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Posts Tagged ‘Asheville NC’

Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Biltmore in Asheville, NC with Kids

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If the idea of touring the Biltmore Estate in Asheville with your kids sounds daunting, have no fear. We lay out all kinds of things you can do at the estate – most of them don’t even involve visiting the house itself. I’ve been several times and had so many questions initially, but every time I’ve gone, I learn more and explore more of the 8,000+ acres – and fall in love with the Biltmore just a bit more.

Front of Biltmore castle

Biltmore: It’s a real-life castle

Have you ever daydreamed of visiting a real-life castle? Touring the halls and stately rooms, being transported to a different time and place, experiencing the luxurious life? How about touring the castle vineyard, visiting the stables, exploring the renowned gardens? Well, you don’t have to hop on a plane for Europe to set your eyes upon gargoyles and ball gowns, just head to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, a picturesque castle with over 8,000 acres, 250 rooms, and a hundred years of history.

Regardless of whether you are a pass holder or visiting for the day, if you want to tour the house, you need to reserve a time online. Be sure to print out your confirmation email, since you’ll need to show the staff before they let you in. And get there at least 45 minutes before your scheduled tour time to allow for parking and either taking a shuttle to the house or walking over via the trails.

Biltmore Mountain view

Is Biltmore Worth It?

Many parents ask if taking the kids through the house is worth it, which is a valid question. If you don’t reserve a guided tour (an extra cost), you’ll automatically be doing the self-guided tour, which you can go at your own pace but will be following a crowd. Even though the house is just stunning and seeing the grandeur of the rooms is amazing, some kids will be bored. And if you have little kids, you need to keep them with you and not let them run behind the roped-off sections.

I first took my kids to the house when they were 7 and 3 and we didn’t make it through the whole tour because one of them needed to use the restroom – which you must do before you enter the house as there are no bathrooms inside for guests. Bathrooms are located near the Stable Cafe to the right of the house outdoors.

The second time we went was a couple of years later and we got through most of the house, maybe because it was Christmastime and the decorations were mesmerizing. Now, my kids are 9 and 13 and we go every Christmas and they truly enjoy it.

The Biltmore offers an audio tour ($15) for kids, narrated by the Vanderbilt’s dog, Cedric, which they may find entertaining.

Either way, be prepared to bail if you need to. There’s a lot to do on the estate besides the house, no matter how gorgeous it is. The Biltmore ticket system requires you to choose a House ticket or a Grounds & Gardens ticket. The House ticket includes the Grounds but a Grounds & Gardens ticket does not include the House tour.

Biltmore Gardens

I’ve taken so many walks through the Biltmore Gardens and just can’t get enough. They were designed by the father of modern-day landscaping, Frederick Law Olmstead, and are breathtaking.

I thought Spring was my favorite season there as the tulips and daffodils light up the pathways. Then I thought early summer was my favorite because of the beautiful rose garden and azalea garden. Then I decided Fall was my favorite because of the colorful mums that were planted in mesmerizing patterns.

Biltmore sunflowers Sept
Biltmore sunflowers

But after I took walks and bike rides along the sunflower fields near Antler Hill Village in the late summer and early Fall, I just figured I’d get a season pass so I could visit whenever I wanted.

I can’t decide on when all the flowers are the most gorgeous so you’ll just have to go for yourself to see them.

Your House and Grounds & Gardens tickets both include access to the gardens, the walking trails, and the Conservatory. You don’t need a reserved time to walk through the gardens, you just go when you want.

tulips at Biltmore

Antler Hill Village: Biltmore with Kids

Antler Hill Village is my favorite place at the Biltmore Estate because it’s filled with lots of kid-friendly things to do and it’s all included with admission.

The Farmyard is a small farm area where kids are welcome to pet the animals. They have goats (baby goats come March of every year!), chickens, horses, and pigs. On some occasions, they have had border collie sheep herding demonstrations, which are fun to watch.

baby goats

Next to the farm is the Pisgah Playground, a big play area with swings, slides, and climbing structures. It’s a great place to let the kids enjoy a beautiful day outside.

And up the hill a little ways from the playground is the Antler Hill Barn where craft demonstrations take place every Thursday-Sunday. I love this area as the staff are so kind and engaging with the kids. There is also a little cafe with beer and wine so I’ve had a beer while watching my kids do crafts or play there. It’s a perfect place to relax. There are also restrooms at the barn.

