While winter is Biltmore’s most peaceful season, it still offers plenty to do for overnight guests! Whether you’re interested in escaping the cold or exploring the estate, here are our top 5 picks for the season:
Our Red Wine & Chocolate Tasting is offered daily at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
5. Red Wine & Chocolate Tasting
One of Biltmore’s most popular Specialty Wine Experiences, our Red Wine & Chocolate Tasting is a lovely opportunity to stay warm. Sip your way through a number of our red varietals paired with locally produced artisan chocolates from French Broad Chocolate and discover why each is a heavenly match.
Afternoon Tea is served daily from 1 p.m. until 2:30 p.m.
4. Afternoon Tea
Another way to chase away the chill is with the elegant charm of Afternoon Tea at The Inn. Inspired by Vanderbilt family traditions, this lovely experience offers a welcome moment of leisure spent enjoying a delightful assortment of teas, English finger sandwiches, scones, fruit, cheeses, and tea pastries.
Guided Hikes take place Thursday–Sunday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
3. Guided Hikes
If you’re feeling adventurous despite the lower temperatures, bundle up for one of our Guided Hikes—offered exclusively to overnight guests. Choose from the moderate to fast-paced Trail Blazers or the more relaxed River Stroll and spend time enjoying the long-range views that winter brings to Biltmore.
Blacksmith Demonstrations are offered Thursday–Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
2. Blacksmith Demonstrations
While strolling through Antler Hill Village, be sure to make your way to the Barn to see our incredible Blacksmith Demonstrations. Not only is it fascinating to watch our blacksmith work—it’s also quite cozy in the Smithy Shop. For a memento of your visit, check for hand-forged items at The Barn Door shop located next door.
Downton Abbey: The Exhibition is open daily from 9 a.m.–9 p.m.
1. Downton Abbey: The Exhibition
And finally, the must-see event at Biltmore this winter is Downton Abbey: The Exhibition. Showcased in two estate locations, discover multimedia presentations, interactive elements, and multiple sets from the series, as well as a stunning display of more than 50 costumes from the series’ six-season run.
Stay overnight at one of our distinctive properties to ensure you have enough time to experience all the estate has to offer this winter. For the ultimate escape, consider one of our special overnight packages.
From November 8, 2019 through April 7, 2020, Biltmore is hosting Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, an immersive, must-see event that pays homage to the show.
The multimedia display in Amherst at Deerpark includes holograms, video, and life-size imagery—plus some of the series’ most recognizable sets, including Mrs. Patmore’s kitchen and the gossip-fueled servants’ quarters.
The estate has a variety of additional offerings that connect to the exhibition. Here are our top 5 picks:
The limited-time exhibition continues in Antler Hill Village with costumes on display at The Biltmore Legacy.
5. Costumes at The Biltmore Legacy
Downton Abbey: The Exhibition itself extends to The Biltmore Legacy in Antler Hill Village where more than 50 official costumes from the series’ six-season run—worn by actors such as Michelle Dockery, Hugh Bonneville, and Dame Maggie Smith—will be on display.
Served in The Dining Room at The Inn, Afternoon Tea transports you to the Vanderbilts’ and the Crawleys’ era.
4. Afternoon Tea at The Inn
Afternoon Tea is a delightful traditional that was enjoyed by the Vanderbilts and the Crawleys alike. The Dining Room at The Inn on Biltmore Estate® offers a unique take on this service daily. Enjoy fine cheeses, sweet and savory canapés, and a selection of teas from one of the world’s finest purveyors.
Our charming estate shops offer a wide range of Downton Abbey-inspired items, including a variety of lovely tea sets.
3. Downton Abbey-Inspired Products
For a limited-time, shops throughout the estate are offering a variety of Downton-inspired items. Browse fashions such as fascinators, jewelry, scarves, hat pins, and more—inspired by the styles worn by characters in the show. Tea sets, books, and additional accessories relating to the era are also available.
Our newest tour takes you into rarely seen areas of Biltmore House, such as fascinating parts of the Sub-Basement.
