More than 1 million people visit George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate every year. While its reputation is worthy of this popularity, the charming community of Asheville, North Carolina offers Biltmore and so much more. Here’s a list of things to do and things to see to create your own Asheville, NC itinerary.
Design Your Own Asheville Itinerary
From the Biltmore Estate to local craft breweries to hiking to biking to shopping to street musicians to architecture, Asheville’s rich cultural history and beautiful setting in the Blue Ridge Mountains offers something for everyone.
Things to do at Biltmore House & Gardens, Antler Hill Village & Winery
While my friend and I explored much of the Biltmore Estate in a day, they do a second-day option for only $25 more.
Here’s just a snapshot of all you can discover at the beautiful estate in Asheville, NC.
Step back into the Gilded Age of opulence (we felt like we were on the set of Downton Abbey). Recommend reserving the 90-minute audio guide as the narrator shares stories about what life was like as you stroll through the 175,000-square-foot mansion (which is more than 4 acres of floor space).
If visiting with children, they also offer an audio version where Cedric, the Vanderbilt’s dog, narrates).
Space does not allow me to highlight all my favorite rooms, so here are a few.
- The Winter Garden, off from the entrance hall, features a glass room and a fountain sculpture.
- Mr. Vanderbilt’s bedroom is only one of the 33 bedrooms in the home (which also has 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces).
- Mrs. Vanderbilt’s oval bedroom features a painted ceiling and beautiful silk fabrics and Louis XV-style furniture.
- In addition to the main kitchen, the home also has dedicated spaces for the pastry kitchen, rotisserie kitchen and kitchen pantry.
- The beautiful banquet hall, where they entertained guests with lavish dinners, is the largest room in the house with a ceiling that is seven stories high.
Additional Specialty House Tours
If you’re looking for a little something intimate, try one of these Biltmore House tours.
- Guided House Tour (1.5 hours)
- Rooftop Tour (1 hour)
- Biltmore House Revealed Tour (1 hour)
- Premium Biltmore House Tour (2 hours
Your admission includes strolling through 2.5 miles of paths that weave in and out of the beautifully landscaped Biltmore Gardens. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Father of Landscape Architecture in America, he’s also the creator of Central Park in New York City.
- Rose Garden
- Italian Garden
- Shrub Garden
- Spring Garden
- Walled Garden
- Azalea Garden
- Bass Pond and Boat House
Antler Hill Village & Winery
If you’re looking for a little shopping and a little wine, drive over to Antler Hill Village & Winery (it’s five miles from the Biltmore House, but still on the grounds).
The village also offers several restaurants and outdoor activities, such as Segway tours, 22 miles of biking and hiking trails, fly-fishing, guided horseback trail rides, raft and kayak trips, and more.
Biltmore Wine Experiences
Visiting the Biltmore Winery and a complimentary wine tasting is included in your ticket. They also offer four unique wine experiences for something a little more personal and unique.
- Behind-the-scenes winery tour and tasting: Get a sneak-peek into the Biltmore Winery production facility and a private wine tasting. Offered daily, it’s $10 per person.
- Red wine and chocolate tasting: No additional description required for this pairing; this tour upgrade is $25 per person and offered daily.
- Wine and cheese hour: Don’t know much about wine? Then this special session is for you where wine hosts answer all your questions. And you’re also introduced to several reds and whites. Cost: $25 per person; offered Friday and Saturday.
- Celebration of sparkling wine: Cheers to this special insider’s look and tasting of Biltmore’s sparkling wines and appetizers. Offered Sunday through Friday, the cost is $25 per person.
This working farm on the Biltmore Estate is located two miles from Antler Hill Village & Winery where you can get up close and personal with friendly farm animals and children can run off energy at the Pisgah Playground, and take a tour of the historic barn.
Biltmore’s done – now what to see and do in Asheville, NC?
While the Biltmore Estate will most likely be the focus of your visit, here are some historical, quirky and/or off-the-beaten path things to do and see to round-out your Asheville, NC itinerary.
Take a self-guided history scavenger hunt in downtown Asheville, NC
If you’re looking for the city’s history museum, you won’t find it in a brick and mortar structure. That’s because Asheville proclaims its history is best experienced outside. The Asheville Urban Trail takes you to 30 different places on its 1.7-mile path through downtown.
It’s a perfect way to explore the city, learn its eclectic history and add things to do on your Asheville, NC itinerary. It’s best to start at Pack Place on Pack Square.
You can find the map online and bronze markers are located at each location.
Pack’s Tavern Speakeasy Lore
While Pack’s Tavern’s food and local brews are good reasons to visit, what lured us to this spot was its historical lore. You can easily find it off Pack Square – just look for its yellow truck sitting outside. One of the city’s oldest structures, the Hayes & Hopson building was built in 1907. First serving as a lumber supply company, it later became an auto parts store, and – allegedly – a speakeasy during the Prohibition Era. For a quick informal tour to see the tunnel where these illegal liquor runs were made, simply ask one of the managers.
