Our Holiday Gingerbread House Was Built To Last

Biltmore’s holiday gingerbread house was built to last–mostly because it’s not really made from real gingerbread!

Although the fanciful replica of America’s Largest Home® appears to be constructed from freshly baked gingerbread that’s been decorated with swirls of snowy icing and old-fashioned candy details, it’s actually an incredibly detailed work of art from our friends at Applied Imagination.

Gingerbread house version of Biltmore House
Once finished, the faux gingerbread version of Biltmore House had to be carefully transported from Applied Imagination’s workshop in Alexandria, KY, to Asheville, NC

These talented artists specialize in handcrafting architectural models, sculptures, and garden railways out of natural materials. They created all of our Biltmore Gardens Railway displays, including Biltmore Gardens Railway — Wonders of the World in Antler Hill Village now through February 20, 2022.

In past years, our talented Biltmore Estate pastry chefs created real confectionary replicas of Biltmore House, but it was always a monumental task that took weeks to complete and needed a lot of space to assemble. It was also challenging to transport the finished gingerbread house to the Main Kitchen without losing some wreaths and roof tiles along the way!

A firm foundation

Wooden model of Biltmore House
Jason Pleva puts finishing touches on his scale model of Biltmore House

In 2017, Jason Pleva, a member of Biltmore’s carpentry team, used the plans of Biltmore House to build a wooden scale model that could be used as a base for a gingerbread house. It was a good solution that shaved off a lot of construction time, but unfortunately, our chefs found that decorative icing doesn’t cling to wood as well as it does to gingerbread.

Because we’d had so many wonderful experiences with Applied Imagination and the amazing structures they’d created for our Biltmore Gardens Railway displays, we asked if the artists could tackle this Christmas conundrum for us, using Jason’s model as a base for a gingerbread house that would be as long lasting as it was beautiful.

In September 2021, Stephanie Winters, Creative Director/Lead Sculptor, and Ava Roberts, Assistant Sculptor, of Applied Imagination finished their version of America’s Largest Home®. The results were breathtaking, and our “gingerbread house” now takes place of pride in our Main Kitchen during Christmas at Biltmore.

Fun facts from the gingerbread construction project:

  • Time to complete: 1200 hours over the course of five months
  • Measurements: 78½” wide x 32” deep x 32” high (including spires)

Building materials

Detail of gingerbread house version of Biltmore House
Applied Imagination created wonderful details, right down to the beloved marble lions at the Front Door of Biltmore House
  • Gingerbread Cookie Base
    • Tile grout mixed with Mod Podge® Matte and sponged onto 3/16” Gatorboard shapes
  • Wavy Shingled Roof
    • Wooden fan handles covered with tile grout and Mod Podge
  • Windows and Mullions
    • Window panes created with modeling dowel rods and architectural modeling materials (bass wood).
    • Windows created with poured casting resin sprinkled with clear glitter.
    • Textured windows (exterior staircase) have the addition of large, granular, clear beads mixed with resin.
    • Windows backed with gold shimmer paper to resemble the effect of being lit within.
  • Spires on Roof, Staircase Facade, Window Tops, Railing Tops
    • Antique glass headpins; large and small twist shapes in dark green, light green, purple, and pale ice; top spires painted antique gold
  • Piped Icing Shapes
    • All piped icing that makes up the majority of detail on the Biltmore House model was created completely by hand with Liquid Sculpey® (polymer clay). Shapes were formed using latex cake-decorating molds.
  • Snow Blanket
    • Spackling paste to create a base for sculpting and building shapes
    • Clear glass diamond glitter was sprinkled on wet paste to give snow drifts and mounds the look of fresh powder
  • Trees and Bushes
    • Dry floral design cones and spheres, further sculpted by hand to resemble pine tree shapes. Finished with paint and landscape modeling greenery.
  • Biltmore Lions
    • Paper clay and white acrylic paint with a small amount of gold tinted glitter/mica.
  • Garland
    • Thin and flexible English faux pine rope
    • Faux miniature boxwood/bay leaf roping
    • Feathery evergreen (lions’ necks)
    • Floral accents: faux red and gold berries; red velvet and gold-backed ribbon hand-fashioned into miniature bows
Gingerbread house in the Main Kitchen at Biltmore
The gingerbread house takes place of pride in the Main Kitchen during Christmas at Biltmore

Candy decorations

  • Faux Candy Decorations
    • Resin gumdrops and gummies (edge and facade details)
    • Sculpey clay chocolate swirls (base of the spires)
    • Chocolate shavings, glass glitter (soot/embers in chimney tops, base of lions, base of spires, front facade details)
    • Resin chocolate pretzels (fancy railings)
    • Resin chocolate chips (spires inset)
    • Small sugared gum drops, glass/plastic headpins (main detail throughout in purple, orange, yellow, red, green)
    • Variety of candy colored balls of various sizes (beads and headpins)
    • Sculpey clay swirled balls (small detail elements)
  • Cut Cinnamon Sticks
    • Facade details, small railings, wrought iron base for spires
  • Peppermint Sticks
    • Small (vintage paper hand-rolled on dowel rods)
    • Large sticks on main facade (decorative paper on dowel rods)
    • Peppermint balls on main facade (vintage spun cotton and thread)
  • Gumballs, Gingerballs, Round Bulb Ornaments
    • Green and red faux floral berries, gold- and silver-painted floral berries, painted beads

Celebrate Christmas at Biltmore

The Banquet Hall Tree: A Christmas at Biltmore Tradition
The Banquet Hall Christmas Tree is a favorite holiday tradition

To see this marvelous piece of eye candy displayed in the Main Kitchen, make reservations for a holiday visit during our annual Christmas at Biltmore celebration, November 4, 2022 – January 8, 2023, in Asheville, NC.

