Winter at Biltmore Estate
We have a history with the Biltmore. The Biltmore Estate has been a special place for us since we honeymooned there 38 years ago! Among our Appalachian destinations in that long-ago year was this historic estate, nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains near Asheville, North Carolina.
On our numerous subsequent trips there, we have seen just about everything on the estate, but still learn something new each time we are there! Since most of our visits have been on or around our anniversary (Dec 18th), we are well-acquainted with the estate at wintertime. Winter is a great time to visit – the crowds are down (except for the Christmas Candlelight tours), you won’t get hot standing in line to begin your tour, and nothing beats a meal at the Stable Cafe!
They even helped us celebrate our anniversary!
Here are a few other highlights from our winter journeys to the Biltmore:
Biltmore at Christmas
Turns out that the year we got married was the first year the Candlelight Christmas tours were offered at Biltmore. I can still remember how touring the mansion in the evening by candlelight transported us back to Victorian times! It was a glimpse into a lifestyle of years gone by, before the modern convenience of electricity (in reality, though, Biltmore House has had electricity since George Vanderbilt first opened his home to guests on Christmas eve in 1895).
The Biltmore Estate at Christmas is unparalleled in its splendor! There is a 35-foot tree in the ballroom, more decorated trees everywhere, and lush decor and greenery throughout the house. If you’ve never been at Christmas time, it is indeed a treat.
Behind the Scenes Tours
We have taken a few ‘behind the scenes’ tours through the years, one of them taking us into the basement to the maintenance areas of the home. Speaking of eectricity, we saw the room where the electricity was managed, the Dynamo Room. By today’s standards, it was a bit scary with lots of electrical connectors installed into the wall, rubber boots on hand in case the basement flooded (Yikes!). Here’s an excerpt from the online magazine Our State (Celebrating North Carolina): ‘A Behind-the-Scenes Visit to Biltmore‘.
The subbasement’s acreage is dedicated to the inner workings of the house, and some of the most impressive hardware in the place is located in the dynamo room. The Biltmore House had electricity from 1895 onward. It was designed to operate on Alternating Current (AC) or Direct Current (DC) because electricity was still in its infancy and it hadn’t been decided which was going to be the most widely used system. “George knew Edison, and together they worked out a plan for the house,” Holmes [the tour guide] says. Hunt, the architect, ultimately decided to wire the house for both currents.
The Rooftop Tour reveals further details about the estate’s construction. We were up close and personal to many of the home’s architectural details: Stone statuary and carvings, quatrefoils, gargoyles that guard the structure, copper roofing with its now-aged green patina, and the many gothic arches throughout.
The Upstairs – Downstairs Tour, a combination of the former Butler’s Tour and the Vanderbilt’s Family and Friends Tour, is also fascinating. Guests are taken into the servant’s quarters of the home and shown exactly how they did their jobs, providing for every need of the Vanderbilt family and their guests. My girls and I especially enjoyed this tour, as we were there when Downton Abbey was at it’s height in popularity! It was fun to see how and from where a real-life Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes would have run the Biltmore staff.
Gardens and The Bass Pond
To the south of the Biltmore mansion are the gardens. Beginning with the Library Terrace, just outside the home, the gardens and grounds provided a wonderful atmosphere for relaxation and outdoor activity. The gardens are still cultivated each spring. And just beyond the garden terraces is the Observatory, which is a pretty impressive structure in its own right!
Below the gardens and Conservatory is the Bass Pond, with its picturesque boathouse. The pond was built for recreation and, obviously, for fishing! But my favorite thing to do there is enjoy the view of the back of the house. This is one of my favorite photos I’ve taken while visiting Biltmore one fall. We were there in early November. And I have to say, it might be my favorite time to go. There is still fall color, and the holiday decorations go up the first week in November, so you get to see the grounds in the fall, and the house decorated for Christmas!
I hope you enjoyed this mini-tour of the Biltmore Estate in winter! It’s truly a fascinating place to visit… in any season!
Some photos for this article were used with express written permission by The Biltmore Company.