Summertime Fun: Just Like in the Vanderbilts’ Day

Whether it’s your first time visiting the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, or you’re an Annual Passholder planning a return, summertime is the season for outdoor fun at Biltmore, and the choices are as plentiful today as they were back in the Vanderbilt days over a century ago.

Here’s a look at a few of our favorite ways you can vacation like a Vanderbilt this summer by exploring our great outdoors at Biltmore.

Cornelia with one of her St. Bernards on the Esplanade of Biltmore House, ca. 1903. Cedric was the first of at least four generations born on the estate. The St. Bernard pictured is likely one of his grown pups.
Cornelia with one of her St. Bernards on the Esplanade of Biltmore House, ca. 1903.

Creating a Grand Getaway

Cornelia Vanderbilt, the only child, born to George and Edith Vanderbilt, is the picture of relaxed elegance, enjoying the company of one of her St. Bernards on the Esplanade of 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 during the summer.

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.

Guests in 1905 play croquet in the Italian Garden.

Play Outside

The family welcomed hundreds of guests to Biltmore House through the years. And with all the amenities of a luxury resort, it’s no wonder they stayed for weeks at a time! The combination of the elegant French château, gently 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, including croquet in the Italian Garden.

Among the many outdoor activities offered for today’s guests, Croquet in Antler Hill Village just might be one of the most authentic Vanderbilt-era activities Biltmore has to offer!

Cornelia and Edith Vanderbilt in Biltmore's stables, c. 1917
Cornelia and Edith Vanderbilt in Biltmore’s stables, c. 1917

Head Out on Horseback

George Vanderbilt was descended from a family famous for its love of racing and raising horses. Coaching and riding were always favorite recreational activities. Cornelia grew up riding horses, and for a time, she even had a donkey to ride. It’s tough to find a more exciting and beautiful way to see the estate than from the back of a horse.

Today’s guests can also explore the estate’s scenic views on horseback through guided trail rides or with a leisurely carriage ride around the grounds.

Edith and Cornelia fishing at the Lagoon.

Reel Summer Fun

Edith was known to be an avid fisherwoman. She often gave fishing parties at Biltmore, and daughter Cornelia fished right alongside her.

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

Today, we honor these memories by offering activities like fly fishing lessons on the Lagoon and making the estate grounds easily accessible for guests interested in leisurely strolls, bike rides, or hikes to explore the very same scenery George Vanderbilt and his family saw back in their day. You can also find a good spot on the Village Green to picnic, listen to live music, and hang out with friends and family. 

Cornelia Vanderbilt swimming in Front Lawn fountain.

Make a Splash

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. 

The pool is no longer on the South Terrace, but both The Inn and Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate have swimming pools surrounded by beautiful scenery that open for the summer to overnight guests. The French Broad River runs through the estate and today’s guests can book river rafting and kayaking as away to explore the scenic views of this gentle river.

George Vanderbilt poses in a carriage in front of Biltmore House.

Cruise Through Summer in Style

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

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

Pauline Dresser, Edith Vanderbilt’s sister, attending a picnic in Langrolay-sur-Rance, France, 1895.

Pack a picnic

Whether they stayed on Biltmore Estate or traveled to a nearby scenic spot, picnicking for the Vanderbilts and their guests was a much more extravagant outdoor activity that included dining with real china and glassware and sitting atop cushions beneath a tent or shade.

Today’s guests are invited to head out and enjoy a more modest picnic on the estate grounds. Enjoy our great outdoors when you pack your own picnic (see policies) or set out with some grab-and-go items from one of our estate shops or restaurants to enjoy.

Guided fishing is one of the many Vanderbilt-inspired activities available for guests to book at Biltmore.

Vacation like a Vanderbilt

Summertime fun is just a hop, skip, and jump away! Plan your visit to join us this summer on George Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre Blue Ridge Mountain getaway, just as it was intended.

For even more Vanderbilt-inspired fun, linger longer with summer days and overnight stays on our historic estate, or by joining our Passholder family.

George Vanderbilt: An American Renaissance Man

Was George Vanderbilt an American Renaissance man?

“He certainly embodied many of the ideals of this period that flourished during his lifetime, and you can still see the influence of the era at Biltmore today,” said Meghan Forest, Associate Curator.

What was the American Renaissance?

