North Carolina
The Vanderbilts and Christmas At the Biltmore Estate
Celebrate the holidays at the Biltmore Estate, where you’ll enjoy behind-the-scenes access while learning the story of the Vanderbilts. Plus, join experts to explore nearby Asheville!
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Program No. 10404RJ
6 days
Starts at
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6 days
5 nights
13 meals
5 B 4 L 4 D
Welcome Dinner, Meet and Greet and "Christmas at Biltmore"
Asheville, NC
Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Downtown Asheville

Activity note: Activity is light on this day. After checking into your room and picking up your registration materials we'll enjoy a delicious dinner in the hotel followed by a meet and greet session. We'll then enjoy dessert and coffee as we view the informative video "Christmas at Biltmore."

Dinner: A delicious dinner will be served at the hotel this evening.

Evening: As we gather after dinner, we'll have time to get to know our fellow travelers and program leaders as we gather to MEET AND GREET! Afterwards, we'll enjoy dessert and coffee as we watch a wonderful video highlighting "CHRISTMAS AT BILTMORE." There's no way to adequately describe the beauty of the Christmas season on the estate. There's beautifully decorated trees with thousands of twinkling lights in almost every room. There's wreathes and bows, floral decorations and miles of decorated garlands. There's scents from live trees and cinnamon sticks to remind us of the season and much, much more! The video will give us a mere glimpse into the beautifully decorated estate, will provide us with pertinent information and will "whet our appetites" as we prepare for our upcoming estate visit!

Asheville City Tour and a visit to historic Biltmore Village
Asheville, NC
Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Downtown Asheville

Activity note: Moderate walking as we tour Biltmore Village and All Souls Cathedral. There are no inclines during this visit but participants are encouraged to watch their steps while walking on different types of ground surface.

Breakfast: A full buffet breakfast is provided for you each morning. Coffee is available in the lobby for the early risers.

Morning: We will begin our morning with a brief ORIENTATION SESSION. We’ll review the week’s schedule and answer any questions. This morning a local historian and expert will tell us about the city of Asheville and the Vanderbilts. We'll learn about its beginning as a crossroads for Native American Indians and its growing into one of the highest ranked destinations in the country. We'll learn of her history and how she became a storehouse for music, culture, arts, crafts and other treasures. We'll learn about the architecture of Asheville, a city called the "Paris of the South", because it boasts one of the best collections of art deco buildings in the country. We'll learn about the coming of the railroad and its role in her history as well as the effects of the stock market crash in 1929... over two hundred years of history condensed into a morning. Following a short break we’ll board the motor coach for a comfortable CITY TOUR OF ASHEVILLE. We’ll travel around the city as a local guide points out the notable sights in Asheville. As we travel on some of the many streets we’ll learn of the diverse Montford Historic District, the stately Grove Park Inn, the art deco downtown, the ever artsy River Arts District and the Biltmore Village. This will be a great introduction to the beautiful city of Asheville, Western North Carolina’s largest city. The weather may be cold outside but we'll be warm and cozy inside our comfortable motor coach!

Lunch: A delicious lunch will be served in the hotel.

Afternoon: We will begin our afternoon with a visit to the CATHEDRAL OF ALL SOULS, the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina in Historic Biltmore Village. The cathedral, designed by Richard Morris Hunt, was conceived and funded by George Vanderbilt who wanted a church to serve as the focal structure of the newly formed village. The parish opened its doors in 1896 and continues to serve the community today. The website for Romantic Asheville (www.romanticasheville.com) states, “Originally, all the windows were mouth blown, hand leaded translucent glass such as those seen today in the Parish Hall. The windows in the chancel and nave were replaced by memorial windows of stained opalescent glass; all were designed and made by David Maitland Armstrong and his daughter, Helen, contemporaries of Tiffany. The six memorial windows in the transepts depict scenes from the Bible; they and the windows in the chancel and those facing the front porch were given in the late 1890’s and the early 1900’s. The tower windows are memorials and dedications that have been given over the years, the last three being installed in 1996, All Souls Centennial.” A docent will tell us of the construction and history of this beautiful historic structure. Afterwards we’ll have some time to explore HISTORIC BILTMORE VILLAGE. Designed by Richard Sharp Smith, the village was built as revenue-producing rental properties for the estate. Besides residential rentals, the village had a post office, train depot, drugstore, bank, hospital and several retail shops. After Mr. Vanderbilt’s untimely death in 1914, the village was sold in its entirety except for the church and the hospital.

