Before Biltmore Estate: Changing Ownership

The 8,000 acres of present-day Biltmore Estate have a rich history of inhabitants dating back millennia.

In this two-part blog series, we recognize and share a brief history of some of the many people who have called this land home throughout history.

The Alexander Mill, pictured here ca. 1888, was located southwest of Biltmore House. Members of the Alexander family were early settlers in this area and sold hundreds of acres of land to George Vanderbilt.
The Alexander Mill, pictured here ca. 1888, was located southwest of Biltmore House. Members of the Alexander family were early settlers in this area and sold hundreds of acres of land to George Vanderbilt.

Agriculture in the Antebellum Era

The State of North Carolina sold the former Cherokee Nation land included within its boundaries through land grants to white landowners in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Though these parcels varied in size, agriculture was a primary use of land in the Asheville area, though not on the scale of the larger plantations elsewhere in the Southeast.

Censuses show that prior to the Civil War and emancipation in 1865, there were enslaved people working the farms and living among the white landowners on tracts that now comprise Biltmore Estate. Author Wilma A. Dunaway calculated in her book The First American Frontier that in 1860, 41.7% of farmers in the Appalachian counties of North Carolina were using enslaved labor or a combination of enslaved and tenant labor to work their land. That same year, there were a total of 1,933 enslaved people held in all of Buncombe County.

This excerpt from an Asheville Weekly Citizen article dated June 25, 1891, shows the public fascination with George Vanderbilt's acquisition of land.
This excerpt from an Asheville Weekly Citizen article dated June 25, 1891, shows the public fascination with George Vanderbilt’s acquisition of land.

Arrival of George Vanderbilt

In May 1888, 23 years after emancipation, George W. Vanderbilt began purchasing land in the Asheville area through agents. By 1895, he had acquired many parcels totaling around 100,000 acres, which caused quite a buzz in the local community. The landowners that he purchased from included both white and free Black property owners, both of whom by this date had deep roots, if not comparable land ownership histories, in the community.

The future site of Biltmore House is pictured here ca. 1889 after it and the surrounding area was acquired from Boston Jenkins and others.
The future site of Biltmore House is pictured here ca. 1889 after it and the surrounding area was acquired from Boston Jenkins and others.

New Shiloh

Much of the land that makes up the Biltmore House site and nearby areas to the east was previously owned by members of Shiloh. The community of Shiloh consisted of around 28 African-American landowners, with a total population of more than 100 individuals by 1888. Reverend Boston A. Jenkins, one of the trustees of the Shiloh A.M.E. Zion Church, was the former owner of what is today the location of Biltmore House and the adjacent Stable Complex.

The prices paid for most of the Shiloh tracts averaged around $37 per acre, which was more than the fair market value at the time. Prices paid by Vanderbilt ranged from a few cents per acre to $1,000 for the one-acre parcel that included the Shiloh Church. Biltmore Estate acquired a tract of land on which an upgraded church building was relocated and subsequently transferred ownership to Shiloh residents. The surrounding community then became known as “New Shiloh.”

Archival Guide Map of Biltmore Estate, ca. 1896
Archival Guide Map of Biltmore Estate, ca. 1896

Remembering Biltmore’s Residents

While many people are familiar with the lives of George and Edith Vanderbilt, it is vital to Biltmore’s cultural history to acknowledge the many individuals who came before the Vanderbilts and who lived and worked on this land since their arrival, including thousands of tenants and employees.

While there are many oral histories in Biltmore’s archives that speak to the experience of growing up on these grounds in the 20th century, the stories of most of those who came before have unfortunately been lost to time. In lieu of more detailed or personal accounts of individuals and communities who once lived on this land, it is essential that we acknowledge their existence as a way to honor and remember their lives and legacies.

Through environmental stewardship practices, land conservation efforts, and collaborative research projects, Biltmore remains dedicated to being good stewards of this storied land that has been home to so many, including Native Americans, the Shiloh community, and all descendants of the people who came before us.

Further Reading

For information on Native Americans who once called this land their home, read part one of this blog series, Before Biltmore Estate: Early Inhabitants.

Additional resources on this topic:

Bistro’s Beef Bourguignon Recipe

Enjoy the hearty flavors of Bistro’s Beef Bourguignon from the comfort of your home! While the Bistro version features Filet Mignon, the home-friendly recipe suggests the robust taste of chuck roast.

Wine Pairing Suggestion: This classic dish can be savored on its own or with velvety mashed potatoes and pairs beautifully with a rich red wines, like Biltmore’s Cardinal’s Crest or Vanderbilt Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, for an even more satisfying experience!

Biltmore's Bistro Beef Bourguignon Recipe
Savor the Bistro’s hearty Beef Bourguignon recipe from the comfort of hope.

Bistro’s Beef Bourguignon

Total time: 6 hours Serving Size: 6-8 people

Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds chuck roast, salted and diced into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups celery, diced
  • 4 cups yellow onion, diced
  • 5 cups cremini mushrooms, stems removed and sliced into quarters
  • 1 ½ cup shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced into quarters
  • 1 ½ teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 1 cup of butter, diced
  • 3 whole cloves
  • ½ pod of star anise
  • ¼ stick of cinnamon
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Approx. 12 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • Small cheesecloth

Instructions:

  1. Salt chuck roast and set aside at room temperature while you prepare the other ingredients. Prepare carrots, celery, onions, and mushrooms according to the ingredient list.
  2. Make an herb bouquet by wrapping the clove, star anise, cinnamon, bay leaves, and peppercorns in the cheesecloth, ensuring it is securely wrapped.
  3. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  4. In a large Dutch oven on medium-high heat, sear the beef in 1 tablespoon of canola oil until lightly browned and a crust forms on the beef. Be careful not to overcrowd the pot. Remove meat from the pot and set aside.
  5. Reduce heat to low. Add in carrots, celery, and onion and sauté until mostly cooked, about 3 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and tomato paste.
  6. Add the red wine and gently scrape the bottom to remove the brown bits. Allow to simmer until wine is reduced by half.
  7. Turn off the heat and add the beef, herb bundle, and beef stock.
  8. Put the lid on the Dutch oven and cook at 300°F for 4-6 Hours or until beef is fork-tender. Stir in diced butter and season to taste for serving.

