Before Biltmore Estate: Earliest Inhabitants

The 8,000 acres of present-day Biltmore Estate have a rich history of inhabitants dating back millennia.

In this two-part blog series, we recognize and share a brief history of some of the many people who have called this land home throughout history.

Modern-day viewshed of Biltmore Estate
Modern-day viewshed of Biltmore Estate

Early Native American Roots

George W. Vanderbilt chose to build his home at this site because of the spectacular mountain views and mild climate. Before his time, there were other reasons why people found this location desirable. Due to the confluence of the French Broad and Swannanoa Rivers, groups have settled here for almost 10,000 years. There were also two major trade routes that passed through this region, making it a much-used area for people from near and far.

Modern archaeological investigations on Biltmore Estate show evidence of significant Native American occupations. They span many years, dating from the Early Archaic period (ca. 8000 BCE) to the late Pisgah phase (ca. 1500 CE) of the Mississippian period.

One of the most significant Native American sites on the estate is known as the “Biltmore Mound and Village Site.” This earthen mound dates to the Connestee phase of the Middle Woodland period (ca. 200–600 CE), or around 1,400–1,800 years ago. Archaeological evidence suggests that the mound, which has been reduced from several hundred years of plowing, served as the substructure for a series of wooden town or council houses. These buildings were used as the civic and ceremonial centers of the surrounding village and the wider Native American settlements in the area.

Map showing historical land cessions of the Cherokee Nation, made in 1884, in the collection of the Library of Congress, Geography and Map division.
1884 Royce, C. C. Map of the former territorial limits of the Cherokee “Nation of” Indians from the collection of the Library of Congress, Geography and Map division.

Forced Removal of the Cherokee

By the time European settlers began arriving in this region in the late 18th century, this land was officially recognized as Cherokee territory. After the Revolutionary War, pressure on Native populations increased. The Cherokee Nation ceded much of the land that nearly 100 years later would make up Vanderbilt’s 125,000-acre estate to the United States government in the Treaty of Holston and the First Treaty of Tellico in the 1790s. These land cessions were made through coercion and encroachment and rarely represented the wishes of the Cherokee people as a whole.

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 granted the government the power to relocate tribes to land west of the Mississippi. Five years later, some members of the Cherokee signed the Treaty of New Echota, which paid them $5 million to leave their ancestral lands in the Southeast. The forced migration to the new Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma in 1838 and 1839 became known as the Trail of Tears. The few who persevered to remain here or return later are the ancestors of the present-day Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI). This tribe now mainly calls the Qualla Boundary their home, located about 40 miles west of Biltmore.

In 1890, when Biltmore House was under construction, an Extra Census Bulletin from the U. S. Census Office totaled the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina at 1,520 members. Despite their proximity, there seems to have been little interaction between George Vanderbilt or the estate and the EBCI. One exception is the sale of timber by a group of Cherokees to Carl Schenck during his time as Biltmore’s forester. There are also a few known early employees documented as claiming Cherokee ancestry.

This photo taken February 25, 1893, shows progress on Biltmore House and the Walled Garden. The new structures contrast with the residence of the Wright family in the foreground, which was purchased by Vanderbilt in June 1888.
This photo taken February 25, 1893, shows progress on Biltmore House and the Walled Garden. The new structures contrast with the residence of the Wright family in the foreground, which was purchased by Vanderbilt in June 1888.

Remembering Biltmore’s Residents

While many people are familiar with the lives of George and Edith Vanderbilt, it is vital to Biltmore’s cultural history to acknowledge the many individuals who came before the Vanderbilts and who lived and worked on this land since their arrival, including thousands of tenants and employees.

While there are many oral histories in Biltmore’s archives that speak to the experience of growing up on these grounds in the 20th century, the stories of most of those who came before have unfortunately been lost to time. In lieu of more detailed or personal accounts of individuals and communities who once lived on this land, it is essential that we acknowledge their existence as a way to honor and remember their lives and legacies.

Through environmental stewardship practices, land conservation efforts, and collaborative research projects, Biltmore remains dedicated to being good stewards of this storied land that has been home to so many, including Native Americans, the African American Shiloh community, and all descendants of the people who came before us.

Further Reading:

For information on the transition of land ownership leading up to George Vanderbilt, read part two of this blog series, Before Biltmore Estate: Changing Ownership.”

Additional resources on this topic:

Braised Short Ribs with Gingered Sweet Potato Mash & Cherry Barbeque Sauce Recipe

Perfect for chasing the chill in the air, this hearty, multi-layered entrée comes from The Dining Room at The Inn on Biltmore Estate.

Wine Pairing Suggestion: We suggest pairing it with The Hunt Sonoma County Red Blend 2020.

Braised Short Ribs with Gingered Sweet Potato Mash and Cherry Barbeque Sauce
Savor these hearty braised short ribs from the chefs at The Inn on Biltmore Estate.

