George Vanderbilt: A Passion For Italy

George Vanderbilt–traveler, collector, and patron of the arts–appreciated the finer things in life, but had a special passion for the culture and creativity of Italy. His trips there and other regions he visited across Europe helped shape his appreciation for art, architecture, and fine wine.

“Throughout his life, George Vanderbilt traveled the world, first with family and friends, and after he married, his wife Edith and their daughter Cornelia often accompanied him,” said Meghan Forest, Associate Curator.

George Vanderbilt’s first Italian visit

Archival image of the Colosseum, 1887. Rome, Italy
Archival image of the Colosseum, 1887. Rome, Italy.

Based on correspondence in our archives, Italy seems to have been a favored destination for George Vanderbilt. He first visited the country in 1880 when he was 18 years old, taking in notable sites such as Rome and Vatican City.

The visit included a stop in Milan where the church and Dominican convent of Sante Maria della Grazie was of particular interest as its refectory contains The Last Supper fresco painted by Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci.

Further travels in Italy

The Last Supper fresco painting by Leonardo da Vinci
The Last Supper fresco painting by Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1495–1498.

In 1887, George Vanderbilt took an extended trip to Italy, taking in some of the well-known sites including Pisa Cathedral with its famously tilted bell tower, better known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

He also visited Venice with its winding canals and Florence, the city long considered the epicenter of Italian Renaissance art and culture. Florence offers some of the most iconic treasures of the era, including the Uffizi Museum and the Cathedral de Santa Maria dell Fiore, generally referred to as the Duomo because of its two free-standing domes.

Archival photo of three passengers and two rowers in a gondola in Venice, Italy
George Vanderbilt (seated, far right) with unidentified men riding a gondola in Venice, 1887

Seven years later, George Vanderbilt returned to Italy with members of his family including his niece Adele Sloan. They visited Taormina and the ruins of the Taormina Amphitheatre built by the Greeks and renovated 600 years later by the Romans. Such sites were popular destinations during the American Renaissance of the late 19th century as travelers sought to understand the ancient world.

Honeymooning in Italy

Villa Vignolo near Stresa, Italy, c. 1898.
Villa Vignolo on the shores of Lake Maggiore near Stresa, Italy, c. 1898.

“Another reason we believe George Vanderbilt had a passion for Italy is because he chose to take his new bride Edith there after they were wed in Paris in 1898. The Vanderbilts spent the first six weeks of their four-month honeymoon at Villa Vignolo on the shores of Lake Maggiore near Stresa, Italy,” Meghan said.

While there, the Vanderbilts took short trips to various museums and galleries, taking in sights such as the iconic Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal in Venice. In Edith, George found a partner who shared his passion for history, literature, and the arts.

In a letter to artist James McNeill Whistler, George wrote of their time in Italy, “It was Mrs. Vanderbilt’s first visit… It has been an added pleasure of course to see her delight and interest… “ *

Italian Renaissance wellhead, c. 1500
Made of Rosso di Verona marble, this fountainhead was likely originally used to decorate and protect an active well in Venice during the Italian Renaissance, c. 1500. It has become known as the “Hunt Fountain” as it is depicted in the John Singer Sargent portrait of Biltmore House architect Richard Morris Hunt.


Featured blog image: George Vanderbilt (seated, far right) with unidentified men riding a gondola in Venice, 1887

*George Washington Vanderbilt to James McNeill Whistler. 10 Jul 1898. The Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler. Glasgow University Library, University of Glasgow: 05919.

World Premiere: Italian Renaissance Alive At Biltmore

Please enjoy this archived exhibition article.

“This is no ordinary art exhibition,” said Travis Tatham, Director of Destination Entertainment and Events. “If you’ve ever tiptoed through a silent gallery to view paintings from afar, prepare to be amazed by this experience!”

The stunning new larger-than-life digital art exhibition, created and produced by Grande Experiences, invites you to be transported to one of the most influential eras in art history.

Continue reading to learn about the world premiere of Italian Renaissance Alive, on display daily inside Amherst on Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, through January 7, 2024!

Preview the larger-than-life “Italian Renaissance Alive” digital art exhibition on display in Amherst.

“From start to finish, you’ll interact with art in ways you never imagined, surrounded by a vibrant symphony of light, color, sound–even fragrance. It is truly an unforgettable event for all the senses,” Travis said.

What was the Italian Renaissance?

Detail of The Entombment of Mary by Giotto
The Entombment of Mary by Giotto, ca. 1310

Renaissance means “rebirth,” and the era brought cultural, artistic, political and economic rebirth to Europe following the Middle Ages and the fall of the Roman Empire. A new vision of civilization was portrayed on canvas, in fresco, and sculpture, and the epicenter of it all was Italy.

Italian Renaissance Alive traverses the entire Renaissance time frame, from the 14th to 17th centuries. It celebrates the exceptional artistic and cultural influences of the period, immersing audiences in culture, architecture, sculpture, and literature of this iconic movement.

