Holiday Magic Shines at Biltmore Estate

biltmore estateD.J. Wilson –

Close your eyes and picture yourself in the grandest of homes, surrounded by the warm glow of candles and crackling fire in majestic hearths.  Walk beneath lavish garland draped in red ribbons as you head toward the grand banquet hall.  Pass extravagantly decorated Christmas trees illuminated with twinkling lights reminiscent of the band of the Milky Way.  Take a moment to absorb the music which fills your spirit with the glee of the holiday season.  This is just a snip of what comes alive in Asheville, North Carolina.  Welcome to the Biltmore Estate, an enchanted French Renaissance Chateau built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895.

George, grandson of the famed industrialist and philanthropist Cornelius Vanderbilt, hired a community of craftsman to build his premiere “country home” in the midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Upon completion, the estate was opened to family and friends on Christmas Eve. Welcoming visitors has been an important part of Biltmore’s history.  Notable guests to the opulent estate included Presidents William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson and writers like Edith Wharton and Henry James.  Open to the public in March of 1930, and serving as permanent house museum since 1956, visitors may tour the 250-room chateau and extensive grounds and partake in self-guided audio and specialty tours of Biltmore House.

The estate remains in the hands of the descendants of the Vanderbilt family and is the largest privately owned home in the United States. Now toured daily, the nearly 175,000 square-foot home is filled with priceless treasures which reflect Vanderbilt’s extravagant taste and buying-trips overseas.  View 16th century tapestries which adorn the walls, as well as masterpieces by artists Renoir, Sargent and Whistler.  Marvel at the home’s 65 fireplaces, 10,000 volume library, indoor pool, bowling alley and more.  Appreciate the grand-scale of the Banquet Hall, featuring a dramatic 70-foot ceiling.  View rich marble and oak flooring, exquisite Oriental and Persian rugs, and furniture which once belonged to Napoleon.

Visitors who prefer moving at their own pace will enjoy the self-guided audio tour.  Private or specialty guided tours provide an intimate look at the home, history and lifestyle of the Vanderbilts. The House Butler’s Tour showcases the functions of the Biltmore House, past and present.  Guests may visit unrestored rooms and mechanical rooms which are not open to the general public.  The Vanderbilt Family & Friends Tour allows guests to view bedrooms not on the regular house visit and explore living spaces outfitted with accessories from the 1900s.  A 60-minute Architecture Tour provides a close look at the design of construction of the amazing structure and offers views from the rooftop and balconies.  Admission to the house and pricing of the tours may vary with purchase of package deals, available year-round.

Formal and informal gardens, designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, surround the mansion.  Nature enthusiasts will enjoy walking 2.5 miles of paths of manicured gardens and on the large grounds of the estate.  Seasonally, the gardens offer unique appeal, from the dramatic Italian Garden to the all-American Rose garden.  The estate land is considered an ‘environmental wonderland’.  From the French Broad River to the open meadows of Deer Park, guests will enjoy the natural diversity.  The Legacy of the Land Tour teaches the history of the land, structures and former residents.  View farmland, pastures and forests.  During this motor coach tour of the estate, guests will visit private areas on the grounds and learn about the establishment of the first forestry education program in the U.S.  Vineyards are located on the estate’s present 8,000 acres and provide over 250 tons of grapes for its winery. Winery tours are available and include a trip to the vineyards and walking production tour.  Guests will enjoy sample wine tastings which culminates with a grand tasting.  Winery tours are designed for adults interested in learning how Biltmore grapes are turned into award-winning wines. The Red Wine & Chocolate Seminar focuses on the delightful pairing of the two.  If sparkling wine is more your speed, the Biltmore Bubbles Tour is ideal.  Advanced registration is required and guests must be 21 years of age to attend.

In addition to Biltmore House and its award-winning Winery, the estate operates a 213-room Inn opened on Biltmore Estates in spring of 2001.  Count on spending at least one full day at the estate.  With so much to experience, a two-day visit is optimal.   An overnight stay on the estate premises will maximize your experience.  Rooms at the Inn offer luxurious accommodations.  If you plan to spend time in your room, be sure to request one with a splendid scenic view.  Valet parking and the hotel shuttle make getting to and from destinations a breeze. For a limited time during the holiday season, Candlelight Evening Packages are available and include Chef’s breakfast buffet daily in The Dining Room, daytime and nighttime free admission to the estate, daytime audio guides to Biltmore House, admission to Candlelight Christmas Evenings and more.  An exclusive get-away option is offered at Biltmore cottage, a two-bedroom and two bath private home which once served as the residence of Biltmore’s market gardener and later lodging for visiting VIPs.  Indulge at The Spa at the Inn, offering revitalizing spa services and packages throughout the year.