Braised Short Ribs with Gingered Sweet Potato Mash and Cherry Barbeque Sauce

Total time: 4 hours Serving Size: 4 people

Ingredients:

  • 6 pounds (4 pieces) beef short ribs
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ pound carrots, peeled and chopped
  • ½ pound celery, chopped
  • ½ pound white onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 quarts beef stock
  • 2 ounces fresh thyme

Cherry Barbecue Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup dried sweet cherries
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Sweet Potato Mash

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  Season shortribs with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in a large heavy pan.  Brown short ribs on all sides, remove.  Add carrots, celery, and onion to a hot pan;  cook until just brown. Return short ribs to the pan along with thyme and beef stock.  Cover pan, and place in hot oven. 
  • Braise for 3 hours, or until meat is extremely tender and falls away from the bone. Remove meat to a covered platter, and keep warm. Strain and reserve cooking liquid.
  • In a medium saucepan, bring the reserved cooking liquid to a simmer.  Reduce until halved in volume.  Stir in molasses, tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar, and dried cherries.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Bring heavy cream and butter to a simmer.  Bring to boil a large pot of salted water.  Add diced sweet potatoes.  Cook until sweet potatoes are tender.  Drain. Run cooked potatoes through a food mill or ricer.  Stir in warmed cream and butter along with minced ginger and honey.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • To serve:  Divide sweet potatoes between 4 plates.  Place one short rib atop each portion of sweet potatoes. Sauce the beef with the cherry barbeque.

5 Biltmore-Inspired Tips for Eco-Friendly Christmas Décor

Environmental stewardship is a critical part of Biltmore’s mission that dates back to George Vanderbilt’s original vision for his country retreat in the mountains of North Carolina. This extends to the actions that our teams take over a century later as they deck the halls of America’s Largest Home® with twinkling lights and festive decorations each year for Christmas at Biltmore.

Let’s explore a few Biltmore-inspired, eco-friendly Christmas decor tips for decking your halls for the holidays.

Each year, over 60 trees are decorated around Biltmore Estate, including a cut 14-foot tree displayed in the lobby of The Inn.
Each year, over 60 trees are decorated around Biltmore Estate, including a cut 14-foot tree displayed in the lobby of The Inn.

Choose Natural and Low-Impact Christmas Trees

According to experts like The Nature Conservancy, natural-cut Christmas trees are a responsible décor option when farmed sustainably. Biltmore has been sourcing our famous Banquet Hall Christmas tree, front lawn trees, and many other cut trees placed around the estate from a family-owned farm, Andrews Nursery in nearby Newland, North Carolina, for over 40 years.

When your cut Christmas tree is ready to be taken down, don’t add it to the landfill! Instead, natural trees can be chipped into mulch for garden beds like we do on Biltmore Estate, composted, donated to local organizations, or even placed outside in wooded areas to serve as a natural habitat for small birds during winter months. Alternatively, you may also consider choosing a potted tree that can be replanted after the holidays or even explore the option of renting a living tree. For those who prefer artificial trees, opt for high-quality models that can be reused for many years.

Christmas “pomanders” are a classic Christmas decoration made of clove-studded oranges.
Christmas “pomanders” are a classic Christmas decoration made of clove-studded oranges.

Embrace Nature’s Bounty

Bring the beauty of nature indoors by incorporating natural elements into your eco-friendly Christmas decor. Clove-studded oranges, like shown here in the Servant’s Dining Hall of Biltmore House in years past, are a classic Christmas decoration that brings a sense of warmth and a lovely scent to your holiday décor. Gather fallen pinecones, twigs, dried flowers, and branches to create unique centerpieces, wreaths, or garlands. Not only will these decorations add a touch of rustic charm, but they will also offer a sustainable alternative to store-bought decorations.

Biltmore’s Floral designers begin planning for Christmas almost a full year in advance!
Biltmore’s Floral designers begin planning for Christmas almost a full year in advance!

Repurpose and Upcycle

Each year, Biltmore’s Floral team repurposes thousands of ornaments, ribbons, and other decorative items for adorning our historic estate for the holidays. Before heading out to buy new ornaments, take a look at what you already have. You might be surprised at how many old ornaments, ribbons, and decorations can be repurposed or upcycled into something new. Get creative by transforming old Christmas cards into gift tags, using scraps of fabric to make unique tree ornaments, or upcycling your Biltmore Wine corks into adorable DIY wine cork reindeer!

Antler Hill Village illuminates after dusk with the festive glow of thousands of twinkling LED lights.
Antler Hill Village illuminates after dusk with the festive glow of thousands of twinkling LED lights.

Choose Energy-Efficient Lighting

Instead of traditional incandescent lights, opt for energy-efficient LED lights like we use around Biltmore Estate, including inside Biltmore House, at the Winery, and around Antler Hill Village! LED bulbs consume significantly less electricity and have a longer lifespan, saving you money on your energy bill while reducing your carbon footprint.

Remember to turn off the lights when not in use and consider investing in a timer to avoid unnecessary energy consumption at nighttime.

Simple evergreen clippings and leftover ribbon pieces can help elevate your wine gift-giving this holiday season.
Simple evergreen clippings and leftover ribbon pieces can help elevate your wine gift-giving this holiday season.

Be Mindful of Packaging

The holiday season often brings an abundance of packaging waste. When buying new decorations, gifts, and wrapping papers, opt for items with minimal packaging or items made from recycled and sustainably sourced materials. Additionally, try to reuse or recycle any packaging you receive, reducing your contribution to the waste stream. For additional guidance on gifting, check out our tips for creative ways to wrap wine bottles for gift-giving!

By making small changes to embrace eco-friendly Christmas decor practices, we can all do our part to create a festive atmosphere that brings joy to our homes while being good stewards of our natural resources.

Halloween How-to: Pairing Biltmore Wine with Candy

Take spooky-season fun to the next level with our special Halloween how-to on pairing Biltmore wine with classic candy at home.

