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The Vanderbilts and Asheville

Program Number: 1787RJ
Start and End Dates:
4/21/2013 - 4/26/2013; 4/10/2016 - 4/15/2016; 4/24/2016 - 4/29/2016; 5/1/2016 - 5/6/2016; 5/8/2016 - 5/13/2016;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Asheville, North Carolina
Price starting at: $862.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: History & Culture; Homes & Gardens; National Parks
Meals: 12; 5 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 5 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian; Gluten Free; None; None    

See America's largest private mansion, the Biltmore Estate, dressed in springtime garden splendor. From the informal Shrub Garden to the formal beauty of the Italian Garden, planned walkways lead you through native plants, trees, shrubs, spring bulbs, 250 rose varieties and the blazing color of 1,000 azaleas. Take advantage of the prime bloom stages and visual delights created by Frederick Law Olmsted, still considered to be America's foremost landscape architect.


• Explore the forest that George Vanderbilt worked to preserve and the Biltmore Forest School, America’s first school of forestry.
• On the grounds of the estate, examine priceless artwork in the 250-room chateau and savor a tasting in the winery.
• Learn more about the Vanderbilts in Asheville, a startlingly cosmopolitan town nested in the mountains.

Activity Particulars

Walking up to 1.5 miles over paved trails and sidewalks.

Date Specific Information


Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.

Coordinated by Mars Hill University.


A jewel of the Jazz Age in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this longtime getaway for wealthy Americans today is a walkable town full of history and charm. The art-deco cityscape of downtown appeals to architecture buffs, while the 250-room Biltmore Estate is one of America’s finest remaining specimens of Gilded Age opulence.

Modern hotel conveniently located one mile from the heart of downtown Asheville offering a free evening shuttle to the city's sites and restaurants.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Jane Huffman

A native of Western North Carolina, Jane Huffman is the program coordinator for Conferences and Events at Mars Hill University. At this campus set amid the beautiful Smoky Mountains, she helps to welcome summer camp, corporate and non-profit groups for workshops and educational opportunities. In a logical extension of her role as a local host, Jane serves as a group leader for Road Scholar programs and enjoys educating participants on the riches of her home state.
Meals and Lodgings
   Homewood Suites by Hilton Asheville
  Asheville, North Carolina 5 nights
 Homewood Suites by Hilton Asheville
Type: Hotel
  Description: Asheville's finest all-suite luxury hotel located within minutes of historic downtown Asheville, Biltmore, and the city's finest dining. -Elegant one bedroom suites with separate living areas featuring a full-sized kitchen -Dinner and drinks served Monday-Thursday -Full hot breakfast served daily -Indoor heated pool and whirlpool spa -Fitness Center -Complimentary wired and wireless high speed Internet service -Complimentary local transportation available with-in 5 mile radius of the hotel
  Contact info: 88 Tunnel Road
Asheville, NC 28805 USA
phone: 828-252-5400
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Check out time: 10:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
A motor coach will pick you up at the airport to begin your week of adventure in the mountains of Western North Carolina. You will be staying at Homewood Suites by Hilton Asheville that night.
  End of Program:
8:00 am You will be staying at Homewood Suites by Hilton Asheville the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Free parking available
To Start of Program
  Location:  Asheville, North Carolina
  Nearest highway: I-240
  Nearest airport:  Asheville, NC
  From End of Program
  Location: Asheville, North Carolina
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details



From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Airport Ground Transportation
phone: 828-209-3660
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


20 minutes 




15 miles


The Airport Ground Transportation desk is conveniently located in the Baggage Claim area of the Asheville Regional Airport. Whether your destination is local or in one of the surrounding counties, taxi cab service can be obtained at the Ground Transportation desk. For Ground Transportation service, call 828-209-3660, email:

Driving Directions
  Asheville, NC From Asheville Airport: 1-26 West to I-240 East Exit 6; right on Tunnel Road; hotel is one-forth mile on the right. Distance to Hotel: 15 miles.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Botanical Gardens of Asheville Tour and The Jarvis Gardens
(Sunday, April 21)

Note: Touring of the gardens

 Arrive To: After lunch we will check into the Homewood Suites by Hilton Asheville. We will depart shortly thereafter for a guided tour of the Botanical Gardens of Asheville.
 Dinner: Dinner
 Evening: After dinner we will tour the Jarvis Gardens in Mars Hill, North Carolina. Return to Homewood Suites for a wine/cheese reception.
Accommodations: Homewood Suites by Hilton Asheville
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: The Folk Art Center, Blue Ridge Parkway Destination Center, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Cradle of Forestry, Looking Glass Falls and Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education.
(Monday, April 22)

Note: There is a considerable amount of leisurely walking today as we explore the vast lands, 125,000 acres, that George W. Vanderbilt owned. Our visit to the Cradle of Forestry includes a 1.3 mile hike on a paved trail. Walking is also required at the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education.

