If the idea of touring the Biltmore Estate in Asheville with your kids sounds daunting, have no fear. We lay out all kinds of things you can do at the estate – most of them don’t even involve visiting the house itself. I’ve been several times and had so many questions initially, but every time I’ve gone, I learn more and explore more of the 8,000+ acres – and fall in love with the Biltmore just a bit more.
Biltmore: It’s a real-life castle
Have you ever daydreamed of visiting a real-life castle? Touring the halls and stately rooms, being transported to a different time and place, experiencing the luxurious life? How about touring the castle vineyard, visiting the stables, exploring the renowned gardens? Well, you don’t have to hop on a plane for Europe to set your eyes upon gargoyles and ball gowns, just head to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, a picturesque castle with over 8,000 acres, 250 rooms, and a hundred years of history.
Regardless of whether you are a passholder or visiting for the day, if you want to tour the house, you need to reserve a time online. Be sure to print out your confirmation email, since you’ll need to show the staff before they let you in. And get there at least 45 minutes before your scheduled tour time to allow for parking and either taking a shuttle to the house or walking over via the trails.
Many parents ask if taking the kids through the house is worth it, which is a valid question. If you don’t reserve a guided tour (an extra cost), you’ll automatically be doing the self-guided tour, which you can go at your own pace but will be following a crowd. Even though the house is just stunning and seeing the grandeur of the rooms is amazing, some kids will be bored. And if you have little kids, you need to keep them with you and not let them run behind the roped off sections.
I first took my kids to the house when they were 7 and 3 and we didn’t make it through the whole tour because one of them needed to use the restroom – which you must do before you enter the house as there are no bathrooms inside for guests. Bathrooms are located near the Stable Cafe to the right of the house outdoors.
The second time we went was a couple years later and we got through most of the house, maybe because it was Christmastime and the decorations were mesmerizing.
The Biltmore offers an audio tour for kids, narrated by the Vanderbilt’s dog, Cedric (an extra cost), which they may find entertaining.
Either way, be prepared to bail if you need to. There’s a lot to do on the estate besides the house, no matter how gorgeous it is.
Don’t miss a visit to the incredible gardens adjacent to the Biltmore House. They are free to explore, as is the Conservatory, and are just beautiful. They were designed by the father of modern day landscaping, Frederick Law Olmstead, and are breath-taking. You don’t need a reserved time to walk through the gardens, you just go when you want.
Antler Hill Village
Antler Hill Village is my favorite place at the Biltmore Estate because it’s filled with lots of kid-friendly things to do and it’s all included with admission.
The Farmyard is a small farm area where kids are welcome to pet the animals. They have goats (baby goats come March of every year!), chickens, horses, and pigs. One some occasions, they have had border collie sheep herding demonstrations, which are fun to watch.
Next to the farm is the Pisgah Playground, a big play area with swings, slides, and climbing structures. It’s a great place to let the kids enjoy a beautiful day outside.
And up the hill a little ways from the playground is the Antler Hill Barn where craft demonstrations take place every Thursday-Sunday. I love this area as the staff are so kind and engaging with the kids. There is also a little cafe with beer and wine so I’ve had a beer while watching my kids do crafts or play there. It’s a perfect place to relax. There are also restrooms at the barn.
You can also pick up several hiking trails at Antler Hill Village right behind the barn and wander past the fields with cows and pens with goats. Grab a map at the Outdoor Center near the barn.
Also in Antler Hill Village is the Winery. We’ve actually done grape-stomping there before, which was a blast. From the village, you enter the winery in the main square and get to walk through an underground tunnel to get to the tasting room and shopping area. Adults are welcome to do a complimentary wine tasting and kids can tag along and have grape juice. The servers are generous with the wine samples so take that into consideration when figuring out the best time to go!
Get Your Adventure On
The French Broad River runs right through the estate, which makes for great rafting trips. It’s a wide river with few rapids, which makes it perfect for families. The rafting trip is about two hours long and costs $35/adult and $25/youth (ages 3-12).