2. Through The Servants’ Eyes Tour
Developed exclusively to coincide with Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, Through the Servants’ Eyes is a brand new behind-the-scenes tour. Hear the fascinating stories of those who worked and lived on the estate while visiting rarely seen servants’ areas including the Boiler Room, Butler’s Pantry, and beyond.
With so much to see and do at Biltmore during this exciting time, stay overnight to ensure you have time to experience it all.
1. Special Overnight Packages
Both The Inn on Biltmore Estate® and Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate® offer exclusive Downton Abbey: The Exhibition overnight packages to ensure you have time to see and do it all. Packaged stays include admission to Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, admission to Biltmore House, Afternoon Tea, and more.
Almost a century and a quarter ago this month, George Vanderbilt moved into Biltmore House.
Have you ever moved into a custom-designed new home? If you have, you know that the punch list never seems quite buttoned-up on moving day. Little details seem to linger even after the last box is unpacked—and it was no different for the owner of America’s Largest Home.
Ground was broken in 1889, and during the course of the six years that followed, George Vanderbilt had been in close touch with his supervising architect Richard Sharp Smith, Biltmore House lead architect Richard Morris Hunt, and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Hunt passed away in August 1895, just months before completion of the house, but Sharp Smith was able to complete the plan.
When he came to stay for periods of time at the construction site, George Vanderbilt stayed in what was called the Brick Farm House, a property he purchased from Asheville entrepreneur B. J. Alexander in 1889. Sharp Smith renovated the property, which included a mill and farm buildings, so that it was comfortable enough to accommodate Vanderbilt and his project team when they visited to check on the estate’s progress.
In the months leading up to the official opening, carpentry and cabinetry were among the final touches. With George Vanderbilt’s move-in scheduled for October, archival information shows that Richard Sharp Smith hired 16 additional cabinetmakers to speed up progress.
On his first night at Biltmore, George Vanderbilt slept in the Bachelors’ Wing because his bedroom wasn’t finished. There was another issue, too, described in the papers of Frederick Law Olmsted:
When the water was turned on in the stable… to get ready for the servants to occupy, it was found that it would not go up to the second floor where the servants [sic] rooms are.
The problem was soon fixed and water flowed a few days later, but there were still a few outstanding details to hammer out. With family and friends expected for Christmas 1895, Sharp Smith hired an additional 10 cabinetmakers in December. While almost all the carpentry was finally completed in 1896, additional cabinetry projects extended into 1897.
Today, when you visit Biltmore House, you can see first-hand the incredible attention to detail that went into every aspect of the house. But as you might imagine, even this architectural masterpiece was subject to the challenges faced in any home-building project. By seeing the vision of the project through until the end, George Vanderbilt and his design and construction team created a landmark with enduring quality that we still enjoy today.
Did you know everyday life in Biltmore House bore striking resemblance to fictional life at Downton Abbey? In honor of Biltmore playing host to Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, let’s take a look at some of the similarities—and differences—between these two grand homes.
A Working Estate
The greatest overarching parallel between Downton Abbey and Biltmore is the idea of both as working estates overseen by one man and his family. While Downton Abbey is set in England, George Vanderbilt’s vision for Biltmore was heavily influenced by the model of similar English estates. There were numerous tenant families working the land, and the Vanderbilts grew to know each of these families closely over the years.
Within the houses, the standards of domestic service were much the same between the Crawleys and the Vanderbilts. While there were some differences in the ways American and English households were managed, the housekeeper played a major role. At Biltmore, this role was primarily filled by Mrs. King; for Downton Abbey, it’s Mrs. Hughes—both known for their massive house key rings and calm demeanors.
Though numerous characters within the Downton Abbey household, both above stairs and below, expressed concerns about advancements in technology, they were widely embraced at Biltmore. Even in 1895, Biltmore House was constructed with many of these in mind: telephones, elevators, forced heating, mechanical refrigeration, an electric servant call bell system, electric lighting, and more.
Preserving the Home
One of the primary themes in Downton Abbey is the importance Lord
Grantham and his family place on preserving and maintaining their home
for succeeding generations. This has also been a prime concern at
Biltmore for George Vanderbilt’s descendants. Today, the estate is owned
and overseen by the fourth and fifth generations of the family.