Italian Renaissance Alive

Detail of The Creation of Adam by Italian Renaissance painter Michelangelo
The Creation of Adam, a fresco painting by Michelangelo, which forms part of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, painted ca. 1508–1512.

“Since Biltmore is hosting the world premiere of Italian Renaissance Alive, our guests will be the very first in the world to experience this fascinating new exhibition,” said Travis.

According to Travis, visitors will be instantly transported by the history and splendor of this extraordinary period, surrounded in its beauty, and able to explore hundreds of masterpieces from some of the world’s most revered artists and sculptors in grand and glorious detail.

Detail of The School of Athens fresco painted by Raphael
The School of Athens by Raphael, ca. 1509–1511

Highlights include Michelangelo’s breath-taking Sistine Chapel, Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, and other glorious works by Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian, Veronese, and more, in an awe-inspiring, large-scale, immersive experience.

Dertail of The Last Judgment fresco painted by Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti
The Last Judgment by Michelangelo, ca. 1536–1541. This enormous fresco painting covers the whole altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.

“Accompanied by a powerful Italian operatic score including works by Puccini and Verdi, combined with a compelling narrative, this multi-sensory experience will deliver audiences a captivating, educational and entertaining moment to remember,” said Travis.

Connections to George Vanderbilt and the American Renaissance

Archival photo of three passengers and two rowers in a gondola in Venice, Italy
George Vanderbilt (seated, far right) with unidentified men riding a gondola in Venice, 1887

Although he was born 200 years after the Italian Renaissance ended, George Vanderbilt was part of what is known as the American Renaissance–a cultural period from 1876 to 1917 in which the United States experienced a renewal of national self-confidence, embracing both modernism and new technologies along with classic art and architecture.

Vanderbilt traveled to Italy several times, even choosing to spend his honeymoon there, and collected a number of Renaissance-era and Renaissance-inspired treasures for his magnificent home.

Detail of View of the Ducal Palace in Venice by Italian Renaissance painter Giovanni Antonio Canal
View of the Ducal Palace in Venice by Canaletto, ca. 1755

“This new exhibition is a fitting tribute to George Vanderbilt’s lifelong passion for fine art,” Travis said. “It helps you see the connection between Biltmore and this exhibition while enjoying some of the world’s best known masterpieces in an entirely new way, immersed in the beauty and brilliance of a major artistic period in history as it comes to life all around you.”

Be among the first to enjoy Italian Renaissance Alive at Biltmore!

You will not want to miss Italian Renaissance Alive, the fourth and final exhibition in our remarkable Legends of Art & Innovation at Biltmore series.

Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of Biltmore and extend your visit with a reservation at one of our hotels or private historic cottages with an Italian Renaissance Alive package that includes a special memento of your exhibition experience.

In addition, enhance your stay with a complimentary wine tasting at the Winery in Antler Hill Village, a wide range of outdoor activities, shopping, dining, and so much more!

Be transported to Italy with the larger-than-life “Italian Renaissance Alive” digital art exhibition on display in Amherst.
Be transported to Italy with the larger-than-life “Italian Renaissance Alive” digital art exhibition on display in Amherst.


Featured image: The Birth of Venus by Botticelli, ca. 1484–1486

Patron of the Arts: George Vanderbilt

As a patron of the arts, George Vanderbilt remains a remarkable example of the difference one man can make in the field of fine art and education.

With his deep appreciation and understanding of arts and languages and his vision for a self-sustaining country estate, George Vanderbilt was part of the American Renaissance that flourished during the Gilded Age.

Detail of George Vanderbilt portrait by John Singer Sargent, painted in 1890.

A patron of the arts

George Vanderbilt did more than simply collect and appreciate art, however; he was also a passionate patron who befriended artists such as John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler, commissioning their works for his home and corresponding with them far beyond the particulars of portraiture.

Literary writers including Edith Wharton and Henry James were welcomed at Biltmore, and George Vanderbilt’s close friend and author Paul Leicester Ford spent several weeks at the estate while working on his novel Janice Meredith: A Story of the American Revolution

(left) George Vanderbilt’s personal bookplate.

Library patron

In addition to his personal friendships with artists, George Vanderbilt was a great proponent of public access to the arts, using his philanthropic values to ensure that others could benefit from institutions such as free lending libraries.

While most libraries of that era required patrons to pay for the books they borrowed, Vanderbilt provided funding to build the Jackson Square Free Circulating Library of the New York Public Library System and filled it with books that he donated. This library was one of the first open to the general public.

Rhinocerous print by Albrecht Dürer in Biltmore’s collection.

Support for young artists

Another of George Vanderbilt’s most significant donations was to The American Fine Arts Society in support of young artists. In 1892, Vanderbilt donated $100,000 to pay for the property and construct the building that the Society would use for exhibiting members’ work.

