The Biltmore Estate Experience — With Teens
Local teens experience what life was like for a turn-of-the-century millionaire
A few weeks ago, my husband and I took our 16-year-old daughter and her boyfriend to George Washington Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate so we could experience the magnificent property in all its holiday splendor. Within moments of beginning the Biltmore House tour, our teen guests quickened their pace and vanished from view. We weren't totally surprised …
My husband and I took our time lingering over each room’s ornate furnishings and fabrics while listening to the audio tour to hear stories about those who once inhabited the Châteauesque-style mansion's 250 rooms. We marveled at the bright and plant-filled atrium, sophisticated library and decadent banquet hall — and the fact that it took six years to build the house, along with a special railroad track to haul in all of the construction materials.
After completing the tour, we met up with our teen guests in time to head over to the Deerpark Restaurant for its famed Taste of the South lunch buffet (available on Fridays and Saturdays between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.). We started our meal with pimento cheese on toasted crostini, house-made pickles and White Bean and Tasso soup. The salad bar beckoned us next, offering traditional greens along with marinated tomato and mozzarella salad, arugula and apple salad, roasted chickpea salad and cauliflower and broccoli salad. Entrees included slow-roasted prime rib, herb-crusted turkey breast, shrimp etouffée, and Portobello-mushroom-and-goat-cheese sandwiches. We added sides like traditional holiday stuffing, fried Brussels sprouts, collards and green beans.
And then, dessert … caramel apple bread pudding, chocolate turtle torte, spiced pear and cranberry mousse, and roasted sweet potato cheese cake. There was even an crepe station.
We waddled out to the car and drove past beautiful pastures to Antler Hill Village & Winery, the most-visited winery in the U.S. My husband and I stopped in there first, while the teens made a beeline to the farm, where they gazed at horses, got up-close-and-personal with a few goats and watched chickens cluck about.
In the village, our competitive teen couple faced off against each other by playing turn-of-the-century games. My husband and I checked out the blacksmith shop and, a little later on, found the teens in the woodworking shop. We headed back to the car and drove to the main estate, where we split up again to tour the grounds until sunset, when Christmas lights and luminaries sparkled across the front lawn.
On our way home, I asked my daughter and her boyfriend what they enjoyed most during their visit. Of the rooms on the house tour, she liked the library and banquet hall best; he liked the gun room and stone-lined tunnel. They both enjoyed visiting the gift shop and ice cream parlor. At the end of the day, just before dusk, they walked to the top of the property and gazed across the front lawn of Vanderbilt's majestic mansion.
Had there been more time and endless funds, both teens would have enjoyed the Outdoor Adventure Center, which offers one-hour bike rentals, Land Rover adventures and sporting clays. And while they may not have paid as much attention to the fine furnishings and details of the estate’s history as my husband and I did, they enjoyed exploring the magnificent grounds and imagining, just for a day, what life was like for a turn-of-the-century millionaire and his wife, who spent their days hunting, fishing and touring grandiose gardens. In a day and age when teens communicate and explore the world via texts and social media, experiences like these are worth the price of admission, and then some.
Beth Shugg is the editor of Carolina Parent and mother of three children ages 20, 18 and 16.
View a gallery of photos from our trip to Biltmore Estate below.