“The Biltmore Estate is the worlds largest privately owned home. Use these helpful tips to plan your visit to the Biltmore Home and enjoy the beauty of the home set in the Blue Ridge Mountains”.
Nestled in the Blueridge Mountains of North Carolina is a 250-room, French-style renaissance mansion, and museum known as the Biltmore Estate. It is the largest privately-owned home in the United States.
George Washington Vanderbilt II built the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1889.
Biltmore Estate is still owned by the Vanderbilt family and is open to the public for tours.
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The History of the Biltmore Estate
The story of the Biltmore Estate and the people behind it intrigued us. We had to know more. Let’s take a brief look at the history of America’s Largest Home.
In 1880 the railroad connected Asheville to the rest of the country. It became a place for the elite to escape frigid winters and hot summers.
The city of Asheville became known as a healthcare destination. The climate was so refreshing and the air so pure that a few month residence here would rid the system of many diseases. It was known as “Nature’s Trundlebed of Recuperation”.
In the winter of 1887, George Washington Vanderbilt II and his mother visited Asheville. He became inspired and fell in love with Asheville. Vanderbilt purchased 125,000 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains to build a summer house. This would give his mother somewhere to retreat during New York’s extreme weather.
After purchasing the land, Vanderbilt enlisted two well-known architects to make his summer home, now known as Biltmore Estates, a reality.
Richard Morris Hunt, widely recognized as “The Father of American Architecture” and often referred to as “The Vanderbilt Architect,” was the first member of the Vanderbilts team.
Frederick Law Olmstead, who had worked on several other Vanderbilt projects, designed the gardens. Olmstead, known as “The Father of Landscape Architecture,” also designed New York Central Park and the gardens at Bok Tower in Florida. The Biltmore gardens was the last project Olmstead designed.
To see more of Olmstead’s impressive designs, head over to
Fun and Romantic Things to do in Lake Wales, Florida
Vanderbilt’s vision for Biltmore Estate was so massive that a woodworking factory and a brick kiln had to be built on-site to facilitate the construction.
Three miles of train tracks were laid to bring the construction material to the property.
The construction of the home began in 1889 and continued thru 1895. More than 1000 workers were given jobs and taught trades during the construction.
In 1895, Vanderbilt opened Biltmore Estate on Christmas Eve by hosting a Christmas celebration for his friends and family.
The Biltmore Estate was built with the latest technology. It had electricity from the day it was built and is home to one of the oldest known elevators in the United States.
During WW II, selections from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, including original Rembrandt’s, were stored at Biltmore to keep the artwork safe in an attack on Washington, DC.
In 1963, the Biltmore Estate was designated a National Historic Landmark, and in 1995 it celebrated its 100th anniversary.
Although grand in scale and featuring all of the most modern conveniences of its time, Biltmore Estate was built as a home. It is where children and grandchildren grew up.
History of the Biltmore Family
A few years after the Biltmore Estate’s construction was finished, George met and married Edith. Years later, they welcomed a daughter, their only child, Cornelia, born at the estate.
In 1914, at the age of 51, Vanderbilt passed away from complications during an emergency appendectomy. After Vanderbilt’s death, his widow Edith was left to carry out many of Vanderbilt’s visions.
Edith sold portions of their land to the United States Forest Service for less than $5 an acre. The sale carried out some of Vanderbilt’s wishes for the land, and the proceeds from the sale helped Edith with the estate’s maintenance.
A stipulation was attached to the land that it stays intact, in its natural state. This land today makes up a part of the Pisgah National Forest.
During the Depression, at the request of Asheville’s city leadership, Cornelia (Vanderbilt’s daughter) and her husband opened the grand estate to tourists.
There was so much curiosity about the Grand Biltmore Estate that local officials hoped opening Biltmore Estate up for tours would help increase tourism to the area.
Opening the Biltmore Estate to tours allowed Cornelia to bring in money to help with Biltmore’s finances.
The Biltmore Estate has always been family-owned. George Washington Vanderbilt II’s great-grandson Bill Cecil is the current owner and serves as the CEO of The Biltmore Company.
For a more indepth look at the Vanderbilts, we recommend picking up the book The Last Castle by Denis Kiernan. It’s the story of love, loss, the nation’s largest home, and the family that lived in it.
Visiting The Biltmore Estate
The interior of the Biltmore Estate is impressive. The estate has 4 acres of floor space, 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, three kitchens, a banquet room, a library, and a music room that was not completed until 1976.
The home’s two-story library, which houses George Vanderbilt’s personal collection contains over 22,000 books in 8 languages. According to Biltmore historians George Vanderbilt read on average of 81 books a year and recorded them in his personal journal.
The basement features an indoor heated swimming pool, bowling alley, laundry rooms, and the servant’s dining hall.
