The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina could be America's closest example of a real-life castle. The 250-room French Renaissance chateau is still the largest private home in the country. Built by George Vanderbilt in 1895, the current 8,000-acre estate and grounds are just a small fraction of what the Vanderbilts originally had to call their home. Thankfully, you don't need a trust fund to be able to indulge in the high life at Biltmore Estate today, especially when you use these tips and tricks to make a visit more feasible and affordable.
1. Research before you go.
The Biltmore Estate is massive, with the house, gardens, a winery, shops, 22 miles of hiking trails, restaurants, and a hotel. None of this grandeur is accessible, though, without a ticket or an annual pass. On more popular weekends, reservations with specific entry times at the Inn are needed.
2. Buy tickets online.
Full-priced tickets for the Estate are $60. But the fees are often discounted online, with up to $12 of savings per ticket. And the earlier you book, the more you save, so it helps to plan at least 7 days ahead. Check the site for other money-saving promotions throughout the year, too.
3. Visit during winter.
Tickets are substantially less expensive during the winter months, from January to March, going for as low as $39.
4. Go for two days.
Tickets can be hefty for one day, but adding on a second day for $10-$15 (depending on season) makes a weekend here more reasonable. And, trust us, you'll need that second day if you plan on seeing everything that's available on the property.
5. Save room for wine.
The Biltmore Winery is America's most visited winery, and in 2015 it's celebrating 30 years of French-inspired wines. After a tour, you can sample the award-winning wines gratis. Don't have enough time in the day to visit? Get samples in the Carriage House gift shop adjacent to the main house.
6. Buy an annual pass.
If you can't get enough and can see yourself visiting two or three times a year, consider buying an annual pass, typically $149. Passholders get savings on food, outdoor activities, shopping, guided tours, and wine experiences -- including up to 25 percent off bottles of wine. You'd also receive two free tickets each winter to give away and buy discounted admission tickets for family. Showing a Biltmore Estate annual pass will get you discounts at some of the most popular tourist attractions in the surrounding area, too. Bonus: Through the end of the month, a pass is now just $99.