“There’s nothing scary about enjoying Biltmore wines with your favorite sweets,” said Shruthi Dhoopati, Assistant Winemaker.

“The same principles that apply to successful food-and-wine pairings also work with candy,” Shruthi said. “For desserts, you’d normally choose a wine that’s sweeter than the dish you’re serving, but this Halloween how-to focuses on pairings that add a little sophistication and a lot of fun to the mix.”

To make it even easier to enjoy Biltmore wines with Halloween treats, consider the following classic wine-and-candy pairings detailed below.

Complement candy corn

Halloween How-to: Pairing Biltmore wine with candy corn
Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Dry Riesling pairs perfectly with tri-colored candy corn

For those who love the seasonal stripes and sugary sweetness of old-fashioned candy corn, it’s twice as nice with a glass of Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Dry Riesling.

“Our Dry Riesling opens with scents of bright citrus and hints of spice that that make you think of fall,” Shruthi said, “while the taste recalls sun-warmed plums, nectarines, and other stone fruits. The wine’s flavor and dryer style provide a pleasant balance for the pure sweetness and soft, waxy texture of candy corn.”

Peanut butter perfection

Halloween How-to: Pairing Biltmore wine with peanut butter cups
For a special Halloween treat, savor smooth, creamy peanut butter cups with our approachable Biltmore Estate® Chardonnay

If your Halloween traditions include snagging all the chocolate-covered peanut butter cups out of the treat bags to savor later, we suggest you consider complementing the dynamic duo with our approachable Biltmore Estate® Chardonnay.

“This is a pairing that surprises people,” Shruthi admits, “because you don’t normally pair peanut butter with wine. But if you think about it, what’s more perfect with peanut butter than grape jelly, which gives you a point of reference.”

According to Shruthi, our Chardonnay works well because it’s a delightfully smooth wine with fruit flavors and hints of oak that enhance most food flavors. It’s also crisp and offers good acidity to balance the higher fat content and rich mouthfeel of peanut butter.

Savor the dark side

Biltmore Estate Limited Release Mourvedre with peppermint patty candies
Savor the dark side by pairing Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Mourvédre with peppermint patties

While chocolate is frequently served with red wine, the combination of dark chocolate and a strong mint filling makes pairing classic peppermint patties a bit of a challenge, but Shruthi says it’s okay to savor the dark side with our Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Mourvédre.

“This wine offers wonderful aromas of black cherry, vanilla, and soft oak that carry through to the palate with flavors of chocolate, blueberry, vanilla, subtle hints of cedar, and soft tannins,” said Shruthi. “It has a kind of rustic elegance that complements the sophisticated notes of dark chocolate and peppermint.”

Sweet-and-sour surprise

Biltmore Estate Sauvignon Blanc with Halloween candy
Create a sweet-and-sour surprise by pairing Biltmore Estate® Sauvignon Blanc with sour gummy candy!

“This is another surprising pairing,” said Shruthi, “mostly because nobody thinks about trying sweet-and-sour Halloween candy with wine–especially an elegant white varietal like Sauvignon Blanc!”

The pairing works on two levels, Shruthi said, beginning with the bright citrus aromas of Biltmore Estate® Sauvignon Blanc that complement the playful scent of the candy.

“Smell them separately,” said Shruthi, “and you’ll start to understand how they can work together. The Sauvignon Blanc is crisp, with refreshing flavors of peach and a touch of minerality that keeps the candy from being overly sweet, making them perfect partners for each other.”

Halloween how-to with Biltmore wine

Couple toasting with red wine near a fire pit
Cheer to pairing Halloween candy with your favorite Biltmore wines!

Ready to try our Halloween how-to and savor Biltmore wines at home with your favorite trick-or-treat candy? Find our award-winning wines at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, online, or close to home with our Retail Locator.

Biltmore’s 2023 Christmas Décor by the Numbers

Christmas décor at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, is nothing short of magical. From America’s Largest Home® to Antler Hill Village, our Winery, and beyond, our incredibly talented team members somehow manage to outdo themselves year after year. 

This year’s Banquet Hall Christmas Tree features 500 lights, 500 presents, and 500 ornaments.

In the past, the Floral team has based their designs around a central theme that carries through Biltmore House and across the estate. For 2023, however, they chose to allow each room to speak to them based on its colors and furnishings.

“We always take the elements of each space into consideration, but this year, we’re giving a fresh voice to what makes individual areas of Biltmore House so distinctive,” said Lizzie Whitcher, Floral Manager.

Let’s take a look at just how much Christmas décor it takes to bedeck George Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre estate.

For 2023, the Library Christmas Tree is based on the 1940s plot line of Hallmark’s “A Biltmore Christmas”

Christmas Trees

  • There will be 67 decorated Christmas trees inside Biltmore House for the 2023 celebration.
  • The largest tree inside Biltmore House is, of course, the Vanderbilt traditional fresh 35-foot-tall Fraser fir in the Banquet Hall. It requires about 50 staff members to carry in, raise, and secure it.
  • The smallest ones are a grouping of three tabletop trees in Servant’s Bedrooms.
  • A lit 55-foot-tall Norway spruce encircled by 36 illuminated evergreens decorates the Front Lawn of Biltmore House for Candlelight Christmas Evenings.
  • A total of 45 additional decorated Christmas trees are at other estate locations, including our Winery, Antler Hill Village, and The Inn on Biltmore Estate®. The Conservatory features decorated “trees” made of potted plants and other natural materials.  
Strings of lights are added to the 35′ Fraser fir tree in the Banquet Hall.
Strings of lights are added to this year’s 35′ Fraser fir tree in the Banquet Hall.

