Asheville’s “Other” Attraction

I received a phone call last week from a couple who will be attending the Arts and Crafts Conference at the Grove Park Inn for the first time this coming February.

“We’ve known about it for years,” she explained, “but we had to wait until the kids were older. So, this is our year.”

Naturally they had a few questions about the conference, which I was able to answer, but then the conversation shifted to another popular Asheville destination.

The Biltmore Estate.

Completed in 1895, this breathtaking 250-room mansion modeled after a French chateau once sat on 146,000 acres of land, much of it now the Pisgah National Forest. Symbolically, it has represented nearly everything Arts and Crafts reformers railed against: over-ornate, excessive opulence purely for the sake of opulence. But as I came to learn more about George Vanderbilt and the Biltmore Estate, including the gardens and grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the more I came to appreciate the one trait the Biltmore House shared with the Grove Park Inn and the Arts and Crafts movement.


George Vanderbilt brought to Asheville the finest stonemasons, woodworkers, and woodcarvers, many of whom remained afterwards to help build dozens of Arts and Crafts homes during the ensuing building boon. While Biltmore’s style is certainly Victorian, one cannot help but admire and marvel over the high level of workmanship and the attention to detail evident in every nook and cranny designed by the famed architect Richard Morris Hunt.

Since 1930 the Biltmore Estate has been open to public tours and now attracts nearly one million visitors a year. Owned by the grandson of George Vanderbilt, it is also a testament to entrepreneurship, as the Vanderbilt descendants have added a winery, retail shops, restaurants, hiking, horseback riding, and biking trails, and summer concerts on the lawn.

And no trip to Asheville could ever be complete without a day spent at Biltmore.

And that’s a problem, for even in February, when the gardens are dormant, the Biltmore Estate deserves no less than most of a day to appreciate all it has to offer.

And given our packed schedule from Friday through Sunday during the Arts and Crafts Conference, not even a few hours of free time exist.

So, if you want to get the most out of both of Asheville’s famous architectural wonders, slip an extra day onto one end or the other of your stay at the Grove Park Inn. The hotel makes it easier by offering rates before or after the weekend conference of $123 a night (compared to nearly $400 a night a few weeks later).

Trust me, it will be worth it.

Until next Monday,