If you feel like you’ve been seeing a lot of trip recap posts lately, you’re not wrong. As I mentioned, April was unusually full of travel for our family and, per my New Year’s resolution, you’re hearing about all the escapades tout de suite. I know localized travel posts aren’t everyone’s favorite, so I appreciate your graciousness. Hopefully, even if you never plan to visit where we’ve been, you’ll find something to take away from the details that you can transpose onto your own next destination – or something else entirely in your life!
Before we dive in, I also wanted to thank you for offering your generous thoughts on my recent survey. 75+ of you gave me much to consider. I’m still mulling over the next best step, but in the meantime, know your engagement here is very much appreciated. I was talking this week with a friend who works in marketing and with small businesses about the survey, and she was blown away by the number of responses I received. Knowing this community, I was grateful but not surprised. Thank you, thank you.
Now: onto the Biltmore!
This particular trip was a fun and unique one. As many of you know, John and I are passionate about personal finance. We have had the gift of coming alongside my younger sister over the last few years as she has worked to pay off her undergraduate and graduate student loans. The three of us would meet a few times a year to review her net worth (just a fancy term for a snapshot of your debts and assets), talk through her budget, check in on her payoff plan progress, and talk through any big-picture financial questions on her mind. And, of course, to cheer her on! Debt freedom can take years to achieve, and it’s good to have cheerleaders in your corner :)
We have been so proud of her all along the way, and several years ago, we told her that when she paid off the last loan, we’d go on a trip to celebrate. Last fall, we were thrilled to get the green light when she sent in her last payment.
We considered all sorts of options for our celebratory trip (including Europe!), but ultimately decided on a weekend visit to the Biltmore in Asheville, which is halfway between our home in Raleigh and Kim’s in Nashville. We chose a spring weekend when June had a Friday teacher workday for the occasion.
Why the Biltmore? Though Asheville is perfectly situated for our purposes, we’ve all been several times, and so we were looking for something that would distinguish this trip. (Remember, novelty fuels memory!) The Biltmore itself feels set-apart and somewhat extravagant, and we knew staying on the grounds would feel like a unique and special experience.
We chose to stay at the Village Hotel on the Biltmore Estate, the less formal and less expensive counterpart to their other hotel, the Inn. We booked two hotel rooms, and they ended up being right around the corner from each other on the same floor (which made post-kid-bedtime socializing easier).
Let’s back up, though, to before our arrival at the Biltmore. The plan was to meet in Asheville for lunch, and though the Raleigh crew arrived on time, Kim’s arrival was snarled by a huge traffic back-up. It all worked out, though – we enjoyed an appetizer of chips, salsa, and queso at White Duck and a walk along the French Broad River before meeting up at Baby Bull for a late lunch.
Immediately after driving onto the property we headed to the Bike Barn to rent a bike for Kim. (We had brought bikes for our family as well as our Bee.) We pedaled for about an hour in a mini peloton along the French Broad River under a perfectly blue sky – pure delight.
The path takes you to one of the prettiest views on the property: the Biltmore House up on the hillside, reflected in the lagoon below.
We checked into our rooms and walked downstairs for an early dinner reservation on the patio at Village Social. Our waitress was wonderful, but sadly the food and drinks were just so-so – which surprised me. (I actually sent my cocktail back, which I rarely do, because it was pretty flavorless.)
Dessert made up for it, though! We hiked up the path from Antler Hill Village to the Inn for complimentary s’mores around the fire pit at dusk. Perched at the top of the hill were the cutest s’mores kits, a strolling banjo player, and a tree swing.
Bedtime that evening was less restful :) Annie (21 months) chose this weekend to unveil her newest skill: escaping over the top of the pack and play. After about an hour of wrestling her back into bed, attempting to settle her into alternative locations, and listening to her distribute belongings beside each sleeping family member (“dis Sheppie’s, dis Mama’s”), I finally laid down on the floor next to the pack and play to keep her corralled until she fell asleep. Whew.
The next morning we headed downstairs for breakfast at Village Social, which received thumbs up all around (my blueberry pancakes were delicious). Fortified, we drove to the lagoon, parked our car, and walked up the hill to Biltmore House itself. The one-mile walk through pastureland is beautiful (we saw wild turkeys!), but for little legs, keep in mind it is mostly uphill.
We entered the grounds through the gardens, where everyone was wowed by the conservatory (built in 1895!). The lush, tropical plants are packed in and stunning, and there was even a cellist playing under the peaked glass roof that afternoon. It was beautiful – I felt like a true guest of the Vanderbilts :)
We walked up to the main house and ate a quick lunch in the Stable Cafe courtyard. It had turned gray and chilly at this point and we had somewhere to be, so we headed back down the hill promptly after eating.
Next up was one of the more exciting surprises for Kim: a trail ride! She and I grew up riding at our aunt’s horse farm, and I knew this would be a meaningful detail for her. The kids got to pet the horses before John took them back to the hotel for naps and quiet time while the two of us headed out on the trail.
It was a quiet, meandering ride out onto a ridge with a beautiful view of Biltmore House and then winding back to the barn through pretty woods. Thankfully, the sun had come back out at this point!
We reunited post-ride only to split up again: Shep wanted to go on another bike ride, so John and I took him and Annie while Kim and June had some aunt-niece time at the Antler Hill barnyard. (We had fun, but I think they got the better end of the deal: they watched a sheepdog herding exhibition and got to hold baby chicks!).
Dinner that night was at Cedric’s Tavern in Antler Hill Village, which was better than the previous night but still fell slightly below my expectations. We followed it up with ice cream from the Creamery (yum, obviously).
The kids were desperate to swim in the hotel pool despite the chilly spring temps. John and I both got in, as well, but even though the pool was “heated,” our lips took on a blue tinge after about ten minutes :)
After a less-eventful bedtime (lying on the floor next to the pack and play from the start worked like a charm), the grown-ups played cards and chatted in Kim’s room until it was time for us to turn in, too.
We went our separate ways mid-morning on Sunday, but not before another breakfast at Village Social and a last visit to the farmyard to peek at the baby chicks and goats. 3.5 hours later we were home, grateful to have gotten to celebrate such a huge milestone in a fun way. (Cheers to you, Kim!! We are so proud of you!)
Thanks for letting me share a bit about our adventures, friends! It’s always a joy.
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