Initial Doubts about Touring The Biltmore Estate

I did not want to go to the Biltmore Estate by myself. There, I said it.

Every advertisement I saw screamed, “families, groups, and couples only”. As grand as it is, it just didn’t seem solo traveler friendly.

But, if you’re going to “do” Asheville, then you have to visit Biltmore. 

I’m glad to say I was wrong and had a great time by myself. If you’re heading out to Asheville, I encourage you to put the Biltmore Estate on your list.

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Planning and Purchasing A Ticket

Purchase your ticket ahead of time, it’s a lot easier and you’ll get a better house time. Many hotels and stores in Asheville sell tickets, or you can go online at https://www.biltmore.com/visit/biltmore-estate/biltmore-house/.

The website offers a lot of information including maps, special tours, and any upcoming events. It also thoroughly explains parking and accessing the Estate.

The “house time” is the earliest you can enter the inside of the home for a tour of the rooms. The process allows for less crowding in the house at any given time and works well.

You can roam the gardens freely and visit Antler Village freely from opening until closing.

Tickets can be purchased on-site, but you will be routed at the entrance gate to a separate location to purchase and you won’t have the best pick of house times.

Looking for the highlights? Check out our video below.

Transcript for Video

What Your Ticket Covers

A basic ticket to the Biltmore Estate provides access to the grounds, including the gardens and walking trails, free parking, free access to the trolley which circles the grounds so you can easily get around, access to the house, and a free wine tasting at the Biltmore Winery in Antler Village. 

It’s actually not a bad deal, considering the Estate sits on 8000 acres. The free wine tasting was a big plus in my book.

Additional tours can be purchased separately.  These include a rooftop tour, behind the scenes tour, and other special tours.

Arriving at the Estate – Check-in and Parking

When you enter the grounds, the roads are designed to push traffic in one direction. You’ll stop at the main gate where the guard will route you accordingly.

If you already have a ticket, they will send you to the parking area. Those that need to purchase tickets will be sent to a second gate.

There are two different parking areas. A larger lot is available where you exit your car, go through a check-in area where you show your ticket, have a light security screen, then stand in line for the trolley which will take you to the main house.

You can avoid this by going to the park and walking. Here you park in a small lot and walk a short trail to the main gate for check-in and security. This gate is right at the edge of the front lawn and has a shorter line.

The information packet says it takes about 10 to 15 minutes to walk from self-parking to the house. 

I’m not sure what standard this is based on, but it took me less than 5 minutes. 

First Look at the Biltmore Estate

Along the path to the main house from self-parking, I was distracted by a little arrow with a sign, “Diana”.  Curious, I wandered in that direction and found a gazebo with a beautiful statue of Diana the Huntress in the middle. 

Life-size statue of  Diana the Huntress in a wooden gazebo made of tall logs and covered on top with plants.  There is a white tent in the background.

The hill she sits on offers great views of the Estate for photos.  This appears to be where the professional photos of the house and grounds are taken. 

Photo of the Biltmore Estate taken on the path where the statue of Diana is located. The blue ridge mountains glow blue behind the large beige estate with a grass square in the front.

Exploring the Grounds

The Italian Garden

For those with afternoon house times, enjoy a leisurely morning exploring the grounds. The Biltmore Estate is renowned for its amazing gardens, but it’s also home to over 22 miles of hiking and walking trails.

As you round the side of the house, you immediately reach the Italian Garden. While beautiful at any time of year, it would likely peak in spring and summer. 

Statues line rectangular sections of grass. Little pools filled with water and topped with lily pads continue the geometric pattern.

A rectangular garden with a statue of a child with a bat in the front, then a large rectangle of grass, followed by two insets with grass and plants.

Taking the stairs down for a closer look, you have the option to turn down a hallway lined by a stone wall overgrown with plants or enter the azalea garden with its winding paths. 

If you’re looking to get away from the crowds, take the path through the azaleas.

The Hiking and Walking Trails at The Biltmore Estate

As you wander, it dawns on you that the paths are meant to meander in wide circles sometimes linking with one another.  It’s easy to become lost without really losing your way.

The further you walk, the quieter and more relaxing it becomes.  I’m a hiker and felt in my element wandering the wooded trails.

Continue walking and you’ll begin to wander around the bass lake. It first appears with its beautiful wooden bridge and small gazebo.

Along the way, you’ll notice the trail around the lake intersects with the Meadow Trail which leads to the backyard of the house. 

The back of the Biltmore Estate which can be viewed from the hiking trails.

While the trails are not always well marked, as long as you’re following a path, you’ll loop to the road or back to the gardens. 

Overall, the trails in this area are around two miles if you do all of them, but you can make it a longer walk if you want to enjoy the solitude a bit longer. 

The entire estate boasts over 22 miles of trails, perfect for those staying overnight.

The bass pond marks the end of the loop of trails.  Just beyond is a waterfall and a small creek.  I can imagine little kids, and adults, enjoying the area in summer. 

