Last time we discussed the cheapest way to buy tickets to the Biltmore; we picked up some logistical arrival tips from our visit. Here’s the low-down:
Driving in: Your first glimpse of the estate is a stately gatehouse leading to a meandering, lush drive. (All of it landscaped!! Amazing). After a couple of miles you’ll arrive at a checkpoint, where you’ll need to present tickets to access the rest of the estate. If you already have your tickets in hand, you drive on through, otherwise you’ll need to stop at the ticket house on the left to buy them. Follow signs and traffic guards to the parking lots. You’ll be well-directed.
When to arrive: The estate gatehouse opens at 8:30, and the house itself opens at 9:00. Get there when the gatehouse opens to avoid lines and massive crowds! Our first day we timed it badly and sat in traffic to get to the ticket checkpoint. Then only the far parking lots were open, which meant we needed to catch a shuttle to and from the house. The shuttles did run in timely manner, they just added a layer of logistics. Our second day we arrived before 9:00, and drove to the closest parking lot without any delay, where we walked down a short path to get to the house. It was delightful!
Since there was a long house security line our first day, we hiked and toured the grounds; our early arrival the second day meant there was no house security line and entering was a breeze. Two-day passes were our saving grace here, but if you only have one day to visit arrive early. The house, being a period building, is also not air-conditioned — yet another reason for an early visit during the summer!
Strollers: The information kiosk near the entrance to the house said that strollers are allowed in the house; technically, that is true. However, large strollers are only allowed on the first floor, as the rest of the house is not really stroller accessible due to numerous stairs and narrow hallways. (This also means it is not fully handicap-accessible, though they do their best.) If you want to use a stroller on the easily-navigable first floor, attendants will park it securely in the vestibule while you tour the rest of house. There are also numerous stairs in the garden; some of them can be avoided. It did not deter us from using our stroller, but if I didn’t have to have a stroller I would skip bringing it.
Touring time of the house: An efficient inside visit takes about 1.5 hours. If you rent an audio guide or otherwise linger longer, 2+ hrs is entirely possible. Parents may want to swap off listening to an audio guide and holding/following a little one, in which case only rent one audio guide and save yourself some money!
Bathrooms: Of important note, bathrooms are not available in the house or throughout the gardens, so be sure to take kids to the restroom beforehand! We did, and sweet grandpa still wound up doing a speed-tour through the last section of the house to take a little boy to the bathroom.
Clothing: Comfortable walking shoes are a given — if you want to explore the trails consider closed toe-shoes. I also suggest dressing in layers, especially in the fall and spring; morning and evenings can be cool, but when the sun comes out and you’ve been walking around it warms up!
So those are the practical tidbits I would have liked to know before arriving at the Bilmore with children. Stay tuned; next time we’ll talk picnics and food on the Biltmore estate!