Christmas Lights & Candles

  • There are around 45,000 lights and 282 candles inside Biltmore House. Another 850,000 lights illuminate the rest of the estate.    
  • More than 55,000 lights illuminate the Front Lawn tree with an additional 32,000 lights on the surrounding trees and shrubs. Uplighting illuminates the poplar trees lining the lawn.
  • Hand-lit at dusk, 400 luminaries line the Esplanade in front of Biltmore House every night for Candlelight Christmas Evenings.
  • The illumination of Antler Hill Village features thousands upon thousands of lights, including a pole tree near the entrance that plays a continuous show of synchronized lights and music and large Moravian-style stars that lend a magical touch to the Christmas décor. 
Floral designer adds an ornament to the Banquet Hall Christmas tree.
Floral designer adds an ornament to this year’s Banquet Hall Christmas tree.

Christmas Ornaments

  • The Banquet Hall tree boasts 500 ornaments and 500 LED Edison bulb-style electric lights along with an abundance of gift boxes and other décor.
  • There are 13,870 ornaments used on the other trees inside Biltmore House, and that many again around the estate to add sparkle and seasonal interest.
Todd Roy puts the finishing touches on 2023 Conservatory decor.
Be sure to look for festive Christmas decor in Biltmore’s historic Conservatory during Christmas!

Poinsettias & Other Botanical Décor

  • More than 1,960 traditional poinsettias are found amid the Christmas décor throughout the estate, 271 of which are in Biltmore House. 
  • Additional seasonal plants include 4,265 amaryllises, Christmas cacti, bromeliads, orchids, peace lilies, cyclamen, begonias, and kalanchoes.

Wreaths

  • There are 238 fresh wreaths and sprays along with 90 faux pieces around the estate during the season.
  • Wreaths are made of fresh white pine and Fraser fir, ornamented with golden arborvitae, holly, or other natural materials such as twigs and cones. Artificial bases are decorated with ornaments, berries, faux flowers, and ribbons.
A look at this year’s garland swag adorning the Winter Garden of Biltmore House.

Garlands & Swags

  • Our Floral team cuts fresh evergreens on the property every week to create handmade swags to decorate the Grand Staircase in Biltmore House.
  • Around 1,600 feet of fresh and faux garlands decorate Biltmore House, and around 1,200 feet are used in other areas.
Elegant, handmade garlands are present throughout Biltmore House and around the entire estate.

Ribbons & Bows

  • There are 9,510 yards of ribbon in the Christmas décor in Biltmore House and throughout the estate—primarily in the form of hand-tied bows. 
  • Our team uses everything from narrow cording to 8-inch-wide ribbon and they decorate with velvets, metallics, satins, burlap, and printed cottons.
  • It takes 5 yards of ribbon to create the festive bows worn by the marble lions at the front door of Biltmore House.
  • It takes close to 15 yards of ribbon required to make a tree-topper bow for the 16-foot-tall Christmas trees in the Library.
  • Any ribbon that is used year to year is starched and ironed so that it is wrinkle-free and perfect!
Behind the scenes shot of Biltmore's team raising this year's Banquet Hall tree.
Behind the scenes shot of Biltmore’s team raising this year’s Banquet Hall tree.

Staff

  • It takes about 50 team members to raise and secure the Banquet Hall’s Fraser fir Christmas tree.
  • Our Floral team consists of 10 full-time and 7 part-time floral designers.
  • Multiple departments across the estate also help implement the grand plans for Christmas décor at Biltmore each year, including our Engineering, Housekeeping, Museum Services, Horticulture, Guest Services, Security, and Events teams.
Behind the scenes view of Biltmore Floral Team members planning and preparing this year's Christmas decor.
Behind the scenes view of Biltmore Floral Team members planning and preparing this year’s Christmas decor.

Experience an Estate-wide Spectacle

Transforming Biltmore Estate into a holiday oasis bedecked with awe-inspiring Christmas decor requires meticulous research, creative inspiration, 12 months of preparation, and harmonious teamwork around the entire estate.

We extend a warm welcome to you and your loved ones to experience the beauty, grandeur, and traditions of Christmas at Biltmore. From Biltmore House and the Conservatory to the Winery, our overnight accommodations, estate shops, dining, and festive lights throughout Antler Hill Village, there is something for everyone to enjoy this holiday season!

By the Numbers: The Making of “A Biltmore Christmas”

Fans of the holidays, mystery, time travel, and romantic comedy are in for a treat when A Biltmore Christmas premieres on Hallmark Channel on Sunday, November 26!

Take a peek behind the scenes with some fun, “by the numbers” tidbits about the making of this festive yuletide movie.

How to Watch: Check your local listings for viewing on Hallmark Channel or stream on-demand with Hallmark TV, Peacock, Hulu + Live TV, YouTubeTV, and other subscription services.

Bethany Joy Lenz as Lucy Hardgrove in
Bethany Joy Lenz as Lucy Hardgrove in “A Biltmore Christmas,” by Hallmark Media. @2023 Hallmark Media/Photographer David Scott Holloway.

About A Biltmore Christmas

Filmed at Biltmore in January 2023, this Hallmark movie features locations across the historic estate, including the Gardens, Conservatory, and The Inn on Biltmore Estate. Biltmore’s long history as a film location dates back to the Golden Age of Hollywood, but for the first time, Biltmore House has a central role in the storyline of A Biltmore Christmas.