Guests may be tempted to choose in-room dining, available around the clock and featuring many of the house specialties.  The Dining Room features white table linens, gracious service, beautiful views and a garden inspired regional menu featuring fresh vegetables and estate-raised beef and lamb.  The Library Lounge offers casual dining in a relaxed setting.  Guests may enjoy afternoon tea, complete with traditional English finger sandwiches, scones and more.  Stop by the Lobby Bar to enjoy a glass of wine or head to Cedric’s Tavern to sample Biltmore’s very own pale and brown ales.  Cedric’s Tavern features British and Irish flair and overlooks the Antler Hill Village green.  Enjoy the shops which reflect the style of the Vanderbilts and carry works of local artisans.  Be sure to visit the Mercantile, featuring Appalachian crafts, dry goods and old-fashioned candy.  Grab a bite of pulled pork at The Smokehouse, located in the barn, and leave room for dessert from the Creamery.  Be sure to work off the calories at the Outdoor Adventure Center, where guests can experience a large variety of outdoor sporting activities including croquet, biking, horseback and carriage riding and more. Complete your trip with a visit to the new display, The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad, featuring a never seen treasury of the Vanderbilt collection on display in Antler Hill Village’s Legacy building.

The magic of the holidays is brought to life at Biltmore Estate.  Visitors will delight in the beautiful decorations which reflect the spirit of the season.  From the celebrated 40-foot Christmas tree and over 50 other dazzling trees on display, warmth emanates throughout the historic home.  The beautiful poinsettias, floral displays and drapes of garland complement the holiday scene.  Decorative lights and ornaments demonstrate that attention to detail is paramount in the glorious monument of the Gilded Age.

To plan your Biltmore experience, visit www.

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John J Leszun
6 years ago

From a historical perspective, I enjoyed the detailed description of the opulence that the privileged enjoyed. Can we not be free of someone doing editorials concerning their views on Christmas and any other subject. Relax…

Karen Stahl
6 years ago

Bill and Sherry should be ashamed of themselves. They give Christianity and Coservatism a bad name. Debbie mentioned Christmas 4 times in this article, and even acknowledged that the house was opened for the first time on “Christmas Eve”. She also mentioned that there was Holiday music playing throughout. Now at this time of year what music would they be playing? Hmmmm, maybe “Dradle, Dradle”, or “O Hanukkah”, or ? What other kind of Holiday music is there to “Fill your spirit with glee”?

Dennis Lopez
6 years ago

CHRISTmas The Birth of our LORD!!! Be carefull the devil is a master deceiver. Don’t look to the creation look to the creator. By By holiday MERRY CHRISTmas TO ALL THANK TOU JESUS!!!!

Bill and Sherry Rodgers
6 years ago

I am both SURPRISED AND DISMAYED THAT THE VERY REASON THAT we JOINED AMAC WAS BECAUSE OF CONSERVATIVE, TRADITIONAL AND CHRISTIAN BELIEFS which I and most Americans are very proud to openly share. Yet this article fails to realize that. It is CHRISTMAS, CHRIST’s.. MASS, THE BIRTH OF OUR HOLY SAVIOUR. IT IS NOT A “HOLIDAY”. THE ARTICLE OFFENDS ME AND I WONT GO BACK TO THE BILTMORE BECAUSE OF IT. .And lets be honest, even on my solid salary, my wife and I spent LOTS of money for a day at the Biltmore and the local hotel rates and… Read more »

6 years ago

Had the great experience of visiting the Biltmore manor several years ago, but not at Christmas time. My oldest daughter and her husband took me to see it. What a wonderful tour it was and a great day of wonders and historic sights and stories. Reminds us of the grandeur of that era and a grace that seems sadly lacking in these times.

Joan in Houston
6 years ago

What I remember most about my visit to the mansion is that it has thirty-nine bathrooms (if my memory is correct). Think about the work it would take to keep all of them clean and tidy.
A docent when I visited (in 1995) told me that they believe that the Biltmore has the very oldest working elevator in our country.

Marion Cuttino
6 years ago

I believe Christ is the reason for the season and should not be left out.
Christmas is a celebration of his life, not just a holiday. Sometimes so-called
political correctness is not necessary. If someone doesn’t want to celebrate
Christmas fine, everyone has their own beliefs. But, don’t bundle all beliefs
into one season and call it holidays. Christmas is distinct and should be
treated as such.

6 years ago

Been there during the CHRISTMAS season, and it’s breathtaking and magical. We decorate our home each year with snowmen and trees, but also have a special place for a nativity and like reminders of the true reason for the season. I fear the younger generation has skipped over that – and gone straight to the toy or electronics department.

Richard Hand
6 years ago

The title of this article tells me all I need to know about the “liberal agenda” writer. It is NOT “Holiday magic which shines at Biltmore Estate. It is CHRISTMAS magic which is being referred to which shines at this estate. People decorate trees and homes for the Christmas season. NOT because Dec 25 has been declared a holiday. I am surprised that AMAC supports articles from this individual. I cut my membership card up from AARP just to get away from this liberal drivel and now someone is letting it creep in to AMAC. Not good. She is quite… Read more »

6 years ago

We have visited Biltmore during the Christmas season and it’s an unbelievable home. George Washington Vanderbilt was the 12th grandchild of Cornelius Vanderbilt and thus received less money than those ahead of him. However, his sum was still in the millions and he put it to good use by building this ($5 million to build) castle home. Also, he was only in his mid to late 20’s when he built Biltmore!

Mike Smith
6 years ago

As a committed hoarder I say, AMAC should make Debbie’s organizing services available to us members at a huge discount.

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