A less-formal side of Biltmore

After years of planning and months of construction, a new Biltmore venue, Antler Hill Village, recently opened to guests and pass holders. This weekend marks its official grand opening.

The Village includes new attractions such as an exhibit focusing on Edith Vanderbilt (founder George Vanderbilt's wife), Cedric's Tavern, a bandstand, an outdoor adventure center, an ice cream shop and more.

The family-friendly grand opening celebration of the village will take place Thursday, May 20 through Sunday, May 23, and will include fireworks, live jazz and bluegrass, storytelling, demonstrations and other activities.

One of the Village's highlights is a new historical exhibit titled "The Biltmore Legacy," according to Biltmore Director of Communications Kathleen Mosher. The freestanding building offers slices of estate life including archival letters, photos and drawings illustrating how the Vanderbilts lived. The small theater features a film narrated by Dini Cecil Pickering, the Vanderbilts' great-granddaughter, who shares parts of the family story from the past through today.

"When you visit, you'll discover more about Biltmore's past and our family's commitment to preserving both the land and the spirit of the people who founded the estate," says Pickering, in a press release.

"The exhibit offers a different perspective on the Vanderbilt family," says LeeAnn Donnelly, senior public relations manager for Biltmore. "Edith is brought to the forefront as a quintessential hostess. There's also a focus on her contributions to the community."

From the Civil-War era into the '30s, the ridge where the village is located was the site of Antler Hall, a residence and social center for many families who worked on the estate, says Donnelly.

Some Antler Hill Village amenities: Above, Cedric's Tavern is a new, English-style pub. Below, the Village Green offers live entertainment daily. Photos courtesy the Biltmore Company

Meg Van Cleve, 9, recently visited Antler Hill Village with her family, who are Asheville-based pass holders.

"They had a live musician playing, and we ran around and danced. Then we got ice cream — two scoops," she says.

Other highlights of the Village include:

• Edith Vanderbilt's car: A 1913 Stevens-Duryea Model "C-Six" seven-passenger touring car will be on permanent display in the Winery. This particular model of car is believed to be one of only 10 existing in the world today. 

• New winery entrance: Guests will now enter the winery from Antler Hill Village through an underground tunnel that was originally part of the dairy. Self-guided visits include wine tastings.

• Village green and bandstand: The centerpiece of the village has a sloping grassy area and bandstand that features live music every afternoon.

• New Outdoor Adventure Center: The center offers Segway rentals, Land Rover excursions, bike trips, horseback rides and carriage rides.

• Antler Hill Farm: While the farm's been around for several years, it's now more accessible from the Village. Traditional farming demonstrations take place in the barn, such as blacksmithing. Farm animals wander about, and there will be regular cooking demonstrations in the farm kitchen.

• Cedric's Tavern: Named for George Vanderbilt's St. Bernard, Cedric, this pub offers English specialties such as shepherd's pie, fish and chips, and Biltmore's own locally brewed craft beer, made in conjunction with Highland Brewing Company.

• Creamery: A tribute to the original Biltmore Dairy Bar, treats include the Winky Bar sundae, milk shakes, root beer floats, coffee and pastries.

There's also a retail shop, mercantile store, and The Smokehouse, which offers traditional Southern fare.

Antler Hill Village will be open to guests as part of admission to the estate, and to Biltmore pass holders at any time. After 5 p.m., pass holders can bring in as many folks as will fit in their car to Antler Hill. Twelve-month passes are $105, but discounts are offered at different times throughout the year. For more information, visit www.biltmore.com.

[Anne Fitten Glenn is an Asheville-based freelance writer. Reach her at afjones@bellsouth.net.]

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