Top 5 Biltmore Family Favorites for Summer

Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, is a family-friendly destination all year long, but there’s something extra special about a summer getaway with the family on our 8,000-acre retreat!

Make the most of your summer vacation with our Top 5 Biltmore Family Favorite Activities for Summer that are sure to please your entire clan, from grandparents to grandchildren.

Winkie Bar Sundae in a waffle bowl
Try all the ice cream treats, including this delicious Winkie Bar Sundae served in a waffle bowl

5. Savor Our Favorite Flavors

Did you know that the vanilla ice cream served on the estate is based on a delicious original Biltmore Dairy recipe? With a visit to the Biltmore Dairy Bar® near Biltmore House and the Creamery in Antler Hill Village, you and your family can enjoy the same rich flavor enjoyed by estate guests more than a century ago!

Tip: Get sandwiches and ice cream to go from the Creamery in Antler Hill Village and have a picnic on the nearby Village Green. Celebrate summer with Biltmore wine for the grownups and Biltmore sparkling grape juice for the younger set.

Family biking at Biltmore
Bring the whole family along on your next biking adventure at Biltmore

4. Biking for All Ages

Ready to explore our wide-open spaces? Guests are welcome to bring their own bikes in tow or visit the Outdoor Adventure Center or Bike Barn in Antler Hill Village and choose from a selection of rentable mountain bikes for rugged trails or comfort cruisers for paved paths. Tandem rentals are also available so the younger members of the family can join the fun.

Tip: Consider a guided bike ride or other outdoor activities for more exciting ways to explore our 8,000 estate this summer!

Installation from Chihuly at Biltmore, March 25, 2024 – January 5, 2025 at Amherst. Dale Chihuly Persian Ceiling, 2012 25 x 15′ Biltmore, Asheville, North Carolina, installed 2024 © 2012 Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved. Photography by Nathaniel Willson.

3. An Artistic Escape

Ignite your family’s imaginations as you explore the castle-like halls of America’s Largest Home and the awe-inspiring art installations displayed inside Amherst during Chihuly at Biltmore. Chihuly’s mesmerizing work is sure to captivate young minds and inspire a love for creativity!

Tip: Chihuly at Biltmore is an awe-inspiring experience for families and guests of all ages. That said, due to the nature of the exhibition, all guests under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

Goat mother and
Meet our working farm animals at the Farmyard in Antler Hill Village!

2. Family Fun at the Farmyard

Bring YOUR kids to meet OUR kids at the Farmyard in Antler Hill Village! From learning about the working farm animals that are a part of our agricultural history at the Farmyard to handicrafts demonstrations and seasonal activities offered at The Barn nearby, your kiddos will have plenty to choose from for engaging and educational fun.

Our Farm to Table Tour & Taste experience (available exclusively to overnight guests and Passholders) offers even more in-depth discovery of Biltmore’s farming legacy and how that connects to our modern field-to-table philosophy.

Tip: Did you know that Biltmore Annual Passholders can bring their kids ages 16 and younger to enjoy Antler Hill Village for free year-round?

Family activities at Biltmore
Explore our glorious gardens and grounds all year long!

1. All-Time Family Favorite: Exploring Our 8,000-acre Backyard!

With 8,000 acres of Blue Ridge Mountain backyard, you’ll never run out of places to explore at Biltmore! Enjoy more than 20 miles of hiking trails along the French Broad River, through lush green forests, or in the open meadows of the estate.

Whether you’re up for a Vanderbilt-era-inspired game of croquet, rafting on the French Broad River, or venturing out on guided nature experiences (or all three!), our Outdoor Adventure Center in Antler Hill Village boasts an ever-changing variety of activities that are fun for the whole family.

Tip: Activities offered may sell out or have specific dates and times offered, so we strongly recommend checking our current offerings online and making reservations in advance to ensure availability during your visit. Visit the Bike Barn or Outdoor Adventure Center for a detailed trail map and orientation to the trails.

Aerial view of Biltmore's sprawling mountain landscape in Asheville, NC.

Discover Even More of Biltmore This Summer

In addition to our top 5 family-favorite activities, we invite you to explore all of our activities currently offered so you can make the most of your quick summer getaway, family vacation, or long holiday weekends to Biltmore!

Need more time to explore? Extend your Biltmore visit with an overnight stay at The Inn on Biltmore Estate, Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate, or our private historic Cottages on Biltmore Estate. Become a Biltmore Annual Passholder and enjoy year-round visits and exclusive member discounts on special events, dining, and more.

The Railcar Red Wine Runs Smooth

The Railcar Red Wine runs smooth–and we invite you to try it for yourself!

The powerful red blend—handcrafted to honor George Vanderbilt’s personal ties to the American railroad industry—and as a complement to Biltmore Gardens Railway—is just the ticket for sipping and savoring with your favorite foods.

The Railcar Red Wine runs smooth
The Railcar red wine is a powerful complement to Biltmore Gardens Railway

The Railcar red wine runs smooth

The Railcar is a distinctive red wine crafted predominantly of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Merlot,” said Biltmore Winemaker Sharon Fenchak. “I selected fruit from our vineyard partners in Paso Robles and Lake County—two outstanding grape-growing regions in California’s wine country.”

As soon as you uncork The Railcar, you’ll experience its earthy bouquet that includes hints of caramel, vanilla, plum, black cherry, and baking spice.

Friends toasting with red wine
Cheers to the chill, grill, and thrill of summer entertaining

On tasting this medium-to-large bodied garnet-colored wine, you’ll discover bright cherry, plum, and dried fruit flavors up front, a bit of spice, and nice full tannins that make it an excellent pairing partner with barbecue, smoked meats, and pasta with red sauce.