You can also pick up several hiking trails at Antler Hill Village right behind the barn and wander past the fields with cows and pens with goats. Grab a map at the Outdoor Center near the barn.

playground at Biltmore

Also in Antler Hill Village is the Winery. We’ve actually done grape-stomping there before, which was a blast. From the village, you enter the winery in the main square and get to walk through an underground tunnel to get to the tasting room and shopping area. Adults are welcome to do a complimentary wine tasting and kids can tag along and have grape juice. The servers are generous with the wine samples so take that into consideration when figuring out the best time to go!

Get Your Adventure On

The French Broad River runs right through the estate, which makes for great rafting trips. It’s a wide river with few rapids, which makes it perfect for families. The rafting trip is about two hours long and costs $50/person.

If horseback riding is on your to-do list, the Biltmore also offers guided tours of 1-10 people with a two-day advance registration. Ages 8 and up are welcome to do this activity and it costs $135/person for an hour ride through the estate.

You probably won’t be surprised the Biltmore offers carriage rides through the estate. A 60-minute carriage ride is offered Friday through Sunday and takes guests around the beautiful estate and house. Cost is $95/person and one child 5 years and younger is free per paying adult.

Fall at the Biltmore
Fall at the Biltmore

There are more than 20 miles of biking trails at the Biltmore Estate, which run all throughout Antler Village and up to the house. You can either rent bikes ($20/bike for two hours) at the Bike Barn, which is open daily dependent on weather, or bring your own bikes and ride them at your leisure. I’ve brought my kids’ scooters and bikes and we rode the trails from Antler Hill up to the house, to the Gardens, and to the pond, and had so much fun.

The two-hour kids fly fishing lesson is at the top of my list at the Biltmore. I really want to learn how to do this and would love for my kids to have instruction (since I know nothing about it). For a private lesson at the Biltmore, it will cost you $125 per kid.

Dining with Kids at the Estate

There are several dining options at the Biltmore. The Stable Cafe right at the main house has a selection of comfort food that’s easy to grab and eat. Families also love Cedric’s Tavern in Antler Hill Village, which has typical pub fare. Consider making reservations at the sit-down places to get your preferred time.

If you’re feeling extra fancy, the Inn has Afternoon Tea, where they serve a delightful mix of sweet and savory treats, tea, and fine cheese. Prices currently are $75/person.

Antler Hill Village also has a confectionery and creamery, where you can’t possibly make a bad decision. My kids and I try to make a stop here just for their ice cream.

Also feel free to bring your own lunch or picnic and eat at the covered tables in Antler Hill Village or at any number of the beautiful open spaces around the estate.

Seasonal Fun & Exhibits

I’ve gotten to see some pretty neat exhibits at the Biltmore like the Titanic exhibit with so many of Kate Winslet’s dresses [insert completely excited face here], a fantastic train exhibit, Christmas at the Biltmore, and Chihuly at Biltmore. These special events and exhibits are incredibly well done and worth a visit.

Biltmore special exhibit

Christmas at the Biltmore

I have started taking my daughters every year to tour the House during Christmastime because it is so beautiful. We really love checking out the 50+ Christmas trees in the House and seeing the decorations.

They are 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.

View of the Biltmore WIntergarden in Asheville, North Carolina

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 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.

The spots for the Christmas House tours usually go fast so you’ll need to reserve your preferred time and date online. They also have wildly popular candlelight tours, which I have yet to do, but would love to take in that experience sometime. Christmas at the Biltmore runs from November 2, 2024 through January 5, 2025.

Chihuly at Biltmore

Watch! Our Visit to Chihuly Was GORGEOUS

Chihuly at Biltmore is an incredible collection of blown glass art from Dale Chihuly. The Biltmore has collaborated with him in the past, placing several of his gorgeous pieces around the estate in 2018. This time, his work is featured in seven galleries at Amherst in Deerpark near Antler Hill Village. The exhibit runs March 25, 2024 through January 5, 2025.

Chihuly at Biltmore
Chihuly at Biltmore

We got to go through it and take a tour with representatives from the Biltmore and Dale Chihuly’s studio, which was completely fascinating as we learned how the exhibit came about and the unbelievable preparations for it to be held in that location. The exhibit is extraordinarily unique with 33 pieces that include thousands of smaller pieces of blown glass. The creations don’t even seem real.

Chihuly has a background in weaving, which he somehow used in several of his pieces that were inspired by Native American art, which you’ll see in the second gallery. Be sure to watch the short movie about Chihuly before you head to the galleries and read the plaques because they are fascinating.