George Vanderbilt: A Thoughtful Wine Collector

George Vanderbilt was a thoughtful wine collector, whether at home or abroad.

Taste and style were two hallmarks of his life, and both are reflected throughout Biltmore—his private country estate in Asheville, North Carolina.

Visually stunning and technologically advanced, Biltmore House is a testament to Vanderbilt’s vision.

A Thoughtful Collector

Discover Biltmore white wines for outdoor entertaining
George Vanderbilt’s legacy of gracious hospitality lives on with Biltmore wines handcrafted from grapes grown in the estate’s own vineyard or selected from trusted west coast partners

George Vanderbilt was well-known as a collector, travelling the world gathering art, sculpture, furniture, and books. He also enjoyed wine, frequently purchasing it abroad and bringing cases of wine back to his home in Asheville to share with his family and friends.

Vanderbilt’s gracious hospitality was legendary, and a visit to his home was characterized by the best in comfort, entertainment, and attention to every detail, including the wines that graced his table and delighted his guests.

Man in a suit examining the library of Biltmore wines in the Winery
Wine cellars don’t have to be stuffy–evaluate your space and your lifestyle for options!

Wine research at Biltmore

In 2008, wine consultant John Hailman visited Biltmore to look at Vanderbilt’s wine cellar and the vintages stored there, and to review wine-related notes and correspondence from the Vanderbilt era.

Having been a wine columnist for the Washington Post, with his work nationally syndicated for more than a decade, Hailman is considered one of the foremost authorities on wine. In 2006, he wrote Thomas Jefferson on Wine, an examination of Jefferson’s influence as a wine connoisseur and collector in the early days of the nation.

Archival Bltmore wine receipt
A portion of an archival receipt for a wine and spirits order to be delivered to Biltmore House

Through Hailman’s research, we now have a better understanding of George Vanderbilt as a thoughtful wine collector. Archival correspondence, notes, and receipts suggest that Vanderbilt was well-versed in wines, purchasing those he enjoyed sharing.

Vanderbilt was also a practical buyer, preferring high quality vintages at reasonable prices, such as wines from Chateau Pontet-Canet which is still in business today in the Bordeaux wine region of France.

“Good enough for anybody”

Celebrate with Biltmore sparkling wines
Our handcrafted Biltmore bubbles make any occasion more special

Vanderbilt’s trusted wine purveyor Alexander Morten was known for his excellent taste and recommendations, and would have been a worthy provisioner for the Vanderbilt lifestyle. George Vanderbilt relied upon Morten’s suggestions and his outstanding contacts in the industry. In one letter dated February 14, 1914, Morten advises Vanderbilt on a particular vintage for an upcoming ball, suggesting:

“As to Champagne for a ball:- I can strongly recommend Pierlot 1906. This is a good, sound vintage wine, price $32.50, and is used almost exclusively by many of our customers for dances and entertainments of that ilk. If you have the slightest hesitation, however, I can recommend Pol Roger 1906; price $36. We also have Krug, Clicquot and Pommery of 1906 and 1904; but these are more expensive. The Pierlot is good enough for anybody.”

This letter is particularly poignant, as George Vanderbilt passed away in Washington, DC, just a month after he received this letter. We don’t know what type of ball the Vanderbilts might have been planning, but the preparations were apparently abandoned after Mr. Vanderbilt’s unexpected death.

“You have only to examine the amount and variety of crystal and stemware in the Biltmore collection—glasses for every possible occasion and type of beverage—to see the importance of wines and spirits as an integral part of dining and entertaining,” said Leslie Klingner, curator of interpretation.

Crystal glasses with George Vanderbilt's monogram
Delicate crystal glasses with George Vanderbilt’s monogram on the Banquet Hall table

“Knowing that George Vanderbilt collected and enjoyed wine—and served it to his guests—forges a very real and logical connection between the Vanderbilts and the wine business their descendants have developed and continue to nurture today,” Leslie said.

Savor Biltmore Wines

Two couples enjoying white wine outdoors
Enjoy Biltmore wines while visiting the estate or savor them at home

Be sure to visit Biltmore’s Winery and make reservations for a complimentary tasting of some of our most popular wines. Relax and enjoy our wines by the bottle or glass at the adjacent Wine Bar, then stock up on your favorite vintages at estate shops or online.

Featured blog image: John Singer Sargent portrait of George Vanderbilt paired with a selection of our fine Biltmore wines, including our Antler Hill series

Every Day is Earth Day at Biltmore

Earth Day is celebrated on April 22, but we treat every day as Earth Day at Biltmore.

Vanderbilt’s vision

When George Vanderbilt began planning his grand estate in Asheville, North Carolina, his vision was twofold.

First, he wanted to create a place where he could relax and entertain friends and family. Just as important, however, was his desire to preserve the surrounding beauty.

West view of Biltmore House from Lagoon
The west side of Biltmore House

Second, he envisioned a self-sustaining estate that would nurture the land and its resources for years to come. From this vision came the nation’s first planned forestry program and the beginning of a family focus on the environment.