Note: If you prefer to use a crock pot, brown the beef and then add everything to your crockpot to cook on low for 8-10 hours until tender.

Exploring Biltmore’s Historic Orchid Collection

Biltmore’s love affair with orchids goes back more than a century, when George Vanderbilt was first planning his grand estate in Asheville, NC.

With some 25,000 species and 100,000 cultivated varieties, orchids comprise one of the two largest families of flowering plants, growing in every ecosystem except Antarctica. Discover the colorful history behind Biltmore’s orchid collection and how our team cares for the alluring specimens year-round.

Paphiopedilum 'Rosey Dawn' orchid
Biltmore’s orchid collection highlights five major groups and includes slipper orchids, or Paphiopedilum, like the “Rosey Dawn” variety shown here

Orchid Mania in the Victorian Era

Though orchids have been a beloved flower since Roman times, it wasn’t until the early 1800s that the enchanting plants became extremely popular in Britain seemingly overnight. With elite Victorians seeking them out as status symbols, the demand grew and many people became obsessed with acquiring orchids for their collections, generating a fad known as “orchidelirium,” or orchid mania.

Private collectors and “orchid hunters” traveled far and wide, often under dangerous circumstances, to search for the finest exotic orchids on nearly every continent and ship them back to Europe at exorbitant prices.

Fortunately, by the late 1800s when George Vanderbilt was planning his grand estate in Asheville, orchids were more readily available from nurseries and no longer required sending collectors on arduous journeys.

Biltmore Conservatory ca. 1910
Biltmore’s historic Conservatory, pictured here in 1910, has an entire room dedicated to the display of eye-catching orchids.

Filling the “Orchid House”

Conservatories and glass-roofed garden rooms filled with private plant collections remained popular among wealthy estate owners in Europe and the United States throughout the late 19th century. Naturally, George Vanderbilt followed this trend with the construction of Biltmore’s Conservatory and the Winter Garden room of Biltmore House.

For Biltmore’s collection, landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, specified that 800 orchids, comprising more than 30 varieties, should be purchased for furnishing the Conservatory’s “orchid house.” In archival photographs, orchids can also be seen adorning tablescapes in the Winter Garden surrounded by palm trees, providing a lush and exotic space for the Vanderbilt family to relax and entertain guests.

Today, Biltmore’s orchid collection contains close to 1,000 plants. In the collection are award-winners recognized by the American Orchid Society and some of the very same varieties contained in Olmsted’s original list.

Assortment of orchids in bloom inside Biltmore's Conservatory
Biltmore’s orchid collection contains close to 1,000 plants.

Caring for the Orchid Collection

While much of the work to care for Biltmore’s orchids happens behind the scenes, the effort is always evident. No matter the time of year, our team rotates blooming plants onto display inside the Conservatory for guests to enjoy their irresistible beauty.

A typical week among the orchids includes fertilizing and watering the collection and then tending to the display areas in the Conservatory. If severe cold weather strikes during winter months, team members may have to take extra precautions to protect the plants, including running auxiliary heaters in all of the greenhouses and moving the plants into warmer spaces overnight.

Large, white Phalaenopsis (or
Large, white Phalaenopsis (or “moth orchids”) are some of the most recognizable orchids in Biltmore’s collection.

Quick Tips for Orchid Care at Home 

Of all the orchids in Biltmore’s Conservatory collection, you may be wondering which is the most popular with our guests. According to our garden team, guests are very drawn to Phalaenopsis, or “moth orchid,” likely because it is one of the more recognizable varieties that they may have at home.  

You don’t have to be a professional gardener to enjoy the beauty of orchids. Biltmore’s Orchid Horticulturist, Marc Burchette, shares these tips for successful orchid growth at home: 

G – Give your orchid a bright east or north-facing window with little to no direct sunlight.  

R – Regulate temperatures to avoid exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the day or below 55 at night. 

O – Only water plants when they are completely dry to avoid overwatering.  

W – Maintain humidity levels between 50 to 80 percent. You can use a gravel-filled tray partially filled with water if needed.  Plants should not sit in water. 

T – Treat with a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10 / 20-20-20) at 1/4 recommended strength weekly during the growing season.  

H – Handle repotting every 2 to 3 years or when new root growth is observed; use a well-draining mix. 

Cymbidium hybrid orchids
This Cymbidium hybrid orchid boasts striking purple, white, and yellow blooms.

A Fascination with Orchids Continues

Each winter season, Biltmore’s vast and vibrant orchid collection reaches peak bloom inside the Conservatory. And, while “orchid mania” may be a craze of the past, the fascination with Biltmore’s orchids continues to provide a feast for the senses year-round.

Be sure to spend time enjoying the beauty of Biltmore’s orchids during your next visit and consider joining our Passholder family to experience the ever-changing assortment of blooms inside the Conservatory throughout the year.

5 Reasons You’ll Want to Visit Biltmore This Winter

Whether you’re traveling with your family or sweetheart this season, here are our top 5 reasons why you’ll want to add a peaceful and restorative winter visit to Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, to your travel plans.

