North America – North Carolina
Asheville – 35.5951° N, 82.5515° W
Crisp Mountain Air… Biltmore… Beer… Artsy Scene…Architecture
Where is this place?
Ok, 72hrJetsetterGirl will be upfront and honest and will admit that she had never heard of the Vanderbilt family let alone Asheville, North Carolina and it was definitely not on her must see US destinations. However, all this changed when her US Buddy, Linda, mentioned “Biltmore”. Biltmore to 72hrJetsetterGirl was the pattern of her Royal Doulton dinner service which was packed away in storage back in Australia. What is the connection?
Linda educated 72hrJetsetterGirl on the Vanderbilt family which then sparked her interest in all things Anderson Cooper, Grand Central Terminal, Breakers, the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic site in Hyde Park, NY and the largest private residence in all of the US of A – Biltmore. From that moment on, 72hrJetsetterGirl had an affinity with all things Vanderbilt.
Setting the scene
For those who are not familiar with the Vanderbilt Family, here is a brief synopsis of the American Family of Dutch origin that were the “who’s who” of the Gilded Age. It all started with Cornelius Vanderbilt, also known as “The Commodore”, who left school at the age of 11 and started a shipping and railway empire. He was the richest American in history until his death in 1877. In a kinda different league to 72hrJetsetterGirl! For the scoop on the rise and fall of the Vanderbilts check out Wikipedia!
One word Diverse
Asheville is nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains in the west part of North Carolina. It has often been compared to a West Coast town that is artsy, eclectic, environmentally conscious and outdoorsy in one word DIVERSE.
72hrJetsetterGirl thought that Asheville had a very similar atmosphere to the coastal town of Byron Bay in Australia, except having a mountain setting instead of white sandy beaches.
Let the exploring begin
After the easy drive from Charlotte, 72hrJetsetterGirl was ready to explore the “San Francisco of the East”. Signing up for a downtown walking tour was the perfect option to get acquainted with the town that is getting the reputation as a “weekend warrior” location.
Meeting at the Vance Monument (The Egyptian Obelisk) the local tour guide, provided a local’s only would know commentary during the 2-hour walking tour. Along the way 72hrJetsetterGirl had an opportunity to admire the beautiful Art Deco buildings in downtown Asheville as well as passing by the Basilica of St Lawrence, the Jackson Building, City Hall and The Grove Arcade just to name a few of the highlights.
All the Important Food Groups Covered
All this walking certainly made 72hrJetsetterGirl a bit thirsty! Having read that Asheville is known for its local micro-breweries, 72hrJetsetterGirl was keen to try a tasty ale. The Wicked Weed Brewing Pub was the obvious choice to re-hydrate. As 72hrJetsetterGirl approached the bar to order her “Coolcumber” American ale and she was “carded”. God Bless America! There is nothing like the ego growing as you are asked for identification to order an alcoholic beverage. That anti-aging cream must certainly working!
Insulin to follow
After lining up for 30 minutes, at French Broad Chocolate, 72hrJetsetterGirl indulged in some heavenly chocolate delights. First off she sipped on a cold bittersweet chocolate drink of organic coconut milk, ginger and ice….two words – Brain Freeze. Not to be out done she snacked on a chocolate snicker-doodle as well. Definitely not “weight watchers”. But it was for a good cause as she needed all her energy to explore the largest private residence in America!
The Day to be Wowed!
Up bright and early, 72hrJetsetterGirl made her way to the main attraction in Asheville, North Carolina – Biltmore built by the Commodore’s grandson – George Vanderbilt. Construction commenced in 1889 after George visited the Blue Ridge Mountains the year earlier, which sparked his imagination for his country home. 72hrJetsetterGirl wouldn’t mind a country home like Biltmore!
Upon arrival at the mansion home which was completed in 1895, 72hJetsetterGirl was given an audio tour to self navigate around the 250 room home, oops mansion.