Archival photo of George Vanderbilt and his three cousins in Spain
George Vanderbilt (standing, right) traveling in Spain with his cousin Clarence Barker (seated, left), his niece Maria Louisa Schieffelin (seated, right), and her husband William Jay Schieffelin (standing, left), 1891.

In the decades following the Civil War, the United States experienced an optimistic rebirth that mirrored the European Renaissance of the 17th century.

“The American Renaissance was all about developing a national identity of what it means to be American, and part of that was setting up the United States as the successor to the cultural accomplishments of countries across Europe,” Meghan said.

While the European Renaissance had stirred interest in exploration and experimentation in disciplines such as art, architecture, and science, the American Renaissance awakened a desire to explore classic themes and destinations, drawing inspiration from travels abroad to use at home.

America’s coming of age

The American Renaissance took place in the latter part of the 19th century, marking a renewed confidence in the nation’s outlook with time and attention lavished upon the development of ideas, urbanization, transportation, and new forms of communication.

“It was the American Renaissance that made the Gilded Age possible,” said Meghan. “Innovation in technology, propelled by the intellectual energy of the time, led to industrial growth that gave rise to prominent American families like the Vanderbilts.”

Once such families became wealthy, many contributed to pushing the arts farther than previous generations, so the American Renaissance ushered in the glamorous Gilded Age.

American Renaissance ideals

Photograph of Biltmore House and the Italian Garden, ca. 1910
Photograph of Biltmore House and the Italian Garden, ca. 1910

It was during the confluence of both periods that George Vanderbilt first visited Asheville, North Carolina, and became enamored with the area. He envisioned building his new home there, creating a retreat for friends and family that would also showcase his interest in art and literature and house the treasures he collected during his travels.

He retained the services of Richard Morris Hunt and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted—two of the most influential designers of the American Renaissance era—to create Biltmore House and its magnificent gardens and grounds.

World’s Columbian Exposition

(L-R) purchasing agent and agricultural consultant Edward Burnett, architect Richard Morris Hunt, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, George Washington Vanderbilt, and architect Richard Howland Hunt, son of Richard Morris Hunt, 1892

In 1893, four years after construction began at Biltmore, Chicago hosted the World’s Columbian Exposition. With its remarkable “White City” thoughtfully planned by the nation’s leading designers including Hunt and Olmsted, the extraordinary event further elevated American Renaissance ideals such as world exploration, the experience of different cultures, and new technology like electricity.

With Hunt and Olmsted traveling between Asheville and Chicago during this pivotal time to oversee their roles in both massive projects, it was evident that the Columbian Exposition and Vanderbilt’s new estate shared a common thread: both were created in the regal and fashionable Beaux Arts style that favored neoclassical architecture and European-inspired formal gardens.

“In addition to Hunt and Olmsted’s presence there, we know that George Vanderbilt attended the Columbian Exposition, and that he contributed materials from Biltmore’s managed forestry initiative for estate forester Gifford Pinchot to display. The flags above the fireplace in the Biltmore House Banquet Hall represent the countries that participated in the Columbian Exposition,” Meghan said.

Meaningful travel

George Vanderbilt (seated, third from left) with unidentified gondola companions in Venice, circa 1890
George Vanderbilt (seated, third from left) with unidentified gondola companions in Venice, 1887.

Like many other wealthy Americans of the era, George Vanderbilt traveled extensively, and his trips to Europe, India, and Japan helped fuel his appreciation of history, architecture, and culture.

In particular, his sojourns to Rome, Venice, Milan, and Florence—the epicenter of the Italian Renaissance—gave George Vanderbilt a passion for all things Italian, leading him to choose Italy as a romantic backdrop for the first six weeks of his and Edith Vanderbilt’s four-month European honeymoon.

Renaissance art and patronage

Nocturne: Battersea, c. 1871-1873, James Abbott McNeill Whistler
Nocturne: Battersea, c. 1871-1873, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, on display in Oak Sitting Room. George Vanderbilt purchased this piece in 1900 from dealer Wunderlich and Company.

In order to succeed during the Italian Renaissance, many artists including Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and Botticelli sought and accepted the patronage of wealthy individuals and entities such as the church and the government in order to create works of lasting beauty.

During America’s Renaissance, George Vanderbilt was an active patron of the arts, commissioning and collecting pieces from the new Impressionists as well as many other established artists of his day.

