By Carol L. Timblin
Fans of Downton Abbey can’t seem to get enough of the public television hit series that enthralled viewers for six seasons. It’s the highest rated PBS drama series of all time, winner of three Golden Globes and four Screen Actors Guild Awards, among others.
Film and Festivity
Starting in September, fans flocked to theaters around the globe to see Downton Abbey, a two-hour feature starring many of the same actors who appeared in the television series. The film revolves around the king and queen’s overnight visit to Downton Abbey (actually Highclere Castle) and all the preparations the Crawley family and their staff have to complete before their arrival.
“Downton Abbey: The Exhibition” opens at Biltmore in Asheville on Nov. 8, 2019 for a limited engagement. It will run through Apr. 7, 2020. The exhibit coincides with the annual “Christmas at Biltmore” (Nov. 1, 2019-Jan. 5, 2020). The 250-room house is decorated with live greenery and 62 Christmas trees, while musical groups fill the halls with holiday songs, the winery and shops in Antler Hill Village are outlined in festive lights and Biltmore restaurants offer holiday cuisine.
The immersive exhibition provides an inside look at the Crawley family and their staff in the post-Edwardian era. During that time, major historical events like World War I were shaping the world. The exhibition is located in two areas on the estate. Biltmore’s Amherst at Deerpark features multimedia elements. It also includes the most recognizable sets and items from the film that reflect the social history, culture and memorable events of those times. The Biltmore Legacy provides an up-close look at more than 50 of the costumes worn by Downton Abbey actors, including Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Crawley), Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham) and Dame Maggie Smith (Violet Crawley).
Produced by NBCUniversal International Studios and Imagine Exhibitions, the acclaimed exhibition made its debut in New York in late 2017 and was described by the New York Times as “a cleverly immersive experience mounted with the same exacting care as the show itself.”
“There are many parallels between Downton Abbey and Biltmore’s real-life story of the Vanderbilt family, their friends and staff,” says Travis Tatham, director of entertainment and event programming at Biltmore. “We know the world of Downton Abbey really resonates with our guests. With ‘Downton Abbey: The Exhibition,’ we’re excited to provide a new, interactive experience unlike any we have had at Biltmore.”
“The beautiful estate, with all of its treasures, will provide the perfect backdrop for our exhibition, which we are sure will hold fascinating appeal to Biltmore members and visitors,” adds Dominic Burns, SVP, Brand Management, NBCU.
Biltmore was the vision of George W. Vanderbilt, and designed by American architect Richard Morris Hunt. It includes elaborate gardens by Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture. After the 250-room French Renaissance chateau was completed in 1895, the Vanderbilt family celebrated Christmas in their new home. It’s open to the public year round. The 8,000-acre estate also includes Biltmore Winery and Antler Hill Village offering dining, entertainment and shopping, plus a plethora of activities such as spa services.
AAA Members receive a discount on single day admission. Reservations to tour the Biltmore are recommended during the holidays. Purchase your tickets at your nearest AAA Travel office.
Current Biltmore Hotel packages revolve around Christmas and New Year’s and include tours of the estate and admission to the exhibition.
Read more about Christmas at Biltmore: