In late October, Asheville’s famous leaves stand at the apex of their brilliance. And by my estimation, this has been an especially colorful year. I’ve covered some of the best things you can to do take advantage of this season: fall hikes, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Autumnal festivities. But I had to ask myself, what’s missing?
Nothing less than one of Asheville’s largest attractions, aside from the leaves. Incidentally, it’s also the largest privately owned home in America. You know it, you love it: the Biltmore Estate.
If you’re familiar with the fall leaves’ effect on the landscape in this part of the country, then imagine that effect paired with this stunning turn-of-the-century mansion. Sounds pretty nice and it is. So, if you want to wrap up my hometown’s two most popular attractions into one tidy day’s outing, read on.
Let’s not rush into things though. A visitor to the Biltmore Estate would be remiss if they simply passed through this quarter of Asheville, with its unmistakable architectural, modeled after an old-country English village.
Biltmore Village stands at the entrance to the Biltmore Estate, making it the perfect stop whether you’re coming or going. Visit the Southern Highland Craft Guild’s gallery to find jewelry, pottery, and glassware, all handmade by Southern artisans. Sample some of the best pastries in Asheville at Well-Bred Bakery & Café. And, if you don’t mind straying from the village center a bit, hit up the Forestry Camp Taproom for local brews and a wine list curated by the South Slope’s Burial Beer.
Embrace the Season: Greet locals with the traditional “May the leaves fall on your neighbor’s lawn instead of your own.” This will win you friends swiftly.
Now at the risk of sounding obvious, one of the best things to do on the Estate is to take a tour of the house. There are two sides to this idea. On the one hand, with the landscape being as beautiful as it is this time of year, you’ll probably want to spend as little time as possible indoors. But on the other hand, if the weather takes a turn for the worse, it’s good to have something to do in your back pocket.
If you do end up inside House, you’ll find some of the most magnificent mansions in the entire Southeast. And if you’re willing to pay a little extra, and climb a lot of steps, you can take a look up on the House’s roof. It’s a heck of a vantage from which to see the grounds, let me tell you what.
Embrace the Season: Come dressed as the Estate’s original inhabitants and form a living display. Answer other visitors’ questions with aphorisms and ominous hums. There is nothing on Biltmore’s website that says you cannot do this.
In the past few years, the Biltmore Estate has hosted some knockout traveling displays. As of my writing, they’ve got a hold of “Leonardo da Vinci—500 Years of Genius,” a multimedia panoply of the great inventor’s artworks, machines, words, and designs. You come away with a few extra brain cells, that’s for sure.
The display will be hosted at the Estate’s Amherst exhibition space until March. The drive there takes you through some lovely corners of Biltmore’s sprawling grounds. After the current exhibition's run is up, they’re scheduled to host a similar display of Renaissance masters, from Michelangelo to Caravaggio.
Embrace the Season: Bring ghost detectors to check the displays for haunting. You just never know anymore.
A day full of sightseeing at the Estate is bound to work up an appetite. Luckily, Biltmore hosts restaurants of all kinds. And even more luckily, entrance to the estate grants you a free wine tasting at their Antler Village winery, with vintages grown and seasoned on-site.
While you’re in Antler Village, potential diners should check out Cedric’s Tavern for traditional pub-fare (fish and chips, shepherd’s pie) or the Bistro for fine farm-to-table dinners a la ragu and filet mignon. If you’re aiming for a little hiking-and-brunch action, the Village Social serves breakfast until 11am, and classic Southern lunches like shrimp and grits and chicken and waffles.
Embrace the Season: Insist on adding pumpkin spice to everything, beverage or not.
Once you’re ready to take on the season’s finest sights, all you have to do is hop on one of the Estate’s trails, all interconnected in a patchwork nearly twenty-two miles long. These trails roam through woods, riverbanks, rolling fields, and manicured gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, one of the nation's foremost landscapers of the 20th century.
If you prefer a faster means of transport, you can visit Antler Village’s bike barn for rentals. But no matter whether you explore the Estate’s grounds by wheel or by foot, there’s few finer ways to enjoy Asheville’s fall colors.
Embrace the Season: Disappear into the wilderness. Become one with the leaves.
Southern Highland Craft Guild
26 Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803
Well Bred Bakery & Café (Biltmore Village)
6 Boston Way, Asheville, NC 28803
Burial Beer's Forestry Camp
10 Shady Oak Dr, Asheville, NC 28803
The Biltmore Estate
1 Approach Rd, Asheville, NC 28803