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    20 Magical Photos From Venice Carnival (When Masks Were Fun!)

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    25 Best Things To Do In Key West Florida

    Best Things To Do In Key West, Florida!
    Key west, Florida
    The highlight of the Florida Keys Islands, Key West is situated at the very end of Florida’s Overseas Highway. Here’s what to do in Key West to have an amazing trip.
    Popular for its sunny days, quirky residents, wild nightlife, pastel colored homes, and beautiful coral reefs — Key West, Florida is the perfect road trip destination from Miami for people looking to escape winter.
    First explored by Ponce de Leon in 1521, Key West became a US territory in 1822, and has since been an island home to greats like Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams.
    The self-proclaimed Conch Republic is probably the best known island of the Florida Keys. After multiple trips to the Florida Keys, I’ve found that there are many cool things to do in Key West that most people miss…
    If you’re planning to spend some time in Key West, I wanted to recommend some of my favorite fun and unusual things to do, no matter what time of year you visit.

    Table Of Contents

    Best Things To Do In Key West Guide
    1: Ernest Hemingway House & Cats
    Earnest Hemingway’s House
    Built in 1851 in the French Colonial style, the home of the famous author Ernest Hemingway is located near the Key West Lighthouse at 907 Whitehead Street. It was turned into a museum after his passing and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1968.
    Hemingway owned a polydactyl (six-toed) cat named Snow White, given to him by a ship’s captain. These days the house is full of 6-toed descendants which can be seen lounging around the grounds!
    Visiting the house, and these odd cats with six toes, is one of the most popular things to do in Key West.
    2: Climb The Key West Lighthouse
    Built in 1848, visiting the Key West Lighthouse and climbing up the 88 steps to check out the view from the top is one of the top things to do in the Keys. When it first opened with a female lighthouse keeper, it was quite a 19th century rarity.
    While it hasn’t been used as a functioning lighthouse since 1969, the museum stands testament to the maritime heritage of the island. And you can visit the Keeper quarters which are now home to a museum.

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    3: Take A Sunset Sailing Cruise
    Key West has Amazing Sunsets!
    One of the most popular things to do in Key West is book a sunset sailing cruise, and have a few drinks while sailing around the harbor watching one of Key West’s legendary colorful sunsets.
    You can join a large catamaran style party boat, or charter a private experience on a smaller sailing yacht. Either way, it’s a worthwhile experience. Some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen were here in Key West.

    Sunset Sailing Experience

    Sail around Key West at sunset, enjoying the cool ocean breeze while sipping a cocktail (or two).

    4: Ride The Conch Tour Train
    Ride the Conch Train!
    This world famous train starts at Front Street Depot and the train engineers delight guests with popular legends and stories on a 75-minute journey through Old Town Key West.
    Running since 1958, the train is one of the most popular things to do in Florida Keys. It’s a bit cheesy, but you learn a lot about the history of the area.
    5: Eat Like A Local
    Florida is the home some delicious food like oranges, Key Lime Pie, Conch Fritters, Stone Crabs, Dole Whips, and fried Gator Bites. Which is why you can’t skip eating any of these popular foods while in Key West. Some great restaurants in Key West you’ll definitely want to check out include:
    Sloppy Joe’s
    The Green Parrot
    Louie’s Backyard
    Blue Heaven
    Schooner Wharf
    Cuban Coffee Queen
    Bo’s Fish Wagon
    Better Than Sex Desserts
    And make sure you don’t miss the Key Lime Pie Company. Or just take one of the local Key West Food Tours that give you a taste of seafood and Cuban food at the old ‘mom and pop’ type eateries. 

    Key West Food tour

    Explore the intoxicating flavors of Key West’s food. Sample the island’s best while guided by a local foodie.