Named the Vanderbilt Gallery in his honor, the inaugural exhibition was a show of prints by Rembrandt and Albrecht Dürer, plus prints based on the paintings of Sir Joshua Reynolds, all from George Vanderbilt’s personal collection.

While some of the Durer prints and those after the style of Reynolds remain in the Biltmore collection, the original Rembrandt prints were sold to J.P. Morgan. You can see a selection of detailed reproductions in the Oak Sitting Room of Biltmore House.

Formal photo portrait of young George Vanderbilt (detail)

Living the legacy

We continue George Vanderbilt’s passion for the arts today by hosting exhibitions such as Legends of Art & Innovation at Biltmore featuring four separate large-scale, multi-sensory events created and produced by Grande Experiences using the very latest in immersive technology.

Past exhibitions have illuminated the remarkable lives of artists such as Van Gogh, Monet, and Da Vinci, while the current Italian Renaissance Alive exhibition showcases a wide range of timeless masterpieces from that dramatic era in European history.

Each individual exhibition offers fascinating ties to Vanderbilt’s collection of treasures on display in Biltmore House, his magnificent family home, in Asheville, North Carolina.

Featured: Bronze bust of George Vanderbilt by Mary Grant

The Lasting Legacy of John Cecil

The lasting legacy of John Cecil is founded on his contributions to Biltmore during his lifetime, which helped preserve the estate for future generations. Let’s take a look at how he became such an important part of Biltmore’s history.

John Cecil’s early life

Photographic portrait of John Cecil
The Honorable John Francis Amherst Cecil, 1924

John Francis Amherst Cecil grew up in the English countryside of Norfolk. He was the third son of Lord Cecil and the Baroness Amherst of Hackney. His father was a descendant of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, who was Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth 1.

As a young man, John studied history and international law at the New College of Oxford University before becoming a member of the British diplomatic corps. He served in Egypt, Spain, and Czechoslovakia before being posted to Washington where he rose to the position of First Secretary of the British Embassy.

John Cecil met Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt in Washington, D.C., where she and her mother Edith Vanderbilt spent a great deal of time in the years following George Vanderbilt’s death. Ten years older than Cornelia, John was one of a group of eligible gentlemen known as the “British bachelors” in the capitol’s social circles.

A grand wedding

Cornelia and John Cecil engagement photo
The Honorable and Mrs. John Francis Amherst Cecil, 1924. This portrait, shot by noted London photographer Langfier, was taken when Cornelia was presented to Queen Mary of the United Kingdom following her wedding. Since John Cecil was a member of the nobility, the couple followed the tradition of formally presenting his bride to English society. Cornelia wore a dress made out of her modified wedding gown and veil.

Of all the romantic celebrations Biltmore Estate has witnessed, none have been quite as spectacular as the wedding of American heiress Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt to the Honorable John Francis Amherst Cecil on April 29, 1924.

Hundreds of invitations were extended to friends and family, and the guest list included many well-known public and diplomatic figures of the time.

Life at Biltmore

Cornelia Vanderbilt (front center) and John Cecil (back right) at party with friends in front of Biltmore House, 1925
(L-R back row) Leander McCormick-Goodhart, John Cecil; (front row) H. H. Sims, Amelia “Mitzi” Sims, Cornelia Vanderbilt, Rachel Vanderbilt, and Benjamin Bernard in front of Biltmore House, 1925

Shortly before his marriage to Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt, Cecil resigned his diplomatic position, announcing that after the wedding he would make Biltmore his primary residence and would take an active role in managing the estate.

After their honeymoon, the couple lived at Biltmore, continuing the legacy of hospitality for which the estate was known, as well as managing the property and farming operations.

Cornelia and John Cecil (center) at the 1930 opening of Biltmore House
Cornelia and John Cecil (central figures) at the opening of Biltmore House to the public in 1930.

During the Great Depression, in a bid to boost the local economy and bring tourists to the region, the Cecils worked with the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce to open Biltmore House to the public in 1930. 

Building a legacy

John Cecil driving in front of Biltmore House
John Cecil driving in front of Biltmore House, c. 1925

The Cecils divorced in 1934, with Cornelia taking the couple’s two young sons with her to Europe to be educated. John Cecil remained at Biltmore, enjoying the life of a country gentleman while taking an active role in the management of Biltmore House and becoming involved with several community organizations including the Biltmore Hospital and All Souls’ Church.

Together with Edith Vanderbilt and Judge Junius Adams, John Cecil provided leadership for The Biltmore Company, which was organized in 1932 to manage the estate. He returned to his native England during World War II as Minister of Information, but came back to Asheville and took up residence at Biltmore again when the conflict ended.

A tribute to John Cecil

John Cecil dressed as Santa Claus with a group of children dressed as Santa's elves, ca. 1950
The Hon. John F. A. Cecil (left) dressed as Santa Claus with Santa’s elves at a Christmas party at the Biltmore Forest Country Club, ca. 1950. Courtesy of Biltmore Forest Country Club and Sheila Fender, Asheville, N.C.

