Road Scholar : Home
The Vanderbilts and Asheville

Program Number: 1787RJ
Start and End Dates:
5/5/2013 - 5/10/2013; 5/1/2016 - 5/6/2016; 5/8/2016 - 5/13/2016;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Asheville, North Carolina
Price starting at: $698.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: History & Culture; Homes & Gardens; National Parks
Meals: 13; 5 Breakfasts, 3 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 in Asheville with 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
   Blue Ridge Assembly- Blue Ridge Center
  Blue Ridge Assembly 5 nights
 Blue Ridge Assembly- Blue Ridge Center
Type: Conference Center
  Description: Fireplace, glass enclosed dining area with beautiful views of the mountains and wooded areas of the region. Hotel type rooms with two double beds and private baths. Walking trails.
  Contact info: 84 Blue Ridge Circle
Black Mountain, NC 28711 USA
phone: 828-669-8422
  Room amenities: Telephones, private baths, clock radio.
  Facility amenities: Tennis courts, trails, craft center, outdoor pool.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior:  The Blue Ridge Assembly doesn't provide pre/post program stays.
  Check in time: 4:00 PM
  Additional nights after:  The Blue Ridge Assembly doesn't provide pre/post program stays.
  Check out time: 10:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Hotel Check-in begins at 3:00pm, Road Scholar Program registration begins at 4:30pm. You will be staying at Blue Ridge Assembly- Blue Ridge Center that night.
  End of Program:
10:30am on Friday You will be staying at Blue Ridge Assembly- Blue Ridge Center the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Free parking available
To Start of Program
  Location:  Blue Ridge Assembly
  Nearest city or town:  Black Mountain/Asheville, NC
  Nearest highway: I-40
  Nearest airport:  Asheville, NC
  From End of Program
  Location: Blue Ridge Assembly
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

Asheville, NC


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Black Mountain Cab Company
phone: 828-230-1121
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


$55 for one person/$10 for each additional passenger (price subject to change)
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


0.5 hours (1/2) 




24 miles


Please call Black Mountain Cab Company to arrange for ground transportation from the airport or bus station to the Blue Ridge Assembly Conference Center. All transportation arrangements must be made directly by the participant prior to your arrival. Please inquire at Black Mountain Cab Company about the Mars Hill College/YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly discount.




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:


30 minutes 




24 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 YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly is located approximately 14 miles east of Asheville, NC. Follow I-40 E to exit 64 - (Black Mountain/Montreat exit) and turn south onto Highway 9 at the end of the exit ramp. Proceed 0.5 mile to the fork in the road and veer right onto Blue Ridge Road. Drive 0.9 miles and look for the YMCA sign on your left. Turn onto Blue Ridge Assembly drive and proceed to the end of the road and our entrance. Please note, once on our property, the roads are all one-way.
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: Check-in and pick up program materials, orientation, and reception to meet the staff and your new friends.
(Sunday, May 5)
 Arrive To: Check in to rooms beginning at 3:00pm. Registration begins at 4:30pm. Prepare for an exciting week, exploring the surprisingly sophisticated and historic city of Asheville, NC. You will take in the grand home and breathtaking gardens of George Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate, as well as other unforgettable western North Carolina attractions.
 Dinner: Dinner at the Blue Ridge Assembly dining hall overlooking the wooded areas of the region. All meals at the Blue Ridge Assembly Conference Center unless otherwise noted.
 Evening: Dinner will be followed by an orientation and reception, getting the week kicked off in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. Participants will receive written material to supplement the educational and historical values of their week.
Accommodations: Blue Ridge Assembly- Blue Ridge Center
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Blue Ridge Parkway Destination Center, the North Carolina Arboretum, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Cradle of Forestry and Looking Glass Falls.
(Monday, May 6)

Note: There is a considerable amount of leisurely walking today as we explore the vast lands that George W. Vanderbilt owned. Our visit to the Cradle of Forestry includes a 1.3 mile hike on a paved trail.

 Breakfast: Full breakfast buffet.
 Morning: After breakfast we'll board the coach and travel to the Blue Ridge Parkway Destination Center where you will 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. The remainder of the morning will be spent on the 434 acre North Carolina Arboretum, a public garden in the Pisgah National Forest that serves as a center for botanical education, research, conservation, economic development and garden demonstrations.
 Lunch: A delicious picnic lunch included along the way!
 Afternoon: From the NC Arboretum we'll travel approximately 18 miles to the south, meandering through the rocky tunnels and climbing in elevation to the peaks of Mt. Pisgah and Fryingpan Mountain. 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. A short drive from there will bring us to Looking Glass Falls, one of the most popular waterfalls in North Carolina.
 Dinner: Full buffet dinner at the Blue Ridge Assembly
 Evening: This evening a local historian will present a program on the unique and beautiful city of Asheville, North Carolina, in preparation for tomorrow's visit.
Accommodations: Blue Ridge Assembly- Blue Ridge Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: A Gray Line Historical Trolley Tour of Asheville will be the highlight for today!!!
(Tuesday, May 7)

Note: Learn of the history, culture and architecture of Asheville aboard the Gray Line Trolley, then enjoy the remainder of the day visiting the sites of your choice at your own pace.