Chihuly’s knowledge of how how light interacts with glass is on display throughout the exhibit but especially in the room with the Parisian ceiling. The art is above you and the light is reflected through all of those pieces to create art on the surrounding white walls. You’ll feel transported to another world.

Chihuly at Biltmore
Chihuly at Biltmore

I kept staring at the chandelier pieces in the room next to the one with the Parisian ceiling trying to figure out how Chihuly put them together and created the nuances in color in the glass. I can’t even wrap my head around it.

The next gallery features a garden of glass flowers that looks like it is floating on water. It’s called the Millie Fiori, thousand flowers, and I advise just taking your time in here, walking around the piece and looking at every detail. Chihuly was inspired by his mother’s garden and this specific composition was designed and created specifically for the Biltmore.

Chihuly at Biltmore
Chihuly at Biltmore

The last gallery is a neon glass gallery that was inspired by tumbleweeds. It’s so unexpected because it’s not as colorful as his other pieces yet somehow flows well in the entire exhibit. The pieces are anchored in sycamore trees.

By the time we exited the gallery, I think my head was spinning (in a good way). I love art and especially glass blowing but Chihuly at Biltmore was a whole other level. His art almost cleared my head and became therapeutic because all I could consider was the beauty and awe of it. I’m grateful for the partnership the Biltmore and Dale Chihuly forged in order to bring the exhibit here. I wish I could afford even a small piece of Chihuly’s art, which you can absolutely buy in the gift shop if you’ve got the funds!

One thing to mention if you plan to bring your kids is that Chihuly designs his pieces to be see up close and enjoyed by all, which means there are no barriers around any of his art. So, parents, watch your kids closely.

Your entry ticket or annual pass does not include entry to Chihuly at Biltmore. Ticket prices are:

  • March 25–May 23, 2024: Starting at $125
  • May 24–November 1, 2024: Starting at $115
  • November 2, 2024–January 5, 2025: Starting at $145
  • $30/adult and $15/kids for pass holders

The entire exhibit is wheelchair and stroller-accessible. Plan to spend about an hour inside the exhibit galleries.

Need-to-Know Tips for Visiting Biltmore Estate

Plan to spend the day

There is plenty to see (or cut short if need be), but it would be awful to feel rushed. Many of the kid attractions close at 5 pm.

Getting around can take some time

You can drive to the Biltmore House and park in one of the several lots. Lot A is about an eight-minute walk to the house while the other lots are further away. There are shuttles to take you to the house and to Antler Hill Village. You can also take shuttles – which come about every 20 minutes – from the house to Antler Hill Village.

The Deerpark Trail from Antler Hill to the house is around three miles. You can also drive to Antler Hill and walk to the house or take the shuttle. There is a parking lot near the lagoon and trail as well if you want to park there and walk the 1.5 miles to Antler Hill or up the hill to the house and come out on the side near the gardens.

Free things to do at Biltmore

While you need a ticket to get into the Biltmore, there are lots of free things to do once there: bring your bikes and bike the trails, take a walk amongst the gardens and sunflowers, visit the Conservatory, visit the Farmyard, play on the Pisgah Playground, do a wine tasting, make a craft at the Antler Hill Barn.

Buy Biltmore tickets online

Less lines mean happy kids. (Kids 16 and under are free during the summer. The rest of the year, kids 9 and younger are free.) Ticket prices start at $95 and vary depending on season. Read on to learn about the annual pass and saving money.

Bring your stroller/backpack

Strollers and backpack carriers are welcome. You will want to stick with a carrier in the house as some of the areas are difficult to navigate with a stroller.

As part of the Biltmore bag policy no backpacks are allowed on any guided tour.

Wear your walking shoes

Put everyone in comfy walking shoes and put on sunscreen as exploring the grounds is one of the best parts of the trip.

Think about getting an annual pass

An annual pass is usually $249/person and kids ages 16 and younger get in free with a passholder. They usually offer discounts on their annual pass in November (that’s when I got mine for a lot less than $249). Stay tuned to their social media and website to score a deal.

Passholder benefits are awesome, too – discounts on tickets for guests, discounts on tours, shopping, dining, and lodging, and discounts at other attractions like Chimney Rock State Park, Dollywood, Tweetsie Railroad, Mast General Store, and Grandfather Mountain.

Biltmore event

Need more info? Visit the Biltmore Estate website.

Have you taken your kids to visit the Biltmore Estate yet?

One Lodge Street
Asheville, NC 28803
800.411.3812
The Biltmore Website

Winchester Creek Farm: Meet Alpacas and Feed Mini-Horses at This Farm

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Love alpacas and mini-animals? Take a trip to Winchester Creek Farm in Waynesville, NC for a fun day trip with your family!

