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.
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.
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.
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.
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.