We continue to honor Vanderbilt’s vision today by acting as good stewards of our land, forest, and livestock resources. Here are some highlights of the best practices we follow at Biltmore:

Helpful hydroponics

Hydroponic lettuces
Hydroponic lettuce in an estate greenhouse

To honor our legacy of agricultural excellence, the benefits of hydroponics are undeniable.

In addition to higher and more consistent yields, the system is more efficient in protecting plants from pests and uses less water than standard field irrigation. In addition to leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach, mustard, kale, and collards, herbs and edible flowers are grown in the estate’s hydroponic greenhouses.

Grazing, grass, and goats

Goat for Earth Day at Biltmore
One of Biltmore’s friendly goats that enjoys nibbling invasive plants. Credit: The Biltmore Company

Land is one of Biltmore’s most valuable resources, and to help preserve it more sustainably, larger pastures for livestock are divided into smaller paddocks with animals rotated through them every few days.

This practice of rotational grazing allows plants more time to regrow and replenish their root systems, increasing the quality and quantity of on-site foraging, reducing the need for labor-intensive harvesting, and increasing soil health for better agricultural outcomes.

In addition to rotational grazing, we are expanding the number of goats on the estate and putting them to work eating invasive plant species such as autumn olive and porcelain berry.

Goats are especially useful in keeping steep slopes trimmed and tidy, allowing maintenance crews to take on other projects and reducing some diesel fuel usage in equipment.

Protecting our pollinators

Monarch butterfly for Earth Day at Biltmore
Monarch butterflies are welcome guests at Biltmore

Continuing George Vanderbilt’s legacy of environmental stewardship, Biltmore has embarked on an effort to support the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) by planting native milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) to provide vital habitat for this threatened species.

Milkweed is the only plant on which monarchs lay their eggs—and it is the only plant that their young caterpillars eat before transforming into beautiful orange and black butterflies.

In becoming a certified monarch waystation, our hope is that as the monarchs’ path of migration takes them through Asheville and the mountains of Western North Carolina on their way to Mexico, we can encourage growth in their waning populations.

Welcoming wildflowers

Wildflowers for Earth Day at Biltmore
Wildflowers are planted to promote beauty and sustainability

By planting pollinator-friendly wildflowers, Biltmore is playing our part in preventing the widespread demise of these important species—including hummingbirds, bees, moths, and more—that is currently happening worldwide.

We cultivate more than 30 varieties of wildflowers across 2.5 acres in order to attract and support these small but vital native animals. This program encourages a more diverse, and thus resilient, ecosystem both on the estate and in the surrounding region.

Corporate Social Responsibility Team

Bluebird on its house at Biltmore
A bluebird sits atop its house in the fields around the estate

In addition to these best practices, Biltmore encourages employees to become members of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Team that focuses on reducing, reusing, and recycling for the estate.

Other CSR projects include working with monarch butterflies, cleaning and monitoring bluebird houses around the property, and a variety of other small-scale efforts that make a big difference in our community.

Sustainable practices at Biltmore

Solar panels at Biltmore
A section of the 9-acre solar field at Biltmore

Along with the initiatives noted above, Biltmore has implemented a 9-acre, 1.7-megawatt solar system with 7,000 solar panels to offset some of our energy usage, and we promote sustainability in our winemaking practices, as well.

Cork recycling barrel at Biltmore
A wine cork recycling barrel at Biltmore

To learn more about how we make every day like Earth Day at Biltmore, visit the Environmental Stewardship section of our website.

Moving into America’s Largest Home

Moving into America’s Largest Home would be a work in progress for George Vanderbilt as Biltmore House was not quite finished for his October 1895 move-in date.

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 George Vanderbilt’s magnificent new house in Asheville, North Carolina.

A ground-breaking project

Archival image of America's Largest Home under construction
Archival image of Biltmore House under construction, May 8, 1894

Ground was broken in 1889, and during the course of the six years that followed, George Vanderbilt remained in close touch with Biltmore House lead architect Richard Morris Hunt, supervising architect Richard Sharp Smith, and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Hunt passed away in August 1895, just months before Vanderbilt moved in, but Sharp Smith was able to complete the plan.

Archival image of the Brick Farm House, circa 1889
Archival image of the Brick Farm House, circa 1889

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.

Archival photo of some of the contractors who built America's Largest Home
Biltmore House contractors, including Richard Sharp Smith (second from right), circa 1892

Finishing the last details of America’s Largest Home

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.

Front façade of America's Largest Home
View of front façade of Biltmore House

Plan your visit today

Today, when you visit Biltmore Estate, you can see first-hand the incredible attention to detail that went into every aspect of America’s Largest Home. 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, more than 125 years later.

Ask a Biltmore Curator

While our curators work mostly behind the scenes, their efforts are evident throughout every inch of Biltmore House and beyond. A vital part of preserving the estate, this team is responsible for researching, documenting, and interpreting the collections, historic interiors, and history.

Our curators have tons of fascinating information to share, so we’ve put together a round-up of some of our most frequently asked questions for them to answer.

The Biltmore House Guest Book is an invaluable resource for our curators as it tells who visited and when. Shown here is a page from December 22, 1895, which includes signatures from many Vanderbilt family members who visited for the first Christmas at Biltmore.
The Biltmore House Guest Book is an invaluable resource for our curators as it tells who visited and when. Shown here is a page from December 22, 1895, which includes signatures from many Vanderbilt family members who visited for the first Christmas at Biltmore.

