The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, is a top-rated historic house museum. It’s easy to see why since this mansion features a massive 250 rooms, including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. In fact, George Vanderbilt’s vision of a French Renaissance-style chateau in the Blue Ridge Mountains draws 1.4 million visitors each year.
With this in mind, we’ve put together this guide to help plan your visit to the Biltmore Estate. This article covers the history of the Biltmore, the best time to visit, insider tips for planning your trip, and where to stay near Biltmore in Asheville. Especially if it’s your first time visiting the Biltmore House, these recommendations will help you organize the best experience possible.
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Biltmore Estate history
George Washington Vanderbilt II first visited the Asheville area in 1887 and quickly fell in love with the idea of building a country home here. To bring his original vision to life, George hired prominent New York architect Richard Morris Hunt.
Although construction on the Biltmore House began in 1889, it took six years for this large home to be completed: a 250-room French Renaissance chateau with over four acres of floor space. Finally, George welcomed his family and close friends to the Biltmore Estate’s debut on Christmas Eve of 1895.
During the late 19th century, the Biltmore House contained the era’s latest technology. For example, it had electricity from the time it was built. Additionally, it’s home to one of the oldest operating elevators in the United States, and it featured other innovations such as forced-air heating, a call-bell system, and fire alarms.
Over the years, The Vanderbilts welcomed famous individuals such as Edith Wharton, Henry James, and President Theodore Roosevelt as guests at their North Carolina mansion. However, the Biltmore House was not open to the public until 1930. Nowadays, the Biltmore Estate is the largest privately-owned house in the United States and a significant tourist attraction in western North Carolina. Its grounds cover 8,000 acres!
Who owns the Biltmore Estate?
Here’s a fun fact about the Biltmore: the estate is still family-owned! George Washington Vanderbilt II’s great-grandson, Bill Cecil Jr., currently serves as the President and CEO of The Biltmore Company. Additionally, other fourth and fifth-generation descendants are also involved in the estate’s daily operations.
Best time to visit Biltmore
One of the best tips for the Biltmore Estate is to plan your visit for a weekday. Especially during the high season, the Biltmore House can get quite busy on the weekend. Plus, this location is also a wedding venue! So, sometimes these events will limit which outdoor areas you can explore.
Another advantage of visiting during the week is that ticket prices are actually lower! Biltmore tickets have three price categories: regular, peak, and value. Weekends, especially in the summertime, will usually fall into the peak category. However, you can often save up to $10-20 per person by visiting Monday to Thursday! You’ll also notice that holiday weekends tend to be more expensive.
If you’re traveling with your family, note that Biltmore House tickets are half the price of adult admission for children between 10 and 16. Children 9 or younger are admitted for free as long as a parent or guardian accompanies them.
What time does Biltmore open?
The Biltmore Admission Gate opens at 8:30 a.m. each morning. However, the Biltmore House’s hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the last entry at 4:30 p.m. You can view the hours of operation for the whole estate here.
What time slot should I choose for my Biltmore House tickets?
When purchasing your Biltmore Estate tickets, the best time slot is either early morning or after lunchtime. You can view how many spots are left for each ticketed timeslot when you select an available time.
For reference, Biltmore typically sees the most significant crowds between 11 a.m.-1 p.m. If you’re able to go in the morning, the Biltmore House gardens open at 9 a.m. So, you could even walk through the gardens before your ticketed time slot. If morning tickets are already sold out for the date of your visit, we suggest choosing an entrance time between 2–3:30 p.m.
If you choose an afternoon entrance time, you can stop by Antler Hill Village or the Biltmore Winery while you wait! Plus, if you’re visiting during the summer months, consider grabbing a sweet treat at The Creamery. You can click here to view the full Biltmore Estate map.
