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The Biltmore Estate and Beyond: Discover the Wonders of Western North Carolina

Program Number: 18073RJ
Start and End Dates:
8/18/2013 - 8/23/2013; 4/26/2015 - 5/1/2015; 5/31/2015 - 6/5/2015;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Montreat, North Carolina
Price starting at: $781.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: History & Culture Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 15; 5 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 5 Dinners    
Meal Options: Low Fat; Vegetarian; Low Salt; Gluten Free    

Uncover all that western North Carolina has to offer. Study the visionary craftsmen behind the Biltmore Estate, learn how reaction to Thomas Wolfe’s autobiographical novel “Look Homeward, Angel” is said to have inspired the famous “You Can’t Go Home Again.” Discover breathtaking views from Chimney Rock, see a show at North Carolina’s state theater and visit the North Carolina Arboretum with a naturalist.


• Learn about Vanderbilt family history and visit the 125,000-acre grounds of the Biltmore Estate.
• Explore downtown Asheville and the "Old Kentucky Home" boarding house where Thomas Wolfe grew up.
• Take an expert-led walk through the Carl Sandburg House and meet the herd at Connemara Farms, a goat farm once owned by the Sandburgs.

Activity Particulars

Considerable walking, some uneven terrain, many stairs at Biltmore Estate and other sites.

Opportunities are available for traveling companions to attend a different program at Montreat during the same week. Click here to see a list of all programs at Montreat.

Date Specific Information

8-18-2013, 4-26-2015, 5-31-2015

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

Coordinated by Montreat Conference Center.


Originally founded as a spiritual retreat center, Montreat, nestled on Lake Susan at the foot of Graybeard Mountain, continues to be a peaceful destination for those seeking respite. Footpaths weave through the 4,000 acres of surrounding woodlands and the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains offer other recreational opportunities.

Beautiful conference center overlooking small lake in the center of Montreat. Spacious lounges, classrooms, fireplace and dining facilities in same building.

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

Righton McCallum is a retired English teacher and research librarian. She has taught the Local History and Research course at Blue Ridge Community College in Hendersonville, N.C. Righton authored the folklore chapter of the textbook “North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History” and has also written two books of her own Carolina-inspired poetry, “The Montreat Gate” and “Beside the Lake.” She and her husband have two sons, two granddaughters and an opinionated Scottish Terrier.
Peter Loewer

Peter Loewer is an artist, gardener, writer and illustrator living on the shores of Lake Kenilworth in Asheville, N.C. He holds a bachelor’s in graphic arts and art history and won the 1958 Max Beckmann Fellowship to the Brooklyn Museum. Peter gardens in what he calls a “failing effort to escape the real world and its problems.” He writes and illustrates gardening books and, with the help of his wife Jean, children’s books. His latest is “Loves Me Loves Me Not,” about the language of flowers.
Meals and Lodgings
   Assembly Inn, Montreat Conference Center
  Montreat, NC 5 nights
 Assembly Inn, Montreat Conference Center
Type: Conference Center
  Description: This stately hotel overlooks a small lake. It has a beautiful, spacious lobby with a fireplace. The building was made from native stone that sparkles with mica.
  Ship Information: Items to be shipped to guests (UPS/Fed Express, etc.) should be addressed to the participant, c/o Tracy Bailey, 401 Assembly Drive, Montreat, NC 28757. Items sent regular mail should be addressed the same as above, but use P. O. Box 969.
  Contact info: 401 Assembly Drive
Montreat, NC 28757 USA
phone: 828-669-2911 x316
  Room amenities: Rooms have a desk, clock radio, kleenex, closets and bed lamps. Blankets, sheets, pillows, bath mat, and a towel set will be provided (clean towels available daily). No phones or televisions in the rooms.
  Facility amenities: Internet access (with personal laptop) in the lobby private baths for all participants. Television and courtesy telephone in the lobby
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior:  Rooms are not typically available, due to retreats. Participants may call to check availability. If no rooms are available, the coordinator will assist them in finding a hotel nearby.
  Check in time: 4:00 PM
  Additional nights after:  Rooms are not typically available, due to retreats. Participants may call to check availability. If no rooms are available, the coordinator will assist them in finding a hotel nearby.
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
4:00 - 5:30 p.m., at the Assembly Inn. You will be staying at Assembly Inn, Montreat Conference Center that night.
  End of Program:
12:30 p.m. with lunch You will be staying at Assembly Inn, Montreat Conference Center the night before.
  Required documents:
The Road Scholar Health & Safety Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Free parking at the Assembly Inn in Montreat.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Montreat, NC
  Nearest city or town:  Black Mountain, NC; nearest large town: Asheville, NC
  Nearest highway: Route 9 to Interstate 40
  Nearest airport:  Asheville Regional Airport
  From End of Program
  Location: Montreat, NC
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