Did any royalty ever come to visit Biltmore?

“The Biltmore House Guest Book includes signatures from an assortment of noblemen and women including barons, baronets, an earl, a countess, and a baroness. No true royalty visited Biltmore, however, until His Royal Highness Charles, the Prince of Wales, came here for his architectural school which took place at Biltmore House in July of 1996. If you count American royalty, presidential visits to Biltmore have included William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama.” – Lauren Henry, Associate Curator

The recently restored Oak Sitting Room, the living space that connects Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt’s Bedrooms, was an extensive project that took our Museum Services team nearly 15 years to complete.
The recently restored Oak Sitting Room, the living space that connects Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt’s Bedrooms, was an extensive project that took our Museum Services team nearly 15 years to complete.

How many rooms in Biltmore House have not been restored?

All of the rooms on the main tour and a few rooms on the behind-the-scenes tours have been restored over the last 50 years. I would estimate that there are close to 100 rooms that have never been restored, and there are many rooms that were restored that need revisiting since we continue to make new discoveries in our research. Our most recent restoration project was the Oak Sitting Room.” – Darren Poupore, Chief Curator

Associate curator Lauren Henry inspects books in the Biltmore House Library. Topics in George Vanderbilt’s personal collection range in subject from American and English fiction to world history, religion, philosophy, art, and architecture.
Associate curator Lauren Henry inspects books in the Biltmore House Library. Topics in George Vanderbilt’s personal collection range in subject from American and English fiction to world history, religion, philosophy, art, and architecture.

How many books are in the Library, and how many are first editions?

“Today, there are 10,285 books housed in the Biltmore House Library. Because many first editions are not labeled as such, it is hard to know which are without researching every single one. One of my favorites is a first edition of On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (1859).” – Lauren Henry, Associate Curator

One of the most eye-catching works in the Biltmore House collection is Ignacio Zuloaga’s Rosita. Displayed in the Louis XV Hallway, this piece represents George Vanderbilt’s interest in Spanish art, which gained popularity at the end of the 19th century.
One of the most eye-catching works in the Biltmore House collection is Ignacio Zuloaga’s Rosita. Displayed in the Louis XV Hallway, this piece represents George Vanderbilt’s interest in Spanish art, which gained popularity at the end of the 19th century.

Is there a list of all the paintings in Biltmore House?

“Yes, the collections managers use a database of every object in Biltmore House and this includes 213 paintings on display and in storage. The paintings on view are primarily located on the first floor and in common rooms on the second and third floors.” – Lori Garst, Associate Curator

If you look closely to the right of the fireplace, you’ll see that Renoir’s painting Child with An Orange does not actually hang on the wall of the Breakfast Room, but rather on a hidden door used by household staff.
If you look closely to the right of the fireplace, you’ll see that Renoir’s painting Child with An Orange does not actually hang on the wall of the Breakfast Room, but rather on a hidden door used by household staff.

Are there any secret rooms, doorways, or passageways in Biltmore House?

“Though none are truly ‘secret,’ there are many hidden passageways and concealed doors in Biltmore House. Some were designed for the convenience of guests, while others gave domestic staff a way to move about without disrupting the household.” – Darren Poupore, Chief Curator & Lauren Henry, Associate Curator

George Vanderbilt’s friend James McHenry gifted him a chess set made of natural and red-stained ivory that once belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte, former emperor of France. Photo credit: @Kristen.Maag
George Vanderbilt’s friend James McHenry gifted him a chess set made of natural and red-stained ivory that once belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte, former emperor of France. Photo credit: @Kristen.Maag

What is the story behind the chess set in the Library?

“The chess set is one of my favorite objects because it reflects George Vanderbilt’s studious personality. Can you imagine receiving Napoleon Bonaparte’s chess set for your 21st birthday? After Napoleon’s death, his heart was sealed in an urn and temporarily placed on this chess table!” – Darren Poupore, Chief Curator

With 102 steps spanning four stories, the Grand Staircase is one of Biltmore House’s most distinguishable architectural features; it is also where one of the its oldest items is on display.
With 102 steps spanning four stories, the Grand Staircase is one of Biltmore House’s most distinguishable architectural features; it is also where one of the its oldest items is on display.

What is the oldest piece in the Biltmore House collection?

“It is impossible to say what the oldest object in Biltmore House is with certainty, as George Vanderbilt collected many antiques, but one of the oldest is the biblical tapestry displayed by the Grand Staircase which dates to the late 15th or early 16th century.” – Lauren Henry, Associate Curator

After remaining a mystery for many years, a curator discovered that most of the brightly colored murals in the Halloween Room were drawn directly from the set designs of an avant-garde Russian cabaret and theatrical troupe called La Chauve-Souris.
After remaining a mystery for many years, our curators discovered that most of the brightly colored murals in the Halloween Room were drawn directly from the set designs of an avant-garde Russian cabaret and theatrical troupe called La Chauve-Souris.

What’s the most rewarding part of being a curator?

