Antique furniture. Expensive chandeliers. Priceless family heirlooms. When I think of George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, luxury definitely comes to mind. Sounds like the perfect place to take toddler, right?
Never one to be discouraged by challenging destinations (I’m the mom who took a toddler to Vegas, after all), my family recently set out for a day exploring the Biltmore Estate with our 2 year old and 7 year old in the peak summer season.
As it turns out, the country’s most opulent estate is actually incredibly family-friendly, even if you have young kids in tow. Plan for at least a full day to tour the house and gardens as well as to hop over to Antler Hill Village for some additional attractions.
Here’s what to know, what to do, and where to stay when visiting the Biltmore Estate with kids.
What To Do With Kids at Biltmore Estate
A gorgeous home, extensive gardens, beautiful hotels, and plenty of dining and entertainment options makes it easy to spend several days visiting Biltmore Estate and surrounding Asheville. With about 24 hours to explore the area, my family had to pack a lot into a short visit. Here are the essential activities family travelers will most enjoy.
Tour Biltmore House
Seeing the magnificent Vanderbilt home in all its glory is the one can’t-miss thing on the grounds, even if you are a little worried about toddlers and antiques. Don’t be. The spectacle is impressive and easy to appreciate, even for the littlest of visitors. Plan for about 2-3 hours to complete a tour at a brisk pace that won’t overtax your children’s patience.
For kids of school age taking the house tour, I can’t recommend the kids’ audio guide enough. It’s well worth the additional $10.98 fee. The guide is cutely narrated by the Vanderbilt family dog. It had my 7 year old engaged and learning the entire time at a place that she might otherwise have been a bit bored by the adult focused nature of the walk-through. The tour pointed out secret doors and told engaging family stories. She enjoyed it so much she kept interrupting our own audio guides to tell us what she was learning!
Stroll the Gardens
After touring the House, head outside to the extensive estate gardens. Kids will especially enjoy being able to roam free after a couple of hours indoors looking at fancy things. The greenhouse is a can’t-miss.
Antler Hill Village
After a long day of touring the house and gardens, Antler Hill Village was our last stop. It’s located separately from the house, so you’ll need to drive to it or take a shuttle there. The Village has several restaurants, a winery, and a petting zoo and playground. We ate a very late lunch at Cedric’s Tavern, which offered high-end tasty pub food. With kids, make a beeline for the petting zoo, which was a highlight for my two little ones. The winery (which we ran out of time to visit) offers free grape juice to kids while mom and dad sample the wine choices.
What to Know Before You Go to the Biltmore Estate with Kids
Before taking young kids anywhere, it helps to understand how logistics of a new destination will work. A destination as large as the Biltmore Estate definitely has some logistics, so here are the important ones to think about as you plan a trip.
Getting Your Tickets
The ticketing and will-call windows are in a separate Guest Services building before you approach any of the attractions on the estate. You’ll need to park and send someone in to get tickets first before heading to the parking lots for a visit to Biltmore House. When I was there on a busy summer weekday morning, ticketing lines were quite long, so plan accordingly.
Prepare for a Parking Shuttle
The main parking areas for the house and gardens are in remote lots that you access via shuttle after parking your car, like at a theme park. Don’t plan to have access to anything in your car for awhile, so bring what you need with you (although not too much, of course). If you are staying on site, it might help to take one of the complimentary shuttles from the hotel to the House to avoid the parking challenge.
To Stroller or Not to Stroller?
With multiple floors and staircases in Biltmore House, I did a lot of research beforehand about whether we should bring a stroller for our almost 3 year old. I ultimately decided to bring it, and that was the right call. It kept our toddler contained, especially in crowds where we could have risked him running off. The key is to bring a super-nimble and compact stroller, like the gb Pockit we used (see my full gb Pockit review – I’m officially obsessed). It was lightweight enough that we could fold it up and carry it up stairs when necessary. We used it on the first two floors then folded it up for the third floor and basement portions of our tour.
Having a stroller is nice for the gardens too, but unfortunately not all the garden paths are paved. An umbrella stroller’s wheels aren’t going to cut it (but a jogging or all-terrain stroller won’t really work for the House). For that reason, you really want something lightweight you can carry while you let your child roam. For younger babies and toddlers, consider a baby carrier.
Get an Early Start
My family usually gets up and goes on vacation, but a combination of jet lag and having had several long days before getting to Asheville meant that we were later than we would have liked at Biltmore House. Crowds were significant. We would have saved ourselves some serious hassle by getting an earlier start. The Biltmore Estate opens as early as 8 am some times of year, so I’d recommend beating the crowds by going as early as you can.
Beat the Heat
If you are planning to visit in summer like so many tourists, prepare for some serious heat. The historic house isn’t air conditioned and the crowds make it even hotter (another reason to get an early start). Wear comfortable clothes for a hot day and don’t bring more “stuff” than you need to carry. There are many areas in the gardens that aren’t shaded either, so sunscreen is a must.
Where to Stay at the Biltmore Estate
There are two hotels on-site. Both are fairly luxurious, but North Carolina’s reasonable prices mean that they aren’t entirely out of reach.
Inn on Biltmore Estate
Because we were only staying a single night, my family opted to splurge at the more luxurious of the two options, the Inn on Biltmore Estate. We paid $289 pre-tax on a weeknight during peak summer season. Even though service and style are definitely luxury, kids are welcome here too. Just expect to see fellow hotel guests dressed for dinner and prepare your kids for best behavior in public areas.
Families should to be aware that standard rooms at the Inn on Biltmore Estate have either one king sized bed (with no pullout sofa) or two double beds – neither of which are ideal for family travelers. My husband and I usually share a queen, so we had a little bit of a tight night in a double, as may families where two kids need to share the same bed. My toddler is still in a crib when we travel, so my daughter had plenty of room! Speaking of cribs, the hotel provided a hotel-style crib for my toddler son (not a Pack N Play), which is always a nice touch. There was plenty of space for it to fit comfortably in the room.
Village Hotel at Biltmore Estate
The other hotel choice on site is the Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate. It’s located in the Antler Hill Village area, so there are lots of activities within walking distance, which may work better logistically for families. Rooms are also either one king or two doubles unless you opt for a suite, so families may have a tight squeeze there as well.
One feature that we liked at the Village Hotel was that there was a quick service counter to grab morning coffee and a simple breakfast. We opted to send my husband there to grab a morning bite for us rather than to attempt a sit-down meal at the Inn where we were staying.
Disclosure: The Biltmore Estate provided my family with complimentary tickets and audio guides for review purposes. All other trip costs (including our hotel stay) were at my own expense. As always, all opinions are my own.