Christmas at Biltmore: A Magical Glimpse Into the Past

Last Updated on January 8, 2023

Christmas at Biltmore is a magical time to visit America’s largest home. Candles are burning brightly, fires are roaring, bringing warmth to the grand rooms, and music fills the halls with singing voices accompanied by the piano in the Winter Garden. 

A special day in Biltmore’s history was Christmas Eve in 1895, when George Washington Vanderbilt III opened the doors for the first time to family and friends. Today, over a million people journey to Asheville, North Carolina, to see this impressive home, and Christmas is one of the most popular times to visit. 

I’ve been several times myself as the Biltmore Estate holds special meaning to me (this is where my husband proposed), but I’ve never once visited during the nighttime or holiday season. To make this trip happen for 2022, we put a little extra money aside, as the Biltmore Estate can be expensive. And I am glad I did because visiting their Candlelight Christmas Evenings is well worth the enchanting experience. 

Of course, I loaded up my camera gear and many film stocks in hopes of capturing the merry festivities. In this article are some of my favorite images that capture Christmas at Biltmore, along with helpful tips for your visit during this magical time. 

Highlights of Christmas at the Biltmore

A Biltmore Christmas usually runs from early November to early January. Once you come upon the magnificent view of the Biltmore House, you will see a giant Christmas tree in the center of the long green field that stretches before the entrance doors. 

As you may your way up to the entrance, you’ll pass two marble lions decorated with a wreath and a bow tied around their necks. Enter the doors, and you’ll find yourself in the entrance hall, greeted by music or singing voices in the nearby Winter Garden. The Biltmore House has 65 fireplaces, and many main rooms will have the fires lit in the hearth.

How many Christmas decorations and trees are in the house? For 2022, there are 67 unique trees decorated with themes and many ornaments. The tallest tree is the 35-foot fir in the grand Banquet Hall. 

Around 45,000 lights and 250 candles glow and cast light on the stately furnishings in each room. Garlands, ribbons, bows, and wreaths add to the holiday magicalness throughout the house and property. 

The decorations don’t stop at the house. You’ll see more twinkling lights if you drive to Antler Hill Village, only a few minutes away. But remember to stop by the Conservatory at the Gardens to see the red poinsettias. These are grown on the estate and used for Christmas decorations. 

Banquet Hall decorated in Christmas festivities at the Biltmore Estate

A Very Brief Biltmore History 

A Man With A Vision

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the massive Biltmore house has stood for over a century, greeting visitors worldwide. It took six years and many artisans to build this 250-room mansion with lavish family and guest bedrooms, over 40 bathrooms, an indoor swimming pool, and even a bowling alley. 

The man who envisioned this French-inspired chateau country estate came from a well-known and wealthy family in America: the Vanderbilt family. George Vanderbilt III, the grandson of the wealthy Cornelius Vanderbilt, visited Asheville in the late 1800s and fell in love with its raw rural beauty. He decided that Asheville was where he would build his family’s home. 

After hiring an architect and a landscape architect, Richard Morris Hunt and Frederick Law Olmstead, George’s dream became a reality. And you might have heard of Frederick Law Olmstead before if you walked through Central Park in New York. He’s best known as one of the designers of Central Park in the 1850s. 

Fast forward six years later, the Biltmore Estate is complete. George brought his newly wedded wife to the Biltmore in 1898 and had their daughter, Cornelia, shortly after.

The four-story stone mansion is inspired by European architecture, specifically the French Renaissance. George Vanderbilt also loved to travel. Inside, you’ll find many European and Asian-inspired art, tapestries, furnishings, and decor. 

Unfortunately, George Vanderbilt only enjoyed his new home for a few years after its opening. He died in 1914 from an appendectomy. 

Pisgah National Forest with mountains in background
You can see why George Vanderbilt loved this land. This is the backyard view of the mountains and Pisgah National Forest at Biltmore Estate.

Who Owns the Biltmore Today? 

Despite the enormous costs it takes to maintain this place, the Biltmore Estate still belongs in the family, operating under the Biltmore Company. The property is now 8000 acres (it used to be 125,000), and it takes around 2000 employees to maintain the house and grounds! 

Christmas at Biltmore: How to Experience the Magic

Reserve in Advance

Reservations are required to see inside Biltmore House, and you’ll want to book in advance on their website. If you prefer not to see the Biltmore at night but want to see all the Christmas trees, lights, and decor, you can buy daytime admission, which is less expensive than the Candelight Christmas Evening tour. 

But the Candlelight Christmas tour gives you daytime access too. If you book the Candelight Christmas Evening tour and arrive at 4:30 or after, you can use your daytime admission the next day. 

Breakfast room at the Biltmore mansion

How Much Does a Biltmore Christmas ticket cost? 

