Our 2020 Tour of the Biltmore at Christmas

Our recent tour of Biltmore estate, shops and grounds decorated for the holiday season.

Biltmore estate in November

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I recently got to check something off my bucket list.

Biltmore house and gardens at Christmastime! Have you been?

Mr DIY and I spent a day at this historic mansion in Asheville NC, and we enjoyed every second of our day touring the grounds, shops and the estate itself. The weather couldn't have been nicer for the week before Thanksgiving, clear skies and temps in the 60's.


our tour of the Biltmore

Today I'm sharing some personal photographs and a little insider peek into this beautiful mansion. All pictures were taken with my phone, and while they're pretty good, they really don't do justice to this incredible home!


I'm also sharing a little history of the Biltmore, and you'll find some tips for making the most of your day at the end.

History of Biltmore

George Vanderbilt built his large country estate, with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in Asheville, NC. The estate was officially opened on Christmas Eve, 1895, after 1000 workers took six years to build it.

George built the 175,000 square foot home as a country escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, a retreat for his family and friends. He brought his new bride, Edith, to the home after they wed in Paris in 1898 and they raised their only child, Cornelia here.

Mr DIY and I were trying to imagine what it would have been like to pull up to the Biltmore in a horse and carriage way back then! And we really couldn't! The largest home in America is impressive by today's standards, it just baffles the mind as to how impressive it would have been well over 100 years ago.


Biltmore architecture

We spent several hours walking the grounds on the 125,000 acres of the Biltmore. The gardens and grounds would have provided endless opportunities for guests to enjoy horseback riding, fishing, croquet, even golf!

Today you can walk through the various gardens, as well as an entire area devoted to tourists...Antler Village shops, the Winery (with tastings), as well as the barn and farmyard where you can watch live demonstrations (we watched an artisan make a broom), and pet the animals.

You can also take a guided horseback trail ride, guided hikes, fly fishing and more for an additional cost.


brick tunnel and bridge at Biltmore

While the grounds are massive, it is charming, divided into separate gardens. I can only image how glorious it must look in the spring and the fall, with the riotous colors!


Biltmore Conservatory

We found the Conservatory impressive, with its glass roof housing hundreds of exotic species of ferns, palms, orchids and flowers.

As you can see, the grounds weren't overly crowded as I was able to get many pictures without people!


covered walkway

gardens and estate

The home is impressive from every angle, and was built with stunning views of the Blue Ridge mountains from every deck and patio.


estate

terrace view of the Blue Ridge mountains

The undulating ridge of the mountains and the view from the terraces was breathtaking!

Christmas trees of Biltmore

I tried to photograph as many of the decorated trees as I could, both in and around the shops, outside and inside Biltmore estate itself. There are more than 100 decorated trees, and I think I captured less than half of them.

I think my dream job would be planning and decorating the Christmas trees at Biltmore!

Christmas trees in Biltmore shops

Evening tour of the Biltmore

There are two ways to tour the Biltmore mansion at Christmas...daytime and evening. I purchased tickets for the evening experience because I wanted to see the estate lit up with thousands of twinkling lights and really felt the evening hours would do it justice.

Our lighted tour was at 5:30, so after a leisurely dinner in the Stable Cafe, we headed to the main house. We were both relieved that the number of guests was limited, masks were mandatory, and social distancing was enforced.

Our tour through the mansion itself took about an hour which is short considering the home has over four acres of floor space, 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces! Some of the regular areas have been closed to guests due to the narrow passageways and inability to properly maintain distance.

the Winter Garden at Biltmore

The Winter Garden, just off the grand entrance, was one of my favorite rooms. A glass roof and fountain sculpture were stunning.

Billiard Room

The Banquet Hall has a seven-story-high ceiling, a working pipe organ on the wall opposite the soaring fireplace, and a huge dining table! Can you imagine being served dinner in this space?

dining hall at Christmas


I loved the ironwork on this staircase, it is a thing of beauty!


iron chandelier and staircase

Upstairs are the family bedrooms and living hall. Mrs Vanderbilt's bedroom is a feminine retreat with purple and gold silk fabrics and Louis XV style furnishings. There's a whole warren of rooms leading off her bedroom to the Lady's Maid Room, bathroom and closets that we were unable to tour.