“For me, the most rewarding part of being a curator is the never-ending process of discovery. Just when you think you ‘know’ an historical figure, you find something that reveals another layer of significance. My favorite discovery was the unexpected history of the Halloween Room.” – Leslie Klingner, Curator of Interpretation

10 Fast Facts: Legends of Art & Innovation at Biltmore

Here are 10 fast facts to help you learn more about each of the three individual Legends of Art & Innovation at Biltmore exhibition series:

Fast Fact #1: George Vanderbilt and Vincent van Gogh share a Dutch heritage

Van Gogh Alive multi-sensory experience
A guest explores Van Gogh Alive, created and produced by Grande Experiences

Artist Vincent van Gogh, the subject of our Van Gogh Alive exhibition that ends March 5, 2022, was born in 1853 in the Dutch village of Zundert.

Jan Aertson Van der Bildt (c. 1620–1704) emigrated from Holland to New Amsterdam (now New York City) around 1650. Jan Aertson had numerous children by several wives. His first three children were by his first wife Anneken Hendricks, who he married around the time he came to America. Among those children was Aris Janse, George Vanderbilt’s great-great-great-great-grandfather.

George Vanderbilt was also inspired by his Dutch origin when he selected “Bilt” as the core part of the name for his estate.

Fast Fact #2: An interest in Asian art

George Vanderbilt visited Japan in 1892 and brought back 32 cases of art and decorative objects, including a suit of samurai armor that dates to Japan’s Edo period (1615–1868).

The late 19th century saw an increased fascination with Japan following its opening to the western world, especially in regards to its art and material culture (this trend was referred to as Japonisme).

Both Vincent van Gogh and George Vanderbilt demonstrated an interest in Japan: Van Gogh, through the study of Japanese prints that he collected, painting his own interpretations of the “exotic” style.

George Vanderbilt personally visited Japan in 1892, ultimately shipping home 32 cases full of “curios” that were scattered throughout Biltmore House. Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt also visited Japan in the early 1920s.

Though Van Gogh never visited Japan, his correspondence shows that he felt that southern France was more evocative of Japanese atmosphere and landscape, which was one of the reasons he was drawn to Arles from Paris.

Fast Fact #3: A shared love of sunflowers

Sunflowers blooming at Biiltmore
Enjoy a later-summer getaway with a sea of sunflowers blooming at Biltmore!

Vincent van Gogh found great inspiration in sunflowers. He loved their bright color, which many other artists found too garish. During his time in Arles, France, Van Gogh wrote “I find comfort in contemplating the sunflowers,” to Emile Bernard, c. August 18, 1888.

Each year, Biltmore plants a swathe of late-summer sunflowers along the path from Antler Hill Village toward the Lagoon. We hope the glowing golden blooms provide inspiration and enjoyment for today’s guests as well as a welcome treat for wildlife!

Fast Fact #4: Meet Monet & Friends March 9–July 10, 2022

Breathtaking displays from Monet & Friends
Breathtaking displays from Monet & Friends, showcasing the life and works of many Impressionist painters

From March 9–July 10, 2022, Biltmore will be hosting the multisensory Monet & Friends – Life, Light & Color, created and produced by Grande Experiences, on the grounds of the estate. You’ll be able to immerse yourself in breathtaking paintings projected on an enormous scale, illuminating the bold brushstrokes of Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, and more.

Two landscape painting by Claude Monet–Strada Romana à Bordighera (1884) and Belle-Île, le chenal de Port-Goulphar (1886)–were both purchased by George Vanderbilt from Durand-Ruel, the noted dealer of Impressionist art, in 1892.

There was also a third Monet landscape that Vanderbilt collected, though unfortunately it is not in Biltmore’s collection today. Correspondence indicates that at least one of the Monet paintings spent some time in the Vanderbilts’ Paris apartment, but none of them show up in any interior photos of Biltmore House. This is the first time in many years that the paintings are being installed in Biltmore House for more permanent display.

Fast Fact #5: Savor a masterpiece

Masterpiece Collection white wine with glasses
Savor our new Masterpiece Collection White Wine!

In honor of having two of Monet’s masterpieces on display in Biltmore House, we’ve created a new wine for our Masterpiece Collection.

The inaugural release is a crisp, smooth, refreshing white blend handcrafted to honor George Vanderbilt’s legacy as a passionate collector of extraordinary art and exceptional vintages, with a stunning label that features Claude Monet’s colorful Strada Romana à Bordighera landscape painting.

Fast Fact #6: Breakfast with Renoir

Renoir paintings at Biltmore House
(L-R) “Young Algerian Girl” and “Child with an Orange” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

In addition to the Monets he collected, Vanderbilt also acquired two paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir from Durand-Ruel in 1892. Both appear in the earliest photos of the Breakfast Room, meaning they have been on display in America’s Largest Home® for around a hundred years—possibly longer!

Child with an Orange (1881) and Young Algerian Girl (1882) represent a lesser-known part of Renoir’s work when he was painting colorful scenes from Algeria rather than life in Paris.

George Vanderbilt visited the Mediterranean region several times in his life, including an 1894 trip that included stops in Algeria.

Fast Fact #7: Lasting impressions

George Vanderbilt portrait by James Whistler
George Washington Vanderbilt. 1897-1903. James McNeill Whistler. Oil on canvas. Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Impressionism interested Vanderbilt so much that in the late 1800s he acquired a total of 16 paintings by Claude Monet, Édouard Manet*, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Maxime Maufra, and James McNeill Whistler to furnish his homes.

While many of those names have become synonymous in the modern era with Impressionism and high-value art, others (like Maufra) are less well-known. George Vanderbilt seemed to collect those works that he enjoyed, not purely because they were associated with famous names.