Dinner: This evening a delicious dinner will be served in the Oscar Sams Executive Dining Room on the beautiful campus of MARS HILL UNIVERSITY. A mere twenty minute motor coach ride, the university is the oldest educational institution of Western North Carolina existing on its original site, being founded in 1856. MHU has provided programming for the Road Scholar program since the mid-seventies.

Evening: Before our return to the Holiday Inn and Suites in Asheville we will enjoy some wonderful CHRISTMAS ENTERTAINMENT by some of the talented students of MHU.

Grove Park Inn, NC Homespun Museum and Antique Car Museum!
Asheville, NC
Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Downtown Asheville

Activity note: A good amount of walking is required for our visit to the North Carolina Homespun Museum, the Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum and the Grove Park Inn. Participants are encouraged to watch their steps while walking on the different types of ground surfaces.

Breakfast: Breakfast buffet in the hotel.

Morning: Christmas is a special time of year and this morning an APPALACHIAN CULTURAL SPECIALIST will present a program on the rich culture and Christmas traditions of the Southern Appalachians during our visit to the Smith-McDowell House. The house is the oldest surviving brick home in the city. Built about 1840 for James McConnell Smith, the plantation home now serves as a public museum where each room reflects a different period of its history. We will return mid- morning to the hotel to enjoy a lecture on EDITH STUYVESANT DRESSER VANDERBILT, the "lady of the house" at Biltmore. George and Edith were married in June of 1898, and once they settled into their home, Edith began carving out her "niche" on the estate, a work that not only improved the lives of local people but also began a work that insured the future of the estate for generations to come.

Lunch: A delicious lunch will be served in the hotel.

Afternoon: Christmas in the mountains became a lot merrier for many locals after the arrival of the Vanderbilt newlyweds. The estate provided steady employment and Mrs. Vanderbilt worked diligently to educate and improve the lives of people in the community, especially the women and children. Edith enjoyed wood carving and weaving as a hobby, and while visiting the surrounding communities she discovered the beautiful handicrafts of the mountain women and realized its potential as an additional revenue source for their families. She began collecting their handiwork and shipping it to the North where the crafts were sold. In the early 1900’s Edith began a weaving enterprise in Biltmore Village and named it Biltmore Industries. The business grew throughout the years and in 1917 was sold to Fred L. Seely, manager of the Grove Park Inn. Mr. Seely had buildings constructed on the resort grounds for his weaving business. This afternoon we'll learn of this industry Edith began when we visit the NORTH CAROLINA HOMESPUN MUSEUM AND THE ESTER-WINN ANTIQUE CAR MUSEUM, both housed in the historic weaving complex adjacent to the Grove Park Inn. We’ll close our afternoon adventures with a visit to the beautiful and historic GROVE PARK INN that opened in 1913. The inn will be fully decorated for the holidays. The national gingerbread house competition is held annually at the inn in mid-November, and entries will be on display through the Christmas holidays.

Dinner: Tonight’s dinner is on your own. You may enjoy a delightful meal in the hotel restaurant or take advantage of the hotel’s free shuttle service to one of the many fine restaurants of downtown Asheville. You decide!

Evening: A free evening to enjoy the sights and sounds of Asheville. The hotel shuttle service is available until 11:00pm.

Biltmore Estate, Wolfe Memorial and Asheville Art Museum.
Asheville, NC
Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Downtown Asheville

Activity note: A day of walking, up to 1.5 miles. Participants are asked to please use precaution as surfaces may be uneven.

Breakfast: Breakfast buffet in the hotel.

Morning: We'll begin our morning with a visit to the BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY FOLK ART CENTER. The center is home to the Southern Highland Craft Guild and showcases the finest in traditional and contemporary crafts of the Southern Appalachians. The center houses three galleries, a library and a craft shop. Afterwards we will visit the ASHEVILLE ART MUSEUM. The museum's web page describes the facility best. "Founded by artists in 1948 in Asheville, NC, the Asheville Art Museum annually presents an exciting, inviting and active schedule of exhibitions and public programs based on its Permanent Collection of 20th and 21st century American art. Any visit will also include experiences with works of significance to Western North Carolina's cultural heritage including Studio Craft, Black Mountain College and Cherokee artists. Special exhibitions feature renowned regional and national artists and explore issues of enduring interest."

