Deck the Halls: Asheville Bed & Breakfasts Go All Out for the Holidays
By Jason Tarr
When deciding where to stay in Asheville, North Carolina, you'll want to consider the area's unique collection of bed and breakfasts. Known for their personalized experiences, home-cooked meals, historic architecture and warm hospitality, bed and breakfasts provide a home away from home while you're exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains.
While these accommodations are alluring throughout the year, during the holidays bed and breakfasts truly sparkle. Inn keepers go all out with elegant and classic decorations, transforming these cozy homes into a winter wonderland of lights, hand-decorated trees and meaningful heirlooms.
With the help of the Asheville Bed and Breakfast Association, we're giving you an inside look into these stunning decorations and sharing the personal stories behind them. From a Christmas tree that was hand-picked from a neighbor's farm to a mantle that has been decorated for two decades in honor of a personal friend, discover the special touches that make the season bright at Asheville area B&Bs.
After reading their stories and seeing the beautiful photos of their decorations, check out the "Cook Now & Stay Later" offer for 2020. The Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association (ABBA) realizes that travel is limited this season. So, if you purchase now a copy of the ABBA's Morning in the Mountains Cookbook for $25, you'll receive a $50 gift certificate for a future stay at any of the member inns. The cookbook must be purchased by December 31, 2020 to be eligible for this promotion.
Photo Tour of Holiday Decorations at Asheville Bed and Breakfasts
Decorating the fireplace mantel in the parlor has special meaning for the inn keepers at the 1889 WhiteGate Inn and Cottage just blocks north of downtown Asheville. The tradition began in the late 1990s when the current inn keepers purchased the property. As a gift for their first Christmas in the house, their friend Wayne surprised them by decorating the mantle. The results were breathtaking. Wayne passed away not too long after. To keep Wayne's memory alive, the inn keepers have carried on the tradition, decorating the parlor each season exactly as he did years ago.
The entire staff at the 1899 Wright Inn and Carriage House works together to decorate trees, hang dozens of bows and place something special in every room of the house. As they do, classical Christmas music plays, fireplaces crackle and the aroma of pineneedles and freshly baked pies fills the air. The team also hangs thousands of shimmering outdoor lights to add to the holiday cheer of their lovely Queen Anne Victorian home in Asheville's historic Montford District just north of downtown.
Picking out the tree is a special experience for the inn keepers at the At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast in the historic Montford District. To find the tree pictured above (photo credit: Carol Spagnuola), the owners drove 1.5 hours to a Christmas tree farm, settling on a live Fraser fir. They then adorned it with more than 2,000 twinkling lights, bows and ornaments. According to the inn keeper's Fitbit, it took more than 25,000 steps to get it all done! You'll also find the beautiful Quilted Maple mantel decorated with Old St. Nick and Rudolph. The inn keepers say they put a little extra effort into their 2020 decorations because they thought "everyone could use a little extra cheer this year.”
The centerpiece of the decorations at Bent Creek Lodge, located near the North Carolina Arboretum, is a live Christmas tree. The 9-foot tree in the photo above is from the WNC Farmers Market in Asheville. The tree is adorned with an angel. The red and white theme features tin snow flakes, handmade wooden stars and a vintage rocking horse sitting under the tree. The crimson and white theme touched off a bit of a friendly rivalry between Randy the owner (an Alabama fan) and the assistant manager (an Auburn fan). To help even the score, Randy told the assistant manager he'd hide an Aubie the Tiger mascot replica in the tree next year rather than the tradition of hiding a dill pickle. The rest of the lodge features white lights and red berries or bows tied in with yards and yards of greenery.
Big "Charlie Brown" Christmas lights brighten the front of the beautiful Arts and Crafts home of Carolina Bed and Breakfast in the historic Montford District. The lights are put up by rock climbers John and Jess Averette of Winter Star Holiday Lighting -- who have become like family to the inn keepers. Much like they would do when climbing, the Averette's hold safety paramount, using ropes and harnesses attached to the chimneys so they can reach even the highest roof peaks and windows to hang the lights. It takes them about two days to bring the lights to life. The decorations continue inside where you'll find beautiful sparkling Christmas trees.