Whilst waiting to enter the house, she notice that there were two additional tours available – the roof top gargoyles and the servants quarters tours. 72hrJetsetterGirl opted for the roof top gargoyles tour. The general admission ticket included the gardens.
72hrJetsetterGirl was blown away by the magnitude and extravagance of Biltmore. Unfortunately photography inside of Biltmore is not permitted. During the audio guide 72hrJetsetterGirl was advised that George spent years traveling the world to find the wonders that fill this magnificent house.
After exploring Biltmore it was now time for 72hrJetsetterGirl to wander on the 2.5 mile path of formal and informal gardens designed by America’s foremost landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead. What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon!
A village near by
After spending a wonderful day discovering Biltmore 72hrJetsetterGirl visited the cute and quaint Antler Hill Village and Winery located on the Biltmore Estate before heading back to accommodation in town.
Before making the drive back to Charlotte International Airport, 72hrJetsetterGirl decided to take in some crisp mountain air and enjoy a scenic drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
First stop of the morning was the gorgeous cascades of Looking Glass Falls. A roadside waterfall off the Parkway near Brevard.
Then 72hrJetsetterGirl cruised along US276 through Pisgah National Forest, which is part of the southern Appalachian Mountains, to Sliding Rock Falls. This slide type waterfall has a gentle slope ending in a large deep pool at the bottom. What a shame 72hrJetsetterGirl did not bring her swimwear to take a dip!
Time for some Mountain Air
Climbing to an elevation of 4710 feet, 72hrJetsetterGirl had reached The Cradle of Forestry Overlook. This overlook offers stunning views of Mount Pisgah and the Blue Ridge Mountains, with its claim to fame as being the birthplace of forest conservation in America.
- Biltmore has 4 acres of floor space and a total of 250 rooms – including 35 bedrooms for family and friends, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, three kitchens, and 19th Century modern novelties such as electric elevators, forced air heating, centrally controlled clocks, fire alarms and a call-bell system.
- The Blue Ridge Parkway was part of US President FDR’s NewDeal to provide jobs to hundreds of Americans during the Great Depression in the mid 1930’s. The 469 mile parkway turned out to be one of America’s favorite scenic drives, stretching across the mountaintops of Virginia, North Caroline and Tennessee.
The Nuts and Bolts of this Weekend Getaway in the Mountains
Why this Destination?
- For the love of all things Vanderbilt and mansion homes!
- Asheville, North Carolina is definitely a great weekend getaway destination. The laid-back atmosphere is certainly very welcoming from the hustle and bustle of any US major city. In saying that, for 72hrJetsetterGirl, 72 hours was more than ample time to explore Asheville and the surrounding area. If mansion homes are not your thing, then probably an overnight stay would be sufficient. Whilst if hiking in a national forest is more your style, then 3 or more days would be ideal
- 2 nights, 1 full day and two half days for sightseeing.
- After scanning Google Flights, it appeared that flying in and out of Asheville was on the high side. Unfortunately, 72hrJetsetterGirl’s travel budget is not the same as the Vanderbilts so she needed to be resourceful. Option 1 – the American holiday “road tripping”. The drive from DC to Asheville 7 hours – do not think so, definitely not suitable for the 72hr timeframe. Option 2 – fly into Charlotte, NC which is an airline hub and drive 2 hours to Asheville – must more doable and cost effective. Once in Asheville a car is certainly needed.
What to take
- Just the normal things you would throw into your carry-on for a weekend getaway. No bikinis required just hiking boots if planning to trek the Pisgah National forest.
72hrJetsetterGirl enjoyed her time exploring Asheville. The quaint town has a nice offering for all types of travellers. From a mansion home, to artisan food and beer, to hiking a US National Park to those looking for a romantic weekend in the mountains – Asheville is a great option. To be honest, 72hrJetsetterGirl would probably not fly all the way from Australia to visit Asheville, however if doing a US road trip holiday, then certainly include Asheville on the itinerary.