Media tickets were provided for this review, which was updated in January 2024.

The drive up to Winchester Creek Farm in Waynesville, NC is probably worth the trip alone. The beautiful scenery of mountain peaks and valleys, eventually wind their way to the feet of the Smoky Mountains, where the farm is situated. Winchester Creek Farm, about a 90-minute trip from the South Carolina Upstate, has alpacas and many miniature animals like cows, horses, and donkeys, as well as super fluffy sheep and an adorable little Juliana pig. 

And if you’re making a trip to Asheville, NC, be sure to check our guide of everything to do, eat, and see while you’re there!

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Go Old School and Play All Day: Asheville Retrocade

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In Asheville, NC you’ll find the Asheville Retrocade, a fantastic place to spend a few hours during rainy, cold, or hot weather. You can play all day for one price and it’s great for the whole family.

Need someplace in Asheville, NC to spend a few hours indoors during a rainy, cold, or hot day? We’ve got just the place: Asheville Retrocade, an old-school arcade that features two floors of games and is family-friendly.

Asheville Retrocade
Asheville Retrocade

Playing at Asheville Retrocade

I am always looking for fun, indoor things to do when the weather isn’t cooperating and found just the spot at Asheville Retrocade. For this trip, I was visiting with a friend and her young daughter staying in the area and thanks to Google, found this indoor mecca of Pac-Man and race car driving. Now you don’t even need Google to find cool places like this since you have this story!

So at Asheville Retrocade, you pay a flat fee of $10/person (kids under 5 are free) and that gives you access to two floors of pinball, Pac-Man, dance-off games, race car games, air hockey, skeeball, and tons more games. No quarters are needed here.

Asheville Retrocade
Pinball at Asheville Retrocade

They claim to have more than 5,000 games at the arcade. They do have a lot but I’m not sure it equals 5,000. That said, I totally lost track of time there and ended up spending about two-and-a-half hours at the arcade, which was such a fun way to spend time with my own kids and my friend.

Play All Day with Retro Games

When you get to Asheville Retrocade, you pay $10/person and get a wristband, which allows you to come and go all day. The arcade is truly like taking a step back in time. I didn’t play a lot of video games as a kid but the ones I did play, like Pac-Man, are ingrained in my childhood and I love them. It was a lot of fun to play those nostalgic games I did as a kid.

We went during Christmas Break and there was actually a line to get in. I was nervous that we wouldn’t be able to play many games because there were too many people. But I shouldn’t have been worried. We only ever had to wait maybe five minutes for a game and there were always spots open at other games that we could play.

The kids we had with us were ages 3, 9, and 12 and all of us had a blast. The place is truly family-friendly and welcoming. There were a lot of families when we went and it was so much fun to enjoy that time together and see other families doing the same.

Asheville Retrocade
Asheville Retrocade

Food and Drinks at Asheville Retrocade

The arcade has several options for drinks, including local craft beer, wine, and fountain drinks. They have free water available also.

They also have snack food available for purchase.

Things to Know When Visiting Asheville Retrocade

Here are a few tips when you visit:

  • There is free street parking, which is awesome.
  • After 9 pm, guests need to be ages 21+
  • If a game is occupied that you want, just be patient and wait or play something else. It will open up!
  • There are bathrooms and hand sanitizer available but still wash your hands during and after your visit.
  • Expect heavier crowds during school breaks, holidays, and rainy days.
  • You can book a private party at the arcade.

Heading to the Asheville Retrocade

The arcade is open daily Noon-2 am. After 9 pm, patrons need to be 21+. You can purchase your wristband when you get there.

Need more ideas for Asheville fun? Visit our Asheville Guide for ideas on how to enjoy the city with your family.

Asheville Retrocade
800 Haywood Road , West Asheville, NC
828.575.9488
Asheville Retrocade Facebook | Asheville Retrocade Website

The NC Arboretum Is A Dreamy Holiday Light Experience in Asheville, NC

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Have you visited Winter Lights at the NC Arboretum in Asheville, NC? While the Greenville area has its good share of fantastic Christmas light displays, a completely over-the-top experience at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville for their Winter Lights exhibit is worth the drive. Winter Lights has returned to walk-through light displays, exhibits, treats, smores, activities, and more!

The Arboretum, which is adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway and part of the Pisgah National Forest, is set on over 434 acres of gorgeous gardens, biking trails, and streams, meticulously planned out and designed to deliver a top-notch experience for guests.