John Cecil developed enduring relationships with estate residents who remembered him as a kind, down-to-earth gentleman. At annual Christmas parties, he often portrayed Santa Claus, emerging from one of the vast fireplaces in the Banquet Hall with a giant bag of gifts over his shoulder, much to the delight and wonder of the children in attendance.

In his book Lady on the Hill, John Cecil’s younger son William A.V. Cecil wrote that his father “had a deep appreciation for the treasures in the house and entertained his guests by translating the Old Latin woven into the tapestries. He brought a sense of British propriety to the chateau’s new role as tourist attraction with an approach that was both Old World and Madison Avenue. For example, he insisted that the staff place fresh-cut flowers in the rooms opened to visitors to discount the appearance of a dusty museum. His philosophy became a standard throughout Biltmore’s public life.”

John Cecil’s lasting legacy

Evening reflection of Biltmore House in the Front Lawn fountain
John Cecil’s contributions to Biltmore have helped preserve the estate for future generations.

Today, we honor John Cecil’s contributions to the legacy of Biltmore with the John Francis Amherst Cecil Scholarship established in his honor. This scholarship is a tribute to his devotion to the preservation and well-being of Biltmore and its employees, and the scholarship helps assist the dependents of Biltmore employees with the rising costs of higher education.

Featured image: Candid photograph of John Cecil

Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin

Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin is the delightful result of a collaboration between two family-led companies in Asheville, North Carolina.

With the addition of Biltmore Estate’s rose petals and red wine barrels, this outstanding small-batch gin distilled by Chemist Spirits delights with its soft pink hue and layers of distinctive flavor .

Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin

Chemist Conservatory Rose Gin
Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin crafted is a collaboration with Chemist Spirits in Asheville, NC

Mixed or muddled, handcrafted botanical gins are very much on trend, and none surpass the pure elegance of Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin.

“This is the fourth time we’ve collaborated with Chemist Spirits to handcraft this limited-edition, small-batch Rose Gin,” said Geoff Campbell, Wine Marketing Manager. “It’s a remarkable way to evoke the classic refinement of Biltmore’s gardens in bloom.”

Barrels at Biltmore's Winery
Oak barrels in the Barrel Room at Biltmore Winery

The 84-proof base gin crafted by Chemist Spirits expresses soft juniper notes bursting with bright citrus. It is then matured for several months in red wine-soaked estate barrels for a rich infusion of warm fruit and toasted oak flavors.

Perfect petals

Pink roses blooming in Biltmore's Rose Garden
Biltmore’s Historic Rose Garden provides perfect pink petals for our collaboration with Chemist Gin

To preserve the peak freshness of this limited-edition small-batch gin, hand-plucked rose petals from Biltmore’s Historic Rose Garden are infused into the barreled, rested spirit just days before it is bottled and released.

The result is a palate-pleasing botanical gin with a subtle pink hue from the wine barrels and sweet nuances of pink and white rose, lemon cream, vanilla, ripe strawberry, and grapefruit peel that finishes with a smooth, velvety note of dry red wine.

Perfect blooms in Biltmore's historic Rose Garden
May to June – Biltmore’s historic Rose Garden takes center stage as multiple species of roses are in full bloom. Petals from our roses were selected for a spirited collaboration with Asheville’s Chemist Spirits that resulted in Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin.

“The rose is symbolic of many powerful emotions, and Chemist Spirits’ Conservatory Rose Gin captures this essence in a bottle that makes for a perfect gift to be enjoyed with friends and family,” said Debbie Word, who founded Chemist Spirits along with her daughter Danielle Donaldson, an accomplished chemist who is also a young mother.

“Chemist Spirits is particularly proud to make this special release available in time for Mother’s Day, when roses are traditionally gifted to celebrate our admiration for and the grace of the women in our lives,” Debbie noted.

We invite you to enjoy Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin in the ‘spirit’ in which it is intended–as a reminder to slow down and savor those lingering moments that capture the sweeping romance of Biltmore Estate and inspire us to pause and drink in the roses.

Create cocktail chemistry

Create instant cocktail chemistry with Biltmore Rose Gin
Enjoy a refreshing French Rose 75 Cocktail featuring Biltmore Estate Brut sparkling wine and Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin

To honor this exclusive collaboration in which Chemist Spirits locally distilled gin is carefully aged in Biltmore wine barrels—along with a fragrant profusion of petals from estate roses—we’re shaking things up by pairing our wines with a splash of spirits to create instant cocktail chemistry:

Try an elegant French Rose 75 cocktail with Biltmore Estate® Brut Sparkling and Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin—it’s perfect for any occasion.

Find Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin and Biltmore wines

Create cocktail chemistry with Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin
Create cocktail chemistry with Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin and Biltmore wines

Enjoy this signature Rose Gin in cocktails at estate restaurants, and find our award-winning wines in estate shops and online.

To purchase Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin by the bottle while supplies last, visit or contact Chemist Spirits in downtown Asheville.