    6: Check Out Fort Zachs Beach
    Fort Zach’s Beach in Key West
    Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, locally called Fort Zachs or Fort Taylor is a historic landmark from the Civil War era named after US President Zachary Taylor.  
    Built between 1845 and 1866, the fort is home to excavated armaments and other Civil War exhibits. It’s also home to a beach that’s perfect for snorkeling and a large park covering 54 acres.
    Other popular beaches in Key West include:
    Smathers Beach is the largest Key West beach at half a mile long, it’s also the most crowded, but perfect for water sports and biking.
    Higgs Beach is where you’ll find the African Refugee Cemetery. 294 refugees were buried here after being rescued from slave ships in the 1860’s.
    Rest Beach (or CB Harvey Memorial Rest Beach) is a 300-yard strip of beach backed by some sand dunes and vegetation. Parking is free, and there’s shade!
    7: Bar Hopping Duval Street 
    Famous Duval Street
    If you ready to party and experience Key West’s famous nightlife, Duval Street in Downtown is where to go. This popular street in Key West Downtown is filled with local shops, restaurants, bars and live-music clubs.
    One of the most popular tourist activities in Key West is spending time bar hopping on Duval Street. The nightlife here is legendary, with amazing live music and some weird & funky bars.
    Sloppy Joe’s Bar was a favorite hangout for Ernest Hemingway. First called the Blind Pig, then the Silver Slipper, it opened on December 5th, 1933 — the same day prohibition ended in the United States.
    The Green Parrot
    Schooner Wharf
    Bull & Whistle Bar (Garden of Eden)
    Bourbon St. Bar
    Hog’s Breath Saloon
    8: Mile Marker Zero
    The End of the Road!
    You can’t visit Key West without stopping to get your photo (along with thousands of other people) with the Mile Marker 0, which marks the end of the 2,369 mile long US 1 Highway.
    Stretching from upper Maine to Key West, US 1, known locally as the Overseas Highway, connects most major cities in the eastern U.S. The highway officially starts here, in Key West!
    9: Harry S Truman Little White House
    Built in 1890 and located in the Truman Annex section of Old Town, the house has been home to President William Taft, and later a vacation home to President Truman. Even Thomas Edison stayed here while contributing to the WWI efforts. 
    The house has also hosted the likes of General Eisenhower, President Kennedy, President Carter, Colin Powell, President Clinton, and more. Nicknamed as Florida’s only Presidential Museum, you’ll be able to see many historic records and photos. 
    10: Dry Tortugas National Park
    Dry Tortugas National Park
    About 109 km west of Key West, seven islands form Dry Tortugas National Park. It’s home to beautiful coral reefs, abundant sea life, tropical birds, and some submarine banks. It was named Tortugas by Ponce the Leon in the 16th century because of the number of turtles or ‘tortugas’ found on the islands. 
    The highlight of the park is the unfinished Fort Jefferson, that covers 16 acres on Garden Key and is made of over 16 million bricks. The park is a great place to go picnicking, swimming, diving, snorkeling, boating, bird watching, or hiking.To get here, most people take the Yankee Freedom III high speed ferry from Key West. But if you’re looking for an even more unique adventure, arriving by seaplane is also an option!

    Dry Tortugas Day Trip

    Take a boat over to Dry Tortugas National Park, and spend the day swimming, snorkeling, or sunbathing in the crystal clear waters.

