Getting to visit new places is always exciting, but nothing beats traveling at Christmastime. I love traipsing around new cities and beautiful landmarks when they’re all decked out for the holidays. This year, I went to the historic and enormous Biltmore Mansion (my husband came along too). I highly recommend it! Seeing one of the largest historic homes of the US bedizened for the holidays was romantic and memorable.
So, a super brief history lesson first. The Biltmore Estate (which includes this historic home, a modern hotel, and a few more buildings on 10 square miles) was to built by the Vanderbilt family to be their legendary home. Constructed between 1889 and 1895, the Biltmore Mansion includes 250 rooms, including a gym, indoor swimming pool, and a huge dining room. Over the decades, the Vanderbilts vacated the home and opened it as a public attraction. In summation, it’s an opulent display of wealth from the turn of the century that you can gawk at. And gawk I did!
When visiting after November 1st, you have two ticket options for purchase- a daytime tour or a nighttime candlelight tour. We opted for the latter. This ticket gave us daytime admission to explore the gardens and grounds, and then access to the home at the time on our ticket for our candlelight tour. We spent an amazing day on the estate grounds, but there are definitely some tricks and tips to getting the most out of your visit.
The gardens and grounds are amazing! You’re going to want to plan for approximately 3-4 hours to explore the outdoor areas on the property. There’s a little driving between the garden and Antler Hill Village (which has shops, restaurants, and the winery), and I’m including that time into this estimation.
- Wear some comfortable walking shoes. Most of the time you’ll be walking on a paved or packed dirt path, but you’re going to be outdoors so plan accordingly.
- Take your time and enjoy the conservatory and gardens, and it is worth the walk to the fish pond. There’s benches out by the pond where you can sit and enjoy the view.
- Don’t forget to walk around the house! Your indoor tour doesn’t include any of the open air areas around the Biltmore Mansion, so check it out during the daytime. And don’t be afraid to walk off the beaten path. We opened every gate and door we found to explore (that didn’t say no admittance) and no one ever had an issue with it. We got to see things from all perspectives, and it is SO worth it.
Antler Hill Village:
Antler Hill Village is a collection of modern shops and restaurants that’s still inside the estate grounds and under the Biltmore umbrella, so your ticket gives you access to the area. Frankly, this is very touristy and wasn’t really our cup of tea EXCEPT that you can enjoy a complimentary wine tasting and buy some bottles here!
- Seriously do the tasting! Even if you’re not that much of a wine drinker, you are only getting small samples and the experience was very casual and fun. You’re in a tasting room with a ton of people coming and going, and everyone chatting amongst themselves. We had a great time. When we got there it looked like there was a serious line, but we were in the door within seven minutes. We met and talked to the couple next to us, and generally had a great half hour of wine tasting!
- Dining at the Biltmore. Okay, here’s the one thing I would’ve changed for us. We booked a table at the Bistro, which supposedly is an upscale French restaurant in Antler Hill Village, because we didn’t really know how everything would work at the Biltmore. It was not a good meal, the food was bland and the service left a lot to be desired. We wished we’d have known our car would be close by all day because we would’ve brought an amazing picnic. Next time that’s definitely our plan. You’re welcome to bring in any food you’d like on the grounds. So pack a great cooler, buy some wine after your tasting, and sit out by Antler Hill Village and dine like rustic Vanderbilts.
- There is a small farm animal petting area and a playground in Antler Hill Village, so if you’re traveling with kids this is a good place to let them run out some energy before touring the mansion.
The Biltmore Mansion:
Finally, the most important part of the day- the tour of the Biltmore Mansion. At Christmastime you have two ticket options, the daytime tour or the candlelight tour. We booked the candlelight tour, and to be exact we booked the last tour of the evening. I’m so glad we did! There were not nearly as many people inside the mansion as there had been earlier that day when we were exploring the grounds. This meant we could walk at our own pace inside and get lots of great pictures. Even better, by the time we finished the tour there was NO ONE outside! We took another stroll outside the front of the mansion, and walked across the lawn to take photos of the house and giant outdoor Christmas trees all lit up. Definitely go on the last tour of the night!
- The tour is called the candlelight tour, so I did expect some candles throughout the home. I know it’s historic and you’ve got to be careful of burning the place down, but I was disappointed that what they really meant was the “dimmed lights” tour. Even so, it was lovely to see all of their Christmas trees glowing.
- This is a self-guided tour. You walk yourself through the mansion at the pace you prefer, which is very nice. There is an option to purchase an audio device which will give you information and history about the home and it’s previous occupants. We opted out of that because we know ourselves, and we hate standing in each room forever waiting for someone to stop talking. We read the free booklet that has a few details about each room, enjoyed the decorations, took a few pictures, and walked on.
- Pictures with no flash are allowed inside the home.
We had a fantastic time at the Biltmore Estate, and I highly recommend a November or December visit to any Christmas lovers! Everything was festive and decorated, and the nighttime tour of the mansion was magical. Seriously though, take the last tour of the night and hang around while everyone else goes back to their cars- then you can experience the impressive sight of the home all by yourself! When you look at the picture below, you’ll see what I mean!