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Return to an opulent 1890s Christmas at ‘Christmas at Biltmore’

by Susan and Simon Veness

In 1889, philanthropist George Vanderbilt commissioned the construction of a magnificent French Renaissance chateau, Biltmore House. It has arguably become the nation’s grandest celebration of Christmas finery and décor, with its “Christmas at Biltmore” seasonal event, open to the public now through Jan. 10.

christmas at biltmore

Ever since Vanderbilt first welcomed friends and family to his palatial “country retreat” on Christmas Eve in 1895, Biltmore House has been a beloved part of high society’s festive season in Asheville, N.C. In 1930, the 250-room estate opened to the public for guided tours, and the opulence of Biltmore at Christmastime could be enjoyed by all.

christmas at biltmore

This year’s theme of “An 1895 Christmas” celebrates the 125th anniversary of the Vanderbilts’ first Christmas in the home, harkening back to the chateau’s early days through holiday décor that focuses on traditional and classic Yuletide settings. Decked out in 100,000 holiday lights, 6,000 feet of garland, 25,000 ornaments, and more than 100 hand-decorated and styled Christmas trees, the estate is a showcase of luxurious celebration.

In addition, 1,200 poinsettias and other holiday plants ring in the season of joy as guests stroll the house and the grounds, either by day or by night. Choose from three daytime packages, starting with the Biltmore Experience that allows self-guided access to the house, gardens, and the estate’s European village inspired Antler Village & Winery. Upgrade to the Enhanced Experience, which adds an audio guide with the Vanderbilts’ personal experiences and archival details, or splash out with the 2-hour Exclusive Experience featuring a personalized guided tour.

“Candlelight Christmas Evenings” cast a warm, candlelit glow reminiscent of the Vanderbilts’ first Christmas in Biltmore House in 1895, while musicians stationed throughout the house perform seasonal favorites. Outside, rows of hand-lit luminaries line the walkway and a 55-foot Norway spruce tree encircled by 36 evergreens and shrubs twinkling with lights act as the front lawn’s centerpiece, while firelight dances off the sumptuous ornamentation inside.

The festivities extend to Antler Hill Village & Winery, where the model train display, Biltmore Gardens Railway, features replicas of the country’s iconic train stations, all dressed in holiday finery. And, of course, there are visits from Santa.

The winery offers free tastings and the opportunity to purchase wines, including commemorative Christmas at Biltmore red and white wines and a special 125th anniversary sparkling wine.

As night falls, Antler Hill Village dazzles with a constellation of holiday lights that illuminate trees, buildings, the winery’s tunnel, and walking paths, creating the ideal atmosphere in which to enjoy seasonal treats and craft cocktails.

After your visit, keep the Yuletide spirit going with an overnight stay at the Biltmore’s two lodging properties. Choose from the luxurious, hilltop The Inn on Biltmore Estate, or conveniently located Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate, each stylishly dressed for the season. Watch for special offers all season long.

christmas at biltmore

Biltmore House, its buildings, and its hotel properties are observing all CDC guidelines to help stop the spread of COVID-19, including limited capacity, reservations for tours, and mandatory face coverings.

“Christmas at Biltmore” runs from Nov. 6 – Jan. 10 while “Candlelight Christmas Evenings” end on Jan. 9. To purchase tickets, visit Biltmore.com.

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