 Breakfast: Breakfast
 Morning: After breakfast we'll board the coach and travel to the Folk Art Center. The Center is home to the Southern Highland Craft Guild and showcases the finest in traditional and contemporary crafts of the Southern Appalachians. The center also houses three galleries, a library and a craft shop, with live craft demonstrations daily in the lobby. Then, we will visit the Blue Ridge Parkway Destination Center and learn about the parkway's history, climate and habitat through innovative, high-tech interactive exhibits. The parkway is America's longest and most narrow national park, 469 miles long, connecting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. After our visit to the destination center we will continue our journey travelling south on the parkway meandering through rocky tunnels and climbing in elevation to the peaks of Mt. Pisgah and Fryingpan Mountain. During our venture, we'll be stopping at several parkway overlooks to enjoy the scenery. Don't forget to bring your camera!!
 Lunch: A delicious lunch at Pisgah Inn.
 Afternoon: Exiting the parkway at the Cold Mountain overlook, we'll travel down the ridge to the Cradle of Forestry, the site of the first forestry school in America. The school was founded by Dr. Carl Schenck, chief forester for George Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate. The wonderfully restored buildings, including a schoolhouse, a commissary and student quarters, a portable saw mill and logging locomotive, give visitors a glimpse of life at the school in the early 1900's. These displays are found while hiking on two trails through the wooded forest. Many native plants and wildflowers can be seen along each trail. You will have ample time to enjoy each trail. A short drive from there will bring us to Looking Glass Falls, one of the most popular waterfalls in North Carolina. After our photo opts, we will continue down the mountain to the Pisgah Wildlife Education Center to learn of mountain habitats and plants of the region.
 Dinner: Dinner provided in the dining area of Homewood Suites.
 Evening: This evening we will travel to Sow True Seed Company in downtown Asheville where we will learn about heirloom, certified organic and traditional Southern Appalachia varieties. We will enjoy an informative guided tour of their facility and learn of their growing and sourcing over 500 varieties.
Accommodations: Homewood Suites by Hilton Asheville
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: A Gray Line Historical Trolley Tour of Asheville, the Gardens of White Gate Inn, the Curve Gardens in the River Arts District and the Wamboltopia Garden in West Asheville.
(Tuesday, April 23)

Note: Learn of the history, culture and architecture of Asheville aboard the Gray Line Trolley, then enjoy the remainder of the day visiting three of Asheville's lovely gardens.

 Breakfast: Breakfast
 Morning: This morning learn about Asheville's early settlers, famous citizens and authors aboard the historic Gray Line Trolley. You'll also learn of the architecture, the history and the arts that make Asheville a very unique and special place.
 Lunch: Lunch on your own in one of the many quaint eating establishments in downtown Asheville.
 Afternoon: This afternoon we will visit two of Asheville's downtown gardens, the Gardens of White Gate Inn and the Curve Garden in the River Arts District of the city. The award winning Gardens of White Gate Inn has an extensive collection of unusual plants including 18 varieties of Japanese maples and over 300 different varieties of perennials, hostas, roses and herbs. Their greenhouse houses a collection of over 1500 orchids and tropicals. The CURVE Studios and Garden is home to a lovely garden and an amazing assortment of every kind of visual art and craft imaginable. The diversity and depth of the work at CURVE speaks to its mission of creating a place where beauty, business and the public intersect.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: After dinner we'll travel to West Asheville to visit Wamboltopia Gardens, a garden sanctuary, outdoor art gallery, creative space and living canvas; a tiny piece of heaven perched on a quiet, wooded hillside in the heart of one of West Asheville's inspired neighborhoods.
Accommodations: Homewood Suites by Hilton Asheville
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 4: In the morning we'll visit the North Carolina Arboretum. In the afternoon we'll enjoy a "Legacy of the Land" tour on the Biltmore Estate, plus a visit to the estate winery and Antler Hill Village.
(Wednesday, April 24)

Note: Today there will be a fair amount of walking at the North Carolina Arboretum and at the Antler Hill Village and estate winery.