Christmas activities in Asheville, North Carolina

Make a day of the visit to North Carolina with The Kidding Around List of Ways To Celebrate Christmas In Asheville!

The Winter Lights at NC Arboretum

The Winter Lights exhibit is no less than that. With nearly half a million LED lights lit up for the exhibit, there is no shortage of amazement.

Guests are greeted in the parking lot – the parking lot – with rows of huge trees adorned with red, blue, green, and white lights, all leading to the entrance, a two-story lodge with staff and volunteers ready to scan tickets and send guests on their merry way into the gardens.

These trees are gorgeous with the lights and make for an incredible entrance. The staff at the Arboretum started putting up the lights on September 1st. That’s how expansive this exhibit is.

Guests first exit the lodge onto a patio where they can choose to begin their walk through the lights or go straight to the Cocoa Shack, where they can purchase hot chocolate or hot cider and many different goodies like a chocolate-dipped Oreo cookie or chocolate-covered pretzel rod, or even a s’mores kit to be used at one of the supervised fire pits throughout the Arboretum.

Bent Creek Bistro will also be selling sandwiches, soups, and more during Winter Lights. Here is the Bent Creek Bistro Menu for Winter Lights 2023

What To Expect: Gum Drops and Chandeliers

Passing the Cocoa Shack, guests can meander under a lighted trellis where lights on the ground look like gumdrops. Gaze to your left and you’ll be greeted with an enormous structure of string lights that look like a Christmas tree. Head to your right for the light display that lights up in sync with captivating Christmas music.

Keep walking to the white lights strung up on trees that mimic snow falling off of branches. Or stroll under the tunnel of lights that lead to chandeliers – several of them – hanging from trees. The Arboretum also expertly decorated some of the larger trees to look like elaborate gowns, which made that part of the gardens look like a gorgeous, darkened dance hall, where a ghost of Christmas past may be seen floating among the chandeliers, dressed in a flowing gown.

The imagination can easily wander in this place.

The NC Arboretum Wishing Tree

Heading past the chandeliers is the Wishing Tree in the bonsai garden (where bathrooms are as well, in case you need to know). Guests are invited to write their warm holiday wishes on little cards and hang them from the Wishing Tree.

This was honestly my favorite part. While people wrote all kinds of interesting wishes (one guy wrote his name and number and asked pretty ladies to call him…), there were some that left me feeling like I was peeking into someone’s heart. One woman wrote that she wished to see her late husband. Another wrote that they wished everyone would feel valued this holiday season.

It was beautiful. I’m not going to say what I wished for, though.

Reindeer Games and Crafts

Past the Wishing Tree was the “Reindeer Games” section, where people could play “tic tac snow” – you and your partner could press buttons that would correspond to a tic, tac, toe board of holiday wreaths, which would light up according to the moves each player would make. They also had a game of Jenga and a nearby fire pit for making s’mores.

Past the games was another inviting building, where families could do a free craft with their child (or just do it themselves because it was fun). When we went, my kids made a butterfly that had a glowstick inside, which was perfect for when we got back outside.

In the same room, there was an animal storytime, “Storytime at Woodland Cove”, a set-up of deer and bears and squirrels that all talked (think a Disney ride but without any actual ride) and told a story of a baby bear going through his first winter alone.

On our way back through the exhibit outside, we happened to come across a train exhibit, which was fun to watch. We saw it atop the bridge that led to the big Christmas tree-like light display, but you could walk down below and see the trains up close as well. My oldest wanted to go to see, as did I, but my youngest was reaching her breaking point so we had to head out. Next time!

Winter Lights

Making The Trip To Asheville, NC

The NC Arboretum is just over an hour from Greenville. There are nearby restaurants that are great for families if you want to eat before you go. I was given the recommendation to go Papas & Beer, which is five minutes from the Arboretum, and it was awesome.

It’s a late night for little ones but depending on your child’s temperament and mood, they will probably love it. My three-year-old was hitting her limit about an hour and a half into the exhibit so opted to head out.

There were a bunch of families, children, couples, and grandparents all enjoying the exhibit. One dad even had on a hiking backpack where he stowed his smaller child. Smart thinking.

To enjoy as much of the exhibit as possible, try to get there when it opens at 6 pm. You’ll have to show your tickets and park, which takes about 20-25 minutes, and then you have the rest of the time to wander around the exhibit and enjoy the magical experience.

