Biltmore is the largest privately owned house in the United States. It had been on my bucket list for quite some time and I was excited when I was able to work it into our Christmas travel plans last year.
What is already an elaborately decorated mansion gets an over-the-top treatment for Christmas. And people just flock to Biltmore. Over and over again. On the shuttle ride from the parking lot to the house, our guide asked how many people were visiting Biltmore for the first time and we were the only people who raised our hands!
Built in 1895 by George W. Vanderbilt, Biltmore was originally intended as a family home and retreat for friends. Today his descendants run Biltmore as a family business with a mission of preservation.
Biltmore offers several different tour options. The basic daytime ticket is a good choice for first-timers. The tour is self-guided and you can spend as much or as little time as you’d like as you make your way through the house. The included brochure provides a description of each room, like the Winter Garden below.
I think my favorite room at Biltmore was the Banquet Hall. With a seven-story-high ceiling and a pipe organ, it’s absolutely stunning.
Biltmore’s library was my second favorite room. I would love a library like this in my house.
Attendants are posted around the house. We found them to be very knowledgeable; they knew the answers to all our questions. How many Christmas trees in the house? 55! They were in every room. Below is Mr. Vanderbilt’s bedroom.
And here’s Mrs. Vanderbilt’s Bedroom.
We got to poke our heads outside a few times during the tour. How would you like this view from your house? So serene.
I’ll be honest, this was a destination I picked more for my own interest than for my kids’, but they enjoyed it more than I expected. Even my son.
After touring the Biltmore’s bedrooms, visitors are guided to the basement where you can see the swimming pool (which is no longer filled with water) and the bowling alley.
Then after a peek at the servant areas, the tour ends with the Bachelors’ wing, complete with a smoking room, gun room, and billiard room.
We didn’t time how long it took us to tour the house, but we estimate it was between 60 and 90 minutes.
Audio guides are available for an additional fee. I love that Biltmore offers a Kids Audio Guide that is narrated by Cedric, the family’s pet Saint Bernard. If your kids have tried it, I’d love to hear what they thought about it. Guided tours of the house, grounds, rooftop, and a behind-the-scenes route are also available for an additional fee.
Before exploring the grounds, we took a break in the courtyard where you can find a cafe, bake shop, and ice cream parlor. No one but me was interested in shopping, so I only got to take a quick peek in the shops. Here’s the confectionery.
You can also spend as much time as you’d like strolling around the gardens, trails, and conservatory. I would love to go back again in the summer to see the gardens in bloom. The gardens aren’t much to look at around Christmastime, but the conservatory was lovely.
The Biltmore estate is very large. It also includes a village that is located five miles from the house. At the village, you’ll find a farm, village green, winery, dining, shopping, hotels, an exhibition hall, a playground, and outdoor activities. Your daytime ticket includes admission to the village, so you’ll want to plan a stop there also. Better yet, plan to spend the night at one of the hotels so that you’ll have plenty of time to explore what Antler Hill Village has to offer.
There are sights to see both during the daytime and at night. Kids will enjoy the playground, farmyard animals, and barn. Parents will enjoy allowing their kids some free time to run around.
At the winery, parents can taste wine and kids can taste grape juice.
You won’t want to miss the lights at Antler Hill Village. The village is beautifully decorated and there is one tree that is strung with lights that creates a magical ambience.
Are you ready to plan a visit to Biltmore at Christmas? I would love to help you plan a trip. Read about how my planning services work here.
Disclosure: Biltmore provided complimentary admission to me and my family so that I could research and write this post. We paid for our own transportation, lodging, and dining.
This attraction appears in my e-book, How to Visit All 50 States in 12 Trips.