How could Christmas in gorgeous mountain-ringed Asheville be anything other than wonderful? If you've ever been to Asheville during the Christmas season, then the mere mention of the holiday is sure to bring at least several sensational visuals to your mind's eye: the Biltmore Estate's tall, stout Christmas trees (70 of them!) standing stately hither and yon, inside and outside, magnificently decorated; the Omni Grove Park Inn's huge fireplaces ablaze, colorful Christmas decorations all over the lobby and Asheville's funky downtown all dressed up in her red-and-green finery.
I lived in Asheville for about six years and have very fond memories of the city during the Christmas holidays.
The Biltmore Estate is an extraordinary experience anytime, but the Christmas season is nothing short of breathtaking. The Estate will feature 70 hand-decorated Christmas trees, more than 1,000 poinsettias and literally miles of garland and lights. Christmas music will fill the air, some of it live. Holiday tours have already begun and will continue until January 7.
For the most sensational Biltmore Estate Christmas experience, reserve a spot for a Candlelight Christmas Evening. These extravagant nighttime soirees require separate tickets but include a self-guided evening candlelight tour of Biltmore House and a same-day or next-day visit to the gardens and the Biltmore Estate Winery. What an experience! The sight of a brilliantly lit 55-foot Norway spruce on the front lawn featuring 45,000 lights and hundreds of hand-lit luminaries – all aglow in the night's darkness – and the sound of choirs and ensembles performing throughout the house is exquisite. This year's theme is "Hearth and Home" and pays special attention to Biltmore House's many fireplaces.
The Biltmore Estate, 1 Lodge Street, Asheville. 800-411-3812, www.biltmore.com
The natural rough stone exterior and striking Christmas-y red clay tile roof of the Omni Grove Park Inn, which sits on a slope of Sunset Mountain, offer a rustic contrast to the massive French Renaissance chateauesque architecture of the Biltmore House. The resort's large lobby will be decorated as will the tall Christmas tree in it. The massive stacked-stone fireplaces – about 10 feet wide by 7 feet tall and 7 feet deep – will have a huge natural wreath above it. And the winning creations of the Annual National Gingerbread House Competition will be on display at the resort from November 27 through January 5. Other special events this year include a Blue Ridge Christmas Eve artisanal buffet and holiday movie screenings.
The Omni Grove Park Inn, 290 Macon Ave., Asheville. 828-252-2711, www.groveparkinn.com
This public garden sitting pretty in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest within the Pisgah National Forest about 10 miles south of downtown Asheville offers up a great Christmas holiday light show with 500,000 lights, some synchronized to holiday music, and a 50-foot tall Christmas tree sparkles with 8,000 lights of its own. And there's an outdoor s'mores spot! The Winter Light Show is on from November 18 to New Year's Day. This year, the Arboretum's Savory Thyme Cafe will also offer a special holiday buffet every weekend during the holiday season.
North Carolina Arboretum, 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville. 828-665-2492, www.ncarboretum.org
While there are some special places to experience Asheville during the Christmas season, the truth is the city's funky downtown is appealing in itself at Christmas. All spruced up with holiday decorations, just take a walk around the modestly sized downtown and see what you bump into. Pack Square Park will be aglow with holiday decorations. The Grove Arcade will be decorated and its shops and eateries sure to have special holiday offerings. Stroll up and down Haywood, Lexington, Broadway, Wall Street. Take a LaZoom Holiday Tour. Stop by Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar, perhaps my favorite spot in downtown Asheville, for a holiday toast.
Explore Asheville, 36 Montford Avenue, Asheville. 828-258-6129, www.exploreasheville.com/iconic-asheville/downtown
Asheville's Holiday Parade is set for November 19 and though there is no centralized New Year's Eve celebration, there will be plenty of celebrations going on at individual resorts, bars, nightclubs and other places.
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