Biltmore House: Not all the best things in life are free

“The signs [at Biltmore House] telling you the admission fee were practically invisible, but you could see from the ashen-faced look on people as they staggered away from the ticket windows that it must be a lot. Even so I was taken aback when my turn came and the unpleasant-looking woman at the ticket window told me that the admission fee was $17.50 for adults and $13 for children. ‘Seventeen dollars and fifty cents!‘ I croaked. ‘Does that include dinner and a floor show?’

“The woman was obviously used to dealing with hysteria and snide remarks. In a monotone she said, ‘The admission fee includes admission to the George Vanderbilt house, of which 50 of the 250 rooms are open tho the public. You should allow two to three hours for the self-guided tour. It also includes admission to the extensive gardens for which you should allow 30 minutes to one hour. It also includes admission and guided tour of the winery with audiovisual presentation and complimentary wine tasting. A guide to the house and grounds, available for a separate charge, is recommended. Afterwards you may wish to spend further large sums of money in the Deerpark Restaurant or, if you are a relatively cheap person, in the Stable Cafe, as well as avail yourself of the opportunity to buy expensive gifts and remembrances in he Carriage House Gift Shop.’

“But by this time I was already on the highway again, heading for the Great Smoky Mountains, which, thank God, are free…”

— From “The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America” by Bill Bryson (1989) 

In the quarter century since Bryson’s visit, cost of admission to Biltmore House has risen to $60 (no charge for children accompanied by adults).


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