The halls are decked with silver and gold this Christmas at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. Photo credit: Travel & Leisure
Biltmore Christmas Celebration is a must for young and old! It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Biltmore House which rises in the early morning mountain mist like a fairy-tale castle. There is really no bad season to visit Biltmore, the largest private home in America, located in Asheville, N.C., but possibly the most amazing time (and our personal favorite) is for Candle Christmas Evenings held between November 3 and January 6, and is the only time of the year that the mansion opens at night. Each year Biltmore decorators select a different theme, and this year’s “Gilded Age Christmas” takes cues from stories told and retold about early Vanderbilt family celebrations. A towering 55-foot Norway spruce, ablaze with 45,000 twinkling lights, and hand-lit luminaries welcome guests as they arrive along a long circular driveway that surrounds the front lawn. Firelight reflects on thousands of ornaments that decorate dozens of Christmas trees located throughout the mansion’s grand rooms, but the most amazing is a 34-ft. Frazier Fir, ornamented from top to bottom and surrounded by elaborately wrapped gifts, that forms the focal point in the immense Banquet Hall. Miles of garlands festoon doorways, mantels, chandeliers and hallways and live performances of Christmas music begin at the entrance and continue throughout the house
The magnificent French renaissance-style structure, which encompasses 80,000 square feet, was commissioned by George W. Vanderbilt in 1889 and christened with a spectacular Christmas Eve party held for his friends in 1895. Vanderbilt, who fell in love with the western North Carolina area after visiting several times with his mother, purchased 125,000 acres (land that included more than 50 farms and at least five cemeteries) in order to build his incredible Blue Ridge Mountain estate.
The Biltmore Mansion’s opulence has thrilled visitors for decades! Photo credit: Biltmore Estate
Evening tours range from $70 to $85 for adults as compared to daytime tours priced from $50 to $60. Whichever you choose there are plenty of activities to justify the cost. Daily seminars include decorating with holiday wreaths and creating holiday tablescapes are available and the estate’s conservatory hosts an annual poinsettia and tropical plant display. Santa Claus welcomes the younger set in Antler Hill Village (home to several eateries, the Biltmore Winery and gift shops) each weekend through Dec. 20. Those who prefer the natural quiet and serene sense of peace the holiday season confers may opt to drive through the now 8,000 acre estate and walk through the lavish 75 acres of Biltmore gardens, designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, of New York’s Central Park fame. A variety of tours and package deals are available by visiting www.biltmore.com. Where you can also book al tour tickets online.