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Vanderbilt for a Day: 10 Helpful Tips for Visiting the Biltmore Estate

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20 Apr 2022

Are you ready to live like a Vanderbilt and party like it’s 1895? Built during America’s “Gilded Age," the Biltmore House and Gardens® is an 8,000-acre estate in Asheville and designated National Historic Landmark that is open to the public. While the grandeur of the 250-room chateau itself is enough to attract the more than 1 million visitors each year, it’s the full offerings of the estate that make the Biltmore® a must on travelers’ Asheville Bucket List. 

From botanical gardens to fine dining to scenic trails to a winery and farm to music events, the Biltmore ® fits as easily into plans for a family vacation as a romantic getaway. Below, you’ll find 10 tips for how to visit America’s Largest Home ®:

1. Snag discounted Biltmore® tickets. 

First things first, and in this case, it’s purchasing your ticket. Greybeard Rentals has a special discount code available to guests staying in one of our rental homes. If you plan to visit the Biltmore Estate during your Asheville vacation, be sure to mention it to one of our reservationists or Guest Services.

 2. Wear comfortable (and seasonally appropriate) clothes & shoes.

Biltmore is easily a full-day experience, so make the most of your visit and ticket cost by planning to spend your entire day there. That said, with the amount of walking, comfortable clothes and shoes are a must. If you visit in the…

  • Spring: Boasting waves of color and fragrant breezes, Biltmore Blooms is a prime time to visit. Be sure to bring a rain jacket or compact umbrella along so you don’t have to skip the epic gardens in the event of rain. 
  • Summer: Days are longer thanks to DST opening up more outdoor activity options, so be sure to wear breathable clothes and bring sunscreen. Nights usually get a bit cooler, so bring a light sweater or jacket just in case.
  • Fall: Full of vibrant color-changing foliage and crisp temperatures,  we recommend layering and bringing along a scarf or cozy sweater for those inevitable chilly days. 
  • Winter: Offering shorter lines and a peaceful atmosphere, we definitely recommend bringing a winter coat and gloves-especially when exploring the grounds or snapping a pic in front of the decked out 35-foot Fraser fir. 

Halloween Room in the Biltmore House.

Opt for the audio tour of Biltmore House in the morning. 

If it’s your first time at the Biltmore, don’t skip the audio tour. The audio tour is updated often and varies depending on the season, so even if you’ve heard it once, the facts and trivia will likely change every time. A couple of our favorite tour highlights include the Louis XV Room where Edith Vanderbilt chose to give birth to her daughter, Cornelia in 1900, and the Halloween Room.

Located in the basement, the Halloween Room houses murals filled with folkloric characters and imaginative imagery painted on the brick walls. Initially, Biltmore historians believed that the room was the scene of a 1920s Halloween weekend house party, but further research revealed that the murals were painted for a New Year’s ball in 1925. The scenes are now thought to be inspired by the avant-garde Russian cabaret and theatrical troupe called La Chauve-Souris, which translates to “The Bat.” Read more about the mysterious and whimsical Halloween Room here.

Insider Tip: Your ticket time is for the Biltmore House Tour, and it usually takes about 2 hours to go through the house. We recommend using the restroom before, as the home does not have an accessible bathroom, and you won’t see another until the end of the tour.

4. After your home tour, head straight to the Biltmore gardens.

Holding the title of a “horticultural paradise,” Biltmore’s gardens and grounds were designed by notable landscape architect, Fredrick Law Olmstead. While each season offers its own distinct delights, these are the top sights that thrive during the spring and summer months: 

  • Italian Garden: The marble statues and lily pad-filled reflecting pools resemble the stately Versailles in France. The pools are filled with koi and goldfish, as well as many varieties of aquatic plants, including water lilies, elephant ears, and papyrus. 
  • Shady Pergola: This cool and quiet passageway leading to the Shrub and Walled Gardens has four marble busts (representing the four seasons) nestled along its stone wall. During peak spring, the pergola is covered in purple wisteria blooms.
  • Shrub Garden: A level path leads you through the four-acre Shrub Garden, a picturesque landscape with hundreds of ornamental shrubs and beautiful trees like the Golden Rain Tree and Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar. Perfectly airy and shady, it’s the perfect place for an aimless stroll or wandering. 

    Azalea garden in late April.

  • Walled Garden: The centerpiece of the gardens features a seasonal rotation of blooms, including 75,000 tulips in the spring, colorful summer annuals, and rich fall mums. A long arbor covered with grapevines runs down the center with themed areas, including a butterfly garden, white border, scented border, and Victorian border.
  • Rose Garden: The lower half of the Walled Garden features 50 varieties of roses grown at the end of the 19th-century, plus modern varieties and All–American Roses. You'll also find traditional garden structures, such as a maypole and double arch surrounded by 2,000 roses, planted exactly as it was when the Vanderbilts lived at Biltmore.
  • Spring Garden: This garden is surrounded by a grove of white pines and hemlocks and is full of an assortment of spring-blooming shrubs including Forsythia, Deutzia, and Mock Orange.
  • Azalea Garden: This crowd favorite is filled with a million vivid blooms of white, yellow, orange, and every shade of pink imaginable. The impressive collection of azaleas hits its peak in late April and May and is spread across 15-acres.

