Home > south > Someone Over at the Biltmore Estate Needs to Get Beaten Up (Day 90)

Someone Over at the Biltmore Estate Needs to Get Beaten Up (Day 90)

October 17th, 2009

It costs $55 to give yourself a tour of the Biltmore Estate (a house). Let me type that out in words so you don’t think that’s a sticky keyboard issue: fiffty-five dollars. I didn’t realize this before going in to buy my ticket.

Me: I’d like to see the house.

Woman: That’ll be $55.

Me: U.S.?

Woman: [pretends not to hear]

Let me bash the Biltmore Estate more before putting the price in context. Thanks.

  • While its original owner was a Vanderbilt, his first name was not Cornelius.
  • He was a grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt — all the money spent to build the place was inherited.
  • His two older brothers inherited the family business — the guy who built this house didn’t even have a job.
  • The house was lived in for thirty (30) years before it was opened to the public, at which point it was no longer lived in.
  • It was opened to the public because the family couldn’t afford to keep the house.
  • Therefore, it served as a house for 30 years and as a tourist building to be walked through for 80 years.
  • Some of the rooms weren’t finished until long after the house became a tourist-building.
  • In spite of this, everything in the house makes out as if (a) this Vanderbilt family was important and (b) their time in the house was significant.
  • The estate employs 1,900 people. It’s a non-house house with a bunch of grass around it. 1,900 employees.
  • Despite the $55 cost to enter the house, you’re not allowed to take photographs anywhere inside.
  • Excluding driving time, parking time, and time spent walking from the parking lot to the immediate house area, I saw everything I needed to in about an hour.

It’s The Biggest “House” in the Country, which screams of unfamiliarity with restraint. The interior maybe isn’t as tacky as Marble House in Newport or Hearst Castle (although Wm. Randolph Hearst at least did some stuff to increase *his* inherited wealth) — but then, it’s the gaudy, expensive stuff in those houses that makes them worth seeing. This one just seemed like someone’s outsized ego that, once it came down to interior decoration, couldn’t be matched by his bank account.

biltmore_exteriorBig house.

biltmore_flower-gardenRelatively normal-sized garden.

So, just to help better illustrate how ridiculous $55 for this house is, here’s a comparison of the prices of various attractions I’ve visited on this trip (and a couple other popular sites I haven’t visited).

Site Cost Note
Disneyland $72 Includes unlimited access to rides.
Biltmore Estate $55 Audio tour only $10 extra.
SeaWorld (San Diego) $55
Sounders Game (Scalped) $50
Boundary Waters Canoe+Campsite $44 Per-day price.
Colonial Williamsburg $36
Newport Mansions $31 Includes access to five mansions and audio tours (single house = $12).
Hearst Castle $24 Includes guided tour.
Mackinac Island Ferry $24
Monticello $20 Someone important actually lived here; includes guided tour.
Yosemite National Park $20
Buffalo Bill Historic Center $15
Sea Lion Caves $12
Shirley Plantation $11 Includes guided tour from hot tour guide.
Eastman House $10 Includes photography museum.
Niagara Falls Parking $10 There’s no actual entry fee.
Whiteface Mountain $10 Includes road access and elevator ride.
Patrick Henry’s Home $8 Includes guided tour.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse $7 Was in use for more than 30 years.
Ft. McHenry $7
Air Force Museum $0
Marine Corps Museum $0

The most remarkable thing about the place, IMHO, was that it was fairly *packed* with people, despite my being there on a bad-weather weekday. Is there really nothing better to do in this part of the country? OH man.

Or, in short: bad value.


Categories: south Tags: ,
  1. MD
    October 17th, 2009 at 09:26 | #1

    Nice gardens! Fie on Biltmores!

  2. todd
    October 17th, 2009 at 20:47 | #2

    high cost and over a million people pay it every year, if they charged less it would be even more overcrowded than it is now……….IN jan u can go for nothing or under 20

  3. October 18th, 2009 at 16:57 | #3

    It was very remarkable how crowded that place was. Even if it were reasonably priced, I’d have been shocked at the crowds.

  4. October 21st, 2009 at 00:05 | #4

    Your comments on the Biltmore Estates make me laugh. Loooove the comparison chart. -michelle

  5. October 21st, 2009 at 06:21 | #5

    Glad *someone* appreciates my vacation whining! 😉 Hope all’s well back in the OC and RPV.

