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Biltmore estate all it's cracked up to be?

Hi, we're visiting the Asheville area this week. We've been told to visit the Biltmore. It seems like an expensive, all day tourist trap to me. I imagine myself trapped there and being forced to eat overpriced mediocre food (which doesn't come with the already expensive tickets). Am I missing something? My impression is that in order to just go there you have to pay around $50 per person. Does anyone have ideas about how to get the most value out of the Biltmore estate?

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  1. This probably belongs on another website like Tripadvisor, at least to address your questions about the estate itself. The Biltmore Estate is the largest privately owned (by the original family members) home in the U.S. It is a beautiful property, especially decorated for the holidays. The Estate wines have a good reputation and the tasting area is very well done. You could easily spend all day on the estate touring the house, gardens and winery and then having a meal. The restaurants have a very good reputation and use a lot of ingredients that they produce there on the Estate.

    1. I know this might belong on another website, but I like and trust chowhounders more than average tourists. As for your description, I've read all those things as well on their website, and that's where I learned that the tickets were $45 per person (and up if you want to do the candlelight thing). This is also for internet bookings. I'm just concerned about the price. It's way cheaper to visit Versailles, for god's sake! Plus, you're not allowed to take photos of the interior. So, I was really just wondering if it was worth it. My main reason for coming to Asheville is that I've heard it's a very eclectic and creative community.

      As for the food, the one thing that kind of appeals to me is their kitchen garden. Can anyone say which of the restaurants is the best?

      3 Replies
      1. re: mctoft

        If you aren't that keen on going to the Biltmore and spending the money...don't. Instead, wander around downtown Asheville and visit some of the galleries, shops and restaurants, hear some live music or see a show, if it's warm enough sit ouside and people watch at Flying Frog Cafe or Old Europe...you write this is your "main reason for coming to Asheville" anyway!

        1. re: leahinsc

          The Biltmore is really very nice and worth visiting (IMHO). The winery is also good. We had one of the best lunches ever at the nicer restaurant (I think it's the Bistro). They use seasonal ingredients from their gardens and we happened to be there in heirloom tomato season. The food was incredible. Expensive and worth it!

          1. re: pilches

            I'm with Leah on this one. If you checked their website, and your heart didn't go bump-bump, don't go. Her suggestions are excellent and would most likely make your heart bump faster!

      2. Tour the house and eat in town.
        We didn't eat there but since everyone is commenting, I thought it was a little tough to swallow the $40 or so each but in the end, it was worth it.


        1. from architectural and cutural standpoints, the biltmore is good. however, it absolutely is not worth what they charge (the only way to make it a fair value is to live close enough to buy season tickets - they used to be less than double a single admission - and use the heck out of them). seasonal festivities (michalmas, xmas decorations, etc) are even more expensive and even less worthwhile. the candlelight tour just winds up too dim to really see the house details. the entertainment is scheduled for peak hours, but you'll pay the same price for non-peak hours. i have been underwhelmed by the food on the estate, and stopped eating there a long time ago (note, i haven't been to the bistro). if you're into architecture, then go. it helps alot if you visit the winery first. otherwise take leah's suggestions. whatever you decide, don't eat on the estate.

          1. Thanks so much, everyone! I think we're going to skip it this time. We only have 3 days. We're going to go down to the River District and hopefully get to check out some of the studios. As for dining, we're going to Rosseta's tomorrow night, Flying Frog on Wednesday and (hopefully) Stone Market House on Thursday. We'll also be hiking a fair bit. Thanks again.

            5 Replies
            1. re: mctoft

              I'd make reservations for Stone House Market....are you set on Flying Frog? So many other new/better options...

              1. re: leahinsc

                I agree with Leah - any other thoughts besides Flying Frog? 3 days gives you a lot of time...enough to hit some of the best choices in town like Fig, Limones, Sugo, Corner Kitchen, 28806, etc. Also, be sure to stroll around downtown for more art, including Woolworth Walk and the Folk Art place on Biltmore Avenue - the River District has interesting studios but it shouldn't take too much time to pop in those that will be open to the public. It's not the prettiest part of town, either! I highly recommend 12 Bones BBQ for lunch if you are in the River District.

              2. re: mctoft

                I honestly think you're making some bad choices. Unless you really want to check out the unwashed vegetarian/hippie/street people segment of Asheville, Rosetta's is not a great choice. I LIKE the place, but you're talking about super casual, french fries and BBQ tofu kind of place. If that's what you're into, then enjoy!

                Flying Frog's outside bar area is fantastic for people watching, I highly recommend it (bring a jacket), but I have never eaten there because of very mixed reviews.

                The River District is an interesting way to spent an hour, but it's no great shakes. Unless you really have to pinch your pennys, you should go see Biltmore House. That is, unless you reasonably expect to be back to Asheville in the spring or summer so you could enjoy the gardens more. The incredible scale of Biltmore is eye-popping. It's not a tourist trap. The winery is boring as hell, though. Pick the nicest day for your tour, the grounds, even if nothing is blooming are great, and you can do some of your hiking there.