Bonus Spots & Trails: 

  • Bass Pond: You’ll know you’ve reached the Bass Pond when you see the boathouse and the arched brick bridge, which was featured in the Hollywood film, The Last of the Mohicans.
  • Sunflowers: During late summer (peak in late August-mid September), explore a mile-long sunflower patch along the greenway and road near Antler Hill Village.
  • 20+ Miles of Trails: Bike or walk on a network of trails to explore even more of the Estate. Find more information and a detailed trail map here

Insider Tip: Don’t skip the conservatory! Boasting an impressive collection of Cycads (with a few dating back more than a century to the time of the Vanderbilts), large Thai Giant Elephant Ears, and stunning collections of both orchids and cacti, the plant lover in your group will be in heaven.

5. Take a lunch break, and try one of the Estate’s restaurants. 

Village SocialStable Cafe, and Cedric’s Tavern in Antler Hill Village are great options, but make sure to make reservations at those spots in advance. If you find yourself hungry and without a reservation, there are other quick bite options available, including the Smokehouse Food Truck (Antler Hill Village) and Courtyard Market (beside the Biltmore House). 

Charcuterie board at the Biltmore Wine Bar in Antler Hill Village.

6. Enjoy a complimentary wine tasting, or take a Biltmore Winery Tour. 

Your Biltmore ticket includes a complimentary wine tasting at the Winery in Located in Antler Hill Village, you can enjoy this perk with the purchase of a daytime ticket if you are over the age of 21. 

Insider Tip: Make your wine tasting reservation upon arrival. Implemented during the pandemic, reservations must now be made in person the day of your visit at the winery within Antler Hill Village.

If you miss out on your complimentary tasting, check out the wine bar across the way. The charcuterie board and pink peppercorn bon bons pair delciously with Biltmore's wines!

 7. Explore everything Antler Hill Village has to offer, including the Biltmore Farmyard.

The village is chock full of activities for everyone in your group. Tend farm animals, watch live craft demonstrations by blacksmiths and woodworkers, try your hand at target archery, create a unique nature mandala, rent a bike or take a guided bike ride, discover the ancient art of falconry, and if you're visiting with kids, let them play at the wooden Pisgah Playground.

Be sure to carve out time to grab an ice cream at the Creamery (Winky Bar Sundae anyone?) or a drink at the Library Lounge bar in between outdoor activities, wine tasting, and shopping. 

Insider Tip: Most shops and activities, including the Barn and Farmyard, close between 5-6 PM (depending on the season), so be sure to plan accordingly. Check out their detailed hours of operation here

 8. Check out the special exhibit and seasonal events.  

Note: This section has been updated to reflect the 2023 exhibition series. 

Shores of the Lagoon.

The year-long exhibition series at Biltmore called Legends of Art & Innovation will come to a close on February 20, 2023 with Leonardo Da Vinci-500 Years of Genius. Beginning March 3, 2023, the Italian Renaissance Alive will commence. This grand immersive experience will feature large-scale, multi-sensory displays showcasing the masterpieces of Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, and Caravaggio.

Previous exhibits include Downton Abbey, Chihuly, Titanic Movie Costumes, and Movie Wedding Gowns. In addition to exhibits, the estate hosts a number of events throughout the year including Candlelight Christmas Evenings, Bounty of the Harvest, and Live After Five.

 9. Take a stroll along the lagoon or drift along the river.

The shores of the Lagoon provide a postcard-perfect spot for a picnic or stroll with a marvelous view of Biltmore House in the distance. If you’re interested in being on the water, Biltmore offers Orvis-endorsed Fly Fishing through their Outdoor Adventure Center with options ranging from two-hour dry-casting lessons to a full day of adventure with guided raft trips and self-guided kayak trips

10. Shop for a souvenir to remind you of your time at the Estate.

By the Biltmore House and Gardens, you’ll find timeless keepsakes for your home, garden accessories, a sparkling array of Christmas treasures, old-fashioned toys and games, and confectionery with a large array of sweet treats. In Antler Hill Village, you’ll find an outfitters shop, a wine shop, and an eclectic selection of arts and crafts items. Near the entrance (or exit), you’ll find the Gate House Shop which features Biltmore wine, jewelry, and souvenirs. 

For seasoned visitors reading this to see if there are any tips they’re not already aware of, we recommend:

  • Rooftop Tour to see the highest views and closest look at the detailed gargoyles perched way up high on the house. You’ll also get the chance to walk through some rooms typically closed off during regular tours. 
  • Behind-the-Scenes Winery Tour & Tasting is another one we’d recommend for those who have experienced the general tour several times already and are looking for something new. 

Davenport Cottage—a pet-friendly extended stay in the center of hip West Asheville.

If Asheville and the Biltmore Estate are the main attractions you’re interested in during your mountain getaway, be sure to check out these Cabins Near the Biltmore®.

If you’re seeking a longer stay near the Biltmore Estate that allows you to work remotely, Davenport Cottage (9 minutes away), Sunflower Sanctuary (10 minutes away), Jolly Good Place (11 minutes away), and Briarcliff (12 minutes away) are some great options!