You know Biltmore as America’s largest home located in beautiful Asheville, NC. The Richard Morris Hunt-designed French Renaissance manor was once the home of George Vanderbilt and his family. The genius work of Hunt and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted are not necessarily the first place you might think of when I say North Carolina Family Vacation…but you should!
More than a show of Gilded Age wealth…more than a mere attraction in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge mountain range…Biltmore is a relaxing, family-friendly resort. Read on for dozens of reasons why we highly recommend escaping to this house & gardens for your next family getaway.
VILLAGE HOTEL ON BILTMORE ESTATE
The Inn on Biltmore Estate provides casual luxury, with a spa, bell service, and all the conveniences for a romantic escape. However, if you’re on a family vacation, Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate is the ideal accommodation option. Here’s why we loved it so much.
Spacious, family-friendly rooms. We stayed in the Biltmore Village Double, with two double beds, a window seat, desk, Keurig, mini-fridge, and huge walk-in shower. There was more than enough room for us, even with our suitcases and camera equipment sprawled on the floor. The rooms are bright and airy, and I loved the European farmhouse decor.
Should you need it, suites are also available with a sitting area, plus a countertop space with seating and an extra sink (like you would find in a wet bar.) Honestly, the basic guest rooms were so large, I can’t imagine this extra space is necessary – even if you needed to set up a pack-and-play.
Accommodations are packaged in two ways, for your convenience. A basic nightly rate includes the room, access to the Estate grounds, self-parking, and shuttle services. The Escape package is a little more, but it includes all of the aforementioned perks, plus breakfast at Village Social, admission to Biltmore House, and audio guides during your tour there.
Heated pool. If ever you have traveled with kiddos, you know the value of a pool. I knew Village Hotel had one but didn’t realize until we arrived that it was heated. Praise be!
The pool is the perfect place to chill out, sip on a cocktail (plastic only please) and watch the kids enjoy unstructured play…within arms reach. We swam before dinner each evening, and that really helped settle them for meal time (and helped ensure they ate every morsel.)
Easy breakfast options. The Kitchen Cafe sits on the first floor of the hotel and offers quick and easy breakfast and snack options. Dan and I grabbed a coffee or hot tea here each morning, and the boys like the muffins and cereal selections. There are also breakfast sandwiches, lunch salads and wraps, and other quick bites.
You can enjoy breakfast in your room or in the lobby area. There are cozy couches and tables for relaxing – even a wooden tic-tac-toe board for playing between sips of coffee.
Breakfast is also served at Village Social (more on that coming soon.) But, as parents, you know that nothing beats having a quick and easy snack option in the morning!
Shuttle services. The great news is that you can pull into Biltmore, park your car, and enjoy your vacation! The complimentary shuttle service runs every 15 minutes beginning at 8:30am.
We used the shuttle to ride back and forth from Biltmore House. It was door-to-door service without the hassle of parking (again.) We also enjoyed the little tidbits shared by the driver. She pointed out the animal nursery, where there were new baby lambs…the bridge filmed in Last of the Mohicans…Deerpark Restaurant, which was originally one of the barns on the Estate…and so much more.
Sitter options. If you are on a family vacation, you probably don’t want a sitter, but just in case – they are available. Maybe you want to try a sporting clay class (like we did,) or head to the spa for a much-needed break?
Village Hotel works with a reputable service in the area, and put us in touch with them. The sitter was pre-vetted and background checked. And, because of the relationship with Biltmore, she was allowed onto the property without cost or issue.
Our sitter also knew the property, so she was familiar with how to get to the playground, where to grab lunch, and how to coax the boys into eating all their food so they could sip an ice-cream float afterward.
Location, location, location. I saved the best for last, and will expand on this more below. It’s important to note that Village Hotel is located within Antler Hill Village. Activities, restaurants, roaming space, music….Antler Hill Village is the family heartbeat of Biltmore, and staying here means you can enjoy every aspect of it.
ANTLER HILL VILLAGE & BILTMORE WINERY
Antler Hill Village is the name of the area where Village Hotel sits. It includes restaurants, a playground, the winery and more. Anyone who is on the Estate is welcome, and activities are included with your visit. It is where we spent the majority of our stay during the weekend. Here’s how we had fun.
Kids Crafts. Daily activities at the Farm include crafts like churning butter or creating a cornhusk doll. When we visited, the boys crafted watercolor butterflies. There are also period games available, like wooden puzzles, which help kids identify what it was like during the Vanderbilt era.
