At the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains is the Biltmore House, the largest private home in the United States. Almost three times the size of the White House, the massive French Renaissance chateau took six years to build and officially opened in 1895. In 1930, Biltmore opened to the public to increase tourism during the Great Depression. And the rest is, as they say, history! Visiting Biltmore with kids is one of our favorite things to do in Asheville and we were so excited to have a chance to visit again when we were in Asheville this winter.
Biltmore is doing everything possible in order to keep as much of the estate open while still adhering to state, local, and CDC guidelines. The safety of guests and staff is of the utmost concern so they’ve enhanced their cleaning procedures, decreased the capacity limits within the house, as well as decreased the restaurant capacity. Additionally, face coverings are required both indoors and outdoors where 6-foot distancing can not be maintained for guests over 2 years of age. Even with all of the changes, we did not feel like it negatively affected our visit – in fact, the capacity restriction made our visit more enjoyable!
BILTMORE HOUSE AUDIO TOUR
Admission to Biltmore includes a self-guided tour of the Biltmore House. Timed reservations are required for entry though they will accommodate those without reservations if space is available. You can explore the estate grounds before and after your timed house tour reservation, so we recommend getting there early.
It is well worth the extra money to spring for the Biltmore Enhanced Experience that includes the audio-tour. The tour is engaging and informative, and there’s even a special audio tour for kids, narrated by the Vanderbilt’s dog, Cedric.
Upon arriving in the next room on the tour (like the Banquet Hall above), you key in the number for that room, and the audio starts. This allows you to easily start and stop the tour as you move through the house at your own pace. At seven, Ellie did great with the whole thing and could start her recording by herself; younger kids may need a bit more assistance.
The library will always be my favorite room in the Biltmore House. Can you imagine having a library of this magnitude?! It reminds me of the library in Beauty and the Beast – and interestingly, there’s a copy of the book on one of these shelves!
The chess set on the right was given to George Vanderbilt for his 21st birthday and once belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte. The amount of history within the walls of this house is just astounding.
We’ve visited Biltmore Estate several times over the past few years and I absolutely loved exploring with the capacity restrictions in place. By going first thing in the morning and during the week, it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves!
In addition to the self-guided house tour and audio tour, Biltmore also offers guided tours. Next time we visit, I want to do the Rooftop Tour where you get to go out on the rooftop and balconies.
Another one of my favorite places in the house is the cantilevered Grand Staircase next to the giant 1700 pound chandelier. There are windows flanking the staircase as it goes up two floors and the whole thing is just exquisite.
The kids love the stone tunnels in the basement of Biltmore House. They’ve all read the Serafina books and imagine that they’re haunted.
Way ahead of its time, Biltmore House had a pool in the basement, complete with underwater lighting – at a time when most houses didn’t even have electricity! How cool is that?! I seriously cannot imagine living here in the early 1900s. Crazy!
BILTMORE ESTATE GROUNDS
We stopped by the Bakery for hot chocolate and coffee to warm us up on this freezing cold day. The kids enjoyed their liquid warmth as well as a quick mask break. Just a reminder, masks are required indoors, and anywhere distancing cannot be maintained outdoors.
Ellie turned our walk around the grounds into a personal photoshoot. Every two feet, she was like, “oooh, take a picture of me here” or “how about one like this!” Given that I take a ridiculous amount of pictures, I’m glad she’s still into it and requests it on her own sometimes.
The massive koi ponds in the Italian Garden were iced over first thing in the morning – and we didn’t see any fish. I wonder if they move them somewhere else when temps are below freezing. This area of the estate is full of color in the spring/summer/fall, so if you’re planning to check it out, I would probably skip a winter visit. If you’re not looking for color, Biltmore does have 20+ miles of hiking and biking trails and the low winter crowds make it the perfect time to get out and explore.
The Gardens were open, but we just drove by. It didn’t look like much was blooming though I know they’ll be full of color in a couple of weeks. And if you come in the late summer (like Aug/September), there are giant fields of sunflowers that seem to go on for miles on the drive towards Antler Hill Village.
I don’t think that I could ever get tired of views like this. Can you imagine what it must have been like to be the Vanderbilts and enjoy this view every day?!
GETTING AROUND BILTMORE ESTATE
First things first, Biltmore Estate is MASSIVE. It’s spread out over 8000 acres and is so big that you can’t see the Biltmore House from roads surrounding the Estate. You have to purchase a ticket to get on the property and then drive several miles into the estate to even get to the parking lot. Currently, Lot A and Lot B are open, and you can take the 8-10 minute walk from either one to Biltmore House. Lot B has an accessible shuttle available for those that need one.
Estate-wide shuttles are currently suspended, so you’ll need to use a personal vehicle to get around the estate. However, once they’re running again, you can use the shuttle system to get between the parking lots and Antler Hill Village.
Because of the historic architecture, Biltmore House is not super accessible friendly – or stroller friendly. The sprawling residence includes three floors and several flights of stairs to do the entire tour. If a member of your party cannot fully tour the house due to disabilities, there is a reduced-price ticket available. We recommend baby-wearing and leaving the stroller in the car (or even outside the house) for this tour.
ANTLER HILL VILLAGE AT BILTMORE
Antler Hill Village, a five-mile drive from the Biltmore House parking lot, connects the past with the present and is where you’ll find much of the dining and shopping on the estate. Even though it was freezing outside, the kids still wanted a few scoops of ice cream, so our first stop was the Creamery – yum!
Antler Hill Village was not crowded at all. We sat outside and enjoyed our cones, and instead of people watching, we relaxed and watched the birds. The Biltmore Estate Winery is located at Antler Hill Village and offers free tastings of their delicious wines (they have grape juice for the under 21 crowd!). Did you know, it’s the most visited winery in the country?! I didn’t do a tasting this time since it was just me and the kids, but I wanted to make sure to mention that they moved to a reservation system to control crowds. There are QR codes on signs throughout the estate that you can scan and then book a reservation on the day of your visit – there are no advance reservations at this time.
We caught the tail end of the Biltmore Gardens Railway exhibit in Antler Hill Village and the kids were captivated. Really, we all were. I never realized how fun it could be to watch miniature trains!
The display features replicas of iconic train depots from around the country – and they were constructed out of leaves, bark, and twigs! So cool!!
Starting in April 2021, you’ll be able to see the train displays in the Conservatory in the Walled Garden.
Due to the cold weather, we did not stop at the Farmyard even though I know the kids love visiting all of the animals. When we visited in the summer, we spent over an hour playing with the baby chicks and following the lambs and goats around. It’s a must-do if you have aspiring farmers or petting zoo enthusiasts in your house!
TIPS FOR VISITING BILTMORE WITH KIDS
- Timed reservations are required so make sure to get your tickets ahead of time – you can save up to $8 per ticket if you purchase online!
- As of right now (March 2021), kids 9 and under are free.
- While the Biltmore Estate is stroller-friendly, the house itself is not. If you have little ones that normally ride in a stroller, you’ll either need to babywear or carry them through a good part of the house tour.
- Don’t forget to make a wine tasting reservation when you arrive if you’re interested in the Biltmore Estate Winery.
Have you visited Biltmore before? Do you prefer self-guided or guided tours when you’re traveling??