Knoxville, TN


From Airport




None - Car Required


Travel Time:


2 hours, all interstate 


Greenville, SC


From Airport




None - Car Required


Travel Time:


1 1/2 hours, all interstate 


Charlotte, NC


From Airport




None - Car Required


Travel Time:


2 hours, all interstate 


Asheville, NC


From Airport




various... see listing below
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


price varies
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


45 minutes 




35 miles


The Road Scholar coordinator suggests/recommends to you Grandyco Car Service 828-273-3214 and is happy to coordinate transportation for guests coming in to the Asheville airport, so price is less. Other options (visit for more) Marvels Transport 828-280-1698 A Red Cab 828-232-1112 Areawide Transportation 828-713-4710 Beaver Lake Cab 828-252-1913 Checker Cab 828-254-1155


Asheville, NC


From Bus Terminal




Commercial Van/Shuttle
same as listed for airport
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


20 minutes 




18 miles


arrange for transport with Road Scholar coordinator at Montreat; she will coordinate times with other participants.

Driving Directions
  From All Points - to Interstate 40 Come to Western North Carolina via Interstate 40; use exit 64 for Black Mountain/Montreat/Route 9 (15 miles east of Asheville, NC). At the exit, turn north on Route 9 (go through one traffic light, across a railroad track and another traffic light, and up the hill to the traffic light). Go straight across where Route 9 becomes Montreat Road, and travel approximately two miles to the Montreat entrance (stone gate). From the gate, continue approximatley 1 1/2 miles to the middle of the conference center. The Assembly Inn is on the hill on the left, across from Lake Susan. Pull up to the front door of the Inn to unload, and then park your car in marked spaces along the lake or the Inn. Please note: do not trust a map or GPS that tries to bring you in on Route 9 (except for the last few miles) instead of Interstate 40 (unless you desire to travel along very sharp curves, up and down mountains). Also, do not take Flat Creek Road... come up Montreat Road (Route 9 North).
Elevation Note: Participants may wish to hike on their own in surrounding mountains, which peak elev. exceed 5,400.

