Everyone says you have to visit Biltmore when you’re in Asheville. But being a “must see” doesn’t mean it can’t surprise you. Learn more about this classically North Carolina destination, and then go beyond the guidebook with our insider tips.
It’s the seminal American mansion. From the history and the vineyard to the gardens and the grounds, Biltmore is much more than a house. Built over a six-year period from 1889-95, George Vanderbilt’s French Renaissance chateau remains the largest privately owned home in America and offers a vacation experience for all five senses.
Plan Your Visit
A trip to Biltmore can last anywhere from a single afternoon to several days. Get to know each of the estate’s features to best plan your visit.
Most first-time guests will start by touring Vanderbilt’s extraordinary house. Opulent beyond imagination, the Biltmore House covers four acres by itself, totaling 175,000 square feet. 250 rooms contain priceless antiques and art from masters such as Renoir, 65 fireplaces, an indoor pool and a bowling alley. See if you can spot Napoleon’s chess set.
Outside the house are acres of beautiful gardens, each an individually themed display. Explore the Italian Garden with its three symmetrical pools and classic statuary, the glass-roofed conservatory that grows tropical plants and orchids year-round, and the 15-acre Azalea Garden for just a taste of the estate’s botanical beauty.
Next, step out of America’s biggest home and into America’s most-visited winery, a destination that welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Take time to tour the cellars, fermentation room and corking area, and then taste samples of Biltmore wine (a complimentary tasting is included with admission). Or ask about the Red Wine and Chocolate Tasting that's offered daily.
Pedestrian-friendly Antler Hill Village – right next to the Winery – is a bustling center of activity, with live entertainment on the village green, food, shopping and more. Named after one of the Vanderbilt family dogs, Cedric’s Tavern offers classic fare in a relaxed pub atmosphere. Or enjoy ice cream and gourmet coffee at the old-fashioned Creamery.
You can also experience Biltmore through a variety of outdoor activities: hiking, biking, kayaking or horseback riding; tours by carriage ride or river raft; lessons in how to fly fish, shoot sporting clays or drive a Land Rover through off-road obstacles. The Outdoor Adventure Center is the perfect jumping-off point for an exploration of the estate’s 8,000 acres.
The forest around Biltmore sparked the beginnings of American forestry. Because of its success, President Lyndon Johnson deemed it the “Cradle of Forestry in America” by an Act of Congress in 1968. Anytime except winter, you can take off on a guided trail and tour life in the late 1800s, complete with an antique saw mill and historic cabins.
Go Beyond the Guidebook
Asheville is prime for exploring outside Biltmore. Biltmore Village, originally modeled and still resembling old English villages, serves as the entrance to the grand estate and is a destination in itself. Shop at local boutiques and designer stores situated on cobblestone streets, eat at a number of restaurants or drink craft beer at breweries, and choose from about 10 hotel options for your home base.
Also nearby is Asheville's colorful River Arts District, where more than 200 artists and craftspeople invite visitors into their working studios and galleries. Much like Biltmore Village, this can also serve as a singular destination with its shopping, cafes, breweries and outdoor art.
Vanderbilt’s widow deeded much of the land around the estate to the federal government to help create what is now Pisgah National Forest. If you’re looking for a more adventurous Asheville experience, Pisgah affords travelers the chance to explore hundreds of miles of local trails. You can hike, bike, ride horses and more, and feel free to bring Fido; dogs are welcome on all trails throughout the forest.