Off The Beaten Path: Hidden Gems of Biltmore

Discover the “hidden gems” of Biltmore Estate–special spots that may be off the beaten path, but are worth exploring during your next visit to this welcoming destination in Asheville, NC.

“Our guests tend to be familiar with Biltmore House and its historic gardens, but there are many hidden gems around the property that you might miss if you’re not looking for them,” said Bill Quade, Director of Horticulture.

The Vista and statue of Diana

The statue of Diana overlooking Biltmore House is a hidden gem in the landscape.
Statue of Diana overlooking Biltmore House

At the top of the long, sloping Vista overlooking Biltmore House, you’ll find a marble statue of Diana, Roman goddess of the hunt, under a wooden arbor. Accompanied by one of her dogs, she gazes out over the landscape.

“The statue is beautiful all by itself,” said Bill, “but when you combine it with a perfect view of Biltmore House framed by the Blue Ridge Mountains beyond it, it’s a spectacular place to have a picnic or watch the sunset.”

Three women enjoy a picnic with a view of Biltmore House
The sloping lawn below the statue of Diana offers picnickers a perfect view of Biltmore House!

Tip: The area behind the statue of Diana is a popular site for weddings and group events, so it may be tented, especially during summer and fall.

The Bass Pond is one of Biltmore’s hidden gems

Boat House at the Bass Pond is a hidden gem of Biltmore
The view of the Bass Pond from the Boat House is worth the walk!

The Bass Pond is located at the end of Biltmore’s formal gardens, and though it’s a bit of a walk, the end result is well worth it.

“Keep following the path through the Azalea Garden and you’ll come out at the Bass Pond,” Bill said. “There’s a rustic boathouse on the shore and a bridge over the waterfall at the far end. It’s a beautiful spot for seasonal color and birdwatching.”

Canadian geese on an island at the Bass Pond
The Bass Pond offers wonderful opportunities to view the wilder side of the estate!

Tip: The return trip to Biltmore House is uphill, so take your time and set your own pace. If you don’t have time to walk to the Bass Pond, you can drive to it and use one of the convenient pullouts along the way to park your car and admire this hidden gem designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the estate’s landscape architect.

Explore the Conservatory

Two women in front of the Conservatory at Biltmore
The Conservatory in the Walled Garden is a hidden gem that’s worth exploring in every season.

Created as both an indoor garden filled with tropical treasures and a production greenhouse for nurturing plants, the Conservatory forms the back wall of the formal English-style Walled Garden.

“The design of Biltmore’s Conservatory was a collaboration between Biltmore’s architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted,” Bill said. “And we still maintain the original intent to showcase exotic specimens like orchids and palms, and we also grow some of the plants we use around the estate, like a portion of our Christmas poinsettias.”

Pink Ball Tree flowers
There are hidden gems within the Conservatory, like the fragrant flowers of this Pink Ball Tree (Dombeya wallichii)

Tip: There is always something blooming inside the Conservatory!

Linger by the Lagoon

View of the west side of Biltmore House from the Lagoon
The Lagoon offers a striking reflection of the west side of Biltmore House.

Just below the 250-acre Deer Park portion of the estate, Frederick Law Olmsted created the Lagoon as a peaceful, natural water feature that also serves to reflect the west facade of Biltmore House.

“The Lagoon is raised above the level of the French Broad River that flanks it, which helps keep the water at a more consistent level,” Bill noted. “It’s a great spot to relax and enjoy a picnic or watch for wildlife and waterfowl in every season. Many guests drive right by it on their way to Antler Hill Village and don’t realize they’ve missed another of Biltmore’s hidden gems.”

Tip: If you’re looking for a flat, easy trail with lovely views, park at Antler Hill Village and bike or walk the paved path all the way to the Lagoon and back.

Learn more about hiking and biking on Biltmore Estate and download our Trail Map on our Activities page.

More hidden gems of Biltmore Estate:

Hidden Gem: Antler Hill Village. This European-inspired village celebrates our estate agricultural legacy with learning experiences, field-to-table dining, outdoor adventure, unique shops and restaurants, and our award-winning Winery.
Hidden gem: In late summer months, sunflowers line the path from Antler Hill Village to the Lagoon.
Hidden gems: meet friendly farm animals at the Farmyard in Antler Hill Village.
Hidden gems: discover beautiful views along our network of hiking and biking trails.
Hidden gems: discover colorful koi in the Italian Garden pools
Hidden gems: explore a world of outdoor sculpture at Biltmore, like this cherub in the Italian Garden.
Hidden gems: a winged dragon carved into the base of a stone fountain near the Front Door of Biltmore House.
Hidden gems: the booths inside Stable Café are the original horse stalls from the estate’s stable complex!
Hidden gems: three large bronze turtle fountains at the base of the Rampe Douce were designed to handle the overflow from the estate’s reservoir system.

