by Vikki Moran | The Grateful Traveler
Old World Yuletide elegance with a touch of Downton Abbey
For many years, The Biltmore in Ashville, N.C. has been known for its breathtaking holiday décor and dazzling lights that illuminate the remarkable estate commissioned by George Washington Vanderbilt. Making the journey there for its annual Christmas celebration is always a feast for the senses and a leap into the holiday spirit. This season, there’s even more than ever before, thanks to Downton Abbey: The Exhibition. This exhibit is an immersive experience that celebrates the BBC’s hit television series and the recent feature film.
The Vanderbilt home was the completed dream of the 25‐year‐old Vanderbilt. Built in the late 1880s in the style of a French Renaissance chateau, it took thousands of workers from the neighboring community and six years to ultimately complete. It remains the largest home built in America. The 250‐room house sits majestically in the Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains, and the wonderland that is the estate grounds was created by Frederick Law Olmsted, who coincidentally created our own Washington Park in Albany as well as its more famous cousin, Central Park in NYC.
Each Yuletide season, The Biltmore House glows with dozens of Christmas trees, five dozen to be exact this year! The grand house interior sparkles with hand‐decorated Christmas trees, ribbons and garlands, as well as thousands of lights. The massive and painstakingly decorated Fraser fir in the Banquet Hall dazzles everyone who enters. For the first time, hand‐decorated Christmas trees add glamour and beauty to the already breathtaking balcony that wraps around George Vanderbilt’s two‐story library.
Candlelight Christmas celebration in the evenings
During Candlelight Christmas Evenings, which require a specific ticket with a predesignated time slot because of the crowds, there is candlelight, blazing fireplaces, and live music throughout the grand home. A 55‐foot Norway Spruce that rivals the famous Rockefeller Center tree sits on the front lawn of the mansion. Driving the long and gently winding approach fosters anticipation worthy of a child waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve. When you make the last turn, the tree greets you, and you know this is worth the trip!
Downton Abbey: The Exhibition
Downton Abbey: The Exhibition features interactive elements that connect visitors to the much‐beloved Downton characters. Learning about the historical context for the show’s plot arcs was fascinating. Of course, those gorgeous fashions worn by the women of Downton, as well as the lavish lifestyle of the Granthams and Crawleys, are there to enjoy within arm’s reach.
Multimedia presentations and some of the series’ most recognizable sets, including Mrs. Patmore’s crazy busy kitchen and the gossip‐fueled servants’ quarters, are great fun to stroll. (Yes, the servant bells are on display, too – I saw many smiles as I passed those chimes on the wall.) Mr. Carson pops up at one point during the exhibit and askes, “Why are you dressed so,” and “I will be checking the silver count when you leave.” Precisely what we could expect from the very persnickety Mr. Carson.
Showcasing Downtown Abbey while simultaneously hosting the Biltmore home’s Christmas celebration flows seamlessly throughout the expansive Biltmore properties. It certainly illustrates the similarities of both the fictional Downton Abbey family and the real life Vanderbilt clan. I doubt the timing of the two was meant to draw such a comparison, but it indeed does just that.
Grab hold of the holiday excitement and enjoy all that Biltmore and Ashville has to offer this time of year before it is too late.
For tickets, reservations, and more information, visit biltmore.com
Dear Santa, Don’t Make Me Leave
Loving the Biltmore?
Here’s how to extend your stay.
Guests looking to extend their holiday visits have several options. For those seeking a retreat with personalized service, The Inn on Biltmore Estate offers four‐star accommodations in a private hilltop setting. Holiday packages are available from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve.
Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate is for the guest looking for a more casual overnight stay. Village Hotel is located in the heart of Antler Hill Village, with a convenient home base just steps away from shopping, dining, the Biltmore Winery, and live music in the Village. Special holiday packages are available.
Christmas at Biltmore
2019 Event Calendar
Now – 1/5/2020: Christmas at Biltmore Daytime Experience
Now – 1/4/2020: Candlelight Christmas Evenings Nighttime Experience
Now – 1/4/2020, 5:30 PM – midnight: Illumination of Antler Hill Village
Now – 4/7/2020: Downton Abbey: The Exhibition at Biltmore’s Amherst and the Biltmore Legacy in Antler Hill Village
Now – 12/31/19; Daily at 1:30 PM: A Gardener’s Place How‐to Seminar: “Illuminated Holiday Tablescapes”
Now – 1/5/2020: Conservatory’s annual seasonal display
Now – 1/5/2020: Complimentary wine tasting at Biltmore Winery. Winery specialty tours available with additional price and reservations required
Now – 1/4/2020; Weekends, 3 – 10 PM: Bonfires in Antler Hill Village with s’mores kits available for purchase at The Creamery
Now – 1/4/2020; Weekends, 3 – 7:30 PM: Roving Holiday Carolers in Antler Hill Village
Now – 12/23/2019; Weekends, 1 – 5 PM: Visits with Santa at the bandstand in Antler Hill Village
12/14 – 12/22/2019; Select Dates, 1 PM: The Inn on Biltmore Estate’s Annual Gingerbread House Tea – additional price and reservations required
Ongoing: Festive holiday meals prepared by award‐winning chefs served in all of the estate’s restaurants