This is the best local guide to see Christmas at Biltmore through the eyes of a native resident in Asheville, NC! Uncover insider tips and enjoy a spectacular visit to George Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate during the holiday season.
The Perfect Holiday Vacation
The Biltmore House is aglow with twinkling lights and fragrant wreaths on its 8,000 acre estate during Christmas. With a little planning, your visit to America's largest home® will be one of your favorite vacations of all time!
Here are a few of the highlights you'll enjoy while experiencing a Biltmore Christmas:
- Christmas Decorations: you've never seen holiday decor quite like this! Enjoy a 35-foot tree in the grand Banquet Hall and elaborate floral arrangements in every room. There's a celebration every year welcoming the Live Fraser Fir into the Biltmore House, complete with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
- Christmas Magic: enjoy live music and entertainment in nooks and crannies, including choirs, instrumentalists and music throughout the holidays.
- Holiday Lights: expect a wonderland with thousands of lights and miles of fresh garlands decorated with beautiful flowers and berries. At night, the Biltmore House glows with candlelight tours that will bedazzle you with their beauty.
- Holiday Dining: a Biltmore Christmas wouldn't be complete without a visit to one of their exceptional restaurants. Make sure to book reservations weeks or months in advance because they fill up fast!
- Winter Garden: this architectural wonder is made with a glass roof and provides an atrium in the middle of the house for indoor plants. Choirs perform here during the Christmas season.
- Children's Activities: there are daytime activities for the kids, with storytelling and searching for elves in every corner! Visit the farm at Antler Hill Village and don't miss the Pisgah Playground for kids of all ages.
- Antler Hill Village and Biltmore Winery: shop for unique Christmas treasures, grab a bite to eat, and explore the Winery where you will receive a complimentary wine tasting. The village is illuminated during the holidays which will put you in a festive mood in a hurry!
Is Biltmore Worth It?
It's true what they say about George Vanderbilt's majestic home. His estate is enchanting, magical, and even more grand than you can imagine. It's definitely worth the ticket price, especially if you purchase tickets offering the second day free.
You can pay to have an expert-guided visit, or take a free self-guided tour which I highly recommend. Even though the architect, Richard Morris Hunt, didn't live to see Biltmore's completion, his work is an astounding dedication to detail that's not to be missed.
Behind the Scenes with a Local
As a native of Asheville, North Carolina, I've visited the Biltmore Estate hundreds of times throughout the years. My mother retired from working at the Biltmore Estate, and many of my favorite memories are within the walls of this beautiful home.
Every Christmas, our family's annual tradition was to celebrate the holidays at Biltmore. We would gather for dinner at the Bistro, then take a nighttime tour of the Christmas decorations on the estate. We always got excited about Santa coming to town!
I have precious memories of each Biltmore Christmas with my family. For these reasons, I hold a special place in my heart for this historic home, especially during the holiday season.
I'm sharing my best insider tips with you so you can make awesome memories too!
In the past few years, Biltmore requires reservations for just about every activity on the estate. Plan ahead and leave plenty of time in between activities for a smooth visit.
VISIT THE HOUSE LATER IN THE DAY: My number one insider tip is to book the latest appointment of the day to visit the house. That way, you'll encounter less crowds and find more time to see everything! If you book an evening Candlelight visit, you'll have the entire day to enjoy everything Biltmore has to offer.
BOOK EARLY: Purchase tickets online months in advance. Save money if you buy them before September 15th.
TAKE A TOUR: If you sign up for a behind the scenes tour, you'll visit areas not normally open to the public, such as the rooftop, backstairs, and hidden rooms. Our favorite tour is the Red Wine and Chocolate Tasting at the Winery which never disappoints.
SPEND THE NIGHT: My husband and I celebrated our anniversary by booking an overnight stay at the Biltmore Inn which is a beloved estate tradition. The Village Hotel is also a relaxed spot to stay in Antler Hill Village. Spending the night on the estate will provide easy access to the grounds, and you'll feel like you've stepped back in time with the Vanderbilts!