Best time to visit Biltmore Gardens
The Biltmore Gardens, featuring the Conservatory, the Walled Garden, the Italian Garden, the Bass Pond, and more, open daily at 9 a.m. In our opinion, the best time of year to see the gardens is during the Biltmore Blooms event. This springtime celebration runs from the beginning of April until the end of May and is the ideal time to see the flowers on the grounds. You can even follow a live bloom report here!
The other best time to visit Biltmore Gardens is during the autumn. If you love fall foliage, you’ll want to plan your trip for mid to late October. Seasonal colors blanket the Biltmore Estate during this season, ranging from green to gold and russet.
Christmas at the Biltmore Estate
The Biltmore Estate Christmas celebration runs from early November to early January. As you may have guessed, this is one of the busiest times to visit the estate. Pro tip: if you’d like to see the Biltmore decorated for Christmas but want to beat the crowds, plan your trip for November!
During the Biltmore Christmas season, the estate offers two experiences: the daytime celebration and candlelight Christmas evenings. You’ll see America’s largest home in all of its holiday splendor with both of these options.
If you’re wondering why the Biltmore is so popular as a winter destination, check out these stats: you can expect over 100 decorated trees, 10,000 ornaments, and 100,000 lights at the property. Plus, one of the highlights is the 35-foot-tall Fraser fir in the Banquet Hall–the tallest tree inside the home. You’ll even find Antler Village illuminated for the season!
Pro tips for visiting the Biltmore House
Buy your tickets online and ahead of time
As mentioned above, Biltmore can get pretty busy–in fact, 1.4 million people visit the house each year. Therefore, if you’re hoping to see on a specific day and time, you’ll want to buy your tickets ahead of time. Additionally, purchasing in advance means you can skip the trip to the sales and visitor information kiosk.
Biltmore also has certain special offers on tickets throughout the year, including an $8 discount for booking online and a U.S. military discount to save $10 on admission. Moreover, seniors receive a discount on daytime admission on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the Reception & Ticketing Sales Center. For a complete list of special promotions, click here.
The estate also offers annual passes for $249 per person plus tax. If you’re an annual pass visitor, you receive benefits such as ticket discounts for friends and family accompanying you, 10% off when you dine at on-site restaurants, and 10% off estate shops and online. You can read the complete list of benefits for annual pass holders here!
Pick an off-peak day for your visit
One of my best tips is to plan your Biltmore House tour for a Monday-Thursday. However, if you don’t want to miss the gardens, you’ll need to visit during the appropriate season. Instead of reserving tickets for Biltmore’s lowest season–January or February–I’d recommend visiting during one of the months with the best weather–April, May, or October.
Pick a weekday during one of these three months, and you can enjoy a sunny day at the Biltmore, see the Garden in full bloom, and avoid the crowds. Of course, November and December are also popular times to see Biltmore adorned for the Christmas season. The same rule applies for visiting during this time of year: reserve a weekday ticket to miss the crowds. You can see a less-busy Biltmore during the holiday season if you plan your trip for before Thanksgiving.
Arriving at the Biltmore House entrance is slightly more complicated than you might think. For this reason, you’ll want to make sure to allocate enough time to get from the admission gate to the actual ticketed house entry. If you’re driving, plan to leave your hotel at least 45 minutes before your ticketed time slot.
Essentially, we want you to avoid being in a rush! If you leave 45 minutes before your entrance time, you should have plenty of time to drive through the Biltmore grounds to the parking lot and to make the short walk from the parking lot to the home. If you arrive too early to enter the house, you can always take a stroll through the gardens.
Rent an audio guide
In the past, you had to pay extra for the audio-guided visit to the Biltmore House. However, the audio guide is now actually included in your regular admission! If you listen to the full explanation of each room on tour, the experience should take around 40 minutes.
Some of our favorite rooms include the Banquet Hall, George Vanderbilt’s library, and the indoor swimming pool. We also love the Grand Staircase that leads to the second floor!
You’ll learn about the Vanderbilt family, the construction of the Biltmore Estate, and the servants who lived on the grounds. Remember that you can move from room to room at your own pace. So, if you’d like to stay longer in one room and skip another, you’re free to do so.
