautiful everywhere we went with the mountain back drop.




There was a paved bicycle trail and also some mountain biking trails.

When the Biltmore's lived in the house, they kept horses, livestock and even grew their own produce, and the curators still continue to do the same.

There were exhibits of a lot of the equipment that had been used on the farm/estate.


Chickens are still being bred and raised here.  The lady that took care of the chickens really loved her job and delighted in telling you all about her charges.


George Vanderbilt was an avid hunter and even went “camping, Vanderbilt style” at his hunting lodge, which was up on Mt. Pisgah.

We had a wonderful day, but were pooped out by the time we got home at 6pm. 

We never made it to the gardens at Biltmore, and we didn’t get to walk on any of the trails.  We decided to buy an annual pass for an additional $40 more, so that we can go back anytime we like for the coming year.    We love this area so much, that we hope to come back often.

We extended our stay another week, so we’re going to stay until the end of September….and maybe longer if I can talk Al into it!   We’d really like to stay through October, but we probably need to get back to Tampa.   Sad smile


  1. Wow, and here I thought the European royalty built places that were a little over the top.
    Mind you, in a lot of the places, they don't seem to have an issue with taking pictures, with the exception of "The Kiss" by Gustav Klimpt that hangs in the Belvedere. They guard that one like a hawk.
    I often wonder about the 'no pictures' business. Seems devious somehow.
    Enjoy N.C.

  2. As many times as I've passed by the area, I've never stopped. Your post was so complete and intersting now I don't have to stop. ;c)

    Thanks for saving me the money (lol).

  3. We love visiting the Biltmore House. Some time you MUST see it when it is decorated for the Christmas Holiday Season--unbelievable!

  4. Holy cow! The Vanderbilts charge that much to see their house? Have they fallen into poverty? I'm glad it was worth the admission. It looks spectacular.

  5. We were there many years ago when the cost was much less and were overwhelmed with the opulence. The annual pass would definitely be worth it if you could come even 2 or 3 times although that doesn't include the house just the grounds right?? I just knew once you got your very capable motor home into those mountains you wouldn't want to come back. Beautiful area for sure. That's why so many folks retire there.

  6. Thanks for the terrific description of this place. I didn' t think I wanted to go there, but you changed my mind. We will be in Asheville near Halloween. Wonder if they decorate for that holiday?

  7. The Biltmore House is definately going on our places to see list. Thanks for the preview.

  8. I remember that they used to use the front lawn as a parking area for visitors. They changed that about 20 years ago or so. It is a wonderful way to spend the day.

  9. Thanks for showing us, 'cause you know we'll never spend that kind of money!

  10. I visited there as a child in 82 and I think the price was $12 then and I thought that was crazy. LOL It is a place that I will always remember but I know I would love it even more as an adult.

  11. It is spectacular and you certainly saw it on a beautiful day. We were there with our children once at Christmas....WOW!! But do not think I would bring a large Motorhome to the mountains that time of year. We stayed at the Grove Park Inn and it did snow!!

  12. What a great tour! It still seems like too much money, but it's one of those things that you have to see to believe, and I'm sure the upkeep costs are tremendous. Hope you get to spend more time in North Carolina, it's such a beautiful state!

  13. wasn't it wonderful...we also got the headsets...for the audio ...the day we were there it was extra busy and they routed us to the top level because they needed to move the flow of people along..we lucked out for sure...I also thought the rooms for the help were quite nice...and the laundry area blew me away for that era....gorgeous place for sure...glad you enjoyed it

  14. We enjoyed our tour, but they were putting up the Christmas decorations at the time plus the place was jammed with people. It was enjoyable but we also thought is was over priced especially has we fell like the middle section of a hear of cattle")

  15. Thanks for the tour of Biltmore. It is a fascinating place.

  16. What a fabulous day - I'd love to take that tour. :)

  17. While it is true that $59 seems like a lot of money, look at it as a "once in a lifetime" experience. I am willing to spend a lot of money for one of those. Examples: One time a WWII B-25 bomber came to town. Took my wife, grandson, and son-in-law for a 30 minute ride for $1350. My grandson and I got to ride up in the nose. Well worth it. Another time my daughter bought me a NASCAR ride along for my birthday for $85. Come on folks! You can't take it with you!

  18. It wasn't nearly as costly when we visited back in '94 ... we enjoyed the tour as well as the grounds; they allowed photos back then, but I got some postcards to scan as well...thanks for bringing back some great memories.

  19. I'm a penny pincher, but I also love big houses! I wonder what the admission for the Hearst Castle is these days. We will probably be going there at Thanksgiving.


  20. Another place for our "must see" list. Thanks for the tour.


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