$75 to Tour a Big House?
$75 to visit a large house? I was excited about visiting the Biltmore Estate during Christmas, since it had been nearly twenty years since I had last seen it. But looking at the ticket prices made me pause. $75 for daily admission, $65 with advance purchase, $85 to do the Candlelight Tour.
$75! I remember the house being impressive, and I also respect the fact that they are running it as a private historic preservation effort rather than tapping our tax dollars. But could it really be worth it, even if it did include access to the grounds and complimentary wine tasting at their Estate Winery?
Tickets printed out in advance, we made our way the entrance. Only for me to realize right before we got to the admission gate that I couldn’t find mine.
Fortunately, we were early. So there was time to stop at the ticket office to get it reprinted. While we there we saw tickets were available for the Behind the Scenes tours that weren’t available on the website. There were two options: Upstairs Downstairs and the Rooftop Tour. It was a fairly nice day so I picked the rooftop.
From the entrance it’s about two miles of of beautiful North Carolina landscape and driveway to the house, all designed to keep you from seeing it until the grand reveal when you come around the corner.
Even with a 9:45 a.m. entrance time, there were already lots of people there and we were in one of the satellite parking lots. So definitely allow an extra 15 minutes before your admission time to park and catch the shuttle bus to the front of the house. The good news is your entrance time just means how early you can enter, not that you’re denied entrance if you arrive after that point.
Seeing it during the holidays, was particularly special. There’s something like over a hundred Christmas trees all decked out and it really enhances the grandeur of the house.
The dining room boasts 3 fireplaces and its own organ.
And then there are all the closed doors. For some reason I’ve always had a fascination with closed doors in historic houses. What’s behind there? What cool things aren’t we being allowed to see?
Despite visiting dozens of rooms, the regular tour at Biltmore Estate is still rather frustrating that way. There are plenty of closed and locked doors, roped-off areas where you only get a maddening glimpse of strange rooms beyond.
That’s why doing the rooftop tour was so satisfying! Not only did I get my fitbit steps in for the day, but we also got to go behind the velvet ropes in many different areas.
You start at the bottom and walk four stories up the main staircase to the observation room. But first you stop in the model room — the house is so big that it has a room devoted to itself.
It was built to display the original model of the house, where the Vanderbilts could take guests to see the full extent of the house, even areas like servant quarters which they would normally not get to see.
From there, the observation room and a trip up its spiral staircase to see an amazing view.
Fun fact? All roof repairs take place from inside the attics. And after seeing up close how steep the roofs are, it made a lot of sense. Another fun fact? All the peach slate tiles are fastened to the roof with copper wire!
And that was basically the tour — the observation room, rooftop view, a peek into the attics, and a jaunt on an off-limits balcony with a gorgeous view.
$19 isn’t cheap but it’s the point you’re spending 65 or $75 to see the house, I think spending the extra for an hour long behind-the-scenes tour was definitely worth it.
The stable yard has almost exclusively been converted to shops and concessions, so I didn’t spend much time there other than a bathroom break. But I will say the food looked and smelled amazing, even the hot dogs.
The conservatory and gardens are included in the admission. And the hot houses are as impressive as any of the botanical gardens I’ve visited around the country.
Definitely leave time and energy to go see it. During the Christmas holidays the outside gardens are pretty barren, but the greenhouses are a nice break from the cold.
The grounds themselves are beautiful and offer many amazing hiking trails and other vistas, but in the interest of time we skipped the rest including the trout pond.
I did want to stop at the winery (detailed review coming). In a nutshell, it was packed (as free things often are) and there was a long line for the complimentary tasting. Instead we snagged a table in the premium wine tasting area but were disappointed in the wines and the service.
If you go on a slow day and you’re not a wine snob maybe it’s worth a stop, otherwise skip.
So is the Biltmore Estate worth $75?
Yes, if historic buildings are your thing and you’re going to make a full day of it and enjoy the conservatory and picnic on the grounds as well. In that case, it’s well worth it.
But if you’re going only for the house, though it’s impressive, I would skip it.
More From This Trip:
Full Disclosure: I may receive affiliate credit from links in this post or on this site which will help fund my travels. Thank you for your support!