Combine old-world grandeur with an exploration of Appalachian culture on this AAA EXCLUSIVE itinerary. From the Biltmore Estate, America’s largest home, to scenic landmarks and artist communities, the region’s history and present come alive. Also spend two nights at The Homestead, a hotel built in 1776 and now a luxury resort.
• Tour the Biltmore Estate, the American castle of the Vanderbilt family.
• Listen to authentic Appalachian music during private Bluegrass performances.
• Enjoy dinner at Lake Lure Inn, the setting for Dirty Dancing.
Relive the grandeur of a bygone era when families of wealthy industrial magnates fled torrid summers in New York and other East Coast cities for their palatial country homes. For decades, the oak and hickory forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains provided a scenic backdrop to the lives of the rich and famous. On this expertly guided journey, you'll learn how the "other half" lived on tours of historic homes and estates. You'll also have plenty of opportunity to experience both the scenic landscapes and vibrant culture, art and music produced in the region today.
Begin with a full-day tour of Biltmore Estate, North Carolina’s opulent 250-room Biltmore House and Gardens, a Vanderbilt family retreat inspired by a 16th-century French chateau. Over a six-year period, an entire community of craftsmen labored to bring the estate to life. It now features 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces. The basement alone houses a swimming pool, gymnasium and changing rooms, bowling alley, servants' quarters, kitchens and more. Your tour includes the manor house, gardens, winery and Biltmore Village, a planned community built in the 1890s and now a unique touring and shopping destination.
Also immerse yourself in the region's unique atmosphere. Visit the Folk Art Center of the Southern Highland Craft Guild which showcases Southern Appalachia's traditional and contemporary crafts. See poet Carl Sandburg’s historic home and savor panoramic wilderness views from Chimney Rock, a 300-foot monolith rising from the Platte River valley. In Heartwood, gateway to Southwest Virginia crafts, music and food, enjoy a Farm to Table lunch accompanied by live bluegrass music. Conclude your trip with a two-night stay at The Homestead, a National Landmark built in 1776 and now a luxury resort and spa. Enjoy lavish pampering and your choice of activities, including golf, fly fishing, a carriage ride, swimming or spa treatments. Or just linger poolside with a glass of sweet tea!
• 5 nights accommodations: 3 nights in Greenville and 2 nights in Hot Springs
• Daily breakfast, 2 lunches and 5 dinners
• Full-day tour of Biltmore Estate, American castle of the Vanderbilt family
• Visits to: Southern Highland Craft Guild; Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site; Chimney Rock State Park; the town of Heartwood that includes performances of the area’s distinctive music by local musicians; and National Air and Space Museum
• Round-trip airport/hotel transfers
Note: Pre-tour and post-tour nights are available upon request. Please inquire at time of booking.
Day 1 - Arrive in Greenville, South Carolina
Upon arrival at the airport meet your tour guide at the baggage claim area. Board the motor coach with your fellow travelers for check-in at the hotel. Enjoy dinner this evening at the Inn at Biltmore Estate. Our dinner is a Farm to Table Tasting inspired by George W. Vanderbilt’s vision of sustainable agriculture and support for small family farms.
Accommodation: Inn at Biltmore Estate - 3 nights
Day 2 – Tour the Biltmore Estate
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel this morning before we start our tour to Biltmore Estate. The house itself, built by George Vanderbilt in the Blue Ridge Mountains, has over 250 rooms. Marvel at the grandeur of America’s largest home filled with its collection of fine art and antiques. Stroll through gardens created by America’s father of landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted. After lunch at Deer Park (located on the estate), visit the estate’s winery, where the production of Biltmore Estate wines continues to honor the legacy of the land. These award-winning vineyards, created by a French winemaker, celebrate all that George Vanderbilt aspired to create with his estate - excellence, quality and hospitality.
Then enjoy free time to shop and browse at Biltmore Village. Built in the late 1890s as a classic planned community at the entrance to George Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate, Biltmore Village today is truly one of the Carolinas' most unique touring and shopping environments. Enjoy quaint tree-lined streets, brick sidewalks, open air dining and original houses from the 1900s, all combined with amazing collections of one-of-a-kind merchandise of true quality and value.
