So Many Options for Summer Fun – Just Like in the Vanderbilts’ Day

Written By Leeann Donnelly

Posted 06/06/17

Updated 06/06/17

Estate History

Cornelia Vanderbilt, the young woman on the left in the photo above, is the picture of relaxed elegance, enjoying the company of her friends on the steps next to Biltmore House. This is what her father, George Vanderbilt, intended when he chose the mountains of western North Carolina as the setting for his country estate in the late 1800s. He sought an antidote to the social pressures and hectic pace of New York City, and created a retreat where he, his family, and friends could relax and immerse themselves in the area’s natural beauty.

Cornelia was his only child, born to him and wife Edith. The family welcomed hundreds of guests to Biltmore House through the years. It’s no wonder they stayed for weeks at a time. The combination of the elegant French chateau, gentle rolling hills, and mild weather captured the imagination. Spring and summer lured the hosts and their friends outdoors to play. A dazzling array of activities appealed to nearly every taste and whim. The Vanderbilts offered tennis, croquet, archery, fishing, horseback riding, golf, swimming, “automobiling,” and lawn bowling in the formal gardens and landscaped grounds surrounding Biltmore House.

Choices for outdoor fun at Biltmore are as plentiful today as they were back in those days.

In the photo below, you can see that Edith Vanderbilt herself was an avid fisherwoman. She often gave fishing parties at Biltmore, and daughter Cornelia fished right alongside her.

Today we offer fly fishing lessons on the Lagoon.

Fly fishing at Biltmore

Our archives note that the family enjoyed hikes into the forest and across estate ridges. George Vanderbilt himeslf loved to get out in the woods and see the estate on foot. 

George Vanderbilt is seen hiking in woods at Biltmore estate.

We make estate grounds easily accessible for guests interested in leisurely strolls or challenging hikes.

Man and woman walking on hill behind Biltmore House.

George Vanderbilt was descended from a family famous for its love of racing and raising horses. Coaching and riding were always favorite recreational activities. Daughter Cornelia grew up riding horses, and for a time, she even had a donkey to ride. 

Young Cornelia Vanderbilt riding a donkey.

It's tough to find a more exciting and beautiful way to see the estate than from the back of a horse.

Man riding horse at Biltmore.

As a little girl, Cornelia splashed around in the front lawn fountain, and later as a young woman, entertained guests at the pool on the South Terrace. 

Cornelia Vanderbilt as a child loved to swim in the front lawn fountain.Group of people enjoying the South Terrace pool in early years of Biltmore.

The pool is no longer on the South Terrace, but both of Biltmore's lodging properties offer swimming pools surrounded by beautiful scenery. The French Broad River runs through the estate, and guests may kayak on it, enjoy some stand-up paddling or take a rafting trip.

Aerial photo Biltmore House with River

As “automobiling” came into fashion, George Vanderbilt was enamored of this mode of transportation. His interest in cars must have rubbed off on Cornelia, for she tooled around the estate in this sporty convertible.

Cornelia Vanderbilt driving a convertible automobile at Biltmore.

One of the most unique offerings at Biltmore is the Land Rover Driving Experience. Guests are challenged to learn navigating a Land Rover through a rugged driving course. 

A Land Rover vehicle drives through a stream on Biltmore estate.

There's also something to be said about simply taking time to relax and enjoy the scenery. Cornelia is pictured below, reclining on the Vista with a friend, where the view of Biltmore House is spectacular. 

Archival photo Cornelia Vanderbilt with a friend sitting on the Vista

Guests today may also hike the Vista to observe this very same view. They can also find a good spot on the Village Green to picnic, listen to live music and hang out with friends and family. 

Family relaxing on Village Green in Antler Hill Village

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