Sunday, April 14, 2013

April 2013 Best of Asheville's Best - Biltmore Blooms

Formerly the Festival of Flowers and now called "Biltmore Blooms," late April likely will be the best time to take in this annual extravaganza at the Biltmore Estate, and is our "best of Asheville's best" for the month of April. The "Biltmore Blooms" will continue on through most of May, so if your journey brings you here in May, it will still be a splendid time to take in the flowers and grounds of the Biltmore Estate.


Azaleas are just beginning to pop, Tulips are looking absolutely gorgeous.  Sunny days and cool nights are bringing out the fruit trees; the Dogwoods are blooming in mass.  Spring in Asheville is an absolutely gorgeous time of year - well worth celebrating.  The flowers and blooms in the Mountains of Western NC are dependent on the weather... and this year we're having a later bloom, and thankfully (SO FAR, KNOCK ON WOOD), no hard freezes to diminish the beauty of spring in the mountains. Again, "Biltmore Blooms" will continue on through May, usually until Memorial Day weekend when the summer season officially begins, so be sure and take in the glory of the Biltmore Estate's 8000 acres of grounds and gardens during this very special time of year.  


During "Biltmore Blooms," one day tickets to the Estate grounds can vary in price quite a bit and will range from $44 to $65 and possibly higher.  If you purchase your one day tickets more than 7 days in advance and online, you're likely to get the best deal.  And if you are staying at a local Asheville Bed and Breakfast, you can often get a two day pass right at your inn on the day of entry into the Estate (tickets are non-dated); and usually the two day pass is around $55 - which again, will be good for 
two consecutive days of entry rather than the one day pass you will get online or at the ticket center at the Estate ticket and welcome center.  
Be sure and plan for a good amount of time at the estate during "Biltmore Blooms," or any time of year for that matter.  Some people think the Estate and all things to do at the Estate are within walking distance in and around the mansion.  Not so.  The Estate is more accurately a driving park.  Because of its vast size, areas to see at the Estate are miles and miles apart.  Even driving to the mansion itself, once you enter the Arch at the entrance off of Biltmore Avenue, you will have 4 miles or so to drive before getting to the actual mansion.  And, while you will be guided by Biltmore staff to park your car in the main large parking areas - with shuttle pick-up and drop-off to the mansion, I recommend parking behind the conservatory - past the main parking area.  It looks as if there are just a few parking places there, but if you keep driving back behind the paved area, you will find plenty of overflow parking in a gravel area off the paved parking lot.  As you are driving in, when you see the parking attendant, just flash your lights and he/she will know you wish to park within the gates or elsewhere.  Parking behind the Conservatory puts you in a central location amidst the gardens, and just a few steps below the mansion.  Driving through the main gates is quite dramatic - enjoy the view to your right of the front of the mansion as you pass by ... it will take your breath away indeed.  The road winds you around the rose gardens in a funny way, to the back of the conservatory where you can park.  Paths and steps will take you up to the mansion, or trail heads abound from this parking area - to the bass pond and spillway, or to the Deerpark and Lagoon trail system over hill and dale - with wonderful views of the mountains and the estate that others rarely see.

                                                                             After visiting the main gardens and Bass pond, The Lagoon Area is a beautiful place to drive into with your car... plan ahead and pack a picnic, have your "soccer mom" chairs in the car, a blanket to spread out and your picnic basket with picnic supplies.  Most first time visitors just don't realize that the grounds are there to take in - hike the extensive trail system, visit the conservatory with beautiful orchids and palms, enjoy the rose garden and coi ponds, take the short hike to the Bass Pond and spillway, drive or hike to the Lagoon area (or both) - for the best views of the mansion and great photo ops.

And after your picnic, plan on time for Antler Hill Village and working farm.  Be prepared to walk and relax around the demonstration farm - and if you take in all the Estate has to offer, one day just isn't enough.  The working farm is a true charm.  Enjoy watching demonstrations of butter making, angora or sheep wool thread making.  Visit the chicks, horses and sheep at the farmyard.  Play checkers in the barn or old fashioned games on the lawn in the middle of the old barn.  Enjoy special craft activities
with your kids, all included in your ticket.  The winery is right at Antler Hill Village, and a self guided tour and wine tasting are included in your ticket.  The gift shop at the end of the wine tour often has ciders and dips to taste, along with wine and gifts to purchase.  The Bistro restaurant is a wonderful place to dine.  There are several other restaurants on property.



And remember, the grounds are pet friendly, so bring your pooch.  Fountains and ponds offer drinking water.  Take a longer hike and enjoy the Deerpark trail and many others - there's much more to explore on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate - and most guests stay close to the "castle," never venturing out to the vast grounds, so you can enjoy lovely and quiet hikes away from the crowds.  Enjoy spring in the Mountains for the Best of Asheville this April!