Top 5 Biltmore Family Favorites for Summer 2021

Our top 5 Biltmore family favorite activities for summer are sure to please the 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. Favorite Flavors: Ice Cream for Everyone

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

Tip: Get sandwiches and ice cream to go from the Creamery 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. Favorite Activity: Biking for All Ages

Ready to explore our wide-open spaces? Visit the Outdoor Adventure Center or Bike Barn in Antler Hill Village and rent mountain bikes for rugged trails or comfort cruisers for paved paths. Tandem rentals also available so the younger members of the family can join the fun.

Tip: Consider our Farm Trail Guided Bike Ride and other new outdoor activities for more exciting ways to explore the estate.

Biltmore Gardens Railway in Antler Hill Village at Biltmore
Marvel at the wonders of miniature trains during Biltmore Gardens Railway!

3. Rediscover a Family Favorite: Biltmore Gardens Railway

One of the absolute must-see elements of the estate this summer is Biltmore Gardens Railway, featuring beautiful garden-scale botanical model train displays. This charming exhibition featuring estate-related landmarks—each handcrafted in meticulous detail from all-natural materials—returns to the Conservatory.

Tip: Experience Biltmore Gardens Railway now through September 26, 2021.

Child explores Stickwork sculpture in Antler Hill Village
The new Stickwork sculpture in Antler Hill Village is fun for all ages!

2. New Family Favorite: Stickwork by Patrick Dougherty

Crafted and installed in Antler Hill Village, this unique-to-Biltmore, large-scale outdoor sculpture entitled Free as a Bird is a wondrous combination of Patrick Dougherty’s carpentry skills and love of nature.

Over the last three decades, this internationally-acclaimed artist has built over 300 of these works, which have captivated the hearts and imaginations of viewers worldwide. Enjoy Stickwork by Patrick Dougherty now through September 30, 2021.

Tip: Explore Stickwork by Patrick Dougherty during the day or at night, when the sculpture is lit to enhance your experience.

Family activities for spring at Biltmore
Explore our glorious gardens and grounds during Biltmore Blooms this spring

1. All-Time Family Favorite: 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.

Tip: Visit the Bike Barn or Outdoor Adventure Center for a detailed trail map and orientation to the trails.

Enhance your Biltmore visit with an overnight stay

In addition to our top 5 family-favorite activities, make the most of summer vacations and long holiday weekends at Biltmore by adding overnight accommodations at The Inn on Biltmore Estate, Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate, or our two private historic Cottages on Biltmore Estate.

Biltmore Gardens Railway: A Structural Comparison

Twice a year, the Conservatory is transformed into a wonderland of creativity. Discover Biltmore Gardens Railway, featuring miniature estate landmark replicas made of all-natural materials gathered from Biltmore’s grounds. Let’s take an up-close look at the attention to detail paid to the recreations of these historic structures.

Image 1: Photograph of the Lodge Gate from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1900
Image 2: Applied Imagination’s recreation, on display in the Conservatory’s Exhibition Room

About the Lodge Gate Recreation

  • Materials collected from the estate: horse chestnut, magnolia leaves, pine bark, hickory nuts, lotus pods, contorted Filbert, bamboo, winged bean, pine cone scales, and acorn caps
  • Dimensions: 28”x22”x15”
  • Time to complete: 275+ hours
Image 1: Photograph of the Conservatory from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1910
Image 2: Applied Imagination’s recreation, on display in the Conservatory’s Orchid Room

About the Conservatory Recreation

  • Materials collected from the estate: horse chestnut, pine bark, anise, honeysuckle, ash, winged euonymus, contorted Filbert, and oak bark
  • Dimensions: 21”x52”x14”
  • Time to complete: 350+ hours
Image 1: Photograph of Biltmore House from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1910
Image 2: Applied Imagination’s recreation, on display in the Conservatory’s Palm House

About the Biltmore House Recreation

  • Materials collected from the estate: baby acorns, acorn caps, star anise, pine cone, contorted Filbert, grapevine, honeysuckle, eucalyptus leaves, bamboo, ash bark, oak bark, and elm bark
  • Dimensions: 66”x122”x55”
  • Time to complete: 1700+ hours

The enchantment of Biltmore Gardens Railway is a semi-annual event at Biltmore. Check our event listing for upcoming dates and plan your visit today!

Keeping Track of Biltmore Gardens Railway

Twice a year, Biltmore’s Conservatory is home to Biltmore Gardens Railway, an elaborate G-scale railway with locomotives and rail cars weaving through the historic greenhouse’s exotic botanicals and miniature replicas of estate landmarks – even one of the Conservatory itself! A second railway display is located in Antler Hill Village where trains travel past replicas of the Eiffel Tower, London’s Tower Bridge, and other European landmarks visited by George Vanderbilt during his world travels. 

Working from original floor plans, drawings with elevations, and photographs of Biltmore House and other estate structures, a team with Applied Imagination constructed the Biltmore replicas using natural materials they gathered from estate grounds. The result is a stunningly accurate version of Biltmore. 

Scale model replica of Biltmore House inside Conservatory.

Some fun facts and figures to consider about Biltmore Gardens Railway: 

“Luxuriant” bamboo, as Frederick Law Olmsted called it when planning George Vanderbilt’s gardens and grounds, was harvested and used as the roofing material on the Biltmore House replica. Grapevine was also collected and fashioned into Biltmore’s iconic gargoyles. 

1,700 – The number of hours it took to construct the 10-foot-long replica of Biltmore House, compared to… the 6 years it took to build the 250-room Biltmore House in the late 1800s.

6 – The number of artists it took to build the scale model of Biltmore House, compared to… the 1,000 workers it took to build Biltmore House in the late 1800s.

5,000 – The number of tons of Indiana limestone used to build Biltmore House in the late 1800s, compared to… the 25 types of items harvested from estate grounds to create replicas of Biltmore House and other buildings. This included horse chestnut, magnolia leaves, hickory nuts, lotus pods, bamboo, pine cone scales, acorn caps, winged bean, star anise, grapevine, honeysuckle, ash bark, oak bark, pine bark, elm bark, hickory bark, eucalyptus leaves, day lily stem, rose of sharon, cedar branch, walnuts, stewartia, wisteria, turkey tail fungus, and contorted Filbert.

Artists from Applied Imagination suited up in waders to snip a few treasures from the Italian Garden pools. The lotus pods growing there were just too perfect to pass up, and ended up in the creation of the Stables. 

Woman gathering seed pods from the Italian Garden pool.

6 – The number of separate railroad tracks running through the Conservatory carrying locomotives and rail cars around the buildings. The trains cross bridges and trestles on varied levels and through multiple rooms.  

8 – The number of estate building replicas in the Conservatory. 

7 – The number of artists it took to create all of the replicas in the Conservatory.

3,745 –The number of combined hours it took to construct eight estate building replicas for the Conservatory exhibition.

Overhead trellis carries scale model train through the Conservatory.

8 – The number of buildings in the display at Antler Hill Village. 

1,050 – Amount of railroad track in feet required for the displays.

1 – Amount of weeks to install Biltmore Gardens Railway at two locations on the estate.

Biltmore Gardens Railway is a wonderful, fun-for-all-ages feature at Biltmore this summer. Plan your visit now