To keep repeat visits inside the mansion at Biltmore Estate interesting, the estate curates exhibitions relevant to the period when this chateau was built and enjoyed by George and his family.
Last year we enjoyed the costumes of Downton Abbey displayed all throughout the mansion and this year it was Fashionable Romance: Wedding Gowns in Film displaying costumes from films taking place from the 1700’s-1940’s. Without these exhibits I’m not sure how many more times I can walk through the “open” rooms of this house. I have begun to consider ways in which I might access “closed” rooms. One tip: if you hate crowds as much as I do enter the house at 3:30pm. When I say crowds I mean CROWDS like you are feeling the bodies of the strangers around you while their children run across your toes like loose rats. It closes at 5:00pm but they will not rush you out. One time we were the very last people to exit at 6pm and we essentially saw nobody from 4pm onward except the cheerful guards. They truly were as gracious as they could be and never made us feel like we had overstayed our welcome.
Besides the house there are trails to hike, a river to raft, kayak or fish in, horses and bikes to ride, historic barns to tour, clay shooting to learn, animals to interact with, and a spa to indulge in. If you’re planning g a trip to Biltmore, book all of your outdoor adventures well in advance. Everything we did was booked solid and we took the last remaining spots. Supply does not equal demand on the estate in purpose. The guides explained the small number of slots is to keep these experiences intimate. For example when Tracey, Oliver, Brent and I took clay shooting lessons we had to go in groups of two on separate days.
Connections to cinema were woven all throughout this trip. As we floated down the French Broad River that flows through Biltmore Estate we learned from our guide that scenes from Forest Gump, the Last of the Mohicans, and ten other movies were filmed there.
The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area is a short drive from Biltmore Estate and is filled with miles of hiking trails through the mountains and includes many designated parks. We spent a day soaking in all the fresh mountain air this region is known for at Chimney Rock State Park, also a location for scenes from The Last of the Mohicans. The hike to the top of Chimney Rock is the equivalent to walking up and down 70 flights of stairs. Apparently they have an elevator which was not in service while we were there, not that we would consider using it.
A last highlight for us was catching a live bluegrass show at the Isis Theatre built in the 30’s. Isis is an Egyptian goddess worshiped as the ideal mother and wife and was the patroness of nature and magic. I felt it important to note this given current world affairs. My sister found this show featuring a bluegrass band from Naples, Italy La Terza Classe. We were all blown away by their charm, talent, and skill. I have no doubt they will become a part of our pop culture in the coming years.