A wooden bridge over a narrow area on a pond. There is a bush in front of it to the right with pink flowers and a small stand with information.

On your way back, cross the Bass Pond Bridge, to continue the loop.

The Bass Pond Bridge is a historic bridge, known for its red brick arch. The beautiful setting did not go unnoticed by movie producers and it was used as a backdrop in The Last of the Mohicans. 

A bridge over a pond made by a paved road with brick sides.

The Gardens of the Biltmore Estate

Wandering back towards the house, you’ll find yourself back in the gardens near the conservatory. 

In the winter, the garden is still blooming, but it’s not as lush. A big field of mums with their bright colors makes things more cheerful.

I visited in November, after a good spell. The maze formed by the plants in front of the conservatory was still visible, but a bit bare. 

During the summer, I could see how the area would be thick and green, where you would not be able to easily find your way out.

The garden area is designed as a place to sit and enjoy.  You’re meant to stay and stroll, losing yourself for a bit.    

The famous conservatory building at the Biltmore Estate. It has large, rounded windows trimmed in orange on its beige front. There is a red brick walkway that winds through a green garden leading to the conservatory.

The Side Terrace with Mountain Views

Exiting the gardens, as you look to the far corner, the towers of the main house peek out of the trees.  Before moving on, make time to visit the side terrace for its spectacular views.

A terrace made from grey concrete with a view of the blue ridge mountains in the fall.  In the front is a small statue of a person.

The terrace overlooks the gardens and nearby mountains.  I could imagine the Vanderbilts spending time out there, just enjoying the sunsets and sunrises. 

If you still have time before you can enter the house, head over to Antler Village and the winery. Don’t forget you have a free wine tasting with your ticket.  

Antler Village

Arriving at the Winery

Since Antler Village is 5 miles from the main house, you’ll want to hop on the trolley for the 15-minute drive.

The trolley driver plays a sound bit where the current owners of the home, heirs of the Vanderbilts, discuss the house and its origins. 

You’ll stop right in front of the winery, a large retail facility with wine, food, and gifts.

A two story beige building with orange trim with a gazebo sitting in a grass field.

The wine tastings are in the back of the winery building.  Be prepared, since there could be a line. Don’t be discouraged, it moves quickly.

What to Expect at Your Wine Tasting

The tasting facility has at least 5 large bar areas, each with a sommelier, serving up to six people.  If the line becomes long and there is room, they may add sommeliers and open more bar areas.

During my visit, the sommelier recommended tasting 5 to 6 wines.  She provided a card listing each wine and a description.

If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask. The sommeliers are well versed in the wines and able to answer any questions to help guide your choices.

Similar to most wine tastings, there were one or two I didn’t care for, but three I really liked  The pours were generous and the sommelier took her time with each person. 

Wrapping up the wine tasting, I headed back out to catch the trolley to the main house. 

Touring the Main House

First Impressions

I was visiting the Biltmore Estate the first weekend the holiday decorations were installed. 

This is a really big deal for the Biltmore Estate.  People buy tickets and come to Asheville just to see the house during the holidays. 

They were also prepping for the Downton Abbey exhibition and had some of the costumes in the house. There’s almost always an event at the Estate and you can find information on their main website.

Two of the dresses worn in Downton Abbey. One is a red, sleeveless dress on a mannequin with no head. The other is a beige dress on a mannequin that is sitting and also has no head.

When you first walk in, the main foyer appears to be in chaos. One employee is standing in the middle of the room with a cart of devices and a sign, “pre-purchased audio tours”. 

To the side is a desk area with a crowd of people and another sign, “ready to purchase audio tours”.  People seem to stand in the room, turning in circles, looking lost. 

I do recommend getting one of the self-guided audio tours. I didn’t and was jealous of people around me who had them and were clearly learning more about each area and its use.

If you choose to simply tour on your own, the rooms are marked in order. You can start in section 1, the solarium. A large round area in the middle of the foyer with a lot of holiday stuff in the middle.  There’s just no other word. 

There was a harp, a small tree, lots of garland, big red bows, and just….stuff.

The solarium itself is beautiful with a domed ceiling.  It was just a bit crowded. 

The Dining Room

Rounding the solarium, you’ll reach the first room, the Dining Room. It’s amazing. This room really sets the tone for the rest of the tour.

A large dining room table with 10 regal red chairs on one side and matching chairs across. It is decorated for the holidays with white candles and apple towers. There is a white stone fireplace to the side with holiday garland and red bows.

It’s hard to explain if you haven’t seen it, but while it has the pomp of a royal dining room, it also has a homey comfort to it. 

It’s easy to picture adults having a fine meal with wine and children running around the fireplace. 

The craftsmanship is unbelievable.  Rich woods, expertly carved, line the room.  Immense and well-built fireplaces stand at either end. 

But the red velvet chairs soften the feel, and the accessories give the room a feeling of home. 