While we invite all our guests to enjoy finding some of these often-overlooked areas during your next visit, you may want to consider the benefits of purchasing a Biltmore Annual Pass. As a Passholder, you’ll receive exclusive benefits such as FREE unlimited visits for the next 12 months to discover your own hidden gems in every season!

Featured image: The Conservatory is a hidden gem of Biltmore that offers a tropical escape any time of year!

Create A Biltmore-Inspired Spring Centerpiece

Create a Biltmore-inspired spring centerpiece with easy ideas from our Floral team and the glorious arrangements they design for Biltmore House during our annual Biltmore Blooms celebration!

Spring is a favorite season at Biltmore

Spring centerpiece in Mrs. Vanderbilt's Bedroom at Biltmore
See stunning spring arrangements like this in Biltmore House during Biltmore Blooms

“I think spring is a favorite season for many of us at Biltmore,” said Lizzie Borchers, Floral Manager. “We love to celebrate the season by creating spring centerpieces and arrangements that harmonize with the décor in Biltmore House, and we also love to highlight special features with our designs.”

Spring arrangement in the Library at Biltmore House
Lovely blooms, including early spring branches, add interest to any spring centerpiece

Each year during Biltmore Blooms, Lizzie and her team delight guests with lush floral arrangements that highlight some of the priceless portraits and fantastic furnishings in America’s Largest Home®.

Ready to create your own spring centerpiece inspired by Biltmore?

Blue and white spring blooms
Create a stunning centerpiece that’s perfect for spring!

With some helpful suggestions from our Floral team, you can create a stunning design that evokes the fresh feeling of spring with a classic blue-and-white theme.

“Although we’re used to making arrangements that suit the grand scale of Biltmore House, you can use our techniques to achieve a spring centerpiece that works for your space,” said Lizzie. “Just choose a smaller container as your starting point!”

In addition to the blue-and-white blooms recommended below, try adding pretty pops of color with unexpected touches like peacock feathers or a decorative egg-filled bird’s nest as a special nod to spring.

Suggested Materials:

  • Neutral-colored container
  • Floral oasis foam
  • Dutch iris
  • Caspia (white and lavender varieties)
  • Cream-colored stock
  • Pittosporum (potted version used in this arrangement)
  • White roses
  • White hydrangea
  • Peacock feathers (optional)
  • Decorative bird nest with eggs (optional)

Begin by cutting a piece of floral oasis foam to fit snugly inside your container. Soak it well, then begin adding the larger flowers first. Step back from time to time to see the overall effect. Once you’re satisfied with the placement of the larger elements, begin filling in with smaller flowers and greenery.

Tips from Biltmore’s Floral Team:

  • Try letting some floral elements hang over the sides of the container to create movement and interest.
  • Create an equally pretty spring centerpiece by using small potted plants (or permanent botanicals) rather than freshly cut flowers.
    • Choose green and flowering plants of different heights for texture and interest, and add pieces of Styrofoam to lift some pots higher than others.

Plan your spring visit today!

Family activities at Biltmore
Explore our glorious gardens and grounds all year long!

Biltmore Winery Welcomes Chihuly Chandelier

Biltmore Winery welcomes you to marvel at Iris Gold and Garnet Chandelier created by world-renowned artist Dale Chihuly.

Learn more about the inspiration, creation, and location of this beautiful Chandelier by artist Dale Chihuly!

Inspiration for the Chihuly Chandelier

“We are thrilled to share the acquisition of the Iris Gold and Garnet Chandelier by Dale Chihuly,” said Bill Cecil, President and CEO of Biltmore and great-grandson of George Vanderbilt.

Portrait of George Vanderbilt and three bottles of wine
George Vanderbilt (left; portrait by John Singer Sargent) was a thoughtful collector of wines whose legacy continues to inspire our handcrafted Biltmore wines today.

“We know that George Vanderbilt was a thoughtful collector of art and wine who enjoyed bringing beautiful objects to fill his home and sharing excellent vintages at his table,” Bill said, “so our family commissioned this piece to represent the importance of wine in our history, from the Vanderbilt era to our modern-day winemaking philosophy.”

The stunning chandelier draws inspiration from the vibrant hues found in Biltmore’s red, white, and rosé wines.

Creating the intricate composition

Travis Tatham (center), Biltmore’s Director of Destination Entertainment and Events, looks at the plans for the new Iris Gold and Garnet Chandelier with members of Team Chihuly.
Travis Tatham explores color options for the new Iris Gold and Garnet Chandelier
Travis Tatham participates in glassblowing with Team Chihuly in The Hotshop in Seattle, WA.

Chihuly’s Chandeliers are composed of hundreds of blown glass elements that together make up elaborate, intricate compositions. Chihuly began the Chandelier series in 1992 and has since created them for locations all around the world.

Detail of Chihuly Chandelier at Biltmore
Dale Chihuly, Iris Gold and Garnet Chandelier, 2022, 8x6x6′, ©2023 Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved.