Cattleya Mary Schroder orchid in Conservatory
Orchids inside Biltmore’s Conservatory, like this Cattleya Mary Schroder orchid, reach peak bloom during winter months.

5. Discover our great indoors

There’s no better way to shake winter’s chill than with a tropical excursion through Biltmore’s historic Conservatory, located a short distance away from Biltmore House. As a bonus, orchids reach peak bloom during the winter months, so guests are in for a real treat as the Orchid Room boasts a vibrant collection of over 500 plants.

The indoor adventure continues with guided tours of Biltmore House, such as the Exclusive 90-Minute Guided Tour: Guests of the Vanderbilts for fascinating stories and rarely-accessed areas of the home, the Rooftop Tour for long-range views and unique perspectives on the design of Biltmore House, or the Backstairs Tour for an in-depth look at what it was like to work in America’s Largest Home over a century ago.

Tip: Tours and activities offered are subject to change. Please check our Activities listings for the most current and accurate offerings for your winter visit.

Enjoy our Red Wine and Chocolate Tasting featuring premium Biltmore wines and artisan chocolate truffles from French Broad Chocolates. 📷 by @chelseaericasmith & @thewineshutter

4. Sip our favorite winter wines

In addition to enjoying a Complimentary Wine Tasting at our award-winning estate Winery during a winter visit, consider booking one of our most popular specialty wine experiences, our Red Wine & Chocolate Tasting. Sip, swirl, and savor your way through a curated selection of our hearty red wine varietals paired with locally produced artisan chocolates from French Broad Chocolate and discover why each is a heavenly match.

Cozy up with your sweetheart at our Wine Bar and enjoy our favorite red, white, and sparkling winter varietals by the glass or bottle. At our Wine Shop, you can restock your cellar while marveling at the stunning blown-glass Iris Gold and Garnet Chandelier by world-renowned artist, Dale Chihuly, on display.

Couple hiking near The Inn on Biltmore Estate during the winter season
Wintertime offers spectacular long-range mountain views from the trails and meadows on our private estate.

3. Outdoor adventure awaits

Bundle up and experience the breathtaking beauty of George Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre mountain estate! Choose from guided activities, such as hikes, river strolls, horse-drawn carriage rides, and falconry, or embark on your own to explore our 22 miles of private nature trails and acres of historic gardens.

If a more restorative getaway is what you’re longing for, consider unique estate activities such as forest bathing, nature journaling, guided yoga and meditation, or even bird-watching!

Tip: New this winter season, all Biltmore House admission tickets include FREE next-day grounds access, which means you have even more time to explore all that the estate has to offer!

Biltmore Blacksmith at work
Watch our blacksmith work and learn more about the craft in Antler Hill Barn. Hours vary seasonally.

2. Make your way around Antler Hill Village

This European-inspired village boasts unique opportunities to learn more about Biltmore’s farming legacy and the Vanderbilt family, shop for momentos to remember your winter visit to Biltmore, and savor field-to-table flavors at our estate restaurants… all in one convenient location!

While exploring Biltmore’s Antler Hill Village, be sure to make your way to the Barn to see craft demonstrations from our regional and estate history. Not only is it fascinating to watch artisans like our resident blacksmith at work—it’s also quite cozy in the Smithy Shop.

West facade of Biltmore House in snow
While snowfall isn’t common in our area, it is a spectacular treat when the estate is blanketed in white.

1. Wake to an 8,000-acre winter wonderland

Discover just how restorative and romantic a winter visit to Biltmore Estate can be with an overnight stay! Imagine waking up with tranquil Blue Ridge Mountain beauty, world-class hospitality, and all of our top wintertime activities just outside your door.

All this and more is available when you plan your winter visit now to experience Biltmore’s most peaceful season with the lowest rates of the year on admission and special overnight packages. To experience the grandeur of Biltmore all year long plus exclusive discounts and perks, consider joining our Annual Passholder family.

Nae’s Tips for a Kid-Friendly Christmas Visit

Recently, Biltmore had the pleasure of hosting Nae Noelle (@NaeNoelle) and her family for a holiday visit to experience Christmas at Biltmore! If your family is considering a visit to Biltmore during the holiday season, we invite you to read Nae’s recommendations for her top ways to share the magic of Christmas at Biltmore with your kids.

Nae Noelle and her family enjoyed all that Biltmore had to offer during the Christmas season.
@naenoelle and her family enjoyed all that Biltmore had to offer during the Christmas season.

Is there anything more beautiful than Christmas at Biltmore in Asheville, NC?

Long answer short, I don’t think so. The illumination, the Christmas décor, the grandeur, the warm invitation of the stunning lit fireplaces—need I say more? There just isn’t anything quite like spending time at Biltmore for the holidays.

It especially does my heart good to see the joy on my children’s faces as they feast their eyes on the 55-foot-tall Norway spruce that currently decorates the Front Lawn of Biltmore House. With so much to do for all ages, we simply couldn’t say no to coming to see all the magic of Christmas at Biltmore!

It’s no secret that traveling with two small children (ages three and 17 months, to be exact) can be tricky, especially when looking for age-appropriate things for them to do. There is so much to do that it requires more than a one-day visit. This is a big reason why we chose to lodge at The Inn on Biltmore Estate® for the few days we visited Biltmore.

Here are my top 5 ways to experience the estate with small kids during Christmas at Biltmore:

1. Antler Hill Village

Antler Hill Village gives us small-town vibes with plenty to learn, see, and explore. It contains at least a day’s worth of activities for the entire family. I’ll elaborate on the kid-friendly things to do below, but from the beautiful Christmas light displays and the Winery to the many shops throughout, you want to set aside a day to experience all that Antler Hill Village has to offer.