Vanderbilt’s support extended beyond the stunning works he purchased; he also provided philanthropic support for certain libraries and art facilities in New York, educational and vocational support in Asheville, and corresponded with several notable artists including Claude Monet, John Singer Sargent, and James McNeill Whistler

Vanderbilt’s lasting legacy

Italian Renaissance wellhead used as a fountain at Biltmore House
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.

The appreciation of man and his capabilities flourished during the American Renaissance, and the nation felt uniquely positioned to take a leading role in the global arena. George Vanderbilt personified the outlook of this important period in our nation’s history, and, as a true American Renaissance man, his contributions continue to stand the test of time.

Today, you can explore lingering expressions of the American Renaissance with a visit to Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. Highlights include America’s Largest Home®, still filled with many of the more than 50,000 objects in Biltmore’s collection, plus 75 acres of exquisitely landscaped and preserved formal gardens that gradually give way to meadows, fields, and managed forests surrounding the property.

Plan your Biltmore visit now

Two farm-style cottages with cows in a pasture
Visit like a Vanderbilt when you choose one of our private, historic Cottages on Biltmore Estate.

Surround yourself with the architecture, travel, and art of the American Renaissance, and make your time with us even more unforgettable with an overnight retreat at one of our thoughtfully designed properties: Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate®, The Inn on Biltmore Estate®, or our historic private Cottages on Biltmore Estate™.

Live “La Dolce Vita” at Biltmore

Live la dolce vita–the sweet life–at Biltmore this summer, just as the Vanderbilts and their guests did more than a century ago.

Inspiration from Italy and Europe

Family taking a selfie in front of Biltmore House
Capture each memorable moment of the sweet life at Biltmore this summer!

“The idea of la dolce vita is Italian, and it translates to ‘the sweet life’,” said Lauren Henry, Curator of Interpretation. “It embodies the idea of living each moment as it unfolds, and enjoying it for itself. It’s an inspirational way of life that George Vanderbilt experienced during his travels in Italy and other delightful destinations, and it helped him envision Biltmore as a place where his family and friends could enjoy the same timeless feeling.”

The Conservatory at Biltmore surrounded by summer gardens
Biltmore’s historic grounds, including the Conservatory in the English-style Walled Garden, are the perfect place to experience the sweet life.

From the French Renaissance-style architecture of Biltmore House, designed by famed architect Richard Morris Hunt, to the glorious gardens and grounds created by legendary landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted, Biltmore Estate brought classic European sensibilities to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina.

“George Vanderbilt assembled a real ‘dream team’ to bring Biltmore to life,” Lauren said. “Together they created a distinctly European-style estate, but with an expansive feel and modern technologies that were hallmarks of the American Gilded Age.”

Discover la dolce vita at Biltmore

Painted ceiling of the Library at Biltmore
The Chariot of Aurora by Italian artist Giovanni Pelligrini graces the ceiling of the Library in Biltmore House

You can still capture the magic of la dolce vita as you explore Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, touched at every turn by inspiration from the Vanderbilts’ journeys around the world.

Inside Biltmore House you’ll discover paintings, sculptures, and objets d’art to delight your mind and buoy your spirits in true la dolce vita fashion, including these highlights:

  • Salon—look for two original landscapes by French Impressionist artist Claude Monet. Both Strada Romana à Bordighera and Belle-Île, le chenal de Port-Goulphar have recently been restored to their late-19th-century vibrance.
  • Tapestry Gallery—Study the three Renaissance-era silk and wool tapestries that this 90-foot-long room was designed to display. Woven in Brussels circa 1530, the set was originally part of the The Triumph of the Seven Virtues.
  • Library—the ceiling was created to showcase Chariot of Aurora by Giovanni Pelligrini, an 18th-century painting comprised of thirteen separate canvases that depict the Roman goddess of the dawn.

Fresh air gives fresh perspectives

Couple in the Conservatory at Biltmore
The Conservatory at Biltmore is a a wonderful way to experience a tropical getaway while visiting the estate!

Explore miles of scenic trails across the estate by walking, hiking, or biking at your own preferred pace. Here are some of our favorite spots:

  • Conservatory—this elegant, glass-topped greenhouse captures the historic and modern balance of the estate as exotic botanicals popular in the Vanderbilt era overlap with plants we propagate for seasonal displays.
  • Bass Pond—walk down from the gardens to view the newly restored island that was part of Frederick Law Olmsted’s original landscape design.
  • Lagoon—spend some time at this scenic spot on the road to Antler Hill Village—it’s perfect for picnicking and for admiring the reflection of Biltmore House in the water.