“What makes the Chandeliers work for me is the massing of color. If you take hundreds of blown pieces of one color, put them together, and then shine light through them, now that’s going to be something to look at. Hang it in a space and it becomes mysterious, defying gravity or seemingly out of place, like something you have never seen before.” — Dale Chihuly

A welcome addition to Biltmore’s collection

Stained glass La Farge windows
George Vanderbilt’s father commissioned artist and interior designer John La Farge to create several stained glass panels that represent “The Fruits of Prosperity”.

“While we have decorative glass objects in Biltmore’s private collection, such as a Tiffany vase and the La Farge stained glass windows, this commissioned Chihuly Chandelier is the first fine-art glass sculpture to be added to Biltmore’s private collection,” said Ellen Rickman, Director of Museum Services.

Tiffany vase
Part of the Biltmore collection, this handblown vase by famed art glass maker Louis Comfort Tiffany features different layers of glass in different colors, with a gold metallic surface and woven sterling silver overlay.

Dale Chihuly is recognized for having a significant impact on the art world, just as artists like Paul Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet did in their time. We are honored to welcome this work of art into our collection alongside important works by other great artists.

Savor and share Biltmore Winery’s new Chihuly Chandelier

Couple on a romantic date entering the Winery at Biltmore
Biltmore’s Winery offers wonderful ways to savor and share all year round, including the new Chandelier by Chihuly.

All Biltmore guests with estate admission, Annual Pass membership, or an overnight stay are welcome to view the Chihuly Chandelier inside the Wine Shop of our estate Winery in Antler Hill Village. For current hours of operation, visit biltmore.com/hours.

For those who enjoy sharing their memories on social media, we invite you to use our official tags:

  • Handles: @biltmoreestate @biltmorewines @chihulystudio
  • Location tag: Biltmore, 1 Lodge Street
  • Hashtag: #ChihulyatBiltmore #Chihuly #Biltmore

Featured image: Dale Chihuly, Iris Gold and Garnet Chandelier, 2022, 8x6x6′, ©2023 Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved.

Take A Tropical Escape In Our Conservatory

With towering palms and exotic blooms, Biltmore invites you to take a tropical escape in our Conservatory during any season–but it’s never more welcome than in the winter months.

Ornate bench surrounded by flowering plants in Biltmore's Conservatory
Picture yourself here! The Conservatory offers beautiful backdrops for your selfies and photos.

“While we welcome the return of warmer weather with our annual Biltmore Blooms celebration each spring, the Conservatory offers a year-round indoor tropical oasis that will make you forget the outside temperatures for a while,” said Todd Roy, Conservatory Horticulturalist.

Archival Conservatory photo
Photograph of the Conservatory from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1910

A passion for horticulture

Completed in 1895, the Conservatory embodies the late 19th-century passion for horticulture. It was a collaboration between George Vanderbilt, Frederick Law Olmsted, the estate’s landscape architect, and Richard Morris Hunt, who designed Biltmore House. Hunt designed the structure while Olmsted weighed in on the location.

Trap door in the floor of the Winter Garden
This hidden door in the floor of the Winter Garden in Biltmore House allowed plants to be brought back and forth from the Conservatory without disturbing guests.

Like other conservatories in the early 1900s, Biltmore’s glass-enclosed building sheltered exotic and tropical plants from around the world, but it was much more than a pretty place to showcase rare plants; it also fulfilled Vanderbilt’s vision of Biltmore as a self-sufficient, working estate.

Rows of plants growing in pots
Some of the poinsettias used for holiday decor at Biltmore are grown in the Production Room of the Conservatory.

“Beyond the main areas that Mr. Vanderbilt’s guests would have enjoyed, there is a large Production Room for potting and growing plants and storing tools and equipment,” Todd said. “We still use those areas today.”

Man working on a scaffold on the exterior of Biltmore's Conservatory
In 2017, the Conservatory underwent repairs and cleaning. In 2022, all the large wooden exterior doors were replaced.

Restoring the Conservatory

For a building made primarily of glass, it’s remarkable that the Conservatory’s design and construction stood the test of time for more than a century. In 1997, the structure received an extensive two-year renovation.

“Biltmore focused on much-needed repairs while restoring most of the floor plan to the original 1893 design,” said Todd. “I believe George Vanderbilt, who was fascinated with technology and innovations, would have been excited by everything that was done to preserve this historic building.”

Purple cattaleya orchids in bloom
Purple cattaleya orchids in bloom in Orchid Room in Conservatory

Orchids on display

One of the highlights of the Conservatory is the Orchid Room which features more than 500 plants in the collection. Peak bloom time is during the winter months, bringing some much-needed warmth and color to the coldest season of the year, though the room is filled with blooms year-round.

“Our collection highlights five major groups of orchids,” said Todd. “A large portion is orchids people generally know, like corsage orchids which come in every color imaginable. We also have lady slipper orchids, yellow-flowered dancing lady orchids, and many others.”

