I’m so glad that after 8 years living in North Carolina, we finally got to visit the Biltmore Estate! My siblings were not as excited as me and my parents were because in their heads, we were planning to “walk around an old house for 3 hours” and that’s totally not what happens!! There is so much more going on here, so if you’re unfamiliar with the Biltmore Estate’s history and what actually happens during your visit, then you’re in luck!
Tickets are a little pricey at $60/person (purchased the day of, on the property), $50/person (purchased online, before your visit), and $45/person (Military Discount), but what you get, and for the time you’re there, it’s so worth it! What’s even crazier to think about: We visited on July 4th and were told that on the day before, there were 6,000 visitors. That’s like, $300,000 in a DAY! This place has seriously got it going on. But, with 2,000+ employees, I guess they need to be making that kind of money!
Aaaanyways – The ticket price does include the tour, wine tasting, the gardens, the green houses, access to all the gift shops, cafes, restaurants, and the petting farm!
SO, The Biltmore Estate is the largest privately owned estate in America at a whopping 135,280 sq. feet, and is located in Asheville, NC! George Vanderbilt opened the home on Christmas Eve in 1895 (after 6 whole years of building! 6 YEARS!) The home was built for George, his wife, Edith, and their daughter, Cornelia. 3 people. This massive Estate was for 3 people. 3. Three. Alright. In 1930, the Cecils (Cornelia’s married name after marrying John Francis Amherst Cecil) opened the home to the public (while still living there) to generate income for themselves and the depression-stricken town of Asheville (hoping to increase tourism to the area!). Today the Biltmore is still family owned, being cared for and operated by the 4th and 5th generations of the Vanderbilt family!
Now that we’re sort of caught up on a little history, let’s talk about what you actually do at this massive place – because it wasn’t what I thought it would be!
When you get to the address you probably plugged into your GPS, you drive through a massive gate and then go down about a mile. If you didn’t purchase your tickets yet, you take a left to the building they’re sold at (there will be a sign pointing you in that direction, don’t worry.) If you already purchased your tickets, you go on to a second gate where a nice man or woman will check the tickets and then prompt you to drive through. You’ll drive another 2-3 miles before getting to anything else. The drive is beautiful. Tall trees, so much greenery, and it builds the anticipation because you’re just waiting to see something incredible!
You’ll eventually get to the parking area and you’ll be directed through that as well. We parked in lot A-1. There are buses that shuttle you to the house, but the walk option is beautiful and pretty quick! We opted to be driven because we didn’t know how long the walk would be (even though the sign dictated that it would be about 8 minutes long.) The bus drops you off right in front of the house and there are people outside to answer questions and point you in the right direction.
We headed straight for our tour of the house. There are 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fire places under this massive architectural beauty. The building also includes other super cool things like a bowling alley, an indoor pool, several guest bedrooms, an entire domain for the serving staff, private dressing rooms, wine cellars, walk-in refrigerators, a rotisserie kitchen, so many sinks, and the entire place is just a big ol’ maze. Like if it weren’t for all the ropes and signs that said “visit continues this way” I would’ve been so lost!
You can get a little handheld phone-looking device to listen to while you walk from room to room, but we took more of a faster-paced self-guided tour through the house. (hehe) I would probably make my next visit during the fall or winter months if I visit again because it was very humid and stuffy inside the house during our visit. So consider that when you plan your trip and what you wear to the estate! I wore a sleeveless maxi dress and still had to hold my dress up in my hand- practically begging for some sort of air flow!
Here are a few more snaps of the interior decor and architecture – it was so… elegant. It just exuded opulence.
When we finished our tour of the house, we walked out and to the left, through the arches, and into the little area with a market and a breakfast cafe. We stopped at said cafe for pastries and coffee. 1) the coconut macaroons were bomb as hell; and 2) don’t let the teenage boys have the chocolate eclairs unless they’re told about the cream inside and to eat over a napkin or bowl of sorts. My brother dribbled eclair cream through the grated table, into his lap, down his leg, and all over the pretty brick ground. HAHA.