During the day, enjoy a stroll throughout the Village, taking time to do some Christmas shopping at one of the many gift shops. Enjoy lunch at Cedric’s® Tavern or Bistro—both restaurants boast incredible menus and delicious food. The kids will enjoy visiting the nearby Farmyard and Pisgah Playground.

At night, the light show begins with a tall Christmas tree featuring colored lights synchronized to Christmas music near the entrance of Antler Hill Village. This is definitely a show in and of itself. Throughout the rest of the Village are buildings, pathways, and trees that are completely illuminated with Christmas lights.

2. Antler Hill Barn, Farmyard, Pisgah Playground, and G-scale model train

We enjoyed making a learning experience out of our Biltmore vacation by taking our children to the Farmyard to see the animals. Our kids learned about the chickens, enjoyed petting/brushing the goats, and watching the cows graze. Inside the barn, our son was able to pick out a coloring sheet and color away. We were also impressed by—and stocked up on—some homemade goat milk soap while there. The smell of lavender filled our noses and we simply couldn’t resist picking up a couple of Christmas gifts for family members.

Directly adjacent to the Farmyard is Pisgah Playground, an area for the kids to get their wiggles out before dinner later in the evening. It is a full-sized playground equipped with a swing set, a sand play area, climbing logs, a slide, and a small area where kids can be musicians, playing their hearts out on the metal xylophone.

In another part of Antler Hill Village is the Ciao! From Italy, a sculptural postcard display equipped with a G-scale model train that is fun for all ages. This exhibit featured beautiful, handcrafted sculptural postcards with messages written by Biltmore founder George Vanderbilt, outlining places he visited more than a century ago. A train travels past each postcard, capturing the attention of adults and children alike. We spent a lot of time in this area. You don’t want to miss it!

Nae Noelle and her family during their Christmas at Biltmore visit.
@naenoelle and her family during their Christmas at Biltmore visit.

3. Carriage Rides

A carriage ride* is something you’ll want to include in your Christmas at Biltmore itinerary. In just 30 minutes, you’ll be able to meet the horses, learn about some of Biltmore’s history, and experience breathtaking views as you stop on a hill that gives you a gorgeous view of the back of Biltmore House. You won’t be able to get these views anywhere else on the estate! Both of my kids absolutely loved this ride and the opportunity to pet the horses along the way. In addition, one-hour private carriage rides and Farmyard Wagon Tractor Rides are available—both of which are family favorites!

Tip: One child under 5 years of age may ride free with each ticketed adult when they sit on the adult’s lap during a 30-minute or 1-hour Carriage Ride. (*Please confirm with the Carriage Barn before arrival. Subject to availability and offer may change.)

4. Family walks and hikes

There are lots of trails on the estate grounds that you’ll want to walk with your family. This is the perfect opportunity to let your littles enjoy nature while getting some of that mid-day energy out of their systems. You’ll enjoy hiking (or biking) at your own pace, taking in much-needed breaths of fresh air as you unwind and detach from the outside world for just a little while. I highly recommend taking a scenic walk through the gardens on your way to Biltmore House before your tour of America’s Largest Home®.

Fireplace aglow in the Banquet Hall of Biltmore House
Candlelight Christmas Evenings is a magical experience for all ages!

5. Candlelight Christmas Evenings at Biltmore House

I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you to make sure to get Candlelight Christmas Evenings tickets for Biltmore House. Daytime is gorgeous, but nighttime brings it home. You’ll witness the 55-foot-tall Norway spruce in the middle of the lawn that boasts Christmas lights brighter than the stars in the sky. The entire house is decorated top to bottom and adorned with gentle candlelight and lit fireplaces, making for a dazzling experience you and your family do not want to miss.

Tip: Take advantage of discounted youth (under 16) and child (under 9) admission on select Biltmore House ticket types! Your little ones may also enjoy listening to a kids’ audio guide of Biltmore House narrated by Cedric the dog!

Grown-up bonus!

When the littles are down for a nap or for the night, make sure you make time to go to a complimentary wine tasting or enjoy a massage at The Spa at The Inn. I had a much-needed massage for the first time in so long. I left a little less stressed and a lot happier. Mamas, you owe it to yourself to book an appointment with one of their talented, highly skilled masseuses.

Our Christmas at Biltmore trip was nothing short of magical, and I can’t recommend it enough to take your family and spend some time on the estate for the holidays. The memories you and your kids will make are completely priceless, and it is something they will truly hold onto for a lifetime.

This blog was sponsored by Biltmore.

Preservation Takes Root in Biltmore’s Italian Garden

At Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, historic preservation projects come in many forms, encompassing far more than just the exterior of Biltmore House and the priceless collections of art and furnishings that fill America’s Largest Home®.

The grand gardens and grounds, designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, are preserved as carefully as any other aspect of George Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre estate.

A new preservation project takes root

“In November 2023, we began removing the Hemlock hedge that bordered the Italian Garden for more than 50 years, replacing it with an American Holly hedge that is true to Olmsted’s vision for the area,” said Bill Quade, Director of Horticulture.

View of the holly hedge in front of the Conservatory at Biltmore that is part of our preservation project
The American Holly hedge at the top of the steps between the Rose Garden and the Conservatory yielded 350 cuttings for the Italian Garden preservation project.

This preservation project started in 2018 ago with cuttings taken from an original American Holly hedge located between the Historic Rose Garden and Butterfly Garden in front of the Conservatory. The cuttings—a mix of 350 male and female plants—were grown in containers at a regional nursery until they reached an appropriate age and size for transplanting.

Taking preservation to new heights

View of the Italian Garden near Biltmore House
Added during the 1960s, the high Hemlock hedge blocked the view from the Italian Garden into the areas below it.

