Celebrate Christmas in Biltmore Village
Start a new family tradition this holiday season! Take your family and friends to Biltmore Village in Asheville, North Carolina to experience Dickens in the Village. Dec. 4- Dec. 5, Historic Biltmore Village transforms itself into a quaint Victorian Christmas Village. Stroll through the Biltmore Village shops, sing along with strolling carolers and instrumentalists, take a ride on the horsedrawn carriage, enjoy refreshments, and when the sun sets, enjoy the glow of white lights and street lights illuminating the historic buildings. The event kicks off with a tree lighting Friday night at 6pm, and continues Saturday 11am-7pm. Admission is free.
The History of Biltmore Village
Biltmore Village is full of rich history. Biltmore Estate, itself, was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt as a summer house for George Vanderbilt and his family. This renowned architect also designed the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. The New York Times called Hunt, ” American architecture’s first and greatest statesman.” He founded the American Institute of Architecture and the Municipal Art Society. At the time he constructed Biltmore House, it was and still is, the largest private home in the country. The house and it’s sprawling grounds draw millions of tourists to Asheville each year.
Biltmore Village was designed as a multi-use development of sorts to house the hundreds of artisans, craftsmen, gardeners, foresters, and staff that worked to build and maintain the Biltmore House. Biltmore Village was not only a place to live, it was a thriving, self-sustaining community with retail, residential and recreational space. Villagers had a grocery store and hardware store, schools for the children, and a train station. The center of Biltmore Village was All Souls Cathedral. Hunt and American landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmstead, worked closely together to design Biltmore House and Biltmore Village. Olmstead, who is famous for designing New York’s Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, is much responsible for the English style layout, plantings and streets in the village.
Both Hunt and Olmsted worked with Vanderbilt in the architectural design of the village’s many buildings, but after Hunt’s death in the early phase of construction, Hunt’s associate, the project’s supervising architect, Richard Sharp Smith, took over and is credited with having designed many of the Village’s iconic structures.
All Soul’s Cathedral remains as the center of the village today, and seventy retail shops, art galleries, and restaurants now occupy the cottages in the village. Architecture, history, shopping and dining are all brought together in the unique Historic Biltmore Village.
Where to stay:
Biltmore Village Inn (119 Dodge St; 866-274-8779) With a queen-sized bed, two electric fireplaces, a double Jacuzzi heart-shaped tub, 32″ widescreen HDTV, private rocking chair porch and partial mountain views, you can’t help but dream of snuggling with your honey at Biltmore Village Inn’s Honeymoon Cottage. I’ve toured this Inn and every room is warm, welcoming and gorgeous. In the evenings, sit by the fire in the den or by the fire pit outside while you enjoy a glass of wine and gourmet hors d’oeuvres. Food is a big focus of this Inn, so prepare to be impressed.
The Grand Bohemian (11 Boston Way; 828-505-2949) With the lush Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop, the European hunting lodge-inspired Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville was named a “World’s Best Hotel” by Travel + Leisure, and a “Top 40 Hotel in the South” by Condé Nast. When you walk through the doors of this hotel, you are transported to another time and place. It’s truly magical!
Double Tree Biltmore (115 Hendersonville Rd; 828-274-1800) Book your stay now and take advantage of the Double Tree Holiday Special. The Holidays in Asheville package includes overnight accommodations, two general admission tickets to Biltmore Estate, a bottle of Biltmore Christmas Wine and delicious chocolates created by Double Tree’s executive chef. The best part? They hand you one of their famous fresh baked Double Tree cookies at check-in! New to Double Tree is a shuttle that will take you to the Village, downtown, or Biltmore Estate.
Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate (Biltmore Estate,1 Lodge St; 866-336-1245) Opening December 1, 2015 Nestled in Antler Hill Village just steps from the Biltmore Estate Winery, Village Hotel offers a beautiful, central-to-everything getaway on the Biltmore Estate grounds. Take advantage of their special introductory rate of $179 for Sunday – Thursday stays December 1-13, 2015. Available on Village Double or Village King rooms. The Candlelight Christmas Evenings Package is also a great way to celebrate the holidays with your loved one! Offered Dec. 1 – Jan. 2, this package includes guest room accommodations, breakfast daily at Village Social, Estate daytime admission valid for the length of your stay, admission to Candlelight Christmas Evenings at Biltmore House, Biltmore Souvenir Christmas Book, Daytime Audio Guides to Biltmore House and Complimentary estate shuttle service! *Subject to tax and blackout dates including December 23-25, 2015. **Reservations booked online will have a 8:30 pm Candlelight Christmas Evenings visit time reserved for the day of arrival.
Where to eat and drink:
The Corner Kitchen (3 Boston Way; 828- 274-2439) Delicious menu offerings include the Cream Cheese Scrambler ($9), a mix of scrambled eggs with cream cheese, chives and fresh herbs, a griddled bagel with your choice of stone ground grits or hashbrown potatoes (add Smoked Salmon or a “whack” of Cream Cheese), or the Hickory Nut Gap Chorizo and Eggs ($12) made with locally produced Hickory Nut Gap Chorizo, cheesy scrambled eggs, salsa and tortillas, plus your choice of stone ground grits or hashbrown potatoes. The server gladly let me make my own breakfast here of scrambled eggs, sausage and gluten-free toast! The coffee is good, the service is great and if you dine upstairs, you might find yourself sitting at the tables where President and Michelle Obama dined during their visit to Asheville. (Yes, there are little plaques on the table.) For breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, go here.
