3 Recommended Experiences in North Carolina’s Most Interesting City
The thriving art scene and quirky culture of Asheville attract many tourists. Three interesting things to do add upscale fun to a luxury vacation in North Carolina.
Asheville, North Carolina, has been called one of the happiest places in the United States (The Geography of Bliss, 2008), as well as one of the world’s Top 12 must-see destinations (Frommer’s travel guides, 2007) and one of the 50 Most Alive Places to Be (Modern Maturity, 2000). Clearly, Asheville is a fun place for a vacation in the American South. The luxury traveler can find several upscale activities here; these are the recommended best fit for a luxury vacation in Asheville, NC.
The Biltmore Estate
Billed as the largest home in America (and that’s true), the Biltmore Estate is a must-see for a luxury vacation in Asheville. It was built by architects Hunt and Olmsted to the specifications of George Washington Vanderbilt in the late 1800s and is representative of the Gilded Age. The mansion itself is around 175,000 square feet, the estate property sprawls over around eight thousand acres, and the Inn on Biltmore Estate is a AAA 4-diamond hotel. The old dairy is now a winery, and the entire Biltmore Estate is a terrific tourist attraction.
In 1888, George Vanderbilt, on a visit with his mother, had fallen in love with western North Carolina. Asheville, North Carolina had become a health retreat for the high society of the Northeast. Many would venture down to the rugged terrain of Asheville to rest and reflect on the pressures of everyday life. George decided to purchase 125,000 acres and build a home where he could showcase his extensive art collection. The Vanderbilts had a long tradition of building very lavish homes, so George hired Richard Morris Hunt, a high society architect to design Biltmore House. He wanted this house to be a technological wonder, so he included many cutting edge inventions to complete the house. Biltmore House had central heating, electricity, running hot and cold water upstairs, fire alarm, cold – storage refrigeration, an elevator, electric call system for the servants, and a swimming pool with under water lights. The guests would marvel at all the conveniences. The estate was completed and opened on Christmas Eve in 1895. In the 1930’s the Vanderbilt family opened the estate to the public to revitalize the Asheville, North Carolina economy. In 1979 the family remodeled the dairy barn into a winery. Biltmore wine has won several awards and is a well respected winery. Today, the estate employs over 650 people in order to maintain the property. Biltmore House has become a favorite tourist spot in North Carolina.
Today, a visit to Biltmore is more than just a tour of the house; it has become a haven. The Inn at Biltmore is an indulgence well worth the price. A four star hotel, the Inn is tasteful in it’s details, with flawless service, fine dining restaurants, beautiful mountain views, very inviting pool, afternoon tea service, and concierges who know the best way to enjoy the full experience. You can’t help but feel the pampering from the moment you walk in. If you really want to splurge, try the Cottage at the Biltmore Estates. A 2 bedroom, 2 bath home with butler and chef. This is a once in a lifetime pleasure , and will make the trip to Biltmore a priceless extravagance.
While Biltmore is famous for it’s Christmas celebration and beautiful decorations, anytime of the year can be a special treat. In the spring the gardens break out with smells and colors , and in the fall it’s a very special time to visit as the drive to and from Biltmore will erupt with fall color. With 8,000 acres to explore and play in, more than one visit will almost certainly be necessary, especially since the Biltmore experience changes with every season.
The Biltmore is open year round, but on busy days they have a timed entry policy ( where you are given a specific time to view the house). During these days you are free to explore the other areas while waiting for your time to tour the main house. It is best to arrive before 1pm during these busy days, otherwise the times may fill up.
As you can see a visit to Biltmore holds everything you will need for a grand getaway. With shopping, dining, the winery, and activities that include horse back riding and fishing, this is truly an inclusive trip. Be sure you bring comfortable clothes to explore in. Please take your time when you visit, because between the house, gardens, and winery, Biltmore has so much to offer. It’s like coming home, at least to the home we all wish we had!
Thomas Wolfe Memorial Home
The author of Look Homeward, Angel and You Can’t Go Home Again (along with many autobiographical books and essays) lived in Asheville, and a tour of his Old Kentucky Home here adds literary culture to a North Carolina trip. The historic Victorian house is a landmark for fans of American literature and is a designated North Carolina State Historic Site. Stop in the Visitors Center right behind Thomas Wolfe’s Old Kentucky Home; the small exhibit hall displays personal effects from here and his New York City apartment.
The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa
This luxury inn is a top choice for lodging. Visitors to Asheville don’t have to stay at the inn to book treatments at its locally famous spa, though. The Spa is ranked #13 worldwide by Travel & Leisure‘s “World’s Best Hotel Spas” (2008) so booking in advance is most strongly recommended. The Spa at Grove Park Inn is modeled to emulate the Blue Ridge Mountains in appearance, with water features and clean, clean scented air. The luxury spa has many treatments including full-body massages, treatments for the hands and feet, body wraps and hydro bath treatments, and the Heaven Series that incorporates fire, rock, water, and light. There is a golf course at the Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa as well, making this a terrific choice for luxury lodging in Asheville, North Carolina.
The Urban Trail
Bonus fourth thing to do! Downtown Asheville has many fun shops, ranging from quirky art stores to antique shops. The Urban Trail is an interesting way to get familiar with downtown Asheville’s history and architecture: Look for clues on the sidewalk and storefronts for Urban Trail landmarks and public sculptures. Thirty stops along 1.7 miles can be found individually or via local guides. Maps are available at Pack Place, and it’s recommended; this activity adds depth to the pure fun of shopping downtown.
A vacation in Asheville, NC can be outdoorsy and with a culinary twist as well. These three activities will make a luxury trip there interesting and fun.