Correspondence reveals that George Vanderbilt was often acquiring works from artists that he had a personal acquaintance with, most notably in the case of Whistler. Vanderbilt acted as a patron for Whistler, supporting his work and demonstrating a great respect for him as an artist. He even acted as a pall-bearer at Whistler’s funeral.

*The Manet paintings are no longer in Biltmore’s collection as they were donated to the National Gallery in Edith Vanderbilt’s will.

Fast Fact #8: Curious correspondence

Monet & Friends exhibition at Biltmore
Monet’s extraordinary gardens surround you during Monet & Friends, created and produced by Grande Experiences

We have letters in our archives from Claude Monet regarding a visit that George and Edith Vanderbilt were hoping to make to him in 1904. We don’t know if the visit ultimately happened, but either way they indicate a certain level of acquaintance between the Vanderbilts and Monet beyond just collectors.

We also have correspondence indicating that the Vanderbilts were acquainted with Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt, and that she had been planning to paint portraits of Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt, but was prevented from doing so by illness.

Leonardo da Vinci -- 500 Years of Genius
From July 14, 2022–January 8, 2023, immerse yourself in the multi-sensory experience of “Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius” at Biltmore

Fast Fact #9: Discover Da Vinci, July 14, 2022–January 8, 2023

Following the conclusion of Monet & Friends, our Legends of Art & Innovation at Biltmore series will conclude with Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius, from July 14, 2022–January 8, 2023.

Inventor, artist, scientist, engineer, sculptor, anatomist, musician, architect, philosopher—Da Vinci was all of these things. His brilliance and many extraordinary achievements are brought to vivid life in the world’s most comprehensive and thrilling Leonardo da Vinci experience, created and produced by Grande Experiences.

Fast Fact #10: Old Masters and modern favorites

Reproduction of Rembrandt etching for the Oak Sitting Room in Biltmore House
Reproduction from the Morgan Library of a Rembrandt etching for the Oak Sitting Room

George Vanderbilt’s collection included an interesting combination of Old Masters and more modern artists like the Impressionists mentioned above. The two Old Masters he favored were Rembrandt and Dürer, though his interest did not stop there. His collection includes two prints made after Da Vinci paintings, including The Last Supper and a self-portrait.

Vanderbilt’s book collection includes several books about Da Vinci, including Leonardo da Vinci: the Florentine years of Leonardo & Verrocchio (1913) which is in the Biltmore House Library.

Don’t miss our Legends of Art & Innovation at Biltmore series!

There’s still time to immerse yourself in Van Gogh Alive before it ends on March 5, 2022. Tickets are on sale now for Monet & Friends, and will be available soon for Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius.

All three multisensory exhibitions are created and produced by Grand Experiences and hosted at Amherst at Deerpark® on the grounds of the estate.

Celebrate Small Moments That Matter With Biltmore

This season, celebrate the small moments that matter most with Biltmore.

“Gracious gatherings, special events, and festive decorations accompany the holiday season, but many times it’s the small moments that we really remember most, like catching up with friends over a glass of Biltmore wine,” said Jan Douglas, Director of Guest Relations.

Group of friends toasting with Biltmore wine
With Biltmore wines, all your gatherings are seasoned with cheer!

Make it meaningful

“Amidst the exciting rush of the holidays, it’s important to celebrate small moments that matter. Remembering what’s meaningful, carving out time for ourselves, and prioritizing family and cherished friends is truly what this joyful season is all about,” Jan said.

We’ve gathered some of our guests’ favorite memories and traditions to inspire your own celebrations.

Collecting special memories

Jim Shore Biltmore Santa keepsake
Discover all the delightful details that make this collectible Jim Shore Biltmore® Santa so special!

For Cheri Compton, a long-time Passholder from Knoxville, Tennessee, time spent at Biltmore with her mother was a cherished Christmas tradition.

“My mother and I went to Candlelight Christmas Evenings at Biltmore for several years before she was unable to travel,” Cheri explained. “We would spend hours looking at the trees and the beautiful decorations, and her favorite thing was to be sure we were there while there was seasonal music in the house.”

When her mother could no longer make the trip, Cheri continued the tradition with friends and always brought her mother a keepsake Biltmore Santa for her collection.

Handwritten holiday wishes

Bottles of Biltmore wine on a table
Celebrate the season with Biltmore Estate® Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine

Mailing handwritten Christmas cards is Paige Price’s favorite way to send a hug to the special people in her life.

“At Christmas, I like to take time to remember friends and former co-workers whom I no longer see on a regular basis,” she said.

“In preparation, I make a trip to Biltmore every fall from my home in Lexington, Kentucky, to choose my Christmas wine to save for the card-writing occasion,” Paige said. “When I sit down to begin composing notes to each person and reflect on the memorable times we spent together, I celebrate them, and the season, by having a glass!”

This year, Paige opted for a bottle of our Biltmore Estate® Blanc de Blancs to add special sparkle to the small moments that matter most to her.

Sounds of the season

Hands playing a piano
Music strikes a special chord for many guests at Biltmore

Kim Meade of Tennessee has been a professional pianist for most of her life, but a Christmas performance at Biltmore 30 years ago still holds a special place in her heart.

“I was blessed to be part of a church group that performed at Biltmore House,” Kim said. “Talk about a dream come true! There are few places left that allow you the feeling of stepping back in time. Biltmore is one of those, and that night was an evening I will never forget.”

Kim remembers the decorated trees in every room, and the feeling that for one moment in time, she and all the others were special guests of the Vanderbilts.