“The hedge has dropped from a height of approximately 10 feet down to about 4.5 feet that we’ll maintain as the holly continues to mature,” Bill said. “That creates quite a drastic visual change for the area, allowing a much more open view down into Shrub Garden toward the Conservatory.”

Archival Biltmore photo of a pond in a garden with planters beside it
This archival photo taken August 23, 1895, shows the urns placed at regular intervals along the newly planted American Holly hedge that bordered the Italian Garden until it was removed in the 1960s.

In addition, replicas of the 16 large urns that are visible in early photos of the Italian Garden have been reproduced by the same company that re-created the urns in front of Biltmore House. Filled with leafy evergreen plantings, the urns have been added at intervals throughout the hedge.

Installation and completion

Green holly leaves and red berries
As the hedge grows in and matures, the mix of male and female American Holly plantings should provide evergreen leaves throughout the year along with bright seasonal berries.

“We don’t know why the American Holly hedge surrounding the Italian Garden was removed in the 1960s,” said Bill, “but with this preservation project, we’ll be using modern knowledge and techniques to adapt the original plan slightly to help the new hedge thrive and give the evergreen plantings in the urns the ability to survive year-round.”

“I believe this might be the most dramatic landscape preservation project since the replacement of the tulip poplars in front of Biltmore House in 2005,” Bill added.

View of the Italian Garden hemlock hedge and mountains at Biltmore
The Italian Garden Hemlock hedge as it appeared before being replaced with the American Holly hedge from Olmsted’s original design intent for Biltmore’s landscape plan.

A first-look for Biltmore Annual Passholders

This information was originally shared with Biltmore’s Annual Passholders in the Fall/Holiday 2023 issue of Ambassador, our exclusive Passholder magazine. If you’re interested in getting insider access and exclusive benefits—like unlimited daytime visits for a full year!—check out our Passholder page.

A Grand Transformation: The Inn on Biltmore Estate

After more than 20 years of award-winning excellence, The Inn on Biltmore Estate® is undergoing an inspiring two-year renovation with a complete redesign of guest rooms, suites, and corridors.

Take a closer look at the exciting renovations of our four-star Inn and discover the design inspirations that celebrate Biltmore’s storied legacy and the intentional design elements of Biltmore House while maximizing guest comfort.

The redesign of The Inn’s guest corridors, rooms, and suites draws inspiration from distinctive architectural details, artwork, and furnishings throughout Biltmore House.

Drawing from America’s Largest Home

The Inn on Biltmore Estate’s redesign was developed in partnership with the acclaimed global design firm, ROAM Interior Design. The aesthetic is a present-day take on classical European style, incorporating distinctive details drawn from the design, intention, and collection of Biltmore House paired with luxurious amenities for today’s guests.

With no detail overlooked, The Inn’s guests will appreciate elements drawn from Biltmore House throughout their stay including bold, nature-inspired wall coverings by William Morris, embossed leathers, quatrefoil designs, carved wood detailing, elegant brass fittings, and artwork recreations from George Vanderbilt’s collection—such as architectural drawings of Biltmore House, animal prints, and floral paintings.

The Inn on Biltmore Estate® has been awarded Forbes Four-Star recognition for 23 consecutive years.

Crafting a Vanderbilt-Inspired Retreat

Blending harmoniously with The Inn’s French chateau-inspired design and drawing from the timeless elegance, eclectic collections, and storied history of Biltmore House, the redesign of the guest rooms and corridors invites you to experience a present-day interpretation of being a welcomed guest of the Vanderbilt family.

Each space will feature design elements such as elegant wall coverings and furnishings, hardwood floors, expansive windows, well-appointed amenities, and spa-style bathrooms to create a private sanctuary for your stay.

In addition to a warm and welcoming appearance, our guest rooms have been redesigned to improve the use of space, combining function with luxury for guest comfort.

Rendering by ROAM
Inspired by the Bachelor Wing of Biltmore House, The Inn’s King Rooms feature rich layers of patterns and blue hues reminiscent of the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (Rendering by ROAM)
ROAM design rendering of The Inn's Double Rooms
The Inn’s Double Rooms draw inspiration from Edith Vanderbilt’s Parisian years and feature light shades of blush and ivory. (Rendering by ROAM)
ROAM design rendering of The Inn's James Suite
Each of The Inn’s light-filled Suites, such as the James Suite rendered here, features a themed design scheme highlighting the Vanderbilt family, distinguished friends of George Vanderbilt, and a love of nature. (Rendering by ROAM)

Welcoming Guests During Renovations

The Inn on Biltmore Estate remains open during the renovation, which is set to be completed in two stages from January through March of 2024 and 2025.

The first set of The Inn’s newly renovated rooms is available now for spring and summer 2024 stays!

To protect the guest experience for which this destination is known, all of our four-star amenities and services will remain available for our guests and work will occur during daytime hours in unoccupied areas of the hotel. Guests who prefer alternative accommodations are invited to book their estate stay at one of our private Cottages or Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate®.

“Guests who are familiar with The Inn will be especially delighted by the beautiful updates and thoughtful changes we’ll be making to further enhance your experience every time you join us for a memorable getaway,” says Charles Thompson, Vice President of Resort Experience.

We look forward to sharing this inspired transformation with you.

Biltmore’s History of Giving Back During the Holidays

Christmas has always been a special time at Biltmore, from George Vanderbilt’s opening of Biltmore House on Christmas Eve 1895 to the Christmas at Biltmore celebrations of today. The holidays at Biltmore have also been a time of intentionally giving back to the community.

Although George and Edith Vanderbilt made philanthropic contributions year-round, Christmas provided an opportunity to connect with the residents of Asheville and Western North Carolina to share in the spirit of the season.

