The largest private home in America!
At 175,000 square feet, Biltmore, located in Asheville, North Carolina, boasts over 250 rooms, including 43 bathrooms!
We were looking for something special for Bibby's 12th Birthday. It's always been a bit of a challenge to have 4 winter birthdays within 3 weeks of Christmas. Between weather, finances, schedules, and everything else that life throws at you, it isn't always easy to navigate so many holidays at one time. Historically, it was always our goal to give all the "stuff" at Christmas, and save birthdays for going special places or doing unique things. Some years we've done service projects, other years we've taken day trips or overnighters to places like St. Louis, Indianapolis, Georgia, Legoland, Disney World... It doesn't always work out that way for all 4 kids, but on this particular day, it did. ;)
This year, we decided a day in Asheville would hit the spot. We've had several annual passes to Biltmore over the years, but Bibby was pretty young the last time we went, so we knew she would be excited to visit again. I'm a huge admirer of the Vanderbilt family. We've visited multiple Vanderbilt homes over the years. This past year, I've also decided that The Men Who Built America is my favorite documentary ever, as it highlights several of my personal idols, including Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and Henry Ford.
As are many of our trips, this one was a surprise. We left early enough that the kids slept all the way to Asheville. Upon waking, it didn't take Bibby long to figure out where we were. And, yes, she was pretty excited.
Upon entering, I was super stoked to get a much better deal on our new annual pass than the price that was listed on the internet. I have no idea why. She didn't explain it to me, but, hey, who am I to question? :)
The beauty of visiting Biltmore the first week of January is the perfect timing of it. The home is still fully decorated in its Christmas splendor, but all the crowds are long gone. You pretty much have the place to yourself.
We grabbed lunch at the Stable Cafe, which I will review in a separate post, then we continued on to the house tour. Luckily Ribby is a good kid as far as her behavior. I can't imagine taking a tour through a historic home, especially through 4 of 6 levels of a 175,000 square foot home, with a child that isn't prepared to behave. Everything in Biltmore is original and painstakingly preserved. They DO have alarms. They WILL go off. So, if you are a parent of a small child, definitely know what you are getting involved with before spending the money to see the home.
With that being said, though, Ribby still doesn't have the longest attention span in the world before getting antsy, so the home tour goes a little more quickly when you're trying to keep the Mommy ride moving. Mommies with small babies don't necessarily get to appreciate and absorb as many of the breathtakingly intricate details of each room. When Bibby and Bear were younger, I would keep them interested in the house by challenging them to enter each room and look at the floor, the ceiling, and then find an animal. Between paintings, decor, and other accessories, they can usually find one.
During the holiday season, you can also keep younger kids occupied with counting the Christmas Trees. Biltmore offers a "Scavenger Hunt" booklet full of rhyming clues that correspond with most of the main rooms in the house. It doesn't require any writing, but it keeps the mental wheels turning.
When visiting Biltmore, allow yourself plenty of TIME. If you just go for the house tour, you're really missing out on the full experience. Walk the grounds. Make a wish in the fountains. Stroll through the gardens. Enjoy the greenhouse. Maybe you'd like horseback riding? Be sure to tour the farm and the equestrian center. The winery tour is fascinating, and offers tastings for grown-ups, and grape juice for the kids. Obviously, there are many gift shops, offering everything from kitschy souvenirs, to boutique toys, to Victorian-era decor. You can even hike, walk, jog, or bring your bikes and partake of the many miles of hiking trails, and riverside riding pathways that traverse the property.
Our favorite outdoor activity at Biltmore? Just letting the kids run across the expansive front lawn! (see picture above!)
There are several restaurants and cafes throughout the property that offer everything from counter service and outdooor seating, to spirited Bistros with live music, to fine dining where you need to know which fork is which. Choosing a restaurant onsite definitely enhances the Biltmore experience, but there are an absolute plethora of exciting meal choices anywhere in the Asheville area.
At the end of the day, even though it was a bit chilly outside, we all enjoyed ourselves immensely. If you visit Biltmore, we hope you have a great time as well!