For those familiar with Biltmore, it evokes a portrait of grandeur, of lives lived that most of us cannot even remotely relate to. However, it also paints a timeline of vast history in the United States as a still-existing testimony to wars, cultural moments, and decades past that now only exist in history books.
Fortunately for us, all of that history is available to explore in person.
The Biltmore is one of the most unique, stunning places to visit in the United States. In this guide, I’ll share with you what any Biltmore visitor should know, including why to visit in the first place and some tips for exploring Biltmore’s surroundings in Asheville, North Carolina.
A Brief History of Biltmore Estate
The vision for Biltmore and the very reason for its existence today belongs to George Vanderbilt, an entrepreneur born into one of the U.S.’ most prominent families. After visiting Asheville, North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Mountains, he later chose it as the site of his country home.
Completed in 1895, Biltmore is one of the most ambitious construction projects of the nineteenth century. Biltmore House is a French Renaissance chateau with 250 rooms, and it took six years to build.
However decadent Biltmore House in itself may be, it is the center of a massive property of gardens, staff’s quarters and cottages, horse stables, and more, all with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
As I mentioned above, Biltmore House has seen and survived over a century of history, from both World Wars to two pandemics.
Fun fact: During World War II, the Vanderbilts stored priceless artwork from the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. in the music room, which was unfinished at the time. Now, the music room houses instruments that are artifacts in themselves, because they were made so long ago.
Visitor Guide to Biltmore
For anyone that can reach Asheville, has a taste for history, and loves stunning architecture, Biltmore Estate is well worth visiting!
Guests can purchase tickets online at Biltmore’s website or in person on the day of their visit. Because Biltmore is pretty popular, I do recommend buying your tickets online in advance. I was honestly surprised at how many slots were already sold out! You’ll have to choose which time to enter Biltmore House, but you can spend time in the rest of the estate during all their opening hours on the day of your visit.
Ticket are priced in three tiers:
1. Biltmore Experience — $64-$84
This ticket gets you entry to the entire estate for the day, including Biltmore House at a specified time. Your visit is self-guided, so you won’t get an audio guide. It does, however, include a complimentary wine tasting in Antler Hill Village!
2. Enhanced Experience — $76-$96
This tier gets you everything in the Biltmore Experience plus an audio guide on your Biltmore House visit.
3. Exclusive Experience — $284-$304
This tour includes entry to the estate, in addition to a custom two-hour tour with an expert guide. Depending on your interests, you can even visit areas that aren’t on the main tour.
This pricing can also increase in summer and for Christmas at Biltmore.
My mom and I chose the Enhanced Experience, and we both highly recommend doing so. The placards in Biltmore House aren’t detailed, so you’ll want someone to explain what you’re looking at! We paid just over $90 including taxes and an online booking fee, so know that the prices you see above don’t include taxes and fees.
You’ll likely spend only an hour or so in Biltmore House itself. My mom and I timed our entry for 2:45pm, and had plenty of time to do the audio tour with hours to spare before the property closed for the day.
If your Biltmore House entry is timed any later than that, then you’ll want to visit the rest of the Biltmore Estate before going to the house. Each area of Biltmore Estate has different opening hours, depending on the time of year you visit. Make sure you check the current hours on Biltmore’s website as you plan your day there!
Reflecting on my Visit: What I Loved About Biltmore
Out of the entire estate, I loved the audio guided tour of Biltmore House most and a (very) close second is the garden conservatory. We visited during the Biltmore Blooms exhibit, which showcased not only stunning florals but also replicas of each notable home on the property. Included in this was Biltmore House itself, the gardener’s cottage, and more. I loved every minute of walking through it!
From Biltmore House specifically, the room that I enjoyed seeing the most was the library. Books upon books graced entire walls, meeting the ceiling that is adorned in a painting akin to the homes of European royalty. I loved everything about that room!
Biltmore in the Era of Covid-19
If you visit during the Covid-19 pandemic and social distancing measures, then I recommend reading this page on Biltmore’s site before you plan your visit. At the time of my visit in April 2021, guests were required to wear masks inside Biltmore House. These could be removed outside, in the gardens, and outdoors in Antler Hill Village.
Within Biltmore House, there are markers recommending where to stand in order to stay six feet apart. Part of the timed reservation system is designed to limit how many guests enter at the same time, so it didn’t feel too crowded.