This is where you see the large tree from all the ads.  It sits at the end of the dining room, seemingly at home with the dark woods and red velvet. 

A tall Christmas tree with red and gold ornaments stretching almost to the ceiling of a large. room.

Towards the end of the tour, you’ll wind back down and reach the other side of the dining room. 

From this vantage point, you can get better photographs of the room and the tree. 

A Sense of Lived in Luxury

Weaving through the other first floor rooms, you’ll have that same feeling of lived-in luxury. 

Expert craftsmanship by artists, large amounts of money for the best materials, well designed with royal flair, but with a sense of home.  Someone lived here.

The library was my favorite room.  Bookshelves lined with leather-bound books and rich red throughout the room. 

I could have spent hours if they allowed you behind the ropes. 

A library with wooden bookshelves lined with books and red chairs. It is decorated for the holidays with a tree and garland.

As you continue the tour, you’re funneled up stairwells and down corridors, effectively moved in one direction to keep the tour moving and the house flowing.

I found myself going up and then downstairs and hallways with other visitors. 

As you wander, you’ll pass bedrooms, guest living rooms, and servants’ quarters. There are even dressing rooms on the lower floor of the house.

The Unique Rooms of the Biltmore Estate

The house is full of surprises. A kitchen smaller than you expect, but pantries larger than some bedrooms.  Even an entire room for fruit and vegetables and another for staples. 

They even had walk-in refrigerators which were a huge surprise to me. 

Continuing the wander and weave, you’ll find the Biltmore Estate was ahead of its time. The lower floors house a bowling alley, Halloween room, and gym.

It turns out the Halloween room was named for the large, circus-like murals on the walls. Historians have now discovered they were actually painted as part of a themed New Years’ Eve party.

Pinterest pin with image from the Halloween room at the Biltmore Estate. It is of a wall that is painted with a photo of a woman in green, white papers, and a green grid. The text says, "The weird and unusual rooms of the Biltmore Estate. The Halloween Room."

Just when you think you’ve seen all the house has to offer, you’ll be shocked when you walk into the room that housed the indoor swimming pool. 

It’s astounding that someone imagined the idea of an indoor pool and was able to design and build one at the time.

It isn’t a small pool either.  The deep end is at least 15 to 20 feet deep, complete with a diving platform.  This is no “wading” pool. 

A shiny white tiled room with a wooden ladder leading from a catwalk to the bottom. This was once the indoor pool at the Biltmore Estate.

After the last room, the tour basically pushes you out a side door to the food court. 

After spending 3 hours on the grounds, I was surprised the house took me about an hour to complete. 

Return to Antler Village

By this time, I understood why everyone said to give myself the entire day.  You really do need an entire day to truly visit the Biltmore Estate.

Hang around towards closing as the crowds thin and dusk falls over the house. You’ll have a rare opportunity to view the house with no one in front.

On my way out, I stopped at Antler Village for a final visit before exiting.  There’s parking at the village and it’s on the way to the exit so it made sense to just move the car. 

Antler Village is home to the Biltmore Inn where guests can stay on the grounds in luxury.  It also has playgrounds and a small farm with a pony and horse for the children. 

You’ll also find the creamery, winery, and some small shops in the small area. 

From the courtyard area, there is a tunnel that takes you to the winery.  As you wander down the tunnel, there are several installations highlighting the history of the winery. 

The tunnel is dark and was lined with fake candles to give it an eerie feel. 

Arriving at the winery, you climb up a flight of stairs and find yourself in the shop. 

I toured the shop, tasted some food, sipped some cider, and then headed back. 

By the time I reached my car and pulled out, I had been at the Biltmore Estate a whopping seven hours.  I was shocked. 

Final Thoughts Exploring the Biltmore Estate as a Solo Traveler

Somehow, this place I didn’t want to go, this place I was trying to barter into a quick half-day visit, had entertained me for an entire day. 

In all honesty, if there had been more daylight, I would have stayed longer. 

It was a surprise how much there is to do and see at the Biltmore Estate as a solo traveler.

One of the towers of the Biltmore Estate. A two-story rectangular structure that is beige with ornate trim around the windows and up the sides. It has a large lion sculpture at the bottom.

As a matter of fact, I may have had more fun than some of the other visitors who had to finagle multiple people through the tour, onto the trolley, and keep track of everyone at the stores. 

I had so much fun touring the Biltmore Estate as a solo traveler that I added it to my list of 11 Things to do in Asheville.

If you’re a solo traveler heading to Asheville, NC, definitely schedule a full day at the Biltmore Estate into your itinerary. 

Don’t skimp on touring the grounds and give yourself time for Antler Village.  It’s an experience every solo traveler should enjoy.

For additional ideas on things to do in Asheville, check out our full trip here.  There’s so much to do in Asheville that you may be tempted to forgo the Biltmore Estate, but you should make it one of your must-sees while in town.

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