The Biltmore was the home of the Vanderbilt family and is the largest home in the United States. Situated on 8,000 acres, this 178,000 sq ft house also boasts a conservatory, acres of gardens, a boat house, winery, and much more. While there's so much here to keep you busy, it's absolutely possible to see most of the home and gardens in one day.
If you're a fan of period dramas such as Downton Abbey, you'll be giddy at the Biltmore. Construction on the home started in the late 1800s and has been very, very well preserved. Some early 1900s updates were made, but you'll feel whisked away to another time and place as you tour the home and wander the grounds.
Tours are self-guided. Each person will be given a booklet that informs you of the highlights in each room. A tour guide leads each group around and points out a few details. Audio tours are also available, if you have more time and would like more info. The Vanderbilt's were very wealthy and well connected and their home boasts many treasures in each room. Having said that, based on the sheer enormity of the home and the time it takes to tour (about an hour) we opted to pass on the audio tour.
After touring the house, you'll want to browse the gardens. The conservatory is beautiful and is full of gorgeous plants.
There are several terraces, pathways, ponds, fountains, and even a trail, depending on how much time you want to spend outdoors. You're completely free to explore at your own pace.
What you need to know
Like a lot of popular attractions, this one can get very busy during peak times. Tours are timed to keep the crowds down so you'll want to purchase tickets online ahead of time. Plan carefully because it's near impossible to add someone to your party after tickets have been purchased.
Before reaching the house itself, you'll leave the main road, park, and then walk along a wooded trail. The trail leads you to the far end of the drive, which is where the above picture was taken. As you can see, there's a good bit of walking before you even start the tour. Shuttle services are available, for a steep fee, but you must plan ahead and make a reservation.
Restrooms are limited. You'll want to be sure to use the restrooms up by the house prior to starting the tour because there are none to be found inside the home, in order to best preserve the house.
Quick-bite restaurants, gift shops, and restrooms can be found within walking distance of the house. We were surprised by the quality of the food and appreciated that they had a few gluten-free options available.
There are activities galore so you could easily spend a full day or even several days here on the estate, but the house and gardens were the main draw for us. You can see everything in just a few hours and then continue on your way.
Be sure to read up on their policies so you know what to expect regarding pets, outside food and drinks, etc. You do need to walk through a scanner so large pocket knives might be better left in the car.
Despite the restrictions, the Biltmore is very family friendly! Visit their page to learn more and to find family-friendly itinerary suggestions.
If you visit, I hope you end up enjoying your time as much as we did. We really were in awe of the sheer size of the home and with all of the attention to detail. What a neat insight into the Vanderbilt family and that time period.