The film centers on the fictional story about a modern-day screenwriter Lucy Hardgrove (Bethany Joy Lenz) and Jack Huston (Kristoffer Polaha), the dashing lead of the beloved holiday movie His Merry Wife!, first filmed at Biltmore House in 1947. The classic movie is scheduled to be re-filmed at the iconic estate, but a mysterious hourglass intervenes, and Lucy is transported back in time to 1946 as the cast and crew prepare to re-make the classic movie.

Kristoffer Polaha as Jack Huston in
Kristoffer Polaha as Jack Huston in “A Biltmore Christmas,” produced by Hallmark Media. @2023 Hallmark Media/Photographer David Scott Holloway

A behind-the-scenes look by the numbers:

  • 8 vintage cars were used during the filming of A Biltmore Christmas
  • 200 yards of artificial snow were used.
  • 300 Asheville-area locals were hired as extras in the movie.
  • 8,000+ people submitted applications online to be cast as extras, which Hallmark producers said is the most they’ve ever received.
  • 9 rooms inside Biltmore House were used for filming: The Library, Tapestry Gallery, Main Hallway, Staircase Hall, Vestibule, Winter Garden, Banquet Hall, the corridor around the Winter Garden, and the corridor behind the Banquet Hall.
  • 4 out of the nine rooms were decorated with a 1940s theme. Some of these rooms had multiple variations: some were made to look like an everyday room in the 1940s; a 1940s movie set; or a room set for a 1940s party. Except for the Library, all of the interiors were redecorated for present-day scenes with variations made for the “one-year later” conclusion. Wow, time travel can be confusing!
  • 2 exterior locations directly attached to Biltmore House were used for filming scenes: The Loggia and the Library Terrace.
  • 4 rooms at The Inn on Biltmore Estate were used as film sets: The Lobby, the Library Lounge, and two guest rooms.
  • 11 costumes were worn by star Bethany Joy Lenz in A Biltmore Christmas. Four of them were 1940s-era costumes. Of the collection of 1940s looks costume designer Keith Nielsen created for Lenz’s character Lucy Hardgrove, Lucy’s Finale Ballgown is perhaps the most dramatic. Nielsen sourced an original Carolina Herrera design specifically for its fabric reminiscent of men’s tie patterns of the era. Modifications included a gathered bust that drapes around the back and the addition of a tiered tulle underlayer. Lucy’s necklace is an original 1930s Czech crystal from the collection of Nielsen. This costume will be on display at The Inn on Biltmore Estate throughout the holidays.
  • 1 hourglass is used as a plot point in the movie.
  • Biltmore is mentioned 9 times in the film.
  • 15 days of filming took place at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.
For 2023, the Library Christmas Tree is based on the 1940s plot line of Hallmark’s “A Biltmore Christmas”

Experience the magic of A Biltmore Christmas for yourself!

Visit Planning Tip: During your visit to Biltmore this Christmas season, be sure to look for the mysterious hourglass in the Library of Biltmore House, several costumes worn by stars Bethany Joy Lenz and Kristoffer Polaha, as well as props from the set on display throughout Biltmore’s Christmas season at The Inn on Biltmore Estate, Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate, Traditions in Antler Hill Village, and at the estate’s Reception and Ticketing Sales Center.

For extra holiday-movie-magic, the décor in the Library this year will be based on the 1940s plot line of the movie, featuring classic red and green elements, with dramatic cascades of silver-sequined tinsel adorning the room’s Christmas tree.

Biltmore House aglow during
Treat yourself to the beloved estate tradition known as “Christmas at Biltmore,” on display November 3, 2023 through January 7, 2024.

Now that you’ve enjoyed a behind-the-scenes look at the making of A Biltmore Christmas, book your tickets or special overnight stay packages on Biltmore Estate so you can match up iconic Hallmark movie moments with their real-life settings during Christmas at Biltmore!

Christmas Tree Tips from Biltmore

Take it from the experts: Biltmore knows Christmas trees, and we’ve got some great tips to make your holiday decorating easier!

Christmas tree experts

Staff help raise the Banquet Hall tree
It takes about 50 employees to bring in the 35-foot fresh Fraser fir and raise it in the Banquet Hall each year.

For nearly 40 years, Biltmore’s engineering team has handled the logistical challenges of carrying a 35-foot-tall tree through Biltmore House and raising it safely and securely in the Banquet Hall for all to enjoy during Christmas at Biltmore and Candlelight Christmas Evenings. Here are their recommendations for putting up your own special Christmas tree: 

Christmas tree safety tips

Woman decorating Christmas tree
Whether you’ve selected a fresh Christmas tree or an artificial one, following basic safety tips can make a brighter holiday for everyone.
  • Purchase the freshest tree possible. Cut off the first inch or so of the base to help the tree absorb more water.
  • Secure your tree in a sturdy base that holds enough water.
  • Select a location in your home that protects the tree from small children and pets. This helps keep everyone safe.
  • For a larger tree, it’s a good idea to install small anchor wires from the tree’s limbs back to the wall using an eye screw or something similar.
  • LED lights are safer than traditional lights. Due to the lower temperature of the lights, there’s less chance of starting a fire.

Biltmore-style sparkle

Woman holding a notebook and surrounded by Christmas decorations
Heather Whitlock, floral designer, surrounded by inspiration for Christmas decor.