Edith Biltmore's bedroom

I absolutely love the hand painted tile on this fireplace mantel in the Tyrolean Chimney Room.

painted fireplace tiles

The basement holds a 70,000 gallon indoor heated swimming pool with underwater lighting. Unfortunately a crack in the pool means it has been drained and is no longer useable.

I asked the guide what the hanging ropes were for and she said that most of the guests wouldn't have known how to swim. Not only that, their swimming costumes were heavy woolen ones that would have dragged them down. They used the ropes to move around the pool.

The vaulted tile ceiling is amazing!

indoor swimming pool

Down in the basement in the servants quarters, most of which we were unable to view. But here's a picture of the Servant's Dining Room.

servants' dining room



Inside the estate itself, nearly every room holds a decorated Christmas tree, some of them towering several stories in the air! Each one different, but no less beautiful than the others.

Christmas trees inside Biltmore

And finally, Biltmore estate lit up at night. The large grounds in front of the estate are lined with hundreds of paper luminaries, and the large tree in the center is lit up with thousands of lights. We were a little surprised that there are no Christmas lights on the mansion itself. They could have really made it look amazing and brightened up some of the dark corners with twinkle lights.

Biltmore at night

I hope you've enjoyed this inside look at Biltmore estate and grounds, there is so much to see and do! Now that I've checked Biltmore at Christmas off my bucket list, I definitely want to come back during the Spring when the grounds are lush and everything is bursting into bloom!

FAQs and TIPS for Touring the Biltmore

Is everything at the Biltmore currently open?
No. Due to this year's virus, they have shut down some restaurants while others are only open at certain hours. Like I mentioned in the tour above, not all areas are accessible to visitors at this time. As well, there are no musicians or choirs performing in the mansion during the candlelight tour like there normally are.


My best tip is to download the Biltmore app. It will let you know exactly what is open and not, what times restaurants are open (if you need reservations), where attractions are located on the grounds and much more!


Do you have to buy tickets in advance?

Yes. If you want to take the Candlelight Evening Tour, you must reserve your tickets in advance. This is because they are limiting the number of guests that are in the mansion at any given time. If you want to just visit the grounds, you can purchase your ticket at the entrance.


Can you see everything in one day?

Yes. Expect to do a lot of walking outside to the different gardens. But you can also drive to the Antler Village and Winery and shops. We took this drive a couple times during the day because the ice cream shop at the Biltmore was closed but the one at the Village was open. 😋 It's a short drive.

The grounds are large and you can really lose yourself wandering around. We followed the map and I think we saw every garden even though we didn't walk every single path.

The actual tour of the mansion itself didn't take nearly as long as I expected it to. Like I said above, we spent about an hour wandering through the rooms of the mansion that are currently open to the public.


Is there a dress code?

No. Dress comfortably and in layers because the weather can change quite a bit throughout the day and into the evening. Wear comfortable walking shoes if you plan to spend time outside! The grounds are slightly hilly and like I said you will be walking a lot!

Can you stay in the Biltmore itself?

No. There is an Inn on the property as well as a hotel but you cannot stay inside the Biltmore mansion.


Can you take pictures inside the Biltmore?

Yes, obviously you can! However, no flash photography is permitted on the self-guided tours only. You are not permitted to take photos on the specialty tours inside the Biltmore House.

I hope those tips were helpful! Please feel free to ask a question in the comments if there is something I haven't covered!

Pin it to remember!

Christmas tour of the Biltmore


bringing beauty to the ordinary,



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Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this experience with us. Actually, this place reminds me of the English countryside with their beautiful grand homes and castles. When I saw the intro picture I thought you had gone Wales. This is such a beautiful site to see. My first thought was, "I am glad I don't have to clean it." ��

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    1. It does look like the English countryside Denise! And I'm very glad I don't have to clean it, LOL! Have a Merry Christmas!

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  2. I had toured Biltmore many years earlier at Christmas with my mom (you weren't allowed to take pictures years ago in the age of film cameras). Last year, my wife and I were traveling to Blowing Rock and decided to take a couple of extra days to spend time at the Biltmore House. The decorations were incredible. It was made more special by the fact that the Downton Abbey exhibit had just opened and parts of the main house had some of the exhibit as part of the Christmas tour display. It was worth the extra days for the tour. We loved the entire experience. The history behind Christmas at Biltmore is fascinating in itself.

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    1. Sounds amazing! It's a truly beautiful experience!

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