When you’re done resting your legs in their cute umbrella-shaded seating area, and eating your treats/having your coffee, you can head on over to the gardens! You can either walk from the house to the gardens (So, standing facing away from the house, you walk to the right side of the big wall looking walk-way, and then go through that entryway and take a left. Then walk down and take your first left.) OR you can go back to the parking lot where your car is, and drive over there. Which is what we did LOL. Now, I don’t know what exactly I was expecting.. I think I was expecting something super grand and extraordinary considering where we were at – but it was just a normal garden area. It was still pretty and they had some neat “wall gardens” with roses growing up on the walls. The greenhouses were the best parts of the garden area, though. You have to walk up the stairs out by where you parked your car (near the outdoor plant store area, to the right) and then there are 3 or 4 houses, I don’t remember. But, make sure you walk through them all! I missed the damn tulip house because they’re so big I walked through one and thought I walked through all of them! UGH.
And make sure you get to see the garden gift shop too! It’s expensive, but it gave me tons of sweet DIY ideas! And if you have the money and love to garden, then it’s quite literally paradise.
Next on your to-do list should be the winery!! You’ll need to check a map and take your car to “Antler Village” – it’s a drive from the actual house and is located in this sweet little “town” looking area… well, a village. You walk up and it doesn’t look like much, but you walk past the person standing by the wine barrels, and down this little walkway. It’s super cute, with this long pergola sort of covering your whole walk. It eventually takes you into this.. cave. LOL. You walk through this long stone hall and there are tons of Biltmore Winery facts, and little rooms where they keep barrels and bottles.
Also note: My siblings are a couple of weirdos and we can’t take them anywhere – I say this with love. *bunghole* *crash the private event*
At some point, you’ll go up the stairs into the main room where the wine tasting takes place. You have to sort of walk through the room, and out into the wine store, and then back into the room (weird) but then you’re greeted by a host who takes you to your seats and introduced you to your “pourer” who helps you with your tasting! This person literally knows the Biltmore wines like the back of their hand, has had them all, and will know exactly what to suggest based on what you like, and will tell you everything about them so you can decide for yourself! There are also these sweet little crackers to have between wines. There are 20+ types of wine to try, and you’ll get a paper guide with a list of all the wines so you can mark which ones were your favorites and which ones you didn’t love. Then you can walk into the store when you’re done to purchase them! (You don’t have to, of course, but we totally did.) We all picked out our bottles and tried some really interesting cheese mixtures and other non-alcoholic beverage samples before heading back out. I mean, white chocolate cherry cheese ball mix? Yes please.
Last but not least, you must visit the ice cream shop, a restaurant, or at least walk down to the little petting farm! It’s all within walking distance. I think it’s actually called “The Farmyard”. We did make that stop at the creamery and saw food, a blacksmith, a wood worker, and other neat little spots on the walk down. We didn’t get to actually pet any animals because there was no one at the gate to let us in, and we didn’t want to just bust up into some animal cages- but I wish we could have! There’s even a playground there for younger children, which I thought was really neat.
* Some things we didn’t get to see/do: The waterfall, the many trails on the estate, the TWO hotels they have on the property, all the other restaurants (there are 9 foodie stops total), and the estate also offers tons of neat activities: segway-ing (tours + off-road), biking, carriage rides, fly fishing classes, horseback riding, land rovers, river rafting, kayaking, and paddle boarding!
The Biltmore Estate offers annual passes as an option for people who live closer and just like to be on the estate, which I thought was really cool since they offer so many different activities. I wish I had known they offered as much as they do so we could’ve maybe planned to spend more time there, and do more. Definitely do your research if you’re planning to visit so you can figure out everything you want to do, want to pay for, and have the time for!
You could easily spend an entire day at the Biltmore Estate, though we only spent a few hours there ourselves. We were driving another 4 hours (to Raleigh) then 2 (to my house) and then another 2 (to my parents house) that day, so we didn’t have all day – but.. you should totally plan for this to be an all day event!
Our visit to the Biltmore was so perfect and so much more than just walking around an old house for 3 hours! The landscaping, plant life, trees, the whole vibe of the entire estate was simply amazing! We had so much fun, and this place should definitely be on your “to visit” list if you live in North Carolina or plan on visiting in the future!