I took a week-long roadtrip earlier this year through Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia. While the original idea was to head to Nashville, it seemed like a good time to check a few others things off my USA travel wishlist. On that list was Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Biltmore Estate.
I first heard about The Biltmore Estate in Asheville well over a decade ago. I knew it was a big, beautiful mansion with impressive gardens, but not much else. However, the promise of cool architecture and pretty plants was enough to make it a priority.
On the day of our visit to the Biltmore Estate, my friend and I woke up bright and early. We knew we wanted to spend the entire day exploring the grounds, so we arrived at the gates at 8:30 am. That’s the earliest you can enter, and the house opens at 9:00 am.
The drive from the entrance to the parking lots near the house gave me a pretty good idea of just how much land was owned by the estate. The Biltmore is the largest (privately-owned) home in America, so it’s no surprise that the rest of the grounds are extensive.
We waited outside of the house for about 15 minutes (a good opportunity to get some classic shots of the Biltmore), and quickly made it inside once the doors opened. We had a game plan for the day, and it started with a tour of the house.
Quick Facts & Figures
Location: Asheville, North Carolina
House Size: 175,000 square feet
Estate Size: 8,000 acres
Before I continue telling you about my day at the Biltmore, I want to jump into the history:
The Biltmore is an 8,000-acre estate in Asheville, North Carolina. It was the vision of George Washington Vanderbilt III, grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt. After visiting the Asheville area with his mother, George fell in love with the scenery and decided to build his home there.
George hired Richard Morris Hunt as architect, and wanted a house inspired by the French chateau. It took 6 years to build the Biltmore House, from 1889-1895.
George later married Edith Stuyvessant Dresser, and they raised their daughter, Cornelia, at the Biltmore. In 1914, George Vanderbilt passed away.
After decades of being used as the family home, in 1930 Cornelia and her husband opened the Biltmore Estate to the public. The hope was to increase tourism, and almost a century later, it continues to be one of the most popular attractions in Asheville.
While it is now used for tourism, the estate is still owned by the Vanderbilt family.
The Biltmore House
The Biltmore House is a 250-room mansion created by architect Richard Morris Hunt. It is of the French chateau style, meant to evoke the grand homes of the French countryside. There are over 4 acres of floor space, 35 bedrooms, and 43 bathrooms within the house.
Upon entering the Biltmore House, you’ll begin a self-guided tour. Various rooms are on display, including the grand dining hall, the library, lots of bedrooms, and recreational areas (like the bowling alley).
Everything is roped off, so you can view the rooms like a museum. There is a marked path that takes you throughout the mansion, across three floors. You’ll receive a brochure with a map and information about each room so that you know what you’re looking at.
The self-guided tour takes about 2 hours to complete, so give yourself plenty of time. This doesn’t cover all of the house, but it does cover most of the main areas and plenty of bedrooms. If you’d like to see more of the house, you can sign up for a specialized tour.
There are a number of small group tours available that focus on different parts of the house. These tours allow you to get a more in-depth history of the house, as they’re led by knowledgeable guides who can answer all of your questions. Plus you get to explore parts of the house that most visitors don’t see!
Some of the tours you can choose from include: a general guided tour of the house; the Rooftop Tour, which takes you out to the roofs and balconies to view the architecture; and the Upstairs-Downstairs Tour, which is what I took.
The Upstairs-Downstairs tour shows you what life was like at the Biltmore for the service staff. The guide will take you through the backstairs and private hallways that allowed servants to get around without being seen. You’ll see where they worked, where they lived, and how they kept the Biltmore Estate running smoothly. As someone who has worked in service for a long time, I found the tour to be quite fascinating.
While I was hesitant to pay for an extra tour, I’m glad I got to see more of the house. This tour took about an hour and cost $22.
The Biltmore Gardens
There are over 80 acres of gardens on the Biltmore Estate, including traditional gardens, show gardens, and wooded areas. The gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the famous American landscape architect who helped design NYC’s Central Park.
After we finished the 2-hour self-guided tour of the Biltmore House, we headed straight out to the gardens. Sticking to our plan, we wanted to see as much as we could before the afternoon heat set in. The gardens start just outside of the house, and extend out to the Bass Pond.