Additionally, if you’re traveling with kids, your little ones may enjoy the children’s version of the audio-guided visit. This 90-minute tour is narrated by the Vanderbilts’ beloved Saint Bernard, Cedric.
For a more extensive visit, book a guided house tour
If you want even more detail about the estate during your visit, I suggest booking one of the Biltmore Estate tours. Remember that for any of the guided Biltmore Estate tours, you must have also purchased a daytime Biltmore ticket, be an annual pass holder, or have a package stay that includes Biltmore House admission. This ticket is apart from the price of the guided tour.
Best options for guided Biltmore House tours:
- The Rooftop Tour: On the rooftop tour, you’ll learn more about the design and construction of Biltmore House while exploring restricted areas. Of course, you’ll also see the stunning view from the rooftop and check out some of the balconies. This experience lasts one hour, and advance reservation is required. The Rooftop Tour is available at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. every day. Price: $40 plus tax per person.
- The Biltmore House Backstairs Tour: If you enjoyed Downton Abbey, this is the best Biltmore tour for you! Learn about the people who lived and worked on the estate during the time the Vanderbilts lived here. You’ll get to explore domestic staff areas you won’t see on the self-guided tour. This guided event takes one hour and takes place daily at 11 a.m., 12 p.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m. Price: $40 plus tax per person.
- The Expert Guided Small-Group Tour: Unlike the other guided tours mentioned above, the Expert Guided Small-Group Tour is only available if you purchase the Expert-Guided Visit Plus ticket option for the Biltmore Estate. On this unique tour, your guide casts each participant as a guest of the Vanderbilts! You’ll get to see areas of the home that are not open to the general public during this 90-minute experience.
You may also enjoy the winery tours for a special occasion, where you can participate in wine and chocolate tastings!
Visiting in the summer? Check out the Biltmore gardens first
Speaking from experience, you’ll want plenty of time to explore the acres of gardens designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. However, sometimes the sweltering heat will cause you to cut your self-guided tour through the gardens short! If you’re planning to visit the Biltmore Estate in the summer, we suggest booking your entrance time between 10–10:45 a.m. Therefore, you’ll have time for the gardens in the morning before they’re too hot. Plus, you’ll beat the afternoon crowds for your house visit.
Make meal reservations
Although the estate offers various dining options, most are a short drive from the actual Biltmore House. For example, you’ll find Cedric’s Tavern and Village Social at Antler Hill Village and The Dining Room and Library Lounge at the Inn on Biltmore Estate. Nonetheless, one restaurant has a prime location next to the Biltmore House: the Stable Café.
As you can imagine, this Appalachian comfort food restaurant gets pretty busy at lunchtime! With this in mind, you’ll want to make lunch reservations via OpenTable if you’d like the simple option of eating lunch here. If there’s a particular dining spot you have in mind for the evening, go ahead and make a reservation there, too, just to be safe!
Don’t forget about Antler Hill Village
Antler Hill Village sits only five miles from the Biltmore House and features various restaurants, stores, and seasonal exhibits. While many visitors may take a tour of the home and leave, I would take the time to stop by Antler Hill Village. For example, if you’re traveling with kids, you won’t want to miss the Farmyard.
Additionally, if you’d like to have dinner on the estate, Antler Hill Village is one of your best options for a delicious meal. If you need more convincing to check out this spot, know this: the Biltmore Winery is located there!
Your ticket to Biltmore includes a complimentary wine tasting
I don’t think everyone realizes this, but yes! Your daytime admission to Biltmore also includes a free wine sampling. However, to take advantage of this incredible perk, you’ll need to make reservations in person on the day of your visit. Even though it’s a slight hassle to make the reservation, it’s 100% worth it!
The Biltmore Estate Winery is open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Since the complimentary wine tastings fill up quickly, we recommend stopping by to make your reservation as soon as you arrive at the estate.