Savor la dolce vita

Mother and daughter enjoying ice cream cones at Biltmore
The sweet life is even sweeter with ice cream treats from the Creamery in Antler Hill Village.

Whether you’ve worked up a bona fide appetite or simply need a refreshment respite, there are choices to please every palate when you dine at Biltmore:

Ice cream—indulge in a scoop (or two!) of fresh-churned ice cream and other sweet treats from The Biltmore Dairy Bar® adjacent to Biltmore House or the Creamery in Antler Hill Village.

Biltmore wine—Savor a complimentary tasting at Biltmore’s Winery to sip award-winning vintages, then pair your favorites–including Italian varietals like our Biltmore Estate® Pinot Grigio and Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Sangiovese–with charcuterie, cheeses, and chocolates next door at our relaxing Wine Bar. Choose outdoor seating to make la vita as dolce as possible!

Field-to-table freshness

Couple dining outdoors at Biltmore
Enjoy a wide range of fine and casual dining options while visiting Biltmore.

Enjoy fine and casual dining options featuring estate-raised and locally sourced dishes. Favorites include our European-style Bistro at the Winery, English pub far at Cedric’s® Tavern in Antler Hill Village, and four-star, white-linen luxury at The Dining Room at The Inn on Biltmore Estate.

Discover la dolce vita at Biltmore for yourself!

Woman in a bathrobe admiring the view at The Inn on Biltmore Estate
Embrace la dolce vita at The Inn on Biltmore Estate or one of our other properties.

Come to Biltmore this summer to create your own memories of living la dolce vita, and make your visit even sweeter with an overnight stay at The Inn on Biltmore Estate®️, Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate®️, or one of our private historic Cottages on Biltmore Estate.

Featured blog image: A Biltmore guest enjoys la dolce vita with a flute of sparkling wine on the terrace of The Inn on Biltmore Estate. Photo courtesy of @georgia_sheffield.

Woven in Wonder: Stickwork by Patrick Dougherty

Woven in wonder, Stickwork by Patrick Dougherty is a fascinating outdoor sculpture created exclusively for Biltmore.

Stickwork is a one-of-a-kind installation

“Each of Patrick’s sculptures are one-of-a-kind,” said Travis Tatham, Director of Entertaining and Event Programming, “and that makes his work a perfect fit for Biltmore, which is a one-of-a-kind destination.”

Weaving with willows

Patrick Dougherty with his Stickwork creation for Biltmore
Patrick Dougherty with his Stickwork creation for Biltmore

Working with willow branches, Patrick creates large-scale installations that reflect the beauty and character of the site that hosts them.

Patrick and son Sam Dougherty arrived at Biltmore in mid-March to begin work on the installation in Antler Hill Village along with a truckload of willow branches grown in New York.

Patrick Dougherty with his Stickwork creation for Biltmore
Patrick Dougherty weaves willow branches into his Stickwork sculpture

“Given the large crowds that Biltmore draws, we wanted something palatial and roomy, with walking areas to accommodate large numbers of visitors,” said Patrick. “We aimed for a free-wheeling sculpture to occupy the site with flowing energy.”

Free as a Bird

Mockingbird atop Patrick Dougherty's Stickwork creation for Biltmore
A curious mockingbird checks the progress on the Stickwork sculpture in Antler Hill Village

While working at Biltmore, Patrick and Sam noticed a pair of mockingbirds that came from a nearby holly bush every day to serenade the creation.

“They seemed to be staking a claim to the work,” Patrick said, “so we decided to name the sculpture Free as a Bird in their honor.”

In the past three decades, Patrick has built more than 300 of these large-scale environmental works worldwide, from Scotland to Japan to Brussels, and all over the United States.

Sam Dougherty works on Stickwork creation for Biltmore
Sam Dougherty adds his signature woven edges to the Stickwork creation for Biltmore

Sam, Patrick’s full-time construction assistant since June 2016, has developed into an expert stickworker. His signature can be found on every sculpture, especially in the rolled top edges.

Stickwork is fun for all ages!