We wandered through the shrub garden, and then quickly made our way to the Rose Garden and the Conservatory. The Conservatory is huge, but it was fun to wander through. Inside you’ll find tropical plants, towering palms, fragrant flowers, and plenty of succulents.
After leaving the Conservatory, we began the walk (downhill) towards the Bass Pond. The path winds through the Azalea garden (the largest garden), and then you’re surrounded by tall trees and tons of greenery. Down at Bass Pond, there is another trail to take you to the other side—it’s a beautiful walk and features a (man-made) waterfall.
Be prepared for the long journey back to the house from here. While it’s only a mile or two, on a warm day the sun will make it feel a bit longer. It’s a simple walk, though, so enjoy it!
Other Things to Do at the House
Back at the Biltmore House, you’ll find there’s still more to do!
After completing our stroll through the gardens just after noon, we were ready to have some lunch. The old stables next to the house have been transformed into a collection of shops and restaurants. You’ll find simple cafes & quick-serve restaurants, with plenty of space in the courtyard for eating. Browse through the shops afterwards. There’s a confectionary, a shop full of books about the Vanderbilts and the Gilded Age, a gift shop, and a few others places.
Once we felt we saw everything we could over at the main house, we hopped in the car and drove across the estate to Antler Village. It’s a beautiful drive, giving you a better view of the grounds. Once again, you can see just how big this place is.
At Antler Village, there are more shops and restaurants, accommodation options, and plenty of other attractions. There is an interpretive farm, which is a chance to learn about the history of farming on the estate. In addition, you’ll find the Outdoor Adventure Center, The Biltmore Legacy Gallery, and the Biltmore Winery.
Antler Village is a great way to end your day at the Biltmore Estate. Pop into one of the restaurants for dinner, or grab some ice cream. Check out some of the attractions, or have a free wine tasting (it’s included in your ticket).
Outdoor Activities at the Biltmore
With over 8,000 acres of land on property, at the Biltmore Estate you’ll also have the chance to get outside. There are tons of outdoor activities, adventures, and tours available. You can walk or bike the trails through the estate. Bicycles are available for rent. There are also opportunities to go riding, head out on a rafting trip, or learn how to fish.
You can learn more about these activities at the Outdoor Adventure Center in Antler Village. If you’re interested in adding these activities on to our visit, you can buy a discounted second-day ticket.
If one day at the Biltmore Estate just isn’t enough, there are accommodation options so you can stay overnight. Trust me, there’s plenty to keep you busy for more than one day, especially if you want to be a little more leisurely than we were.
Check all of the accommodation options on property here.
Biltmore Estate Itinerary
This is just a rough outline of our day at the Biltmore. It’s a full day outing, and this itinerary will give you time to see all of the major attractions.
8:30 am: Arrive at the gates & park
9:00 am: Enter the Biltmore House and begin self-guided tour (allow 2 hours)
11:00 am: Stroll through the upper gardens and the conservatory
12:00 pm: Walk down to the Bass Pond
1:30 pm: Have lunch at the house & wander through the stable shops
3:00 pm: Take a guided tour of the house (guided tours cost extra)
4:00 pm: Grab your car and drive across the estate
4:30 pm: Explore Antler Village
6:00 pm: Have dinner in Antler Village (try out Cedric’s Tavern or Village Social)
7:00 pm: End the day and enjoy your drive back to the gates
Address: One Lodge Street, Asheville, North Carolina
Price: Adult admission ranges from $50-75 depending on the season. Advance online purchase will save you $5-10. Admission includes entrance to the entire estate + a self-guided tour of the house & gardens. Extra tours & activities will cost more.
Hours: Gates open at 8:30 am. The Biltmore House is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Gardens are generally open from 9:00 am until dark.
Good to Know: 1.) On busy days, it is required to reserve a time for your self-guided tour. Reservation days are listed on the website. 2.) You will need a car to get to the estate + for transport between the House & Gardens and Antler Village
Want to see more photos from the Biltmore Estate? Check out my Steller Story!
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