It's BIG - BIG - and MORE BIG.
At 178,926 square feet, including 135,280 Living Space, the Biltmore Mansion is the largest privately owned residence in the United States. It was built for George Washington Vanderbilt from 1889 - 1895 and is still owned by descendants of George Washington Vanderbilt. It is one of the most prominent examples of Gilded Age mansions. This amazing estate shows what uber-wealthy people could do with their money. The Vanderbilt family was the wealthiest family in America when this lavish mansion was built. The entire estate where this magnificent house stands is 10.86 square miles.
Some interesting facts about the building of this place - A six-mile rail line was built from the main station in Asheville to the grounds of the estate. The rail line was completely demolished and removed after construction was completed. In addition, over a thousand craftsmen and workers lived in tents on the expansive front lawn during the six years required for construction. If you want to see the house in more detail, read some of the extensive history, or purchase tickets, just click the link above.
When Is the Best Time to Go
stunning in its decorated glory. Asheville has many hotel choices from very expensive to relatively cheap. If you have some extra cash or a big credit limit and want to impress your wife or significant other, try the Inn on the Biltmore Estate. This pleasure palace has it all - great rooms, a spa, great restaurants, everything. You can even throw in some horseback riding or fly fishing. Priced from $369 for a nice Deluxe Room all the way to an Estate Suite for a paltry $1,580. If you want to be close to The Estate for a little less money try The Village Hotel. It starts at $270 for a Standard King or you can have more room to spread out in a Village Studio King Suite for a mere $390.
However, if you are familiar at all with this travel blog, you know that The Nomad Architect is all about great design and reasonable prices. We stayed in a very cool, small boutique hotel only a few minutes drive from the estate. Right downtown, with great views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and near great restaurants, the Hotel Indigo is a great, inexpensive place to lay your weary vagabond head after a full day of walking and enjoying the estate. For a nice Queen Room - $148, a really nice Leisure King - $157, or a King Bed Suite - $178. The reviews are 4.5 out of 5.0. Excellent place with great service. Make sure you get a high room to enjoy the views.
So, just what can you do in and around the largest family home in the US?
We were there four days in late December, so we concentrated on the house and its spaces. As an architect, I was utterly amazed at the beauty, construction details, and spaces of this magnificent structure. The grounds are also impressive as well. We are planning to go back in the Spring to see the flowers, landscaping, and the grounds. To assist all of my Vagabond friends in planning your trip, the following link is an excellent list of how to enjoy Biltmore House and The Estate: What To Do at The Biltmore House
Delicious Food is Everywhere in this Small Romantic City
There are so many restaurants at the estate and in and around Asheville - Selecting places to eat will take some time. The staff at the Hotel Indigo were most helpful in this regard.
Here is a small list of places where we enjoyed excellent culinary delights:
On The Cheap
Pack's Tavern - This is a must. Great food. Great Service. Great Atmosphere. Depending on your mood you can get some great pizza or an Angus Ribeye and everything in between. And the prices won't tug at your wallet very much.
Juicy Lucy's Burger Bar & Grill - Perfect for a pretty cheap lunch. Burgers, Pizza, Chocolate Shakes. This is a casual place with excellent service and great prices.
Up A Bit
Chestnut - Shrimp & Grits Oh My! Or - A little Lobster Bisque, made from scratch, for a starter. And if you really want to spend some dough - Order the Braised Lamb Shank. This place is perfect for a very pleasant romantic evening dinner. Plus - They have a killer Brunch.
Tupelo Honey Cafe - Nothing like real, honest-to-goodness Southern Cooking. Tupelo Honey has it all - biscuits, bone-in fried chicken, big salads, sandwiches, or a bistro filet cooked to perfection. It's in Downtown Asheville with outstanding service. The prices are reasonable as well.
The Stable Cafe - Biltmore - This medium-priced restaurant is located in the former Estate's Horse Stable. It features Appalachian Comfort Food. Prices are reasonable and it is a casual dining place that welcomes kids.
High End Required - An Absolute Must!
Sunset Terrace at The Omni Grove Park Inn - It's worth the drive to enjoy some Duck Marsala, Spiced Pacific Sea Bass or a perfectly prepared Filet Mignon. The place ain't cheap but it's worth every penny. Make sure you sit on the Terrace to enjoy the views. Since it was December and pretty chilly, we didn't eat on the Terrace. But we will when we go back to Asheville in the Spring. THe views are incredible.
Just For Nibbles
Well Bred Bakery - Perfect place to pick up some early morning or late-night snacks.
The Bake Shop at The Biltmore - A very nice bakery with all the goodies. And it's remarkably close to The Biltmore House. Enjoy!
Other Places to Enjoy a Nice Glass and Relax
Wine Bar at The Winery - Just sit and relax at the Indoor/Outdoor Wine Bar after a long day or midday stroll around the estate. Their wine is topflight always. And it's reasonably priced.
Biltmore Wine Shop - If you want to pick up some delicious wine to take home then the Biltmore Wine Shop is the place. They have reasonable and ridiculous prices on wine. It's located in Biltmore Village just a few minutes from the Estate. And there is delicious food nearby.
And for Serious Shopper
If you or anyone in your party is a shopaholic - this is the place to go. Literally a few minutes from the Biltmore Estate and billed as Asheville's Premier Shopping District - Historic Biltmore Village. It has numerous small shops, restaurants, and some chain hotels. So, check it out, have a little lunch, and pick up a few mementos.
Just to give all Vagabonds a premier of this amazing House and Estate, enjoy a short video showing how the one percent lived in the late 1800s. I hope you put this paradise on your Bucket List and then go see all of it. You won't regret it, I promise.
So put this adventure on your Vagabond Bucket List and get there soon. I recommend a minium of four days to see most of the House and the Estate.
And to give you road-weary Vagabonds a really cool ditty by one of the greatest Texas artists to ever pick up a guitar and deliver a tune - Robert Earl King from Paste Studios singing RIDE.
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