“We felt as if George and Edith Vanderbilt might just walk in at any moment to make sure every detail was in place!” said Kim. “Being a small part of the magic of Biltmore during Christmas was a forever moment for me.”

Seek out small moments that matter most

Couple toasting a small moments with Biltmore wine
Savor all your special small moments with Biltmore wines!

As the holiday season gets under way, we hope you’ll make time to visit Biltmore and discover your own small moments that matter.

Like many of our guests whose special Christmas memories are created with Biltmore as the backdrop, we invite you to join us to celebrate your own small moment traditions—or create new ones—that will bring you closer to family, friends, and what matters most to you.

Find everything you need to celebrate the season, from award-winning wines and gourmet food to jewelry and gifts, in our Seasoned with Cheer holiday hospitality guide.

Books by the Thousands: A Bibliophile’s Collection

At the age of 12, George Vanderbilt began keeping meticulous records in a series of journals called “Books I Have Read,” a habit he continued throughout his life. By his death in 1914, he had logged 3,159 books, which means that between 1875 and 1914, he read an average of 81 books a year.

Three volumes of George Vanderbilt’s “Books I Have Read” journal series
Three volumes of George Vanderbilt’s “Books I Have Read” journal series

It was well known that George was a bibliophile. A turn-of-the-century New York journalist wrote of him:

He was a bookworm, a student… And his love of books came all from his own inner consciousness, for he was not graduated from any college, and his education, while not neglected, had not been carried beyond the ordinary limits of high schools, though now, I doubt not, he is one of the best read men in the country.”

A testament to his passions for books and collecting, the walls of the Library in Biltmore House are lined with walnut shelves housing about half of George’s personal collection of 20,000 volumes.

The collection ranges in subject from American and English fiction to world history, religion, philosophy, art, and architecture. About one-third of the volumes were antiquarian purchases, the oldest of which is an Italian work published in 1561.

Cedric, George Vanderbilt’s beloved Saint Bernard, lounging in the Library, 1898
Cedric, George Vanderbilt’s beloved Saint Bernard, lounging in the Library, 1898

The collection also includes many French titles—4,326 to be exact—and George’s “Books I Have Read” journals show that he read many of them. Both fiction and non-fiction, the volumes speak to George’s interest in France and its culture as well as his fluency in the French language.

Just as the journals help us to understand how well-read he was, they give us insight into which authors George favored, though it’s difficult to say who his favorite actually was.

An excerpt from one of the “Books I Have Read” journals with a note on the birth of George Vanderbilt’s daughter
An excerpt from one of the “Books I Have Read” journals with a note on the birth of George Vanderbilt’s daughter

We know he was fond of French author Honoré de Balzac’s work. George noted having read more than 80 Balzac titles and there are a total of 218 books by the author in his collection.

We also know that of the 30 works by Charles Dickens listed in his journals, George read many of them more than once. For instance, there are two mentions of The Pickwick Papers, which George read at age 13 and again when he was 25.

The elegant binding on the books in George Vanderbilt’s collection are each a work of art
The elegant binding on the books in George Vanderbilt’s collection are each a work of art

George also favored Sir Walter Scott. He read many of his 273 books by Scott two or three times. He read Waverly, a groundbreaking historical novel, in 1875, 1897, and again in 1910.

Most of the books George collected were sent to one of the great bookbinders of the period, such as Riviere, Stikeman, Lortic, or David. A few months later, they would return, beautifully bound in Moroccan leather with gilt lettering and decoration, to be placed on the shelves of the Library in Biltmore House.

Biltmore Trails: 22 Miles to Explore

Whether you’re at Biltmore for the day or you’re a Biltmore Annual Passholder, exploring Biltmore’s 22 miles of trails is an excellent way to get some outdoor exercise. From leisurely strolls to intense workouts, our trails offer a variety of routes that can be tailored to your skill level with spectacular views in every season.

Walk in our manicured gardens on paved paths in Biltmore's Italian and Shrub Gardens
Enjoy the manicured landscape along paved paths in our historic gardens.

Easy Biltmore Trails

Historic Gardens (walking)

Our historic gardens paths incorporate the Italian Garden (gravel), Shrub Garden (paved), Walled Garden (paved), and Spring Garden (mulch). Routes stretch approximately 1-2 miles depending on which paths you choose. Enjoy seasonal blooms with benches nearby to take a break and soak it all in.

Azalea Garden (walking)

This mostly paved walking path can be accessed from either the Spring Garden or Walled Garden. It is a great opportunity to go even deeper into Biltmore’s historic gardens, offering benches along the way, and leads to Bass Pond Waterfall and Boat House. Take in spectacular views across the Bass Pond at approximately 1 mile.

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

Moderate Biltmore Trails

Lagoon Trail (walking, running, biking)

This mostly flat, paved trail leads to the Lagoon, which offers a striking view of the west side of Biltmore House (a popular picnic spot). Start and end at Antler Hill Village for a pleasant 3-mile trip. The French Broad River and estate farmland provide pleasant scenery as you explore the path. 

Farm Trail (walking, running, biking)

This flat gravel and dirt road runs along the perimeter of Biltmore’s grounds and the French Broad River. Totaling 6 miles, this trail leads to the Arbor Trace Trail at one end and the Lagoon Trail at the other.