    11: Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum
    Colorful Fishing Buoys
    The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum features exhibits on piracy and the slave trade, along with a collection of artifacts from 17th century shipwrecks of the Spanish slave ship Henrietta Marie and the treasure ship Nuestra Señora de Atocha.
    Artifacts from other ships such as the Guerrero & Nimble, Santa Margarita, and Santa Clara are also present. The onsite conservation lab also offers tours showing how items recovered from wrecks and other artifacts are preserved. It’s pretty cool!
    12: Sunset Parties At Mallory Square
    Street Performances at Mallory Square
    Mallory Square is another popular hangout in Key West. It’s perfect for shopping for crafts and souvenirs, or relishing food at the local eateries. 
    Every evening there is a sunset celebration where crowds gather to watch some of the best sunsets ever over the Gulf of Mexico.
    Try to get to the square about two hours before sunset to watch live performances from musicians, clowns, magicians, jugglers and other artists from across the globe. 
    13: Visit The Southernmost Point Buoy 
    The Southernmost Point in Key West
    The line to get photos at this red, yellow and black colored buoy are pretty long. Why? This concrete “buoy” is the Southernmost point in the continental USA, and everyone wants evidence that they’ve been here. Go really early to skip the lines. 
    The signage on the buoy reads “The Conch Republic, 90 Miles to Cuba, Southernmost Point Continental U.S.A., Key West, F.L., Home of the Sunset”.
    14: First Legal Rum Distillery
    Originally started as Jack’s Saloon in the year 1900, the people at Key West First Legal Rum Distillery consider themselves chefs first and distillers second. Apart from “Chef Distilled” rums, they also sell mouth-watering rum cakes. Take a tour here to taste their Cuban Coffee Rum, Vanilla Brûlée Dark Rum, and the famous Key West First Legal Rum. 
    Other rum distilleries you can visit include the Papa’s Pilar Rum Distillery to taste Papa’s Pilar, the rum that Hemingway drank; and the Key West Trading Co for their famed Temple Pent’s Revenge Blacklisted Rum. 

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    15: Attend Key West Fantasy Fest
    Key West’s Annual Fantasy Fest!
    Fantasy Fest is a weird and wild annual costume festival held in Key West that attracts thousands of people every year. I attended a few years ago, and it was one of my favorite festivals ever!It’s basically a 10-day costume party that’s like a combination of Burning Man, Mardi Gras, and Halloween on a tropical island. Body painting and elaborate costumes are on show, along with a lot of skin… its definitely an adult celebration.
    16: Visit The Key West Aquarium 
    The Key West Aquarium is home to many species of fish, alligators, sting rays, jelly fish, turtles, and sharks. If you’re traveling with kids, the Touch Tank has sessions where the kids can pet conchs, sea stars, slate pencil sea urchins, sea cucumbers, giant hermit crabs and horseshoe crabs.
    17: Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden
    The only “frost-free” tropical garden in the US, this garden also serves as a wildlife refuge and arboretum. Called the “keeper of the trees”, it opened in 1936 and covers 63 hectares on Stock Island.
    You can stroll through 2 butterfly habitats and 2 wetland habitats, and see exotic trees and tropical as well as subtropical plants, Neo-tropical birds, and other rare finds. 
    18: Explore The Historic Seaport 
    A sailor’s delight, the Key West Historic Seaport is home to hundreds of yachts and boats. The marina is full of shopping stores and restaurants such as the Schooner Wharf where you can enjoy a meal.
    There are also rental stores where you can rent boats for whale watching, cruising, sailing, or hire equipment for fishing, parasailing, jet skis. It’s a lively place, and well worth spending some time wandering around.
    19: Go Snorkeling Or Scuba Diving!
    Snorkeling in Key West
    Right beside Key West you’ll find the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, making it wonderful destination for snorkeling and scuba diving. Scuba diving is a big deal around here, and many divers come down specifically to dive the famous Shipwreck Trail.The Shipwreck Trail includes 9 historic shipwrecks scattered along the coral reefs and buried in the sand a few miles off shore. The best snorkeling in Key West can’t be done from the beach, you’ll need to book a boat to take you out to the local offshore reefs.
