Christmas at Biltmore turns America’s largest privately owned estate into a glittering masterpiece. This season features 67 decorated Christmas trees. The tallest, an impressive 35-foot Fraser fir, stands in the Banquet Hall, one of the Biltmore estate’s 250 rooms.

With 14,000+ ornaments, 45,000-holiday lights, 250 candles, 1,000 feet of garland, and 150 traditional poinsettias, Christmas at Biltmore defines “decked out.”

And that’s not all. Additional decorations brighten the massive grounds and adorn the separate gardens, the Conservatory, and the Antler Hill Village & Winery.

Christmas at Biltmore celebrates Frederick Law Olmstead

Second floor living room of the Biltmore estate with a holiday tree and a the portrait of Frederick Law Olmstead commissioned by Vanderbilt.

This year, Christmas at Biltmore honors Frederick Law Olmstead, whose portrait, commissioned in 1895, hangs in the house.

This year, Christmas at Biltmore also honors the 200th birthday of Frederick Law Olmsted. The nationally renowned landscape architect planned the estate’s 75 acres of formal and informal gardens.

And the holiday theme, Winter Landscapes, aims to bring the outdoors inside with trees and snowy landscapes resembling some of Olmstead’s best-known landscapes, such as Boston Common and New York City’s Central Park.

The first Christmas at Biltmore

Entrance to the Biltmore house

Welcome to Christmas at Biltmore, the private house built by George Vanderbilt in 1895

George Vanderbilt opened the opulent French Renaissance chateau in Asheville, North Carolina, to family and friends on Christmas Eve, 1895. Head-turner then and now, the home features a 10,000+ volume library mostly hand chosen by Vanderbilt, an indoor Winter Garden, 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, a bowling alley, a pool and more. So it’s no wonder it took seven years to build the house, sited on 125,000 acres with expansive Blue Ridge Mountains views.

Vanderbilt commissioned John Singer Sargent, the premier portrait artist of his day, to come to Biltmore in 1895 and paint the portraits of architect Richard Morris Hunt and Olmstead that hang in the second-floor living room.

Christmas at Biltmore offers two experiences

Evening with a fire in the fireplace and holiday decorations

A fireplace and candles glow in the Biltmore library as part of Christmas at Biltmore’s Candlelight Christmas Evenings

Christmas at Biltmore offers two holiday-tour experiences. And tickets for each allow guests access to the entire estate.

The Christmas at Biltmore daytime celebration, through Jan. 8, 2023, provides a self-guided tour of Biltmore House with optional complimentary 50-minute recorded commentary.

During Candlelight Christmas Evenings, through Jan. 7, 2023, the house glows with candlelight and burning fires. Upon arriving at the massive front lawn, guests see a 55-foot Norway spruce illuminated with 60,000 tiny white lights in the center. Then they’re guided to the entrance by 400 luminaries lining the walkway. And throughout the interior, soloists and choirs perform seasonal favorites.

Christmas at Biltmore by the numbers

Hundreds of poinsettias are displayed in the Conservatory at Biltmore.

Hundreds of poinsettias are displayed in the Conservatory at Biltmore

Ten full-time floral designers and five part-time staff create Christmas at Biltmore’s festive scenes. Other departments working on the event include engineering, housekeeping, museum services, horticulture, guest services, security and events.

Here’s what it takes to create this lavish seasonal event.

• Ornaments

The 35-foot-tall Fraser Fir in the Banquet Hall

The 35-foot Fraser Fir in the Banquet Hall is the biggest tree on display

Five hundred ornaments, 500 LED Edison bulb-style lights, and an abundance of wrapped gifts decorate the Banquet Hall Trees.

An additional 13,870 ornaments adorn other trees inside Biltmore House. And that many again add sparkle around the estate.

Between seasons, the ornaments are housed, sorted, labeled, and stored in hundreds of boxes in a large off-site warehouse.

• Poinsettias and blooming plants

Poinsettias on display in the Biltmore

Poinsettia display during Christmas at Biltmore

Christmas displays around the estate feature more than 1,960 traditional poinsettias. And Biltmore teams install 4,265 seasonal plants such as Amaryllis, Christmas cacti, Bromeliads, orchids, peace lilies, cyclamen, begonias, kalanchoe and potted green plants.

