Whether it’s your first or tenth time visiting Biltmore Estate, it’s easy to see why George Vanderbilt chose the foothills of the Blueridge Mountains to build his summer home in 1888. During our most recent visit, my husband and I hiked to the Vista overlook, where we paused to soak in the view. It’s worth noting the peak foliage color change is anticipated between the last
week of October and first week of November, transforming the already breathtaking landscape into a fall postcard-worthy scene that’s sure to give your social media followers a bad case of Insta envy.
After taking a handful of pictures, we began making our way toward the 175,000-square-foot house. Reaching the expansive double-door entryway, we explored the dozens of rooms on the self-guided tour, including my favorite, the banquet hall. Every time we visit the estate, I find an out-of-the-way corner in the room and daydream about what a meal in this room must have been like for the Vanderbilts and their guests. A 40-foot-long table stretches across the room, and the wooden-clad ceiling soars to a magnificent 70 feet. Five Flemish tapestries cover two walls, telling the Roman mythology of Venus and Vulcan. Another wall is flanked with a large-scale pipe organ, which fills the house with music during special events and the holiday season.
After our tour, we browsed a few shops adjacent to the house and purchased our traditional Biltmore holiday ornament for 2019 as well as souvenirs for family and friends.
Then, we strolled through the English formal garden, taking the winding path to the walled garden, where vibrantly-hued roses and other blossoms flourished. Soon, chrysanthemums and other seasonal flowers will take their rightful place in the fall garden queue. At the west end of the planned beds, sits the Conservatory, home to exotic plants from around the world. From my experience, it’s impossible to be in a bad mood in the bright, cheery space.
While walking through the house and gardens, we worked up an appetite, so we returned to our car and drove to the Deerpark Restaurant, a Southern farm-to-table buffet, where the menu changes seasonally. Currently, diners can expect tasty comfort foods like chicken and house-made dumplings, estate-raised beef pot roast with caramelized root vegetables, acorn squash stuffed with quinoa and mushrooms, sweet potato wedges, green beans and an array of desserts, from pumpkin spice latte cake to red velvet cheesecake. Gluten-free and vegetarian options were available as well. As always, we found the food to be fresh, flavorful and not greasy like many buffets.
Upon leaving the Deerpark, we continued our journey to the Winery in Antler Hill Village, where we learned about the estate’s vineyards and wine-making process as well as the 20 handcrafted wines that are available for the free tasting experience. Being fans of white wine, we sampled a few and purchased two bottles of Century, a white blend with a crisp, spicy flavor.
We ran out of time during this visit, but I’d love to check out the seasonal 2.5-hour Vine to Wine tour that takes visitors behind the scenes for a special tasting and an exclusive in-depth tour of the vineyards and production areas. These premium tours are given at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 on Saturdays and 1:30 Sundays. Tickets are $107 each, in addition to the general admission price.
We ended our day at Biltmore with a walk around Antler Hill Village, where we watched a live demonstration by a blacksmith, visited goats and horses at the Farmyard and shopped for handmade crafts at The Barn Door shop. During October, bands perform in the adjacent bandstand from 4 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Before relaxing and listening to the band, we stopped by the Creamery to get a couple of scoops of sugar free butter pecan ice cream to share.
Perhaps the best part of visiting the village was seeing a sign posted for the arrival of Downton Abbey: The Exhibition Nov. 8. The immersive exhibit includes the fashion, locations and historic events of the time period. Downton Abbey was one of our favorite television shows, and we loved the movie. We’re already planning our next trip to the estate to check out the exhibit.
Biltmore Estate hours and ticket pricing change depending on the season, but everything you need to plan your trip can be found at www.biltmore.com. Additionally, Biltomore has a special Fall-themed package Sept. 3 – Oct. 31. Get the details here.