The South's Best Hotel 2017: The Inn on Biltmore Estate
The grand and glorious 8,000-acre estate that was once home to Edith and George Vanderbilt has been captivating Southern Living readers for decades. And The Inn on Biltmore Estate in Asheville, with spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, has a special way of sparking the Southern imagination.
There's something about the elegant furniture and rich upholstery, the soaring windows and inviting verandas, the impeccable staff and genteel brand of hospitality that makes you forget you booked this whole experience online and paid for it with your credit card. Instead, you'll feel as if you've just arrived for a weekend house party at the South's own Downton Abbey. (Pray tell, has anyone seen Lord Grantham—make that Vanderbilt—strolling about?)
Enjoy the white-tablecloth Dining Room, where a regionally focused menu includes beef, lamb, and fresh produce from Biltmore Estate. (FYI, you should make reservations when you book your hotel stay.) Have casual meals or full-service afternoon tea in the Library Lounge.
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Relax with an exclusive spa treatment, or get outside and explore. The grand Vanderbilt home is a few miles away, but the estate offers a shuttle to it from Biltmore parking lots. You can also take your own car.
When you think about it, Southerners and Biltmore were made for each other. We're suckers for a great house with a great story. And we love the idea of a New York aristocrat like George Vanderbilt being so captivated by the mountains of western North Carolina that he left his well-heeled kin behind (though they were always welcome to visit) and created a visionary 250-room, chateau-style home and self-sustaining estate there. His devoted wife, Edith, embraced the rural community just as her husband did. After his untimely death at the age of 51, Edith Vanderbilt continued looking after the estate that had been George's dream as well as the local families who depended on it for their livelihood. In 1914, she sold 87,000 acres of Biltmore's forestland to the United States Forest Service—a steal at less than $5 per acre. That tract of land was the beginning of Pisgah National Forest.
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Biltmore offers all kinds of tours. Daytime admission to the estate includes a self-guided visit to the house, access to the gardens plus shopping and dining at Antler Hill Village, a free wine tasting at the winery, and admission to a special exhibition of Vanderbilt family wedding fashions. (Adult admission is around $55; prices vary depending on the season and special offers.) Add-ons range from a Rooftop Tour (adult admission $19) all the way up to a Premium Biltmore House Tour with a personal guide (adult tickets $150; two-day advance reservation required). You can also arrange winery tours and themed tastings.
Everybody knows Biltmore is spectacular in the fall and at Christmastime, but if you're lucky enough to have a spring or summer thunderstorm roll in during your stay at the inn, take a seat in the sprawling lounge with its tip-top views, have a glass of wine, and listen to the grand piano as you watch the outdoor drama move through the mountains.