I recently spent a fall weekend escaping the beaches of South Carolina for the mountains of North Carolina… and loved every second. My friend Sam rented a cabin outside of Asheville for her 25th birthday and invited TEN of us! The house came equipped with bunk beds, a pool table, and a hot tub, so it was quite the weekend. Highlights also included brewery hopping around downtown Asheville, shopping, trying out well-known coffee shops, and of course – visiting the Biltmore Estate. A fall weekend in Asheville has been on my list of years now, but visiting the Biltmore Estate has been at the top of my US bucket list for as long as I can remember. This blog post includes my top tips to help make your visit to the Biltmore Estate the absolute best it can be, including FAQs, and providing a few must-see’s for downtown Asheville.
Disclaimer: This blog post was written in collaboration with the Biltmore Estate (someone pinch me). Please read this entire post and the FAQs at the end to best prepare for your own visit! As always, all opinions written here are my own.
What Is The Biltmore Estate?
Let’s start here. Unless you keep up with the historic homes of America or are from the area, you may not be familiar with the Biltmore Estate. Allow me to educate you… first and most important, the Biltmore Estate is the largest private home in America. It was built by famed architect Richard Morris Hunt for the Vanderbilt family beginning in 1889 and first opened to family and friends on Christmas Eve 1895. For this reason, the Estate goes all out for the holiday season each year – decking its halls with ornate décor, hosting musicians to serenade guests with cheery carols, and offering magical candle-lit evening experiences. The Biltmore House is the crown jewel of the Estate, although the entire property is 8,000 acres in size.
History Of The Biltmore
After 35 years of living in the home privately, the Vanderbilt family, under the direction of Cornelia Vanderbilt and her husband, decided to open the house to public tourism. This decision came at the peak of the Great Depression, and has been a driving force of Asheville’s tourism draw since.
An inside tour of the House is an absolute must during your visit, but there’s also the Biltmore Gardens, shops in the old stables, Antler Hill Village, which contains most of the property’s restaurants, shops, and hotels, and even a winery. The grounds are equally impressive as the home as they were intricately designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same man who designed Central Park.
The Biltmore House itself is massive, and absolutely enchanting with its French chateau-like architecture and Blue Ridge mountain backdrop. Inside, there are 250+ rooms, 35 of which are bedrooms and 44 bathrooms. There are even 65 fireplaces spread throughout, with the largest, most grand one you’ll probably ever see in the 70-foot tall Banquet Hall. The home also houses magnificent 16th century tapestries, a library with over 10,000 books, and the real hidden gem – an indoor pool and bowling alley on the lower floor!
How To Visit The Biltmore Estate
As impressive as the Estate is, it’s also quite costly to visit. If you’re looking to visit the inside of the home, which you absolutely should, you’ll need to reserve tickets ahead of time. The Biltmore is open 365 days a year but tour times vary depending on the season. If you’re looking to visit the winery after your House tour, you’ll also need a reservation.
Pro-tip: The Biltmore Winery is currently not accepting advanced reservations. You’ll have to reserve your tasting slot the DAY OF!
In terms of ticket prices, tickets are the most expensive during the holiday season, which is the Biltmore’s true time to shine. Day passes start at $99 during this time. During the fall, it’s still peak tourist season due to Asheville’s foliage so tickets begin at $89. If you’re looking to visit the Biltmore during the off-season (mid-Jan – late March), you can expect to pay around $70 for a ticket.
Audio Guided Tour
My number one tip here is to pay the extra $$$ for the Audio Guide. Normally I pass on these if they cost extra so I can truly go at my own pace and see what I want to see, but this audio guide was essential. It also wasn’t too long at all! It probably took me about 1.5 hours to see the whole house and learn loads of information. The third option is to take a formal tour with a professional guide, but this will cost you hundreds of dollars.
The Audio Guide visit also includes access to all the grounds and gardens, Antler Hill Village, and importantly – comes with a complimentary wine tasting. Just be sure to reserve a time slot! There’s a cheaper ticket for $65-$85 that includes access to just the grounds, but you would really be missing out if you didn’t tour the inside of the home! Aside from Versailles in Paris, this was the most impressive home I’ve seen, and definitely the most impressive I’ve ever seen in the US, so be sure to do the full tour!
Things To Do While Visiting The Biltmore Estate
There are SO many things to do within the Biltmore Estate itself, never mind the entire city of Asheville, you could easily spend a full day here. Here are 5 activities to do around the property while visiting the Biltmore Estate:
1. Tour The Biltmore House
As mentioned above, this Estate is one of the most exquisite I’ve ever seen. Touring the inside of the home is an absolute must to see the views of the Blue Ridge mountains from the loggia and terraces, the library, the indoor swimming pool, and of course – the bowling alley.
2. Explore The Biltmore Gardens
Don’t skip over the gardens! As impressive as the home is, it’s the grounds and unobstructed views that really brought the Vanderbilt family to this area. There’s also a Conservatory here that was completed in 1895. Its beautiful plants, natural light, and delicate architecture make it a true gem.
3. Enjoy Antler Hill Village
This part of the Estate should not be missed – there’s a farming village, historic barn, park, winery, shops, restaurants, and several hotels. Two of the most popular restaurants here are Cedric’s Tavern and the Creamery for coffee and ice cream.
