Biltmore… Thoughts

Ten years ago, I bought a book titled “1000 Places to See Before You Die.” One of the American places mentioned is Biltmore, in western North Carolina. Today, I finally made it there so I can check it off. While I’m recovering, I wanted to document my thoughts. There won’t be any pictures. The thoughts will be shared in a somewhat chronological order.

  • Fully charge your camera battery. My stupid self didn’t fully charge my camera battery and it died towards the end of the day while I was trying to get a good shot of the amazing chickens in the farmyard. There’s a lot to take in with your eyes and ears, but if you’re one of my people with a camera, 2 lenses, and 7 filters, this is a photographer’s heaven.
  • Start the day off with some Vortex Donuts. This is an Asheville staple, and I imagine it must get crowded at some point, especially on a Saturday. I was there around 830am, so the wait was minimal. Since I’m on a vacation, I ordered 2 donuts and some Jasmine hot tea. The ginger lavender donut was EVERYTHING. No donut will ever live up to it. The Jasmine tea literally smelled like a Jasmine in full bloom, and tasted like it too. The vortex donut, their signature, was aight… I might have liked it better if I ate it first. Also, vortex donuts is conveniently located less than 10 minutes to the Biltmore entrance.
  • Get there early. Especially if you are buying tickets that day, or are doing Will Call. It was here that my inner New Yorker almost came out at 845 am. I don’t want to talk about it, but just know there was a lot of loud sighing and side eye shared with another girl.
  • Order your tickets in advance. Then you can avoid the Will Call step altogether. Plus if you order more than 7 days in advance, you save $15.
  • Have patience. There’s a long line of cars, a shuttle ride, people walking in front of your camera, unruly children… 
  • Don’t try to be cute. Today was chilly in the morning, but warmed up by the afternoon. I saw a few girls show up with short skirts, sandals, shorts, off the shoulder tops, heels… I had on 2 shirts and a coat and I was freezing my buns off until the 3 mile walk from wherever I was back to the house. I was wearing my pumas, but if I had on sandals or, God forbid, heels, I would have blisters and probably wouldn’t have made it past 1030am. Just wear sneakers, please.
  • Schedule your house tour for midday. This couldn’t have worked out any more perfect for me. I spent 9 to 12 in the gardens. From 12 to 1245 I ate lunch. From 1245 to 115, I took pictures of the outside of the house. At 115 my tour began. Around 3pm I was done and went to Antler Hill Village for the wine tasting and stayed up there u til 7ish. I didn’t see it all, but I saw a lot.
  • Don’t bring young children here. I saw many parents struggling to keep their kids out of the flowers in the gardens. I also heard several tell their children not to pick the flowers. They didn’t seem to be able to enjoy themselves. And then there was Daniel. I was walking behind Daniel and his family on the trek from who knows where to lunch. I overheard Daniel moan, “My legs hurtttttt!” And then he gave up on walking by collapsing on the path. His dad, the true hero, picked him up and carried him on his shoulders for a bit. Uphill. I lost site of the family, only to catch up to them again with Daniel laying on the path again.
  • Get the Guinness Bratwurst. There’s a little lunch spot by the house. At first I was going to get the caprese sandwich but saw the Guinness bratwurst and thought, “when in Rome… yolo.” It was delightful on a soft pretzel bun with Sauerkraut and spicy, legit mustard. Yum. I paired it with a blue POWERade to recover the electrolytes I lost in the gardens,
  • Accept that you’re going to spend a fortune on food. That hot dog and drink? $13. The glass of wine and cheese platter from later? I handed the waiter a $20, thinking that surely would cover it. He looked at me funny and very sassily said, “um, it’s actually $20.32” for a glass of wine a day or cheese platter. 
  • Visit the conservatory. I’m a fan of plants and this place had an amazing collection of orchids and tropical species. Everyone was going crazy over the bananas. I overheard one hater say, “I don’t get why people take so many pictures, they’re just plants.” But I was with my people so bye hater.
  • Look closely at the carvings. The architecture on Biltmore house is so intricate. There are gargoyles and all sorts of animals carved into the stone.
  • Be patient during the house tour. You’re going to end up in slowly moving crowds of people. Just accept it.
  • Take your time during the house tour. If you take your time reading and listening to things, the crowd eventually starts to thin out and you can do you’re own thing without feeling like cattle.
  • Be okay that the grand dining room makes you think of the line “I use antlers in all of my decorating.” If you’re 90s kid, you know what I’m talking about.
  • Spend the extra $11 for the audio guide. The pamphlet gives some info, but the audio guide really goes deep into the stories of Biltmore. I like to try to imagine what it would be like to live during that time, and the audio guide helped me get there.
  • Don’t bring young children. Again, I saw trips being ruined by humans that won’t even remember this day. Crying children. Kids trying to run up and down the bowling alley. Kids ignoring directions and order. Kids talking loudly on the shuttle about milk. 
  • Wear layers. It was cold and breezy outside in the am. The conservatory was tropical. Walking a distance makes you hot. Sitting in the shade makes you cold. The house is warm. The afternoon is hot and you don’t need a coat. Just prepare for 4 seasons in a day, which is basically north Carolina weather 365 days a year.
  • There are a lot of stairs. I saw a crew of people in wheelchairs waiting for the rest of their parties to return from the house tour. I thought about my family members who would LOVE Biltmore but would struggle with the stairs and all the walking. This place was built pre-ADA. If you or a loved one has limitations with walking, I recommend splitting Biltmore into at least 2 days: one for the house tour and another for the garden.
  • Go for the complimentary wine tasting in Antler Village. It’s included in the admission you paid an arm and a leg for. You can sample a lot of wines that are offered only on the estate. My favorites were the Library White and Cardinals Crest red.
  • Know that you’re going to have to make the choice between cheese, olives, almonds, and truffles. There’s a little wine bar outside of the tasting room where you can get a full glass or 2 of your favorites from the tasting. Since I was solo, it made sense to only choose one platter to pair with my Library White. I wanted a little of everything, though. So if you’re there with more people, get multiple plates. 
  • If you see live music, sit in the grass. There was a cute little band playing oldies in the square, so I got an expensive mint chocolate chip ice cream cone from the creamery and relaxed for a while. People had their dogs and blankets and stuff.
  • Visit the farm animals. I almost couldn’t find them, but I’m so glad I didn’t miss the farm animals. It was late at this point, so the stables were closed. I got to enjoy a chicken coop that had 2 roosters with big personalities and heavy feelings. I also got to watch some goats and donkeys eat grass the way I ate that Guinness bratwurst. 

I ended the day relaxing in an Adirondack chair before I decided to return to my room. There is still so much to do at Biltmore that I didn’t get to do. I think I would like to stay at one of the on-site hotels next time so I’m closer to everything, like the bike rides and the horses. Overall, I enjoyed Biltmore significantly more than I did Versailles, which has a similar vibe. The only category Versailles wins is history. Biltmore has amazing views of the mountains, and is all around stunning. I’m exhausted now, and I’m going to pass out. I’ll share photos soon. 

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