LAST UPDATED January 7, 2020
Asheville, North Carolina is a perfect combination of elegance and cool. It’s refreshing and funky arts and food scene is the epitome of cool. The epicenter of its elegance is the Biltmore Estate.
Located in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina, the Biltmore Estate is straight out of an Edith Wharton novel. It is amazing to see what the Gilded Age rendered in the “Summer houses” of the wealthy. George Washington Vanderbilt ( yes, those Vanderbilts ) began construction of the Biltmore Estate in 1889. On Christmas Eve 1895, the Vanderbilt’s opened the lavish estate to family and friends from around the country.
During the construction phase, a woodworking factory and a brick kiln were both built on the property. Additionally, a three-mile railroad track was constructed to bring the many materials onto the site. Construction on the main house included the labor of 1,000 workers and 60 stonemasons. George Vanderbilt went on numerous trips to Europe to purchase items for the house while being built.
After the enactment of income taxes, George Vanderbilt began the process of selling 87,000 acres of his property to the Federal Government. Although he unexpectedly passed away, his widow Edith saw to it that the sale (including the stipulation that the land would go unaltered) went through creating what would be become the Pisgah National Forest. By the time the Great Depression hit, George & Edith’s daughter Cornelia opened Biltmore Estate to the public in March 1930. Today, it still remains with the family and is the largest privately owned home in the United States.
Tips For Visiting Biltmore Estate
- Buy your tickets in advance. You can buy the day of, but you risk all tours that day being sold-out especially in the summer months. If you print your tickets at home, you won’t need to stop at the ticket office on the way in, saving you more time. Also, purchasing in advance will give you a discount on tickets. During the busy Summer season, Biltmore Estate has reservation only days. Check their website to make sure you purchase tickets beforehand if you plan to visit on one of those days. Click HERE for ticket info
- It is a self-guided tour through the house, but you can opt for getting an audio guide. In particular, if this is your first visit, having the audio guide to tell you about each room will enhance your visit.
- Allow enough time to take the tour of the house and to visit the gardens. If you visit in early Spring, the tulips are beautiful!
- Visiting during the Holiday season is extra special! While the outdoor gardens are pretty dormant during this time, inside Biltmore is a magical wonderland that will amaze you!! Plus, it won’t be hot and it isn’t quite as busy. The Candlelight Christmas Evening at Biltmore is particularly special.
- General admission tickets include access to the Biltmore House, Gardens, Winery, and Antler Hill Village.
- For those over 21, enjoy visiting the winery and try some of their delicious blends. It’s very kid-friendly and they have grape juice to offer your kiddos.
- If you would like to add a little extra to your visit, you can buy tickets for a Rooftop Tour or the Premium House Tour. With both tours, you’ll get to see parts of the home not available to general admission ticket holders. We did not partake in the Rooftop Tour, but we have heard it’s worth the extra money.
- Biltmore Estate has park and walk lots and park and ride lots. We opted for the park and walk lot. It’s about a 10-minute walk through a lovely nature trail to the estate from the parking lot. If there are people in your party that may have a hard time with mobility, choose the park and ride lot option. A free shuttle will pick you up and drop you off at the front of the estate
Inside Biltmore Estate
The nice thing about a self-guided tour is that you can go through as fast or as slow as you like. Each room is a marvel! With most of the furnishings and decorations being original, one really gets to feel like it was when the Vanderbilt’s lived there. While the opulence is remarkable, the home feels warm and inviting.
One of the most surprising and fascinating rooms in the house is the basement. There you will find the walls painted with Halloween like characters. Oddly, the room was painted for a gypsy-themed New Year’s Eve party in 1925.
The estate has 250 rooms including multiple kitchens, floral room, indoor swimming pool and a bowling alley. Biltmore also has 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces!
One of the most impressive rooms is the banquet hall which has a massive triple fireplace and a pipe organ. The huge dining table seats 38 and the tapestries are from the 1500s.
The library is my favorite room! Impressively, George Vanderbilt read an average of 81 books per year. The two-story library holds just some of Vanderbilt’s massive collection of books and also contains a gorgeous black marble fireplace.