Starbucks (40 All Souls Crescent; 828- 277-3248) If you’re not into a heavy breakfast, grab a cup of coffee at this nice little Starbucks just outside the gates of Biltmore Estate. It’s a nice place to sit and chill out on your phone/computer for a while.
Well-Bred Bakery (6 Boston Way; 828-774-5307) Voted Best Bakery in Western North Carolina, I hear their eclairs are pure heaven. You might want to grab some goodies to go… you know, for midnight snack.
Village Wayside Bar and Grill (30 Lodge St; 828-277-4121) I can’t say enough about the lunch menu at this place! They have everything from Curry Chicken Salad to Hungarian Style Cabbage Rolls (a family recipe), to Steak Fretes and pasta dishes. There are burgers and a host of sandwich options as well as BBQ plates, Beef tips and Hummus. You must try their Brisket with Cheerwine BBQ sauce, and they have AMAZING fries. So crunchy! Don’t leave without a slice (or whole pie!) of Big Mama’s Coconut Cream Pie. It’s fluffy and delish. For the menu, go here.
The Cantina Fresh Mex and Cantina Bar (10 Biltmore Plaza; 828-505-7682) On our recent press tour to Biltmore Village, The Cantina provided a nice buffet of fresh mexican fare, but I was most taken with the Stuffed Avocado, a sliced grilled avocado, stuffed with grilled shrimp or chicken and veggies. One of my table mates suggested we try our margaritas made with Coconut 1800, and it was BRILLIANT. Margaritas will never be the same. For menus, go here.
The Cantina has their Green Restaurant Certification, and in 2013 they launched a “give back” program. You can donate one of your two sides offered with each entrée, and The Cantina will donate that portion to a local food charity. The cash equivalent of one donated side can feed up to six people in need. The restaurant also utilizes fresh produce, when they can, as a part of Asheville Urban Farms’ Plant to Plate program.
Grab a beer (or cider on tap) at Catawba Brewing Company Tasting House (63 Brook Street; 828-424-7290). When Catawba Brewing Company began in 1996, they had no idea that Asheville would become the craft beer mecca of the east coast! The Brook Street location is their second tasting room location.
Hi-Wire Brewing (2 Huntsman Pl; 828-712-3936) was named Best New North Carolina Brewery of 2013 by RateBeer and was awarded the most medals at the 2014 NC Brewer’s Cup. As of July 25th, craft beer drinkers are able to enjoy Hi-Wire beer at their new Big Top location, a 27,000 square foot production facility located a half a mile from the Biltmore Estate. The brewery features four year-round “Main Attraction” beers – Prime Time Pale, Hi-Pitch IPA, Bed of Nails Brown, and Hi-Wire Lager, as well as a rotating selection of seasonal offerings and “Side Show Seasonals” available exclusively at their tasting room. My favorite? The Strongman Coffee Milk Stout!
Red Stag (11 Boston Way; 888-717-8756) Red Stag Grill is sexy and swanky. Not bad, unapproachable swanky, but elegant, yet affordable swanky. It’s sexy! Quite possibly the sexiest restaurant in Asheville. The decor is hunting lodge meats James Bond classy. When dining at Red Stag, you must start at the bar. A pianist sets the mood. The lighting is dim and with a hint of red. Game antlers decorate the ceiling. Light shines through the liquor bottles and illuminates them like rich, buttery Christmas lights. At the table, when you open the menu, it seriously lights up, a soft glow highlighting the best of farm-to-table, contemporary European comfort food. (I’m not exaggerating… the menu REALLY is illuminated.) Executive Chef Scott Ostrander dazzled the guests at our recent press dinner with dishes of buttermilk fried snails with lady peas, baby kale and local squash, Mountain River Elk Loin with celery root, swiss chard, Maitake mushrooms, red wine, and Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake with Vanilla Anglaise and Maple Tuile. The food is sumptuous. It’s a slinky black dress, a cigar, the highest end of aged scotch making currents in a glass. I can’t help but swoon. I love this place. It’s a must. Worth the drive, even if just for dinner.
Rezaz Restaurant and Wine Bar (28 Hendersonville Rd; 828-277-1510) is a 2015 Open Table Diner’s Choice winner. I tried selections from their Mediterranean inspired menu at a press reception, and was dazzled by the grandness of even the simplest hummus dish. The flavors, the spices are perfect. I can’t wait to dine in and explore selections from their expansive menu! I can’t begin to run down the menu. Rezaz is recommended for lunch or dinner, or even just for drinks and a light nosh. Explore menus for yourself here.