    20: Fort East Martello Museum & Gardens
    The Fort East Martello Museum opened in 1862 and displays exhibits of military effects, Cuban and early settlement artifacts, sponging  and fishing exhibits, junk art by Stanley Papio, and local folk art. 
    The museum is also home to the haunted Robert the Doll which used to belong to eccentric artist Robert Eugene Otto. The doll is said to have moved voodoo figurines around a room, caused car accidents, broken bones, and other misfortunes. 
    If you’re truly up for a challenge, go on one of the Haunted Museum and Civil War fort ghost tours.
    21: The Oldest House In Florida
    The Oldest House in Florida?
    Called the Oldest House in South Florida, it was built in 1829 by Captain Francis Watlington, a famous wrecker. Wrecking is the practice of taking valuables from shipwrecks, which there were many of around Key West.These days the home is a museum that showcases life in the 19th century through portraits and furnishings as well as colonial architecture found in the Caribbean. At one time, Key West was the richest city in the United States!
    22: Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden
    Play with Parrots at Nancy’s Secret Garden
    Key West local Nancy Forrester has been rescuing and caring for orphaned parrots for 35 years in her backyard garden. Visitors can interact with, feed, and pet the bright and colorful parrots and other birds while learning more about them.
    23: Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory
    Flamingos at the Butterfly & Nature Conservatory
    The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is home to about 60 species of butterflies and 20 species of exotic birds. Walk through a magical and inviting environment filled with hundreds of the most beautiful winged creatures in nature (including pink flamingos!)Their “Wings of Imagination” art exhibit offers original works by artist Sam Trophia. Acrylic shadow boxes depict the butterfly’s beauty preserved and suspended in art form in a spectrum of colors, shapes and sizes.
    24: Ghost Hunting In Key West!
    Key West is filled with ghost stories. From lost lovers to ghastly murders, the island has a long history of haunted tales. The most famous is probably Robert The Doll. A gift from a Bahamian servant skilled in voodoo, the doll is said to have turned over furniture, screams, and talks.Captain Tony’s Saloon has a long history of death. The former site of a morgue, the building has seen many hurricane deaths, and the tree growing in the middle of the bar has been used for 17 hangings. They say a Lady in Blue, who was hung from this tree, still haunts the Saloon to this day.
    Transportation Around Key West
    Most people get to Key West by driving down from Miami, Florida. It’s an awesome little road trip on the overseas highway through multiple islands in the Florida Keys. However there is also a ferry, as well as a small airport.
    Rental Car
    The best site to book your car is with Discover Cars. They search both local and national car rental companies to help you find the best possible price. This is the easiest way to rent a car and drive down to Key West from Miami.Renting a car offers the best flexibility to explore more remote and less touristy spots in the Florida Keys. It’s my favorite way to get around!
    Taxi Or Uber
    You can book taxis in Key West using Uber, Lyft, or TaxiASAP.
    Walking
    The main attractions in Key West are very close to each other, with most of them within a 2 mile radius of Old Town. So you could get almost everywhere walking. 
    Bike
    If you don’t want to take a cab, but don’t want to walk either, bicycles are the perfect answer. The most popular variety are the one-speed bikes locally known as Conch Cruisers. 
    Pedi-Cabs
    These bicycle rickshaws are often seen in Old Town areas, but are a tad expensive at about $1.50 a minute. 
    Trolley
    There are trolleys that run through different areas in Key West and cost above $20 for a day-pass. 
    Duval Loop
    Run by the city, these pink and blue colored buses circle historic stops in the Old Town quarter and are free to hop on and off. 
    Chilling by the Beach for Sunset
    Where To Stay In Key West
    Key West has tons of accommodation options available for tourists, everything from budget backpacker hostels to luxury hotels. Below you’ll find suggestions for good places to stay during your trip to Key West depending on your budget.

