We recently took a family trip to the south to visit my husband’s brother in Knoxville, TN. It was a jammed packed week of seeing lots of new places as we traveled to three different states and stayed in four different places–but we had the greatest vacation as a family. We flew into Atlanta as we found cheap flights and drove up to Knoxville where we stayed with Garth’s family for a couple days.
After just a few days in Knoxville, we then drove up to Sevierville, TN to stay a night at the Wilderness at the Smokies, an indoor waterpark. We couldn’t believe all the things that Sevierville offered for families to do and will definitely be making a trip back when the girls are older. You can see all the attractions here. Before making it to Sevierville, we drove up to Cades Cove to explore as well and it was incredible. I can only imagine what it looks like in the summer. Daffodills were just starting to bloom and the rolling hills were beginning to turn green. As we drove through we saw turkeys and deer, but in the summer it’s very common to see lots of black bears. Cades Cove is in the Smokey Mountains so the scenery is beautiful and it was once home to numerous settlers who’s homes and churches are still standing. These are all open to the public to explore inside which was so neat to see these incredible structures dating all the way back to the 1800’s. Also, if you are in Sevierville, please do yourself a favor (if you love Mexican food) and eat at El Paso. Please. It was hands down some of the best Mexican food we have ever eaten.
Where to Stay
Once in Asheville the next day, we checked in early afternoon to our hotel and made some dinner reservations for the evening. We stayed on the Biltmore estate at hotel called the Village and would highly recommend this place for families. It was just built a little over a year ago, so everything was very new and clean. The Village had such a neat atmosphere with a modern farmhouse feel throughout the hotel and rooms. White barn doors to the bathroom, a trendy coffee shop called “The Kitchen”, and an actual farm on the hotel property were just a few of my favorite things. It was walking distance to shopping, an ice cream shop, and even a winery. Our stay also included breakfast at their restaurant, and I am still dreaming about their pecan waffles–so good! If you stay at a hotel on the Biltmore property, you also get free admission your entire stay to the Biltmore which can save you quite a bit because I believe tickets run about $50 a person (lower for children).
Most of our stay in Asheville was experiencing The Biltmore. If you aren’t familiar with The Biltmore, it was George Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre estate–the largest home built in America with over 250 rooms. It is spectacular and is something that I believe everyone should see sometime in their life. It reminds me of chateau’s that I visited in France so it gave me a major travel-bug to go back to Europe soon. Come to find out through the tours that the Biltmore was actually modeled after French Renaissance chateaus and they brought workers from Europe to build it.
We had unlimited passes to the Biltmore because we stayed in the Village on the property, so we did the self-guided tour when we arrived. There is also audio tours available which I would love to do next time but with the girls, we knew our time around the Biltmore had to be quick in order for us to avoid any possible melt-downs. Once we walked through the Biltmore, we did the rooftop tour which was also included with our stay at the hotel– or the cost was $19 per person. Again, another reason to stay on the Biltmore property because it does include one free tour of choice. We loved the rooftop tour as it took you places that you couldn’t get to if you didn’t take the tour. It took us out on private balconies and even the attic of the Biltmore. It was quick, which was great with kids but you do have to climb a decent amount of stairs which is something to consider.
**side note: The drive from the hotels on the Biltmore estate to the actual Biltmore home is about 15-20 minutes, its a very scenic drive but something to consider if you are needing to make a certain time for tours.
We took the roof-top tour in the morning, and planned to do the legacy tour where a motor coach takes you around the property in the afternoon. However, we didn’t plan it out well enough around nap-time and Emery was still sleeping so we decided to skip. So while all the girls took a nap, the guys went and did the sporting clays session where they had fun shooting clay targets. After they finished, we took the kids back up to the Biltmore to explore the gardens. Even for February, the grass was turning green and there were tulips and daffodils blooming. There is also an indoor botanical garden which was absolutely beautiful with some of the most interesting plants I have ever seen.
(This tree was called a Puff Ball tree and had bright neon pink puffs all over it. It reminded Adelyn of the Trolls movie so she was convinced there were trolls living inside them)
There is so much to do at the Biltmore but we feel like we missed quite a bit by going in February which is the off-season. There were so many things closed and the weather was chilly and windy. It was so nice to avoid the crowds, but we would love to travel to the Biltmore in the summer so we can do more the outdoor activities they have and see the gardens in full bloom. The morning before we left, we walked down the Antler Village shopping area next to our hotel, which had the cutest little farm full of chickens, goats and donkeys. There is also a fun little shopping area, an ice cream shop, and a winery in this area.
Next time we visit, we would love to take the girls on their horse-drawn carriage rides, try stand-up paddle boarding, and maybe go horse back riding. You can also do hiking, biking, Segway tours, Land Rover tours, tour a winery, or float the river. So much to do at just the Biltmore!
Where To Eat
We loved our included breakfast at the Village hotel in their restaurant called the Village Social. For lunch we ate at The Kitchen, another restaurant in the hotel that had great coffee, smoothies, sandwiches, and salads. For dinner the first night, we ate at Tupelo Honey Cafe and it was so so good. I highly recommend this restaurant for great food and it accommodates kids as well. They had awesome speciality drinks, homemade biscuits with blackberry jam with every meal, and the best southern meals including the sweet potato pancakes & chicken.
For the next night’s meal we ate at Chestnut which was recommended to us for a nicer dinner downtown. I thought it was good, but very overpriced for the amount and quality of food. Our girls were also ticking time bombs because it had been SUCH a long week of traveling and they were so over having to sit down in another restaurant. I would recommend this restaurant possibly sans kids.
After eating at Chestnut, we walked across the street to Double D’s which is a double decker bus that serves desserts and coffee in. Such a neat concept and the brownie sundae was ah-mazing. The atmosphere was fun, but there is limited seating obviously because it’s on a bus, but if you went in the summer they do have outdoor seating.
The morning before we left, we made a trip to The French Board Chocolate Lounge. A very trendy cafe with a European feel. The girls were in chocolate heaven as they sampled brownies, chocolate cake, and cookies. I got the salted maple hot chocolate and it was the perfect combo of sweet and salty. If you are in Asheville, this place is a must–especially if you are a chocolate lover.
Other recommendations that we missed out on and were top-rated on Yelp were:
With the weather being chilly and windy, we didn’t get to explore the downtown area as much as I would have liked to, but it seemed like there was some really neat restaurants and shops!
The city of Asheville is beautiful and charming– a place that we can’t wait to go back to. I think we will wait awhile until the girls are older and can do more, but I believe this city has many things and sites to accommodate almost any age.
If you have been to Asheville, what other recommendations would you make??