A lot of students use their spring break to make a trip to Florida with friends or family. They’re constantly updating their Facebook about the beach or hanging with Mickey. They come back to school with a tan that makes everybody else cringe with jealousy. I, however, went to history-rich North Carolina, and I’m pretty sure I came back paler than when I left.
My family and I drove to Asheville, North Carolina to see the historic Biltmore Estate, built from 1889 to 1895 by George Vanderbilt. The house is still owned by descendants of the Vanderbilt family who allow the public to come in and tour the largest privately owned house in the United States. The drive was approximately seven hours, complete with food and bathroom breaks.
There were a number of tours available. One could take the basic tour that involved walking through the house asking the hosts or hostesses stationed in different rooms any questions you might have. There was an Audio Tour where people listened to headsets that explained things about the room or the life of George Vanderbilt and his family. There was a Butler Tour that took you to the sub-basement where the pipes of the house were. Another tour that was available was the Architect’s Tour, which explained the beauty of the outside of the building and on the roof to experience the beautiful architecture and symbols on and through the house. The final tour was the friends and family tour that allowed guests to go to certain rooms that were blocked off from the regular tour.
My family took the basic tour with the audio guide. The tour started off in the main entrance hall and went straight to the winter garden, a large indoor garden complete with a fountain. The tour continued to the billiard room, the dining room, and several other formal meeting rooms. Mr. Vanderbilt’s bedroom was a huge 1,200 square feet, larger than some whole houses here in Salem. The house had 34 bathrooms, when many homes back then didn’t have one. The house had an indoor gym, pool, and bowling alley.
There were many gift shops on the estate. A person could buy copies of the artwork shown in the house, as well as shirts and other beautiful trinkets. Of course, the gift shops were pretty expensive and we didn’t buy much.
We rode horses on the estate, too. The trail ride took us to the back of the estate where we could see all six stories of the mansion. There was also a choice for a carriage ride. Tours were also available for those who were interested in the winery. There was a museum on the estate dedicated to the life of the Vanderbilt’s. There were several restaurants to eat lunch and dinner at so no one had to make the journey off the 8,000 acre estate.
The estate had everything needed to have a good time. If you’re a history nut like myself, I suggest making the journey to North Carolina to see the historic Biltmore Estate.