Blissfully Biltmore

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Photo by Kent Smith

BY MELISSA WISTEHUFF

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Trade in the normal hustle and bustle of the season for the breathtaking grandeur and fascinating history that only the Biltmore Estate in Asheville magically provides. Thousands of glittering lights set amongst a backdrop of indescribably majestic mountains transform America’s largest home into a holiday wonderland November 3–January 7.

This riveting estate transports visitors back in time, captivating history buffs and holiday aficionados alike. The stunning array of twinkling lights, glittering ornaments and Christmas trees adorning the estate’s interiors and exteriors are the hallmarks of a time-honored tradition dating back more than 125 years, when George Vanderbilt celebrated the first Christmas in his North Carolina chateau. Today, Biltmore’s staff reveres traditions of yesteryear, sparing no detail in recreating the estate’s whimsy and wonder. 

Given the home’s enormity, planning Biltmore’s Christmas season takes a year-round effort. Biltmore’s floral design team pulls inspiration from the estate’s rich history and architecture, while incorporating what is arguably its most striking feature: the allure of the surrounding North Carolina mountains. Although preparation is extensive, decorators base much of their design decisions upon tradition. The home’s massive banquet hall showcases a 35-foot-tall fresh Fraser fir adorned with 500 ornaments and 500 lights. The Biltmore archives note that the Vanderbilt family began this tradition in 1895, inspired by the classic story of “The Night Before Christmas.” The grand hall glitters in shades of red, emerald and gold. 

Experience the enchantment by day or night at Biltmore each Christmas. Here’s how to fully experience the wonderment.

Photo courtesy of Biltmore

DAYTIME MERRIMENTS

Tour

Tour the French Renaissance chateau’s 250 rooms, which include 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces, then stroll the formal and informal gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Don’t miss the wide variety of exotic plants in the Conservatory, which features tall, arched windows offering views of the terraced butterfly garden.

Shop

Mark gifts off your Christmas list—or simply treat yourself—at the Biltmore Shop. Discover wines made from grapes grown on the estate, Christmas décor, crafts, food and more throughout this sprawling store. 

Gingerbread 

Peruse the stunning art of gingerbread at The Omni Grove Park Inn from November 27–January 2. This three decades–long competition brings together artists from around the country to showcase their whimsical creations in the historical inn. Stay for gingerbread ale and sweet treats by the glow of the iconic Omni Grove Park Inn fireplaces. 

Falconry

Discover the ancient art of falconry while learning how to handle a trained hawk or falcon as you experience the thrill of a raptor flying to and landing upon your gloved hand. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to interact with a majestic bird of prey.

Nature Quests 

Gear up to explore Biltmore Estate’s natural wonders with the geocache challenge and kids’ nature quest adventures. Navigate hidden caches and collect clues on a scavenger hunt that includes scouting out hidden locations, solving riddles and practicing wayfinding skills.

Photo courtesy of Biltmore

SILENT NIGHTS

Candlelight Tour 

Step back in time with an experience reminiscent of the earliest Christmases the Vanderbilt family spent in Biltmore House. A 55-foot Norway spruce radiates on the front lawn, flanked by hundreds of luminaries lining the home’s walkway, setting the stage for a peacefully festive evening.

 

Carriage Ride

Relax in an elegant carriage drawn by Belgian draft horses as you take in picturesque views of the bedecked Biltmore House from its 8,000-acre backyard.

 

Wine and Dine

Taste an assortment of the estate’s award-winning wines at Biltmore Winery, and enjoy a romantic or family-friendly dinner at one of the many restaurants scattered throughout the property. Menus feature fresh produce and meats harvested from the estate. 

 

Antler Hill Village 

Antler Hill Village showcases George Vanderbilt’s farming legacy, merging Biltmore’s past and present with a constellation of holiday lights, illuminated trees, quaint buildings and picturesque walkways. Santa visits on the weekends throughout the holiday season.

Photo courtesy of Biltmore
Photos ©2023 Hallmark Media

A BILTMORE CHRISTMAS

In January 2023, Biltmore Estate set the scene for the Hallmark Channel’s nostalgic holiday film, “A Biltmore Christmas.” More than 300 locals flocked to the estate to work as extras for the 15-day shoot. The film’s leading actors, Bethany Joy Lenz and Kristoffer Polaha, as well as the rest of the cast and crew, stayed on the property at The Inn on Biltmore Estate and the Village Hotel. 


The majority of scenes were shot at night, which meant Biltmore House tours were not suspended during filming. And since Biltmore’s furniture and accessories are safeguarded for preservation, the estate’s staff worked with Hallmark’s team to ensure that period-appropriate furniture was used for the film. “A Biltmore Christmas” is about a screenwriter named Lucy Hardgrave (Lenz), who is hired to write the remake of a fictional Christmas classic film in the present day. During a tour of Biltmore House, she accidentally knocks over a magical hourglass and travels back in time to the set of the original 1947 movie, where she meets its leading man, Jack Huston (Polaha). 


To honor the film, the Biltmore House library will be decorated this year in the style of the 1940s, with dramatic cascades of silver-sequined tinsel adorning the room’s Christmas tree. “A Biltmore Christmas” debuts on the Hallmark Channel on November 26 at 8 p.m. Download the Hallmark Movie Checklist app for the latest details. Biltmore Estate will celebrate the movie’s release with Biltmore’s Holiday Dinner Dance on December 8, featuring an experience with live music and dancing “that blurs the lines of past and present.”

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