While the Carolina's may not be high on your list of must-see states, they do have some well known attractions; One of which is the Biltmore Mansion.
The house that used to be home to the Vanderbilts is now open for tours year round. The large gardens are popular in the spring and the elaborate Christmas light display and candlelight service are frequented around the holidays. But the property and all it has to offer are beautiful in and of themselves.
When Simon's parents planned a mid-summer visit, they invited us to join them for a day at the Bitmore.
Downton abbey anyone??
The main house is the main attraction, so that is where we began. You can take guided tours, audio tours or, as we opted, self guided tours with a handy-dandy reference pamphlet. (All that you need if you ask me)
No pictures could be taken inside the mansion (bummer) but the rest of the property was free game.
We saw the music room, the kitchens, the veritable pantry, the servants quarters, the winter conservatory, bedrooms of Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt, the indoor swimming pool, the gymnasium, and several other rooms. We were not allowed to see the entire house ( it would have probably taken all day) but we were able to see a fair amount.
After the tour we needed a break from the walking and from the crowd. So we left the property and drove into the town in search of a lunch destination. Not as easy as you would think. They clearly prefer you to eat at their well-advertised food courts, because it was slim pickens. But once we parked and walked into the town center, a generous title, we found a cute, local spot that was worth the hunt.
Back to The Biltmore.
The gardens were next.
There were quite a few gardens. The winter garden, the shrub garden, the Italian garden, the walled garden, to name a few.
We were trying to take advantage of a shady spot. The heat was a little rough!
I think we had missed the prime blooming season, because many of the flower gardens were not particularly awe-inspiring. But the shrub gardens and other gardens were very rich and green.
The gardens as a whole were a neat experience. I think we all would have enjoyed them even more had it not been so terribly hot!
Along with the gardens and the house, the property has a winery and a farm. After the hot walk through the garden, everyone welcomed the winery. :)
We reserved spots for the wine tour and tasting.
This is the car the Vanderbilts drove. After Mr. Vanderbilt died, his wife had the car pained white because it looked less masculine. I though that was an interesting fact.
After the tour we had a private wine tasting. I was surprised at how many wines we were able to taste since the whole thing was free. The list was fairly extensive. There were red, whites and rose. We could pick which of the wines we wanted to try based on the description. It was fun to get to taste some new things.
The farm area was bigger than I had expected. The pastures were pretty extensive although they were not really for visitors. That was fine, because the "action" was in the petting zoo. :)
There was also a village area with specialty shops.
They had workshops like masonry and a carpenter.
There were some old tractors and carriages over in a little village-like area. We were encouraged to climb on them. :)