Learn more about this tradition of giving back during the holidays.

Giving back through healthcare

Archival photograph of George Vanderbilt and his cousins traveling in Europe in the late 1800s
George Vanderbilt (standing, right) traveling in Spain with his cousin Clarence Barker (seated, left), niece Maria Louisa Schieffelin (seated, right), and her husband William Jay Schieffelin (standing, left), 1891. The Vanderbilts created Clarence Barker Memorial Hospital in Asheville, NC, in honor of Barker who passed away at Biltmore in 1896.

A particular priority for the Vanderbilts was making high-quality medical care more accessible to the community. George, Edith, and Cornelia Vanderbilt financially supported area hospitals including the Clarence Barker Memorial Hospital (later the Biltmore Hospital), which they founded in Biltmore Village to provide care to residents of the estate and the area.

During the holidays, however, the Vanderbilts contributed a little extra to extend cheer to the staff and patients. Beginning as early as 1903, Edith Vanderbilt ensured patients in the wards of the Clarence Barker Memorial Hospital, Mission Hospital, and General Hospital No. 19 at Oteen had a festive supply of estate-grown holly, mistletoe, wreaths, and Christmas trees. One House Mother at General Hospital No. 19 assured Edith that her annual donations “provide Christmas Cheer for the patients in this hospital.”[1]

Faith and philanthropy

All Souls Church in Biltmore Village, ca. 1906
Archival photograph of All Souls Church in Biltmore Village, ca. 1906.

Christmas also provided an opportunity for the Vanderbilts to grow closer to their faith community at All Souls’ Church in Biltmore Village. From the earliest days of All Souls’, George Vanderbilt not only attended services but found ways to include members of the church in his Christmas celebrations.

In 1896, for example, George Vanderbilt hosted members of the choir and administration of All Souls’ at a Christmas Day tea held at Biltmore House. The Asheville Citizen-Times remarked George “entertained his guests in a manner that made the evening a memorable one. After tea, the guests were shown over Biltmore House and made to feel thoroughly at home.”[2] George and Edith hosted the choir each year they were at Biltmore for Christmas until 1913.

Giving back through employee Christmas parties

Archival invitation to the 1909 Biltmore Estate employee Christmas party
Invitation to the 1909 Biltmore employee Christmas party.

A new tradition began in 1897 when All Souls’ Church was selected as the location for Biltmore’s employee Christmas party. Festive décor included a large star made of holly and pine hanging from the center of the chancel arch along with live pine trees growing in boxes in each corner of the building.

A 25-foot spruce replaced the choir stalls, “beautifully dressed with gleaming ornaments and lights and gifts, and from its topmost branch was suspended a large figure of an angel which seemed to waft a benediction upon the assembly and the ceremonies of the night.”[3] While the décor was not quite so elaborate in subsequent years, the 1902 decorations included a star made up of 200 incandescent lightbulbs in what must have been a dazzling display accompanying Christmas services.[4]

Western Union telegraph message from Edith Vanderbilt Gerry to everyone at Biltmore Estate for Christmas 19XX
Western Union “Holiday Greetings” telegram message from Edith Vanderbilt Gerry to everyone at Biltmore Estate.

Even after George Vanderbilt’s passing and Edith’s eventual marriage to Senator Peter Gerry of Rhode Island in 1925, she continued the tradition of giving back by coordinating Christmas donations from afar while her daughter Cornelia and husband John Cecil actively supported local hospitals.

Making Christmas bright for children

Archival photograph of a decorated Christmas tree at the Biltmore Parish Day School in 1897
Archival photograph of Christmas decorations at the Biltmore Parish Day School, ca. 1899.

Also bringing cheer to the children of Biltmore Village was the Biltmore Parish Day School, run by All Souls’ Church in the Parish School building beginning in 1898. With their focus on creating memorable Christmases for their employees, it is no surprise that George and Edith also supported the Parish Day School’s holiday celebrations.

The All Souls’ Yearbook for 1899 reveals separate parties were held for older and younger children, both involving Christmas trees, gifts, and refreshments. An 1899 All Souls’ Yearbook notes the importance of this party: “As it was the only Christmas some had, we endeavored to make it as bright as possible… some of them had never seen a lighted tree before, it was a genuine delight to them.”[5]

George and Edith established the operating fund with which the school funded its yearly Christmas celebrations, as well as provided scholarships to students who could not cover the $10 annual tuition.

A Vanderbilt tradition of giving back

Two girls looking up at Christmas lights
Starting on the very first Christmas morning in 1895, the annual Biltmore Employee Christmas party has been a special annual tradition for employees and their families that continues today.

The Vanderbilts firmly believed in giving back as their responsibility to the communities in which they lived, a belief that became especially clear during the holidays. At Christmastime, the Vanderbilts gave in personal ways, ensuring that those without access to Vanderbilt resources still experienced a happy Christmas.

The philanthropic efforts of the Vanderbilt family were not only directed toward their neighbors and children within the community but also extended beyond the boundaries of Biltmore Estate. Their involvement created a foundation that has guided the philanthropic efforts of their descendants throughout generations, both during the holidays and beyond.


[1] Letter held in the Biltmore House Archives, 1919.

[2] Asheville Citizen-Times, December 26, 1896; p. 1.

[3] Asheville Citizen-Times, December 27, 1897; p. 2.

[4] Asheville Citizen-Times, December 26, 1902; p. 5.

[5] All Souls’ Church Yearbook, 1899.