Another highlight is The Conservatory at Biltmore, with hundreds of poinsettias plus its usual wide array of tropical plants displayed.

Of course, the 150 poinsettias in Biltmore House are refreshed and replaced mid-season.

• Wreaths

Workers place 205 fresh wreaths and sprays and 90 faux pieces around the estate. Made from fresh white pine and Fraser fir, they’re ornamented with golden arborvitae, holly, or twigs and cones. Ornaments, berries, faux flowers and ribbons decorate artificial bases.

• Garlands and Swags

Garlands and swag decorate the Banquet Hall

Garlands and swag decorate the Banquet Hall

Each week, staff cuts fresh evergreens on the property to create the handmade swags decorating the Grand Staircase.

An additional 1,000 feet of fresh and faux garlands festoon Biltmore House. And another 1,200 feet or so drape other areas.

• Ribbons and Bows

Decorations feature 7,370 yards of ribbon primarily for hand-tied bows. Materials range from narrow cording to 8-inch-wide ribbon in velvets, metallics, satins, burlap and patterned cotton.

It takes five yards to make each of the bows wrapping the necks of the Marble Lions flanking the Biltmore House’s front door. And it requires 15 yards to make a tree-topper bow for a 16-foot tree like the ones in the Library or Banquet Hall.

Any ribbon used year to year is starched and ironed so that it is wrinkle-free and perfect.

More seasonal fun

Night overview of Antler Hill Village at the Biltmore Estate illuminated for the holidays

Antler Hill Village at the Biltmore Estate illuminated for the holidays

Other seasonal festivities at the Biltmore Estate include Bonfires in Antler Hill Village and the Antler Hill Village Illumination, with lights dancing in the trees and outlining buildings.

Schedule a visit and photo with Santa on Saturdays or Sundays.

Lights brighten the Biltmore Winery tunnel.

Lights brighten the Biltmore Winery tunnel

What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?

  • Overnight accommodations include the family-friendly and active Antler Hill Village or the more upscale Inn on Biltmore Estate. Both display holiday finery.
  • Biltmore Winery offers free tastings, but reservations are required. Scan QR code posted on signs throughout the estate with your mobile device. Estate restaurants offer seasonal dishes and special craft cocktails.
  • The offerings at this year’s new Christmas Pop-Up at Antler Hill Village include “Biltmore Baubles” and “Biltmore Gingerbread,” designed by the estate’s in-house team.
  • Other holiday activities in the Asheville area include “Elf The Musical,” “Caroling by Gaslight,” pop-up markets, new craft brew and wine releases, and the popular Gingerbread House Competition (in its 30th year) through Jan. 2 at the Omni Grove Park Inn.

Take note:

  • Daytime admission starts at $99 per person with timed entry. Candlelight Christmas Evening tickets include the house tour with entry between 5:30 and 10:45 p.m. Admission tickets include access to the entire estate, including the Winery and Antler Hill Village. Gardens and grounds tickets are also available that do not include Biltmore House entry.
  • Due to the size of the Biltmore Estate, many visitors opt for at least a two-day visit. So, if visiting for only one day, map out a strategy for what you don’t want to miss.
  • Wear good walking shoes to explore the estate’s extensive grounds, which include paved and gravel paths, as well as stairs in Biltmore House.
  • Visitor restrooms are outside the house, not inside.
  • Food and drinks are not allowed in the house except for clear, plastic water bottles.
  • Personal bags cannot exceed 19 x 13 x 9 inches. Backpacks aren’t permitted
  • If you can’t get to Biltmore for the holidays, mark your calendar for Biltmore in Bloom April 1- May 25, 2023, when thousands of tulips, azaleas, snapdragons and other seasonal flowers provide riotous color.

Disclosure: The Biltmore Company hosted the authors’ tour.

All photo credits: The Biltmore Company

Previously on Getting On Travel:

Asheville’s Biltmore Estate Shines in Every Season


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