2023 Winter Lights Ticket Info & FAQ

  • DATES
    November 17th, 2023 – December 31st, 2023
  • HOURS
    The gates open for the Winter Lights Display at 6:00 PM. Tickets are timed and guests may enter anytime between the time on their ticket and 9 pm. All guests must be off the property by 10:30 pm. Don’t not arrive early and block the gate.
  • TICKETS
    Tickets for a standard passenger vehicle range in price from $40-$70 per car when purchased in advance. Peak days will be priced at a premium. All the pricing details can be found on the NC Arboretum Winter Lights Ticket page If you have your ticket on your smartphone, take a screenshot before you arrive. Cell service is limited at the ticket gate.
  • North Carolina Arboretum Winter Lights -100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC | 828.665.2492

Know Before You Go

  • Animals are not allowed in the Arboretum and food and drink cannot be brought in either.
  • Bathrooms are in the main lodge entrance building, near the Wishing Tree in the bonsai garden, and in the building where the restaurant and crafts are located.

10+ Ways To Celebrate Christmas In Asheville, NC

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If you are planning a festive day trip, then Christmas in Asheville, NC will check off all the boxes on your itinerary! Asheville, North Carolina offers a variety of things to do for the holidays, from Christmas lights to gingerbread houses, parades, and more!

We’ve got a list of kid-friendly holiday events to do in Asheville, NC, and all the details you’ll need to plan your visit.

Christmas activities in Asheville, North Carolina

Christmas in Asheville, NC

I never need much of a reason to visit Asheville. I love the view of the mountains in the background while walking around downtown. There is always live music by musicians busking outside and all the shops welcome you with a smile. There are a variety of different restaurants and historical landmarks to visit within walking distance or just a small drive away. Plus, with the gorgeous backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, maybe you’re family will get a magical snowy adventure while you celebrate the holiday season in Asheville.

Watch A Holiday Parade To Kickoff The Season

Get in the holiday spirit by watching a Holiday Parade. Everyone gathers together to welcome the beginning of the holiday season.

The Asheville Holiday Parade
November 18th, 2023 | 11 AM to 12:30 PM, with streets closing and traffic beginning around 7 AM
Downtown Asheville will have a variety of streets closed for this event, but come early and you can snag a spot along the one-mile route. There will be over 100 entries to enjoy as they travel down the main part of town. The parade starts at Biltmore Avenue and travels up, ending at South French Broad Avenue. There will be photos with Santa at the Restoration Hotel from 2 pm to 4 pm following the parade.


Attend A Tree Lighting Ceremony or Festival In Asheville

The Grove Arcade Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony is the place to be the weekend after Thanksgiving. In addition, the Ingles Giving Tree lighting ceremony is always spectacular! You can also explore the decorated Christmas trees throughout December at the Monte Vista Hotel.

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National Gingerbread Competition: Make Asheville’s Grove Park Inn A Christmas Tradition For Your Family

Have you heard about the National Gingerbread Competition at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC? Hansel and Gretel would not miss this Christmas extravaganza, as it showcases dozens of gingerbread houses and holiday decorations galore! Luckily you don’t have to worry about the waistline, because this is a feast for the eyes, not the stomach.

The charming Grove Park Inn in Asheville is a seasonal delight you won’t want to miss this holiday season, and who knows – once inspired, maybe you’ll find yourself building a gingerbread house with the kiddos.

This article was originally published on Femme au foyer.

Looking for more great holiday fun in Asheville, NC? Don’t miss our Guide to Christmas in Asheville, NC. It is loaded with fun things to do from Asheville’s Christmas lights to free Santa photos!

The Annual Gingerbread Competition at Asheville’s Grove Park Inn

The famous gingerbread house competition at the Grove Park Inn is a favorite winter activity for families. Viewing dates are November 27, 2023 through January 2, 2024. If you are not staying at the resort, you are invited to view the displays after 4 pm on Sundays or anytime Monday – Thursday based on parking availability. Excluded dates for guests not staying at the resort are December 23-25, 30-31, and January 1. Only registered resort pets are allowed and no outside pets are permitted.

The gingerbread houses are as diverse as they are amazing; on our last visit, we saw everything from clock towers to sleighs to igloos to skate parks. The entries must be constructed entirely of edible materials with the exception of the base, but the ingenuity in construction is simply remarkable.

There are four entry categories: adult, teen, youth and child, and entries are judged on overall appearance, originality and creativity, difficulty, precision and consistency of theme.

