Ashville, North Carolina - The Inn on Biltmore Estate
Review by Mike Keenan
Italian Garden, The Inn on Biltmore Estate, photo courtesy Biltmore Estate
Amenities: The Inn on Biltmore Estate, an AAA four-diamond, 210-room hotel is magnificent! Our room is cheerful and attractive as one might expect. The Deluxe King features one king bed and a balcony overlooking the incredible estate and beautiful rolling hills in the background.
Bathroom: Lovely shower/bath and amenities.
Decor: As one might expect, the furnishings throughout are impressive, reflecting character and elegance.
Balcony: The balcony was wonderful for views of the impressive landscape but a bit too cool to remain outside.
Hotel Features & History: This inn offers us "A Room With A View!" Tonight amidst North Carolina's rolling hills at dusk, I enjoy the same panoramic view that George Vanderbilt experienced, albeit from a slightly more modest abode than George's lavish Biltmore Estate with its 250 rooms! Nonetheless, the Inn is opulent in its own right, atop a hill with Antler Village situated below and Cedric's (named after Vanderbilt's prized Saint Bernard) where we ate as well as the winery where we sampled several fine Biltmore vintages, purchasing several bottles to take home.
George W. Vanderbilt amassed fortunes through shipping and railroad empires, and inspired by the mountain scenery and mild weather in 1888 on his first visit to Western North Carolina, he built this "country home" in Asheville, hiring famed architect, Richard Morris Hunt and landscaper, Frederick Law Olmstead. Completed Christmas Eve, 1895, three years later, he brought bride Edith Stuyvesant Dresser to Biltmore, and in 1900, their only child Cornelia was born here.
Visiting VIP friends included writers Edith Wharton and Henry James, H.R.H. The Prince of Wales and Presidents McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt and Wilson. Yes, Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham played by Maggie Smith would be right at home here.
First time visitors underestimate the time it takes to tour the estate; we arrived early to see the house, gardens, Antler Hill Village and the winery in one day. The latter are located five miles from the house. We needed 6 busy hours to visit the major attractions and have lunch.
Outside are the bountiful Gardens - the Library Terrace (shaded by an arbor of wisteria and trumpet creeper vines), Italian Garden (classical statuary with three formal water gardens), Shrub Garden (Olmsted's design included 500 varieties of ornamental shrubs, trees, and other plants), Spring Garden, Walled Garden (a four-acre formal garden), Rose Garden (50 varieties), Azalea Garden, Conservatory (glass-roofed with exotic orchids, ferns, and palms) and a Bass Pond (with a rustic boat house).
In the evening, we sip beer in the large high-ceilinged Library Lounge with big windows for the view, attended to by an extremely polite and knowledgeable server, an excellent place to wile away the time amidst the beautiful Christmas decorations spread tastefully throughout the hotel.
Would that we had more time to roam around the spacious grounds which offer a tantalizing, gorgeous view as one approaches by car. You know that you are in for a treat.
Features and services include valet or complimentary self-parking, bellman, 24-hour concierge service, 24-hour room service, shops with complimentary delivery to room, fitness center, heated outdoor pool (seasonal, closed as of November 2), complimentary Wi-Fi/Internet, flat screen television with in-room movies and entertainment, telephones, iron and ironing board, hair dryer, and safe, custom bathrobe, slippers, and bath products, complimentary bottled water, shoe shine, estate shuttle service, nightly turn-down service as well as laundry and dry-cleaning services, live piano and jazz.
The nearby Village includes the Outdoor Adventure Center, Creamery, Cedric's Tavern (where we ate), and the Biltmore Legacy, a museum that highlights the time of the Vanderbilts.
Hotel Activities: A tour of the Biltmore Estate is mandatory - it's the American version of Downtown Abbey, the largest privately owned house in the United States at 16,622.8 m2 (178,926 square feet)! After the main gate, we drive through beautiful woodlands for 5 km to approach the property.
There is a wide range of activities organized at the inn throughout the year ranging from yoga to hikes to the winery. Check the website for a complete calendar of events.
A self-guided visit of Biltmore House allows one to stroll through America's largest home on a marked route, assisted by knowledgeable guides along the way. This tour takes 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on your pace. You drink in all the amazing sights of architecture, artwork, and much more from the Gilded Age.
We also visited Antler Hill Village and the Winery, with a free tour and tasting.
Guests are encouraged to play in an 8,000-acre backyard. With breathtaking views, meticulously preserved forests, and activities for everyone, it's an outdoor enthusiast's paradise.
There are also one-hour bike rentals, Land Rover adventures, and sporting clays wherein one can learn the techniques of shooting clay targets with a high-quality Caesar Guerini or Beretta shotgun.
Horseback riding is available and one can even board one's own horse at the Equestrian Centre.
Spa: The Spa offers a full range of treatments and its seasonal treatments include products inspired by the Seasons of Biltmore. Available in massage, facial, or pedicure.
A stress-relieving body wrap combined with a gentle body exfoliation softens and soothes your skin. 80 minute option includes massage on the neck, back, and shoulders to promote muscle relief and relaxation. Costs: $165 for 50 minutes, $245 for 80 minutes
Signature Estate Experience is one hundred minutes of pure bliss. This decadent experience includes a gentle full body exfoliation and warm botanical body wrap enhanced with heated stones and an aromatherapy scalp treatment, incorporating heated towels and Biltmore-inspired aromatherapy oils, completes this rejuvenating experience. Cost: $295 for 110 minutes
Lunch: The Dining Room in The Inn on Biltmore Estate is an experience in refined elegant dining with expertly prepared cuisine with world-class service inspired by the Vanderbilts. White linen tablecloths, Vanderbilt china, and crystal add to the luxury of savoring carefully executed meals. In the nearby Lounge, one can enjoy a delicious offering from the menu, while relaxing with a book or just taking in the breathtaking view of the estate. They serve lunch, afternoon tea, and a late-night dinner menu here.
Supper: We dined at Cedric's located in Antler Hill Village enjoying tasty pub fare alongside along with craft beer and Biltmore wine with live music in the evening, and outdoor seating.
Drinks: The winery on site is impressive, and after tastings, we purchased a few bottles for home.
Service: The service is wonderful from start (valet parking) to finish (our check out).
Nearby Attractions: There is fly-fishing, rafting, horse riding, hiking, shooting and a host of other activities.
Room Cost: Range $499-$2250; Village Hotel: $399
Room Tip or Suggestion: Insist on a room with a view of the lovely hills at the rear of the building.
Address & Contact: Inn on Biltmore Estate, 1 Antler Hill Road, Asheville, NC 28803, 866-336-1245
Mike Keenan is a travel columnist for Troy Media. He produces a travel podcast -
http://whattravelwriterssay.libsyn.com/ accessible on iTunes and Stitcher Radio and has been published in every major newspaper across Canada including the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and Toronto Sun. He has been published in National Geographic Traveler, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City, Seniors Review and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. With hundreds of reviews, photos and helpful votes, he has earned Trip Advisor's "Top Contributor Badge" and is considered an "Expert" in both Hotels and Restaurant reviews. Mike posts photos to Pinterest where he has a following of five thousand viewers.