Visiting the Biltmore Estate with Kids Over the Holidays
If your family loves to get into the Christmas spirit during the holidays, then visiting the Biltmore Estate in Asheville will satisfy all five senses! The 250-room, 19th century chateau is touted to be the largest residence in the U.S. The 8,000-acre estate is beautiful in every season, but it’s a spectacular sight during the holidays.
With 67 Christmas trees on view throughout the mansion tour, they outnumber the mansion’s bathrooms by almost double; there are 34 toilets! Every room is ornately decorated for the season with colorful garlands, wreaths, and candles. One of our favorite rooms was the formal dining hall; it boasted an enormous evergreen encircled with presents at one end of the room, twinkling lights all around and the sounds of the pipe organ playing Christmas carols filled the air. So festive!
We had an extra incentive to visit the Biltmore with kids there this year: kids under ten have free admission into the Biltmore Estate. Our oldest daughter was turning ten in a few weeks and at ages seven and nine, our girls were at the perfect ages to appreciate and enjoy the Biltmore tour. Here are some travel tips for visiting the Biltmore Estate with kids:
Buy online tickets in advance
I strongly recommend this during busy times like Christmas and the summer months, but be sure to check if your hotel offers a deal. At the time we visited, Hilton Asheville Biltmore Park offered its guests a special deal of a two-day pass for the one-day price.
Plan your visit
When are your kids at their best? Make your reservations during that time of day and plan for the house tour to take approximately two hours. This is a popular destination, but rest assured that the Estate has mastered the art of managing the crowds. From ticket reservations to the estate tours, every part of our visit was well orchestrated, and there were docents everywhere waiting to answer guests’ questions about anything. Strollers are permitted, but keep in mind that the tour covers four levels of the house, so there will be some stairs. Umbrella strollers or a sling would be easier than a travel system!
Establish a connection
We’ve all dealt with uncooperative kids who only want to play in the hotel pool, so prepare for your visit beforehand by connecting it to their current interests. With popular cultural influences like Downton Abbey and American Girl dolls, it was easy for us to establish interest in the Estate with our girls. Our bookworm daughter marveled over the Vanderbilt library that boasts more than 23,000 books. And they both loved imagining living in a house with a bowling alley and indoor swimming pool. But if your child still needs convincing…
Make it a Game
Try incorporating a scavenger hunt into the tour. This can be done at ANY museum or educational place. With a little research, you can prepare one ahead of time. And just to make things REALLY turnkey for you, here is one ready-made for your visit: The person who finds all the items on the following list can choose a $5 souvenir at the gift shop (or a similar award):
- Pipe organ
- Old fashioned swim suit
- Five bowling pins
- A hunting rifle
- Two moose heads
- A butler’s door bell
- Photo or painting of a St. Bernard dog
- Three pianos
- A secret closet
- A dumb waiter
- Deck of playing cards
- Fake food
- Copper pots
- A lady’s dress
Make time for the farm
The farm is located in the Antler Village area and is open until 5 pm. Kids are welcome to pet the horses, goats and chickens. The rooster even let me stroke him. Germaphobes like me will be happy to know that there is a hand-washing station at the entrance of the farm, so feel free to get friendly with the animals.
Pad your arrival time and your activities
It’s an 8,000-acre estate, so there will be some driving between each destination. We arrived about an hour before our reserved tour time and had ample time for photos, cruising the gift shop and a leisurely wooded walk from the parking lot to the Estate. The Estate’s expansive layout makes it easy for families to stop, rest, take a short walk in the woods, or have a snack.
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Erin is a native Floridian who has resided in Atlanta since 1995. Her husband Mike and she have two funny, smart, active girls and two cats.