Fall is prime vacation time for those who love “leaf-peeping,” and Biltmore offers the best Blue Ridge Mountains views around. The estate’s ever-changing autumnal color, plus its many seasonal activities and offerings, make it the perfect home base for a fall trip.
Here are 8 great reasons to make Biltmore the center of your getaway:
1. Location, Location, Location!
Nestled in the mountains of Western North Carolina, Biltmore is located minutes from downtown Asheville—a vibrant city known for great dining, quaint shops, and its strong arts community—and just a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway. In addition to your visit to Biltmore House & Gardens, you could easily spend several days enjoying the surrounding area.
2. Rooftop Tour of America’s Largest Home®
Discover spectacular views boasting every shade of fall color as far as the eye can see. This 60-minute guided tour offers wildly impressive photo ops—during autumn, especially—and provides a closer look at the design and construction of Biltmore House in areas that many guests never visit.
3. Legacy of the Land Tour
Take a motor coach tour of the estate and learn about the history of the land, structures, and former residents with our exciting Legacy of the Land Tour. Enjoy the glorious fall foliage all around you as you visit areas not usually open to guests.
4. Deerpark Carriage & Trail Ride Barn
Located in the heart of the estate, this historic structure is the headquarters for Biltmore’s Carriage Rides and Horseback Trail Rides. Whether you prefer a relaxing journey in an elegant carriage or a western-style adventure on a horse that suits your riding style, few things are as majestic as traveling our woodland trails enveloped in fall color.
5. Live Music Daily
Biltmore turns up the volume with live music daily at the Bandstand in Antler Hill Village! Enjoy special evening performers at Cedric’s Tavern, and on Friday and Saturday eveningsthroughout the season, join us for Live After Five featuring energetic jazz and pop bands, casual dining options, and gorgeous sunsets, making it the perfect way for the whole family to unwind at the end of a fun-filled day on the estate.
6. Get Ready for the Holidays!
After strolling through a kaleidoscope of colors in the Walled Garden, join Biltmore floral design experts at A Gardener’s Place shop beneath the Conservatory for Illuminated Holiday Tablescapes–a complimentary demonstration offered daily on creating a stunning holiday tabletop centerpiece by combining natural elements such as plants, pinecones, and twigs with festive holiday ornaments and lights.
7. Vineyard Harvest Season
Biltmore’s bounty takes center stage at the Winery in Antler Hill Village as we celebrate a successful harvest season. Savor complimentary tastings of more than 20 handcrafted wines, plus specialty wine experiences such as our Behind-the-Scenes Winery Tour & Tasting to see how science and nature intersect as you learn about the estate’s vineyards, discover the unique factors that affect grapes grown in North Carolina, and take an in-depth look at our winemaking process.
8. The Ultimate Fall Getaway
An overnight stay at Biltmore offers the unique experience of waking up on George Vanderbilt’s estate with autumn beauty just outside your door. Enjoy warm hospitality in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere at the charming Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate®, or experience world-class service with a luxurious four-star stay at The Inn on Biltmore Estate®.
Plan your visit today and discover for yourself why Biltmore is the perfect home base for your fall getaway.
From brilliant bromeliads to elegant orchids, Biltmore’s Conservatory is a glorious garden under glass, filled with tropical treasures from around the world.
Caring for this exotic environment is no easy task, but Todd Roy, Conservatory Horticulturist, finds the work especially rewarding.
“It takes a lot of effort to keep the Conservatory looking so lush and beautiful,” said Todd. “All these plant species have different moisture needs, so we spend the first several hours of each day watering everything by hand—it helps us keep a close eye on the thousands of plants in our care.”
Todd has been part of Biltmore’s Conservatory staff for the past three years. Prior to joining the estate, he worked as a horticulturalist for a historic estate in southwest Florida, which gave him an appreciation for tropical plantings.
“I focus on adding to the diversity of what we offer in the Conservatory,” Todd said. “We have some palms that are very old, and some Cycads that date back to the time of the Vanderbilts, but we’re always adding new things for guests to discover and enjoy.”
