Published On: Sun, Nov 12th, 2017

Christmas at The Biltmore in Asheville

Visiting the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, is on a lot of bucket lists. However, planning the trip during the holidays makes for an even more memorable experience.

This year’s theme, “A Vanderbilt Christmas,” reflects the family’s Christmas stories in each of the home’s living and bedrooms. Fifty-five hand-decorated trees, choirs and ensemble acts, along with the sights and scents of the holiday, are a delight to the senses.

Through January 6, the Biltmore Estate adds the evening Candlelight Christmas event to their Christmas at Biltmore daylight experience.

The house offers a step back in time to 1895 when the Vanderbilts spent the first Christmas Eve at their new home. A 55-foot sparkling Norway Spruce sits on the front lawn, surrounded by 20 illuminated evergreens and hundreds of luminaria along the walkway. Inside the Banquet Hall stands a 37-foot tall Christmas tree, grown in Newland, NC, by Andrews Nursery.

According to the Asheville Citizen-Times, the Banquet Hall tree is lit by more than 500 LED Edison Bulb-style electric lights and 500 ornaments, surrounded by 500 gift boxes. More than 1,000 poinsettias occupy the house, in various settings, as well as 1.4 miles of fresh evergreen garlands across the estate. During the holidays, the estate employs eight full-time floral designers and 17 staffers on the floral reserve team. However, in addition to the floral team, employees from all departments pitch in to help with the massive effort to fully enhance the estate’s 250 rooms.

The grounds cover an area of almost eleven miles and include not only the massive home but also the quaint Antler Hill Village & Winery for shopping, dining and wine tasting. During the holidays this area is so lit up, it can probably be seen from space.

Thousands of lights hanging from and within trees, make this an amazing spot to take the kids. Santa will appear in the bandstand on certain dates and times along with roving carolers and bonfires on chilly nights. Shopping opportunities are also available at the house itself and the Gate House Shop, near the entrance, which does not require admission charges.

Since the house was patterned after a French Renaissance chateau, George Vanderbilt’s grandson, William Cecil stated, “We have a river. We have a chateau. We have the land. We have no vineyard. Every French chateau has a vineyard.”

So, in the early ‘70’s he planted the first vines and the rest is history as the Biltmore Winery now produces 150,000 cases of wine annually. Located in the Antler Hill Village, an underground tunnel will lead you to the tasting room surrounded by a generous selection of wines for purchase, along with an ample gift shop, a great place for Christmas shopping.

For those who want to spend more than a day perusing the Biltmore Estate, lodging options include three possibilities. The Village Hotel, located adjacent to the Antler Hill Village & Winery, offers Christmas experiences for kids including holiday cookie decorating, storytelling presentations and Breakfast with Santa at the Village Social restaurant.

Around the corner, the four-star luxury Inn on Biltmore Estate provides top-notch hospitality and lavishness befitting the Vanderbilt name. During the holidays, the Inn offers packages including a formal tea accompanied by gingerbread house decorating; creation of keepsake holiday ornaments; and daily chef’s breakfast buffet. You will also find a departure gift delivered to your room.

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Also on the grounds, an original residence of the market gardener, the Cottage on Biltmore Estate is a two-bedroom, two-bath English-style house which has been retrofitted to luxuriously accommodate guests with a more generous budget.

Your stay can be personalized to include a relaxing spa package including a “full body sugar polish followed by a relaxing massage and therapeutic hand treatment.” This house is also adjacent to Antler Hill and offers the experience to stay at an original property, which housed VIP’s, dating back to the Vanderbilt era.

Christmas is a wonderful time to plan a visit to the Biltmore Estate, but upcoming events might keep you coming back. Currently, until May 13, an homage to the Vanderbilts’ extensive travel experience is happening with the Glamour on Board: Fashion from Titanic the Movie exhibit. Several costumes from the film are on display.

After that wraps, beginning May 17th, a Chihuly exhibition will unveil large-scale glass sculptures throughout the house and gardens. A nighttime opportunity will also be available, “illuminated against a night sky.” This will provide yet another unforgettable experience.

READ MORE: Have the Perfect Destination Wedding in North Carolina

The house itself is well worth a visit, even without the spectacular exhibits, as it embodies a time that might bring to mind Downton Abbey. The servants’ quarters, downstairs, are reminiscent of scenes from the PBS series, Upstairs, Downstairs.

In addition to the pristine rooms on the upper floors, the basement is worth a visit just to see the bowling alley and underground swimming pool. No less than a dozen changing rooms can be seen along a long hall leading to the pool.

If you are planning a visit, hours vary, depending on the season, but plan on spending the day at the many venues on the property.

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