Just about anyone touring Western North Carolina or Asheville has a stop at the Biltmore Estate on their bucket list. With an admission price rivaling large theme parks, take a moment and read through this guide for your visit to the Biltmore Estate. The Vanderbilt Mansion and grounds are worth every penny, especially if you plan your visit in advance.
What makes the Biltmore Estate so popular? It is America’s largest home, with over 4 acres of floor space and 8,000 acres total. It is a 250-room French Renaissance chateau with 75 acres of gardens, the nation’s most-visited winery, shopping, dining, and hiking and biking trails.
A Quick History of the Biltmore
George Washington Vanderbilt II, the grandson of the famous Cornelius Vanderbilt, became enamored of the Asheville area after visits with his mother and decided to build a summer home. He purchased 700 parcels of land, which totaled approximately 125,000 acres, and began construction in 1889. Vanderbilt engaged the famous architect Richard Morris Hunt to design the mansion and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted the grounds.
Vanderbilt planned to make the property self-sustaining, so he created a village with cottages, a post office, shops, a school, and a church. There were also poultry, cattle, hog, and dairy farms. The Estate opened on Christmas Eve in 1895. Vanderbilts and their descendants lived at the property until the 1950s. The Biltmore was initially opened to the public in 1930 during the Depression but closed during WW2. During the war, dozens of paintings and sculptures were moved from the National Gallery in Washington DC to the Music Room of the Biltmore to protect them in the event of an attack.
When Vanderbilt died unexpectedly in 1914, his widow, stressed with the expenses of running the large property and the recently passed income tax, sold 87,000 acres to the federal government, becoming the heart of the Pisgah National Forest. The Biltmore remains privately owned by the descendants of George Washington Vanderbilt II. For a complete and fascinating history of the Biltmore, read Denise Kiernan’s NYTimes bestseller, “The Last Castle.”
Tickets and Logistics
You need a vehicle at the Biltmore, the distance from the front gate to the mansion is 3 miles. You cannot enter the property without purchasing a ticket. Rates vary by season, with the lowest rates from January to March.
- Buy your tickets in advance. You will save up to $8 by purchasing at least a week in advance. Details may vary by season. There are senior discounts on dates midweek and military discounts.
- Note that the time on your ticket is your entry to the house, NOT your entry to the grounds. If you arrive right at the opening time, there will be a line, but it will move quickly—plan on having your bag checked with a metal detector.
- Ticket choices include:
- Gardens and Grounds ($70 – $100) includes complimentary wine tasting, parking, access to Winery, Antler Hill Village, and daytime access to gardens and grounds.
- Audio-guided Visit ($79 – $109) includes everything in the Gardens and Grounds AND a daytime visit to the Mansion with an audio guide.
- Audio-guided Visit Plus ($109 – $139) includes everything in Audio-guided Visit PLUS access to the multi-sensory exhibition and free next-day access to the gardens and ground.
- Expert Guided Visit Plus ($344 – $374) includes everything in Audio-Plus Visit and a 90-minute Group Tour.
- These options may change with the season, particularly from November through January, when Evening Candlelight Tours are also available.
- If you plan on visiting the Biltmore more than twice a year, consider purchasing an annual pass. If you work out the numbers, it is worth it.
The Biltmore is open 365 days a year. The House is usually open 9 am – 5 pm for tours (except for Candlelight Tours, as noted). Hours at other properties vary.
Make sure you wear comfortable shoes; you will be doing a lot of walking!
For GPS, use 1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803.
Suggestions on How to Plan Your Day
What’s the best time to visit? First, plan to spend at least one day at the Estate. Set up your House Tour for mid-morning or early afternoon. You can savor the entrance drive to the Estate and pretend you are one of the esteemed guests who have traveled this road over the past 125 years.
Get the car parked in one of the several parking areas and walk about 10 minutes to the House. If you have chosen an early afternoon tour, spend some time wandering around the gardens. The audio tour takes about 1 – 1.5 hours. Plan on spending equal time in the garden and the conservatory. Do make lunch reservations ahead of time! We suggest the Stable Cafe if you want to dine closer to the Mansion (who doesn’t want to eat in a converted horse stall!). If you are headed out to Antler Hill Village, then, depending on your taste, Cedric’s Tavern (named for Vanderbilt’s beloved St. Bernard) or the Smokehouse Food Truck.
In the afternoon, take advantage of your wine tasting at the Biltmore Winery (remember, it was part of your ticket package). The tasting does have to be reserved in advance, and the reservation can only be made on the day of your visit. Allot about an hour at the Winery. Then, spend some time shopping around Antler Hill Village. Visit the Farmyard and the animals.
Highlights of The Mansion
So you are ready to tour the mansion! Use the restroom BEFORE your tour; it will last about an hour and a half, and there are no opportunities during the tour. The audio tour that is part of the regular day passes gets high ratings for being both informative and entertaining.