Stickwork creation for Biltmore
Some Biltmore staff members had an opportunity to assist Patrick and Sam Dougherty in the creation of the Stickwork sculpture in Antler Hill Village

According to one Biltmore team member who had an opportunity to work with Sam and Patrick as they wove the whimsical sculpture, “Adults have asked ‘what is this?’ but kids walk up and know exactly what to do with it. They say ‘it’s a stickhouse and I need to run through it and play!'”

Discover Stickwork by Patrick Dougherty

Child explores Stickwork sculpture in Antler Hill Village
The new Stickwork sculpture in Antler Hill Village is fun for all ages!

Now through September 30, discover Stickwork by Patrick Dougherty, located in Antler Hill Village near the Outdoor Adventure Center.

This delightful sculpture entitled Free as a Bird invites excitement and exploration for all ages, and is included with estate admission.

Free as a Bird is lit at night, further enlivening the space, especially for those who are enjoying a stay at either of our distinctive hotels or our two private historic cottages.

Creating Curb Appeal in front of Biltmore House

To say that the summertime curb appeal in front of Biltmore House veers toward the dramatic would be accurate! Towering palm trees flank the front door, all of them carefully arranged in terracotta pots sturdy enough to keep the contents secure. For plantings this huge, their containers can measure up to 40 inches tall and 50 inches wide.

Photo of the entrance at front of Biltmore House.

Some of the containers in front of Biltmore are replicas made in Impruneta, Italy, the same town in which the home’s original pots were made in the late 1800s. For the reproductions, the faces and garlands were matched with the ones on the original pots.

Photo of the side of front of Biltmore House with large potted plants.

This year, Biltmore gardener Todd Roy created the plant design for the containers at the front of the house, the terrace that crosses the facade, as well as the pots at the base of the Rampe Deuce, across from the house.

Photos of large potted plants in front of Biltmore

Guests often ask Todd and his cohorts on the horticulture team questions on how best to get the Biltmore look in their home gardens. Here are some of Todd’s favorite tips for creating dazzling container gardens at home.

“Thriller, Filler and Spiller”

To achieve a balanced container, Todd says to design with these basic components.

• “Thrillers” are the upright, tall component.

• “Fillers” are medium-height, middle-area plants.

• “Spillers” are the plants that hang over and around the edges of the container.

Photo of beautiful flowers ranging in size, shape, and color.

Select plants with similar watering needs
Consult the plant tags for watering requirements so you are choosing plants that share the same maintenance schedule.

Picture of large potted plants at Biltmore.

Texture
And finally, select plants with differing leaf sizes and colors for a full and lush effect.

More about Biltmore’s historic gardens may be found here.

Discover Biltmore’s Distinctive Shrub Garden

Summer at Biltmore is a glorious season–and the perfect time to discover Biltmore’s distinctive Shrub Garden.

Discover Biltmore’s distinctive Shrub Garden

Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted designed many of the areas closest to Biltmore House as a series of outdoor rooms that beckoned guests to step outside and enjoy their surroundings.

Hidden gems: Biltmore's Shrub Garden
Enjoy an outdoor picnic in the Shrub Garden

Biltmore’s Shrub Garden, located between the Italian Garden and the Walled Garden, invites guests to lose themselves among the winding paths and lush plantings.

Stone steps in Biltmore's Shrub Garden
Stone steps beckon you to discover new delights in the Shrub Garden

Caring for this distinctive space

For Brooke Doty, a member of the estate’s landscaping team since 2017, Biltmore’s Shrub Garden offers a subtle beauty in striking contrast with other portions of Olmsted’s design.

“It’s not as obvious as the Walled Garden with all its bright, blooming flowers, but the Shrub Garden is a place of deep shade and clean structure. The shapes of the mature trees and the open, airy feel of the pathways make it the perfect place for wandering,” said Brooke.

Jack-in-the-pulpit plant in Biltmore's Shrub Garden
Uncovering a native jack-in-the-pulpit plant

In caring for Biltmore’s Shrub Garden during the past several years, Brooke has come to appreciate more than just the overall plan of the area.

“I constantly see things I never saw before,” Brooke said. “Things that you don’t notice immediately. There are plantings that are tucked back away from the paths, and specimens that you won’t find in most gardens.”