PACK A PICNIC: On many occasions, we've packed a picnic basket and headed to the Lagoon, which is our favorite romantic spot on the estate. The Bass Pond is also a lovely picnic spot, especially at the beginning of November when the house is ready for the Christmas season. In fact, the first week of November is a great time to visit because the leaves are still beautiful in Asheville as well.
VISIT THE GARDENS: While I still enjoy touring the main house, it's the gardens and winter landscapes I've come to love over the years. It was designed by the estate's landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted. He just happens to be the same guy who designed Central Park in New York City!
BE AMAZED IN THE LIBRARY: The Library is stunning, and is definitely my favorite room in the house. You'll be amazed by the 10,000 books that adorn the shelves, but the secret passageway behind the fireplace and the ceiling painted by Giovanni Pellegrini will leave you astonished.
HIKE TO DIANA: hike to the very top of Parking Lot (A) near the main house, and you'll discover the Diana Statue with a breathtaking view of the Blue Ridge mountains. The Biltmore Estate will be in the foreground, so it's prime photo spot. It's the perfect place to have a picnic, or enjoy a view of the sunset like never before.
BIKE OR HIKE: You can also enjoy 22 miles of biking and hiking trails on the estate which is one of our favorite things to do on a Sunday afternoon. There's even a Bike Barn where you can rent bikes and trailers.
BOOK A CARRIAGE RIDE: For a reasonable fee, you can reserve a 30-minute horse and carriage ride through the grounds of the estate. They also offer 1 hour tours. This is a thrill for kids of all ages, so be sure to check it out!
SEE THE LIGHTS: On our last visit, it was one of the most beautiful nights I can remember. The sun was setting in its vivid glory, casting a reflection on the pool in front of the Biltmore House that was simply breathtaking. Nothing is as beautiful as the lights dancing on the water on a cool winter evening.
Biltmore Estate History
Like us, George Vanderbilt must have loved watching reflections of his vast home shimmering on the water. When he built his famous mansion, he and Frederick Law Olmsted made sure there were reflecting pools in all the right places.
Vanderbilt inherited a massive amount of wealth from his family who made their fortune in the steamboat and railroad businesses. In 1889, George set out to build the largest private home in the United States, which he ultimately named Biltmore.
But, even with his vast fortune, George Vanderbilt maintained a grasp on the importance of treating people kindly...especially his workers on the estate.
Every year, Vanderbilt would throw a huge party for the children of his employees, and made sure each one had a special gift. Christmas at Biltmore became an event to remember, and George's family has been very gracious to carry on that tradition throughout the years.
Mr. Vanderbilt also had the same vision for every room in his house. If you're lucky enough to visit Christmas at his glorious home, it's something to behold. There are twinkling lights, gorgeous trees, and elaborate decorations in every nook and cranny. You can't help but imagine what it must have been like to live there hundreds of years ago.
Planning a Great Visit
- Plan Ahead: If this is your first time visiting Biltmore, planning ahead is essential. The Biltmore experience is more enjoyable when you've done the research. Since the Biltmore House requires reservations, it's a good idea to start planning several weeks in advance.
- Visit the House Last: During busy times, it's best to visit the Biltmore House when most folks are leaving. Try to schedule your visit for the last appointment time of the day (which is usually around 3:30 pm depending on the season). Once you're in the house, they allow you to finish the tour even if you're there past closing.
- Spend time at Antler Hill Village: By visiting the Biltmore House in the afternoon, it frees up your entire morning to explore Antler Hill Village, Cedric's Tavern, the Winery and Lagoon when fewer guests are there. Plus, it allows you to book a Candlelight Christmas evenings tour directly after visiting the entire estate.
- Visit the Gardens on Day 2: I highly recommend saving the gardens for day two if you have the time.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Christmas Hours: The daytime Christmas Celebration at Biltmore is held from early November through early January.