A breathtaking display of bromeliads and orchids in the Conservatory
Todd Roy checks plantings behind the Conservatory
Pink anthurium thrive in the Conservatory
Todd incorporates colorful foliage into his designs
A detailed drawing of one of Todd’s designs
Biltmore Gardens Railway includes this replica of the Bass Pond spillway in the Conservatory
Painting with Plants
Along with his horticultural skills, Todd has a background in fine art, including painting and photography. His work in the Conservatory gives him a living canvas for expressing his creativity.
“From flowers to foliage, there are so many colors and textures to work with that it really is like ‘painting with plants’. My designs often begin with the color and pattern of foliage and how I can best create multi-level displays that intrigue our guests and engage their imagination,” said Todd.
Biltmore Gardens Railway
This summer, in addition to all his regular responsibilities, Todd was instrumental in preparing the Conservatory to host Biltmore Gardens Railway—a charming botanical model train display featuring replicas of estate landmarks, handcrafted in meticulous detail from such all-natural elements as leaves, bark, and twigs.
“Once the structures and the trains were installed, we had to create displays around them that both complemented the exhibition and showcased the Conservatory itself as one of Biltmore’s historic gardens,” Todd said. “It was an enormous project, but our guests have really enjoyed it!”
Enjoy Biltmore Gardens Railway now through September 29 in two locations on the estate: our all-new Conservatory display showcases estate-related structures while the display in Antler Hill Village features world landmarks.
Featured blog image: Todd Roy displays a brilliantly-colored bromeliad in the Conservatory
Are you planning to bring the whole family to Biltmore this summer? Are you looking to select the perfect activities that everyone will love? Have no fear—here are our top picks Biltmore family fun activities, sure to please the entire clan!
5. Ice Cream
Did you know that the vanilla ice cream served on the estate is based on a delicious original Biltmore Dairy recipe? Now at Biltmore Dairy Bar™ (formerly the Ice Cream Parlor) near Biltmore House and the Creamery in Antler Hill Village, you and the kiddos can enjoy the same rich flavor enjoy by estate guests more than a century ago.
Enjoying crafts at Antler Hill Barn
4. Barn Activities
The Barn at Antler Hill Village offersa variety of activities including turn-of-the-century games and hands-on crafts for the kids as well as fascinating live demonstrations by blacksmiths, woodworkers, and other craftspeople. Each Wednesday in July, hang out at the Barn into the evening and enjoy family-friend movie nights.
3. Pisgah Playground
In addition to the slides, swings, and sandbox you’d expect to find in an outdoor play area, the new and improved Pisgah Playground offers a kid-friend garden space, freestanding musical instruments, an imitation chicken coop, and more. Our playground is open from 9 a.m. until dark each day and is located between Antler Hill Barn and the Farmyard.
2. River Rafting
Take a break from the hustle and bustle of your visit with apeaceful two-hour float. Sit back and relax as one of our knowledgeable guides paddles your raft down a gentle stretch of the French Broad River. For a more private self-guided experience, we also offer single and tandem kayaks. Availability is dependent upon river and weather conditions.
1. Biltmore Gardens Railway
One of the absolute must-see elements of the estate this summer is Biltmore Gardens Railway, featuring beautiful botanical model train displays in the Conservatory and Antler Hill Village. These displays feature Biltmore areas structures as well as global landmarks—each handcrafted in meticulous detail from all-natural materials, largely gathered from the estate itself.
Now through Sept. 29, Biltmore’s Conservatory is home to Biltmore Gardens Railway, an elaborate G-scale railway with locomotives and railcars weaving through the historic greenhouse’s exotic botanicals and miniature replicas of estate landmarks – even one of the Conservatory itself! A second railway display is located in Antler Hill Village where trains travel past replicas of the Eiffel Tower, London’s Tower Bridge, and other European landmarks visited by George Vanderbilt during his world travels.
Working from original floor plans, drawings with elevations, and photographs of Biltmore House and other estate structures, a team with Applied Imagination constructed the Biltmore replicas using natural materials they gathered from estate grounds. The result is a stunningly accurate version of Biltmore.
