Immediately striking and visually enchanting from all angles, visiting the Biltmore Estate gives visitors an opportunity to explore one of the most iconic Gilded Age mansions, visit one of the nation’s most popular wineries, wander stunning gardens, and enjoy a wide variety of additional sights–all without leaving the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding Asheville, North Carolina.
As one of the most prominent (not to mention pricey) tourist attractions in North Carolina, scoping out the best things to do at Biltmore Estate and (roughly) sketching out your Biltmore itinerary in advance are key to planning an enjoyable trip versus a potentially overwhelming one.
Here’s everything you need to know before visiting Biltmore Estate, including on-the-ground tips!
Table of Contents
A (Very) Brief History of the Biltmore in Asheville, NC
Take a brief glance at the front facade of the stunning Biltmore House, and you may temporarily assume you’ve been transported to the Loire Valley–and that’s not by mistake.
Biltmore House was commissioned by George Washington Vanderbilt ll, the grandson of the incredibly famous railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt and the youngest son of Cornelius’ primary heir.
The home was built between 1889 and 1895, though it’s worth noting that when the house first opened to family and friends during Christmas 1895, several pieces were still unfinished.
Biltmore House was designed by famed architect Richard Morris Hunt (see: the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, the Great Hall of the Met, and many mansions in NYC and Newport).
The grounds were intricately designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (see: Central Park, Prospect Park, many university layouts).
Only 35 short years after Biltmore House was first opened, Cornelia Vanderbilt (the sole child of George Vanderbilt ll and his wife, Edith Vanderbilt) and her husband opened the house to tourism, in part to help the city of Asheville weather the Great Depression.
Top Things to Do at the Biltmore Estate
One of the most important Biltmore tips to keep in mind?
The Biltmore Estate is so much more than just the largest home in America.
Covering roughly 8,000 acres, there are days worth of interesting things to do at the Biltmore!
Here’s how to enjoy one (very busy) day trip to the Biltmore Estate.
Tour Biltmore House.
Without a doubt the most popular attraction at the Biltmore Estate is the Biltmore House itself!
The self-guided tour of Biltmore House takes visitors through several of the home’s roughly 250 rooms, including public and private living areas, guest quarters, the famous banquet hall, and George Vanderbilt’s magnificent library.
The basement is my personal favorite part of the tour: not only does this section of the Biltmore tour cover more of the backend details like the kitchens and a sample of the servant quarters, it’s also where you’ll find whimsical details like the indoor swimming pool, Halloween room, and the famous bowling alley.
Explore the Biltmore Gardens.
Biltmore’s formal and informal gardens are incredibly impressive, and well worth lingering over.
There’s something peaceful and enchanting about meandering slowly through this intricately-arranged wonderland, designed with great care by Frederick Law Olmstead and his team.
While Biltmore House is extraordinarily impressive, the gardens and grounds are a clear reminder that the setting is what drew George Vanderbilt ll to build the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC in the first place!
… and the Conservatory.
When exploring the Biltmore Gardens, absolutely do not miss the Conservatory!
Completed in 1895, the combination of beautiful plants, natural light, and delicate architecture make the Conservatory one of my favorite places at Biltmore Estate.
If you happen to be visiting when the intricate model train system is running, all the better.
Soak in the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Be sure not to miss the loggia (accessed from inside Biltmore House) or the terraces located next door to the house!
Savor the drive up Approach Road.
As you drive the winding 3-mile road from Biltmore Village to Biltmore House, you’ll no doubt feel a bit lost in the woods–but far from being a product of nature, that feeling was carefully cultivated by Frederick Law Olmstead when designing the estate’s landscape.
Enjoy a wine tasting.
Your Biltmore admission ticket includes a complimentary wine tasting–be sure to take advantage of it (more details on how in the next section).
Meander through Antler Hill Village.
Part farming village, part polished park, and part winery, Antler Hill Village boasts some of the best things to do at the Biltmore, including a historic barn to explore, farmyard visits to take part in, crafting demonstrations, and plenty of places to eat–including the popular Cedric’s Tavern and The Creamery (you’ll find ice cream and coffee on the menu here).
Antler Hill Village also boasts a playground, as well as access to nearby trails.
This is also where you’ll take part in your complimentary wine tasting–and you’ll find plenty to entertain yourself with before and after!
Grab lunch on-site.
With 15 dining options to choose from, you’ll be spoiled for choice when deciding where to eat lunch at Biltmore Estate.
Two of the most popular lunch spots are Stable Cafe right next door to Biltmore House, which serves up Carolina barbecue and Appalachian comfort food in the Biltmore’s historic stable, and Cedric’s Tavern, which serves delicious pub-style food in Antler Hill Village.
