I’ve always been a Christmas-after-Thanksgiving purist. Santa Claus, along with his cohorts of pre-holiday doorbusters and overplayed radio jingles, belong decidedly after the turkey has been consumed. But this year, sentiment blindsided me with a sucker punch of nostalgia, and I found myself on Halloween night longing for the smell of fresh-cut fir trees and melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookies.
Thankfully, Asheville’s Biltmore Estate came to my rescue, providing an excellent excuse to indulge in holiday cheer without being too obvious about my change in loyalties. My husband and I were at The Inn on Biltmore Estate the same weekend as their Candlelight season launch—a lovely way of referring to the estate’s transformation into a magical Christmas wonderland for the final two months of the year.
It began with the tree-raising ceremony at the Biltmore House. Each year at the beginning of November, a giant tree is erected in the banquet hall to commence the Candlelight season. But it’s no simple feat; the raising is an entire celebration. With hundreds of others, we watched as the tree arrived in front of the house on a horse-drawn carriage with Mr. Claus himself, introduced by a marching band while a host of carolers sang Carol of the Bells in the background. With a perfect chill in the air, it truly felt like Christmas.
After watching a dedicated team of engineers and decorators hoist the 34-foot tree upright in a room full of priceless antiques and tapestries, I was in awe of the efforts the Biltmore staff puts into every detail of the guest experience. The fir trees, 50 found in the house alone, are sustainably grown at nearby Andrews Nursery for use on the estate. Even the gardens and conservatory offered tasteful Christmas hints, white orchids and red Poinsettias nodding to the new season.
This perfection extends far beyond the house. Every aspect of the estate we explored highlighted the dedication to preservation and presentation, especially the accommodations. During our stay at The Inn, the first hotel on the estate and built to reflect the Vanderbilt’s opulent taste, we awoke to wide sunrise views of the nearby Pisgah National Forest. Even our breakfast at The Dining Room afforded mountain vistas while we enjoyed a spread of Southern fare in front of a roaring fire.
While The Inn shines for its luxurious appeal and traditional décor, the recently constructed Village Hotel is known for approachability and easy access to the shops and restaurants at Antler Hill Village. The vibe is a casual, rustic elegance, with high-quality service and comfortable nooks to lounge in. Guests can book tours and countless other estate amenities through the in-house concierge service, including horseback riding, carriage rides, biking, and raft and kayak trips down the French Broad, which meanders through the estate’s 8,000 acres. This season’s highlights include the Downton Abbey exhibition, bringing to life the iconic characters from the PBS Masterpiece series through a display of 50 official costumes at Amherst at Deerpark and at the Biltmore Legacy, just down the road from the hotel.
Truth be told, I could have relished in the estate’s tasteful Christmas spirit until New Year’s. On our scenic drive to the grounds’ exit, we caught the twinkle of lights strung on trees along the road. Call me sentimental, but wherever you find yourself this season, do your soul a favor and book a day, or stay, at the Biltmore.
For more information about staying at the Biltmore, visit biltmore.com/stay