There is something magical about touring an old castle or mansion and imagining what it is like to live in such grandeur. The Biltmore estate is just that and much more, as the estate is still owned by descendants of the original owner, George Washington Vanderbilt. We have created this Insider’s Guide to visiting The Biltmore Estate for first-time visitors. Here you will find all the information you need to experience this historic home, along with tips on what to explore for future visits. Of course, once you experience the grandeur and history, you’ll return too. There is so much more to enjoy than just visiting the historic home, including enjoying all the nature, forests, and bike paths that abound on the property.
History of the Estate
Biltmore House, the main residence, is a Châteauesque-style mansion built for George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895. It is the largest privately-owned house in the United States and includes 178,926 square feet of floor space. It remains one of the most prominent examples of Gilded Age mansions. The home features 250 rooms, including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces.
In addition to the house, the 8,000-acre estate is home to forested trails and beautiful gardens, which include one of the country’s most complete collections of azaleas.
Biltmore is as magnificent today as it was when it was built more than a century ago. George W. Vanderbilt created the estate in the 1890s as a grand retreat in the North Carolina mountains. The estate officially opened to his friends and family on Christmas Eve 1895. Mr. Vanderbilt brought in Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture, to design the gardens and trails. Biltmore was the last great project for Olmsted, whose work also includes New York’s Central Park and the grounds of the U.S. Capitol.
Directions To Biltmore
Biltmore Estate is located just off of Highway 40 at exit 50. To reach the main entry and gatehouse for Biltmore Estate, take Exit 50 from I-40. If you are coming westbound on I-40, it will be exit 50B. If you are coming eastbound, it will be just exit 50. Follow Hendersonville Road towards downtown Asheville for less than a mile, and you’ll find the Biltmore entrance on your left.
Tickets are available online and at the Estate itself. Purchasing your tickets in advance online is the best deal, providing a $10 discount if purchased 7+ days before your visit. Kids 9 and under are admitted free, and kids 10-16 are 50% off.
Tickets can also be purchased at the Ticketing Center, just a short drive past entrance, and Gate House.
Your tickets include:
- Access to Biltmore House & Gardens
- Audio Guide of Biltmore House including personal Vanderbilt stories and archival details
- Access to Antler Hill Village & Winery
- Complimentary wine tastings at the Winery based on availability
- Complimentary parking
One of the best deals is purchasing an Annual Pass, which offers unlimited Annual access to the entire Biltmore Estate, along with significant savings on Dining, Shopping, and a number of other pass holder benefits.
The Lodge Gate and Main Entrance
As you turn into Biltmore, you’ll see a large parking area with a gift shop and welcome center on the left. Continue through the parking area to the original estate Lodge Gate. Here you’ll be greeted by a security guard on your left that will wave you through. Interesting tidbit- The guard is sitting in the office of the original gatekeeper of the property. Now, your magical tour begins.
Ticket Sales Center
After passing through the Lodge Gate, you’ll enjoy an incredibly beautiful drive through the manicured and landscaped estate grounds. You’ll reach the Reception and Ticket Sales Center in about .5 miles. This is where you’ll purchase your tickets if you didn’t purchase them prior to visiting.
Most visitors keep their purchased tickets on their phones, and you will easily pass through the ticket center once you show the bar codes on your phone. If you cannot locate your ticket, you can park and pick up the paper copy in this office. If you have Annual Passes, you can show them to the Biltmore security guards at this gate.
After showing your tickets, and passing through security, you can go left to Biltmore House, or right to Antler Hill Village. For the purpose of this Insider’s Guide and being a first-time visitor at the Biltmore, we’ll proceed on to the Biltmore House and save the Antler Village for later.
Entrance Drive and Parking
After turning left past the Ticket Center, you’ll enter a scenic 3 mile drive up to the Parking area and Biltmore House and Gardens. Drive slow, and enjoy the plants, waterfalls, and hardwood forest that can be seen from your car.
Before long, you’ll reach a Biltmore staff member that will direct you to the current parking area. Don’t worry if your parking area is a bit of a walk, as Biltmore provides free shuttle service up to the front of the house. If you are disabled, tell the parking attendant, and they will direct you to the Handicap parking area.
The Biltmore House
Most first-time guests will start by touring Vanderbilt’s extraordinary house. Opulent beyond imagination, the Biltmore House covers four acres by itself, totaling 175,000 square feet. 250 rooms contain priceless antiques and art from masters such as Renoir, 65 fireplaces, an indoor pool, and a bowling alley. See if you can spot Napoleon’s chess set. The house is fully furnished and decorated and includes several pieces of priceless art, antiques, and collectibles, many original to the house when it opened.
Interesting tidbit- during your tour, keep your eyes open for acorns and oak leaves. In nearly every room of the house, you’ll be able to spot the image of acorns and oak leaves in the design. The acorn and oak leaves are motifs in the family crest and represent strength and growth. Along with the acorns, you’ll often see George Vanderbilt’s initials.
Outside the house are acres upon acres of beautifully manicured and themed gardens. Explore the Italian Garden with its three symmetrical pools and classic statuary, the glass-roofed conservatory that grows tropical plants and orchids year-round, and the 15-acre Azalea Garden for just a taste of the estate’s botanical beauty. This is a year-round destination as the gardens change by season.
Not to be missed is the beautiful Conservatory which is filled with exotic plants. The Conservatory is open year-round and full of various plants from all over the world. Biltmore’s Conservatory is also home to an elaborate G-scale railway with locomotives and rail cars weaving through the historic greenhouse’s exotic botanicals and miniature replicas of estate landmarks. This display can be seen from 04/01/2021 – 09/26/2021
Biltmore Bass Pond
Past the Conservatory is the Biltmore Bass Pond. You can either drive down and park on the roadside or take a longer hike from the Gardens. The last time we visited, we saw several families having picnics and swimming in the river that feeds the pond.
Be sure to check our the boathouse along the way.
After you tour America’s biggest home, leave some time to relax at the Biltmore Winery. The winery welcomes you to tour the wine cellars, fermentation room, corking area, and then taste samples of Biltmore wine.
Antler Hill Village
Antler Hill Village, which is right next to the Winery, is a bustling activity center with live entertainment on the village green, with shopping and plenty of restaurants.
You can also experience Biltmore through various outdoor activities: hiking, biking, kayaking, or horseback riding. We love to pack a picnic lunch and explore the many hiking trails around the estate.
The forest around Biltmore sparked the beginnings of American forestry. Because of its success, President Lyndon Johnson deemed it the “Cradle of Forestry in America” by an Act of Congress in 1968. Enjoy a guided tour of the forest, complete with a stop at the antique saw mill and historic cabins.