Notable specimens

Discover Biltmore's distinctive Shrub Garden
Brooke examines the decorative fruits of the Japanese Snowbell tree

Styrax japonicus or Japanese Snowbell is one such horticultural gem; the tree is known for producing cascades of flowers in the spring, interesting fruits in summer, modest fall color, and shapely limbs for winter interest.

The Shrub Garden is also the home of two state champion trees. One is the golden rain tree (Koelreutaria paniculata) with clusters of small yellow seed pods that hang from its nearly weeping branches in early summer.

Discover Biltmore's distinctive Shrub Garden
State champion river birch with cables to support its branches

The other is a massive river birch (Betula nigra) with distinctive, cinnamon-colored curling bark. In addition to its champion status, the river birch is one of the original plantings in the garden.

“From champion trees to the ‘bones’ of Olmsted’s design, Biltmore’s Shrub Garden offers something interesting for every season,” said Brooke. “I’m always encouraging guests to spend more time here exploring the paths, enjoying the quiet beauty, and discovering the little surprises that await you around each turn.”

Colorful summer blooms against the brick tunnel bridge in the Shrub Garden
Colorful summer blooms against the brick tunnel bridge in the Shrub Garden

Plan your summer visit today

Kids in Biltmore's Azalea Garden
Guests of all ages love discovering Biltmore’s “outdoor rooms” like the Azalea Garden

In addition to exploring our glorious historic gardens during peak season, enjoy all that Biltmore offers this summer, including Biltmore Gardens Railway, on display in Antler Hill Village July 1–September 7.

Featured blog image: Brooke Doty at work in the Shrub Garden

Vanderbilt-Inspired Picnic Recipes & Tips

A picnic while visiting Biltmore is a great way to enjoy the pastoral views of the historic estate’s sprawling gardens and grounds, similar to the Vanderbilts and their guests over a century ago.

Make the most of your next picnic with these expert tips plus estate chef recipes for a Vanderbilt-inspired picnic complete with Biltmore wine pairings.

Pauline Dresser, Edith Vanderbilt’s sister, attending a picnic in Langrolay-sur-Rance, France, 1895.

Picnicking with the Vanderbilts

During the Victorian era, picnics were often elaborate, and creating a suitably “rustic” ambiance might require more effort than a formal banquet. Hampers full of special delicacies were carried to remote outdoor locations along with a bewildering array of china and glassware, chairs, cushions, ground covers, tents, sunshades, games, and amusements—plus all the children, pets, and any guests who happened to be visiting.

Picnic Island in the Lagoon on Biltmore Estate, circa 1900.

On Biltmore Estate, the Vanderbilt family enjoyed picnics at a special location known as “Picnic Island,” which you can see situated in the Lagoon. At Edith Vanderbilt’s request, a swinging bridge (no longer there) was added for easy access to Picnic Island and estate rangers ensured there was no poison ivy growing there—a task modern picnickers know all too well!

We also know that Mrs. Vanderbilt planned a picnic in May of 1915 on nearby Busbee Mountain, and we have multiple picnic baskets, metal serveware and food canisters included, in our archival collection.

Be sure to pack Biltmore Wines for your next picnic!

Try these modern-day expert picnic tips:

Thank goodness today’s picnics are much simpler! By keeping everything quick and easy, you can enjoy the entire experience from start to finish—even without chairs and fine china. Here are a few tips from our estate experts.

  • Choose a location that offers a scenic view to take in nature’s beauty for your next picnic at Biltmore!
  • Slice a loaf of fresh bread and your favorite cheese into wedges (eliminates the need for utensils), then pair it with wine. Consider our refreshing Biltmore Sauvignon Blanc with goat cheeses or our Cabernet Sauvignon with savory smoked Gouda.
  • Bring along finger-friendly foods such as olives, nuts, and fresh veggies or fruit for a little extra texture.
  • Make a variety of sandwiches the night before. That way, you can be ready to picnic the next day with no prep. Sandwiches also mean you don’t have to bring many separate items—everything’s already combined into a tasty package.
  • Set the scene with a few special touches, such as fresh flowers or a favorite quilt as a picnic cloth.
  • A sparkling wine like our Biltmore Estate Pas de Deux Sparkling makes any occasion special—and won’t leave a stain if spilled on cloth.
  • Grab-and-go snacks or light bites from an estate restaurant or shop are also a great option for a memorable picnic at Biltmore without the fuss.