Peanut Butter Yule Log or “Buche de Noel” Recipe

Delight family and friends with a dessert as delicious as it is beautiful. Inspired by the traditional French bûche de Noël or yule log seasonal cake, Biltmore Pastry Chef Aaron Morgan developed a fresh twist on the classic confection with the addition of a rich peanut butter-cream cheese filling and elegant Italian buttercream icing that resembles freshly fallen snow.

Once the cake is assembled, branch out with decorative elements such as marzipan mushrooms, sugared berries, and fresh herbs that help make your yule log the highlight of any holiday or winter-themed gathering.

Wine Pairing Suggestion: Slice and serve with our Biltmore Estate Riesling or Limited Release Dry Riesling.

Biltmore's Bistro Beef Bourguignon Recipe
Savor the Bistro’s hearty Beef Bourguignon recipe from the comfort of hope.

Peanut Butter Yule Log or “Buche de Noel”

Total time: 5 hours Serving Size: 6 people

Ingredients:

For the biscuit roulade:

  • 3 whole large eggs
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large egg whites
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting and shaping

For the peanut butter filling:

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup heavy cream

For the Italian buttercream:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened and cut into ½-inch pieces

For decoration (optional):

  • Marzipan mushrooms, cocoa powder, chocolate Florentine lace cookies, fresh rosemary, fresh or sugared cranberries, etc., as desired

Instructions:

  • First, make the biscuit roulade: Heat the oven to 350°F. Spray the bottom and sides of a half-sheet pan (approximately 18x13x1 inches) with cooking spray; line the bottom with parchment paper, then spray the parchment with cooking spray. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat whole eggs, egg yolks and 1 cup granulated sugar on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes until the mixture reaches the “ribbon stage,” or turns thick, pale, foamy and forms ribbons in the batter when the whisk is lifted. Fold in flour until just combined.
  • In a separate large bowl using an electric hand mixer, beat 3 egg whites on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the egg-flour mixture until just combined.
  • Pour and spread the batter into the prepared sheet pan. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 14 to 16 minutes or until the cake is just baked through and lightly golden.
  • Sprinkle the top of the hot cake generously with powdered sugar (this will help to keep the cake from sticking). Run a paring knife along the edge of the cake to loosen it from the edges of the sheet pan. Top the cake with a light, clean kitchen towel and a large cutting board; carefully but quickly, invert the cake onto the towel/cutting board. Remove the sheet pan and parchment paper from the cake.
  • Sprinkle the top of the cake generously with powdered sugar. Starting from one short end, tightly roll up the warm cake in the towel; transfer to a cutting board, small sheet pan or large plate, seam side-down. Set aside to cool completely, about 2 hours (you can refrigerate the cake to speed up the cooling process, if desired).
  • Meanwhile, make the peanut butter filling: In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar on medium speed for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Beat in the peanut butter, melted butter and vanilla extract on medium speed for 1 minute or until well-combined and smooth, scraping the sides often.
  • In a separate large bowl using an electric hand mixer, beat heavy cream on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold the heavy cream into the cream cheese-peanut butter mixture until just combined.
Ready to assemble!
  • Assemble the cake: On a clean work surface, carefully unroll the fully cooled cake. Spread peanut butter filling evenly over the top of the cake all the way to the edges. Reroll the cake and return to the cutting board/sheet pan; cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 1 hour to set the cake.
  • Meanwhile, make the Italian buttercream: In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stir 2 cups granulated sugar, water and corn syrup to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer reads 245°F to 250°F when inserted into the mixture.
  • While the sugar mixture cooks, in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat 5 egg whites on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form.
  • With the stand mixer still running on medium-high speed, carefully and slowly pour hot sugar mixture into the egg whites. Continue to whip the mixture for 10 to 15 minutes or until it is fully cooled and turns to a light, fluffy, glossy meringue.
  • With the stand mixer still running on medium-high speed, add softened butter, one piece at a time, beating until the butter is fully incorporated and a light, fluffy, smooth frosting forms. If the frosting is too thin, cover and refrigerate until more firm.
  • Finally, assemble the cake: Use a sharp knife to cut one end of the chilled cake on an angle a few inches from the end; arrange the cut piece on one side of the cake to form a “branch.” Slice off the very end of the branch for a clean edge, if desired. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the buttercream (you may not use all of the buttercream); use an offset spatula to texture the sides, as desired.
  • Decorate and garnish the cake with marzipan mushrooms, Florentine lace cookies, cocoa powder, etc. as desired. Store cake loosely covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Tip: Don’t worry if your Peanut Butter Yule Log isn’t as smooth as you’d like—the snowy Italian buttercream frosting and decorations help cover any imperfections!

Visit Itinerary: The Magic of Christmas at Biltmore

With so many must-see and do activities during Christmas at Biltmore, you may be wondering how to make the most of your festive visit to the grand estate.

This flexible Biltmore visit itinerary is designed to be easily tailored based on your reservation times and preferences, allowing you to choose between a dazzling Daytime visit or an elegant evening aglow with candlelit wonder with a Candlelight visit.

Tip: Be sure to customize your visit itinerary based on Biltmore’s activities and events that will make your Christmas visit even more memorable!

@madelynonthemove experiencing the magic of Christmas at Biltmore
@madelynonthemove experiencing the magic of Christmas at Biltmore

Option 1: Daytime Celebration Visit Itinerary

🎄 Morning Biltmore House Visit (1.5 to 2 hours):

Step into the grandeur of Biltmore House, beautifully adorned with twinkling lights and festive decor. Explore the opulent rooms and immerse yourself in the spirit of Christmas during a daytime visit.

Tip: Advanced reservations are required for all Biltmore House visits. If your reservation is in the afternoon or early evening, you may choose to explore the Gardens or Antler Hill Village first!