During World War II Biltmore Estate was closed and in 1942, painting and sculptures were moved from the National Gallery in Washington D.C. to Biltmore to protect them in the event of an attack on the United States. In 1963 Biltmore Estate was designated a National Historic Landmark and has over 1 million visitors a year.
Christmas at Biltmore Estate is very special! It’s beautifully decorated and there are over 30,000 Christmas lights and 150 candles that light up the interior of Biltmore. Over 75 Christmas trees fill the home including the massive Fir tree that is placed in the banquet hall.
BONUS: Downton Abbey – The Exhibition is included with daytime tickets. The exhibition is on display 11.8.2019 – 4.7.2020
Touring The Grounds & Gardens
No matter what time of year you go, the grounds and gardens are lovely. However, the Spring and Summer is when it really comes alive and you’ll l be in for a treat.
Biltmore Esate’s gardens have been included the “Top 10 Botanical Gardens of the World” by Travel + Leisure magazine.
The Azalea Garden cover 15 acres and is a wonderful place to take a stroll. Inside the main garden there are 50,000 yulips, 14,000 daffodils and 1,000 hyacinths. Inside the conservatory are beautiful orchids and many other exotic plants. Biltmore also hosts a very popular Easter Egg Hunt.
Interestingly, George Vanderbilt was really ahead of his time on environmentalism, forest preservation, and conservation. He rightly hired Frederick Law Olmstead, already famous for his design work at Central Park. With 125,000 acres to work with, together they envisioned a park-like setting that would include a large rose garden, Italian formal garden, commercial timber forest, walled garden, fountains and much more. From the gardens to the views, there’s a lot to do on the property after your home tour.
Biltmore Estate is so beautiful that it makes a popular place to hold weddings and over 6,000 weddings are held here each year.
Before you leave Biltmore Estate, don’t forget to stop at one of the gift shops and pick up your Family Christmas Tree ornament! If you don’t have one yet, click HERE to read about ours and how you can start the tradition this summer.
Where To Stay
There are quite a few options for lodging in Asheville. We chose to stay at the Holiday Inn Asheville East and it was a perfect choice for us. It was renovated in 2017 and they did a fantastic job. The lodge feel, large fireplace and cozy rooms with nice views was a nice change of pace. Also, if you are traveling with your pet there is a nice walking trail on the property.
If you would prefer to stay closer to Biltmore Estate, The Village Hotel would be a good choice and is moderately priced. The Inn at Biltmore Estate is a luxurious accommodation that has been mentioned in many travel magazines for its service and excellence.
Where To Eat
In preparation for every vacation, I do a lot of research on locally owned restaurants and make a list of places we can stop to eat. One of those places was Hole Doughnuts and we can’t recommend them enough! We still talk about how good it was and wish we could go there again. Their delicious doughnuts are made fresh when you order and they will melt in your mouth. Hole uses seasonal ingredients to make their unique doughnuts. Juneberry, honeysuckle glaze, mint julep, orange clove, and orange cardamom are just some of the flavors they have offered. The toasted almond sesame and cinnamon was to die for! Make no mistake, put Hole doughnuts on your list of places to stop when you visit Asheville.
On Biltmore Estate property there are several restaurant options:
Village Social – located in Antler Hill Village ( seafood + regional favorites)
Bistro – located in Antler Hill Village ( seasonal farm to table)
Deerpark Restaurant – located in Deer Park ( taste of the South buffet)
The Dining Room – located in The Inn on Bitmore Estate ( fine dining)
Stable Cafe – located on Biltmore Estate ( Appalachian comfort food)
Biltmore Dairy Bar – located on Biltmore Estate ( ice cream, milkshakes etc.)
Visiting Biltmore Estate is a must if you are in the Asheville, North Carolina area. Touring Biltmore Estate is not your average home tour as they really make it fun and the property offers something for everyone in the family.
Once you have an opportunity to see this magnificent estate and surrounding land, you’ll understand why George Vanderbilt chose this serene and beatiful area of North Carolina as opposed to his family’s other estate locations in the Northeast.
If you’re planning to spend more than a day at Biltmore, there are even more on-site activities such as private horseback trail rides, fly fishing, sporting clay lessons and even a Land Rover Adventure (Course or Experience) that can be added to your itinerary.