Visit Biltmore Estate
The Biltmore, the famous residence of the Vanderbilts, is an excellent day trip vacation for families. The Biltmore house and estates, located in Asheville, North Carolina, attracts over one million visitors, both local and national, each year. This stunning mansion is both architecturally and historically significant offering entertainment and education opportunities for vacationing families.
The Biltmore home was built by George Washington Vanderbilt between 1889 and 1895 and contains over 250 rooms on the premises. The gardens were landscaped by Frederick Olmstead, an outdoor architect of New York City’s Central Park.
The home demonstrates the opulence of the Gilded Age during which it was built. Guests are welcomed to the estate via a three-mile road that meanders through the natural forestry of North Carolina. The home breaks into view beyond an exquisitely manicured lawn and circular drive as guests reach the crest of the gently swelling land.
Today Biltmore Estate is the most visited attraction (and one of the largest employers) in the Asheville area. But there is far more to the Estate that just the Biltmore Mansion. There are the stunning and meticulously cared for gardens, with their own guided tours, a winery with a superb tasting room, a nineteenth-century living history farm, and 8,000 acres of woodlands surrounding the French Broad River that is a stage for any number of family-oriented outdoor adventures from cycling to hiking, kayaking, raft trips, wagon, and trail rides, and more.
Touring the Home with a Large Family
The home offers shuttle transportation to and from parking areas. Families with small children may bring strollers and should be prepared to take small breaks throughout the day as the home and gardens require a great deal of walking.
Tickets to view the home and gardens are available on-line or at the front desk. On-line tickets offer a small discount when purchased in advance as well as a calendar delineating peak visiting days.
Families with children may wish to travel to the Biltmore on off-peak visiting days. This will allow freedom to tour the rooms slowly and provide children the opportunity to view each room fully without jockeying for position at the rope barriers.
Tour tapes may be purchased at the front desk upon entrance to the estate for a nominal fee and are well worth the price. Tapes are provided with a headset and small user-controlled player that may be worn around the neck while touring the home. Tours are self-guided allowing visitors to listen at their leisure and spend as much time as they wish within each room.
Each tour provides information on the individual rooms in the home in a guided fashion that leads visitors through all three floors of the home and into the below-ground rooms. Comments are also included from letters of individuals who personally knew the Vanderbilts and stayed in the luxurious estate soon after it was built at the turn of the century. Prominent artwork purchased by the Vanderbilts and architectural details specifically designed for the home are highlighted throughout the tour as well.
Items of Interest Within the Biltmore
Guests will view the sumptuous two-story library of the Vanderbilts, decorated with plush red sitting chairs and a magnificent marble fireplace. They will transverse from the opulent, fabric-lined, golden tapestried rooms of Mrs. Vanderbilt to the small two-bed, wood-paneled rooms of the upstairs servants who waited on the Vanderbilts and their guests on a daily basis. The tour will end with a walk past the below-ground indoor swimming pool and full-length bowling alley that entertained the Vanderbilts’ party guests.
Adjacent to the Biltmore home is a small courtyard with several estate restaurants and gift shops. Guests may stop the tour at any time at their own discretion and leave the home for a short meal break or shopping excursion. When they are finished, they may simply return to the room in which they stopped and begin the tour tape again.
The Biltmore Hotel is built directly on the estate grounds and offers luxury accommodations for those wishing to stay overnight. A less expensive but equally valuable alternative to the Biltmore Hotel is the multitude of bed and breakfasts available scattered throughout Asheville. Rooms are priced for every budget and provide information on the surrounding Asheville community including artistic shops and galleries well worth exploring.
By any measure, the Biltmore Gardens are among the finest public gardens in America. With over seventy-five acres of floral landscaped splendor, a day in the gardens could be an itinerary all it’s own. Many people who tour the house, bring a picnic lunch to enjoy in the gardens.
When visitors complete their tour of the home they will wish to visit the gardens next. The Biltmore gardens provide a feature presentation during each season to capture the season’s spirit and beauty.
The gardens are divided into two sections. The first features a formally landscaped portion boasting carefully tended roses bordering well-kept walkways and tinkling fountains. The second is a wild and rugged azalea garden that ends in a pristine lake and cascading waterfall said to be the personal favorite of outdoor architect Olmstead for its natural design and beauty. Several hot and cold greenhouses stand between these two garden areas and contain dozens of species of tropical and local flowers in glorious profusion.
Visitors may purchase any plant viewed in the greenhouse at the Biltmore garden shop located near the garden parking area. This shop features every variety of rose grown within the estates including several hybrid varieties created and grown only by the Biltmore estate.
Touring the home and gardens using the estate tour tapes will take one full day. Families may wish to stretch their stay into two days to adequately absorb all the information available and visit the Biltmore Dairy Farm as well.
This is the most visited winery in America and for good reason. The award-winning wines bottled here are produced from varietal grapes that flourish on the estate’s misty hillsides.
Biltmore Specialty Tours
Biltmore offers numerous specialty tours. See Biltmore House as never before with a Rooftop Tour or a Behind the Scenes Tour. Get a close-up look at Biltmore’s award-winning winemaking process on a Winery Tour.
River Bend Farm and Outdoor Adventures
Kids love River Bend Farm where the late-nineteenth-century world of farming is on display. The nearby Outdoor Center offers a wide range of family-oriented adventures and outdoor experiences including river rafting trips, bike rentals, fly fishing lessons, and guided walking tours.
Ten Tips to Get the Most from Your Visit
- Biltmore House and Gardens is a big place. You are going to do a lot of walking and stair climbing, so wear comfortable shoes. Also, the weather can change quickly, so it’s a good idea to bring along a hat and sunscreen as well as a light jacket.
- First-time visitors to Biltmore House and Gardens should take the self-guided house tour through the sixty rooms of the mansion open to the public. This can take a couple of hours or more.
- There are a number of guided and specialty Biltmore House and Gardens tours available, you can purchase tickets to these tours at the same time you purchase your primary Biltmore tickets.
- The audio narration of the self-guided house tour is highly recommended. You can rent it at the house after you have purchased your Biltmore tickets. The audio tour will give you a great deal of background information on the house, the Vanderbilts, and many of the rare artworks and furnishings that fill the rooms.
- Purchase your Biltmore tickets online. You will save money and avoid long lines at the ticket counter.
- Arrive early (before 10 am) to avoid the crowds, especially in spring and summer. Tour busses begin arriving about 10 am and by noon the house can be very crowded.
- Alternatively, if you arrive after 2 pm, you can take the house tour, then return to Biltmore Estate the next day at no extra charge to visit the gardens, the winery, River Bend Farm, or even tour the house again. You get a day and a half for the price of one Biltmore ticket.
- If you arrive at Biltmore Estate by car, follow the attendant’s directions to a parking lot. There are paths to the house, or you can take a shuttle to the front door. Be sure to note which lot you are in so you know which shuttle to take back to your car.
- If you drive to Biltmore Estate, consider bringing along a blanket and a cooler for a picnic in the Azalea Gardens after your house tour.
- If the Courtyard restaurants at Biltmore House are too crowded, you can drive over to the Biltmore Winery to have lunch at the delightful but reasonably priced Bistro.