Monday, December 2, 2013

Biltmore Candlelight Christmas

For the second time this year, Duke and I made a little getaway to Asheville, North Carolina.

The impetus for the trip was mainly my own selfish desire to attend Biltmore's Candlelight Christmas Evenings.  We are Biltmore passholders, so we were able to buy discounted tickets in advance.  We also get free rein to run around the estate (we hope to do some horseback riding and biking there in the spring for Biltmore Blooms) and of course the free tastings at the winery.

But first, priorities.  Before we even checked in at the Aloft, we hit up Bruisin' Ales for some craft brews to drive home across the border.  Tennessee has weird alcohol laws, so we always try to stock up on beer that isn't in distribution in our state to bring home.  Once we filled half the trunk with brews, we made our way to the hotel and grabbed lunch at Wicked Weed Brewing.

Now for those of you who recall our visit to Asheville last time, you are starting to sense a pattern.  Biltmore, Aloft, Bruisin' Ales, Wicked Weed... yeah.  Every single place we visited this short trip was a favorite from the last time.  Since we were only there for a quick overnight, we really stuck to what we know.  When we return in the spring, we plan to branch out a bit and make some new favorites!

Yeah, I know I kind of skipped over Thanksgiving and all, but I don't care!

After our late lunch, we made our way to Biltmore Estate.  Knowing we didn't have a ton of time, we went straight to the winery for tastings!  The place was absolutely packed; given that it's one of the few venues on the estate that is open past 5pm/dusk, evenings at the winery are hectic.  We did our tastings (and a few premium tastings at the wine bar), marked our selection, then had the wonderful Kitty assist us in putting together our case of wine.

Yes, a case.  You see, we had a number of bottles promised to bring back to TN, specifically the Christmas wine, for friends.  So we took advantage of their case discount and picked of a cool dozen.  There are helpers in the shop that will grab a trolley (oh my, I'm so Southern now) and take your list to fill the case.  Then they will have the case waiting at a special register for you, so you can pull up your car after you pay to load!

Between the beer and the wine, we looked like bootleggers or something bringing this haul back over the state line.

So beautiful!!!

After the winery, we headed to the house for our candlelight tour.  We got there early knowing that parking+shuttle take a little while.  Once at the house, we realized that each group of visitors (assigned by time based on your ticket) could only go in at or after their appointed time.  So we headed to the stables to grab a chai latte, a gingerbread man, and to peruse the stores.

Once it was our time to enter the house, we lined up at the door.  They usually have the door open during the day, but for that evening it was a slightly more intimate group (they purposely sell limited tickets) and stage a great door opening to start the night.  We were immediately hearing the sounds of the live music inside; during our visit, we heard the organ, a bell choir, a chorus, and a solo cellist.  The first floor's decoration (and crackling fireplaces) were stunning.  Given the different lighting, we noticed so many things we'd missed in March during our house tour.

Upstairs and downstairs there were fewer changes/decorations (there was a gingerbread replica of the house in the kitchen though!) so we breezed past some of the other visitors.  They say the tour takes 2 hours, but since it was my 3rd time and Duke's 2nd in the home, we made our way through at our own pace based on our interest in the rooms.  There are a few choke points where you feel like cattle being herded through old hallways (typical Biltmore) but less so than a normal visit given the numbers of people.

Afterwards, we went to go check out our souvenir photo, but it had been skipped by the computer.  They wanted us to wait 15 minutes in the dark and cold to get a print.  Well, Duke was a trooper and we stuck around... and we were NOT disappointed!  I used my passholder discount to get a large photo of us and the house, plus two small photos to go into frames they provided.  We don't get great photos of us as a couple often, so we are happy we got one!

We hadn't eaten a real dinner since lunch was so late, so once we got back to the hotel we walked over to Barley's Taproom & Pizzeria, just like last trip.  Great slices, and I had a craft hard cider that was so light and refreshing.

In the morning, we met up with friends at our favorite Early Girl Eatery for brunch before heading home.  Yes, everything on this trip was a repeat... but when you have only a bit of time, and you're seeing everything in a different season/light, sometimes that makes for the best time.

We were grinning the entire trip, and we can't wait to head back to Asheville in the spring.


  1. awwww it's beautiful. I used to live in Asheville and I still live in NC and I've never been to the Biltmore house. Bad me!

    1. I feel you, though! I don't go to the honkytonks or big country concerts much, even though I'm in Nashville. There's just certain things tourists do that locals don't think to do, right?

      I do love the Biltmore though. I don't think I'll ever feel the need to go back into the house (I've been 3 times now) but I do want to spend more time outdoors on the grounds. I think we'll renew our annual passes through the end of 2014 and then not again after that. Asheville is just the perfect weekend getaway for us because of his love of beer and my love of locavore foodie places and the Biltmore!

  2. I've been to biltmore a handful of times as a kid and I loved it. The last time I went was at Christmas time in high school (I joined history club for the sole purpose of this trip). It was amazing, but obviously no wine was imbibed. I need to go back for the winery!

    1. Isn't it a magical place? I love Downton Abbey, and to me the Biltmore is like America's real-life Downton with the whole upstairs-downstairs thing going on. We'll go back in the spring to ride bikes and horses, and see all the blooms!

    2. P.S. Kimmie, is it kind of un-PC of me to be slightly jealous that you may have been able to ride the elevator in the mansion because that just seems super special?


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