We visited the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, for Homeschool Day in September. I had never been to the Biltmore Estate or Asheville before our visit and let me tell you, I definitely plan to return to the region. The Blue Ridge Mountains are absolutely gorgeous. For someone who likes to be outdoors, it’s the perfect place for relaxation and rejuvenation. But of course, I did not go to relax – I went for a full day of activities with my kids!
The Biltmore estate has its homeschool day during September each year. This is not a cheap field trip if you are traveling from out of town because you have to find at least one night’s accommodations as well as pay around $25-$30 to get onto the estate. However, once you are on the estate, the experience is well worth it.
Homeschool day participants get to tour the Vanderbilt home. You will receive handheld audio guides that you listen to through the headset. You can choose the kids’ version or the adult version. I chose the kids' version so that I could hear what the children were hearing and then we could discuss what we’d heard in each room.
The rooms were breathtaking and we learned a lot about the Vanderbilts as well as a bit of history. The audio tour was interesting enough to hold the children’s attention and we Googled on my smart phone a couple of times to find out more information about what we had heard.
As early birds, we choose to arrive at any fieldtrip venue at the time of opening. As such, the crowds were not too bad. While the Biltmore sets aside dates for homeschool days, they do not close the Estate for only homeschoolers. The Estate is open to the public on those days as well so if you do not get there early, you’ll have to deal with the normal crowds.
However, since homeschool days are during the week, I’m sure the crowds are not as bad as they are on the weekend. That said, by the time we left the home, the crowds had picked up significantly from the time that we arrived.
If you really want to explore the house in a way to soak up the history, plan to be there between an hour and a half to two hours. Having watched several episodes of Downton Abbey with me, the upstairs/downstairs life of the Vanderbilts and their staff held a lot more meaning for the children. It was fun to imagine people like the Grantham’s and Mr. Carson living at the Biltmore.
We toured the grounds after completing out tour of the house. To me, the grounds are really the best part of the Estate. With its sprawling lawn, the adjacent forest in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background, I felt like I could stay in that place forever. After spending so much time inside of the house, it was great to let the kids run and play with other kids outside on the vast green meadow.
After the kids let some of their energy out, we walked over to the rose gardens and the greenhouse. They even have a floral store where you are enticed to buy a piece of Biltmore to take home and grow in your own garden. We saw beautifully exotic flowers in the greenhouse – the likes of which we had never seen before (or since).
By now, the grandparents had had enough walking. So it was time to sit down and grab a snack.
After we took in everything at the actual house, it was time to move on to Biltmore Village. In the Village were several activities set up for the children that related to the theme of the homeschool weekend, which was farm to table living.
There were stations set up where kids were able to learn about farming, outdoor cooking, and other aspects of life during the turn-of-the-century. All learning stations were set up for hands-on learning or games and the children were able to walk away having learned some valuable lessons.
We completed all the kids’ activities, then we walked around the shops and toured the winery. In total, we were at the Estate from the time they opened until dusk. A full and exhausting, yet magical day.
When you sign up for the Biltmore weekend, you’re given access to a study booklet. We went through some of the booklet before our trip and then we worked on it after we returned home. I recommend downloading and working through the booklet to anyone who’s taking the time and expense to make the trip, as it will make the experience so much more enriching for the children.
We ended up staying in the Asheville area for two days and made it a point to indulge in high tea at the Biltmore Inn. This was a real treat for all of us after watching Downton Abbey and wanting to experience what it would have been like to take a break for tea in the middle of the day.
The trip to Biltmore estate for homeschool day was one of our better field trips. And while the house itself is beautiful, I recommend that you try to stay for an extra day to explore the beauty of the Asheville area. I would list this field trip as a must do if you are able.