The Biltmore Estate is located in Asheville, North Carolina in a large wooded area to the south of the town. It was built in the late 1800’s by a southern aristocratic family of the Vanderbilt’s with a slightly European feel. The family used to own much of the land surrounding the Estate and after selling it to the government funded much of the construction that exists today on the property, but after running close to bankruptcy they were forced to start giving tours in the 1900’s which continue today. Getting into the Estate, you must have a ticket or a reservation with the Biltmore Inn. Once inside the gates, the estate covers a huge amount of land with a golf course, various small ponds, ranch area, village, and a rather pricy Biltmore Inn. The estate makes its name for being high-end feeling with the mansion as the center piece of its assets.
To start your excursion, the village is located right next to the Inn on the northwest side of the property. There are several little shops where you may buy trinkets or other goodies as well as an ice cream shop and a pub that has very good food (all of these things are going to be priced on the high side). There is also a winery that will serve its own wines made on the property and allows you to do a wine testing so long as you are over 21 years old. The other thing to check out may be the farm which is also close to the village and has various old equipment to look at. Above the village and at the top of the hill sits the Biltmore Estate, and I’ll talk more about it later.
While traveling around the Estate, you will be on small roadways that wind through wooded areas and more open spots where you will potentially see some ponds that you can walk around. These can be enjoyed on foot or by horseback if you wish to reserve a spot for one of these as well. These roads will also take you to the Biltmore Mansion where you may either park your car and walk up to the mansion, catch a bus ride there, or drive right up to the mansion and pay for a valet service to take care of your vehicle. No matter which you pick the mansion grounds are open and free for you to roam as long as you please until sunset, but make you arrive early because they will close the area off early from new arrivals before then, and I found that by midafternoon the crowds were largely dispersing. When I was there, the mansion closed down from tours at 4pm making everyone move out into the large garden and grass areas around the mansion.
Inside the mansion you are not allowed to take photos (even though I saw many people sneaking iPhone pictures regularly without any employees barking at them), but they do offer a photo of you to be taken by their staff which you can pick up (for a ridiculously high price) once done with the tour. Exploring the many areas and rooms of the house will take you hours as it should because there is a lot of neat stuff contained behind the massive walls with a swimming pool, bowling alley, various guest bedrooms, and much much more!
There are a few options that you could exercise in the area if you would like to stay overnight nearby the mansion/estate. You could simply choose one of the many hotel chain places located in Asheville or in nearby towns that offer a typical rate to what you would find for a hotel anywhere else in the country. Camping options exist within and hour of Asheville in or near the mountains giving you access to hiking, beautiful scenery, and at more inexpensive rates than a hotel.
There is also the on property option of staying at the Biltmore Inn. This is not at all for everyone and I would not suggest it unless you plan to use its facilities. The Biltmore Inn is essentially just a high end hotel positioned on the property of the Biltmore Estate. They do offer very good service to and from your vehicle, well furnished, clean, and comfy rooms, and an all around good deal, but unless you are getting some kind of incredible package deal on the night’s stay and your tickets for the day its cost is very prohibitive. I did stay there and I did enjoy it, but I do not see it as being a good option for most people.
How might I best use my visit?
Working out how to best use your time is tough with a place like the Biltmore especially if you only have one day there. Focus on what you want to see and make sure you get there early in the day (before 9am) in order to maximize your time spent walking around the estate. Remember that the mansion will close earlier than you expect and keep on top of that so you don’t miss out. I would suggest running by the mansion first and going to the other places like the village in the early afternoon. The last part of your day may be spent going around the mansion’s exterior and garden areas as the sun is setting (best time and place to be looking for photos as well) and perhaps moving on to the little ponds and trails behind the mansion on the drive towards the village area on the roads during sunset to try and catch (I missed this shot unfortunately) the beautiful sunset with the mansion and its reflection in the pond.