Our floral design team begins planning a year in advance to make Biltmore House and the whole estate come alive for the holiday season. If you’ve ever wondered why our Christmas trees look so special, it’s because the floral team takes time to get everything just right—beginning with the lights.

Christmas lights lay across the floor
Strands of lights help create the illuminated magic of the season–at Biltmore or in your home.

Here’s their 3-step “no-fuss” light-stringing technique you can use on your own tree:

  1. Work each light strand from the top of the tree down—in sections—rather than round and round. This cuts down on ladder-climbing time. 
  2. Work the lights in toward the trunk of the tree, then back out to the tip of the next branch, securing the strand by slipping the branch tip between the two wires of the strand.
  3. To make sure the tree is evenly lit, step back, squint your eyes to make things look blurry, and look for dark or overly bright spots. Rearrange or add lights as needed.
Christmas ornament with a string of Christmas lights
Tuck ornaments back into the branches of the Christmas tree to add layers of color and texture.

Once the lights are in place, tuck shiny ornaments deeply into the tree, starting at the trunk, and working outward. This creates depth, color, and supersized shine. Hang special and more decorative ornaments close to the branch tips. Place the largest ornaments near the bottom

To further highlight your décor, place your favorite ornaments into bowls on your dining table, or mix them in baskets with pine cones and pods. Accent your wreaths and garlands with clusters of berries and shiny glass balls of different sizes.

A decorative formula

To achieve a full look with lots of lights, layers, and textures, our Biltmore design experts recommend the following formulas for some of the most common sizes of Christmas trees.

  • 6-foot tree:  8 sets of lights + 3–4 boxes of ornaments
  • 12-foot tree: 26 sets of lights + 7–8 boxes of ornaments
  • 14-foot tree: 32 sets of lights + 10–12 boxes of ornaments

Featured image: Christmas trees in the Banquet Hall at Biltmore House.

Stocking, Storing, And Savoring Biltmore Wines

Whether you’re stocking, storing, or savoring Biltmore wines, this is our most important tip: enjoy the process!

Man in a suit examining the library of Biltmore wines in the Winery
Wine cellars don’t have to be stuffy–evaluate your space and your lifestyle for options!

“Lots of people think that stocking a wine cellar or storing wines is a stuffy, old-fashioned business, but that’s an outdated idea,” said Shruthi Dhoopati, Assistant Winemaker. “We want you to enjoy every part of the experience–especially savoring Biltmore wines!”

1. Evaluate your storage options

Biltmore winter wines with bows
Enjoy the process of stocking and storing Biltmore wines

When deciding which wines to stock this winter, first evaluate your available storage space. Worry not if you don’t have the luxury of a wine cellar (few of us do), but instead ensure that your space is dark, away from movement or vibrations, not too hot or cold (55F˚ is ideal), and has a humidity level between 50% and 80%. A cool spot in a closet or cabinet away from exterior walls and removed from the hustle and bustle of the rest of your home will allow your wine to rest comfortably until it is called into service.

2. Consider your lifestyle

Group of friends toasting with Biltmore wine
With Biltmore wines, all your gatherings are seasoned with cheer!

Reflect upon your favorite ways to indulge when stocking your wines. Are you a homebody who will be drinking a weeknight wine to relax after work? Or a social butterfly who regularly attends cocktail and dinner parties? Map out your month and decide what will work best for your needs and your budget. As well, include in your decision-making process what foods you are more likely to cook at home (see our winter wine recommendations list below for ideas!).

3. Try different wines

Biltmore wines and charcuterie grazing board
Savor our outstanding Biltmore wines with a grazing board at your next gathering

For a fun and economical way to taste and choose, host a wine party with a variety of sweet and spicy hors d’oeuvres and invite your guests to bring a “new to them” bottle within a designated price limit. While you’re out and about, watch for sales to try something different with less risk. Or, for an even more targeted experience, savor a tasting Biltmore Winery and discuss your options with our experienced wine hosts while you sample a selection of award-winning favorites*.

4. Plan ahead

Couple drinking winter wines while they savor in place at home
Include Biltmore wines in your Valentine’s Day celebration!

Review the special occasions that lie on your winter horizon. Will you be celebrating a milestone birthday, enjoying a romantic Valentine’s Day meal, or attending an intimate gathering with friends? Invest in choice bottles to have on hand, whether for a hostess gift or your own meaningful moment. And, be sure to set aside a bottle or two for fetes in years to come, which is also a perfect opportunity to experiment with the effects aging will have on different varietals.

Biltmore’s winter wine recommendations

Woman shopping at the Wine Shop at Biltmore's Winery
Find your favorite Biltmore wines at the estate or online

For a great winter wine foundation, Shruthi suggests trying these winning Biltmore wines:

Biltmore Estate® Chardonnay: For more temperate nights when grilling outdoors is an option, try the subtle oak flavors of Biltmore Estate® Chardonnay with salmon, chicken, and foil-wrapped veggies, or warm up indoors with creamy pasta or clam chowder.

Biltmore Estate® Dry Rosé: If you think it’s just for summer, it’s time to rethink rosé! Ours is refreshing whether served chilled or at room temperature and features crisp layers of delicate berry flavors that complement chicken, pork, salmon, and sausage.

Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Malbec: A wild game dish like venison or bison burgers will be the perfect winter complement to a Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Malbec, or try spicy, vibrant flavors such as those found in chimichurri sauce or Spanish tapas.