    BEST HOTELS IN KEY WEST

    COOL AIRBNB’S IN KEY WEST

    My Favorite Coffee Place in Key West
    Key West Travel Tips & Advice
    Pick up a Key West Sightseeing Flex pass for deals on water sports activities like jet skiing and paragliding.
    Download the Florida Stories App created by the Florida Humanities Council and take one of their free walking tours around the island.
    If you need one, pick up a free paper map of Key West from any of the Visit Florida tourist centers.
    Try to avoid traveling to Key West during Spring Break – usually March and April. Unless you want to deal with drunken college students creating havoc.

    READ MORE FLORIDA TRAVEL TIPS
    I hope you enjoyed my guide on what to do in Key West! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:
    Have any questions about things to do in Key West? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

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    Everything You Need To Know Before Renting A Car In Europe

    Tips For Renting A Car In Europe Europe driving guide My wife Anna and I spent a year living in Italy as expats without a car, preferring to rent cars when we wanted to go on a road trip, or for traveling to other European countries like France and Germany. Over the years we’ve rented […] More

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    Visiting The Hidden Mayan Ruins Of Calakmul In Mexico

    Calakmul Mayan Ruins in Mexico
    Campeche, MexicoCalakmul is an ancient Maya ruined city located deep within a jungle biosphere on the Yucatan Peninsula. Here’s why it’s my favorite archeological site in Mexico!
    Not many people make it down to the ruins of Calakmul compared to the other famous Mayan pyramids in Mexico like Chichen Itza or Tulum — mostly due to its very remote location near the border of Guatemala.
    Calakmul is far away from any tourist cities, requiring a pretty long & dedicated trip out there to visit the site.
    It’s a real hidden gem for those who wish to get off-the-beaten-path!
    Located in the Mexican state of Campeche on the Yucatan Penninsula, the ruins are extensive and cover 2 square kilometers (0.77 sq mi).
    Many sections have never been excavated, and because it only receives about a dozen visitors per day, it feels like a true “Indiana Jones” kind of experience.
    In this travel guide, you’ll learn tips for visiting Calakmul, along with some interesting history about my favorite Mayan ruins in Mexico.
    History Of The Calakmul Maya Ruins
    Calakmul Archeological Site
    The ancient city of Calakmul is thought to have been populated with about 50,000 people. It was “re-discovered” and named by a biologist named Cyruss Lundell, who flew over the area in 1931.
    Calakmul means “two adjacent mounds” in the Maya language — which makes sense as I’m sure the two main pyramids just looked like two mountains in the middle of a very flat jungle!
    The city was the capital of a large regional state at the time. The Calakmul kingdom included 20 secondary cities such as La Muñeca, Naachtun, Sasilha, Oxpemul and Uxul. The population of the whole kingdom is estimated to be about 1.7 million people!
    The equally large city of Tikal in what’s now Guatemala regularly fought with Calakmul — until Tikal won and took over in 700 AD. Eventually the city was abandoned and consumed by the jungle over hundreds of years.
    Calakmul’s ruins and the surrounding jungle was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002.
    Calakmul Ruins Highlights
    Pyramid Structure 1 View From the Top of the Pyramid
    Pyramid Structure 1
    Among the many interesting structures found there are two gigantic pyramids — called Structure 1 & Structure 2. Structure 1 is the second highest pyramid at Calakmul, reaching a height of 130 feet/40 meters. One thing that makes Calakmul stand out from other sites is that you can climb these pyramids!
    The steps of the pyramids are steep, and not very wide — maybe just the length of your foot. Some are narrower than that! You need to be careful climbing, and preferably not afraid of heights. Falling would be a disaster…
    View of Structure 1 from Structure 2 Climbing the Pyramids
    Pyramid Structure 2
    The most impressive building in Calakmul is called Structure 2. This pyramid was built up a number of times over centuries to reach a final height of around 150 feet/50 meters.
    It is the highest and largest structure in the Maya world. Nine royal tombs have been found inside the pyramid, some containing rich artifacts like jade masks.
    Mayan Ball Court
    Calakmul has its own Maya Ball Court, where athletes put a rubber ball (representing the sun) into a small stone circle perched very high on a wall, without using their hands OR feet.
    Some carvings suggest that the winning team’s captain was decapitated, which was a sign of honor. The ball game is over 3,500 years old, making it the first organized game in the history of sports.
    Games were played to resolve arguments between rival cities or as an alternative to all-out war.
    Chiik Nahb Acropolis
    The Chiik Nahb Acropolis, or “Place of the Water Lilly” is an area to the North of the site. Climbing this Acropolis gives you an excellent view of Structure 2 for photos.
    This complex is famous for incredible painted murals recently discovered inside.
    Maya Stelae with Red Pigment
    Ancient Stone Stelae
    Many great stelae can be found at this site too — large slabs of limestone that have been intricately carved with pictures and glyphs.
    Unbelievably some of them still have their original color pigments showing! It’s crazy that the color has lasted so long…
    The Biosphere Reserve
    Blue Ocellated Turkey in Calakmul Howler Monkey’s are Loud!
    The ruins of Calakmul are located inside the massive Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, 2,792 square miles of protected jungle.
    You’ll find all sorts of wildlife living within the reserve, including Ocellated Turkeys, Howler Monkeys, Spider Monkeys, Baird’s Tapir, Tucans, and if you’re SUPER LUCKY — the very elusive Jaguar!
    The best time to see wildlife on the drive up to the ruins is early in the morning, or right before sunset in the late afternoon.
    Driving to Calakmul through the Biosphere
    Getting To Calakmul
    Calakmul is much more difficult to reach than other Mayan ruins in Mexico. I’ve visited 3-times now, once through a combination of bus, taxi, and bicycle. Plus twice more with a rental car (it’s much easier!)
    Rental Car
    The best site to book your car is Discover Cars. They search both local and international car rental companies to help you find the best possible price. This is the easiest way to rent a car in Mexico.
    CANCUN – Calakmul is 464 km (6 hours) from Cancun by car.TULUM – The ruins are 334 km (4 hours) from Tulum by car.CAMPECHE – Calakmul is 300 km (4 hours) from Campeche by car.
    By Bus/Taxi
    The closest town to Calakmul is a small city called Xpujil. There are buses that run from Campeche and Tulum to Xpujil via the Mexican ADO Bus Service.
    Once in Xpujil, you can then hire an expensive taxi (the trip still takes an hour or so) to take you to the Calakmul ruins — they will wait while you explore for a few hours.
    Camping at Campamento Yaax Che
    Where To Stay Near Calakmul
    Because Calakmul is basically in the middle of nowhere, you’re going to need to spend a night or two nearby. The closest towns are Xpujil and Chicana. Here are some suggestions for good places to stay during your trip to Calakmul…