While there is no admission charge to view the display, although there is a $25/car parking fee. Half of this fee goes to local non-profits. For more information on the gingerbread competition visit the website, and make sure to keep a lookout for entries from the Upstate; in previous years an entry from Greer placed second in the teen category, while a Greenville entry in the child category received an honorable mention.

grove-park-inn-gingerbread-competition-1

Holiday Decorations at Omni Grove Park Inn

All decorated areas of the hotel may not be available to those who are not registered guests staying at the hotel.

As you walk through the hotel viewing the gingerbread competition winners you’ll see more than a few Christmas trees decorated in all sorts of motifs. My boys’ favorite part of the visit was discovering the elaborate ornaments on these themed trees, deciding on their favorites, and planning which decorations we should have in our home. The giant Christmas tree in the lobby is a perfect place for that family photo, the entire Great Hall filled with the smell of the giant evergreen.

The enormous fire places in the Great Hall are adorned with wreaths, heat radiating out to warm those seated in the area.  One year, there was a gingerbread house in the hall, built by the pastry department. The ingredients included 50 pounds of egg whites, 440 pounds of powdered sugar, 220 pounds of red fondant and 400 pounds of bread flower!

Visitors could purchase hot beverages and gingerbread from the gingerbread house, and then settle into the giant rocking chairs near the fireplace with hot chocolate to enjoy the holiday bustle.  Spend a little more time than just a couple of minutes in the rocking chairs – sitting by a roaring fire in a relaxing chair is part of the mystique of the Inn that should not be glossed over.

The Grounds of Grove Park Inn

The original Grove Park Inn was built in 1913 and over the years has grown to encompass a golf course, spa, sports complex, five restaurants, three bars and a café.

To truly appreciate the scenic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains it is worth stepping out onto the veranda, or even descending down into the gardens and spa area. This descent via outdoor stone staircases is also a good use of the kids’ extra energy; ask them to take a photo of the Inn from the lowest level.

The view of the front of the hotel is also quite grand, and after imagining the long-ago sound of horse-drawn carriages rattling across the cobblestones you might want to take a short stroll. From the front of the hotel up to Sunset Mountain is a short hiking trail that is appropriate for all skill levels and ages that will let you work off whatever delectable you may have bought at the Inn, but will also let you appreciate the spectacular natural setting of the Grove Park Inn.

Then, as you set off on the drive home take a minute to determine whether you should enter next year’s Gingerbread Competition – or once more return as a spectator to this wonderful annual event.

grove-park-inn-reindeer-1

Plan a trip of your own

Grove Park Inn
290 Macon Avenue
Asheville, NC 28804
800.438.5800

Head to Asheville for a Fun Day at Eliada Corn Maze

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Have you tried a corn maze yet this fall? The Upstate has many corn mazes to choose from, but local mom Lacey took her family up into North Carolina, near Asheville, for the Eliada Corn Maze. Her family had a fantastic time and she’s told us all about it here in this review. 

The 2023 Eliada Corn Maze is open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays between September 29th and October 29th. We recommend checking the Eliada Corn Maze website for the most up-to-date information regarding ticket availability and available time slots. Media tickets were provided for this review in 2015, but we’ve updated it with 2023 information.

Nothing says autumn like rows and rows of corn. Every year, we try to make it to at least one corn maze. In years past we’ve tried a few mazes in Hendersonville, and we’ve always been pleased with our options. This year, however, our family took the corn maze game up a notch and drove a little farther north right up to our neighbors in Asheville, and visited the annual Eliada Corn Maze.

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Day Trips! Plan a Day Trip Adventure in Western North Carolina

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Are you trying to fit a couple of day trips in? NC mountains, small towns, hiking trails, and waterfalls should definitely be on your to-do list when creating your itinerary for your upcoming day trips in WNC. Here is our list of popular year-round day-trip destinations in Hendersonville, Asheville, and Brevard for families. This list includes everything from museums for kids to outdoor activities and much more! Plus, it’s just a short drive to all of these destinations from Upstate, South Carolina.

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This Brewery Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains is a Little Bit Magical

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In search of the perfect summer day trip to escape the summer heat? Sierra Nevada Brewery in Asheville is a hot spot to escape the summer heat and perhaps enjoy a cold beverage too. Kristina recently visited this brewery and shares the scoop on why so many locals flock there!

One of the cities with the most breweries per person is Asheville, just an hour from our lovely town of Greenville. So the options are many when it comes to enjoying a cold brew and leisurely hanging out with family and friends at a brewery. I’m here to tell you the Sierra Nevada Brewery, right outside of Asheville, is about to become your new favorite brewery (if it wasn’t already).

