When I was invited to spend 3 days touring Asheville’s Historic Biltmore Village, I jumped at the chance. I had the opportunity to join a group of lifestyle, food, and travel bloggers to explore the best of the Village! This quaint, European-style community just a few minutes outside of downtown Asheville is the perfect weekend getaway, and an easy 3.5 hour drive north of Atlanta.

I typically like to get off the beaten path when I travel, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from Biltmore Village and it’s bustling tourist hub, just steps from the famous Biltmore Estate. Despite a few preconceived notions, I was thoroughly impressed by the local shops, restaurants, breweries, and lodging options populated throughout the Village.

The Village’s best feature is how walkable it is. You can leave your car during your stay, and walk only a few minutes to eat, shop, and play. The beautiful architecture, rich history, and friendly local merchants make the village unique but accessible to a broad audience.

A Brief History of Biltmore Village

Historic Biltmore Village originated from the days of George Vanderbilt, who arrived to Asheville (then known as the town of Best) to construct the Biltmore Estate in 1890.

The Village was originally built to serve workers at the Biltmore Estate with a school, Episcopal church, and post office. A railway station in the center of town, which welcomed guests of the Vanderbilts from around the country from 1880-1975, is now a popular bar and restaurant. The Village was actually one of the earliest examples of a mixed use community, combining retail, residential, and even recreational space (the neighborhood Mexican restaurant used to be a bowling alley!)

Today, the Village is home to a diverse mix of both national retailers and independent outposts, providing the comforts of home while also showcasing some of Asheville’s local treasures.

Where to Stay

Grand Bohemian Hotel

The Grand Bohemian Asheville, part of the Kessler Collection of hotels, is located just outside the heart of Historic Biltmore Village. The hotel has received some impressive accolades, including “Best Luxury Hotel in North Carolina” (Frommer’s) and a World’s Best Hotel designation by Travel + Leisure.

The hotel is designed in a European hunting lodge theme, with dim lighting, rich colors and textures, and even a stuffed wild boar named Zsa Zsa in the lobby. The atmosphere is elegant yet earthy, with luxe guest rooms featuring hunting and nature themed paintings that embody each of the four seasons of the year.

When I arrived at the Grand Bohemian for my stay, I was greeted in my room with wine, cheese, and music, as well as a signed note from General Manager John Luckett.

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The Kessler Collection has a strong commitment to curating both music and art throughout their portfolio; the Grand Bohemian is even home to a small gallery featuring both local and nationally-renowned artists.

While the hotel oozes luxury, don’t rule it out if it seems too pricey – rooms start at around $200/night, which isn’t out of reach for a 4-person girls weekend.

Biltmore Village Inn

The Biltmore Village Inn, a short drive up a steep hill from the edge of the Village, is a cozy, quiet getaway great for couples.

This Victorian-style inn, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, features 7 spacious guest rooms, an award-winning breakfast, and views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. The inn was beautifully decorated for Christmas during my visit, with trees, wreaths, and wrapped gifts scattered throughout the property.

Although the inn doesn’t provide the walkability of other lodging options, the seclusion and panoramic vistas are worth it for those looking to get away from the action.

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Where to Eat

Rezaz

Our first evening in Asheville, our group met at Surface Gallery, a contemporary art collective with works of sculpture, painting, and ceramics.

The gallery’s adjacent restaurant Rezaz catered our welcome reception, accompanied by Chef Laura Samford. Chef Samford describes the cuisine at Rezaz as modern Mediterranean with a significant Middle Eastern influence – we sampled dishes like housemade babaganoush, hummus, lamb meatballs, and even a baklava biscotti.

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The Cantina

This casual, friendly Mexican restaurant in the center of the Village has a long and unexpected history. The space was a former bowling alley, used as a recreation facility during WW2, and is also rumored to be home to a few friendly ghosts.

Husband-and-wife owners Sherrye and Tony Coggiola are committed to sustainability in their restaurant; if you choose to forego the sides that come with your meal, The Cantina will donate them to a local Western North Carolina food bank. Tony also has a fascinating background; he spent years re-establishing agricultural practices in war-torn countries around the world, and is currently using his experiences to make advances in hydroponics and urban farming in developing areas.

