Most folks associate magic with sprawling commercialized theme parks centered on animated rodents. What defines true magic? The amazing feeling of experiencing something new and unique. That gleeful falling elevator sensation. Knowing that you’re feeling brand new emotions. While Christmastime at Biltmore Estate isn’t sprinkled with authentic pixie dust (since it doesn’t exist), holiday magic lives and breathes among its buildings, trees, and rolling verdant fields.
What Is Biltmore Estate?
The Biltmore Estate is 10 square miles of wonderment nestled among the hills outside Asheville, North Carolina. Central to the grounds is the majestic Biltmore House, a historic building dating back to 1895. It’s one of the last remaining testaments to the architecture that defined the Gilded Age (so named by Mark Twain as a statement about financial inequity and the thin veneer of gold that hid the serious social problems of the time).
Today, Biltmore is many things. It’s a historic destination that keeps the past alive and well. It’s a family-owned operation that prides itself on stewardship of the land. It’s a working farm with a Farm to Table program for its restaurants and food services. It’s an ecologically responsible facility that partners with TerraCycle for its upcycling program, draws 20 percent of its power from a solar array, and wins awards for soil and water conservation efforts.
Most of all, Biltmore is a one-of-a-kind place full of mystery, majesty, and Southern culture. One can escape to the past, be pampered in luxury, and enjoy the best that both nature and humankind have to offer. In particular, Christmas at Biltmore is an experience found nowhere else in the world.
When Does Biltmore Celebrate Christmas?
The holiday season officially begins on Nov. 3. If you’re booked up with family events and activities, there’s no need to worry. Christmas at Biltmore runs all the way through Jan. 7. You can celebrate with others, even ringing in the New Year, and still enjoy all the Biltmore has to offer.
What’s so Special About Christmas at Biltmore?
Everything! You’ll see grand and sweeping spectacles, such as elaborately lit and ribbon-bedecked hallways with candles and holly. You’ll behold dozens of sparkling Christmas trees, from towering firs that adorn the courtyards to smaller ones that grace the tops of tables. You’ll notice little touches, like colorful garlands around the necks of statues. Discover festive holiday blooms at the Conservatory and find handcrafted seasonal concoctions at the winery.
This is the only time of year Biltmore offers its amazing Candlelight Christmas Evenings. Outdoor luminaries and Christmas trees pave the way for the dance of candlelight and firelight found inside. Thousands of ornaments adorn the many Christmas trees, and live performances of traditional holiday music will delight guests of all ages. Candlelight Evenings include daytime admission to Antler Hill Village & Winery.
Ways to Experience Biltmore Estate
Take a day trip, purchase a ticket, and explore the grounds to your heart’s content. Adult tickets are $75 for peak days and $65 otherwise. Purchasing a week or more in advance saves you $10 off each ticket. All peak days (and some other days) are also Reservation Days, in which advance notice is required for all visitors. Check the calendar to plan your visit.
Allow at least two hours to explore. For self-guided visitors, the route is marked and there are folks along the way to answer questions. You’ll also get to visit the winery for free tastings. Also, consider immersing yourself in heritage through one of the tour options available. The basic 90-minute audio tour offers fascinating facts about the Vanderbilts, the servants, the guests, and Biltmore art and architecture.
You can also opt for one of the several fully guided tours, such as the 90-minute Guided Biltmore House Tour. This mansion is the largest privately owned building in the United States, coming in at nearly 180,000 square feet. It took well over six years to build, requiring the work of more than 1,000 workers. A 3-mile railroad spur was even specifically built for bringing in materials.
Another fine option is the 60-minute Rooftop Tour, which unlocks areas of the house not normally accessible to the public. Alternately, learn the secret inner workings of Biltmore with the one-hour Upstairs-Downstairs Tour, in which you descend the back stairs and experience life as a servant in America’s largest home. If rolling expanses of green are what you crave, the Legacy of the Land Tour is for you — hop aboard a motor coach and take a ride among the delightful natural beauty of Biltmore.
For the ultimate experience, check out the Premium Biltmore House Tour. You’ll have your own private tour guide for two hours. Touch upon areas seen in all of the other offerings, including the Rooftop and Upstairs-Downstairs tours. All guided tours require a reservation. Call 800-411-3812 to arrange yours.
Make It a Night (And Day) to Last a Lifetime
Instead of a mere day trip, why not stay overnight? Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate is a casual and convenient on-site hotel that’s a short walk from three restaurants, the Winery, and the many outdoor activities Biltmore has to offer (including biking, hiking, and horseback riding). Village Social is a great way to unwind when night begins to shroud the land.
For those that want more, consider The Inn on Biltmore Estate. This is a four-star luxury hotel, which (like Village Hotel) is as elaborately decorated for Christmas as the rest of Biltmore. The Candlelight Christmas Evenings package is as good as it gets and includes a daily breakfast buffet, daytime estate admission with audio guides, a special Biltmore Christmas gift, and one night at the exclusive Candlelight event.
For a truly unique experience, the Cottage on Biltmore Estate is a former private residence that’s since been used to house VIPs and other distinguished guests. This 1,500-square-foot home features two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Customize your stay with butler service, spa services, breakfast cooked to order, and more.
Whether you’re 9 months old or 90 years old, Christmas at Biltmore Estate is truly a wonder to behold. Experience true holiday magic in the hills just outside Asheville at this historic and majestic destination.