Have you visited the Biltmore at Christmas? KAG Contributor, Anna Artz, visited the Biltmore during Christmastime and found the popular mansion decked out with 55 Christmas trees, seemingly endless lights and garland, and a greenhouse full of poinsettia plants. Read on to find her review of Christmas at Biltmore, and plan your visit before the festivities end January 10, 2021.
What does one give a person who has everything? This was my conundrum when my 75 year old mother came to town for Thanksgiving and stayed for a couple more weeks after that. Aside from all the loving attention from her grandchildren, what to do when they were in school? Thank goodness that Greenville has a lot of endless activities to offer but I also wanted to do something extra special for her. My mom is not a spa kind of person, so that was not an option. She’s a world traveler and has been to many wonderful places. Living oceans apart and given that we only see each other every other year, I wanted to show her something special. Finally, a visit to see Christmas at the Biltmore estate came to mind, and my dilemma was solved.
December is peak visit time for the Biltmore and reservations are required to enter the Biltmore House at any time, which you can do online. We left Greenville at 9 am and breezed thru the ticketing station using our advanced purchased tickets.
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The Biltmore Gardens
The greenhouses are my favorite, especially at this time of year where Poinsettias were the star of the show. Artfully arranged to form Christmas trees, my mom was impressed with the creative use of tropical greenery. She was especially delighted with the perfect blooms in the orchid room, her favorite flower.
As we pressed on thru the outdoor formal gardens, we quickly walked thru the rose garden and flower beds since there were only a few blooms to admire. Nevertheless, the walk thru the covered trellis was pretty, with the sun peeking thru the latticed fence.
The Biltmore Mansion Tour
We then embarked on our mansion tour and already, as the Biltmore house came into view, I could sense my mom’s deep pleasure at seeing the magnificent mansion of George and Edith Vanderbilt. We only viewed the upper portion of the house. I had to take into consideration my mom’s stamina, including the walk back to our parking spot.
Arriving at the grand Banquet Hall, we were greeted by a 35-foot high Fraser fir tree, bedecked in the largest ornaments and festooned with the most brilliant of lights. This we were told, was the biggest tree in the whole mansion and a Yuletide Tradition harkening back to the first Christmas celebration at the estate.
The Vanderbilt family, ever gracious hosts, would invite their staff and employees on Christmas morning and fill their memories with colorful presents and unforgettable treats. The Cecil Family, descendants and stewards to the mansion, continue this wonderful tradition to this day.
All around the house, there were 55 Christmas trees total, all decorated in the most delicate of glass ornaments, and most likely not shatter-proof. We admired the gorgeous velvet ribbons carefully wrinkled at the right places seemingly mimicking the damask finery found in the guest rooms.
My personal favorite was a tree on the second floor, close to the Louis XV suite. Beneath the tree, a vignette of vintage toys were carefully assembled to stir any child’s imagination of toy soldiers and sugar plum fairies. Perhaps its proximity to the room where the Cornelia Vanderbilt was born, was the reason for the child friendly tree. It was a good reminder that a family once lived in this beautiful home.
My mom is a connoisseur of fine objects and decorative furniture having been an antique dealer all her life. So it was a good decision on my part to bring her to one of the finest homes of America, featuring exquisite original and some restored pieces that decorated each room and laid out as the Vanderbilt family would’ve used them.
We both marveled at the size and craftsmanship of the Flemish tapestries custom made for Biltmore highlighted by the five six to ten foot trees that flanked each tapestry. The attention to detail on decorating the trees was noticeable, with the colors and textures suited to complement the large art hangings. We gawked at the thousands of hardbound books and beautiful oriental ceramics that adorned the library and savored the festive mood that the Christmas garlands, decorations, wreaths and trees added to the experience. It was quite magical.
We capped our visit with a light lunch at the Stables Cafe where you are conveniently handed a buzzer that will alert you when your reservation is up.
We were able to browse thru the Christmas store and Mom purchased some pretty advent calendars for her two grandkids. My mom is not a big souvenir shopper, but I noticed that she bought a “Christmas at the Biltmore,” book. A good sign that she had a great time.
As for my souvenir, mom helped me pick out a pair of Christmas drop arrangements to hang on our double doors at home. They were a good imitation of fresh fir branches, bundled with pinecones, winterberries and an elegant bow. I loved that they were not made of Styrofoam but painted wooden beads and would last me for years. It also helped that they were reasonably priced and cheaper than the ones I’ve seen at home and hardware stores!
With our Biltmore treasures on hand, we were happy to head home, weary and sore feet from all the walking, but hearts full and all of our senses satiated. Once again, a visit to the Biltmore did not disappoint and helped me build lasting memories with one of the special people in my life.
New Parking and Traffic Regulations
The Biltmore instituted new traffic rules at the estate in October 2019, which makes use of the parking lots around the mansion and only allows foot traffic at the Conservatory. They offer more shuttles around the estate as well. For a full guide of the changes, see their website.
Want to Go?
One Lodge Street
Asheville, NC 28803
Christmas at Biltmore runs through January 5, 2020.
For more about the Biltmore Estates, read our list of 10 things you must do on your next trip to Biltmore!