- Best Time to Visit: The best time to visit the Biltmore estate is on weekdays. Crowds are typically lower during that time, and depending on the time of year, you may receive discounts that include special events. You can also upgrade your tickets and become Biltmore passholders at kiosks throughout the estate.
- Schedule: The Biltmore Estate is open 365 days a year, but hours of operation vary. On most days, the ticket office opens at 8:30 am. It's a good idea to get there as early as possible. Every day has a different schedule for restaurants and house visits. Check the schedule to plan accordingly so you don't miss any of the fun!
- Driving Time: You'll be driving from one location to another, so it's necessary to have a car. It takes about 30 minutes (depending on traffic) to reach the Biltmore House from the admission gate to the parking lot. Get there as early as you can before your appointment time begins. It also takes another 15 to 20 minutes to drive to Antler Hill Village from the house depending on the season.
- Parking: Free parking is included in your ticket price.
Tickets and Appointments
- Appointments: The Biltmore House has short visiting hours. Appointments are usually offered every 15 minutes from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm. Candlelight evening tours are a separate cost and usually start at 5:30 pm and end around 10:45 pm.
- Visitation Time: Plan on spending at least 2 hours touring the Biltmore House. The Estate, gardens, and Antler Hill Village will occupy most of your time.
- Audio Guide: An Audio-guided visit is now included when you purchase Biltmore tickets which is a great plus.
- 2 Day Grounds Ticket: Consider getting the 2-day grounds ticket which is worth the extra cost because it allows next day access to the grounds with the price of your admission ticket. This allows more time to relax and enjoy everything Biltmore has to offer.
- Discounts: Purchase tickets online at least 7 days in advance for a $5 savings per ticket on a house tour. For the best selection, consider purchasing tickets months in advance.
- Seniors and Military: Seniors (65 and older) save $8 per regular ticket when purchasing in person at the Ticketing Sales Center every Tuesday and Wednesday. United States Military save $8 per ticket any day of the week when they purchase at the ticket center.
- Perks: Passholders and overnight guests staying on the estate enjoy an express lane that bypasses long lines at the main admission gate.
- Make Dining Reservations: Weeks to months in advance, make reservations at the Stable Cafe for dinner if you're planning to stay for their Candlelight Christmas. There are areas to grab lunch that don't require reservations like the Creamery, Courtyard Cafe and Smokehouse Food Truck (if they are open). The sit-down restaurants fill up quickly.
- As an Alternative: you can eat at one of 85 Top Restaurants in Downtown Asheville after you exit the estate. You can make reservations through the OpenTable app, or by calling each restaurant individually.
- Dress Casually: It's a fancy house, but you don't have to dress up unless you're planning a trip to the Library Lounge or the Dining Room for dinner. Just be sure to wear comfortable shoes because you're going to be walking more than you think, especially if you visit the gardens.
- Allow Time: The Biltmore Estate is a huge place, and includes several destinations in one ticket price. Allow extra time for Antler Hill Village and the Winery for complimentary wine tastings. They are both fun attractions you'll want to visit, even if you aren't a wine drinker.
- Eat Snacks and Drink Wine: Make time for snacks...especially Biltmore Dairy Bar Ice Cream which can be found in the stable area at the house or in Antler Hill Village. And by all means, enjoy a glass or two of Biltmore wine while you're visiting. It will make the experience even better!
Visit Like a Local!
- Picnic: Pack a picnic lunch or order one to go from Moe's BBQ in Biltmore Village. Take a blanket and a small cooler. Head to the Lagoon, the lawn at Diana, or the Bass Pond and surrounding trails. Picnics are only allowed at these areas.
- Listen to Music: listen to live music at the bandstand in Antler Hill Village (seasonal and weather permitting).
- Don't be in a Hurry: Linger at the Wine Bar at the Winery and order a cheese plate or sample their delicious chocolates.
- Skip the Crowds: Grab a bite at the Smokehouse Food Truck in Antler Hill Village or Courtyard Cafe at the house. Keep in mind that these locations are seasonal and may be closed due to weather conditions.