Farmyard. We saw chickens and goats, sheep and horses. Even a donkey! Visit during the day to pet or help feed the animals, too.
Blacksmith demonstrations. Steve Schroeder, the blacksmith at Biltmore makes this otherwise “old-timey” art look modern and fun. You’ll watch his demonstrations – pounding the anvil and dipping the iron – to make beautiful creations. Keep an eye out for Steve’s rose petal art around the village and for sale.
Smokehouse. Also at the Farm, Smokehouse is an easy and delicious way to enjoy lunch without having to pull the kids away from all the fun. They serve Carolina BBQ sandwiches, hot dogs, and a few other munchies.
You’ll order and pay at the walk up window, then find an outdoor patio table where they bring you your meal. We love how fast and easy it is.
Tractors and carriages, oh my! At the Farm (and near the Farmyard) you’ll discover tractors and an old carriage (that would have been originally drawn by a horse.) Kids are encouraged to touch, poke, prod and climb these behemoths; Biltmore understands the power of sensory learning.
Pisgah Playground. Near the Farmyard, kids will love exploring the playground. There are teeter-totters, swings, slides and more. It’s another great way to work out the wiggles before lunch.
We love that the playground is fenced, making it more difficult for little ones to run away. There are also covered picnic tables just outside the fence, should you choose to grab a bite to-go and head over for a picnic.
The Creamery. We visited every day of our vacation. Don’t judge. You can grab light lunch bites here, but my boys were bonkers for the root beer floats.
Live Music. Weekend nights include live music on the Village Green. We loved grabbing a glass of wine and sitting in the Adirondack chairs, listening to the tunes.
The Winery. There are some spectacular winery tours available – each amazing. However, if you want to do them you will need to set up a sitter (see above for our experience doing this.) But this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy The Winery together!
Follow the entrance marked The Winery at Antler Hill Village. You’ll walk through a stone tunnel that offers a few displays and information about the wine making at Biltmore. (Side note – our favorite display explained cooperage – because our oldest is named Cooper. This tickled his funny bone the entire trip!) From there you will take the stairs into the market. Complimentary wine tastings are available – they will even offer grape juice to the littles!
During our visit, the line was a little long and the kids a little restless. So, we purchased a few bottles and some snacks for later – and then headed across the courtyard to Wine Bar.
We grabbed a table near the open air courtyard to soak up the sun, and then ordered a flight of Biltmore sparkling wines and a flight of Biltmore reds. The boys savored sparkling grape juice and lemonade while we all munched on cheese and meats from the spectacular charcuterie board.
Was it free (like the tasting?) No. But it was very affordable, and definitely worth the effort to keep the kids happy. This is the way to go when you’re touring the most-visited winery in the US!
Once we were done, Dan and I each declared our favorite (Mine? the Biltmore Blanc de Blanc) and ordered a “to-go” cup for our journey to the playground. A stay at Antler Hill Village really is a dreamy way to vacation.
PS – While we were visiting The Winery offered a “Grape Crushing” event for the kids. Keep an eye on the daily activities posted at the hotel for insight into events like this and other fun adventures that you might not find on the website. If grape crushing were a sport, my kids would be gold medalists!
Lest you think we drank and lounged our entire stay, let me clear the air! (Though no one will blame you if that’s all you are after.) We also took in a number of outdoor excursions and meandered the hiking trails. My only complaint? We were not there long enough to experience everything! Here are some of our highlights.
Bike Riding. This was a spectacular highlight to our vacation!! On the top of the list for everyone in the family. Dan and I rented bikes; we brought the boys’ bikes with us. We just were not sure about what to expect, but we need not have worried. They had bikes for every size, including some with training wheels. There were tandem bikes and bike carts, too. We even saw a couple on a “bicycle built for two!”
Helmets for kids and adults are also available, and they even loaned us a backpack for carrying our camera as we rode (though be smarter than me, and bring your own.) We rented bikes from the Bike Barn at Antler Hill Village, though there are also bike rentals available near Biltmore House.
22 miles of trails await you, and they are marked much like a ski resort with greens, blues and black diamonds. Many are mountain biking trails, but we opted for the 3-mile “green” paved route near The Village and along the French Broad River. The paved track led us to the lagoons, with great views of Biltmore House in the distance.
