Hubby and I love to make regular trips to Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. It’s less than an hour and a half from our home, it’s where we got engaged and we’ve spent many romantic Biltmore weekend getaways at The Inn and Village Hotel.
Biltmore Estate is our home away from home. We’ve been annual passholders at Biltmore for the last 12 years, so we’ve learned a thing or two about the Estate and all it has to offer guests. Here are my best tips for visiting Biltmore Estate.
What is Biltmore Estate?
Biltmore, billed as the largest privately owned home in the United States, was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II (grandson of railroad and shipping tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt) and completed in 1895.
The immense house is 175,000 square feet and has 35 bedrooms (most of which are not on view to the public).
George Vanderbilt died in 1914 when he was still quite young and left his home to his only child, Cornelia. The family opened the house to the public in 1930 and they still run the estate to this day.
The original estate comprised approximately 150,000 acres, but the property now covers about 8,000 acres…still very large. The family sold much of the property to the U.S government to create Pisgah National Forest.
Now, on to the tips for visiting Biltmore Estate!
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Key Biltmore tip: reserve your house entry time as soon as possible
Entrance to the main house requires a timed reservation regardless of the day you are visiting and whether you have an annual pass. My first Biltmore Estate tip is to recommend that guests purchase their Biltmore tickets as soon as possible so they can reserve their entry time slot.
It’s the first thing you should do. Please note that ticket prices vary by date and season.
Entry times can book up quickly on popular Saturdays (such as the last two Saturdays of annual passholder appreciation). You don’t want to be stuck with a 9 a.m. or 4 p.m. entry if you’d rather enter the house later in the morning or early afternoon.
Our preferred house entry time is 2 p.m.
This gives us enough time to enjoy a leisurely lunch before we walk through the house without having to leave home too early in the morning.
Allow 90 minutes to 2 hours to tour the house. Plan on a full day at the Estate.
Wear comfortable shoes
If you plan to tour both the house and gardens on your visit to Biltmore Estate, you will be doing a lot of walking.
Actually, you’ll be doing a lot of walking even if you tour only the house or just the Biltmore gardens (like the Italian garden or the walled garden). Please do your toes a favor and wear comfortable shoes.
Attire at the Dining Room does tend toward more casual at breakfast where it’s mainly Inn guests partaking of the amazing breakfast buffet (one of my favorite meals on the Estate).
Dress for the weather
Speaking as someone who travels from Upstate South Carolina to Asheville on a regular basis, you will definitely want to pay attention to local weather conditions and dress accordingly.
The weather in the Asheville area is regularly quite a bit cooler than my hometown and gets more snow.
Also, keep in mind that the house itself is not air-conditioned.
Use the audio guide if it’s your first visit
You can pick up a small guidebook to the house that includes a lot of helpful information, but if it’s your very first time viewing the interior of the house, I highly recommend using the audio guide.
The audio guide is about 50 minutes and gives you a lot of really great information about the rooms that you will be walking through.
Do one of the behind-the-scenes tours
If you’ve done the regular self-guided and/or audio tour through the house and are looking for something different to do on your visit to Biltmore Estate, I highly recommend trying one of the guided specialty tours.
A guided Biltmore house tour is an additional charge per person, but you get access to parts of the house not available on a self-guided visit.
We quite enjoyed the Rooftop Tour and can recommend it without reservation. The tour focuses on the construction of the house, and it’s the only way to get to the rooftop area near the grand staircase or step out on any of the Biltmore balconies.
We also enjoyed the Backstairs Tour.
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Make an advanced dining reservation
Of all the things to do at Biltmore, eating is one of our favorites. Pro tip: If you want a guaranteed table at your dining venue of choice, I strongly recommend that you make a reservation.
It’s not always necessary, but over the last several years, our favorite restaurants at Biltmore have clearly increased in popularity. Now we always make reservations when we know we will be at the Estate for a mealtime.
Our favorite place to each an early-ish lunch before we went to the house or walk the gardens was Deerpark, but it’s been “temporarily closed” for quite some time now.
We also recommend The Bistro, Cedric’s Tavern and The Stable Cafe for a great meal. The Creamery at Antler Hill Village is a great place to grab an ice cream at the end of your Biltmore day.
Buy an annual pass (my top tip for visiting Biltmore Estate)
If you live anywhere near the Asheville, North Carolina, area I strongly encourage you to consider buying a Biltmore Estate annual pass.
You can upgrade your ticket to an annual pass while you’re there and immediately start enjoying passholder benefits like discounts on shopping and dining.
The annual pass isn’t cheap, but we have found it’s worth the cost for us.
