The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina had been on my bucket list for a long time. Since my husband and I were “driving by” on our way to Hilton Head Island, this was the perfect opportunity for a visit. The weather was perfect so we were able to see the rolling hills that the mansion sits on nestled in the Appalachian Mountains.
The Biltmore Estate is the largest privately owned residence in the United States. The house is massive at 178,926 square feet located on 8,000 acres of land (originally 125,000 acres). George Washington Vanderbilt found the area for his new home on a visit with his mother in 1888. Construction began in 1889, taking six years to complete and the first entertaining of family and friends was on Christmas Eve in 1895.
George hired architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Some of the features of the home are similar to three châteaux in the Loire Valley, Blois, Chenonceau and Chambord.
The mansion has 250 rooms, 33 family and guest bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, three kitchens, a bowling alley and an indoor swimming pool. Each room is decorated beautifully with ornate wood carvings, ceiling murals, tapestries and the best furnishings money could buy.
Photography is not allowed inside the mansion, so I bought a book in the gift store. Visitors stopping to take pictures might have slowed down the flow of traffic even more than the audio tour. People would stop in the entrances of each room and listen to that portion of the audio tour, causing some congestion. But for the price of the entrance, I can’t blame people for making the most of their visit, in case it’s a one time thing. Tickets are cheaper if you purchase them online before your visit and discounted even more if you buy them seven days in advance.
Once you enter the property, traffic is directed depending on whether or not you have purchased your ticket in advance. Buying online is a big time saver here because this is a big tourist attraction. You get directed to the parking lot where you wait for the shuttle bus to take you to the mansion. This is a pretty efficient process and buses run frequently. When you get to the main house, you can get a map and the audio equipment.
The mansion is roped off in areas so the flow of traffic goes through the rooms efficiently in the same order of the guide. The guide is very detailed and is a must have for the tour (included with your ticket). Near the winter garden, there is a set up for the typical tourist photo. You can’t get by this without getting your photo taken. They know that if you like your photo, you will buy it! And sure enough, they got me suckered at the end. It was a cute photo of me and my husband and I figured for the entrance price and distance, this would probably be our one and only visit.
After you tour the mansion, you can walk through the different gardens and conservatory. When you take the bus back to your car, you can drive to the Deerpark or Antler Hill Village & Winery, which is worth a stop. Depending on what you would like to see, you should plan on anywhere from three hours to a full day. Well worth a visit, and if you have time for an overnight, stay at the Inn at Biltmore, located right on the estate above the Antler Hill Village.
Home for the Holidays: Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC – Bucket List Publications
Visiting The Vanderbilt’s Homestead a.k.a. “The Biltmore Estate” – Lil’ Suburban Homestead
The Biltmore Estate Gardens – Garden Walk Garden Talk