Downton Abbey: The Exhibition

Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, brings its past to life with the help of the PBS Masterpiece hit.

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Dressing Downton

Editor’s Note: In 2015, Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina exhibited “Dressing Downton.” A new Downton Abbey-focused exhibit, “Downton Abbey: The Exhibition” was announced today and is scheduled for November 2019-April 2020. We’re publishing the press release about the new exhibit so you can plan to attend, followed by our write-up of the previous exhibit since it may give you an idea of what to expect.

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition” will open at Biltmore in Asheville, N.C. on November 8, 2019 for a limited engagement through April 7, 2020. This immersive exhibition will feature set recreations, costumes and exclusive multimedia elements, providing a chance to step inside the world of Carnival Films’ global television phenomenon and highly anticipated feature film, which will hit the big screen on September 20, 2019 in the U.S.

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition

Showcased in two locations at Biltmore, the exhibition offers an incredible journey through the grand home of Downton Abbey, providing an inside look into the world of the Crawleys and those who served them downstairs. It will also provide a fascinating look at all aspects of the post-Edwardian era in which the TV series is set, and offer in-depth insight into the remarkable events that shaped the world, such as World War I. At Biltmore’s Amherst, never-before-seen multimedia elements and the series’ most recognizable sets and artifacts offer an immersive experience in the social history, culture and memorable moments from the show. At Biltmore Legacy, guests will get an up-close look at more than 50 of the show’s costumes that were worn by their favorite actors including Michelle Dockery, Hugh Bonneville, and Dame Maggie Smith.

“Downton Abbey: The Exhibition” is produced by NBCUniversal International Studios and Imagine Exhibitions. Biltmore marks the fourth stop on the exhibition’s U.S. tour, which has received wide critical acclaim. The exhibition made its U.S. debut in New York City in November 2017, where it was hailed by the New York Times as, “a cleverly immersive experience mounted with the same exacting care as the show itself.” Following its debut, the exhibition completed a stop in West Palm Beach and is currently residing in Boston at The Castle at Park Plaza.

“There are many parallels between Downton Abbey and Biltmore’s real-life story of the Vanderbilt family, their friends and staff. 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,” said Travis Tatham, Biltmore director of entertainment and event programming.

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition

Dressing Downton

By Hope S. Philbrick – originally published March 19, 2015

Attention all Downton Abbey fans: Get thee to Biltmore Estate!

The special “Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times” exhibit, which runs through May 25, 2015, places 45 costumes from the popular Masterpiece series throughout Biltmore Estate.

Historic homes, including Biltmore Estate, can be tough nuts to crack. Sure, it’s fun to look around, admire the architecture, antiques and décor, envy the lifestyles of the rich and famous, but when tour guides ramble on with factoids about the people who once occupied the place, it can be challenging to absorb all the information. So, while I’ve heard the Vanderbilt name, during past visits to Biltmore Estate it was difficult to really feel like I got to “know” its previous owners during the visit. It was too easy to get distracted by the glitz and glamour of America’s largest home.

Dressing Downton“Dressing Downton” changes that.

If, like me, you’re a fan of the show, you know the who’s who: Beryl Patmore, Lady Mary, Daisy, Lord Grantham, Matthew (RIP), Mr. Carson, and the whole gang.

By relating the fictional characters we “know” to some real-life counterparts we don’t, the whole place is made much more easily accessible. (And the realizations flow both ways: After exhausting yourself walking from one end of the huge home to another, up and down what feels like 250 stairs, you can start to appreciate why the Crawleys need so many servants.)

Plus it’s interesting to observe—via the costumes they wore—which actors and actresses are taller than you might think, more slender than you imagined, and so on.

“Dressing Downton” puts TV show costumes on display throughout the historic mansion in settings that help convey real life at Biltmore. What’s more, from servants’ uniforms to lavish evening gowns, the award-winning costumes reflect how world events—the sinking of Titanic, World War I, the Jazz Age, and the evolving roles of women—influenced fashions.