On our way back, we opted to “off-road” a bit, passing on the backside of the blooming canola. We visited here a few years ago and the same field shined with sunflowers in Fall – I love how there is always something to see here.
Sporting Clay Lessons. If you’ve been following us for a while, you know Dan and I love sporting clays, skeet and trap, and the like. When we learned that Biltmore offers sporting clay lessons, we jumped on the opportunity to participate. Both of us have practiced the sport almost our entire lives, but not regularly enough to skip a chance to get pointers from the pros.
If you’ve never done it before, don’t let that stop you. The sporting clay school has worked with people who have never held a shotgun….all the way through to the pros.
We made our appointment when we booked our hotel stay, then reported to the Outdoor Adventure Center at the appointed time. Our guide showed us to a Land Rover, where we off-roaded to the Biltmore Sporting Clays Club. This building (shown left) was original to the property before Vanderbilt purchased the land. It’s been restored, now, and is still a wonder.
Our lesson was at the 5-stand beside the Clubhouse, though sporting clay courses, trap and skeet are available. Instruction, gun rental, ammo, and everything necessary for the shoot are included in your 2-hour session. We just had to show up!
Darren Moore proved to be an incredible instructor. He helped us with positioning the rifle and gave us very useful tips that improved the number of targets we connected with…yay! Will I be leaving travel writing for competitive sporting clays? Not tomorrow – but I still loved it. I mean really really loved the challenge, and encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.
I mentioned above, we didn’t bring our little kids for this adventure…but children 12 years and older are welcome to experience the sport, as well.
The Gardens. Don’t overlook the vast Italian garden. Honestly, I could spend several days just wandering the areas in front of the Conservatory – not to mention the Spring and Azalea Gardens. Oh, and do not miss a stroll down to Bass Pond to see the old Boat House.
My boys particularly liked the Conservatory; the cacti room was their favorite. We love that the shuttle offers a stop here, so it’s easy to make a return trip, if needed.
We didn’t have time for any of the following, but they looked amazing and I wanted to get them on your radar:
Carriage Ride. Our shuttle driver told us that this was one of the most popular options, especially for families. You’ll spend a half or full hour riding around the property as guests of the Vanderbilt’s did, in an open-air period-style carriage, drawn by Belgian draft horses.
Horseback Riding. Guided or private tours offer the chance to see Biltmore by horseback. The meadow and forest trails are suitable for beginners, but children must be 8 or older. Have your own horse? Call the Biltmore Equestrian Center for info about how they can help you.
Kids Fishing. I will never forget my fly-fishing lesson with Orvis! At Biltmore, kids 7-11 can enjoy spin fishing at the lagoon, with a parent. Kids 12+ (and adults!) should absolutely try the two-hour fly fishing intro lesson.
River Float. The French Broad River flows to the north (cool, right?) and is said to be the third-oldest river in the world. Explore it first-hand with either a self-guided kayak adventure, or a guided raft trip. Kiddos must be 3 years or older.
It can be scary, pondering the kids on a tour of a mansion spanning 178,926 square feet. Will they break something? Will they complain the whole time? Will you actually get to enjoy it?
We say DO IT! We’ve listed a few tools down below that will make the experience exciting and fun for everyone in the family. I mean, really? 65 fireplaces and 43 bathrooms…what’s not to love?
Kids are free. Best price ever, right? Children 16 and younger are free all summer vacation- through Labor Day. The rest of the year, kids ages 9 and younger are free with your tickets. Are you planning your vacation yet?
The Treasure Hunt. Before you go, be sure to print off this amazing treasure hunt for the kids. This little treasure is proof-positive that Biltmore understands kids. Don’t miss the Doggy Dollar on the last page.
Kids Audio Tour. What could be better than a tour of the home given by Cedric the St Bernard?
Seriously – this is my big tip. Don’t pinch pennies here…they are going to love it.
Rooftop Tour. This hour-long tour takes you to places not on the regular House tour route, including the rooftop and balconies. The kids will love seeing the colors of the gardens from a birds-eye-view, and nothing beats an Instagram shot from that vantage point.
Specialty Shops. There are restaurants at Biltmore House, including an ice cream shop, but my boys were keen on the other stores…a toy store, Christmas store, confectionary and book store. We played with the puppets in the toy store, and everyone picked out their favorite sweet snack at the candy store. It was the perfect way to end the tour, before we climbed back on the bus for Antler Hill Village.
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WHERE TO STAY IN AND NEAR BILTMORE
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