Red Stag Grill

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 8.21.01 AMThe crown jewel of our dining experience in Asheville was undoubtedly the Red Stag Grill, which treated our group to a 6 course tasting menu. Located inside the Grand Bohemian Asheville, the Red Stag is an opulent nod to Asheville’s robust local food offerings.

Our group occupied the restaurant’s stunning private dining room, which was swathed in a deep red light and adorned with intricate handcrafted artwork and sculpture. During our meal, Executive Chef Scott Ostrander personally presented each course, often mentioning the local origins of the meat and produce in his dishes.

While each course in the meal was excellent, my 2 favorites were the mountain river elk loin and pumpkin spice cheesecake with a delicate maple tuile. Chef Scott and his team beautifully presented each element of the meal, pairing the dishes with 3 wines from the Kessler Signature Collection. The Red Stag even prepared a “sample dish” from each course and put it under a spotlight, allowing all of the bloggers to get good photos!

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Where to Shop

Bohême

This “très chic” Asheville boutique has a variety of unique clothing, jewelry, and handmade home decor items, sourcing their products from artisans all over the world.

Bohême hosted our group for drinks, appetizers, and desserts from Village Wayside Grille while our delegation (mostly ladies) shopped around the store.

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Origami Ink

This quaint little shop was actually recommended by one of the fellow bloggers on the trip, who visits often from Charlotte to stock up on ink supplies. Origami Ink has a wide selection of stationery, custom invitations, pens, and ink; the charming shop even has a resident pup to greet you when you walk in!

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Blue

Blue was one of my favorite stores in Historic Biltmore Village. Owner and artisan Susan West creates both unique jewelry pieces and incredible glass ornaments and housewares that fill the interior of the shop. Blue is a great home base for shopping in Village, as it sits right in the middle of the majority of the stores in the area.

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Where to Explore

Biltmore Estate

No visit to Asheville is complete without a stop at the incredible Biltmore Estate. A stone’s throw from Biltmore Village, the Estate is easily accessible by car, and parking is free for all visitors.

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While a trip to the Biltmore Estate is pricey (it ranges from $40-60 per person, depending on the time of year of your visit), the ticket offers a lot of bang for your buck.

Included in your cost of admission is a self-guided tour of the Estate, access to the gardens and grounds, and (the best part) a free wine tasting and guided winery tour. The Estate definitely warrants at least a half-day trip; you can spend a few hours wandering through the home and gardens, eat and shop at Antler Hill Village, then finish up your day at the vineyard.

Photos are not allowed inside the home – but the interior is nonetheless incredible. Wander your way through over 175,000 square feet of opulence, and learn more about the history of this wealthy yet generous family.

One of the best features of the Biltmore Estate is the 75 acres of gardens surrounding the home. Guests can explore 2.5 miles of paved trails, as well as walk amongst hundreds of plant and flower varieties in the conservatory.

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A tip for visiting the Biltmore Estate – purchase your tickets at least 7 days in advance to receive a substantial discount, and stay away from Biltmore House Reservation Days, when reservations are required and often sell out quickly.

Catawba Brewing

With 2 locations in Asheville, Catawba Brewing’s Biltmore Village location is a short walk from the center of the action. A homegrown operation started from humble beginnings in 1991, Catawba now has 3 tasting rooms throughout North Carolina, and is planning to expand it’s canning and small batch brewing.

The tasting room at Biltmore Village is a casual spot to congregate with friends and family – the interior of the space is also dog friendly, and features a small patio for pups as well.

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Plan Your Visit

It’s a great time of year to visit Asheville – the first weekend of December, Historic Biltmore Village hosts Dickens in the Village, with luminaries, strolling musicians and carolers, and a holiday window design contest for the businesses in the area.

The Biltmore Estate is also beautifully decorated for Christmas – just be sure to plan carefully for crowds!

Thanks so much to Gail Dowell and the Historic Biltmore Village Partnership for hosting me during my time in Asheville. I’m looking forward to going back for another visit!


 

*I was invited to attend this trip for free in exchange for my thoughts on the Historic Biltmore Village. Some images from Grand Bohemian Asheville website and blog.innonmillcreek.com