Westover Trails (hiking, trail running, biking)

Access this set of Biltmore trails from the Bike Barn or The Inn on Biltmore Estate® to see Biltmore’s beautiful woodlands. The green (1.7 miles) and blue routes (2.8 miles) immerse you in nature while offering wide trails for a comfortable experience with a few challenging hills.

On Biltmore's Westover trails, a bridge in the woods
The Westover Trails provide access to some of the estate’s more secluded woodlands.

Challenging Biltmore Trails

Westover Trails (hiking, trail running, biking)

The black route totals 3.5 miles round-trip inside Biltmore’s beautiful woodland. The narrow trail offers steep hills and is great for a technical single-track bike ride or an authentic hiking experience.

Arbor Trace Trail (hiking, trail running, biking)

This trail can only be accessed by first following the Farm Trail. The 3.5 mile round-trip route travels in and out of the woods providing scenic views of the estate’s agriculture and the historic Market Gardener’s Cottage on Biltmore Estate™. The last stretch of the trail (black) is quite narrow and an optional loop.

Deer Park Trail (walking, running, biking)

This challenging uphill trek is quite popular due to the stunning view of Biltmore House it offers. To extend the challenge, start at Antler Hill Village and take the Farm Trail to the Lagoon Trail which leads to the Deer Park Trail. 

Be sure to check out our trail map before you embark. All Biltmore trails are pet-friendly, well-maintained, and accessible only to Passholders, lodging guests, and ticketed guests. If you’re looking for a more curated experience, consider one of our guided hiking or biking offerings. See you on the trails!

Experience Our Annual Biltmore Blooms Celebration

Enjoy this archived Biltmore Blooms content from Spring 2021!


Experience our annual Biltmore Blooms celebration across the estate as winter loosens its grip to make way for spring!

Gardens and grounds

From the earliest flowering shrubs and vivid blooms in the Walled Garden–including this year’s colorful kaleidoscope of yellow, white, pink, purple, and red tulips in the patterned beds–to the glorious progression of color along the Approach Road, we’ve been delighting guests with our annual Biltmore Blooms celebration for more than three decades.

Azaleas along the Approach Road in spring
The Approach Road to Biltmore House is lined with azaleas each spring

The splendid spring show isn’t limited to the outdoors, however; our Floral and Museum Services teams have worked together to develop an “Art in Bloom” theme featuring beautiful arrangements throughout Biltmore House.

Inspired by Biltmore’s collections

“This year for Biltmore Blooms we are celebrating the fact that George Vanderbilt envisioned Biltmore not just as a home, but also as a platform to showcase the incredible works of art he collected,” said Leslie Klingner, Curator of Interpretation.

“Vanderbilt developed a passion for art early in life,” Leslie said,” and he amassed an impressive collection. To highlight some of these amazing pieces, our floral team has created designs inspired by works throughout Biltmore House.”

Art in Bloom

“Each year during Biltmore Blooms, our floral designs reflect not only the welcome return of spring, but they also showcase the scale and grandeur of America’s Largest Home®,” said Lizzie Borchers, Floral Displays Manager.

Biltmore Blooms arrangement for Third Floor Living Hall in Biltmore House
Floral designer Cristy Leonard creating a larger-than-life arrangement for the Third Floor Living Hall (design inspired by a painting of a ship in that room)

“For ‘Art in Bloom’ in 2021, we envisioned flowers as the paints, pastels, and pencils of spring, turning our arrangements into works of art themselves,” Lizzie said. “When you visit this season, see how our designs highlight the colors, textures, shapes, and forms in the artwork.”

A sneak peek at Biltmore Blooms details!

In the Breakfast Room, Biltmore floral designer Lucinda Ledford drew inspiration from two works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir: Young Boy with an Orange, painted in 1881, and The Young Algerian Girl, painted in 1882.

Biltmore Blooms floral arrangement highlighting Renoir's
The vibrant colors of Renoir’s “Child with Orange” painting inspired the details of this floral arrangement for the Breakfast Room

Giovanni Boldini’s lovely 1910 portrait of Edith Vanderbilt that hangs in the Tapestry Gallery near the entrance to the Library inspired floral designer Jodee Mitchell to create a sweeping arrangement featuring delicate white flowers and greenery.

Lily of the valley with a sketch for a Biltmore Blooms design
Design sketch for a Biltmore Blooms arrangement featuring lilies of the valley and other white flowers, inspired by Giovanni Boldini’s stunning portrait of Edith Vanderbilt

Based on the series of mid-16th-century Renaissance tapestries detailing the history of Roman mythological gods and goddesses in Biltmore’s Banquet Hall, floral designer Cristy Leonard developed a glorious spring centerpiece befitting the massive table in that room.

A Biltmore floral designer creates an arrangement for the Banquet Hall
Cristy carefully selects each element in an enormous Biltmore Blooms floral arrangement for the Banquet Hall table

These are just a few of the wonderful arrangements in Biltmore House this spring; there are countless others to discover!

Experience Biltmore Blooms this spring

Explore our favorite outdoor rooms
Visit now and enjoy spring across our 8,000 acres!

Experience all the excitement of Biltmore Blooms included with your daytime admission to Biltmore.

Make required Biltmore House reservations now while your preferred dates and times are still available, and experience the spectacular seasonal show in our historic gardens.

In addition to Biltmore Blooms, enjoy the delights of Biltmore Gardens Railway in the Conservatory and Stickwork by Patrick Dougherty in Antler Hill Village, also included in daytime admission.