Updated: Nov 6, 2020
The Gilded Age was an era of rapid economic growth in America between the 1870's to 1900. As a result, the "nouveau riche" and old money American families had the resources and appetite to construct estates that could rival those of Europe. For the photo shoot I wanted to capture the spirit of this decadent time so I chose a beautiful metallic gold & black gown by Theia and a deep royal blue gown by Philosophy Di Lorenzo Serafini. For those who know me I would have embraced the opulent fashion of this time period wholeheartedly.
At the time of his death in 1877 Cornelius Vanderbilt was the richest person in American and is considered one of the top five richest men in modern times. In today's money he would have been worth up to $200 Billion.... That is BILLION with a "B"! As a result, his heirs had a few dollars to splurge.
At the height of the Gilded Age, George Washington Vanderbilt II began to build his own summer estate in Asheville, NC, on 125,000 acres of land. The Biltmore 250-room French Renaissance chateau is America’s largest private home and our version of Downton Abbey's Highclere Castle. The home operates as a museum and continues to be owned by Vanderbilt's descendants.
Despite being constructed over 100 years ago it is still a modern day marvel. The home boasts an indoor heated swimming pool with underwater lighting, a bowling alley, and a gymnasium. This is in addition to the 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and three kitchens. Can you imagine this listing on AirBnB?!
Comparable to the estates of Europe the gardens and landscapes surrounding the home are equally stunning. My visit in January 2019 was met with strong winds, light snow, and frigid temperatures. Considering I recently survived Chicago's Polar Vortex that is saying a great deal. Luckily for us the Conservatory offered some respite from the cold while enjoying the beautiful bouquets.
Weather permitting (or in our case not), soak in the panoramic views of the mountains and wander the expertly manicured lawns & gardens.
During my first Biltmore visit several years back we visited the four-star Inn located on the estate for relaxing massages, which came in handy due to the 4 hour round trip from Charlotte. For those wanting to extend their visit there are several options for accommodations located directly on the property.
In addition, we dined at one of several restaurants and bought several items from the gift shop to memorialize our visit. This time we ventured to the quaint but lively town center to indulge in Southern breakfast food at Tupelo Honey. I actually ate there the following day in Charlotte. Highly recommended for brunch and cocktails! Plus the service is great!
Americans do not have to travel far to explore magnificent castles. Fortunately for some of us we have them in our own backyard. An excursion to Biltmore is definitely worthy of any East Coast road trip and if you are visiting North Carolina you will not be disappointed if you add it to your itinerary.