4. Do A Wine Tasting
Another can’t miss activity to take advantage of during your visit to the Biltmore Estate is the complimentary wine tasting! Every Biltmore House tour ticket comes with a complimentary tasting at the Biltmore Winery. Be sure to book your reservation ahead of time to come during your visit to the Biltmore Estate.
5. Browse The Shops
The last activity I highly recommend taking advantage of during your visit to the Biltmore Estate is a little shopping! Antler Hill is a common place to browse around and hang out, but I really recommend checking out the shops in the stables next to the home. Here you’ll find an old-fashioned toy store, bakery, book shop, and several Christmas stores. As mentioned above, the Biltmore Estate goes all out for the holidays, and they sell stunning décor year-round, so be sure to pick up an ornament or two during your trip like I did!
Visiting The Biltmore Estate: FAQs
How long does it take to tour the Biltmore?
The guided audio tour throughout the Biltmore House takes about 90 minutes to complete. However, if you factor in the gardens, some shopping or food by the stables, photos, and the ~10 minute walk from the parking lot, it can take up to 3-4 hours. If you also visit Antler Hill Village and the winery, a visit to the Biltmore Estate could easily take the entire day. I would plan one full day for your visit to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville.
Can you stay at the Estate?
Yes, but not in the House! The Biltmore House is still the largest privately owned home in America, so visitors are not allowed to spend the night here. There are a few hotels on the property though, near the Antler Hill Village, including the Village Hotel, the Inn, and the Cottages.
Are the grounds pet-friendly?
It may come at no surprise that the Biltmore House itself is NOT pet-friendly, however a lot of the grounds are! Bring your pup to Antler Hill.
Is the Estate accessible?
Not entirely. Only the first and second floors of the home are accessible to wheelchairs and strollers due to the historic architecture. Unfortunately, the third floor and basement are pretty unreachable.
What address should I use for arrival?
The Biltmore Estate is so large, directions here can be a bit confusing. Plug “1 Lodge Street” into your GPS and follow the 3 mile road throughout the grounds to the parking lots near the Home.
What’s the parking situation?
Speaking of parking, there’s spots for guests in Lots A & B. There is no complimentary transportation around the property, and due to its vast size, a car is recommended. There is a shuttle service, but it costs $15 / person for visitors over the age of 9.
Do you need a Biltmore House reservation?
Yes, be sure to purchase a ticket for your reservation online and in advance. You’ll be able to check-in for your audio tour about 15-20 minutes before your allocated time slot!
Additional Asheville, North Carolina Recommendations
Downtown Asheville, North Carolina is so charming with its art galleries, coffee shops, and breweries. Spend your time browsing major roads like Broadway Street, North Lexington Ave, and College Street in the city. I only spent a few hours here since we stayed in a cabin pretty far into the mountains, but if you’d like to explore the city in depth – definitely stay downtown!
Where To Eat In Asheville, NC
We ate most of meals near the cabin during our weekend in Asheville, but I do have one fabulous recommendation right downtown – it’s the Times Bar and S&W Market. The S&W Market is one of the top 10 best food halls in the US and is located right downtown. It has tacos, fried chicken, ice cream – you name it. The Times Bar is located right next door and is a fantastic craft cocktail bar and coffee shop. I recommend their mimosa or espresso martini!
Coffee Shops In Asheville, NC
As for coffee shops, I have two recommendations: Old Europe Coffee and Double D’s Coffee & Desserts. Old Europe Coffee is the most popular in town. There’s no seating here, but you can expect to find quick service lattes to-go and some of the best pastries you’ll ever have. There will probably be a line outside since only one party is allowed in the shop at once (it’s tiny!), but I promise it’s worth the wait. Double D’s is actually a double decker bus with an adjacent patio.
Pro-tip: It’s cash only so hit an ATM ahead of time.
Breweries In Asheville, NC
The other popular thing to do downtown is to go brewery hopping! There are so many in Asheville. Head to the Buxton Ave. area and you’ll find the majority of them. The most famous spots include Wicked Weed and the Asheville Brewing Company, although we loved Burial and Ben’s Tune Up too!
Visit Chimney Rock, NC
If you head about 45 minutes outside of downtown towards Black Mountain, you’ll hit Lake Lure and the quaint town of Chimney Rock, North Carolina. If outdoor recreation is your jam, you should definitely spend some time in this area. I recommend about a half day at Chimney Rock State Park. We did two small hikes here – the 1.5 mile loop from the Visitor’s Center down to Hickory Nut Falls and then the ~1 mile climb up to Chimney Rock itself for the lookout. There’s an elevator you can take down here if you don’t want to brace the stairs again – or up, if you don’t want to brace the stairs at all.
Pro-tip: One-day admission into the park will cost you $17 for adults and $8 for kids.
That’s just about every detail I can possibly give for visiting the Biltmore Estate and Asheville, North Carolina! As mentioned above, this was the perfect weekend trip, especially during the fall season. I’m already looking forward to visiting the Biltmore again during the holiday season, and I hope you get a chance to enjoy visiting the Biltmore Estate as well.
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