Asheville, NC has been one of my favorite places to visit since I was a little girl. My mother used to spoil me with yearly shopping trips (it was home to the only Limited Two in the state). Nestled in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains, it isn’t hard to see why so many artists and writers (Thomas Wolfe, Charles Frazier) have been inspired to make this picturesque town home.
Though the landscape itself rivals more worldly locales (Tuscany, Provence, etc), the main attraction is the Biltmore House. Completed in 1895, it is the largest privately owned residence in North America, and I never tire of visiting. Perhaps this is largely due to my fascination with The Secret Garden and my own not-so-secret fantasy that one day I will live in a house the size of Misselthewaite Manor. I couldn’t wait to introduce my husband to my “dream house” (poor guy) and once again imagine what it must have been like to play hostess to guests from around world. Sigh…George Vanderbilt, we could have been such great friends.
Biltmore Estate sits on 8000 acres and is almost a town within a town. Now owned by heir, William A.V. Cecil, Jr., the grounds are 30% sustainable, and the hospitality has remained unchanged. When Biltmore opened on Christmas Eve, it was the first of many galas that defined life at Biltmore—luxurious, but with an unyielding spirit of giving (apparently, you do get more flies with honey). In addition to the main house, there are the gardens, designed by Central Park’s Frederick Law Olmsted and Winery, the most visited winery in the country.
If you’ve never been to Asheville, now is the prime time to make your reservation for fall. Though each season brings about different activities and festivals, the fall foliage is like the spring awakening to the holiday season, when the Biltmore House is aglow.
I was pleased to know that my memory had not failed me. Years later, Asheville is still a magical place and Biltmore still has the same effect. This should be on your “must visit” list. And there is no better time to tour your own country(side).
Oh Mr. Wolfe, I hope you are wrong. I can’t wait to go home again!
DO: Horseback riding, wine tasting, biking, fly fishing school, farm tours, carriage rides
WHEN TO GO: Fall (late September-October) or Christmas (November 3-January 3)-ideal for families who want to getaway together.