Sierra Nevada Brewery

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About Sierra Nevada Brewery

On a gorgeous summer day, after a morning of hiking, a beer was in order. Sierra Nevada has been a favorite brewery of mine for awhile (hello, Kellerweiss and Porter.!) because they not only make excellent beer, but it’s totally affordable as well. I had heard the rumors that the brewery was incredible and I needed to see it for myself.

To say I was floored would be an understatement. This place is stunning. From the pavers in the ample parking lot to the aesthetics of the taproom and brewery to the garden full of sunflowers, tomatoes, and basil, Sierra Nevada Brewery is gorgeous – and fun!

Since we didn’t have a reservation for a tour (more on that in a bit), we headed right for the taproom, a cavernous space of tables with bar stools and high tops. Of course, a bar offering all of the brewery’s signature beers on tap was at the center.

We opted to head outside, where there awaited us were welcoming tables, rocking chairs, adirondack chairs, a large green space, gardens, cornhole games, and an outdoor beer bar.

Yes, please!

Dining at Sierra Nevada

You have a few options when it comes to dining or enjoying a beer at the Sierra Nevada Brewery. First, you can be seated at the dining room for table service. This is where the majority of the food is available. But, its also where on a busy Saturday you will wait awhile for a table.

As you enter the taproom, if you do not want to dine-in, bypass this line and head to the right. You’ll see a sign for the beer line. Here’s my tip- skip this one. Upstairs there is another bar with the same offerings. We found there was no line up there!

You can also purchase your favorite beer or hard kombucha at the Back Porch, which is also another place where you can order some food. The Back Porch offers some snacks like nachos, and a few other items like hot dogs and salads.

Sierra Nevada Brewery is Kid-Friendly

On the way to grab a Southern Summer Saison, I noticed an enclosed playground with sand tables, a sandbox, chalkboard, picnic table, and umbrella stand. This place thought of it all. Even though I wasn’t there with my kids that day, I was already planning to come back with them. There is also a huge green space by the stage, where lots of kids where running and playing.

Sierra Nevada offers a full menu of delectable items inside their tap room dining room and a smaller menu for their outdoor bar. Think huge bar pretzels with mustard, bison hog dogs with pale ale chili, smoked pork tacos, and even a nutella + strawberry jam sandwich for the kids (I actually really wanted to taste this one).

Sierra Nevada Brewery family friendly day trip

Games + Music at Sierra Nevada Brewery

My family and I grabbed our beers and strolled through the garden, admiring the gorgeous flowers and vegetable garden. We took up a game of cornhole for a while, which was awesome. It’s really fun to play the game while drinking good beer in the garden of Sierra Nevada Brewery.

By the time we were done, the band was about to take the stage so we hung out in the shade and relaxed to the tunes of great music. Before we left for the day, we had to check out the “high gravity” beer section upstairs, which had even more tables and rocking chairs, and indoor cornhole games. It was a work of art and overlooked the entire outdoor area, main stage, and gardens.

What a view. I think I’d go hang out there if I went with my husband.

Sierra Nevada Brewery Tours

So apparently these tours are crazy popular. We weren’t able to get a reservation for when we wanted to go so I have to go back. Obviously.

The 45-minute tour is for persons 12+ years and includes a tour of the brewery and a few samples. This one costs $9 per person.

Other tours are more extensive like the three-hour Beer Geek Tour ($75/pp, ages 21+), Hop Head tour ($35/pp, ages 21+), and the Beyond the Pale Tour ($25/pp, ages 12+)

Sierra Nevada is an ideal destination for a family outing, a day date, or a place to go chill after hiking or a trip near Asheville. As the brewery will remind you, please drink responsibly.

Visit Sierra Nevada Brewery

Sierra Nevada Brewery
100 Sierra Nevada Way, Mills River, NC
828.681.5300

Hours are Sunday – Thursday from 11 am – 9 pm, and Friday – Saturday from 11 am – 9 pm.

Have you been to Sierra Nevada Brewery yet? 

Float Leisurely Down the French Broad River with Zen Tubing

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Looking for a relaxing day tubing on the French Broad River? You will certainly find it at Zen Tubing just south of Asheville, NC! Load up the kids and cooler for a tubing adventure. With two tubing options, you can choose to cruise the river through the River Arts District, or through a more natural setting. We have all the info you need the make the day tubing the French Broad River perfect!

Interested in other things to do in Asheville during your trip? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Things to do in Asheville to plan a wonderful day in “The Land of the Sky”!

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