Asheville is just a little over three hours away from Chattanooga, making it a perfectly easy destination to escape to for the weekend! We booked a last minute trip for a weekend in October, which it turns out is Asheville’s busiest month! I can see why – the crisp air, the fall leaves changing and gorgeous mountain views – it was so beautiful! It wasn’t easy to secure accommodations and we had less than ideal times for certain events, but it was still worth the last minute decision!
When: A long weekend in October 2017
Where: Stayed at a hotel in downtown Asheville
Weather: Highs in the 80’s and lows in the 60’s
Wear: Jeans, t-shirts, light sweaters
Ages: Our son was 2 and our daughter was 6
I was hesitant to purchase tickets here because I had heard it wasn’t worth the price tag with young kids, but boy am I glad I did! I can’t believe anyone would come to Asheville and not visit the Biltmore! It was incredibly interesting, relaxing, beautiful and fun – and we had the best family day enjoying the property!
We arrived at the Biltmore around 2pm. While you could absolutely spend a whole day here, a half day was just the perfect amount of time for our kids. The first thing we did when we arrived was visit the gardens right next to the house. My kids love seeing the coy swim around in the pond while I enjoyed the manicure gardens and the incredible sweeping mountain views!
After playing with the fish, we headed inside for our 3:15pm self-guided house tour (during their busier times you have to have a reservation time to enter). Renting a headset ($10 a set) to hear the history of the house on your self guided tour is a must. I bought one adult set figuring my husband and I could share, and one child set for my daughter. My 2 year old hijacked our audio guide as he wanted to play with it, so we got about half of the information, but what we did hear was really interesting! Even though we couldn’t hear some of the history, it was fascinating walking through the rooms, seeing how they lived, and knowing we were standing where a family was about 100 years or so ago living their lives.
So how did the tour go over with our kids? Our 6 year old LOVED it! She was infatuated with her audio tour, which in an adorable fashion was narrated by the family dog, Cedric. She soaked up hearing how one of the rooms was as tall as 6 giraffes, or how the dog would jump on the table and wag his tail. The Biltmore got it right when they added the kids audio for this tour, as it make it much more exciting and interesting for them! I enjoyed getting to show her how life 100 years ago wasn’t what it is today – how they did laundry, or cooked dinner, or how there were no TV’s.
While it was a highlight for our 6 year old, I must admit it was not fun with an active two year old! He wanted to run through the house, and he even managed to make it under the ropes one time, for which we were told we could be escorted out (eek!). About half way through the tour, my husband had enough corralling so he took him outside to play while we finished up. In hindsight, we should have brought a stroller and locked him up! 🙂 Or, my daughter and I should have just done it on our own. I do not regret bringing him (it wasn’t that bad), but a stroller might have made it a little more enjoyable!
After our tour we drove over the Antler Hill Village and Winery area. Here, the kids played in the sunflowers, petted some goats, watched a blacksmith and played some old time-y games. We thoroughly enjoyed watching the blacksmith, and he was even kind enough to make my daughter her own leaf key chain, which she now proudly displays on her backpack.
We tried to grab dinner at one of the restaurants at Antler Hill, but all of them had over an hour wait. So we improvised, and I picked up some sandwiches from the hotel cafe (the hotel is in the same vicinity), grabbed some wine from one of the stands outside, and we ate at one of the tables by the lawn. It was perfect- they had live music playing and the kids could move around freely. After we ate, we spread a blanket down on the grass, enjoyed the ice cream, and watched the kids run around for about an hour while the band played. It was a perfect way to end a great day.
While I admit the house tour was not a highlight with our two year old, the activities and environment of the property made up for it! We enjoyed a lovely family day at the Biltmore!
We spent some time walking around in downtown Asheville, as we ate dinner and breakfast there. They had a cute toy shop on Battery Park Avenue, and we enjoyed walking around and window shopping in the area.
I drove about 8 minutes outside downtown to Carrier Park to let the kids play on the playground. They have a wooden play structure, with both an older and younger kids side. They kids loved swinging, climbing, and collecting the huge leaves that fell down.
What we didn’t have time for but I would have loved to have checked out is the Pinball museum. Our six year old would have gotten a kick out of this!
Pisgah National Park
Right outside Asheville are a plethora of outdoor opportunities to enjoy in the mountains. We got lucky and the weekend we were in Nashville, the Cradle of Forestry was hosting its annual Woodsmen Competition. After about a 45 minute incredible scenic and nauseous drive (I get car sick easily) on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we arrived at he Cradle of Forestry.
This museum is interesting and worth a visit even without the woodsmen competition – they have an exhibit hall to learn about the area, a play area for kids, and several trails to walk along. One of the trails takes you through the Biltmore Forest School’s campus to view what life was like in the early 1900’s here. The campus included a one-room schoolhouse, general store, cabins, blacksmith shop, and a garden. Our family enjoyed walking through the school house and general store with the kids as they played “school” and “shop”.
The Woodsmen competition was a real treat to witness – the kids loved it! We were able to watch them chop down the tall poles, use their chainsaws, throw axes and complete to see who could chop the wood the fastest. My husband and I even got to try our hands at the cross cut saw (it wasn’t that hard!) Whats adorable is the brand the piece of wood that you saw off, making it a perfect souvenir for our kids. They were grilling here, so we bought lunch before we headed out. If we were to come back I would recommend bringing a blanket or chairs to sit in and watch the competition.
We decided to be a little crazy and we drove to Sliding Rock after the Cradle of Forestry. It is only 10 minutes away, but I used that whole ten minutes to soak up some courage! Sliding rock is a massive rock that works as a natural slide. I was not scared about sliding down the rock, but hitting the ice cold waters I knew we would encounter in October. But, when my 6 year old went first, how could I back down?! My two year old was begging to go, so I took him on my lap. He cried when he hit the water, but kept talking about how he got to slide down once he was dry! We had so much fun doing this together. Yes, the water was cold and yes it stung for a second, but I will carry the memory with me forever!
We encountered some seriously good restaurants on our trip!
For dinner, we went to Farm Burger in downtown Asheville. Not only was the food delicious, but we got to enjoy a beer while our kids played in this little play area that sectioned them off and had a chalkboard wall. Anytime we can eat while our kids are occupied is an amazing experience for me!
If you want some serious indulgence, head to French Broad Chocolates in downtown Asheville. We stuffed our faces there with gelato and chocolate cake and never looked back! It is extremely popular as there was a line, but it moved quickly and was worth the wait!
You will find Early Girl Eatery on the cutest street in downtown Asheville, and I recommend running in immediately. We had a scrumptious breakfast here with french toast, pancakes and omelets. The best part was they brought the kids a basket of toys to play with in addition to the crayons they could draw on the table with. Good food + kid entertainment = 100!