Check out additional tours.
If you want to get beyond the standard rooms on your tour of Biltmore House, consider signing up for an additional tour!
Rooftop tours, Backstairs tours (focused on the lives of Biltmore’s employees), behind-the-scenes winery tours, and more are available at certain times throughout the year.
Browse the shops.
Biltmore has several shops on-site, selling everything from souvenirs to books about Biltmore to food items produced on-site (including Biltmore’s wine, of course!).
Practical Travel Tips for the Biltmore Estate
Think of the Biltmore Estate as a day trip, not a one-off attraction.
Not only does it take a full day to put a solid dent into covering the best things to do at Biltmore Estate, but it’s a great way to make the most of your entrance fee.
Book your ticket in advance.
It is essential to book your visit to the Biltmore in advance in order to secure a chance to tour the house (which is, without a doubt, the star of the show).
Ticket prices vary based on the package that you buy, how far in advance you purchase, and what time of year you’re visiting, but currently start at $76 per person.
For context, we visited on a weekday in June and were able to schedule our visit 48 hours in advance, but only had a couple of house tour times to choose from, as most were already sold out.
Get an audio guide for the house tour.
The tour is not signposted, so you’ll miss the vast majority of the context of the tour without a guide!
In-person tours are also available but are far more expensive (around $200 per person, give or take).
Make winery reservations as soon as you arrive.
Reservations are required in order to take advantage of the complimentary wine tasting that is included with your Biltmore ticket–but you can’t make a reservation until you arrive on-site.
Signs posted with QR codes are scattered around the property, and you can use these to make reservations through your phone.
Alternatively, you can visit a guest services location to make reservations.
Plan to drive around the property (and possibly take a shuttle).
Antler Hill Village (where you’ll complete your wine tasting) and the Biltmore House and Gardens are located a decent drive apart–the Biltmore website recommends setting aside 45 minutes to make the journey from Antler Hill Village to your Biltmore House tour during peak hours–so keep that in mind when planning your Biltmore itinerary.
This estate map is excellent for visualizing the property.
Once you reach Biltmore House and park, you may need to take a shuttle to the house itself–or alternatively, if you get fairly close parking, walk 8-10 minutes to the house.
Consider reading up on the home’s history before you go.
I picked up Denise Kiernan’s The Last Castle after visiting Biltmore Estate and absolutely loved learning more about the house and the family that made it a home–and I wish I had read it before visiting!
If you’re interested in the Vanderbilts beyond Biltmore, you may also enjoy The Last Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, a dense but incredibly interesting biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the grandfather of George Vanderbilt ll and the man responsible for starting the Vanderbilt dynasty.
FAQ About Visiting the Biltmore
Can you leave the Biltmore and then return the same day?
Yes, you can!
If you’re staying nearby or would rather eat off-site for lunch, you can easily break up your day into two parts, visiting Antler Hill Village and the winery as one block and then visiting the house and gardens at another time.
How long does it take to see the Biltmore?
Self-guided tours of the Biltmore House last about 90 minutes, give or take, but a full visit to the Biltmore Estate can easily take a full day!
If you’re short on time and want to put together a condensed half-day Biltmore itinerary (and don’t mind skipping the wine tasting), you can see the house, enjoy views of the front facade from the lawn, explore the gardens, have lunch, and browse some of the Biltmore’s shops within 4 hours or so, all without moving your car.
Who owns the Biltmore today?
The Biltmore Company, which is owned by the direct descendents of George and Edith Vanderbilt, owns and operates the Biltmore today.
The family is still involved in day-to-day operations, and the Biltmore Estate is regarded as the largest privately-owned home in the USA.
Can you stay at the Biltmore Estate?
Yes and no.
Biltmore House itself is not open for overnight stays, but the estate does have a few properties on-site, including the Inn, the Village Hotel, and the Cottages.
Is the Biltmore pet-friendly?
More than you would expect!
While Biltmore House and other buildings on the property are not pet-friendly, leashed dogs are welcome on the grounds, including in the gardens.
We took Ranger to Antler Hill Village during our day trip to Biltmore.
Is visiting the Biltmore Estate worth the price?
With an average day at the Biltmore costing $70-90 (not including food, souvenirs, or additional tours), it’s definitely not the most budget-friendly tourism experience in Asheville–but for the right traveler, it’s definitely worth it!
If you enjoy house museums, history, and exploring beautiful grounds, you’ll find plenty of fun things to do at the Biltmore and it’s well worth the visit if it fits into your budget.
We had an absolute blast visiting the Biltmore Estate and would happly go again in the future–especially if we could schedule it so we had a chance to experience Christmas at the Biltmore.