Equipment Requirements: Anyone wishing to enjoy outdoor activities (walking, hiking) should bring hiking boots or shoes with tread on bottom.
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: Orientation
(Sunday, August 18)
 Afternoon: Arrival at the Assembly Inn, check in between 4 - 5:30 p.m. Pull up to the porch area to unload your luggage, then park nearby in any designated parking spot. Unpack and enjoy a snack and a stroll around Lake Susan before dinner.
 Dinner: Dinner will be served from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. All meals are served buffet-style in our Galax Dining Room, or if you prefer, enjoy a meal outside in our Tea Garden or on Wharton Porch! We are able to accommodate most dietary restrictions requested by our guests. Below are just some of the options that might make up each of your dinner meals. •Fresh salad bar •Baked chicken •Roast beef •Broiled fish •Mashed potatoes •Assorted vegetables •Assorted desserts •Iced tea •Regular & decaf coffees
 Evening: Our opening program and orientation will be at 7 p.m. We will spend some time orienting ourselves to Montreat and to the schedule for the week. You'll have a chance to meet some of your instructors and your fellow participants. We know you're tired from your day of travel, so the program won't last more than an hour.
Accommodations: Assembly Inn, Montreat Conference Center
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: The Biltmore Estate
(Monday, August 19)
 Breakfast: Breakfast is served 7:30 - 8:30 a.m. in the dining room. Is breakfast your favorite meal? Then you're in for a treat this week. Selections vary daily, but always incorporate Sliced fruit, Assorted cereals, Yogurt, Granola, and pastries. Assorted fruit juices and coffee will start your day off right! Things to look forward to: Scrambled eggs •Bacon & sausage •Waffles or pancakes •Grits (of course!) or Oatmeal (not the packaged kind either!)
 Morning: Righton McCallum will present two topics this morning, both related to the Biltmore Estate. "The Men Who Built the Biltmore" and the "Vanderbilt Family History." Morning classes will be broken up with a 30 minute refreshment break.
 Lunch: We will enjoy a quick "early" lunch and board the transportation to the Biltmore Estate
 Afternoon: Arrival at the Biltmore House for a self guided walk though the House (audio tapes available), gardens and conservatory. From there, we'll travel down to the winery, farm and barn areas, We depart from the Biltmore around 5 p.m. for our return to Montreat. Info from the Biltmore Estate website: The History of America's Largest Home. Building Biltmore was, at the time, one of the largest undertakings in the history of American residential architecture and the results were astounding. Over a six-year period, an entire community of craftsmen worked to build the country's premier home. The estate boasted its own brick factory, woodworking shop, and a three-mile railway spur for transporting materials to the site. A New World Château. The celebrated architect Richard Morris Hunt modeled the house on three châteaux built in 16th-century France. It would feature 4 acres of floor space, 250 rooms, 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. The basement alone would house a swimming pool, gymnasium and changing rooms, bowling alley, servants' quarters, kitchens, and more. An Environmental Wonder. The grounds of the 125,000-acre estate were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the creator of New York's Central Park and the father of American landscape architecture. He not only developed acres of gardens and parkland, but in his efforts to protect the environment and reclaim over-farmed land, Olmsted established America's first managed forest. A True Family Home. George Vanderbilt officially opened the home to friends and family on Christmas Eve in 1895. He had created a country retreat where he could pursue his passion for art, literature, and horticulture. After marrying the American Edith Stuyvesant Dresser (1873–1958) in Paris during the summer of 1898, George and his new bride came to live at the estate. Their only child, Cornelia (1900–1976), was born and grew up at Biltmore.
 Dinner: Assembly Inn Dining Room, Dinner, 6:00 - 7:00 p.m.
 Evening: Bobbie Pell joins us for "Moonstore Minstrel," a storytelling concert. Games/cards and tv available in the lobby of the Inn for fellowship.
Accommodations: Assembly Inn, Montreat Conference Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Downtown Asheville and the Thomas Wolfe House
(Tuesday, August 20)
 Breakfast: Assembly Inn Dining Room, Breakfast 7:30 - 8:30 AM.
 Morning: The first morning presentation will focus on the History of Asheville and the second lecture will speak to it's long time resident, and author, Thomas Wolfe. Morning classes will be broken up with a 30 minute refreshment break.
 Lunch: Assembly Inn Dining Room, Lunch 12:30 - 1:30 PM.
 Afternoon: Board transportation for trip into Asheville We'll explore downtown Asheville (both on the transporation and in a guided walk) and visit the Thomas Wolfe's Home where we'll visit a the museum and have a guided tour of the "Old Kentucky Home" boarding house where Wolfe grew up. Considered by many to be one of the giants of 20th Century American Literature, Thomas Wolfe immortalized his childhood home in his epic autobiographical novel, Look Homeward, Angel. Wolfe's colorful portrayal of his family, his hometown of Asheville, North Carolina, and the Old Kentucky Home boarding house earned the historic Victorian home a place as one of American Literature's most famous landmarks. At the end of our time in Asheville, we will stop by the Bascillia of St. Lawrence for a docent tour.