🥗 Lunch at an Estate Restaurant (1.5 hours):
Indulge in a delightful meal at one of Biltmore’s distinctive restaurants, including Stable Café, Cedric’s Tavern, Bistro, and Village Social.

Tip: Reservations are highly recommended during this popular season.

🌺 Afternoon Gardens and Conservatory Visit (1 to 2 hours):
Take a leisurely stroll through Biltmore’s historic gardens and Conservatory. Admire the meticulously maintained greenhouses filled with tropical plants and holiday displays.

Tip: Select ticket types include free next-day access to explore the estate’s gardens and grounds.

🎟️ Chihuly at Biltmore exhibition (1.5 to 2 hours):
Opening on March 25, 2024, a new experience of the artist’s iconic creations makes its debut at Biltmore Estate. Presented in an intimate gallery setting at Amherst at Deerpark®, Chihuly at Biltmore includes pedestal works, Drawings, and large-scale installations of ChandeliersTowersMille Fiori, and Neon.

Tip: Access is included with select ticket types and guests may visit at their reserved entry time selected during the purchase process. If your reserved entry time is in the morning, you may choose to have your reserved Biltmore House visit in the afternoon.

🥂 Evening Antler Hill Village & Winery Visit (2 hours):
Linger into the evening in Antler Hill Village where holiday splendor and our award-winning winery await. Shop for unique holiday gifts, such as handcrafted ornaments or gourmet treats, and find the perfect souvenirs and stocking stuffers to remember your Christmas at Biltmore experience. Learn about the Vanderbilt family and their life at home and abroad at The Biltmore Legacy.

Tip: If you’re traveling with small children, be sure to visit Pisgah Playground, the Farmyard, and Antler Hill Barn for educational fun for all ages.

Guests enjoy the Candlelight Christmas Evenings audio tour as they marvel at awe-inspiring décor in the Banquet Hall.
Guests enjoy the Candlelight Christmas Evenings audio tour as they marvel at awe-inspiring décor in the Banquet Hall.

 Option 2: Candlelight Christmas Evenings

🎟️ Chihuly at Biltmore exhibition (1.5 to 2 hours):
Opening on March 25, 2024, a new experience of the artist’s iconic creations makes its debut at Biltmore Estate. Presented in an intimate gallery setting at Amherst at Deerpark®, Chihuly at Biltmore includes pedestal works, Drawings, and large-scale installations of ChandeliersTowersMille Fiori, and Neon.

Tip: Access is included with select ticket types and guests may visit at their reserved entry time selected during the purchase process. 

🌺 Afternoon Gardens and Conservatory Visit (1 to 2 hours):
Take a leisurely stroll through Biltmore’s historic gardens and Conservatory. Admire the meticulously maintained greenhouses filled with tropical plants and holiday displays.

Tip: Candlelight Christmas Evenings admission includes same-day or next-day access to explore the gardens, grounds, and Winery. See our FAQs for more info.

🕯️ Candlelight Christmas Evenings Biltmore House Visit (1.5 to 2 hours):
Experience the epitome of yuletide magic with Candlelight Christmas Evenings in Biltmore House. Wander through historic rooms aglow with the soft light of lit fireplaces, marvel at the beautiful decor, and enjoy live holiday music echoing through the halls.

Tip: Advanced reservations are required for all Biltmore House visits. If your reservation is in the late evening, you may choose to explore the Gardens or Antler Hill Village first!

🥂 Evening Antler Hill Village & Winery Visit (2 hours):
Linger into the evening in Antler Hill Village where holiday splendor and our award-winning winery await. Shop for unique holiday gifts, such as handcrafted ornaments or gourmet treats, and find the perfect souvenirs and stocking stuffers to remember your Christmas at Biltmore experience. Learn about the Vanderbilt family and their life at home and abroad at The Biltmore Legacy.

Tip: If you’re traveling with small children, be sure to visit Pisgah Playground, the Farmyard, and Antler Hill Barn for educational fun for all ages.

Guests enjoy visits with Santa at the Bandstand in Antler Hill Village on select dates during Christmas at Biltmore!

Additional Visit-Planning Tips:

Below are a few additional tips for your Christmas at Biltmore visit itinerary. For even more helpful information, we recommend exploring our Visitor Information site section.

  • Plan Ahead: Don’t wait to purchase your Christmas at Biltmore tickets or special overnight packages to secure your preferred dates and times for this beloved season.
  • Make the Most of Your Experience: All Biltmore admission types include access to explore Antler Hill Village & Winery and our historic gardens and grounds. Explore ticket types that include access to Biltmore House, an exclusive 90-minute guided tour, our immersive art exhibition, free next-day grounds access, and more! Additional add-on experiences, such as guided outdoor activities, are available as well.
  • Make it a Getaway: With so much to experience during the holiday season, treat yourself and your loved ones to a festive and memorable getaway with an overnight stay on Biltmore Estate.
  • Getting Around the Estate: Many guests underestimate the vast size of Biltmore Estate. We recommend allowing your party at least 30 minutes for travel and parking between estate locations. For helpful guidance on estate accessibility, please explore our Help Center.
  • Dress Comfortably: The evenings can be chilly, so dress warmly and wear comfortable shoes, especially if you opt to participate in any outdoor activities.
  • Capture Holiday Memories: Biltmore’s beautifully decorated spaces, elegant evergreens, and visits with Santa in Antler Hill Village provide the perfect backdrop for memorable holiday photos and magical moments with your family. Reminder: Be sure to follow estate photo and video policies designed to ensure all guests have an enjoyable experience.
  • Start Your Christmas Shopping: Find unique gifts and stocking stuffers, holiday decorations, and gourmet treats to bring the Biltmore Christmas spirit home during your visit or from the comfort of your home with biltmoreshop.com.