Outside the house are beautiful gardens, including an Italian garden, a rose garden, fountains, a conservatory, an outdoor tea room, and a terrace.
Ninety years after Biltmore Estates’ opening, the public got its first look at Biltmore Winery on May 15, 1985. Until that time, the now winery had been a dairy barn.
Other recent additions to the Biltmore Estate include “The Inn on Biltmore.”
George Vanderbilt always planned to build a lodge on the estate to accommodate additional guests. In 1900, Vanderbilt gathered estimates for his lodge at the cost of $18,000 but decided to put the idea on the side for a while.
In 2001, George’s descendants fulfilled his plans in a style that compliments Biltmore Estates.
Tips For Visiting Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina
Visiting Biltmore Estate can be overwhelming just because of the size. Using these tips will help make your visit more enjoyable.
1 ~ Buy your tickets in advance
Buy your tickets online ahead of time to guarantee you can visit on your chosen day and time. Tickets do sell out.
Tickets to tour Biltmore Estate vary in price depending on the day and season. Tickets typically start at $76 and go up from there.
Over one million people a year visit Biltmore Estate with weekend, holidays, and Christmas being the busiest times.
For visitors wanting a behind the scenes look at the Vanderbilt’s home, consider booking one of their guided tours. To participate in a tour, guests must have a daytime ticket, a Biltmore Annual Pass, or stay at one of the estate’s splendid overnight properties.
This one hour tour offers visitors a memorable experience featuring one-of-a-kind photo opportunities only available to George Vanderbilt’s family or guests. This rooftop tour looks at the construction and design of Biltmore Estate.
The Biltmore House Backstage Tour
This 60-minute backstage tour takes you to rarely seen domestic staff areas and gives you a look at what it was like to work in America’s Largest Home. Your guide will share stories about the people who worked and lived on the estate for Vanderbilt.
Expert-Guided Small Group Tour
This small group tour is a more intimate experience of Biltmore House. Each member of the tour is cast in the role of one of Vanderbilt’s first guests. You will tour rarely-accessed areas of Biltmore House and see things from a new perspective.
2 ~ Plan to spend the whole day
Plan to spend an entire day at Biltmore Estate. You won’t want to miss anything. You can easily spend 8 hours enjoying everything Biltmore Estate has to offer.
This is how much time you can expect to spend throughout your day at Biltmore Estate.
- Self-guided tour of the home ~ 2 hours
- Wandering the Gardens ~ 2 hours
- Winery ~ 1 hour
- Shopping ~ 1 hour
- Antler Hill Village ~ 1+ hour
An ideal day at Biltmore may look something like the following.
- Arrive at Biltmore at 8:30 with lots of energy.
- Head straight to the Biltmore Gardens and Conservatory. ~ Plan one hour
- Get in line for your 10 or 10:30 house tour. ~ Plan 2 hours (use the restroom before your tour)
- Grab lunch at Stable Cafe ~ Plan 1 hour (Make reservations)
- After lunch enjoy any of the gardens you may have missed
- Enjoy your complementary wine tasting at the Biltmore Winery ~ Plan 1 hour (Reservations Needed)
- Following your wine tasting enjoy shopping at Antler Hall Village
- If time allows, relax and grab a glass of wine and a charcuterie board.
If you are staying at one of the Biltmore properties, you may want to make a reservation for dinner at one of the Biltmore Restaurants.
Where to stay when visiting the Biltmore Estate
The Village Hotel
If you are looking to make the most of your time at Biltmore check out this moderately priced option. The Village Hotel is the perfect casual hotel just a short stroll from the shops and restaurants of Antler Hill Village.
All the amenities included will have you feeling right at home.
For more luxuries, look no further than The Inn. This four star luxury hotel is an excellent place for a romantic getaway with your partner.
The Inn offers world-class dining, luxurious spa treatment and a full concierge staff that is dedicated to making each guest feel special. You will experience nothing but exceptional amenities at The Inn.
3 ~ Choose the best time of day to visit
Plan your visit to the Biltmore Estate for a weekday. Weekends can be very busy. The Biltmore is also a venue for weddings, and certain areas may be off-limits during certain times on weekends.
Monday through Thursday are the best days to visit, and the cost of tickets is the most economical.
Once you have purchased your Biltmore Estate tour tickets, you will be able to choose your time slot for touring the home. Although the grounds open at 8:30, the home does not open until 10. It is suggested that you book your tour for 10 am but arrive at Biltmore Estate when the gate opens and enjoy a morning walk through the gardens.
Daily hours vary ~ You can see Hours Here
The highest number of home tours are taken between 11 and 1. If you are not able to reserve your time slot first thing in the morning, it is suggested that you wait until 2 in the afternoon to take your tour to avoid the crowds.
