Carolina Castles Gardens & History

Apr 28 – May 5, 2009

The mystique hovering over the South beckons visitors to partake. Its genteel past, rich history and beautiful gardens draw us there to walk among the serene beauty of graceful magnolias and drink in the vivid hues of azaleas and rhododendrons. North Carolina’s balmy Southern climate has chilly winters that nurture tulips and daffodils for spectacular spring flower shows.

British explorers landed on the North Carolina coast in 1584 forging the British Empire. The state was part of our new nation, suffered the tumult of a Civil War and struggled through post-war turmoil to modern-day wonders. Some of the opulence of the area lives on in palatial estates both old and new.

Explore opulence, rich history, vistas and the spectacular spring gardens on our Carolina Castles and Gardens tour. Get a sense of its magnificent beauty and relive the prosperity and struggles of four centuries that molded this area.

Create memorable experiences as you roam beautiful gardens with other garden lovers. Round out your trip with remarkable historical sites, palatial estates, museums, excellent dining, and great photo and shopping opportunities.

Tour Highlights

  • Biltmore Estate
  • Old Salem
  • Tryon Palace
  • Sarah Duke Garden
  • Chinqua-Penn Plantation
  • North Carolina Museum of Art
  • New Bern Historic Tour
  • Reynolda Garden
  • UNC Charlotte Botanical Garden
  • JC Raulston Arboretum
  • Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
  • UNC Chapel Hill Botanical Garden

  • Day 1
    • Walk among brilliant hues of one of the most diverse rhododendron gardens in the South at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte Botanical Garden. Enjoy the pond, waterfalls, meandering paths, and rock work in the hardy plant garden. Examine carnivorous pitcher plants in their native habitat, a luxurious orchid collection and walk through desert, rich rainforest and tropical habitats in the conservatory.
  • Day 2
    • Discover the awe inspiring gardens and castle of Biltmore Estate, the palatial country retreat of the Vanderbilts. A thousand workers spent five years creating this opulent 250-room French Chateau. The works of Renoir, Sergeant, Whistler, and Durer and others adorn the walls. Dine at the estate and savor 25-acres of fabulous formal, English, Italian and statuary gardens designed by Fredrick Law Olmsted.
  • Day 3
    • Listen for whispers of the past as you roam among more than 100 restored buildings on the streets of Old Salem, founded in 1776 by the Moravians. Meticulous restoration brings this town’s buildings, orchards, gardens and landscapes to their original designs. Interact with authentic 18th-century craftsmen practicing their trades, and explore the celebrated toy museum, homes, factories, orchards, and gardens. Discover historical plantings, fascinating collections of rare antiques and unique shopping opportunities here.
    • Delight in Reynolda Gardens on the estate of tobacco magnate R.J. Reynolds. Fountains, tea-houses, and pergolas nestle among the vivid hues of azaleas, rhododendrons and spring flowers bobbing in lovely formal and natural gardens. A restored 1912 greenhouse is festooned with 2 acres of magnificent year-round beauty.
    • Walk through world art of the ages at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Ponder Egyptian funerary art, Greek and Roman sculpture, Renaissance paintings and sculpture, and African, American, and Oceanic art. Study masters – Botticelli, Raphael, van Dyck, Rubens, Canova and Monet or current artists like Copley, Eakins, Hartley, O’Keeffe, Kline, Stella, Delvaux, Moore, and Kiefer.
  • Day 4
    • Step back through the centuries at an early American castle, Tryon Palace, the first colonial capitol of North Carolina and home to the Royal Governor’s family. The palace hosted dinner and dancing for President George Washington in his colonial travels. It saw firsthand the bloodshed, sorrow and triumph of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
    • Stroll through centuries of recreated garden history on 14 acres. Brilliant tulips, daffodils and spring blooms bedeck the formal French parterre and hedge gardens of the colonies to the Victorian, natural and 20th century gardens. Something here will delight you.
    • North Carolina’s oldest settlement, the seaside town of New Bern holds three centuries of history. Board the New Bern Historic Tour trolleys to see well-preserved landmarks tucked around every corner from the Colonial days to the present.
  • Day 5
    • You’ll delight in the tranquil “garden rooms” of the JC Raulston Arboretum – a nationally acclaimed garden gem. This research garden has plants from around the world and introduces new varieties. Stroll through a white garden reminiscent of England’s Sissinghurst, spring Southern glory of perennial and mixed borders, trial gardens, serene Japanese Garden, placid water garden and more.
    • Go to the gardener’s paradise. Keen gardeners from around the world plan their vacations to visit the Juniper Level Gardens and Plant Delights Nursery featuring rare and unusual perennials, hostas and others. Juniper Level, open only four times a year, is filled with unusual treasures and the nursery is jam-packed with an amazing array of perennials to satisfy even the most jaded gardener.  Plant Delights has been featured in 19 different magazines and numerous television shows.
  • Day 6
    • Savor Duke University Chapel’s stately stained glass windows and the picturesque grounds of this famous university.
    • Sarah Duke Garden is the crown jewel of DukeUniversity, renowned both for landscape design and horticulture quality. Be drawn into the dramatic vistas of azaleas, camellias, dogwoods, crabapples, daffodils, irises, Magnolias, hyacinth, wisteria, and wildflowers. Find brilliant spring blooms gracing the terrace garden, delightful surprises in the Water Lily Garden and ramble through the colorful and peaceful Asiatic arboretum.
  • Day 7
    • The palatial Chinqua-Penn Plantation, featured on A&E’s America’s Castles, is acclaimed as an architectural American treasure and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Explore this modern-day plantation’s 27-room English countryside mansion filled with elaborate furnishings and eclectic decorative arts like the replica of King Tut’s chair from the Penns’ world travels.
    • Stroll through 22 acres of mixed English country style formal and informal gardens featuring bright spring blooms landscaping a full-size Chinese pagoda, clock tower, greenhouse and statuary from around the world.  Look over an exquisite fountain from the Gardens at Versailles festooned with gorgeous spring tulips, ranunculas and more.
    • Visit the personal garden of celebrated garden designer and writer, Elizabeth Lawrence. Her inspiring garden and writings rank with those of British writers Gertrude Jekyll and Vita Sackville-West.
    • Stroll the brick paths of Wing Haven garden and bird sanctuary, to see its lovely vistas, beautiful trees, flowers, statuary, shrubs, woods and fountains.
      Mingle with your garden traveling friends at our delicious Farewell Dinner and indulge in good food, good friends and good company.
  • Day 8
    • Bask in the best of Southern horticulture at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden – a wonderful finish to a delightful eight-day tour. Walk through nature preserve and showcase on 110 acres during its spectacular spring show. Amble through 10 acres of manicured, themed gardens like the year-round Four Seasons Garden, the tropically-themed Canal Garden, and four distinct Perennial Gardens (chock-full of ideas for home gardens), the nostalgic Cottage Garden, the fragrant Conifer Garden, the Encore Azalea spring and fall blooming Garden and stately West Gardens. Enjoy 12 delightful fountains, the Orchid Conservatory, and woodland trail.
  • Tour Includes: Airfare, luxury coach transport, tips, fees, taxes, excellent lodging, admissions to tour sites, 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches and 2 dinners on this escorted tour.