(Please note: Guests with estate admission, an overnight stay, or an Annual Pass are permitted to picnic on Biltmore Estate. If picnicking on the estate, outside food is only permitted in designated areas.  Outside alcohol and tailgating—including the use of tents, grills, multiple camping chairs/tables, and large coolers—are not permitted anywhere on estate grounds.)

couple enjoys a picnic
A picnic is a picturesque way to enjoy the great outdoors throughout the seasons on Biltmore Estate. 📸 by @camrynglackin

Try these Biltmore-inspired picnic recipes:

Whether you are taking in the views at Biltmore or relaxing at your local park, here are a few recipes and wine pairings our estate chefs recommend for enjoying your next picnic Vanderbilt-style.


Holiday Bacon Deviled Eggs

Pair with Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs

Serves 24

Ingredients:

  • 12 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Method:

  • Slice eggs in half lengthwise; remove yolks and set whites aside.
  • In a small bowl, mash yolks. Stir in the mayonnaise, bacon, cheese, mustard and pepper.
  • Pipe into egg whites.
  • Refrigerate or keep cool until serving.

Harvest Turkey Sandwich with Blackberry-Whole Grain Mustard

Pair with Biltmore Pinot Noir

Yields one sandwich.

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of focaccia bread, toasted
  • Small handful of fresh baby arugula
  • 2 slices of cooked bacon
  • 2 oz of sliced brie
  • 5 oz of smoked turkey, thinly sliced
  • Blackberry-Whole Grain Mustard*

Blackberry-Whole Grain Mustard Ingredients:

  • 3 fresh blackberries
  • 1/2 oz Whole Grained Mustard

Method:

  • Prepare the mustard by mashing the berries and mix with mustard and set aside.
  • Toast the focaccia, spread the mustard on the top portion of the bread after it is toasted, place the turkey on the bottom, then the sliced brie and add the bacon and arugula and lastly place the top of the focaccia and serve.

Herb Marinated Grilled Vegetables

Pair with Biltmore Sauvignon Blanc

Yields about 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 yellow squash, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 portabella mushrooms, remove gills
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeds and stem removed, cut in 6 pieces
  • 1 bunch asparagus, remove bottom two inches and discard
  • 1 red onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 vine-ripe tomato, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 oz olive oil
  • 1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, chopped
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  • Place oil, garlic, and herbs in a large mixing bowl and stir together. Add all remaining vegetables to bowl except portabellas. Toss vegetables with oil mixture.
  • On a separate plate, rub the portabella with some of the oil mixture on both sides of it.
  • Let vegetables marinate for 10–15 minutes at room temperature. Drain any excess oil off of the vegetables and grill each piece for 1–2 minutes on each side. If the grill flares up, remove more oil from the vegetables. Place vegetables on a platter. Can be served hot or chilled.

Smoked Mozzarella and Gemelli Salad

Pair with Biltmore Pinot Grigio

Yields 8-10 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound Smoked Mozzarella, large diced
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan Cheese – grated
  • 1 pound Gemelli pasta
  • 1/2 cup spinach, julienne
  • 1 large red bell peppers, julienne
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red onion, small dice
  • 1 tablespoon +2 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon Tabasco
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Method:

  • In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook pasta until just tender to the bite. Drain and shock in ice water. Drain again thoroughly and place in large mixing bowl. Add smoked mozzarella, parmesan, spinach, red peppers, red onion, and parsley.
  • In a separate bowl, assemble dressing by adding mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic, red wine vinegar, honey, lemon juice, Tabasco, black pepper, and salt. Whisk together.
  • Add dressing to pasta mix and toss together gently, using a rubber spatula. Refrigerate until needed.

Mudslide Cookies

Pair with Biltmore Estate Blanc de Noir

Yields 1 dozen large cookies or 4 dozen small cookies

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. chocolate, unsweetened
  • 1 pound, 8 oz. chocolate, bittersweet
  • 4 oz. butter
  • 8 each eggs
  • 1 pound, 8 oz. sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 oz. cake flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound, 12 oz. chocolate chips
  • 8 oz. walnuts

Method:

  • Melt the chocolates and butter together. Beat together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla.
  • Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the chocolate chips and walnuts. Dough will firm as it sits.
  • Scoop and bake at 325 F for 10–14 minutes.