Things for Kids to do at the Biltmore
Tour the Biltmore house and then move on for more kid-friendly fun.
Whether it's your first visit or you've been many times before, the centerpiece of Biltmore Estate is the Biltmore House. It's architecture, history, and grand presence make it worth the visit, but in addition to touring the house, visitors can hike trails, see waterfalls, go horseback riding and fishing, take a carriage ride or go whitewater rafting, making the visit just a bit more exciting for active kids.
My 7-year-old son and I spent two days exploring the Biltmore, spending a couple nights at the Village Hotel. The beauty of the estate's forests, farmland and vistas wow me each time I visit, but I expected some of that awe to be lost on my 7-year-old. Thanks to outdoor adventure, fishing, the specially designed audio tour for kids, and a swimming pool at the hotel, he and I had a wonderful getaway.
And summer is the perfect time to visit the Biltmore, as kids 16 and younger are admitted free with ticketed adult. The summer special runs through Labor Day, Sept. 4. Don't forget your camera! There are so many beautiful spots for family photos.
Touring the House
The house is massive — a castle in the eyes of my 7-year-old son. With 250-rooms, the details can get lost on kids, but it can also spark some funny conversations. The Kids Audio Tour, which is told by Cedric the dog — the Vanderbilt's beloved Saint Bernard — highlights facts and figures about the construction of the house and tidbits on the Vanderbilt's lifestyle in the late 19th century. The tour takes about two hours, which is long for children younger than 6, and trying for children younger than 10 or 11 — something to consider before embarking on the tour that has all visitors follow the same guided path through the house.
Just when my son's attention was waning, Cedric mentioned secret passages and to look for hidden doors in the room. Game on. The kids audio tour shared highlights of what life was like for Cornelia Vanderbilt, the only daughter of George and Edith Vanderbilt, as a child growing up and playing in the fairytale-like house. He liked seeing the bowling alley and swimming pool, and we had fun looking at portraits of the family dressed in typical 19th-century fashion and talking about how funny it would our family dressed like that. In other words, make your own fun during the tour and sprinkle in reminders that there is more fun to come.
Word to the Wise: Be prepared to climb stairs, which makes maneuvering a stroller tricky. If you have a baby, opt for wearing them in a baby carrier. Also, the earlier you go, the smaller the crowd.
The Gardens and Trails
After touring the house, we visited the "confectionary" and Toymaker's store in the shops beside the house before going for a stroll in the gardens. Biltmore’s magnificent gardens erupt in bright colors each summer, with towering tropical foliage, flowers that attract both butterflies and hummingbirds, and the heady scent of the historic rose garden. The massive conservatory also has beautiful orchids, banana trees and many other tropical plant varieties.
Just around the bend from the gardens is the Bass Pond and Boat House. The Bass Pond Path is a half-mile loop trail that is easy walking and good for all ages. You can breakaway and extend the hike on the Meadow Trail, a quarter-mile loop that has you climbing hills through the meadow. There is also the Creekside Trail that is an easy quarter-mile trail. The trails are well-maintained and easy for all ages to walk along. There are more than 22 miles of hiking trails to explore, so pick your route and go explore.
Bass Pond at Biltmore
Antler Hill Village
From the Biltmore house, catch a shuttle or drive over to Antler Hill Village where you will find a nook of activity with restaurants and shops. On summer weekend evenings, it comes alive with Live After Five. Live music on the Village Green features jazz and pop. A kids' grape stomp is held nearby, and you can get a scoop of ice cream at the Creamery, as well as a sandwich or salad. This is also where you'll find the Biltmore Winery.
This summer, Lego lovers will be intrigued to see a Lego model of the Biltmore on display in the wine shop at Antler Hill Village. The model features 50,000 toy bricks and 600-plus hours of hard work and comes in at 10 feet in length.
Just down the hill from the Village Green shops is the Antler Hill Barn and Farmyard. Wind your way through the barn and farmyard to see chickens, cows, donkeys and goats. And just steps away is the Pisgah Playground where little ones can swing, slide and climb.
Also in the Village is the Vanderbilt Travels Railway, a 250-foot model train display handcrafted from leaves, twigs and other natural materials. Enjoy seeing five separate trains threading through miniature versions of well-known landmarks (all stops on past Vanderbilt travels), including the Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triomphe, London Bridge and more. The railway was constructed by Applied Imagination, which creates an annual holiday train display in the New York Botanical Garden.
After a walk around the barnyard, stop by the mercantile to see blacksmithing and woodworking demos. There's also an old tractor and carriage that kids can climb on and grab the reins. Throughout the mercantile are historic markers and photos with details on how the community was transformed after the Vanderbilts arrived and built their home, and some toys from the time period kids can try as well.
Bring Your Bikes
Many of the outdoor adventures at Biltmore cost extra, but you can bring your own bikes and explore miles of paved bike trails to ride throughout the estate. You can also rent bikes at the Outdoor Adventure Center nearby Antler Hill Village.
Fishing and Rafting
Rafting on the French Broad is another adventure available from the estate. The river float is a gentle ride great for first-time rafters. Children as young as 3 can join in on a guided rafting trip.
Fishing is another option for outdoor adventure, and the option my son and I chose. We met our guide mid-morning at the Outdoor Adventure Center in Antler Village. Our guide drove us to the lake where a rowboat, gear, bait and tackle was ready to go.
On our fishing expedition at the Biltmore.
Just the three of us floated for two hours on the small lake. Our guide patiently instructed my son on casting and reeling in a catch. Four catches later, he was hooked on fishing, and I was happy to have simply watched and enjoyed the view of the Biltmore House from boat. The fishing adventure is limited to one parent and one child (ages 7-11 must be accompanied by an adult). Note: Fishing without a guide on the Biltmore property isn't allowed.
Horseback and Carriage Rides
For a different view of the property, sign up for a carriage ride. The 45-minute carriage ride ends with a stunning view of the back of the Biltmore House. Along the way, our guide shared an immense amount of history with us about the Biltmore family.
One-hour horseback ride tours are available as well to anyone age 8 and older. Call in advance to make reservations.
The Village Hotel is just beside the Winery and Antler Hill Village, which makes it easy to walk over to Pisgah Playground or the Farmyard. It also has a heated swimming pool and hotel restaurant. There is so much to do on the estate, it's easy to make it a two-day visit.