Biltmore Estate® Cabernet Sauvignon: Steak, short ribs, and winter vegetables such as squash and portabella mushrooms are perfect with the smooth, vanilla-scented flavor of Biltmore Estate® Cabernet Sauvignon.

Vanderbilt Reserve® Pinot Noir Russian River Valley: Elegant and easy to drink, this versatile wine is right at home whether accompanying roasted pork and poultry or hearty pasta dishes with a tomato-based sauce.

Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Tempranillo: For a well-rounded wine that can stand on its own or complement hearty flavors, sip our spicy, fruit-forward Tempranillo by the glass or serve with beef, pork, or lamb dishes and Gruyère cheese.

Biltmore Estate® Sparkling Wines: Handcrafted in the traditional méthode champenoise at our estate winery, each of our spectacular sparkling wines offers crisp, refreshing flavor and fine bubbles perfect for you’re toasting a special occasion or pairing with your favorite foods.

Savor Biltmore wines now

Couple toasting a small moments with Biltmore wine
Savor all your special small moments with Biltmore wines!

The world of wine is fascinating, and the more you learn, the more addictive it can become. This winter, relish the journey of discovery, and make it a fun process. Shruthi advises, “Enjoy every part of the experience–especially savoring your wines!”

And to keep your stock replenished at a great value, join the Vanderbilt Wine Club® to receive a curated shipment every three months. You’ll thank yourself the rest of the year!

8 Great Reasons for a Fall Visit to Biltmore

Biltmore Estate’s ever-changing autumnal color, plus its many seasonal activities and offerings, make it the perfect home base for a fall visit. While there are certainly more than 8 great reasons to plan a fall visit to Biltmore, like the fact that the season is prime vacation time for those who love “leaf-peeping” in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we’ve compiled a few of our favorite reasons to add Biltmore to your travel list this fall.

8 great reasons to visit Biltmore this fall
Biltmore House surrounded by gorgeous fall color

1. A prime location in Asheville, NC

Nestled in the mountains of Western North Carolina, Biltmore is located minutes from downtown Asheville—a vibrant city known for great dining, quaint shops, and its strong arts community—and just a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway. In addition to soaking in all that your fall visit to Biltmore has to offer, we recommend enjoying the natural beauty and history of the surrounding area, including Pisgah National Forest.

8 great reasons to visit Biltmore this fall
In addition to enjoying our Building Biltmore House exhibition, enhance your visit with a Rooftop Tour that includes spectacular views and stories.

2. Long-range views from the rooftop of America’s Largest Home®

Discover spectacular views boasting every shade of fall color as far as the eye can see from Biltmore’s rooftops! This guest-favorite guided tour offers wildly impressive photo ops—during autumn, especially—and provides a closer look at the design and construction of Biltmore House in areas that many guests never visit.

Each year, the Walled Garden boasts a new, vibrant display of mums!
Each year, the Walled Garden boasts a new, vibrant display of mums!

3. A festive display of fall colors

In addition to the ever-changing hues of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, Biltmore’s gardens and grounds come alive with vibrant mums, colorful floral displays, and fall foliage that you will not want to miss! Even though we don’t officially kick off our Christmas season until early November, you’ll also have the chance to catch a sneak peek of what our team has in store for the upcoming festivities during your fall visit to Biltmore!

Learn about Biltmore's farming history at The Farmyard!
Learn about Biltmore’s farming history at The Farmyard!

5. Afternoons in Antler Hill Village

All aboard for family fun around our charming, European-inspired Antler Hill Village! What better time of year to learn about Biltmore’s farming legacy at Antler Hill Barn and The Farmyard than during harvest season? Savor the bounty of our fields at our estate restaurants and award-winning Winery. Discover stories of the Vanderbilt family and their travels as you experience your own getaway with your loved ones.

Deerpark Carriage & Trail Ride Barn
Explore our 8,000-acre estate by carriage, horseback, and more.

6. Outdoor adventures for all

A fall visit to Biltmore beckons you to enjoy the crisp air and glorious fall colors of our great outdoors! Go hiking or biking along our nearly 22 miles of paved and unpaved trails on our private, 8,000-acre estate. Admire the scenery along the French Broad River, through lush green forests, or in the open meadows of the estate. Stop by the Bike Barn or Outdoor Adventure Center in Antler Hill Village for a detailed trail map and orientation. Whether you prefer a relaxing journey in an elegant Carriage Ride or Horseback Trail Ride, few things are as majestic as traveling our woodland trails enveloped in fall color.

Grapes are picked by hand in Biltmore’s vineyard on the west side of the estate.
Grapes are picked by hand in Biltmore’s vineyard on the west side of the estate.

7. Vineyard harvest season

Biltmore’s bounty takes center stage at the Winery in Antler Hill Village as we celebrate the harvest season. Savor complimentary tastings of handcrafted wines and learn how science and nature intersect as you learn about the estate’s vineyards, discover the unique factors that affect grapes grown in North Carolina, and take an in-depth look at our winemaking process.

Fall color at The Inn on Biltmore Estate
Autumn’s beauty is right outside your door with an overnight stay on Biltmore Estate!

8. The ultimate fall getaway

An overnight stay on Biltmore Estate offers the unique experience of waking up with sprawling autumnal beauty just outside your door. Enjoy warm hospitality in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere at the charming Village Hotel, experience world-class service with a luxurious four-star stay at The Inn, or truly get away this fall with a stay in one of our private, historic Cottages.  