“They are diverse in every respect, from the shape of their flowers to the way they trick pollinators like bees or hummingbirds because there is rarely any nectar or pollen in the blooms,” said Todd. “Orchids are truly fascinating.”

Boy looks at a large cactus
From lush orchids to spiny specimens in the Cactus Room, Biltmore’s Conservatory is filled with fascinating discoveries!

Plan your Biltmore Conservatory visit today!

Whether you’re a first-time guest who wants to experience as much as possible, or an Annual Passholder who enjoys unlimited free visits for an entire year, the Conservatory, located at the bottom of the Walled Garden, is just one of the wonderful features you’ll discover at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC!



Plan A Romantic Getaway to Biltmore

When you’re longing for time away with your beloved, Biltmore serves up the ultimate romantic escape whether you’re seeking a private retreat for renewed connections or fun-filled adventures in the great outdoors.

Follow our expert tips and inspiration for planning your next romantic getaway to Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.

Enjoy the great outdoors together on your next romantic date or getaway at Biltmore!

Explore the estate together

Create new memories by enjoying the outdoors together while exploring the grounds of George Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre Blue Ridge Mountain estate.

“I can’t think of anything much more romantic than a private carriage ride for two,” said Heather Brannan, Outdoor Adventure Center Supervisor, “but Biltmore offers so many activities that you’re sure to find something that delights both of you.”

  • Carriage and trail rides
    • Enjoy Biltmore’s property from a different perspective with a carriage or trail ride. Choose guided or private options to suit your style and abilities.
  • Biking and hiking
    • Delight in Frederick Law Olmsted’s distinctive landscape design as you explore the trails at Biltmore. Walk, hike, rent a bike, or pedal your own to get a firsthand view of the estate.
  • Wellness activities
    • Indulge in some self-care as a couple with thoughtful options that quiet your mind and refresh your spirits, such as Morning Yoga or our deliciously relaxing Chocolate Meditation.
Falconry at Biltmore
Falconry is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to interact with one of these majestic birds of prey.

Adventure awaits

Team up with your significant other for an adventure that may take you out of your comfort zone, but will also bring you closer together as you learn new skills with the help of our expert guides.

  • Land Rover® Experience at Biltmore
    • Go off-roading in luxury when you engage in a Land Rover® Experience at Biltmore. Book a one- or two-hour session and receive expert training to maneuver on unfamiliar terrain.
    • Extend the adventure with a full-day excursion that includes a mid-day break for a private picnic lunch–now that’s romantic! 
  • Falconry
    • Let romance take flight as you experience the ancient art of falconry together. Learn about these fascinating birds of prey as well as hawks and barn owls, and receive expert training on handling and interacting with these captivating raptors.
Make a morning reservation for Biltmore House and feel like a guest of the Vanderbilts.

Rise and shine

Beth Poslusny, Vice President of Destination Guest Experience, suggests making it a truly romantic getaway with accommodations and special packages at The Inn on Biltmore Estate®, Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate® or one of our private historic cottages.

“You’ll have the unique opportunity to awaken on the estate,” said Beth, “and there’s no better way to start a special day together!”

Make your date or getaway more romantic with the addition of a Behind-the-Scenes Guided Tour:

  • The Biltmore House Backstairs Tour offers enthralling stories of domestic staff while exploring their lives and the areas where they worked.
  • Our Rooftop Tour offers a bird’s eye view of the house, with fascinating little-known details about the construction and design of the 175,000-square-foot home. 
Enjoy our Red Wine and Chocolate Tasting featuring premium Biltmore wines and artisan chocolate truffles from French Broad Chocolates. 📷 by @chelseaericasmith and @thewineshutter

Table for two

As part of your romantic date or getaway, make time to wine and dine on the estate with your special someone.

Winery
Surprise your significant other by booking a Red Wine & Chocolate Tasting and learn why the flavors are a match made in heaven–just like the two of you!

Round out the romance with the following options:

  • Reserve time for a complimentary tasting where you’ll learn about Biltmore’s winemaking heritage.
  • Unwind at the indoor-outdoor Wine Bar to enjoy Biltmore wines with charcuterie, cheese, and chocolates, then stock up on favorite vintages and accessories at the Wine Shop.
  • Rekindle your memories at home with a membership in our Vanderbilt Wine Club®.

Delicious Dining
“From fine dining to casual, quick-service options and sweet treats, Biltmore offers fabulous flavors to suit every taste,” said Estate Executive Chef Mark DeMarco. “Something as simple as sipping hot chocolate from The Creamery while you stroll around Antler Hill Village can make any date more memorable.”

For the ultimate romantic dinner, Chef DeMarco suggests reserving a table for two in The Dining Room at The Inn on Biltmore Estate–both the restaurant and The Inn have earned a prestigious Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star rating for world-class service and gracious hospitality.

Plan your next romantic date or getaway now

 No matter what activities light your fire, the variety of things to do at Biltmore will provide the perfect spark for your next romantic date or getaway.

Featured image: This couple’s romantic date included a selfie in front of Biltmore House!