Some fun facts and figures to consider about Biltmore Gardens Railway:
“Luxuriant” bamboo, as Frederick Law Olmsted called it when planning George Vanderbilt’s gardens and grounds, was harvested and used as the roofing material on the Biltmore House replica. Grapevine was also collected and fashioned into Biltmore’s iconic gargoyles.
1,700 – The number of hours it took to construct the 10-foot-long replica of Biltmore House, compared to… the 6 years it took to build the 250-room Biltmore House in the late 1800s.
6 – The number of artists it took to build the scale model of Biltmore House, compared to… the 1,000 workers it took to build Biltmore House in the late 1800s.
5,000 – The number of tons of Indiana limestone used to build Biltmore House in the late 1800s, compared to… the 25 types of items harvested from estate grounds to create replicas of Biltmore House and other buildings. This included horse chestnut, magnolia leaves, hickory nuts, lotus pods, bamboo, pine cone scales, acorn caps, winged bean, star anise, grapevine, honeysuckle, ash bark, oak bark, pine bark, elm bark, hickory bark, eucalyptus leaves, day lily stem, rose of sharon, cedar branch, walnuts, stewartia, wisteria, turkey tail fungus, and contorted Filbert.
Artists from Applied Imagination suited up in waders to snip a few treasures from the Italian Garden pools. The lotus pods growing there were just too perfect to pass up, and ended up in the creation of the Stables.
6 – The number of separate railroad tracks running through the Conservatory carrying locomotives and railcars around the buildings. The trains cross bridges and trestles on varied levels and through multiple rooms.
8 – The number of estate building replicas in the Conservatory.
7 – The number of artists it took to create all of the replicas in the Conservatory.
3,745 –The number of combined hours it took to construct eight estate building replicas for the Conservatory exhibition.
8 – The number of buildings in the display at Antler Hill Village.
1,050 – Amount of railroad track in feet required for the displays.
1 – Amount of weeks to install Biltmore Gardens Railway at two locations on the estate.
Biltmore Gardens Railway is a wonderful, fun-for-all-ages feature at Biltmore this summer. Plan your visit now!
To create A Vanderbilt House Party, our Museum Services team worked with designer John Bright and his team at Cosprop, London, to recreate clothing worn by the Vanderbilts, including George and Edith’s ensembles from their engagement portraits.
In addition to Edith’s striking blue velvet gown, there is another vital piece that completes her look in the archival photo: the diamond and ruby brooch George gave to her as an engagement gift. Our team decided that the elaborate piece simply had to be recreated in order to truly capture Edith’s look in the portrait.
Place Vendôme in Paris, site of the Boucheron flagship store, ca. 1890–1900
First Things First
The first step for our team was to determine the jeweler that crafted the original brooch, which was part of a set that also included a choker necklace and tiara. One of our curators had a hunch that the piece resembled the work of Boucheron, a high-end French jewelry house established in 1858.
Boucheron’s company archivist was able to confirm that they indeed had a receipt of George Vanderbilt having purchased the set on May 7, 1898—just after his and Edith’s April engagement and prior to their June wedding.
Luckily, Boucheron was also able to share with us the original 1898 photo of brooch from their archives, which turned out to be an incredibly helpful reference in the recreation of the piece.
Left: Edith Vanderbilt’s engagement portrait, 1898; Right: archival catalog photo of the original brooch (Courtesy of Boucheron Heritage Department)
A Master Artisan
John Bright and the Cosprop team recommended artisan Martin Adams for the job. Martin specializes in making jewelry and jewelry-related props, including crowns, tiaras, regalia, and the like.
In his 43 years of prop-making, Martin has worked on countless notable movie, television, and theater productions, including Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Titanic, The Crown, Downton Abbey, Hamilton, and the list truly just goes on and on.
Given the high demand and prestige of Martin’s work, our team considered themselves fortunate that he undertook the brooch recreation project—and that he gave it such time.
Early sketch of the recreated brooch’s frame (Courtesy of Martin Adams)
The Recreation Begins
We supplied him with Boucheron’s archival photo of the brooch, which captured its fine details, as well as our photos of Edith wearing it, which showed the brooch from various angles, displaying its depth.
