Tips for Visiting Biltmore Estate (By an Annual Passholder)

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.

Key tips

  • Purchase Biltmore tickets early to reserve your preferred house entry time.
  • Wear comfortable shoes for all of the walking through the house and gardens.
  • Use the audio guide on your first visit to learn more about the house, but try one of the behind-the-scenes tours for access to areas not featured on the regular tour.
  • Consider buying an annual pass if you live nearby for year-round visits and some great benefits.
View of the end of Biltmore House in Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina

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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!

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 be booked 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.

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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.

There is no dress code at Biltmore Estate except in The Dining Room at the Inn on Biltmore Estate, which recommends resort elegant attire (required for dinner). Attire at the Dining Room does tend toward more casual at breakfast where it’s mainly Inn guests partaking of the amazing breakfast buffet. It’s one of my favorite meals on the Estate.

Dress for the weather 

Speaking as someone who travels from Upstate South Carolina to Asheville regularly, you will 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 long and gives you a lot of really great information about the rooms that you will be walking through.

View from the roof of the Biltmore house.
Only Behind the Scenes Guided Tours can give you access to parts of the house (like the roof) that are closed to the regular self-guided tour. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

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 increased in popularity. Now we always make reservations when we know we will be at the Estate for a meal.

Our favorite place to each an early-ish lunch before we went to the house or walk the gardens was Deerpark, but it’s now only open for special events it appears.

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.

Deerpark Restaurant at Biltmore Estate
Deerpark Restaurant is our favorite place to enjoy a leisurely lunch before we tour the house or gardens at Biltmore Estate. Whenever I give people tips for visiting Biltmore I tell them to make reservations first. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Buy an annual pass

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. There are also other perks like discounts on stays at The Inn and Village Hotel.

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 allows you 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.

large stone house with a large green lawn and tourists roaming around
With an annual pass, you can visit the house, grounds, and gardens as often as you like. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Avoid visiting during the last weekend of passholder appreciation

Each year from approximately early January and into March Biltmore holds its annual passholder appreciation. During this time passholders get special benefits like larger discounts on shopping, dining, and stays at The Inn and Village Hotel.

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 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.

Room at the Inn on Biltmore Estate
Inn on Biltmore Estate. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

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.

Model of Biltmore House inside the conservatory surrounded by flowers.
Special exhibitions like the Gardens Railroad are a great reason to make a trip to Biltmore Estate.
Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

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 its 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 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.

Front view of Biltmore House with a large Dale Chihuly sculpture
World-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly created an installation exhibition at Biltmore Estate in 2018.
Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

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 collected several of these during our first 10 years of marriage.

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 park at the shop. 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.

Also on the Estate is the lovely Village Hotel. It’s located right next to the shops and great dining that are available at Antler Hill Village. Check rates and availability here.

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 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

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Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, with text overlay.
The top tips for Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, from an annual passholder.


  1. Christopher Stanley says:

    Great post! We love Biltmore and Asheville and just bought annual passes for ourselves! Great suggestions, you helped us decide we are going back in February. It really is a wonderful place!

    1. Darcy Vierow says:

      Thanks so much! Have a great time at Biltmore.

  2. David Thompson says:

    I just purchased an Annual Biltmore Pass. Can I assume the “pass” would include my wife & I to drive our “car” onto the estate to look around? I also assume if we had passengers they could come along?

    1. Darcy Vierow says:

      Hi, David. You can bring guests with you to Antler Hill Village after 5 p.m. (in the same car). You also get free daytime admission for any children age 16 and under who accompany you. Any other adults would need their own ticket or their own pass for daytime admission to the estate. You can purchase discounted tickets for your friends and family because you are a passholder.

  3. Is any of the Estate decorated for Christmas the day Before the official Christmas Season begins? It begins Nov 5, 2021 so on Nov 4, 2021 are there any decorations on display or do they decorate after closing Nov 4? Just wondered if there was a sneak-peak opportunity. Thanks!

    1. Darcy Vierow says:

      You know, that’s a really great question. I’d recommend you call the Estate to ask them. In my experience, decorations don’t go up early but so much has changed over the last year or so, you never know.

    2. Jamie Tran says:

      I’d say yes. We went Oct 21st and they already had some trees up and they were decorating. You won’t get to see it in all its glory but they are definitely getting ready.

  4. Rita Redmon says:

    Darcy I just moved to Asheville and would love an annual pass. Do they ever go on sale – down from the 249.00 price ? Thanks Rita

    1. Darcy Vierow says:

      Hi, Rita! I have seen annual passes on sale from time to time…the last time I remember a special they were $119. They also occasionally offer a special on upgrading a regular ticket to an annual pass. The current annual pass renewal price is $129.

  5. What a great post! I’ve actually never been to this part of the USA but I really hope I’ll get the chance to go some day. It looks really pretty!

    1. Darcy Vierow says:

      Thanks so much for reading!

  6. Such an informative and great post! I’ve always wanted to visit and see the Biltmore. It looks so pretty and a wonderful place to stay. Great tips and will save for when I get to go!

    1. Darcy Vierow says:

      Thanks! I hope you can go one day.

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