    Best Accommodation In Xpujil

    Camping In The Calakmul Biosphere
    If you’re up for an adventure, I highly recommend camping within the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. There are a few campgrounds located inside, and you can even rent a tent if you don’t have your own. The place I’ve stayed during all my trips is called Campamento Yaax Che.
    Just be aware that camping overnight in the jungle is a very LOUD experience! Walking around in the dark with howler monkeys screaming at you from the tree tops is something you’ll never forget…
    Jungle in All Directions…
    Tips For Visiting Calakmul
    The ancient ruins of Calakmul are HUGE. Plan to spend at least 4 hours exploring the site, if not more.
    If driving from Xpujil, first you’ll have to enter the Biosphere Reserve. From here you still have a winding hour-long drive to the ruins.
    Yes, you can climb the ruins! This is rare in Mexico these days, but I think it’s because this site gets so few tourists.
    You can hire a tour guide at the entrance for about $600 MXN pesos who will explain the history and culture of the site.
    If you go on a weekday around 8am when they first open, you may be the only ones there!

    READ MORE MEXICO TRAVEL TIPS
    I hope you enjoyed my guide to exploring the remote Calakmul Mayan Ruins! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

    Have any questions about Calakmul? What are your favorite Mayan ruins? Drop me a message in the comments below!

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    The Biltmore Estate: Visiting America’s Largest Private Home