Biltmore House strikingly resembles Highclere Castle where the series is filmed, making it easier to imagine how the Vanderbilts and their employees lived a century ago. “The day-to-day running of Biltmore House was surprisingly similar to that of Downton Abbey,” said Ellen Rickman, Director of Museum Services. “Just like Downton has Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, Biltmore had its own cast of fascinating characters. Displaying these fabulous costumes from the show gives us an unparalleled opportunity to delve into Biltmore’s stories.”

It works because elements of the fictional TV series and the real lives of the Vanderbilts who lived in Biltmore House occur during the same early 20th century era. (Biltmore Estate was first occupied in 1895.)

Dressing DowntonDressing Downton

Dressing DowntonDressing Downton
Upstairs/Downstairs Tour…

The Upstairs/Downstairs tour is a guided tour that offers insights into life at Biltmore as well as peeks into areas not readily accessible during the self-guided tour that further illuminate life at Biltmore Estate by relating it to Downton Abbey.

The 60-minute tour descends the back stairs to explore servant life at Biltmore. You’ll see how staff members kept the home running, learn whether Biltmore’s equivalent of “Carson” or “Mrs. Hughes” really made the decisions, what ladies really thought of their maids, see the china collection, peek inside a menu planning book, and much more.

As with the fictional “Downton Abbey,” “Romance was always a big part of Biltmore right from Day One,” said tour guide Jack Boyle. “And the Vanderbilts were involved in the lives of their servants, they weren’t ‘just’ employees.”

@21plusTravel Tip: Come prepared to walk—many stairs are involved in this tour and there’s no elevator alternative available.

Odds of Encountering Children: Inevitable. For the best odds, visit during the week when school is in session.

Where To Stay…

DoubleTree by Hilton Asheville-Biltmore is offering a special package now through May 25 for Downton fans.

The hotel is clean, comfortable, and conveniently located blocks from Biltmore Estate. Guestrooms are spacious, you’ll be able to control the room temperature with the touch of a button, and beds are cozy. Best of all: staff members will care for you as much as Anna does Lady Mary.

Essentials…

  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Free parking
  • Non-smoking
  • Pet friendly
  • Indoor pool and attached hot tub with retractable sky light
  • Fitness center
  • In-room coffee maker with basic supplies
  • Ducker Tea Room offers full-service hot buffet breakfast daily for $11.95/adult
  • In room dining available 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily
  • TJI Friday’s restaurant is attached to the hotel
  • Odds of Encountering Children: Varies. Visit during the week when school is in session and you’ll most likely encounter business travelers.

DoubleTree by Hilton Asheville-Biltmore
115 Hendersonville Rd.
Asheville, NC 28803
828.274.1800

More Information…

“Dressing Downton” is included with estate admission. The Upstairs/Downtstairs tour costs an additional $17. Buy tickets.

Biltmore EstateBiltmore Estate
1 Lodge Street
Asheville NC 28803
800.543.2961
Biltmore was the vision of George W. Vanderbilt. Designed by Richard Morris Hunt, the 250-room French Renaissance chateau now exhibits the Vanderbilt family’s original collection of furnishings, art and antiques. The estate encompasses more than 8,000 acres including gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Today, Biltmore has grown to include Antler Hill Village, which features an award-winning Winery and much more.

@21plusTravel Tip: After you tour Biltmore Estate, visit Antler Village for free wine tastings.

Explore Asheville

Visit North Carolina

– “Downton Abbey: The Exhibition” photos courtesy Biltmore; “Dressing Downton” photos courtesy Pineapple Public Relations for Biltmore; Biltmore exterior © HSP Media LLC

Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.

Hope S. Philbrick is founder and editor-in-chief of Getaways for Grownups. She became a freelance writer and editor because she believes that work and fun should not be mutually exclusive. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications nationwide. When not writing, she can usually be found on the road or savoring something tasty.

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