 Dinner: Assembly Inn Dining Room, Dinner, 6:00 - 7:00 p.m.
 Evening: Glenn and Evelyn Bannerman join us for a "Fun in the Mountains" program. Experience some of the ways that mountain folks enjoy time together.
Accommodations: Assembly Inn, Montreat Conference Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Chimney Rock Park and Lake Lure
(Wednesday, August 21)
 Breakfast: Assembly Inn Dining Room, Breakfast 7:30 - 8:30 a.m. Have you tried Ronny's biscuits and gravy yet? They're my favorite!
 Morning: At 8:30 a.m. transportation departs Montreat for Chimney Rock Park. Experience fantastic views from the top of Chimney Rock--Climb to the top of this towering 315-foot monolith located on the very edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains high above beautiful Hickory Nut Gorge. At a soaring elevation of 2,280 feet with its 75-mile views, this mountain top experience will take your breath away. And, you can get to the top of the "Rock" with great ease or some effort. It's up to you!
 Lunch: A picnic lunch on the grounds of Chimney Rock Park will refresh us for our afternoon adventures. No rain, please!
 Afternoon: After, enjoy a narrated boat ride tour on Lake Lure! Discover the beauty and charm of Lake Lure. Relax on a covered boat while your skipper guides you past local attractions and landmarks such as the locations used in filming the popular Dirty Dancing and the recently restored historic 1927 Lake Lure Inn and Spa. Listen to the legends, and learn about the natural and cultural history of Hickory Nut Gorge, home to Lake Lure, North Carolina. Return to Montreat enjoy the rest of the afternoon for relaxation or other explorations
 Dinner: Assembly Inn Dining Room, Dinner 6:00 - 7:00 P.M.
 Evening: Free evening to relax or enjoy games, puzzles or visiting.
Accommodations: Assembly Inn, Montreat Conference Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Carl Sandburg Home and Goat Barn; Show at the Flat Rock Playhouse, the state theatre for NC
(Thursday, August 22)
 Breakfast: Assembly Inn Dining Room, Breakfast 7:30 - 8:30 AM.
 Morning: 8:30 departure on provided transportation to the Carl Sandburg Home located in Flat Rock, NC. You will enjoy a guided walk-through of the Carl Sandburg House, as well as explorations of the goat farm and beautiful walking paths. Guided Tours of the Sandburg Home Taking a guided tour of the historic Carl Sandburg Home with over 65,000 artifacts on display is an insightful glimpse into the lives of the Sandburg family. Visiting Connemara Farms Goat Dairy Mrs. Sandburg owned and operated a premier goat dairy from 1935 to 1965. Here at Connemara the dairy became a Grade A operation, with milk being distributed to local dairies and sold in stores around the community. Mrs. Sandburg's goat breeding program produced champion goats and led to the improvement of goats as milk producing animals. Enjoy the Connemara Farms' goat-herd. The park service raises goats that represent the three breeds of goats Mrs. Sandburg raised at Connemara. Rangers and volunteers are on hand to share this facinating story about goats and Mrs. Sandburg's dairy goat operation. Outdoor Pursuits "It is necessary now and then for a man to go away by himself and experience loneliness; to sit on a rock in the forest and to ask of himself, 'Who am I, and where have I been, and where am I going?'...If one is not careful, one allows diversions to take up one's time-the stuff of life" -Carl Sandburg as quoted from a letter to his friend, Ralph McGill. Enjoy the solitude of Connemara. Hike its many trails and take from it the energy to avoid diversions.
 Lunch: Box lunches at the picnic area at the Carl Sandburg Home or on the Flat Rock Playhouse porch (if raining)
 Afternoon: Experience a theatre show at the Flat Rock Playhouse, the state theatre for NC! After, we will return to Montreat and enjoy some free time. The State Theater of North Carolina As the beautiful Western Carolina region continued to grow, so did the Playhouse and in 1961, by a Act of the North Carolina General Assembly, Flat Rock Playhouse was officially designated The State Theatre of North Carolina. What began as a few weeks of summer performances in 1940 is now an eight month season of plays including Broadway musicals, comedy, drama, and theatre for young audiences. The Playhouse Today The Playhouse’s dual mission of producing the performing arts and providing education in the performing arts includes a ten-show professional series; a summer and fall college apprentice and intern program; performances and cabaret series by the YouTheatre; year-round classes and workshops for students from kindergarten through adults. Flat Rock Playhouse now hosts over 90,000 patrons annually and is a major contributor to the local economy and the Arts in North Carolina. OUR SHOW.... Deathtrap by Ira Levin Sidney Bruhl, a successful writer of Broadway thrillers, is struggling to overcome a dry spell which has left him with a string of failures and a shortage of funds. A possible break in his fortunes occurs when he receives a script from a student in the seminar he has been conducting at a nearby college – a thriller which Sidney recognizes immediately as a potential Broadway hit. Sidney’s plan, which he devises with his wife’s help, is to offer collaboration to the student, an idea which the younger man quickly accepts. Thereafter, suspense mounts steadily as Sidney’s intentions are revealed and the plot begins to twist and turn with such an abundance of thrills and laughter that audiences will be enthralled until the final, startling moments of the play.