Lunch: Enjoy a wonderful lunch at historic PACK’S TAVERN. The structure was built in 1907 and was originally known as the Hayes and Hopson building of Pack Square Park. In the earliest years, there was an underground passage leading from the building's basement to other buildings in the vicinity. During this time the building was used as a means of distributing illegal "moonshine" to people who didn't respect the dry laws. With the repeal of the Volstead Act in 1932, there was no longer a need for the distribution of illegal liquors to the counties of Western North Carolina and the building changed it course and became an automotive and appliance center. It has also been used as a lumber supply company and was later converted to Bill Stanley’s Barbecue and Bluegrass Restaurant. The Hayes and Hopson Building underwent major renovations in 2009 with restoration emphasis placed on the exposed brick, the original tongue and groove ceilings and wood trusses, as well as the uncovering of the 100 year old flooring. Today the building has been beautifully restored to its "Prohibition-Era Grandeur." Pack's Tavern boasts excellent service, the best drinks in town and a large eclectic menu. A delicious lunch is served, so come and enjoy!!!!

Afternoon: This afternoon we'll visit the THOMAS WOLFE MEMORIAL MUSEUM, a state historic site. "Considered by many to be one of the giants of 20th Century American Literature, Thomas Wolfe immortalized his childhood home in his epic autobiographical novel, Look Homeward, Angel. Wolfe’s colorful portrayal of his family, his hometown of Asheville, North Carolina, and the Old Kentucky Home boarding house earned the historic Victorian home a place as one of American Literature’s most famous landmarks" (www.wolfememorial.com)

Dinner: Tonight we'll enjoy a delightful dinner on the estate at the STABLE CAFE, located beside the house. Recipient of the 2015 Open Table Diner's Choice award, the Stable Café serves delicious meals in the former estate horse stables that were transformed into a beautiful restaurant.

Evening: One of the highlights of the week will be our AUDIO GUIDED CANDLELIGHT TOUR of the Biltmore House with it's beautiful grand-scale Christmas decorations. The audio provides information about each room and the items of importance located within. You can set your own pace by starting and stopping the audio device. Step back in time to the late 1800s as we view elegant Victorian decorations including wreaths, bows, poinsettias, evergreen garland and thousands of ornaments twinkling in the firelight. Each tree is uniquely decorated to match the room in which it is located. Marvel at the forty foot Christmas tree that towers above visitors in the formal dining hall. It will be an unforgettable evening at Biltmore!

Behind-the-Scenes Tour, Estate Winery and Antler Hill
Asheville, NC
Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Downtown Asheville

Activity note: Comfortable shoes are definitely needed today. The behind-the-scenes tour requires some going up and down steps and a lot of walking as does the Antler Hill Village and Estate Winery.

Breakfast: Breakfast Buffet in the hotel.

Morning: Touring of the Biltmore Estate and House continues as attendees receive a special guided BEHIND-THE-SCENES TOUR of many rooms not open to the public. Learn what's involved in restoring a room, understand the advanced mechanical (water, heat, electricity) functionality of the estate as compared to the rest of the country at that time, and have the opportunity to ask the guide questions.

Lunch: Lunch at the Biltmore Estate! Everything at the Estate is first class and this leisurely holiday luncheon is no exception. We will enjoy scrumptious turkey and dressing, and all the trimmings, plus fabulous homemade desserts at the DEERPARK RESTAURANT.

Afternoon: This afternoon we will visit ANTLER HILL VILLAGE, home of the ESTATE WINERY. The first vineyards were planted in 1971 and eight years later in 1979 the first bottle of wine was sold. We'll have an opportunity to tour the winery complex and enjoy a complimentary wine-tasting. The remainder of the afternoon can be spent visiting the other exhibits and shops of Antler Hill Village.

Dinner: A delicious dinner will be served in our hotel.

Evening: The dormant gardens of Biltmore during the Christmas season come to life in spring and it’s a great time to visit the estate. Since we can’t see the gardens in all their springtime glory, this evening we’ll get a glimpse into the beauty of the season by enjoying an informative video on “THE GARDENS OF BILTMORE.”

Christmas Musical Program
Asheville, NC

Activity note: Very little walking required today.

Breakfast: Breakfast buffet provided in the hotel.

Morning: We'll wrap up the week with a review of our learning experiences and enjoy a wonderful CHRISTMAS MUSICAL PRESENTATION by a local artist. Immediately afterwards we'll say goodbye to our new friends and check out of the hotel by 11:00am.

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