Biltmore#1 in Best Things To Do in Asheville, NC
This enormous French Renaissance-style estate of George Vanderbilt has a storied past dating back to 1889. Considered America's largest private home, the 250-room estate – with 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and a whopping 65 fireplaces – took six years to construct. The 8,000 acres of gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (the same landscape architect responsible for Central Park) and feature 2 ½ miles of walking paths.
Amassing 125,000 acres at its peak, 87,000 acres were sold after Vanderbilt's death in 1914 to form what is now the Pisgah National Forest. But its history doesn't stop there: During World War II the estate stored pieces from the National Gallery of Art, and in the 1970s a winery was added. In the 2000s, inns and hotels were opened on the property.
Today, visitors can explore the architecture, artwork and history of the estate and gardens via various tours. The property features different events each season, including the Biltmore Blooms in spring, a summer concert series and the grand Christmas displays that include more than 40 opulent trees. The estate recommends at least 1 ½ to 2 hours to tour the house, but you should set aside more time for wandering the expansive gardens, dining or shopping at the Antler Hill Village, or taking a free tour of the winery.
The $60 admission fee is steep for some, but the majority of visitors are astounded by the sheer size and attention to detail of the property (save up to $10 by purchasing your ticket before your visit). You can opt for an audio tour, a guided tour or specialty tours at the winery or estate grounds for additional fees. The estate also offers a variety of seasonal outdoor activities like horseback riding and stand-up paddle boarding. Admission for children younger than 9 is free year-round; entrance for children ages 10 to 16 is free seasonally. Hours vary seasonally, but generally, the house is open to tour from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can extend your experience on the grounds by staying at one of the on-site hotels, including the Inn on Biltmore Estate. Note that on certain high volume days, reservations are required to visit. The estate is located about 3 miles from downtown, off of Highway 25, which is accessible from both the Blue Ridge Parkway and Interstate 40. For more information, visit Biltmore's website.
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#2 Asheville Urban Trail
Weaving through downtown, the 1.7-mile-long Asheville Urban Trail walks visitors through the cultural and architectural history of the city. Created by the city of Asheville to showcase its unique past, each of the trail's 30 stops is marked with a public sculpture that captures an important person or moment in the area's history.
The self-guided tour is divided into five time periods – from the Gilded Age to the present Age of Diversity. The trail starts at Pack Square at the intersection of Biltmore Avenue and Patton Avenue and circles around the downtown area, arriving back at the square for the final bronze statue. Visitors who want to explore all 30 landmarks should set aside about two hours. Even if you choose not to explore the entire trail, you'll likely see one or two statues during your time downtown.
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