  6. October 21st, 2009 at 07:24 | #6

    If you’d mentioned you were going to Biltmore, I’d probably have warned you away from it on price alone. So many cooler things to do in Asheville. I have inlaws who _love_ touring old estates and are willing to spend a lot more money than that on their average vacation day, but even they balked at the price and walked away. We love Asheville, drive out there twice a year since moving to NC, and we’ve never been to Biltmore.

    Thanks anyway for keeping 1900 Carolinians employed in this economy, and good to see yo u last week.


  7. October 21st, 2009 at 07:29 | #7

    My bad. Obviously. Thanks again for putting up with me — had a great time at dinner. (What do you do when you go to Asheville?)

  8. telkontar
    November 25th, 2009 at 17:13 | #8

    The antithesis of Biltmore must be Cantigny in Winfield, Illinois. Originally built by the founde ro the Chicago Tribute, then inherited by his grandson, who founded Kirkland & Ellis, commanded aritllery in WW I, continued a public life while running the Tribune, and then donated his estate to charity after his death. His burial tomb is guarded by statues of German Shepherds and quotes the New Testament. Entry is $5 for parking; everything is free. The gift shop is run at cost. The museums on the park campus include the home and a museum dedicated to the 1st Army Division (the Big Red One). You get to re-live landing on the beach on D-Day — quite intense. Actual tanks are spread on the grounds and children are encouraged to climb on the tanks (with parental supervision). They let you walk on the grass. There is a path through the woods and landscaped gardens. And, the $5 parking fee can be credited if you eat at one of the 2 restaurants.

  9. bkdunn
    November 25th, 2009 at 18:11 | #9

    Wow — that *does* sound like the antithesis of Biltmore.

  10. V. A. Long
    May 7th, 2010 at 10:40 | #10

    You can’t be serious!!! An hour to see a museum? Kind of arrogant and reeking of jealousy aren’t you? Do a little research and learn something beyond pop culture.

  11. May 14th, 2010 at 15:33 | #11

    As you were clearly able to discern by reading all the posts from my trip, I have no respect for “museums” and “history” and “culture” and avoid such sites whenever possible, so clearly I have no right to comment on whether visiting some trust fund baby’s temporary house that he couldn’t afford might rightfully be considered a waste of time and/or money. Well done.

  12. V. A.
    July 21st, 2010 at 11:29 | #12

    You pretty much summed yourself up with the last post. Just sad.

  13. July 21st, 2010 at 12:14 | #13

    LOL. It’s sad that I linked to eight of the dozens of museums and historical sites I visited last summer/fall? Yeah, I suppose maybe I should’ve been doing charity work instead. My bad. OTOH, I guess it’s not surprising that anyone who would defend a hilariously overpriced tourist trap mansion like Biltmore Estate wouldn’t be smart enough to follow said links, let alone provide a meaningful counter-argument to the original post. And to think that people like you are allowed to vote — *that* strikes me as sad.

  14. Royce
    December 14th, 2010 at 21:08 | #14

    “Is there really nothing better to do in this part of the country? OH man.”
    You never even lived here and figured that out that fast, wow. I’ve lived here for 7 years now and can tell you there is definitely NOTHING to do. I will be moving back to Northern California as soon as possible. I hate this place and miss terribly having things to do on the weekends.

  15. Rick
    March 8th, 2011 at 05:41 | #15

    I used to live in the neighborhood (about a quarter mile from the estate boundary. My best Biltmore experiences were from just climbing a fence and hiking around the grounds. However, I have been on tours of the house about twelve different times. Initially the cost was fairly inexpensive, long before the “visitor center” was built. The gatehouse out near route 25 was where tickets were purchased, and you could then drive in and park along the boulevarde that leads to the house. Back then the tour included only the first floor and about half of the second floor. There was no winery or vineyards on the property, only dairy herd.

    As more of the house and estate was developed and opened for tours, the price steadily increased to the exorbitant level of today. Strangely enough, as the price increased, so did the number of visitors per year, as more people seemed interested in seeing things like an empty swimming pool in the basement and a winery that didn’t exist until late in the 20th century. Still, I consider the $55 fare worth the experience of seeing the house just once. The gardens though, I would rather enjoy for free like I did so many years ago by climbing a fence.

  16. Ddub
    December 1st, 2012 at 09:54 | #16

    Aaaaand we’re up to a whopping $69 now. Woot.

  17. December 1st, 2012 at 10:00 | #17

    Their shamelessness truly knows no bounds. *Or* maybe they found a way to increase the historiocity of the place by 25.4%…

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