- Hike or Bike: Hit the trails and experience Biltmore like a true local!
- Bask in the View: Visit the Library Lounge at the Inn on Biltmore Estate and see a breathtaking view. Sip wine, enjoy a charcutuerie board, or a tray of sweets. (Dress code is required.)
One Day Itinerary
If you only have one day to spend on the estate, here are my recommendations and scheduling suggestions for the perfect day.
Events and times may change without notice. Check for current hours before you plan your trip.
Morning ~ Antler Hill Village
- Drive and Park: At the admission gate, tell the parking attendants you want to go directly to Antler Hill Village and they'll send you in the right direction.
- Visit Antler Hill Village in the morning: Plan to tour Antler Hill Village in the morning as soon as it opens which is usually around 9:00 am. Go to the Village Social and eat breakfast. Visit the farm and see all of the animals. Catch an exhibition or demonstration if available.
- Check out the displays and become immersed in the rich history of the estate. Take the kids to the petting area and Pisgah Playground. Browse some great shops and plan to eat lunch nearby.
- Eat Lunch: Make reservations in advance for lunch at the Cedrics or Village Social. Or, pack a picnic and head to the Lagoon! There is also a food truck nearby, or sandwiches at the dairy bar. Enjoy a leisurely lunch and be sure to get some ice cream for dessert at the Creamery in the village (weather permitting).
Afternoon ~ Winery
- Visit the Winery: Visit the Winery after lunch for your free wine tasting. Or, if you really want to beat the crowds, go to the wine tasting before lunch if they open before 12 pm. Be sure to make your reservation in person at one of the Guest Services locations. During the Christmas rush, get to your appointment as early as you can to avoid long lines. You may have to wait up to 30 minutes even with a reservation, so plan accordingly.
- Shop for Local Treasures: There is an amazing wine shop surrounding the winery which has local food, wine, gifts and treasures.
- Relax at the Wine Bar: Order a lovely charcuterie board and your favorite glass of wine. Cozy up to the fire pit, or find a little nook to relax.
Evening ~ The Biltmore Mansion
- Head to the House: Drive your car and follow the winding road to the Biltmore House. If you made your tour appointment at 3:30 pm, you should leave the winery by 2:30 pm to allow time for travel. Try to arrive in the parking lot at least 30 minutes in advance, preferably 45.
- Parking: Once there, if you're able, tell the parking attendant you want to walk to the House from the parking lot and they will direct you to Parking Lots A or B. Parking and walking is preferable because it allows you to stroll past the house and see the twinkling lights in the evening. If walking is out of the question, there is shuttle transportation nearby.
- If you prefer to take the shuttle: You'll park in one of the lower parking lots (C).
- Take The Tour: Visit the House as close to the last appointment of the day to give you extra time to do everything (which is usually around 3:30 pm). If you're booking the candlelight tour, your visit will begin after dark and take on a whole new lighting extravaganza!
- Walk Through the Gardens: if there's time and you'd like to visit the gardens, be sure to do it while there's still daylight outside! It can be a strenuous hike going back to the house, so keep that in mind as you plan your day. I recommend saving the gardens for a second day if you bought that type of ticket.
Dinner and Lagoon
- Dinner Reservations: It is essential to make dinner reservations in advance. You can eat at the Stable Cafe (very popular) before leaving the house area, but be sure to check its hours of operation. Once you get in your car and leave, you'll be directed back towards Antler Hill Village where you can eat at the Bistro, (our favorite), Cedrics Tavern or Village Social. If you prefer, plan to skip the crowds and eat in downtown Asheville at one of many amazing restaurants.
- Visit the Lagoon: If it's still daylight on the drive back from the house, don't miss the secret Lagoon which is our favorite oasis. It's located on the road from the Biltmore House to Antler Hill Village. Ask for directions when you leave the house or you might miss it! It will be on your left, so be on the lookout for a little bridge that crosses over to the water. View this map to the Lagoon.
