Biltmore (Asheville)

https://www.biltmore.com

Biltmore, located in Asheville, North Carolina, is a wonderful place to take your children to help them understand the Gilded Age time period in American history.  The 250-room chateau was a marvel when George Vanderbilt built it between 1889-1895, and it is still the largest private residence in America today.  It is a historic home and estate that is truly child-friendly and even fun!  

Be sure to purchase your tickets in advance as the tickets do sell out.  See the website for special offers – children 16 and under are free through September 2, 2019!  I recommend selecting the audio tour to enhance what you are seeing in the house.  There is a special kids version of the audio tour narrated by a dog that shares stories about the Vanderbilts.  Reserve your audio tour in advance to save 20%.

You begin your tour with a gorgeous drive through the entrance of the Biltmore Estate.  You should start your visit with the house tour so take the Approach Road to the mansion’s parking lots.  On your walk from the parking lot, you will come to the best picture spot on the estate, the ramp to an upper garden with a gazebo.  Take a family picture on the ramp!

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Make your way to the front of the home and leave enough time to go through security and to get your audio devices.  You will enter the home for a one-way, self-guided tour that takes you through over 40 rooms spread across three floors.  The scale and grandiosity of the rooms, however, will keep your child enthralled.  You can linger as long (or as little!) as you want in each room.

Some of my children’s favorite rooms were:

The winter garden

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The bowling alley

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And the indoor swimming pool

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Seeing an indoor pool with its original underwater lighting from the late 1800s was the highlight of our tour.  In fact, it is the one thing about the Biltmore that I remembered from my elementary school field trip here!

The different kitchens, pantries, and food preparation areas initiated many conversations with our boys about how food was kept from spoiling, how hard it would have been to just have enough to eat, and how many servants it took to keep a house this large functional.  They were amazed that you couldn’t just run to the fridge every time you wanted a cold drink or a snack!  We also had many discussions about the laundry and drying rooms and how difficult it must have been to work here.  

Near the end of the tour is a room that is quite impressive to adults and children alike, the enormous banquet hall.  

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After seeing a few more rooms, you will exit the house to continue your tour into the gardens.  Take a right to walk back in front of the house to explore the beautiful gardens. Your kids will love running around the garden trails and seeing the gorgeous flowers, particularly if you are visiting in the spring.  Note that the home sits on a hill so any visit to the gardens will take you downhill. I recommend staying in the upper gardens and driving to the lower garden/conservatory area after you are done at the house site.

End your time at the house site with a visit to the Stable Courtyard.  There are several casual, child-friendly dining options here, and I recommend choosing the Stable Cafe where you can eat in the actual old horse stalls!  The food is locally grown and sophisticated yet child-friendly.  This area also has several shops, including a toymaker and a book store, which makes it a great place for souvenir shopping.

I recommend getting back in your car after lunch, driving past the lower garden/conservatory areas, and then heading to the Antler Hill Village and Winery area.  This area has shopping, dining, and a working farm that your kids will love to explore. Start at the farm area where the barn has blacksmiths and woodworkers crafting their wares and knowledgeable interpreters that can answer any questions.  My kids loved seeing the blacksmith craft an authentic nail from the molten iron.  There are also old tractors, carriages, and other vehicles, and your kids are welcome to explore them.  There are also several turn-of-the-century kids’ games to give visitors a hands-on way to learn about the children who lived here.  We also loved visiting with the farm animals, including goats and sheep.  There is a playground here but it was closed for renovations during our visit.

After running out some energy in the farm area, head to the Village Green where you can shop and have an ice cream cone from the Creamery.  We purchased a fun woven Frisbee at the Antler Hill Outfitters, and our boys had a blast throwing it around on the village green.  

You can also access the Biltmore winery here.  A wine tasting is free with your entrance ticket, and there are several benches in the tasting room where your kids can sip on complementary grape juice.  

This area also contains the Outdoor Adventure Center so if you want to add on a river rafting adventure or a bike ride, this is the place to do it.  You do not have to make advance reservations for this.  Unfortunately it was too cold on our visit to do any of these activities but we plan to participate on our next visit!

The Biltmore estate and house is a wonderful way to spend a day steeped in history but also fun.  Your kids will not realize that they are learning history as they marvel at the 19th century bathrooms or rudimentary refrigerators.  While vacationing in Asheville, it is a must-see site!

 

Helpful hints:

  • Cost: $69/adults; $39/youth (save $10 by buying at least 7 days in advance on the website); children under 9 free; through September 2, all children 16 and under are free!
  • Recommended: all ages although house tour can be difficult to navigate with a stroller.  Bring a wrap or backpack to be able to easily climb the stairs with baby.
  • House tour takes 1 hour; leave time for driving in between the various sites on the estate
  • Gift shops located at various locations, including Stable Courtyard, Antler Hill Village and Winery, and at the entrance/exit
  • Transportation: Biltmore is accessible only by car and there are parking lots at every activity.  There is a shuttle bus option provided for those who stay in the hotels on the estate.  
  • Dining options: There are several options on the estate and all are child-friendly.  Be sure to ask for the child’s activity book to keep your child entertained!  Other nearby options include restaurants at Biltmore Village, which is located directly outside of the entrance/exit to the estate. 
  • Hotels nearby: The estate has two hotels on site, the family-friendly Village Hotel, and the luxurious Inn.  Biltmore Village also has several options, including the Grand Bohemian Hotel.
  • See this link for Biltmore’s helpful hints for families visiting the estate
  • The Biltmore has appeared onscreen several times, including the kid-friendly film, “Richie Rich.”
  • Nearby attractions include: Downtown Asheville, Western NC Nature Center, and the NC Arboretum

 

Books to read:

 

Have you visited America’s largest home?  What was your favorite room?

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