During your tasting, you’ll be offered 20 different types of wine to choose from, which are arranged in order from the sweetest to the driest flavors. Whether you prefer reds, whites, or rosés, there’s something for everyone.
Fun fact: did you know that the Biltmore Winery is the most visited winery in America?
Need more time? Visit a second day!
If you’re worried about being pressed for time to see everything at Biltmore, spend more than one day there! In fact, the Biltmore Estate offers a discount to visit a second day for $25. Although this deal doesn’t include access to the house, it does cover the gardens, grounds, and Antler Hill Village.
So, you could spend your first day touring the Biltmore House and then come back for a second day to continue exploring the grounds and its many hiking trails and the winery. You may also want to check out some of the other things to do at the Biltmore Estate. If you’d like to read the complete activities list, click here.
Other quick tips for visiting Biltmore Estate
- If you’re parking your car to visit the house, you’ll want to follow the signs and use parking lots A and B. It’ll take you approximately 8-10 minutes walking to reach the Biltmore House and gardens from this point.
- Estate policies indicate that flash photography is not allowed inside the home. If you’d like to take pictures on your self-guided tour, turn off the flash on your phone or camera. Furthermore, no photos are allowed on the specialty tours of the Biltmore House.
- Make sure to use the restroom before you begin your tour of the Biltmore House. The only public bathrooms are located outside the home, so you might regret not stopping by the toilet before your entrance time!
- Make sure to dress appropriately. Between the house tour and visiting the gardens, you’ll be doing lots of walking during your time at Biltmore. For this reason, comfy shoes are essential! I’d also recommend packing a hat and sunscreen, especially if you plan to spend an extended amount of time outdoors.
- The Biltmore’s outdoor spaces are pet-friendly. For example, many people bring their dogs and take them for walks on the ground. Furthermore, your pets can also join you on the outdoor patios at Bistro and Cedric’s Tavern while you eat lunch. Pets must be kept on a leash at all times and are not allowed in any buildings. You can read more on Biltmore’s pet policies here.
Where to stay when visiting the Biltmore Estate
There are many great options for hotels and resorts in the Asheville area. So, when planning your trip to Biltmore, you may ask yourself: where can I stay that’s also close to the Biltmore Estate? Below is an overview of five of the most popular choices for places to stay when visiting Biltmore.
Although it’s not possible to stay in the actual Biltmore House, you can spend the night nearby at The Inn on Biltmore Estate. This four-star luxury hotel is an excellent place for a romantic getaway with your partner. It features a spa, a heated outdoor pool, and casual and fine-dining restaurants. If you’re looking for an even more luxurious option, check out the Cottages on Biltmore Estate.
The Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate is a more moderately priced option for those wanting to stay on the property. Additionally, it is located near Antler Hill Village and the Biltmore Winery. Especially if you’d like to make the most of your time at Biltmore, this hotel is the place to stay!
This Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites is a highly convenient and affordable option for those looking to stay close to the Biltmore Estate. In fact, this property is 0.6 miles from Biltmore! It’s also within walking distance to the restaurants and bakeries within Biltmore Village.
The Cedar Crest Inn is an adorable (and pink!) bed and breakfast, which has been operating for over 30 years in Asheville. If you’re searching for a unique place to stay while visiting Biltmore Estate, you’ll love this 1891 Victorian home. The Cedar Crest Inn’s central location makes it an ideal base for exploring everything Asheville has to offer, including Biltmore Village and the River Arts District.
Although the Omni Grove Park Inn isn’t as close to Biltmore as the other properties I’ve mentioned, there’s no way I could leave it off this list! This hotel is a must-visit in Asheville, especially if you’re going to be in town during the holidays. Plus, it offers stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains that you won’t find anywhere else. The Omni Grove Park Inn is so popular that many celebrities and presidents have even chosen to stay here!
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This article was first published in March 2021 and has since been updated.