As I mentioned in my previous post, we were recently in Asheville, NC. The primary purpose of the trip was to see the Biltmore Estate, home of the largest privately owned house in the U.S. My wife and I have both been before, but we hadn’t seen the Christmas decorations and we hadn’t been since before we had kids, and our oldest child is nine years old. It was time to return.
The thing you usually hear about the Biltmore is that it’s expensive but worth it. The house is amazing and it’s got a certain refinement and panache that, say, Hearst Castle lacks. Tickets are $50-$75 depending on what time of year you go, though you can get a discount of $10 if you buy at least a week ahead of time. But the good news for families is that children nine and under can enter for free! Kids in the 10 to 16 range pay half price, but Biltmore has in the past allowed them in for free during the summer.
So the more kids you have, the cheaper a day at Biltmore gets on a per-person basis. In our case, with four kids, it’s a little over $20 per person, and that is a pretty good deal for a daylong activity. Compare that to, say, Disney, where prices start out at $100 per day per person, with a minimal discount for kids, and you have to commit to a visit of several days before the incremental daily cost levels out to something more reasonable. Plus, interestingly enough, Disney is more stressful than the Biltmore, what with the lines and the heat and the attractions that exit through the gift shop vs. the Biltmore’s bucolic 8,000 acres. And note that while there are plenty of on-site dining options you’re also allowed to bring your own picnic lunch to Biltmore.
If you do visit the Biltmore, you should definitely take a full day, as there is a lot to see there. The tour of the house itself takes an hour or two, depending on how quickly you want to go, and the gardens outside the house are outstanding and will take more time as well. The Antler Hill Village section of the estate has a winery (tour and tastings included in the cost of admission, though in all honestly I’m not a big fan of NC wines), a farm area with the estate’s original barn where kids can pet a few animals, plus a playground where they can blow off steam. (Theory: if a Disney park had a generic playground with swings, a slide, and some monkey bars, kids would love it and want to spend a lot of time there.)
All of which is to say, I wholeheartedly agree with the Biltmore’s #2 ranking (plus a #3 for the Biltmore Gardens) on TripAdvisor’s list of things to do in Asheville. Go see it if you’re in the area and take your kids with you.