They are pricy, starting at $99 per person for the daytime audio guide ticket, and can go up to $409 per person for a guided group tour and access to a temporary exhibition. For 2022, the temporary exhibit is Leonardo da Vinci’s- 500 Years of Genius, which focuses on his life and inventions. 

The Candlelight Christmas Evening admission audio-guided tour starts at $119 per person and can go up to $424 for a guided group visit and access to the temporary exhibition. 

You can also skip the house and buy admission to the Gardens and Grounds, but you’ll probably get more out of this ticket if you go during warmer months so you can enjoy the many hiking and biking trails. 

But if you plan to visit the Biltmore Estate multiple times a year, you should purchase an annual pass. Although the passes are costly, they can save you money in the long run, and you’ll want to check their website for special offers. Note that the Candlelight Christmas tour is a separate charge, but you get discounted admission if you have the annual pass. 

Special offers for the Biltmore can be found here

When Do Tickets Go on Sale for Christmas at Biltmore

Tickets for Christmas at Biltmore usually go on sale in August or September, and the best places to see if tickets are available are on their website or social media. You’ll want to reserve your tickets early as the holiday season is popular, and specific house tour times sell out quickly. 

Location, Parking, and Hours 

The GPS address for Biltmore Estate is 1 Lodge Street, Asheville, NC 28803. During peak visiting times, they usually have someone directing where to park, but you’ll follow a long curvy road to get to the lots closest to the house, lots A and B. From there, it is a short 8 to 10-minute walk to Biltmore’s front doors. 

Since parking lots C, D, and E are further, they offer complimentary shuttles to the house. They also have ADA shuttles and accessible parking in lot B. Find a map of the Biltmore Estate here

The Biltmore Estate is open 365 days a year, but their hours vary on the day you visit and where you go on the property. Visit their website for more information on the hours of operation. The earliest you can enter the property is 8:30am. 

Biltmore gingerbread house

Best Time to Visit During Christmas at Biltmore and for How Long 

As mentioned earlier, Christmas at Biltmore sees many people walk through its front doors. For fewer crowds during the holiday season, visit early to mid-November (before Thanksgiving week) or early January when school starts to go back into session. 

Some people visit the Biltmore Estate during the morning or afternoon, but I find it more challenging to see everything in just a few hours. To get a good taste of the Biltmore house and the surrounding gardens and property, you’ll want a whole day to visit. However, to see only the inside of the house, plan about 1.5 to 2 hours. 

But if you have other places on your itinerary for the day, consider the time it takes to get to the actual Biltmore House. The GPS makes it seem that you’ll arrive at the house at the estimated time, but it takes an additional 30 to 45 minutes to get from the entrance gate to the parking area and then to the house. 

When should you book the tour to see inside the house? The best time is early morning before 11am when crowds start pouring onto the property. You’ll have a shorter wait time in line, giving you the rest of the day to explore the grounds, grab lunch, sip wine, and shop. 


If you plan to visit only the Biltmore Estate on your trip to Asheville, it might be easiest to stay on the property. You have three choices: Village Hotel, Inn on Biltmore Estate, and the cottages. I’ve never stayed in the newer Village Hotel or the cottages, so I can’t review them, but we’ve stayed at the Inn. 

The Inn was more affordable a few years ago, but now it’s a bit out of our budget. We usually end up staying in downtown Asheville to get a better rate. More driving, but it saves money! But if you want to splurge a little, the Inn has nice, clean rooms, and the complimentary shuttle service around the grounds is convenient.

Exploring Beyond the House 

Where to Eat

There is more to explore than just the big house. If you want a bite to eat, there are places next to the Estate, such as the Stable Cafe and the Biltmore Dairy Bar (open seasonally).  I like to grab a cup of coffee or hot chocolate while waiting to enter the Biltmore House.

You can also drive a few minutes from the Biltmore house to Antler Hill Village and Winery for more eating options, including Cedric’s Tavern, an English-inspired pub and my personal favorite. After dinner or lunch, you can grab a giant ice cream bowl sundae at The Creamery. They have many flavors to choose from, and the ice cream tastes good even on a cold, blistery day. 

For fine dining, there is the Dining Room inside the Biltmore Inn. Since reservations are only for overnight guests at the inn, getting a table here is a bit harder, but you won’t be disappointed when you do. While the menu has changed since I went, I had the best chocolate cake with raspberry drizzle. I admit that I still talk about that cake to this very day. 

Can you make reservations at the other places to eat? You’ll find reservation options on OpenTable; however, they also take walk-ins. While we’ve never had a problem getting a table, we also went early for dinner, around 4:30pm. 


Biltmore Estate also has gift stores if you love to shop. Some of the merchandise and edible goods can be found in multiple places. Our favorite things to buy are their dips and seasonings. Sometimes they will have both samples at the winery store in Antler Hill Village. We always take our family’s dip orders to bring back home so they can enjoy too!

