Discover a New Holiday Tradition This Season in Asheville

Picture an intimate North Carolina city surrounded by spectacular mountain peaks capped in white. Downtown Asheville is dressed for the holidays with white lights sparkling among fragrant garlands decorated with bright red bows. A short walk away are award-winning country inns and B&Bs tucked away on hillsides and in historic districts where innkeepers create memorable Appalachian holidays with a variety of unique decorations and exceptional recipes.

For generations, families have been passing down holiday traditions in many ways. Some hold dear the ones they remember as children; however, for some families the hustle and bustle and excessive gift-giving may have permeated the joy and nostalgia of the season.

For those looking to reclaim the Yuletide spirit, longtime mountain traditions in Asheville that began when George W. Vanderbilt first welcomed his friends and family to Biltmore House on Christmas Eve 1895 make for great inspiration to begin a new tradition this holiday season.

Samples of these holiday entertaining tips and Yuletide recipes, as well as a variety of holiday packages and events may be found at

Many historic inns of the Asheville Bed and Breakfast Association, adorned with beautifully-made handicrafts, greenery and other natural decorative elements, open their doors Dec. 5-7 for a Holiday Tour of Inns. Visitors can sample a piece of mountain Yuletide tradition first hand by visiting these inns and even participating in a holiday bread baking session with the innkeepers of the Inn on Main Street.

“We pride ourselves on making breads, cookies, muffins and pancakes all from scratch,” explain owners Dan and Nancy Ward. “But it takes a certain degree of creativity and personal touch to make them by hand instead of grabbing items off the shelf – and that’s what we hope to share with our guests.”

Guests can also be inspired by the experts who decorate America’s largest home located on Biltmore Estate, which is famous for its Christmas trimmings with dozens of trees, miles of evergreen roping, thousands of ornaments and live 34-foot Fraser fir that graces the 70-foot high Banquet Hall each year.

Throughout the season, complimentary seminars will be offered by Floral Displays Manager Cathy Barnhardt and her staff inside George W. Vanderbilt's 250-room French Renaissance style chateau. Using decorating elements taken from the property’s grounds, visitors can learn how to turn nature into decorative accents using items from their own backyards. With fresh greenery, dried flowers, twigs and colorful berries blended with crystal ornaments, beads, silk ribbons and other decorations, visitors learn how to create a holiday look reflecting Vanderbilt’s unique tastes.

While hosts share stories about Biltmore holiday traditions, guests also learn how to design a magical dining room table centerpiece at the Gardener’s Cottage. At the winery, guests receive tips from wine experts on serving and pairing sparkling wine with favorite foods.

Hundreds of creative displays of gingerbread houses from all over the country captivate visitors at The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa. Led by Executive Pastry Chef Aaron Morgan, author of Making Great Gingerbread Houses, the nationally-recognized Gingerbread House Competition offers visitors a glimpse into gingerbread house-making techniques. Award winners might even share some of their secrets of construction and ingredients that make for impressive gingerbread houses. Entries will be on display Nov. 20 through Jan. 6, 2007.

2006 Holiday Events

Guests who experience the mountain Yuletide traditions first-hand often are enticed to sample a piece of Asheville’s welcoming surroundings. While appreciating the extraordinary beauty of the mountains capped in snow, while streets in Asheville remain untouched, guests in Asheville find plenty of diversions.

Asheville formally rings in the season with its 60th Annual Holiday Parade at 2 p.m. on Nov. 18 followed by the Light Up Your Holidays Celebration beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Other seasonal events include a newly staged 30th Anniversary production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol from Dec. 8-10 at the Asheville Community Theatre, a performance of “The Nutcracker” at the Diana Wortham Theatre, as well as plenty of musical entertainment and other events that set the mood for the holiday season.

Just 15 minutes from downtown Asheville, the historic town of Black Mountain welcomes visitors to its shops with music, food, and lights on Dec. 1 for the Holly Jolly Christmas celebration and on Dec. 2 for the Circle of Lights at Lake Tomahawk.

From Nov. 15 through Jan. 6, the Smith-McDowell House Museum hosts its annual Victorian Christmas Celebration, an event that is both festive and educational. Museum volunteers deck the entire house with authentic 19th-century style decorations. Because the Museum's period rooms follow a timeline from 1840 to 1900, visitors can see the evolution of how families celebrated Christmas.

In a final farewell to the season, Asheville welcomes the New Year with Downtown Countdown, a New Year’s Eve event featuring 50 entertainment acts in various sites around town.

A complete listing of seasonal events, decorating tips and ways to create a new tradition using holiday vacation packages can be found on