- Take Photos: If there's time and it's still daylight, hop out of your car and take some breathtaking photographs with the house in the background.
- Tours to Enjoy: If staying more than one day, consider purchasing Candlelight Christmas or Behind the Scenes Rooftop Tour tickets well in advance. They're definitely worth it, and will give you more time to enjoy the house in all its splendor.
- Join the Wine Club at the Winery: If you love Biltmore Wine, consider joining their Wine Club which offers many benefits and discount on wine choices throughout the year. They'll send your selections directly to your home on a quarterly basis and offer exclusive wine tastings.
Look for these fun sights on your Biltmore House Tour:
- Napoleon's chess set
- Secret door panels in the Billiard Room originally off-limits to women
- Elaborate painting by Pellegrini on the ceiling in the library
- Reflections of the landscape in windows and water.
- Exercise room, indoor swimming pool and bowling alley in the basement
- Ornate bathrooms
- Sunset on the terrace with a spectacular view of the blue ridge mountains
- Gargoyles on every corner and a rooftop observatory where Vanderbilt gazed at the stars
- 107 steps in the Grand Staircase and 72 lightbulbs in the chandelier
- Rotisserie kitchen, dumb waiter, and walk-in refrigerators
The Magical Lagoon
The Lagoon is one of the best kept secrets at Biltmore, and it's easy to miss if you don't know where it's located. It happens to be one of my favorite spots on the grounds, and you'll often find locals enjoying a picnic on a sunny afternoon along with dozens of lazy ducks and geese.
Sometimes the horses come down from the pasture to say hello. You'll often see turtles and dragonflies along the shore.
From the shores of the lagoon, you can gaze towards the Biltmore House and see its reflection staring back at you. It's the perfect spot to take a family photo, or pack a picnic and enjoy that bottle of vino you just purchased at the Winery.
Be sure to bring an wine opener and cups with you (which you can buy at the Winery before you go). Only Biltmore wine can be consumed on the property.
You can walk or bike to the lagoon from Antler Hill Village, but it's a good hike. I recommend driving there after visiting the Winery if you can. That way it will still be light outside.
You have to go through the parking lot to access the road, but if you ask one of the staff members in Antler Village for directions to the lagoon, they'll be glad to help. It is also accessible after leaving the Biltmore House, but is easy to miss since there is no signage in that direction.
Parking is included in your ticket price, so there's no extra charge to park in designated areas on the estate.
Yes. There are accessible parking spaces available in most of the parking lots for guests with mobility disabilities. If you need shuttle access, be sure to park in Lot C. You will need to bring your own wheelchair if needed because there are limited wheelchairs available on the property.
Yes, you can bring your pets, but they must remain on a leash and are not allowed near the restaurants unless you request outdoor seating (at those that offer it). Pets are also not allowed to stay at any of the hotels on the property unless they are regulated service animals. But, you can walk them around the grounds, go for a hike, and take them on a picnic to designated spots as long as they are securely leashed.
Yes! In fact, you definitely should. The time on your ticket is for entry to the Biltmore House. If you want to explore the rest of the estate, it's a good idea to get there as soon as they open.
There is no outside food or drink allowed on the estate except at the following picnic spots: the Lagoon and trails, the Bass Pond and trails, and the Sloped Lawn in front of Diana Statue. No outside alcohol is ever allowed, so you must purchase wine and beer at one of the gift shops to take it on a picnic. You can actually purchase everything you need for a lovely picnic and charcuterie board at the Winery. Tailgating with large coolers, grills and tarps is strictly prohibited. Picnic baskets, blankets and small collapsible coolers are fine.
Enjoy your Visit!
The tips in this guide are my own suggestions and are not meant to be a substitute for the rules and information you'll find on the Biltmore website. But, if you're looking for some local tips, you can find them here!
Enjoy your trip, and be sure to post your thoughts in the comments after your visit so I will know what helped and what didn't!
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