Almost everyone visiting for the first time plans to tour the Biltmore Estate. Taking in the Biltmore is not a couple of hours thing—it is a daylong activity. Reserve the entire day for your visit including lunch. And I suggest that you also consider having dinner there to close out your day at Biltmore. Amanda Williams is a long time travel reporter, and she published several tips based on firsthand experience:
- Buy your tickets in advance to ensure you get tickets for the day you want. They sometimes sell out. There are limits on the number of people that can be on each tour. It also saves you from an extra stop since the ticket office requires you to pull over on your way into the Estate. Saving that stop also means you need to print your own ticket online vs. picking up a prepaid ticket.
- Pay the extra fee for the audio guide. When you purchase your ticket, you will be offered several optional extras. The audio guide is one you do not want to pass up. It is only $12 per person and it makes a big difference in the enjoyment of your visit. Your self-guided tour will keep you in the house for at least two hours.
- Make lunch reservations. It is going to be a long day and you will not only want lunch you will need that break to rest your feet for a while. There are several options, but I suggest The Stable Café. It is adjacent to the house, located in what used to be the old stables, and they serve up some good stuff at reasonable prices. And as Amanda notes, it is just fun to eat in an old, converted horse stable.
- Go early. Biltmore sees more than one and a half million visitors annually. Your best chance of beating the crowds get there when the gate opens. Plan on having one of Applewood’s great breakfasts and then head to Biltmore to arrive in time for the 9:00 opening. Being early also means you will likely get one of the parking places closest to the house. From there it is only a short walk (five minutes) to the house. Later visitors will have to wait on shuttles.
- Book a Specialty tour. There is one extra that you cannot purchase online. Each day they offered a few special tours that let you access parts of the house that you cannot visit on the normal tour. They change from day to day. Amanda recommends stopping at the guest service booth next to the house when you first arrive to find the choices and that you book at least one of the extras. If they are offering the Rooftop Tour, I say grab it while it’s available.
- Visit the Gardens first. Amanda suggests at a minimum that you take in the Italian Garden, the Walled Garden with a walk through the Shrub Garden on the way. And be sure to include the Conservatory. The gardens close to the house are the most worth exploring.
- Allow time to visit Antler Hill Village. This part of the Estate is about 5 miles from the house and has shops, craft demonstrations, an outdoor adventures center and an exhibition about the Vanderbilts. For many, the most important reason for going to Antler Hill is the Biltmore Winery. That is where it is located. Your ticket includes a free wine tasting. You will have spent most of the day in the gardens and the house. Now after a little shopping and other Antler Hill activities, the tasting room is a great place to bring your long day of touring to a close.
However, before heading back to Applewood Manor, I suggest that you have dinner in Biltmore Village just outside the Estate gate. The Vanderbilt’s built the village to house the Estate’s staff. Today, it is no longer a residential area. Instead, it has become a booming community of shops and restaurants. The entire area is a re-creation of a Victorian English Village and has been designated an Historic National District. For dinner there are at least ten alternatives to choose from including Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Village Wayside Bar & Grille, Fig, The Cantina, Red Stag Grill, and the Corner Kitchen. If possible, get your reservation in advance to be sure you can get a table at your first choice.