Orchids (and wine) at America’s Downtown Abbey.
The 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., attracts nearly 1 million tourists annually with its awe-inspiring architecture and breathtaking grounds and gardens. Though the property swarms with tourists in the spring and summer, winter’s crisp days cause arrivals to slow to a trickle. But for a certain subset of plant lovers, the off-season is the best time to visit. The lack of crowds, the quieter surroundings and the chance for more detailed exploration all make for an entirely different experience than in the warmer months. The century-old conservatory is filled with thousands of tropical plants, including orchids on a shopping list compiled by George Vanderbilt in 1894. On weekdays at 11 a.m. through March 19, resident experts are providing no-cost introductions to the various species of orchids in bloom—along with growing tips and general care advice—and discussing such topics as the history of orchid cultivation, Biltmore’s heritage orchids and insights into the conservatory itself. In addition to discussions of all things orchid, Biltmore encourages visitors to warm up at its winery with free afternoon guided tours of the production facility and complimentary wine tastings. Biltmore.com.