Since you are visiting Biltmore Estate at Christmas, why not bring back an ornament? You can buy all things related to Christmas at their A Christmas Past store near the house. A few steps away, you can satisfy your sweet tooth at the Confectionary and buy a book about the Biltmore at the Bookbinder’s store.

Cedric's Tavern at Antler Hill Village
Cedric’s Tavern at Antler Hill Village
A bright lantern with a red Christmas bow
Lights and decor at Antler Hill Village

The Winery 

If you love wine like me, you’ll want to make a reservation (they are required) as soon as you arrive at the Biltmore Estate for your complimentary wine tasting. They have excellent white and red wine selections, so you don’t want to miss your five tastings. 

The winery entrance is located at Antler Hill Village. You can enter near the Village Hotel and the Wine Bar or access the winery through the underground tunnel in the village. The tunnel used to be part of Biltmore’s dairy farm but now has sparkling white lights that guide you upstairs to the winery. 

Reservations for the winery can only be made the day of your visit, and you can make the reservation at the entrance or scan the QR codes on signs throughout the property. 

Tip: If you have a Biltmore annual pass or revisit the Biltmore, save the link from the QR code so you can make the reservation at opening hours on the day of your visit without having to be on the grounds yet! 

Gardens and Grounds 

There’s not much to see in the outdoor gardens in late November and December, but we like to walk down to the glass Conservatory to see the tropical plants and the many red poinsettias. Plus, if it is super cold outside, you can warm up in the tropical house. There’s also a nice garden store behind the Conservatory that will delight any garden enthusiast. 

The weather and outdoor temperature might not be ideal for hiking the trails on the grounds, but it’s a nice drive around the property. You might be lucky to see the Biltmore Waterfall if there is a good water flow. It’s a small waterfall under a bridge, and when it’s warmer, it is an excellent place for a picnic. 

Do you love farm animals? If so, stop by their Barn and Farmyard at Antler Hill Village to pet some goats, lambs, hens, and calves. They had the cutest bunnies the last time we went.

Conservatory at Biltmore Estate
The Conservatory in a dusting of snow.

Don’t Forget to Stop at the Biltmore Legacy

The Biltmore Legacy can be easy to miss, but you don’t want to forget to stop here. It’s a small exhibition in Antler Hill Village that dives deeper into the lives of the Vanderbilt family. Plus, it has on display items from their trips abroad, including samurai armor and a silver Tiffany and Company tea set. You might even see Napoleon Bonaparte’s chess set on display. When we visit, I always look for the French emperor’s chess set with its red and white ivory pieces, but sometimes you will see it in the house instead, or it might not be on display.

Lit candles on a table.

So, Is Visiting Christmas at Biltmore Worth It?

I think so, and I hope to go back one day. It is expensive, but they take it to the next level with their Christmas decorations. There is also something different about visiting at night for the candlelight tour compared to the day.

And for the first time, I could imagine myself sitting in the library room with a book and a cup of coffee cozy next to the fire. I felt like I had gone back to 1895 and experienced Christmas as the Vanderbilt family did. It’s warm and welcoming, and if you weren’t feeling Christmas beforehand, you will feel a bit more Christmas cheer when you leave. 

Plus, if you love history like me, you’ll enjoy the audio guide. I always learn or see something new each time I go, and they change the audio guides frequently. The Biltmore Estate has come a long way since we first visited in the mid-2000s! I’m curious how they will continue to grow in the future! 

Have you visited Biltmore at Christmas? What were your thoughts? 

A Note on My Photos

Due to low lighting conditions, it can be challenging to take pictures in the Biltmore mansion. To combat the challenge, I loaded my camera with high-speed film, Portra 800, pushed by one stop. The film was then cross-processed with ECN-2 by Atlanta Film Co. and Dunwoody Photo. 

I must say that I think I love shooting in low-light settings! Most of the images in this post are from this film, and I’m happy with how they came out. The tones are pleasing, and the grain adds to that warm, magical, fuzzy Christmas feeling you experience at this time of the year! 

A lit candle.

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5 thoughts on “Christmas at Biltmore: A Magical Glimpse Into the Past”

  1. I visted a few years ago. My friend was a guide there. It had just snowed. It was magical.. Like a scene out of a Hallmark movie

    • Wow, that sounds gorgeous! We’ve been there when there was a very light dusting of snow, but I’ve always wanted to see it as a winter wonderland with lots of snow! And it does remind me of a Hallmark movie too. The whole scenery is beautiful!

  2. My visit in 2021(Thanksgiving week)was an early Christmas present from my daughter and son-in-law. As you described; it was magical! The memory will last a lifetime!


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