 Breakfast: Full breakfast buffet.
 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 enjoy the hop-on and hop-off services of the Gray Line Trolley. Visit the sites that you want to see...the River Arts District, Pack Square, the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, the Basilica of St. Lawrence, the Grove decide. Simply hop-on and hop-off at the designated stops along the tour route. Trolleys run throughout the day and pick up in 30 minute intervals.
 Dinner: Full dinner buffet.
 Evening: Cultural Presentation.
Accommodations: Blue Ridge Assembly- Blue Ridge Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 4: After an early morning of free time, we'll enjoy a lecture on the Vanderbilts and the Estate. We'll then board the coach for a visit to the Antler Hill Village, the Biltmore Winery and George Vanderbilt's church, All Souls Cathedral.
(Wednesday, May 8)

Note: Spend your early morning free-time relaxing or hiking one of the beautiful trails on the assembly grounds. Trail maps are available at the front desk. There will be a fair amount of afternoon walking as we visit Antler Hill Village, the estate winery and the All Souls Cathedral.

 Breakfast: Full breakfast buffet.
 Morning: Free early morning. Optional activity: a nature/history walk on the Blue Ridge Assembly Campus, one time home of Black Mountain College and location for the "28 Days" movie filming. Mid-morning a noted lecturer will tell us about the Vanderbilt family and the magnificent Biltmore Estate.
 Lunch: Full lunch buffet.
 Afternoon: During this first visit to the Biltmore Estate, you 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. All Souls Episcopal Cathedral will be the next stop of the day. Inspired by the abbey churches in northern England, the style of the church is Romanesque to Gothic, and the plan of the main church building is cruciform (cross shaped) using the proportions of the Greek cross. The church was conceived by George Vanderbilt to be the central focus of Biltmore Village and was designed, together with the Parish Hall, by Richard Morris Hunt, architect of the Biltmore House. The buildings were completed in 1896 and consecrated on November 8th of that year. Vanderbilt gave possession of the church buildings to the Wardens and Vestry October 26, 1896. He served as Senior Warden for eighteen years until his death in 1914. The cathedral is surrounded by Biltmore Village. Now an eclectic collection of upscale shops and eateries, Biltmore Village recreates the quaint atmosphere of an English community. The Village was originally conceived by Vanderbilt to serve the needs of the staff of Biltmore Estate but has evolved over the years to serve the thousands of visitors who come to Asheville and to Biltmore Estate each year.
 Dinner: Full dinner buffet.
 Evening: Enjoy videos about the Biltmore Estate. Learn about the architecture and treasures of the Estate as well as receive glimpses into tomorrow's visit to America's Largest Home!
Accommodations: Blue Ridge Assembly- Blue Ridge Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Begin the day with a visit to the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Spend the remainder of the day at the Biltmore Estate during the most lovely of times, the Festival of Flowers.
(Thursday, May 9)

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

 Breakfast: Full breakfast buffet.
 Morning: Before we make our final visit to the Biltmore Estate, we will head back to the Blue Ridge Parkway to visit 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 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. You will also enjoy a special behind-the-scenes guided tour.
 Lunch: Lunch on your own at the Biltmore Estate. The Stable Cafe Restaurant has a nice selection of sandwiches and gourmet lunches.
 Afternoon: Afternoon continues at the Biltmore Estate, as you spend time wandering the gardens and shops or enjoying the beautiful views afforded from the home itself. 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: Full dinner buffet.
 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: Blue Ridge Assembly- Blue Ridge Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6: Final presentation (includes information about Christmas at the Biltmore Estate) and departure
(Friday, May 10)
 Breakfast: Full breakfast buffet.
 Morning: Final presentations, wrap-up question and answers, passports, and check-out. Approximate end time is 10:30 AM.
 Lunch: Box lunch provided upon request
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch
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.

You can't find a better value than Road Scholar.

As a not-for-profit organization, we are dedicated to providing all-inclusive educational programs at great value. From lectures to gratuities to field trips to accommodations - the tuition you pay up front is all that you pay.

Specifically, this program includes:

Plus these special experiences...

View the Daily Schedule to see more

And included with all Road Scholar programs:

© Road Scholar 2016 | Call toll-free: 1-800-454-5768