 Dinner: Assembly Inn Dining Room, Dinner 6:00 - 7:00 P.M.
 Evening: "Music in the Mountains, with Anne Lough.
Accommodations: Assembly Inn, Montreat Conference Center
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: NC Arborteum
(Friday, August 23)
 Breakfast: Assembly Inn Dining Room, 7:30 - 8:30 a.m. Last chance to try Ronny's biscuits and gravy... go ahead... just once!
 Morning: departure on provided transporation to the NC Arborteum The North Carolina Arboretum is a 434-acre public garden located within the Bent Creek Experimental Forest of the Pisgah National Forest. Surrounded by the dense folds of the botanically diverse Southern Appalachian Mountains, the Arboretum is nestled in one of the most beautiful natural garden settings in America. Established in 1986 by the General Assembly as an inter-institutional facility of the University of North Carolina, the Arboretum came into existence nearly a century after this country's father of landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted, first envisioned such an institution near Asheville. An employee of the Arboretum will give us an hour-long walk through the grounds. At 11:45 a.m., we will have our closing program and then return to the Assembly Inn for lunch. However, if you wish to stay longer to visit the arborteum or to leave from the arborteum instead of returning to Montreat, we can request a box lunch for you.
 Lunch: Assembly Inn Dining Room, 12:30 - 1:30 (box lunches provided for those who do not wish to stay through lunch)
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Free Time Opportunities
  Montreat, NC Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce
The Asheville Chamber has specific information on Asheville and the surrounding area. Plenty of shops and places to visit! Enjoy a trolley tour of the city... For additional information, visit
  Biltmore Estate
George Vanderbilt's 255-room mansion built at the end of the 19th Century, with a magnificent art collection and gardens covering 35 acres. For additional information, visit
  Black Mountain / Swannanoa Chamber of Commerce
Chamber of Commerce located in downtown Black Mountain. Phone number 828 669-2300 Quaint small town with lots of unique shops to explore. Several of these shops are "art" based -- with items the owners make. Information on all area attractions! For additional information, visit
  Black Mountain Golf Course
Boasts the world's longest fairway. Beautiful course with views of the mountains on all sides. For additional information, visit
  Blue Ridge Mountains
The Blue Ridge Mountains are part of the Appalachians -- and offer some of the most beautiful scenery anywhere. Hiking trails abound, both in Montreat and in the surrounding area with seasonal flora and fauna.
  Carl Sandburg Home
A simple farmhouse and goat farm donated to the Park Service by Mrs. Sandburg after the famous author and poet's death. Video about the Sandburgs--his literary work--and hers in breeding goats. House kept as though they could come home any minute! For additional information, visit
  Cherokee Indian Village
The Oconaluftee Indian Village, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, and Unto These Hills outdoor play (seasonal).
  Chimney Rock Park
Located in the Hickory Nut Gorge. Enjoy an elevator ride up 26 stores in a granite shaft to the chimney level. Gorgeous views from the top of the "chimney," and lots of hiking trails. Admission fee required. For additional information, visit
  Folk Art Center
Home of the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild (located on the Blue Ridge Parkway) in east Asheville For additional information, visit
  Grandfather Mountain
Located in Linvolle, NC; attractions include a mile-high swinging bridge, natural habitat area, and hiking trails For additional information, visit
  Harrah's Casino
Harrah's Casino on the Cherokee Indian Reservation For additional information, visit
  Linville Caverns
A 35-minute walking tour through caverns deep under the Humpback Mountain. For additional information, visit
  Thomas Wolfe Home
The childhood home of the famous author -- includes a video about him. House has been made into a museum. For additional information, visit
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

Lady on the Hill

Author: H. E. Covington

The Vanderbilts

Author: Jerry Patterson

The Vanderbilts and the Gilded Age

Author: John Foreman

Richard Morris Hunt

Author: Paul Baker


Author: Margaret H. Rector

The Vanderbilt Women

Author: Clarice Starz

Great American Mansions

Author: Merrill Folson

Biltmore Estate

Author: John Bryan

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