If horseback riding is on your to-do list, the Biltmore also offers guided tours of 1-10 people with a two-day advance registration. Ages 8 and up are welcome to do this activity and it costs $95-$220/person for a two-hour ride through the estate.
You probably won’t be surprised the Biltmore offers carriage rides through the estate. A 60-minute carriage ride is offered Friday through Sunday and takes guests around the beautiful estate and house. Cost is $85/person and one child 5 years and younger is free per paying adult.
There are more than 20 miles of biking trails at the Biltmore Estate, which run all throughout Antler Village and up to the house. You can either rent bikes ($20/bike for two hours) at the Bike Barn, which is open daily dependent on weather, or bring your own bikes and ride them at your leisure. I’ve brought my kids’ scooters and we rode the trails from Antler Hill up to the house and had so much fun. We are planning to bring our bikes next time.
The two-hour kids fly fishing lesson is at the top of my list at the Biltmore. I really want to learn how to do this and would love for my kids to have instruction (since I know nothing about it). For a private lesson at the Biltmore, it will cost you $125 per kid.
Dining with Kids at the Estate
There are several dining options at the Biltmore. The Stable Cafe right at the main house has a selection of comfort food that’s easy to grab and eat. Families also love Cedric’s Tavern in Antler Hill Village, which has typical pub fare. Consider making reservations at the sit-down places to get your preferred time.
If you’re feeling extra fancy, the Inn has Afternoon Tea, where they serve a delightful mix of sweet and savory treats, tea, and fine cheese. Prices currently are $49.95/adult and $19.95/child.
Antler Hill Village also has a confectionery and creamery, where you can’t possibly make a bad decision.
Also feel free to bring your own lunch or picnic and eat at the covered tables in Antler Hill Village or at any number of the beautiful open spaces around the estate.
Seasonal Fun & Exhibits
I’ve gotten to see some pretty neat exhibits at the Biltmore like the Titanic exhibit with so many of Kate Winslet’s dresses [insert completely excited face here] and an awesome train exhibit at the Conservatory. Christmas at the Biltmore is also very special. The house goes all out in decorations, putting up more than 55 Christmas trees in the house. It’s magical – read my review of Christmas at Biltmore.
There are other incredible exhibits and seasonal fun, like the Easter Sunday Easter Egg Hunt, that are so enjoyable for a family. When you plan your visit, be sure to check the Biltmore website to see what is happening so you don’t miss out.
Need to Know Tips
Plan to spend the day
There is plenty to see (or cut short if need be), but it would be awful to feel rushed. Many of the kid attractions close at 5 pm.
Getting around can take some time
You can drive to the Biltmore House and park in one of the several lots. Lot A is about an eight minute walk to the house while the other lots are further away. There are shuttles to take you to the house and to Antler Hill Village. You can also take shuttles – which come about every 20 minutes – from the house to Antler Hill Village. The Deer Park Trail from Antler Hill to the house is around three miles (I think, it took us awhile on our scooters!). You can also drive to Antler Hill and walk to the house or take the shuttle. There is a parking lot near the lagoon and trail as well if you want to park there and walk the 1.5 miles to Antler Hill or up the hill to the house and come out on the side near the gardens.
Buy tickets online
Less lines means happy kids. (Kids 16 and under are free during the summer. The rest of the year, kids 9 and younger are free.) Ticket prices start at $76 and vary depending on season. Read on to learn about the annual pass and saving money.
Bring your stroller/backpack
Strollers and backpack carriers are welcome. You will want to stick with a carrier in the house as some of the areas are difficult to navigate with a stroller.
Wear your walking shoes
Put everyone in comfy walking shoes and put on sunscreen as exploring the grounds is one of the best parts of the trip.
Think about getting an annual pass
An annual pass is $249/person and kids ages 16 and younger get in free with a passholder. Passholder benefits are awesome, too – discounts on tickets for guests, discounts on tours, shopping, dining, and lodging, and discounts at other attractions like Chimney Rock State Park, Dollywood, Tweetsie Railroad, Mast General Store, and Grandfather Mountain.
Need more info? Visit the Biltmore Estate website.
Have you taken your kids to visit the Biltmore Estate yet?