What to Know About the Complimentary Wine Tasting
This is key. One of the main ways I justified the hefty price tag to visit Biltmore is the included wine tasting. I’m not exactly a connoisseur of fine wines, and I don’t normally go on tastings. So, I enjoyed getting to do something different on this day!
One thing you must know if you’re interested in the wine tasting is that you must reserve a spot in advance. I tried to do so online while on the audio tour, and almost didn’t get a spot. Instead, I managed to snag a place in the last tasting round of the day by re-checking the reservation website on my phone.
Learn from my mistake, friend. Make sure you do that as soon as you get to the estate, and give yourself plenty of time between your house entry and your tasting!
I wish you could do that on their website before you even arrive, but I can’t find an option to do so. You can scan the QR code on your entry pamphlet at the house and it will open the reservations webpage.
If you were able to get a complimentary wine tasting reservation before you arrived at Biltmore, comment below and let us know how you did it!
Where to Stay Near the Biltmore Estate
This can be a whole ordeal on a visit to Asheville. When I did the research for this trip, my mom and I planned to use Hilton points to cover the cost of our hotel room. But, there are some general ideas of where you may want to stay, points or not.
Biltmore Village is as close as you can get to staying on property without staying in Antler Hill Village on the estate.
Mom and I stayed in the Hampton Inn and Suites in Biltmore Village, and we had a wonderful experience. This property is right off the interstate, which is ideal when you’ve been in the car for hours and are ready to find your hotel! In this same area are many large chain hotels as well as local bed and breakfasts.
Other options we explored were stays in downtown Asheville and West Asheville (properties called “Biltmore Area.”) After driving around the city for a few days, we’re glad we stayed in Biltmore Village because of its convenience. However, if that didn’t work out, I think we would have enjoyed our stay in Biltmore Area or downtown as well!
Things to See and Do Near Biltmore
I recommend taking a stroll through downtown Asheville to peruse its local shops. I noticed many independent, contemporary art galleries, so it seems that downtown is the art lover’s place to be. We came across the Asheville Art Museum, but didn’t have time to go inside. Entry is $15, and there’s a cool sculpture in front.
In addition to the art and downtown area, the Blue Ridge Parkway winds its way through Asheville’s landscape. Take a drive down it for stunning views of mountains that layer as far as the eye can see.
Vegan Places to Eat in Asheville
I’m at a loss for words, and I’m a writer. Words are my thing. But dinner at Plant was by far the best I’ve ever had. There is no comparison.
The flavor combinations, the texture, the menu offerings, the ambiance, all of it combined to create an unforgettable experience. Try the ravioli, cheese board, and crème brûlée. All vegan, all incredible, all life-changing.
Laughing Seed was another restaurant we fully enjoyed! If you’re vegan, then make sure to specify you want vegan cheeses, milks, etc. as this spot is vegetarian.
I recommend the barbecue sandwich, topped with fried onions, pickled jalapeños, and vegan cheese. I also loved the shepherd’s pie with its side salad!
Our last morning in Asheville, we had breakfast at Green Sage. When I say I never order oatmeal in restaurants, I mean it. But, their Apple Sunflower Oatmeal sounded too interesting to ignore.
Mixed with apples, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cranberries, raisins, maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, and coconut oil, these oats are the best I’ve ever had. Highly recommend!
This place is veg-friendly, so bring your omni friends!
The Coffee Shop You Must Try in Asheville
Covid-notwithstanding, I tend to work in coffee shops. When I was traveling in Southeast Asia in early 2020, I spent plenty of time in coffee shops travel planning, writing, researching, and just enjoying a drink. Before that, I made it a point to try a local coffee shop in each new destination.
So, it’s safe to say I’ve been to many interesting coffee shops.
Double D’s in Asheville stands out as one of the most unique I’ve ever seen.
It’s an old Londoner red double-decker bus sitting in downtown Asheville. In normal circumstances, they would offer seating in the upstairs of the bus in addition to their patio seating. You order from the window at the lower level of the bus, and pick up your drink inside. I recommend their iced lavender latte! They’re cash only, so make sure you’ve got some.
This weekend getaway to Asheville was such a breath of fresh air after six months of being at home. I hope this guide helps you as you plan your own Biltmore experience, and that it’s everything you imagine.