Inn at the Biltmore Estate
Asheville, North Carolina
You’d think that to stay as a guest of America’s largest privately owned home, you’d need some pretty important friends. Not so at the Biltmore Estate, former home of the Vanderbilts. When George Vanderbilt originally opened his 35-bedroom home in 1895, he intended to build an inn. More than 100 years later, in 2001, the Inn on Biltmore Estate finally realized his dream.
The centerpiece of the Biltmore experience, which stretches over 8,000 acres and includes a winery, a shopping village, exhibition space and a farm, is the 250-room Biltmore house. Sales manager Renee Pisani recommends a minimum of one and a half to two hours to experience the house. To move through at your own pace, audio guides cover family life; or hosts throughout the house can answer questions as you move through.
“We offer a wide variety of tours that we can combine as a custom tour, such as an architects tour that goes up on the rooftop for incredible photo ops, a butlers tour talking about how the house functioned in areas that are not typically open to the public and a Vanderbilt family-and-friends tour highlighting the customs of the time and what it was like to have dinner there,” Pisani said.
Outside the house, the winery offers a 45-minute program for groups that combines wine and chocolate tasting. The best time to see the gardens is during Biltmore Blooms, a series of events that run from March 20 to May 23 that focus on the spring flowers.
“It’s never a bad time to visit,” said Pisani. “In spring, the gardens are alive with color, while in summer, we run sunset concerts on the south terrace with wine by the glass. In fall, we have the foliage in the mountains, and we roll into Christmas on November 7th, putting on our holiday best.”
White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
As the location suggests, the Greenbrier’s first guests arrived in 1778 to experience the healing waters of the local springs, but the resort quickly became a list of who’s who from around the South. The current Greenbrier hotel, dating to a renovation in 1930, consistently places on every major list of top hotels and resorts year after year.
“Most groups opt for a meal package, but our packages includes many other things, most notably access to the casino club that has been added in recent years,” said Lynn Tuckwiller, sales manager. “We have included culinary demonstrations; afternoon tea, a highlight of the Greenbrier experience; and interior and exterior history tours that last about an hour each.”
The Presidents’ Cottage Museum tour, included for groups, explores the history or the presidents who have stayed at Greenbrier. By the Civil War, five sitting presidents had already graced the grounds. But the resort’s role in federal government has gone beyond presidential visits. In 1958, Congress secretly built a bunker 720 feet into the hillside as a hideaway in the event of a nuclear attack during the Cold War. Groups can take a private tour of the 112,544-square-foot facility.
Although the Greenbrier has a variety of private dining spaces, the historic main dining room, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, is a draw in itself with signature takes on classic Southern dishes.