By TMoM Team Member Laura Simon

The first time I tried to go to Biltmore, my college friends and I were on our way home from spring break at the beach. We noticed the signs on the highway, and decided to stop and see what it was all about. We made it into the line for tickets, where we discovered that admission was (gasp!) $45/person! So we declared that is far too expensive, and got in the car to drive the rest of the way back to Ohio.

I’ve regretted that decision a few times.

Yet it took me five years of living in North Carolina to get to America’s castle in person. It was worth the wait.

Biltmore is absolutely doable with kids. In fact, it’s great fun with kids. My Christmas present to myself this year was a season pass. I wanted to experience the house in all its seasons and glory. Plus, I wanted to be able to take shorter visits because after a certain amount of time, everyone gets tired, am I right? I’m a single mom, and an individual pass includes up to four children. Basically, the cost of a year-long season pass was less than tickets for me and all three kids. It’s worth considering!

Also, be aware that admission to the house requires reservations, and they often book up several weeks in advance. If you want to go inside, you’ll probably have to plan ahead. The good news is that, if you happen to be running late, they’ll let you in after your scheduled admission. (Ask me how I know.) But be sure to make those reservations!

Wear good shoes! The house alone is a lot of walking. You can choose to park further away and take a trolley to the grounds, or you can park a little closer and walk. Either way, you’ll be walking. You’ll also want to be prepared for cooler temps and wind. The mountains don’t mess around!

If you do take the house tour, there’s an option for a children’s tour. It’s narrated by the family’s beloved St. Bernard, Cedric. I opted to take the children’s tour myself because I wanted to be able to talk to my kids about what they heard. My takeaway: as the owner of two really terribly behaved dogs, I was so glad to discover that even rich people have dogs who steal food and sneak into places they shouldn’t be. Apparently, the cook made them install a wooden gate to keep Cedric out of the kitchen because he was an accomplished thief. Anyway, I can say that I recommend the children’s tour for adults as well. Plus at the end, know that you’ll have an opportunity to purchase a darling – and expensive – stuffed Cedric.

The Biltmore experience is more than just the house; the grounds and gardens are so extensive that you can purchase a cheaper admission ticket just to spend the day outdoors. In addition to the formal gardens and nature trails, there’s an on-site shopping and eating village called Antler Hill. The winery is located here (make reservations for a wine tasting), along with a variety of indoor and outdoor eating options. There’s a large grassy lawn where kids can play and a really cool playground. At night, weather-permitting, there are several large bonfires next to the village.

There are also paved bike trails, so consider bringing your bikes, going for a ride, and coming back to Antler Hill for ice cream.

And while the house isn’t dog-friendly (except for Cedric), the grounds, and frankly, the rest of Asheville are.

If you haven’t yet made the trip, spring is a lovely time to venture to Biltmore.

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