                I could be mistaken, but I think you can come and go as you like, so if you choose to stay all day at the house, I THINK you could leave and have lunch anywhere you wanted, and come back. When I went this spring, I got there when they opened, and left in time for a real late lunch. Although my parents enjoyed the Dining Room at the Inn for dinner, I've never heard anything good about the more casual (lunch) restaurants.

                1. re: danna

                  I agree with the above dinner ideas. Rosetta's and Flying Frog would be on the bottom of my list, too. I also, once again, will say that the lunch we had at the Bistro at Biltmore was memorable.

                  1. re: danna

                    I've never been to Rosetta's but was talking about it to a friend today. She really likes it but recommended that I "...go after a visit to the gym and don't change or shower...and you'll still be probably the best dressed one there." So I think probably good for casual fare and good, inexpensive vegetarian food.

                2. It is expensive, and it is all day, if you want to get more than a taste of the place. But it's not a tourist trap (depending, of course, on your definition of that term). It's a genuine historic site, albeit one privately owned and operated, which accounts for the cost. Biltmore is a matchless documentation of the Golden Age of Excess, the largest private residence in America, a preservation of what (until recent years) was the high-water mark of wealth and privilege and conspicuous consumption.

                  I first went as a child. When I took my wife, many years later, she was humoring me ("Oh, silly Jack and his love of history..."). We rounded the corner and saw the house and she was speechless. Later, she commented that one could go to the house any number of times and look very selectively at its items; "You could say, 'Today, I'm only looking at chairs,' or 'This is the day I look at all the sculpture', and you'd still never see it all."

                  From my standpoint, as a history buff, the "private ownership" tag waved around so proudly by the proprietors has a couple of drawbacks. Firstly, the fact that Mr. Vanderbilt's descendants run the place means that there's no room for serious historical analysis in any of the estate's publications or activities. The "party line" is that Mr. Vanderbilt was a wonderful man, a visionary person, a boss of rare and almost God-like devotion to every little person on his estate. From what I've read of the Golden Age, this almost certainly couldn't have been the case, but we'll never know, will we? At Mr. Jefferson's Monticello, the gift shop sells books that question and criticize various facets of his life. At Biltmore, all we get on its founder and builder is hagiography. Secondly, the proprietors always point to the fact that they receive no "government money." This has been used to rail against government support of historic sites all the way back to the Reagan Administration; "Biltmore Estate doesn't need any help, why should any other site?" Well, yeah -- if you start out with a fortune and charge $50 a head, you don't need any funding.

                  Enough. It's a great trip, one we've made several times. The grounds alone are worth the price of admission, particularly if, like my wife, you're a garden lover. The food on-site isn't even too bad, but there are some nice little restaurants nearby. And don't forget to tour the winery, which was very interesting and enjoyable -- especially the tasting room at the end!

                  1. Yes! Go! I just visited last week. I thought the same thing, and I was pleasantly surprised. The house is amazing, really something to see. Beautifully decorated for Christmas. It is a bit crowded with tourists, but they do a great job with the flow for tourists throughout the house/property. It's really a neat trip. Winery visit is so-so, but then I'm partial, b/c I"m in the wine business.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: mmuch

                      it's a nice tour. eat elsewhere. skip the wine as well. some of the most horrendous plonk on the planet.

                      1. re: TBird

                        I actually like some of the Biltmore wines...The Century Red is very nice.

                        1. re: leahinsc

                          the biltmore wines are undrinkable at best. blech! and i second the newport ri rec. but that's a whole different thread.

                    2. Hi everyone, we're back in Michigan now. Thanks so much for your posts, especially jmckee. We didn't get out there and I don't feel too badly about it because of the price. If I get back to Asheville (hopefully), I'll try to make it a priority.

                      I couldn't really change the Flying Frog because my boyfriend had made reservations there for my birthday. He was very excited about it. I wasn't sure because of what I'd read here, but it turned out very good. The service was impeccable and I loved my salmon. We really enjoyed it. Rosetta's was chosen by me for my vegetarian boyfriend. I can't even think of a vegetarian restaurant in the detroit metro region... so his diet basically consists of Indian buffets, Thai, and pasta with marinara (somewhat of an exaggeration, but you get the idea). I wanted him to experience a true hippie/granola cafe, so I wasn't really comparing it to regular restaurants. The Stone House Market was also my idea and I was really, really excited about it. The ambience was great, service great, the food wasn't as exquisite as I'd expected. Maybe I have a blunted palate. We met this woman coming out and she raved about the bouilliabaise. So, I got the bouilliabaise. My boyfriend got the manicotti without the chicken. Neither of us were enraptured, sorry to say. But we'll definitely go back next time we're in Asheville. A little restaurant where a chef is living out his food preparation dreams is right up our alley.

                      We really enjoyed the trip, especially the mountain walks. The Asheville area is wonderful in so many ways; you all are very lucky! Hopefully we'll be back soon. :>

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: mctoft

                        Flying Frog has been one of my Asheville favorites for years, I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it.

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