Plan your getaway and discover for yourself why Biltmore is the perfect home base for your fall visit and year-round with an Annual Pass membership.

5 Insider Tips for Planning Your First Biltmore Visit

Whether it’s your first-time visiting Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, or you’re planning your return, we’ve compiled our top five insider tips to help you make the most of your visit to our 8,000-acre estate any time of year!

Mountain views from Biltmore's South Terrace in autumn.
Autumnal views from the South Terrace showcase the grand scale of Biltmore Estate.

Tip #1: Plan ahead & purchase tickets in advance

“People often underestimate the vast scale of Biltmore Estate and the amount of walking or moving about that will take place during a visit, even beyond exploring America’s Largest Home! Make sure to purchase your tickets in advance online for the most flexibility in finding your preferred date and time.

I also recommend checking the local weather forecast, wearing comfortable shoes, and making sure you have time and transportation to get between the different areas of the estate, some of which are actually miles apart.” – Bryan Yerman, Senior Manager of Interpretive Hosts  

You're going to want to linger a bit longer to enjoy all that the estate has to offer!
You’re going to want to linger a bit longer to enjoy all that the estate has to offer, like an award-winning Winery!

Tip #2: Don’t rush!

“If you really want to make the most of your Biltmore visit, it would be a real shame to not allow yourself time to relax and enjoy meandering through the beautiful estate the way George Vanderbilt intended! Give yourself sufficient time to explore the beautiful gardens, visit Antler Hill Village, sample award-winning wines at our Winery, and enjoy the various activities offered on the estate.

I recommend planning to spend a whole day (or two!) if you can, but at a minimum, be prepared to spend about six hours on the estate. That should give you time for a Biltmore House visit, a stroll through the historic gardens, plus some time for grabbing a bite to eat at one of our estate restaurants and exploring Antler Hill Village.

If you’re like me and love wine, be sure to allow time to visit our estate Winery where you can enjoy a complimentary wine tasting or savor your wine by the glass at the Wine Bar!” – Jean Sexton, Biltmore’s Editorial Manager, and Vanderbilt Wine Club member

Biltmore's vast trail system offers adventure and beautiful scenery year-round.
Biltmore’s vast trail system offers adventure and beautiful scenery year-round, including at the Bass Pond!

Tip #3: Explore the gardens, grounds, and trails

“Don’t miss the breathtaking gardens and grounds surrounding Biltmore House. The pristine landscapes are meticulously designed, and each season brings its unique charm. Plan your visit accordingly to witness the vibrant blooms in spring, the lush greenery and tropical plants of summer, the colorful foliage and mum display in autumn, and the peaceful scenery with long-range views in wintertime. Take a leisurely stroll, enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, and capture unforgettable photos all year long by becoming a Biltmore Annual Passholder.

You may be surprised to learn that Biltmore Estate admission includes access to over 22 miles of trails for exploring. It’s like having a private national park to explore right here in Asheville!” – Bill Quade, Biltmore’s Director of Horticulture  

Guests ride bikes on paved paths lined with sunflowers at Biltmore.
Staying overnight on Biltmore Estate means you have a sprawling, private estate to explore at your leisure.

Tip #4: Make Biltmore your home base

“When you’re on George Vanderbilt’s private estate, it’s easy to feel like you’ve been transported to a European village, but, in reality, all the wonderful things that bring people to Asheville are very close by.

Whether you’re traveling solo, with your sweetheart, your best friends, or the whole family, I recommend staying overnight on Biltmore Estate so you can wake up like a Vanderbilt and enjoy easy access to all that the estate has to offer just outside your room!

You’ll have fun exploring the gardens and grounds, meeting Farmyard friends and learning about Biltmore’s field-to-table legacy in Antler Hill Village, lounging at your hotel’s pool, and, of course, visiting the Winery! Plus, when you stay overnight, you can easily explore the greater Asheville area nearby.” – Beth Poslusny, Vice President of Destination Guest Experience

Biltmore host guides a small group tour in the Library.
Guided tours of Biltmore House are a great way to expand your knowledge and see new areas of America’s Largest Home!

Tip #5: There’s something for everyone

“I always recommend checking out Biltmore’s website, blog, social media, or YouTube so you can learn a bit about the estate before you arrive.

Whether you are interested in the Gilded Age history, fine art, architecture, gardening, family-friendly activities, or learning about Biltmore’s agricultural history, there really is something at Biltmore for everyone!

Be sure to keep an eye on Biltmore’s event calendar so you can plan your visit during special events, like exhibitions, and seasonal celebrations like Christmas at Biltmore!” – Meghan Forest, Biltmore’s Associate Curator

Biltmore's European-inspired Antler Hill Village is home to the Winery, Farmyard, Pisgah Playground, and exclusive estate shops and restaurants!
Biltmore’s European-inspired Antler Hill Village is home to the Winery, Farmyard, Pisgah Playground, and exclusive estate shops and restaurants!

Make Your Biltmore Visit Memorable

Visiting Biltmore is an experience that combines history, architecture, and natural beauty. By following our insider tips, you’ll be well-prepared to create memories that will last a lifetime.

We hope that you find these insider tips helpful so that you can make the most of your visit and discover why Biltmore Estate is one of the South’s most beloved and memorable destinations any time of year!

Have you visited Biltmore before or even upgraded to an Annual Passholder membership? Share your favorite Biltmore insider tips and memories with us by tagging #Biltmore @biltmoreestate on social media.