Each year, Cedar Crest Inn begins decorating its Mansion, Carriage House and Guest Cottage to coincide with the beginning of the Candlelight Christmas Evenings celebration at Biltmore. Cedar Crest was built around the same time as Biltmore. In fact, the original owners of Cedar Crest, William Breese and his wife, even hosted holiday parties and gatherings with the Vanderbilt family. Now, each year, the staff members at Cedar Crest come together at the beginning of November to decorate. Everyone on the team has a hand in decorating the beautiful 9-foot tree (seen above) that resides in the Mansion. The tree features more than 200 ornaments! You'll also see the Christmas villages that have been with the Inn for more than 20 years.
At Engadine Inn and Cabins, located just west of Asheville in Candler, Christmas is the inn keepers' favorite time of the year. You'll experience holiday decor throughout the inn, "garland for days," festive fireplace mantles and a Christmas village. But at the heart of it all is a Christmas tree featuring 1,200 Santa ornaments collected during the inn keepers' 38 years of holiday decor shopping! At 10 feet tall and as wide as six feet, the magnificent Fraser fir is also adorned with 3,000 twinkling lights.
Asheville is known as the home of the National Gingerbread Competition. When the competition went virtual this year, Pinecrest Bed & Breakfast in the historic Montford District stuck with its theme of embracing change and baked its own mini Pinecrest gingerbread replica. The replica is in the sunporch -- always a favorite room in the house and home to the best table for breakfast. Behind, you will see the alpine tree decorated with the Santa ornament collection belonging to the inn keepers' son. Inn keepers Dan & Diane were married in 1989 -- that's when they purchased a Christmas angel tree topper. Every year, the angel tops their live Christmas tree in the foyer having survived moves through four states and two rewiring “surgeries” during its more than 30-year history!
At the Princess Anne Hotel just blocks from downtown Asheville, the inn keepers have always seen Christmas as a time for family. Years ago, they stopped giving gifts to each other to make sure they put the focus on valuing their time together. Their tree inside the hotel represents loved ones passed, loved ones who are struggling and loved ones who they haven't met yet. Gazing at the tree is almost hypnotic and meditative. By keeping their celebrations simple, they say they put the empahsis on remembering the reason for the season.
It takes four days to decorate The Reynolds Mansion for the holidays. The decorations include one outdoor tree and four indoor trees. Among the indoor trees is the Pride Tree in the library. The mantel theme in the library is Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." The dining room and parlor mantels are similarly decorated -- each of these rooms also has its own tree. Look to the left in the picture and you'll get a glimpse of Santa welcoming guests in the foyer while also planning his gift delivery run around the globe. Other details include the parlor's gingerbread replica of the mansion, nutcrackers on the stair landings, and the bannisters trimmed with garland.
The new inn keepers who now own Sweet Biscuit Inn, which is located near Biltmore Village in east Asheville, are decorating their inn for the holidays for the first time as this is their first season in the house. They welcomed the both fun and daunting challenge with a personal touch -- that's because the inn is also their home. The decorations feature some of their favorite personal Christmas decorations with new Sweet Biscuit Inn ornaments. In this photo, you see their daughter’s beloved childhood nutcrackers -- coincidentally and appropriately named Sir Waffles and Sir Pancakes -- guarding the food-themed tree in the dining room.
Each year, the owners of Wildberry Lodge, located just northwest of Asheville in the community of Leicester, pick out their fresh, live tree from their neighbors -- The Cole's. The tallest tree they've ever received was 17.5 feet tall and required six people to carry it off the mountain and stand it up. Once the tree is up, it's time for everyone, including their four-legged friends, to relax by the fire.
Photo credit: Top photo of At Cumberland Falls Bed & Breakfast by Carol Spagnuola. Photos provided to Explore Asheville by the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association (ABBA).