I might be accustomed to the laziness brought by the pandemic, which caused the travel journal that was supposed to be done in July to delay. Now I want to conclude that trip.

Three months ago …

We wanted to try sth different from our normal travel style – which was always filled with outdoor activities – thus we chose to experience a two-days leisure trip at the Biltmore Estate during the Independence Day holiday weekends. Biltmore Estate is located at Asheville, the north western part of state of North Carolina. It’s about 5 and a half hours drive from Louisville Kentucky.

If you come to Asheville and you will only visit the Biltmore Estate, then I highly recommend you to book the estate packages. The estate official website usually provides several different packages depending on the seasons. At the time we visited, we purchased the Monet & Friends package, which included house museum admission, Monet & Friends exhibition admission, exhibition keepsake, unlimited wine tasting, and two nights accommodations with breakfast. They also have packages for Leonardo De Vinci exhibition, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. We chose to stay at Village Hotel, which is relatively cheaper compared to other two hotels on the estate. The restaurant of the hotel was really good.

Now I’m going to share the highlights of this trip.

– Ijams Nature Center –

Ijams Nature Center is located 3 miles from downtown Knoxville on our way to Biltmore Estate. It’s a nonprofit educational center provides nature and outdoor activities for students and families. The entry is free and there are so many things to do such as hiking, paddling, zip lining, climbing, etc. We took a hike on a popular trail – River Broadwalk. It has a nice view of Tennessee River.

Biltmore House Museum

The Biltmore Estate is full of hospitality. Parking is easy to find with the help of estate staffs. Just tell them where you’re aiming to go and they will provide the best guidance about where to park. The Biltmore House Museum area is fairly large, so you might end up with walking a lot if you don’t choose the right place to park. We parked at the top of C lot and got a snip of fabulous look down view of the House Museum just with a short walk.

The package we purchased included an audio guide of Biltmore House. Along our visit, we were introduced with the history of Vanderbilt family and their magnificent house, architecture, and collections of art. The house is tremendously huge which we spent almost two hours to complete our visit. The entire house contains more than four acres of floor spaces, including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces.[1]

Here is a little bit history about how Biltmore Estate was established. George Washington Vanderbilt II is the grandson of a shipping entrepreneur, and his family was one of the wealthiest families in America at that time. He began to purchase the lands under the attraction of Blue Ridge Mountains, which finally became the Biltmore Estate. The construction began in year 1889 and the house was finally opened to families and friends in 1895.[2]

He hired Richard Morris Hunt to design the house in the Chateauesque style and Frederick Law Olmsted to design the gardens. Richard was an American architect and was famous for the building of Biltmore Estate, but also had designed lots of mansions/buildings for New York City. Frederick was an American landscape architect and was renowned for Central Park, which was considered as a standard of excellence of landscape architecture in the United States.[3] [4]

– Biltmore House Garden –

Now I’m going to talk about the House Garden which was designed by Frederick. The following is the garden map. As you can see, it is composed of several small gardens with different features. I’ll briefly introduce the ones we visited:

  • 2) Italian Garden: features water gardens with beautiful water lilies, lotus, and statuary.
  • 3) Shrub Garden: features hundreds of different species of trees and shrubs including state champion trees.
  • 5) Walled Garden: features flowerbeds where tulips or mums will appear depends on the season.
  • 6) Rose Garden: features a selection of variety of rose species.
  • 7) Conservatory: functions like a greenhouse to contain a large collection of tropicals, ferns, orchids, succulents, etc. It’s our favorite part of the garden. It was served to provide flowers and plants during Vanderbilt’s time.

Monet & Friends Exhibition

Before our visit, I felt surprised that Biltmore had a Monet exhibition. I thought it might be a result of Impressionism gains lots of popularity and more and more people are enjoying artworks. But I knew I was wrong after our visit, since art collection and Impressionism are truly embedded in Vanderbilt history.

Collecting art pieces of Impressionism was one of the hobbies for George Vanderbilt. He grew up surrounded by the paintings in his father’s collection. He acquired 16 Impressionism paintings over 10 years, including artworks by Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, etc. For those who are not familiar with Impressionism, the paintings were always completed in the open air (en plein air) by using choppy brush strokes to feature the beauty of landscape impacted by light change. These are the two collections painted by Monet.

Talking about the Monet & Friends Exhibition. It happened at Amherst at Deerpark. It’s one of the Legends of Arts & Innovation series at Biltmore. The current exhibition is Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius, which will end in Feb 20th, 2023. The following one is Italian Renaissance Alive, which will begin Mar 3rd, 2023.[5]

Monet Exhibition approximately costed 60 mins for a full experience. It will provide few seats, but you could wander through the large scale projections of artwork or sit on the floor to experience the masterpieces of Impressionism painters. It not only covered the paintings, but also introduced the basics and movement of Impressionism.

– The Vanderbilt Family –

If you’re interested in getting a deeper understanding of Vanderbilt’s family, the Biltmore Legacy located at Antler Hill Village is the place you don’t want to miss. The exhibition offers you an opportunity to look at the family members’ personalities, hobbies, lifestyles, and some rare collections.

George Vanderbilt married Edith in 1898, and their only daughter Cornelia was bored in 1900. One of the story we learned is a fateful decision that very likely saved Vanderbilts life. In 1911, the family decided to return home on Titanic after their European trip. At that time, Titanic was the largest modern voyage in the world. They booked passage on Titanic, however, maybe due to homesick, they changed their minds in the last minute to take the sister voyage Olympics to return home earlier. This decision may save the family lives since over 1.5 thousands people were perished from Titanic disaster. However, their footman didn’t get the chance to pack all belongings of the entire family to catch Olympics, he sailed on Titanic and perished.

Currently the Biltmore Estate is owned and managed by Vanderbilt descendants: children of Willians Amherst Vanderbilt Cecil, the grandson of George and Edith Vanderbilt.

– Other Activities –

There are lots of things to do at Biltmore. In our second day, we rent a bike and cycled on some paved trails just enjoying the scenery. You could refer to this URL to find all activities on official website: https://www.biltmore.com/things-to-do/

Finally let me showcase the Biltmore 3D module I bought and assembled from the gift shop.

– The End –