Asheville’s Brewery Tours
While touring a brewery is not necessarily out of the ordinary, you can find some unique experiences to include in your Asheville NC itinerary. For example, the Amazing Pubcycle is BYOB (bring your own beer or wine) where you and five to 12 of your friends pedal around town (with some engine assistance for those hills) and stop at two different breweries. It even comes heated on those cooler days/nights.
If you’re looking for something less physical, take a locally guided tour with Asheville Brewery Tours. They offer several mobile multi-brewery tours that make stops at three to four breweries – even a sunset tour option.
If walking is more your thing, you can explore the downtown Asheville breweries on their dog-friendly walking tours.
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French Broad Chocolate Factory Tour
This is a must-stop for all chocoholics. While you can enjoy and savor the decadent treats in their retail space, sign up for one of their factory tours to learn more about cacao and how chocolate is made.
The 30-minute tours are offered daily at 2 and 4 p.m. and their 1-hour tours are offered on Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. All tours offered at their Riverside location in downtown Asheville.
Franny’s Farm is one of the first commercial hemp farms in North Carolina (located about 10 miles from Asheville, NC). The organic farm offers tours through Leap Frog Tours, which includes food and beer.
If you’re looking for lodging, you can camp at the farm or stay in the farmhouse or in one of the eco-cabins.
It’s also a popular venue for weddings and private yoga sessions with goats. Yes, goats, which will definitely make your Asheville, NC itinerary unique.
Thomas Wolfe Memorial and Asheville Literary Tour
Visit the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, where this classic author spent his childhood in his mother’s boardinghouse. Boarders inspired the setting and characters in his book, Look Homeward, Angel.
Additionally, you can walk in the shoes of some of your favorite authors and poets – from Asheville native Thomas Wolfe to F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, to O. Henry, and more.
AVL Lit Map offers a 1.5-hour guided walking tour, which also showcases some of Asheville’s beautiful architecture.
Blue Ridge Parkway Scenic Drives
The Blue Ridge Parkway is more about the journey rather than the destination. It snakes through nearly 500 miles of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Smoky Mountains, waterfalls, and tunnels – from Virginia to North Carolina. Asheville, NC is located near the most southern part of the parkway where there are still dozens of beautiful outlooks worthy of an afternoon drive or a sunset view.
Check out this convenient Blue Ridge Parkway virtual guide, which indicates the milepost marker to easily locate beautiful overlooks where you can safely pull off the road and take pictures, picnic and, in some places, hike.
The North Carolina Arboretum
If you want to add more gardens and landscaping to your Asheville, NC itinerary, then the North Carolina Arboretum is a must-do for nature lovers. In addition to beautiful permanent gardens, they also showcase special exhibits throughout the year.
The North Carolina Arboretum, with more than 10 miles of trails, is also a great place for hiking, biking or walking your dog. The easy 0.5-mile hikes to moderate trails to difficult hikes to challenge expert hikers.
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Like a little history and architecture with your shopping? Then make sure to add the historic Grove Arcade to your Asheville itinerary. No, it’s not a place to play arcade games (that’s across the street at the Pinball Museum). The Grove Arcade houses several local merchants, shops and restaurants – including my favorite: Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar (yes, you can drink champagne while reading).
Built in the 1920s to create a vibrant shopping center in downtown Asheville, this commercial space was shut down during WWII and used by the military, and later was the home of the National Weather Records Center.
Recognized for its significant historical contribution, the Grove Arcade was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. A few decades later the building was restored and reopened to its original glory.
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If you or your kids are disappointed the Grove Arcade didn’t feature any video games, cross the street to Asheville’s Pinball Museum. It features 35 different pinball machines as well as snacks, soda and beer; it’s open Wednesday through Sunday.
How to Plan your Asheville, NC itinerary
With so much to do and see, where do you start? I recommend planning your Asheville, NC itinerary around Biltmore Estate’s special events.
Note that you must reserve house-entry tickets ahead of time. It’s best to reserve them online (and I recommend booking the earliest time available to find better parking, avoid crowds, and allow more free time to explore the gardens, winery and Antler’s Village).
They also offer special discounts online (or also check with AAA in Asheville for discounted Biltmore Estate tickets).
- February through May: A Vanderbilt House Party – The Gilded Age
- April through May: Biltmore Blooms
- Memorial Day through Labor Day: Summer at Biltmore
- May through September: Biltmore Gardens Railway
- July through August: Biltmore Concert Series
- September through October: Fall at Biltmore
- November through January: Christmas at Biltmore Daytime Celebration
- November through January: Candlelight Christmas Evening
To beat the heat, visit March through May or September to early November.
If you’re looking to avoid crowds, then plan your trip during the winter months and during the week.
Regardless of the time of year, you will not be disappointed when you live out your Asheville, NC itinerary. Looking for a place to stay? These are some of the best Airbnb options in Asheville.