A Biltmore House Christmas: Recalling the Beauty and Splendor of a Gilded Age

By Ken Paul Mink

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Some places are just too magnificent for one to fully absorb all the beauty and magic that it possesses. Biltmore House is one such place. With its fantastically eye-catching French Chateauesque architecture, Biltmore has stood the test of time, remaining like an everlasting Gilded age stone castle set in the lovely Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Christmas season is one of the most visited times of the year and Biltmore has gone all out this year, with the holiday decorations to remain in place through the first week of January.

Across the estate, dozens of Christmas trees, thousands of lights, and miles of garland set the scene for the kind of holiday memories that last a lifetime. Elegant decorations in platinum, gold, silver, and jewel tones adorn the grand spaces of America’s Largest Home, the stunning centerpiece for Biltmore’s daytime and evening experiences. As night falls, feelings of wonder and enchantment intensify when live music, candlelight, and firelight embrace and delight guests during Candlelight Christmas Evenings.

Biltmore has four acres of floor space and a total of 250 rooms in the house including 35 bedrooms for family and guests, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, three kitchens and 19th-century novelties such as electric elevators, forced-air heating, dumbwaiter, centrally controlled clocks, fire alarms, and a call-bell system.

The exterior view of the house is stunningly breathtaking and once you enter the building a world of wonders and beauty opens up to all who tread its historic halls.

The 179,000 square foot structure – the largest privately-owned home in America –overlooks the Blue Ridge Mountains, with many rooms having verandas where the family and guests spent many hours soaking up the beauty of nature. The estate is reached by a beautiful forested three-mile road and covers about 7,000 acres.

The Biltmore House has been featured in several motion pictures, including the hit film “Being There,” starring Peter Sellers.

Built in the late 1890s and early 1900s (it took six years to complete), Biltmore was the family home of George and Edith Vanderbilt and their daughter Cornelia (who married John Cecil and lived as a family there for many years).  The Cecils opened Biltmore to the public in 1930 and the house still flourishes as a five-generation family business (with more than 2,000 employees). The Cecils went on to have two sons who were born in the same room as their mother.

The luxurious family home of George and Edith Vanderbilt is a marvel of elegance and charm, as magnificent today as it was more than a century ago. Visitors have both electronic and self-guided tours of three floors and the basement. Visitors see displays of vintage clothing, accessories, art, furniture, and more that tell stories and illustrate the lives of the Vanderbilt family, their guests, and employees.

Biltmore visitors are invited to check out several restaurant and shop outlets at the mansion and the historic winery in the Antler Hill Village, where they can sample complimentary tastings, an indoor/outdoor wine bar, specialty wine experiences, and more.

Visitors are also offered the opportunity to stay at one of two large hotels on the property.

Activities offered  include behind-the-scenes tours of Biltmore House and the estate, and  Outdoor Adventure Center provides an abundance of outdoor pursuits including biking, horseback riding, carriage rides, Segway tours, and Land Rover off-road driving.

A Word from Bill Cecil (From Biltmore files)

What began as my great-grandfather’s estate continues to thrive as a timeless experience for today’s guests. Since 1895, Biltmore has had the natural beauty of the mountains and the majestic house and gardens to beguile us, inspire us, and allow us to escape from the everyday.

Biltmore is still family owned, and we are still passionate about our mission of preservation through self-sufficiency – a philosophy embraced before the first stone was ever placed.

We remain self-sustaining through innovation, creative thinking, and listening to guests who continue to tell us they want more ways to connect with Biltmore. Wine was our first foray into offering a taste of Biltmore; now, you can experience life as a guest of the Vanderbilts at our four-star The Inn on Biltmore Estate or a more casual stay at Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate. You can also reimagine your own surroundings with a line of home furnishings, bedding and bath items, and gourmet foods.

Just as first envisioned, Biltmore is all about home – welcoming and celebrating family and friends, and extending the spirit of Biltmore beyond our 8,000 acres. It was true in 1895, and it remains true today.


Bill Cecil
President & CEO – The Biltmore Company

 (For more information, history and photos of the Biltmore House estate visit biltmore.com)


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