- By Nneka M. Okona For the AJC
Arguably one of Asheville, North Carolina's most popular tourist sights, The Biltmore Estate is grand. Dubbed America's largest home and private property in the country, the estate −including the house itself, a garden, winery, inn, hotel, deer park, equestrian center, cottage and lagoon − has much to experience. Need an easy, breezy guide to your upcoming visit to the Biltmore while in Asheville? Look no further.
History of the Biltmore
As the story goes, George and Edith Vanderbilt lived in the Biltmore Estate once upon a time. George Vanderbilt built the 8,000-acre property, a private estate that has now been turned into a destination for visitors to see. The estate was built over six years, construction beginning in 1889. In 1895, George opened the house to friends and family on Christmas Eve.
The house was unlike anything most of them had ever seen before with 65 fireplaces, 35 bedrooms and 43 bathrooms throughout all three floors in addition to a basement.
Sights to see
Because there is so much to see and do at Biltmore, thinking ahead and making a plan of attack is wise to maximize your visit. Start at the family home, the hearth of this estate, originally where George and Edith Vanderbilt lived while they were alive. Clothes, original works of arts and other artifacts dot the home, helping visitors to envision what it was like while it was being lived in.
Want to learn fun facts as you browse and walk through? Take advantage of the self-guided tour included with the cost of admission. Audio guides can also be purchased for an additional fee.
From there, mosey along to the many gardens of Biltmore. There are six gardens in all: a rose, shrub, azalea, spring, walled and Italian. There's also a conservatory, two terraces, a cafe as well as a pond and boathouse. Renowned landscaper Frederick Law Olmsted sculpted the area, transforming it into the natural oasis it is today.
Depending on your interests, after perusing the house and gardens, it's a create-your-own-adventure freestyle effort. Love the outdoors and want to continue to experience of all that Mother Nature has to offer? The Outdoor Adventure Center is sure to drum up suggestions for what to do and see in the great outdoors. If you're an animal lover, plan to visit the farmyard area or the Equestrian Center for a horseback riding excursion among the mountains.
If you're looking for a culinary experience, the Biltmore's farm-to-table dining is the name of the game with three restaurants from which to choose. Sample pre-dinner wines at the winery. Amble through Antelope Village for one-of-a-kind finds to take home with you. The world is your oyster, rather the Biltmore is, and there are plenty of options.
Annual tickets and other promotions
Ticketing at Biltmore falls into two classes: daytime and Chihuly at Biltmore. The former includes admission to the Chihuly at Biltmore, a self-guided tour for navigating all the nooks and crannies, admission to Antler Hill Village, a free wine tasting at the winery on site, admission to select exhibits and access to its gardens. Chihuly at Biltmore is an evening option for visitors featuring music in the garden, a wine bar and more. Tickets begin at $65 for adults and children 9 and under are free with an adult's admission fee. Children ages 10-16 are 50 percent off adult admission.
For those who'd like to make more than one trek to Biltmore, there are annual passes available for purchase at $219 per person. Annual passes include discounts on shopping, lodging, dining and other activities. Tickets can also be purchased for the annual Christmas at Biltmore celebration.
How to get there
Biltmore Estate is at 1 Lodge Street in Asheville. If coming from the Blue Ridge Parkway, visitors can take the U.S. Highway North 25 exit from which Biltmore is only four miles away. From Interstate 40 West and East, take the U.S. Highway North 25 exit. Biltmore can also be reached from Interstate 26.
A car is needed to journey between the different sights on the estate property as they are not close enough to walk. Keep in mind that although Biltmore Estate is open year round, seasonal hours of operation may apply so check the website for updates.