The cost of seeing the estate runs approximately around $45-60, depending on discounts and deals (FYI Christmas costs the most). Since we went on Father’s Day, fathers got in free with the purchase of a regular adult admission. Alternate discounts– 15% off if pre-paid a week in advance, plus many hotels offer discount packages as well.
Plan to spend at least the majority of a day and get your money’s worth. The house (chateau really) itself can take up to 2 hours to wind through, and holidays can cause a crowd, so plan ahead. Father’s day brought a lot of people to the estate, and at times we had a wait a bit in line. For the upfront fee, visitors walk from one room to the next, up and down stairs. For a little less than $20, you can rent an audio accompaniment to provide details about each room and the family. A guide can provide a more personal tour for additional costs. There are also more elaborate tours that show areas normally closed off to the majority (i.e. the Butler’s Tour).
After the house tour, if your hungry, head off to the former stables where shops and food have been deliberately placed. There are three eateries, ranging from an expensive gourmet sit-down restaurant to a pizza cart stationed in the courtyard or the sandwich shop. If you eat a decent breakfast, you could probably save some money by sharing a meal from the latter two options.
On the other side of the house, you have a few options to consider. Beyond the giant tree-covered pergola, lays a gravel and grass covered courtyard overlooking the neighboring Pisgah National Forest. It’s quite a view. Scattered on the courtyard are Renaissance-inspired sculptures. Further on, you can go for a turn in the vast park–keep in mind that its several thousand acres, so don’t go alone or unprepared.
To the southeast of the pergola, there are three ponds in between the wall next to the great lawn and the gardens. Koi fish, flowers and lily pads are common in this area. It’s a great place to wander around before walking toward the gardens. South of the ponds is a wooded area with a few trails that lead down to the gardens, there is also a pergola-covered walkway along the wall of the courtyard. Keep in mind the grounds crew has labeled each tree, bush, plant, and flower from here and into the garden. If you spot something interesting, find the label to see what it is.
The gardens reside in three areas, the first two being terraced in the open air. I’d like to note here that if you are not a fan of gardens, you’d best head back to the great lawn in front of the house and make your way to the gazebo opposite the house and the statue of Diana. However, if you adore gardens, the proceed. The first terrace is continually updated with seasonal flowers. In spring, the sheer number of tulips is a throwback to Holland. You can meander out into the gardens or observe them from the vine-covered pergola. Roses encompass the second tier of gardens and you can walk all over the paths from one color to the next.
The stairs from the rose garden leads down to the Conservatory, where indoor plants and flowers flourish. In the humid hothouse, you will find a dizzying amount of orchids (under surveillance) and other dazzling examples of horticulture. Downstairs, you will find a shop where you can purchase Biltmore-garden grown memorabilia.
Further down the hill, you may continue to the azalea garden and then on to the bass pond (keep in mind it’s approximately 1/2 mile from the house).
*FYI 1: The house was built just before the turn of the last century. While there is electricity, there is no air-conditioning inside. Dress accordingly and factor in that heat-rises (you will go up to the 3rd floor) and the heat produced from human bodies.
*FYI 2 : You will be walking A LOT. While the house itself has an elevator and is therefore somewhat handicap** friendly, you will be covering much of 4 floors (regular tour), steps, and two very serious stairwells. Indoors aside, the formal estate surrounding the house requires a great deal of walking and stairs. Wear comfortable shoes and consider modifying your visit if needed. **Much of the house is not wheelchair accessible.
*FYI 3: Because much of the estate surrounding the house is outdoors, weather plays a significant role in your time there. Consider sunscreen/sunglasses. While our particular day began that morning in the high 70′s, by afternoon I was sunburned in the mid-90 degree weather.
There is much more to the Biltmore Estate than the house and its immediate vicinity. Along the exit road, you will drive toward Antler Hill Village and the Winery. Shops, eateries, and entertainment abound in this quaint little area surrounding a village green. The Biltmore Winery houses a gift shop, a wide selection of estate-made wine, and an extensive wine-tasting area (they do card).