Biltmore Estate is on any must do list when visiting Asheville. Not only the largest private home in America, this treasured tourist destination welcomes over 1 million visitors a year. Registered as a National Historic Landmark, this North Carolina landmark earns the title of #1 North Carolina visitor attraction in its category (museums, historic buildings and zoos). Here are 6 tips on how to do Biltmore Estate like a Vanderbilt to maximize your Biltmore experience.
Showing off the best of Asheville to our California friends, it was a no brainer: we had to take them to Biltmore. After all, Biltmore Estate is the largest private residence in America and registered as a National Historic Landmark.
Our West Coast friends were thrilled at our choice.
But I was suddenly panicked. Our family has been to Biltmore Estate on numerous occasions, and I wanted to be sure that our friends’ experience measured up to the Vanderbilts (the family that owns the property) themselves.
Well, that may be a tad unrealistic, but these 6 Tips we used will hopefully maximize how guests approach their Biltmore Estate vacation.
6 Tips on How to Do Biltmore Estate Like a Vanderbilt
1. Audio Tour of the Biltmore House
Part of being a Vanderbilt is knowing all about the family tree and the deep traditions and history of the grounds. An audio tour accomplished that for our party of 4. Having friends with us who had never been to Biltmore, we decided the 90-minute audio tour was the way to go! We toured all three floors and the basement in under 2 hours and learned more about the history of Biltmore House than I had on any prior visit.
For instance, my favorite story shared on the audio guide was about a young servant who was so stunned by the grandeur of the banquet hall that she dropped the tray of china she held. Instead of freaking out, George Vanderbilt actually helped her clean up the broken pieces. What a brilliant idea to use storytelling in informing guests about the family and the history of the home.
Another awe-inspiring moment happens in the tapestry gallery. I was amazed when the audio guide said the tapestries took 5 years to design and plan — and 5 years to weave them. That’s persistence!
2. Gawk at the Gardens
Biltmore Estate goes way beyond the Biltmore House itself. The property spans over 8,000 acres, including brilliant gardens which were designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Although I have a black thumb, even I appreciated the lushness and beauty of the grounds.
As we strolled the garden paths, I imagined the footsteps of those who came before me and felt a deep connection to the land. As we passed from the Italian Garden, I envisioned guests playing croquet and tennis; the Rose Garden, where over 40 varieties of roses bloom; and the Conservatory, which once provided flowers and plants for Biltmore House like the ever-present orchids, ferns, and palms. The genius behind the design cannot be overlooked because it envelops you.
3. Tour the Biltmore Winery
Do you know that the most visited winery in the United States isn’t in Napa Valley? Instead, it’s at Biltmore, where approximately 600,000 visitors stop by to sample the award-winning estate wines each year. The estate admission ticket also includes a winery tour and complimentary wine tasting for those 21 and over. We squeezed in a tasting of mostly red and varietals before touring the rest of Antler Hill Village.
At our tasting, we learned that the grapes grown on site include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Chardonnay. For the true connoisseurs, book a specialty wine experience like the “Vine to Wine Tour” which combines an excursion to the vineyards on the west side of Biltmore along with a walking production tour and wine tastings.
For the true connoisseurs, book a specialty wine experience like the “Vine to Wine Tour” which combines an excursion to the vineyards on the west side of Biltmore along with a walking production tour and wine tastings.
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4. Play at Antler Hill Village
Go beyond the Biltmore House and explore this massive estate with a trip over to Antler Hill Village. Home to the Biltmore Winery, the main draws at the Village are a farm, several restaurants, and one of the Estate resorts, Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate. Antler Hill Village is like a time warp to a period where staff lived on the estate raising livestock, tending crops, and working at Biltmore Dairy in the 1890s.
The Barn in the Village is one of my kids’ favorite because it features blacksmiths, woodworkers, and other craft demonstrations. The biggest hit with the little ones is the Barnyard where goats and lambs cavort and roosters strut their stuff. Don’t miss the Creamery for some ice cream or baked goodies.
Don’t miss the Creamery for some ice cream or baked goodies.
5. Plan a Visit During the Holidays
Opening on Christmas Eve in 1895, the Biltmore House was the culmination of six years of construction and collaboration. Seems fitting then that holidays at the Estate are such a big deal. Called Candlelight Christmas Evenings, this special ticketed event showcases the Biltmore House in holiday splendor. Due to high demand, entrance on these evenings is timed and does sell out.
6. Stay on Site and Pretend You’re a Vanderbilt
Although we made this visit a day trip, we have stayed at both the Inn on Biltmore Estate (completed in 2001) and Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate (2015). Both are outstanding properties that our family has enjoyed on prior trips.
How to choose between them? As an AAA four diamond resort, the Inn is more upscale and offers more amenities like fine dining restaurants and a spa. But I think I prefer the newer Village Hotel because of its proximity to Antler Hill Village and its price point as a moderate hotel.
Added bonus: both hotels have complimentary shuttle service to the Biltmore House. I like the idea of staying on the estate to give enough time to see all the areas of Biltmore. Hey, it made me FEEL like a Vanderbilt to sleep on the property (even if it wasn’t in the Biltmore House itself!)
For other ideas of fun things to do in Asheville, check out where to sleep and eat, visiting the Grove Park Inn for Sunday brunch and the National Gingerbread Competition, and free things to do in Asheville.
Ticket Information for Biltmore Estate:
Admission includes a self-guided visit of the Biltmore House & Gardens, Antler Hill Village, and a complimentary wine tasting at the Biltmore Winery.
FYI: Due to the historic architecture of the house, only the first and second floors are accessible by wheelchair. All shops and restaurants on the estate are handicap-accessible. Also, there are no public restrooms in Biltmore House, so make your visit at the restrooms near the entrance before you go in.
TravelingMom Tip: Ask for the kids’ version of the audio tour that is narrated by Cedric, the Vanderbilts’ Saint Bernard.