Things to see:
Shopping. There are enough shops to occupy you for an entire day at Biltmore Village. A few of my favorites are:
blue (1 Swan Street; 828-277-2583) Susan West is Asheville’s premier luxury goldsmith. She creates beautiful, one of a kind pieces. I’ve known several people over the years who have had their wedding bands designed here. Beautiful jewelry. A must see.
Bohême (10 Brook St; 828-301-8483) I love the vibrant, arty vibe in this clothing boutique! With comfy, colorful clothing, unique jewelry and even tea cups and serving pieces, t’s guaranteed to put a hurting on your wallet.
Gardener’s Cottage ( 34 All Souls Crescent; 828-277-2020) I picked up a wire nativity at this little plant shop across the street from All Souls Cathedral, and am ordering a few Christmas presents from here to be shipped, as well. An inspiring place for gardeners.
Monkee’s of Biltmore (7 All Souls Crescent; 828-277-6002) A must for fashionistas. Their clothing and shoe lines are comfortable, travel-ready and gorgeous.
Mtn Merch (22 Lodge St; 828-782-1313) This gift and apparel store features a wide range of locally-designed and printed apparel including t-shirts, jackets, hoodies, hats and other products and NC made products. Great for North Carolina souvenirs.
Porter and Prince (6 Brook St; 828-277-2337) A tactile wonderland. Please lock me in this place overnight. A lovely bath and body boutique featuring luxurious sleepwear and linens, beautiful gifts and more.
Williams Sonoma (10 Brook St; 828-277-3707) I just love a good kitchen supply store. There is something here for everyone on your shopping list. Guaranteed. And if you’re lucky, they’ll be handing out samples of something tasty!
Surface (14 Lodge St; 828-225-1762) A contemporary fine art gallery featuring work of six artists including Alex Anagnostou (glass artist), Mark Bettis (cold wax painter), Bill Brown (steel sculpture artist), Mark Chatterley (hand built clay sculpture artist), Akira Satake (ceramics artist), and Constance Williams (encaustic painter).
Southern Highland Craft Gallery (26 Lodge St; 828-298-7928) Features fine traditional and contemporary crafts made by juried artists of the Southern Highland Craft Guild who live and work in the southern Appalachian mountains.
Grand Bohemian Gallery (11 Boston Way; 828-398-5555) The beautiful gallery at Grand Bohemian Asheville boasts more than 100 works of art by local, regional and internationally acclaimed artists. There is something for everyone, including oil paintings, glass and wood sculpture, contemporary jewelry and more. Meander around the hotel to explore rare and original pieces of art displayed not only in the gallery, but throughout the hotel.
Other points of interest.
“The Cathedral of All Souls was established in 1896 as a member of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina, and is today, a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The Church and Parish Hall were commissioned by George Vanderbilt and designed by Richard Morris Hunt, the architect of Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate. The Cathedral is a good demonstration of how much growth and development George Vanderbilt intended to have eventually occur for his Village, sparing no expense to create what is, for episcopal standards, a deluxe model of the Protestant Cathedral.”
McDonald’s (35 Hendersonville Rd; 828-274-2308) No. This is not a joke. This McDonald’s is one of the fanciest fast food establishments you’ll ever see! It was built to blend into the aesthetic of Biltmore Village. Take a look inside (you can grab a cheeseburger, don’t be ashamed) and you’ll find a grand piano and a stone fireplace.
Take a break and relax.
Try one of the fabulous spa treatments at Spa at Biltmore Village (18 Brook St # 104; 828-277-2639.) Say goodbye to your sun damaged skin with a Hydropeptide Blueberry Facial ($95), or indulge your body with the Pumpkin Spice Body Treatment, an exfoliating and hydrating treatment for hands, feet and body that includes a pumpkin seed scrub, pumpkin spice mask, and pumpkin butter cream application ($95). Massage packages include the Relax and Pamper Package which includes a 50 min Swedish Massage followed by a 30 min Hydrating Facial ($110), and the Stress Buster Package which includes a Swedish Massage, Body Wrap and Hydrating Facial ($135; 90 min). Don’t forget your feet! There’s also a Phyto-Pumpkin Pedicure including a pumpkin spice mineral soak, pumpkin seed exfoliation, butter cream massage and paraffin wax treatment ($55).
Explore Biltmore Estate.
Christmas at Biltmore Estate: November 6, 2015 – January 10, 2016
George Vanderbilt introduced his new home to family and friends on Christmas Eve 1895 with a celebration that continues to this day. You won’t forget the experience of standing beneath the Biltmore Christmas tree! Your admission to Biltmore includes a self-guided tour of America’s largest home and a free visit to Antler Hill Village and Winery with a free Winery tour and tasting. For information on additional tours, call 800-411-3812. Purchase tickets at least 7 days in advance and save $10!
Special holiday events at Antler Hill Village
- Visits with Santa: Saturdays and Sundays from November 7 – December 20, and Friday, November 27
From 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
- Carolers: Saturdays and Sundays from November 7 – January 10, and Friday, November 27
Five 30-minute sets starting at 3:00 p.m.
Biltmore Estate is located at 1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC. For tickets and more information, visit www.biltmore.com.
Walking Tour of Biltmore Village.
I hope you enjoy your visit!