Creating a distinctive label

“When we first talked about creating this wine, we knew it would need a special label that showcased how distinctive it is,” noted Jill Whitfield, Senior Marketing Manager, Biltmore Wines. “With that in mind, we reached out to Asheville artist Bryan Koontz to see what he envisioned for The Railcar.”

Sketches for The Railcar label
Bryan refines his graphite concept sketches for The Railcar red wine

Getting on track with a local artist

In addition to being an an exceptional artist who created original artwork for our 2018 Christmas at Biltmore Wine labels and our 2019 Spring Release label, Bryan is a train aficionado whose detailed illustrations of trains have appeared in books depicting the historic development of railroads in this country.

Transitioning the sketches from graphite to watercolor
Transitioning from graphite to watercolor

Concepts and sketches

He’s particularly knowledgeable about the types of steam engines that would have been in use in George Vanderbilt’s day, and he drew on that knowledge to create several concepts that he began to refine with a final destination in mind.

“I knew about George Vanderbilt’s railway connections,” said Bryan, “and that he had his own private railcar. That was the height of luxury at that time, to commission a custom-made railcar and travel in style anywhere a train could take you!”

Bryan’s initial concepts and early sketches were rendered in graphite pencil to provide the crisp clarity that characterizes his work. It’s a medium that lends itself to creating all the tiny details of a vintage steam engine.

Refining the details

The artist at work on the label in his studio
Bryan at work on the label in his studio

As the concept was refined toward its final iteration, Bryan used watercolors to bring the engine, its cars, and the surrounding landscape to life.

Final touches for The Railcar label
The label nearing completion

The final version looks so real you can almost hear the engine coming down the track toward you—perhaps pulling George Vanderbilt’s private railcar behind it!

Enjoy The Railcar Red Wine along with Biltmore Gardens Railway!

Biltlmore Gardens Railway display
Biltmore Gardens Railway in Antler Hill Village

From July 1, 2020, through February 15, 2021, marvel at Biltmore Gardens Railway, our botanical model train display located in Antler Hill Village.

New this year, we’re featuring iconic American train stations crafted from natural materials such as leaves, twigs, and bark.

Stroll through this fascinating display that hearkens back to the golden age of train travel, and celebrate the occasion with a distinctive bottle of The Railcar Red Wine, available at estate shops, online, or close to home with our Retailer Locator.

Painting with Plants in Biltmore’s Conservatory

From brilliant bromeliads to elegant orchids, painting with plants in Biltmore’s Conservatory is how Todd Roy, Conservatory Horticulturist, describes his work.

Bromeliads and orchids in Biltmore's Conservatory
A breathtaking display of bromeliads and orchids in the Conservatory

Caring for Biltmore’s Plants

Todd Roy checks plantings behind the Conservatory
Todd Roy checks plantings behind the Conservatory

Caring for this glorious garden under glass—filled with tropical treasures from around the world—is no easy task, but Todd enjoys his work in such exotic surroundings.

“It takes a lot of effort to keep the Conservatory looking so lush and beautiful,” said Todd. “All these plant species have different moisture needs, so we spend the first several hours of each day watering everything by hand—it helps us keep a close eye on the thousands of plants in our care.” 

Tropical Plant Treasures

Pink anthurium in Biltmore's Conservatory
Pink anthurium thrive in the Conservatory

Todd has been part of Biltmore’s Conservatory staff for the more than four years. Prior to joining the estate, he worked as a horticulturalist for a historic estate in southwest Florida, which gave him an appreciation for tropical plantings.

“I focus on adding to the diversity of what we offer in the Conservatory,” Todd said. “We have some palms that are very old, and some Cycads that date back to the time of the Vanderbilts, but we’re always adding new things for guests to discover and enjoy.”

Painting with Plants

Painting with plants and colorful foliage in the Conservatory
Todd incorporates colorful foliage into his designs

Along with his horticultural skills, Todd has a background in fine art, including painting and photography. His work in the Conservatory gives him a living canvas for expressing his creativity.

Detailed drawing of Conservatory plantings
A hand-drawn sketch shows details of a planting in the Conservatory

“From flowers to foliage, there are so many colors and textures to work with that it really is like ‘painting with plants’. My designs often begin with the color and pattern of foliage and how I can best create multi-level displays that intrigue our guests and engage their imagination,” said Todd.

A special project in 2019

Biltmore Gardens Railway includes this replica of the Bass Pond spillway in the Conservatory
In 2019, Biltmore Gardens Railway included this replica of the Bass Pond spillway in the Conservatory

In addition to his regular responsibilities, Todd was instrumental in preparing the Conservatory to host Biltmore Gardens Railway in 2019.

The charming botanical model train display featured replicas of estate landmarks, handcrafted in meticulous detail from such all-natural elements as leaves, bark, and twigs.

“Once the structures and the trains were installed, we had to create displays around them that both complemented the exhibition and showcased the Conservatory itself as one of Biltmore’s historic gardens,” Todd said. “It was an enormous project, but our guests really enjoyed it!”

Biltmore Gardens Railway returns in 2020

Biltlmore Gardens Railway display
Biltmore Gardens Railway in Antler Hill Village

Biltmore Gardens Railway returns to Biltmore this summer; you can enjoy it in Antler Hill Village from July 7 through September 7, 2020.

This year, the botanical model train display will showcase iconic American railway stations, some of which have ties to the Vanderbilt family.

Featured blog image: Todd Roy displays a brilliantly-colored bromeliad in Biltmore’s Conservatory