If you've seen one house museum, you've seen them all, right? Not true when it comes to the Biltmore Estate, the largest privately owned home in the US, seat of the Vanderbilt family and the biggest tourist attraction in Asheville, NC. Earlier this summer I had the chance to visit the estate with friends and family for the day, and was overwhelmed by the house, the gardens, the view and just about everything else on the estate.
It's crazy to think that you can spend a whole day in a home and only see a small percentage of it even though you've used up the entire day just walking through and around it. I can only imagine what its like living in the place and forgetting something or having to find a family member. The house is just under 180,000 square feet and has 250 rooms, but you only get to see a small portion of them on the public access tours.
As much as I loved viewing the house, I was really looking forward to the gardens and they did not disappoint. My favorites were the formal walled garden, a huge greenhouse, an azalea garden, and the Italian garden with its lily ponds.
Overall, I think it was the little details that kept surprising me all over the house that I really enjoyed. And since any visitor to my blog knows how I feel about lions, you can understand why I immediately fell in love with the place when you meet the lions that greet you at the door-- they're just as big as the AIC lions!
And since I always find a book to go with every experience, I have two recommendations for the journey there if you decide to go.
The first is a memoir by one of the Astor descendants that grew up in the Rokeby mansion.
And the second I am about halfway through myself right now. It covers the lives of six royal servants and gives a real view of Victorian life in a palace.
Have you ever taken a tour of a historic home? Or been to the Biltmore Estate?