We like having a home away from home, someplace we can get away to spend a day together enjoying each other’s company. And with the annual pass our admission to Biltmore has already been paid for.
Lunch and a walk through the gardens make a great day at Biltmore Estate.
An annual pass also gives you the opportunity to see Biltmore at each season. The Blue Ridge Mountains are stunningly beautiful in the fall, the gardens are full of amazing color during spring and summer, and the Christmas season decorations are quite something.
Avoid visiting during the last weekend of passholder appreciation
Each year from approximately early January and into March Biltmore holds its annual passholder appreciation.
The last weekend or two of annual passholder appreciation can be quite busy at the estate with passholders and their guests trying to squeeze every last drop of value out of their extra discounts.
We’ve definitely been guilty of doing this, but now we try to avoid visiting during this time if we can. Traffic backs up through the Estate and lines can be quite long.
If you can’t avoid visiting during the last weekend or two, just pack your patience and allow plenty of extra time to do everything on your agenda for the day.
Plan your stay at The Inn for the off-season
Hubby and I highly recommend making your trip to Biltmore Estate an overnight stay if you can.
We love staying at The Inn for our wedding anniversary. We got married in February, so it’s easy for us to take advantage of off-season rates for our anniversary celebrations.
Read my full review of The Inn on Biltmore Estate.
If you can plan your stay for during the week, you’ll be able to save even more. Plus if you’ve bought that annual pass, you’ll also get discounts on any shopping and dining you do while on the estate.
Make time to visit during a special exhibit or event
If someone asks me what to do at Biltmore, I usually suggest they check out whatever special exhibit is on at the time.
Biltmore has significantly boosted their offerings over the last several years as they’ve brought some popular special exhibits to the house and grounds including costumes from the hit TV show Downton Abbey and popular Jane Austen adaptation films like Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma.
We also loved the spectacular Dale Chihuly glass installation in 2018 and the Downton Abbey exhibition.
As annual passholders we really enjoy these special exhibits because they give us more reasons to visit Biltmore Estate…and they’re also something new to see while we’re there.
Bonus Biltmore tip: buy the Christmas ornament as soon as you see it in the gift shops
Each year Biltmore Estate issues a new Christmas tree ornament with the year on it.
Hubby and I are sappy and sentimental, so we have been collecting these since we got married.
We learned the hard way that they sell out early. 2014 will always be the year that eluded me because we waited until (gasp) early November to purchase it. It had been sold out for weeks.
We bought our 2019 Christmas tree ornament in March. Hah. Curse you, 2014.
Don’t skip exploring the Biltmore Gardens & Grounds
Biltmore Estate is more than just the House and winery of course. There are also six gardens, a Conservatory, and other outdoor spaces to explore (like the Bass Pond). You can visit them all for no extra cost.
Some of the gardens are very near the house and some of them require a little bit of a walk.
The gardens are
- Italian garden
- Walled garden
- Azalea garden
- Rose garden
- Spring garden
- Shrub garden
And don’t forget to take a turn through the Conservatory. It’s full of remarkable plants and flowers.
Plus behind the Conservatory there is a small parking lot at the shop called A Gardener’s Place, so if you don’t want to walk there from the house and then back again, you could drive there and park.
This works well especially if you are done exploring the area of the house and stable courtyard area.
Where to stay on your visit to Biltmore Estate
There are many great options for places to stay on a visit to Biltmore. Our top pick is the Inn on Biltmore Estate. The inn is beautiful, the service is wonderful and there are excellent dining options right there. Check availability today.
If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites – Asheville-Biltmore Village Area is popular. It’s located just about half a mile from the Estate and offers free parking and a free shuttle. You can check availability here.
Is it worth visiting Biltmore Estate?
In my opinion, yes a trip to Biltmore Estate is worth it.
Though the price for a ticket is a bit of an investment, the Estate offers so much for guests to do and experience that I believe it is worth it.
The Vanderbilt family has done a remarkable job of creating a wonderful and beautiful space for guests to experience the house, grounds, gardens, and more. Not to mention the hotel, shopping, and dining options.
Final thoughts on tips for visiting Biltmore Estate
Biltmore Estate is a wonderful place to visit…and visit often.
From special exhibits and guided tours to amazing dining, you’ll have no trouble filling your day at Biltmore…or perhaps you’ll stretch your visit and stay overnight.
Either way, if you follow these tips, you’re sure to have a wonderful visit to Biltmore.
More articles full of Biltmore Estate tips
- Is it worth getting a Biltmore annual pass?
- The best restaurants at Biltmore Estate
- See the best of Biltmore in one day
- Why we think the Inn on Biltmore Estate is a “must stay”
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