Just because you are Visiting The Biltmore Estate on a Budget doesn’t mean you can’t have an amazing time. Located in the mountains in beautiful Asheville, NC the Biltmore Estate was built between 1889 and 1895 by George Washington Vanderbilt II, of the prominent Vanderbilt family (who owned various shipping and railroad companies). No expense was spared when the house as built and it was designed as a place for the wealthy to relax and enjoy every extravagance (the sheer number of bathrooms is impressive).
The house was opened up to visitors by George’s daughter Cornelia in 1930 as a way to help the estate and the city of Asheville weather the Great Depression. The grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and currently cover more than 10 square miles. It has 250 rooms, including 43 bathrooms, multiple kitchens, an indoor swimming pool, and a bowling alley, and had things like electric elevators since the day it was built. The mansion did not, however, have any air conditioning until summer 2018! (I will say as someone who visited during the summer it is quite comfortable inside.)
Visiting The Biltmore Estate on a Budget
How To Save on Biltmore Estate Tickets
- Buy your ticket online before you go to the estate. If you buy the tickets online you save a few dollars off the price of buying at the estate. Currently the discount is up to $8.
- Visit during the winter. Tickets are cheapest from January to March.
- If you need two days at the estate consider grabbing a second day ticket for $25. This will give you access to the Biltmore’s gardens, grounds, and Antler Hill Winery. This is not something you can do online so you would have to upgrade at any of the guest services on the estate.
- Buy a tour for the next day and save $25. Purchase a Biltmore admission ticket and on the day of your Biltmore visit, stop by any Guest Services station and reserve a next-day outdoor activity or tour for the following day which allows you to return for your tour or activity without an additional admission purchase.
- The best bargain of all is to grab an annual pass if you plan on going a few times. They do go on sale- we were able to grab them for $119 (and they extended for 15 months) when they were closed for the pandemic. After that they were $159 and their normal price is $249. So watch for those sales- you can find them if you are flexible and wait. But when they do drop in price be sure to grab them. There are tons of benefits to having the pass as well.
To Rent or Not Rent a Car
The Biltmore Estate is in the mountains in Asheville, NC which is about a six hour drive for us- too close to fly but you want to be sure your car is comfortable because it’s a long ride. The interstate that leads in and out is very busy and has some 18 wheelers. In my case my 2011 Nissan Versa with mediocre air conditioning wasn’t going to cut it. So we ended up renting a car for me to feel a bit safer and more comfortable.
Getting around Asheville and the Biltmore Estate would be difficult without a vehicle. I am sure people do it using Uber and other arrangements but having a car would be the easiest way to do it. So use your favorite website and look for the best deal on a rental.
Where To Stay
This is one of the biggest ways you can save money.
If you want to stay on the Biltmore property you can choose to stay at one of their two hotels- The Inn or The Village Hotel. They do have discounts for annual pass holders and obviously rates vary by season. They were not even in the ballpark of our budget but if you have a few hundred dollars to spend a night and are looking for something for a special occasion they are a great option.
After much research online we decided we wanted to stay in the area of Biltmore Village. Particularly there is a road, Hendersonville Road, that seemed ideal. It is very close to the estate, has plenty of restaurants (although not a ton of them local) and quite a few hotel chains to keep prices competitive. We ended up at the Clarion Hotel at Biltmore Village. While it was not the nicest place I have ever stayed it was clean and we felt safe. I would recommend getting a room on the back side due to street noise. Almost any other hotel on the road is farther away from the main road but the pricing reflects that. We were fine with the air running all night to drown out the noise. You can also stay a bit further away near the Outlets and save big.
Check out some other Frugal Travel Ideas!
Where To Eat and How To Save on Food
Most hotels in the area had continental breakfast, refrigerators and microwaves available in the room. We brought snacks and breakfast food with us (we visited during Covid and as suspected continental breakfast was a bit limited.)
One of the people on our trip is vegan and it limits where we can go to eat. We also prefer to eat local while we are out of town. Our first night we ate at the Village Wayside Bar & Grille. In my post about our trip I will review the food but it was about $20 including a generous tip. As a note if you have never had the North Carolina delicacy Cheerwine, be sure to get it. Worth the money for a soda.
While you are at the actual Biltmore Estate the food is expensive (as to be expected). However there are many beautiful places you could eat a picnic lunch. While you are not allowed to take food in the house you can take it elsewhere on the property. So if you want to save bring your own food with you. Several locations are within a pretty easy walking distance of your vehicle- you could pull a cooler if needed.
Wine tastings at the winery are free. Currently you need to have a reservation (covid) but usually you can just walk up and try five of their wines.
Scheduling Your Day To Maximize Time and Money
Download the Biltmore App before you go!
Schedule your house tour early. Currently the house opens at 10 a.m. (double check this because it might change) but the property opens an hour before. If you can get on the 10 a.m. tour you can get the best parking (ie closest to the house) and avoid the worst of the heat during warmer months. Plus you won’t have to wait if lines get backed up.
Be sure to pay the money for the audio tour. When you enter the house they will give you a book with a TINY amount of information about each room. So be sure to buy the audio tour. You will have the option to purchase this when you get your tickets online at a discount (it’s currently $11.99). It is worth every penny. It’s the size of a cell phone and you hold it to your ear as you walk around the house. This also ensures that your house tour is a pretty predictable 90 minutes. There is also a kid’s version of the audio tour.
Visit the Gardens. Designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (the guy who designed Central Park), the Biltmore has more than 30 acres of formal and informal gardens. The ones most worth exploring are relatively close to the house, though. I recommend the Italian Garden, the Walled Garden (with a walk through the Shrub Garden on the way), and the Conservatory. We visited the waterfall and the boathouse- it’s quite a walk and uphill all the way back to the house so be sure you are prepared for that.
Carefully choose tours. There are many tours available at the Biltmore. Be sure to pick the ones that interest you the most. I highly recommend touring the winery (very unique) and the Rooftop tour.
Visit Antler Hill Village. This is where they have the shops, winery, barnyard, exhibits and more. Many of the things are included in your admission. And if you have the $5 to spare I highly recommend the ice cream from the Creamery there!