I feel like I picked the perfect weekend in late October to visit the Biltmore Estate in the mountains outside Asheville, North Carolina. The leaves were changing colors at peak season and the inside of the Biltmore was all decked out in its Christmas glory for its official opening on November 3 for Christmas tours.
Biltmore Estate, situated in Asheville, North Carolina, stands as a historic house museum and a popular tourist destination. The centerpiece, Biltmore House (also known as Biltmore Mansion), is a grand French châteauesque-style residence constructed for George Washington Vanderbilt II from 1889 to 1895.
Boasting an impressive 178,926 sq ft (16,622.8 m2) of floor space and 135,280 sq ft (12,568 m2) of living area, it holds the distinction of being the largest privately owned house in the United States. The house is still owned and operated by George Vanderbilt’s descendants. Biltmore House serves as a remarkable testament to the opulence of the Gilded Age mansions. It is the perfect tourist destination for the entire family.
This year the arrival of a majestic 35-foot Fraser fir tree at America’s Largest Home marked the culmination of a year-long preparation and weeks dedicated to adorning Biltmore House for the festive season. Christmas at Biltmore opened on Friday, November 3, 2023, and will continue through January 7, 2024.
Getting To The Main House
There are a few ways to get to the the Biltmore Estate. Driving to the Estate is the recommended mode of travel. The road is winding on the way into the house and we were told on the tour that this design was on purpose to make visitors feel like they were further from town as they headed to the countryside retreat. You can drive in and park in the onsite parking lots. Shuttle service to Biltmore House from parking lots C, D, and E is available. We chose to park in Lot A, which is the parking lot closest to the house, and walk the 10 minutes to the house.
Accessible parking and ADA shuttles for guests with mobility disabilities and state-issued parking permits are available in lot C. But note, animals (with the exception of service animals) are not allowed on shuttles.
Shuttle service is available to anyone who is staying on the property at the The Inn on Biltmore Estate as an added perk.
Visiting The Biltmore House
We started our day at the house by touring the gardens outside the house. If you are planning a visit make sure to allow time before or after your house tour to enjoy a walk through the immaculately manicured gardens and green house. The day we chose to visit had gorgeous weather with sunny and 70 degree temperatures for a perfect day inside and outside the house.
Keep in mind that you must pre-purchase Biltmore House tour tickets before arrival. We chose to purchase the self-guided tour of the main house and added on a guided tour of the roof. You are given a specific time, for whatever tour you choose, to meet near the entrance of the home. We recommend that you spend the extra money on the audio guide to hear the history and stories for each room as you walk through the house.
We met for the guided rooftop tour around 1 PM where our lovely guide took us past the velvet ropes up the spiral staircase to rooms that are not available on the main house tour. We were able to view the full scale model of the house that George Vanderbilt approved with the architect before the house construction. We then made our way through double doors onto the rooftop ledge to get architectural views of the roof, gargoyles and the grounds surrounding the house. The rooftop tour concludes with a trip to the attic to see the construction details of the house interior.
After our rooftop tour, we had time for a quick snack and water in the courtyard before our 3:30 PM appointment for the self-guided house tour. The house is enormous and you feel like you are stepping back in time during the visit. The house tour takes between 60-90 minutes for a leisurely walk through the rooms.
The tour takes visitors through the living and entertaining quarters of the Vanderbilts and to the downstairs areas where the servants lived and worked including the kitchen. You even see the bedrooms where Cornelia Vanderbilt was born.
One of the most unique stories we learned on the tour was about the house being used to store national treasures for safekeeping during WW2. During World War II, Biltmore underwent a temporary closure. In 1942, as a precautionary measure against potential attacks on the United States, 62 paintings and 17 sculptures were transported by train from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to the estate for safekeeping. The Music Room on the first floor, which was left incomplete, served as storage until 1944 when the threat of an attack diminished, allowing for its original intended use and completion.
I agreed with George Vanderbilt on my favorite room in the house being the library. The room was grand with floor to ceiling books and a painting on the ceiling. It was also more special to see the space decorated for Christmas. You can just imagine George and Edith entertaining visitors sitting in the cozy space enjoying books long before the distractions of the internet and cable TV.
The tour concludes in the basement where there was a giant indoor pool, bowling alley and gym area which was a true luxury at the time it was built.
Note: There are a lot of stairs on the Biltmore tours and around the grounds so we recommend wearing a comfortable pair of shoes for your tour around the property.
We concluded our day at the property by having dinner at Cedric’s Tavern named after the Vanderbilts’ beloved St. Bernard in the Antler Hill Village. The last stop was the Creamery for the famous ice cream. My scoop was Banana Pudding ice cream was the perfect way to close out the trip.
Overall the whole experience was excellent and we highly recommend a trip to the Biltmore Estate.