But in order to determine the actual size of the piece, the Cosprop team made photographic cut-outs of the brooch in various scales—under Martin’s direction—to see which size appeared to be most accurate against the backdrop of Edith’s gown as it, too, was being recreated.
Comparing the archival photo of the original with an early trial stage of construction (Courtesy of Martin Adams)
Martin then set to work on the frame of the piece, which he pierced from flat sheet copper. He filed the copper to give it steeply sloping sides, which gives the appearance of being delicate, while still maintaining its strength. The whole frame was them gently hammered over a dome-shaped block to give the brooch the correct dimension and depth.
Struggles with Stones
With the exception of two stones, all of the diamonds in the original brooch were boat-shaped stones, known as a marquise or navette cut. Martin estimated that the piece’s 46 diamonds were in five different sizes—from 6mm long (just under a quarter of an inch) to 14mm long (a bit more than half an inch).
He chose to use cubic zirconia which, particularly for a piece that will be viewed closely, would provide a much better representation of diamonds than would foil-backed stones, which are commonly found in costume jewelry.
Both the largest and smallest stone-mounts used in the recreation (Courtesy of Martin Adams)
As for the rubies, Martin obtained samples of the richest red stones available, including red cubic zirconia, synthetic rubies, and red paste stones—but none of them had deep enough color. He finally found just enough rich red Swarovski stones in the four main sizes he needed.
However, Martin had to settle for using a synthetic ruby as the massive cushion-shaped stone in the center. Although to the trained eye the stone may appear a slightly lighter shade than the rest, he simply could not find a better alternative to fit the size.
Comparing the accuracy of the custom-made mounts (left) with pre-made mounts (right) (Courtesy of Martin Adams)
And Struggles with Stone-Mounts
After a few failed attempts using ready-made stone-mounts, Martin realized he needed to make the mounts from scratch in order for the piece to be as authentic as possible.
This required him to make 10 different mount models—the main body of the brooch consists of five different stone-mount sizes, there are four different joint mounts, and one mount just for the central stone. He used the models to make molds, from which he then cast each of the mounts.
Martin’s final challenge was to grind down and polish the 14 “diamond” wafers for the pendant sections, as nothing like this was available to buy.
He then set all of the stones in their mounts individually. And after upwards of 200 hours of work, the brooch was complete.
The completed recreation of Edith Vanderbilt’s Boucheron brooch
The Finished Piece
“This turned out to be one of the most complicated and time-greedy jobs I have ever done,” said Martin. “It has also been one of the most rewarding.”
From start to finish, the entire process took nearly 8 months and the final result is nothing short of stunning. Having a recreation of this quality allows us to tell more of the Vanderbilts’ romance and courtship story through a tangible, exceptionally beautiful object.
We are overjoyed that it is now part of Biltmore’s permanent collection. The brooch is on display in the Tapestry Gallery of Biltmore House now through May 27 as part of our A Vanderbilt House Party exhibition.
When a distinctive brand such as Biltmore® discovers a like-minded business that expresses the same values, including a deep belief in quality, craftsmanship, and thoughtful design, the two companies have a wonderful opportunity to create something special together.
Biltmore is delighted to announce our new partnership with Balsam Hill®, a company committed to creating the best artificial Christmas trees and holiday décor on the market.
In addition to stunningly realistic Christmas trees, Balsam Hill also creates dazzling seasonal décor—and their Biltmore Collection required a site visit as well.
The company’s designers visited the estate last year during Christmas at Biltmore for inspiration from in and around America’s Largest Home® adorned for the holiday season.
The team also collaborated with Lizzie Borchers, Biltmore’s Floral Displays Manager, to ensure that the colors, quality, and overall feel of the collection were authentic to Biltmore.
Lizzie Borchers, Biltmore Floral Displays Manager, with Balsam Hill décor in the Music Room of Biltmore House
Decking the Halls
This holiday season, the new Biltmore Collection by Balsam Hill is on display in the Music Room of Biltmore House as well as in the guest suites of The Inn on Biltmore Estate™. These elegant products are available for purchase online and at The Marble Lion shop at The Inn.