This past weekend I spent two nights in Asheville with my mom. Being only 2.5 hours away, Asheville is a great weekend trip from Charlotte. We visited mainly to see the Dale Chihuly exhibition at the Biltmore, but it was a great excuse to escape the hot temperatures in Charlotte and enjoy the mountains.
First, some information about the Biltmore Estate...
The Biltmore Estate, also known as America’s largest home, is definitely an attraction in western North Carolina. Growing up I remember visiting a few times, including during Christmas, when the house is decorated for the season. Completed in 1895 after 6 years of construction, the Biltmore was home to George Vanderbilt, his new wife Edith, and his mother. The house is over 175,000 sq. ft. (yes, you read that correctly) and previously sat among 125,000 acres of land. Now, the house sits among 8,000 acres of land and is part of a private, family-owned business (the estate remains in the family, as the Great Grandchildren of George and Edith Vanderbilt run it today). Notably, the land surrounding the house was designed by landscape architect Frederick Ulmstead, who also completed Central Park in NYC. The Biltmore was his largest, and final, project. George Vanderbilt was the youngest son of William Henry Vanderbilt, and the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, also known as the Commodore. Cornelius made the family fortune, which was passed down through the generations. Other notable properties in the Vanderbilt family include the Breakers and Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island.
Now, onto our weekend...
Friday afternoon we drove to Asheville and checked into the Inn on Biltmore Estate. After a quick bite to eat and a drink on the back porch to enjoy the view, we got ready for dinner. We decided to try Chestnut, which is located in downtown Asheville on Biltmore Avenue. Both of our meals were excellent, and I would definitely go back in the future. It was a more casual atmosphere, meaning we didn’t have to get too dressed up for the night. After dinner we went back to our hotel, grabbed two tickets to see the Chihuly exhibition at night, and hopped on a shuttle to the Biltmore Estate. The Chihuly exhibition opened May 17th and will close October 7th of this year. There were two different ticket options, since the pieces were lit in the evening. Since we also had tickets to tour the house on Sunday, we were able to see the installations during both the day and night. There are 9 installations total, most of which are in and around the house. There are 2 installations at Antler Hill Village.
On Saturday we had breakfast at the hotel before heading back to the house to see Chihuly in the daytime. I’m glad we did both, because I felt like some of the pieces weren’t well lit the night before. A few installations are expansive, which I’m sure made lighting a challenge. We also stopped into the gift shops near the house, since we knew we would be heading home the next day. We then went to Antler Hill Village where we visited The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad exhibition at the Biltmore Legacy to learn more about the Vanderbilt family and the Biltmore Estate. After lunch at Cedric’s Tavern (named for George and Edith’s beloved St. Bernard, Cedric), we went back to the hotel to change for dinner. Back in March I ate at Curate Tapas Bar with a friend and had a great experience. I decided to make a reservation again for this trip since my mom had never been before; we weren’t disappointed! On my next trip I’d love to try White Duck Taco Shop, but I think Curate will always be a must-visit for me in Asheville. There are also a number of rooftop bars and restaurants (notably, Capella on 9), as well as the Double D’s coffee and dessert spot, that I’d like to try!
Sunday morning we had breakfast at the hotel and packed up the car before heading to the house for a tour. We purchased the audio guide, which provided valuable information throughout our tour. I’ve been in the house before, but it has been well over a decade since I’ve been inside. The audio guide was essential to our experience, as it allowed us to learn more about the house and the generations of Vanderbilts that occupied it. The audio guide runs for about an hour and a half, so plan accordingly. After the tour we had one last meal at the hotel before heading home. The Inn on Biltmore Estate has a few dining options, all of which have amazing mountain views. We never had a disappointing meal, and the service was always impeccable.
I noticed a big difference in the crowds this time of the year versus when I visited in March. I’m sure this was due in part to the Chihuly exhibition, as well as summer break and the desire to escape hotter temperatures nearby.