    The Famous Biltmore Estate
    Asheville, North Carolina
    America’s largest private home is located in Asheville, North Carolina. Welcome to George Vanderbilt’s incredible Biltmore Estate! Here are some tips for visiting.
    When you think of Asheville — good craft beer, bohemian vibes, and rolling green mountains generally come to mind. It’s one of my favorite small cities in the United States.
    If you’re looking for fun things to do in Asheville, visiting the historic Biltmore Estate should be at the top of your list.
    It’s claim to fame is America’s largest privately owned mansion.
    George Vanderbilt, an heir to the Vanderbilt railroad fortune, decided to build his dream home in the Blue Ridge mountains of Asheville, and his Biltmore Estate has everything you would expect from a Gilded Age mansion.
    Sitting on 8,000 acres, this massive complex includes the 250-room Biltmore House, 75-acres of manicured gardens, the country’s most visited winery, hiking trails, restaurants, and 5-star accommodations too.
    The Biltmore is a popular tourist attraction in Asheville, but it’s easy to see why it stays busy all year long.
    Biltmore Front Lawn & Fountain
    The Vanderbilt Family
    Cornelius Vanderbilt was among the railroad tycoons that rose from rags to riches during the Gilded Age, along with the likes of John D. Rockefeller, Henry Flagler, Andrew Carnegie.
    Born in 1794, Vanderbilt joined his father’s business operating the New York ferry as a young man.
    He eventually worked his way up the ranks to become the owner of the New York Central Railroad. He would later become the wealthiest person in the United States, and the second-wealthiest person ever in US history to date.
    Building Biltmore Estate In Asheville
    His youngest grandson, George Washington Vanderbilt II, fell in love with the scenery and climate of Asheville, where he began building his summer home in 1889. He created a mountain paradise surrounded by natural forests and productive farms.
    Today, the Vanderbilt family still owns the estate. It first opened to the public during the Great Depression at the request of the City of Asheville as a way to attract tourism.
    It eventually became a National Historic Landmark in 1963 and now welcomes 1.4 million tourists annually.
    Biltmore’s Loggia (Covered Exterior Gallery)
    Fun Facts About Biltmore Estate
    The Biltmore Estate is the largest privately owned home in the United States at 178,926 square feet (16,622.8 m) of floor space. With 135,280 square feet of living area! How big is your home?
    The basement is the largest in the country and includes a heated swimming pool with underwater lighting, bowling alley, and gymnasium as well as a kitchen with living quarters for staff.
    The Biltmore was a pioneer in sustainable farming in 1895 and has long operated its farm-to-table program.
    Top Attractions At The Biltmore
    The Winter Garden Area
    The Biltmore House
    New York architect, Richard Morris Hunt, designed the home in the Châteauesque style, a revival of French Renaissance architecture known for ornaments like elaborate towers, gargoyles, spires, and steep roofs.
    The home has four floors, a bachelor’s wing, and a basement. On exhibit inside is the family’s original collection of art and furniture.
    HOURS: Open daily 10am – 4pm
    Biltmore Gardens & Grounds
    The Biltmore’s grand gardens are truly impressive, featuring thousands of ancient trees, rose bushes, and colorful blooms. Koi Fish swim in the lily ponds at the Italian Garden.
    The four-acre Shrub Garden has hundreds of ornamental ferns. The rose garden contains over 50 varieties of roses, maintained to look as it did when the Vanderbilts first built the mansion.
    HOURS: Open daily 9am to dusk.
    Hiking Trails
    The estate contains over 22 miles of hiking trails that wind along the French Broad River through woodlands and open meadows. You can explore on your own, or join one of the guided hikes. Stop by the Bike Barn or Outdoor Adventure Center for a trail map.
    Antler Hill Village
    Antler Hill Village has live entertainment, shopping, 7 restaurants, and more educational opportunities. Enjoy live music and dining, perfect for after a tour of the house.
    HOURS: Open daily 10am – 9pm
    The Winery at Antler Hill Village
    George Vanderbilt’s grandson, William Cecil, founded the estate winery in the early 1970s. Located at Antler Hill Village, the historic winery offers complimentary tastings and tours. An indoor/outdoor wine bar serves charcuterie and locally-made truffles, perfectly paired with Biltmore reds, whites, and rosés.
    HOURS:Monday – Thursday: 11am – 6pmFriday – Sunday: 11am – 8pm
    The Impressive Library…
    How Much Does It Cost?
    Biltmore entry tickets start at $67 USD and include a self-guided tour of the Biltmore House & Gardens and parking. For $76, you also get a self-guided audio tour of the house.
    $234 admission comes with a custom two-hour tour of the home conducted by an expert guide. Kids get in for $35 plus a free audio guide.
    Tips For Visiting The Biltmore
    Over 75,000 tulips bloom in the spring, colorful annuals in the summer, and mums in the fall. The rose garden is best to visit around late May.
    You can stay overnight at one of the on-site hotels: The Inn at Biltmore Estate or the Village Hotel.
    Stop by the library on your tour of the house. George Vanderbilt amassed a collection of over 22,000 books — including over 3,000 he read himself.
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