4 ~ Dress comfortably
You won’t want to miss a thing. Be prepared and comfortable to be on the go enjoying everything that Biltmore Estate has to offer.
Comfortable shoes are a must, the home and the gardens are extensive. Your feet will thank you the next day for making sure they are comfortable.
5 ~ Don’t skip the audio guide for your tour
During your self-guided tour of the Biltmore House, you will tour 3 floors and over 30 rooms.
Included with your ticket is an audio guide that will follow your tour. You will learn about the Vanderbilt family, the Biltmore Home’s construction, architecture, and the servants that lived in the house.
To obtain your audio guide, arrive at the front door of the Biltmore House 15 minutes before your scheduled tour and present your ticket.
Using the audio guide will not slow down or speed up your tour. You can stop and start the audio, allowing you to move from room to room at your own pace, spending more time in the rooms you enjoy.
We were amazed by the George Vanderbilt library, the banquet room with three fireplaces and 70 foot ceilings and lets not forget about the bowling ally or the indoor swimming pool.
6 ~ Eat a good breakfast
You will have a long day filled with wonder and lots of walking ahead of you. Start your day with a good breakfast and coffee to give you the energy you will need. Once you get to the estate you will not want to be getting breakfast.
7 ~ Stroll the grounds and conservatory
Prior to your house tour or immediately following your tour, depending on your scheduled tour time, make sure to fully enjoy the gardens at Biltmore Estate.
The Biltmore Gardens has acres of formal and informal gardens, walking paths and trails. The gardens were designed by Landscape Architect Frederick Law Olmstead and includes the rare tropicals in the Conservatory, the Bass Pond, the Italian Garden and more. The gardens are opens at 9 am daily. (Check daily schedules)
The gardens are located directly outside the main entrance.
8 ~ Make wine tasting reservations ~ its included
Included with your Biltmore ticket are many extras. One of these extras is a complimentary wine tasting at the Biltmore Winery. The Biltmore Winery opened in 1985 and serves wine made from the estate’s vineyard.
Your complimentary wine tasting is by reservation only. You must make your reservation in person and have your tour ticket or be staying at one of the Biltmore Estate’s accommodations. We suggest arriving early in the day and making your reservations.
Did you know ~ Each ticket is good for one complimentary wine tasting consisting of five samples?
You will be offered twenty different types of wine to choose from during your wine tasting. They will range from sweet to dry, red, white and rose’.
After you have sampled the wine and found your favorite, walk across to the indoor/outdoor wine bar and enjoy a glass of your favorite wine paired with locally-made truffles or a charcuterie board.
Then take some time to browse the shops and do some shopping.
The Biltmore Winery is the most visited winery in the United States.
For a more extensive look at the Biltmore Winery, you can book one of the winery tours.
Go behind the scenes and learn about Biltmore vineyards. Discover the factors that affect the North Carolina grape crop and learn the craft of fermentation. Your behind the scenes winery tour ends with an exclusive tasting of Biltmore wines in a private setting.
Discover the art of chocolate and wine pairing. Locally produced chocolates from French Broad Chocolate are perfectly served paired with just the right blends of red wine. Your taste buds will confirm chocolate and red wine go perfect together.
On your tour you’ll also have an opportunity to taste raw cacao bean and learn about the wine production at Biltmore.
9 ~ Visit Antler Hill
Many visitors leave Biltmore Estate without visiting Antler Hill and its a shame.
Antler Hill is located on the Vanderbilt property five miles from the estate. It is home to Biltmore Winery, shopping exhibits and world-class food.
Antler Hill Village opened in 2010 and connects the estates past and present.
Tips For Visiting Biltmore Estate at Christmas
Christmas at the Biltmore is over the top. It’s a once in a life time experience to see America’s largest home decorated in all it’s splendor.
Christmas at the Biltmore runs from November to January. This is one of the busiest times of the year at the Biltmore.
During the holiday season you can experience over 100 decorated Christmas trees, thousands of ornaments and even more Christmas lights. The highlight of the Christmas decorations inside the home is the 35 foot Fraser Fir that graces the banquet hall.
Is it worth the cost to visit Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina? We believe it is. Although visiting the home did seem a little touristy. The history and the family alone make it worth the trip. Walking the many gardens designed by Olmstead is breathtaking and peaceful.
Although your visit to Biltmore Estate is costly, it is well worth the cost to spend the entire day taking in the beauty of Biltmore Estate. As you explore this architectural marvel and beloved national treasure, the fascinating stories about the Vanderbilt family and their guests come to life.
Whether your visit is a weekend getaway or a special romantic vacation for two, the Biltmore Estate is an excellent destination.
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This article was first published in June 2019 and has been updated after a more recent visit.