You will see three floors and over thirty rooms during your tour. These will include all of the sitting rooms and dining rooms. Of particular note are:
The Grand Banquet Hall: Here is where the 35-foot live tree is brought in and decorated for Christmas (along with more than 100 hand-decorated trees throughout the estate). When it is not the holiday season, the star of the room is the 70-foot ceiling, triple fireplace, and pipe organ.
The Loggia: Get out your cameras for a spectacular panoramic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains from this balcony outside of the Library.
The Library: An avid reader, George Vanderbilt kept track of all the books he read since he was 12. The library includes all the volumes he read, along with the antiquarian books in the library (the oldest being a 1561 Italian work). Once he finished reading a book, he would send it to a bookbinder to be bound in Moroccan leather with gilt lettering.
The Indoor Swimming Pool: Although the 10-foot deep pool is now empty, you can imagine the guests who enjoyed themselves in 70,000 gallons of water. This is one of the areas of the house that sees visitations from guests of long ago.
Of course, you also enjoy seeing the Vanderbilts’ bedrooms, the laundry, and the butler’s pantry.
Wandering The Gardens
After the wonders of the House, don’t skimp on the grounds! Frederick Law Olmstead’s landscape philosophy was that spending time in nature is good for health and well-being. He was a master of making an environment affect the subconscious positively. His genius helped create an environment at the Biltmore that was perfect for entertaining guests outdoors in a variety of pursuits: fishing, hunting, riding, and camping.
Many of these gardens are at their best display in spring, when the Biltmore celebrates Biltmore in Bloom.
Library and South Terraces are great places for engagement and wedding pictures or just spectacular views and selfies. There are places to sit down and enjoy a snack or drink.
Italian Gardens are formal water gardens where three ponds are filled with goldfish and koi.
Shrub Garden is a walking path featuring several types of large deciduous trees.
Spring Garden is another walking path with evergreen trees like hemlock, pines, and blooming shrubs.
The Conservatory is a large glass-roofed building full of exotic plants. There is also space for small gatherings.
Azalea Garden is fifteen acres of one of the largest displays of native azaleas in the country. It was not part of the original plan for the Biltmore but was a passion of Chauncey Beadle, a horticulturist hired to work at the Biltmore and who eventually became the estate superintendent.
Walled Garden features two arbors and seasonal plantings like tulips in the spring and chrysanthemums in the fall. This space can also be used as a wedding venue.
Rose Garden is another perfect backdrop for engagement photos. Gorgeous roses; what could be better?
Bass Pond and Boat House are considered one of the hidden gems of the Biltmore Estate. You will find it by walking (downhill on the way) through the Azalea Garden. The Pond was built to create an area (6 acres) for boating and fishing. It was created by damming a creek and enlarging the millpond.
Stop in at The Biltmore Estate Winery
Your day pass includes a free tasting at the Winery, but you will need a reservation for that tasting, which can only be made on the same day. The winery was begun in 1985 by George Vanderbilt’s grandson, and they serve wine made from vineyards on the estate.
If you would like more wine after the sampling, a Wine Bar and a Wine Shop are nearby. Although many of the vintages are available outside of the estate, the black label wines are only available on the property. Acclaimed varietals to consider are Rieslings, Chenin Blancs, and Gewurztraminer. A tasty Christmas Red is also available at certain times of the year. If you love our local wines, plan a day away from the estate to try others.
End Your Day at Antler Hill Village
Antler Hill Village is the manifestation of George Vanderbilt’s farming legacy, with opportunities for learning, shopping, dining, and exhibits. Visit the Barn with demonstrations of blacksmiths, woodworkers, and other craftspeople of the 1890s.
Should I Take a Guided Tour?
The Biltmore Estate offers a number of specialized guided tours that change seasonally. They are varied and include:
- Rooftop Tour at the House
- Backstairs Tour at the House
- Behind the Scenes Winery Tour
- Red Wine and Chocolate Tasting
- Guided Bicycle Tours
Depending on your schedule and your personal preferences, these are a special addition to an already amazing visit.
Exhibitions and Seasonal Events
The Biltmore also offers special art exhibitions, which may or may not be included with your ticket, and seasonal events, like outdoor concerts, Fireside Feasts, and Fall and Christmas special tours.
Relax in a Natural Setting after your Visit
Wildberry Lodge loves being just a dozen miles from the Biltmore Estate. We hope this guide to your visit to the Biltmore Estate helps you appreciate its true elegance in the middle of the mountains. It’s easy to believe it was modeled after castles, and the grandeur speaks to what gave the Gilded Age its name. It’s well worth putting on your to-do list, but at Biltmore, there’s always more, and once you have visited once, you will want to return.
While Biltmore is a must-see, Wildberry Lodge is a must-stay. Biltmore Estate provides unparalleled manmade beauty, but Wildberry Lodge is in one of the most beautiful settings that nature can provide. With unparalleled views, we also provide personal attention in a rustic yet luxurious setting; our amenities help you relax and refresh. And an important part of the hospitality here is the gourmet breakfast that prepares you for a day at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, discovering hiking trails, or any other adventure you seek. Reserve your stay with us now!