 Breakfast: Breakfast
 Morning: After breakfast we will board our motor coach for a short drive to the North Carolina Arboretum. The arboretum is a 434 acre public garden established in 1986. You'll spend your morning touring this vast and beautiful property. The mission of the arboretum is "to cultivate connections between people and plants through creative expression of landscape stewardship, including: conservation, education, garden demonstration, research and economic development."
 Lunch: Lunch at the Arboretum.
 Afternoon: During this first visit to the Biltmore Estate, you will tour the vast properties on a guided tour "The Legacy of the Land." Following our tour we will visit the Biltmore Estate Winery and Tasting Room, where you can enjoy complimentary wine or grape juice tasting. You will tour the historic cellars and learn the steps of quality wine production. Just outside the entrance to the Winery, you will have time to explore Antler Hill Village, an area of exhibitions, live entertainment, dining and shopping.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: This evening enjoy a presentation on the Vanderbilts and the Biltmore Estate. You will learn of George Vanderbilt and his family and why George decided to build his summer cottage in Asheville, NC. There will time for questions following the presentation.
Accommodations: Homewood Suites by Hilton Asheville
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Enjoy a day at the Biltmore Estate during the most lovely of times, the Festival of Flowers.
(Thursday, April 25)

Note: This is your day! Spend it in the grand house, in the gardens, and on a special guided garden tour. Bring your walking shoes and your camera!

 Breakfast: Breakfast
 Morning: Today we will return to the Biltmore Estate for a self-paced, self-guided tour of the 250-room Vanderbilt home. There, you will see the luxurious living areas of the Vanderbilt family, lovingly restored to the grandeur of Vanderbilt's time, and filled with priceless, carefully preserved artworks and furnishings.
 Lunch: Lunch on your own at the Biltmore Estate. The Stable Cafe Restaurant has a nice selection of sandwiches and gourmet lunches.
 Afternoon: Our afternoon continues at the Biltmore Estate, as we spend time wandering the gardens on a guided garden tour. Biltmore is famous for creating a wonderland of tulips in early spring. In addition to tulips, the gardens boast acres of azaleas, forsythia, spirea, magnolia, flowering cherries, dogwoods, redbuds, poppies, pansies and many other varieties of flowering shrubs and trees. Visit the glass-roofed Conservatory, which was designed by Biltmore House architect Richard Morris Hunt, and which operates much as it did in Vanderbilt's Day. There, thousands of flowers and plants for Biltmore Gardens are nurtured before transplant. The central room of the conservatory is a Palm House , where a large collection of palms, ferns and other foliage plants have thrived for many years. Annexes include a cool house, a hot house and an orchid house.
 Dinner: Farewell dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: Use this free time as an opportunity to visit some of the many local points of interest or prepare for departure on Friday.
Accommodations: Homewood Suites by Hilton Asheville
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6: An early morning departure after breakfast.
(Friday, April 26)
 Depart From: Homewood Suites for the airport.
 Breakfast: Breakfast.
 Morning: An early morning departure for your return home.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Asheville: Mountain Majesty

Author: Lou Harshaw

Description: A lifelong resident of Asheville and regional historian, author Lou Harshaw offers a firsthand look at the history and development of this magnificent city by drawing upon a host of historical sources as well as an extensive oral tradition. She follows the development of Asheville from village to town to city, always reflecting the feeling of the times. The result is a journey through time, documenting the evolution of one of the most intriguing cities in the United States.

Lady on the Hill: How Biltmore Estate Became an American Icon

Author: Howard E. Covington Jr.

Description: From Publishers Weekly: Set amid thousands of lushly landscaped acres in the North Carolina mountains, the Biltmore estate is a 250-room Gilded Age mansion stuffed to the rafters with objets d'art. Writing a very authorized business history rather than an architectural appreciation, journalist Covington celebrates the estate's transformation from quasifeudal folly to lucrative tourist mecca. Built in 1895 by George Vanderbilt, who played lord of the manor to hundreds of tenant farmers and servants, the estate passed in the 1960s to his grandson William Cecil, whose tight-fisted budgets, canny marketing initiatives and rapt attention to customer service turned it into a profitable museum of robber-baron privilege, selling more tickets than Colonial Williamsburg. The author's sycophantic account of this not unduly exciting saga is mainly a tribute to Cecil, who wrote the afterword. Covington defends the Biltmore owner's model of private, for-profit historical preservation against charges of commercialism leveled by nonprofit preservationists, repeats his complaints about inheritance taxes, extols his entrepreneurial daring, salutes his Biltmore restoration projects ("surpassed what many had seen anywhere") and raves about "customer satisfaction reports... comparable to those enjoyed by a five-star resort." This anodyne hospitality-industry success story will find a place in the Biltmore gift shop, but probably nowhere else. (Mar.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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