Also stop at the Southern Highland Craft Guild. Nestled among the pines and dogwoods of the Blue Ridge Parkway, yet only a few miles from I-40 and downtown Asheville, North Carolina, the Folk Art Center is the Guild's flagship facility. The Center showcases the finest in traditional and contemporary craft of the Southern Appalachians. Enjoy dinner this evening at the Grove Park Inn’s Blue Ridge Restaurant, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and listed on the Registry of Historic Places.
Day 3 – Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site / Chimney Rock State Park
After breakfast this morning, visit the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. Carl Sandburg Home NHS is located on 264 acres in Western North Carolina. In addition to tours of the Sandburg Home, visitors can enjoy over five miles of trails, stroll through gardens and greet the descendants of Mrs. Sandburg's dairy goat herd. Enjoy lunch on your own and free time in Hendersonville.
Later, explore Chimney Rock State Park. For as long as there have been people in Hickory Nut Gorge, there has been fascination with the towering monolith known as Chimney Rock. Ride the elevator up a 26-story shaft blasted through solid granite to enjoy the awe-inspiring views from the Chimney. The cool 198-foot tunnel to the elevator stays a comfortable 55-65 degrees year-round. You'll get a brief introduction to the Park from the elevator operator on your way up to the Sky Lounge – a gift shop and a snack bar with a view! Then it's just a short walk across the clear-span bridge to the stairs to the Chimney.
Enjoy dinner at the Lake Lure Inn Veranda Restaurant this evening. Built in 1927, the Lake Lure Inn is where the movie Dirty Dancing was filmed. After dinner return to the hotel for the night.
Day 4 – Greenville / Heartwood / Hot Springs, Virginia
After breakfast, check-out of the hotel and head to Hot Springs, VA. En route, stop at the Blue Ridge Parkway Interpretive Center. Here you’ll view The Blue Ridge Parkway—America's Favorite Journey, a 24-minute film shown in high definition surround sound which uses breathtaking aerial photography and the story of a father-daughter motorcycle trip to introduce visitors to the natural and cultural heritage of the mountains and the history of the construction of the Parkway. It features craft artisans and traditional musicians from the region.
Later, stop in Heartwood, which showcases regional artisans from Virginia’s ancient mountains and is the new home to music, crafts and food of The Crooked Road. Delight in the epicurean experience of a Farm to Table Lunch, paired with Virginia wines indigenous to the region. Local musicians will entertain us with a Pickin’ Porch assortment of authentic, distinctive music from the area. While at Heartwood, there will be time to visit the shops where you’ll be able to purchase local renditions of Gospel and Bluegrass CDs and DVDs.
Following lunch, continue your journey to The Homestead, a luxury resort and spa nestled in the splendor of Virginia’s ancient mountains. The Homestead is a National Landmark built in 1776, welcoming its first guest a decade before the American Revolution. Baggage handling included. Enjoy dinner and dancing this evening at the resort. (Note: Jacket required but tie optional for gentlemen and young men 12 years and older.) After dinner you may choose to enjoy a movie in the resort’s theatre or join others in the Card & Game Room.
Accommodation: The Homestead – 2 nights
Day 5 – Free Day
After breakfast depart on a brief tour of the resort. Today is free on your own to choose a resort activity such as the following (additional charges on your own apply): Golf, archery, ATV (4-Wheeler) excursions, Cascades Gorge tour, fly-casting clinic, fly-fishing, hiking and biking, horseback riding, carriage rides, mountain bike rental, paintball games, tennis, swimming, spa treatment and more.
Enjoy lunch on your own today while at the resort. Afternoon Tea is served in the Main Foyer and dinner this evening will be in the Main Dining Room. For over a century guests have enjoyed the traditions of The Homestead's renowned Dining Room. Musicians play nightly while couples dance the night away and kids of all ages have their first ballroom dance. The Southern American cuisine is prepared to perfection. After dinner you may choose to enjoy dancing, a movie in the resort’s theatre or join others in the Card & Game Room.
Day 6 – Hot Springs, VA / Washington D.C.
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel this morning prior to checking out. Upon arrival in Washington, visit the Smithsonian Institution’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center National Air and Space Museum. (Note: This museum is not located in downtown DC where other Smithsonian museums are located. Rather it is located near Dulles Airport west of the city.) Visitors are able to walk among the exhibits and view them from elevated skyways. There is an Observation Tower where visitors can watch air traffic arrive and land. Depart for transfer to Dulles International Airport for your return home late in the afternoon.
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