This weekend we headed up to Asheville, North Carolina to check out America’s largest private home, the Biltmore Estate. This was the mountain getaway for the Vanderbilt’s, a family whose fortune was amassed around the turn of the 20th century thanks to smart investments in shipping, and later in railroads. Their wealth was estimated to be the equivalent of 4.5 billion dollars in today’s currency, and that was before income taxes existed.
Yeah. Just let that sink in for a moment.
The house has been open to the public since the 1930s, when the family started offering tours as a way to help spur on the economy in the area during the Great Depression.
I have seen the degree of opulence and splendor in other homes before, but only in Europe, and only in the very top-tier palaces in Europe. I’ve never seen anything even remotely close to this in the United States. For that reason alone, it is such a rare gem. The tour of the home was absolutely fascinating. Unless, of course, you are a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old. And in that case, it was REALLY boring. So you may be surprised to hear that I’m suggesting that going to the Biltmore Estate might be a great choice for families with young kids. Just hang with me and I’ll prove my point to you, I promise!
But I will say right up front that I would recommend the adults in your party take turns touring the estate if you have really young kids (6 and under). Leaving the kids out of the house tour will increase the likelihood of it actually being enjoyable to the adults by approximately 1 million percent. One person can go on the tour (which lasts around 45 minutes to an hour) while the other person plays with the kids in the unbelievably gorgeous gardens or takes them to get a sweet treat. If you are really adventurous, you can take them into the nearby shops, which have some seriously gorgeous (but breakable) things.
After you romp around for a while in the gardens by the estate, definitely grab a bit to eat. We dined at the Stable Cafe which was a beautiful sit down restaurant in the old stables of the estate. I bet Mr. Vanderbilt gets quite a kick out of the fact that people now dine where horses once, well…you know. The food was great, though I’m not sure it is the perfect choice for families with younger kids, as we had to take a few turns taking them outside to run around while we waited for our food. The prices were also a little bit high, as our bill came to $50 for 2 sandwich plates, 1 kids meal and 1 dessert. This particular meal was provided to us, but if we had been paying for it, the prices would have been a bit steep for our budget. I was pleased to see that there were more affordable options on the grounds, as well, so if the bill for the lunch gives you pause, too, fear not!
One more thing about touring the estate grounds: be prepared to do a whole lot of this:
I only took pictures of Tim having to climb up and down the stairs about half the time, if that gives you a sense for how frequently we had to do this. Do not, under any circumstances, bring a substantial stroller. If your child will cooperate in a carrier of some sort, that’s the way to go. And if you must bring a stroller, make sure it is a lightweight umbrella stroller. Also make sure you bring your guns because your muscles are about to get a workout. This was my least-favorite thing about the Biltmore: lack of accessibility for anyone traveling on wheels. Consider yourself warned.
Now I want to tell you about the part of Biltmore Estate that is SO SO SO perfect for kids! It is called Antler Village, and it is located a few miles away from the estate, itself (why yes, a few miles away IS still on the grounds of the Biltmore!). Antler Village has many great things for kids, including plenty of room to run around, a children’s maze, a barnyard with animals, a playground, and even a large assortment of toys that were popular around the time that Biltmore Estate opened. And there’s also a fantastic ice cream shop on site, too!.
But don’t feel left out, adults. Antler Village has something special for you, too. Namely, a winery! A wine tasting is including with your tickets to the Biltmore Estate. Don’t mind if I do!
We had SO much fun throughout the day at the Biltmore Estate (aside from all that stroller lifting), and now I want to share with you my very favorite part of the whole experience: watching the estate’s master blacksmith at work. He was such a gentle spirit, and such a wonderful storyteller. And just look: you can see the love he puts into his craft. Amazing, isn’t it? I could have watched him work and listened to his stories for hours. He is a living treasure of the Biltmore. An absolute MUST see.
If you have ever thought about visiting the Biltmore, but hesitated because you have little ones, I can tell you from experience that you will really have a great time, especially if you can figure out a way to do the house tour without them, and if you can leave the stroller at home. AND, you’ll be excited to know that all summer long, kids 16 and under are totally FREE!!! Woo hoo! Tickets for adults are $49 each, which is on the high end for my family’s budget, but with the free admission for kiddos, that makes it an easier pill to swallow. Also, if you order your tickets in advance, discounts are offered to help make it even more affordable. And one final perk: you can upgrade your tickets to get to come back for a second day for just $10 more. Now that’s a great deal and one I would highly recommend, as that can allow you more time to see and enjoy everything the Biltmore has to offer without feeling too rushed.
Thanks to the Biltmore for their gracious Southern hospitality. It was a simply marvelous visit!
I received complimentary tickets to the Biltmore Estate as well as a complimentary meal in exchange for sharing my honest opinions, which I have provided.