Asheville at Christmastime: The Biltmore and Beyond
At a Glance
Best of all, you’ll…
- Experience the Biltmore House by candle and firelight as holiday choirs and musical performances welcome you.
- Immerse yourself in the history, arts and art-deco architecture of Asheville, including a visit to the Cathedral of All Souls and the Basilica of St. Lawrence.
- Enjoy live performances ranging from choral Christmas carols to traditional Appalachian folk music and songs of the Cherokee Nation on flute, rattle and Native American Drum.
Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.
Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00 p.m.
Afternoon: Program Registration: 5:00 -6:00 p.m. After you check in and have your room assignment, join us at the Road Scholar table in the conference room to register with the program staff, get any updated information, and fill out menu choices. If you arrive late, please locate your Group Leader and let them know you have arrived. At orientation the Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. We will review Covid-19 protocols and will adhere to local Covid-19 guidelines and requirements throughout the program. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.
Dinner: At the hotel.
Evening: Continue to get to know your fellow participants or take time to unpack and rest up for a week of adventure in Asheville, NC.
Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; riding about 5 miles, approximately 3/4 hour riding time. Walking up to 1.5 miles; paved city sidewalks. slight inclines.
Breakfast: At the hotel.
Morning: We will be joined by a local historian who will tell us about Asheville from its beginning as a crossroads for Native American Indians into one of the highest ranked destinations in the country over more than 200 years. We’ll learn about its history and how it became a storehouse for music, culture, arts, crafts, Art Deco architecture, and how it came to be known as the “Paris of the South.” We’ll also hear about the coming of the railroad and its role in the city’s history as well as how it was affected by the 1929 stock market crash.
Lunch: At Pack’s Tavern, built in 1907. An underground passage that led from the building’s basement to other buildings in the vicinity was used during the Prohibition era to distribute illegal “moonshine” to people who didn’t respect the dry laws.
Afternoon: After lunch, we’ll board our coach for a field trip through the River Arts District. Galleries and studios run along a one-mile stretch along the French Broad River. We’ll stop at Foundry Street, which is the center for arts and crafts that go beyond the ordinary. There will be time to go in and out studio's of your choice. If some of the in-house resident artists happen to be working on specific crafts, you are welcome to watch as you visit. We’ll return to the hotel after our field trip.
Dinner: On your own to have what you like.
Evening: At a given time in the evening, settle in to 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 are beautifully decorated trees with thousands of twinkling lights in almost every room, wreathes and bows, floral decorations and miles of decorated garlands. Scents from live trees and cinnamon sticks remind us of the season and much, much more! The video will give us a glimpse into the beautifully decorated estate and will provide us with pertinent logistical information as we prepare for our upcoming estate visit!
Activity note: Walking about 1.5 miles throughout the day’s field trips; some various terrain including pavement and brick walkways. Biltmore Estate does have a handicap accessible elevator. The walk through the Biltmore House averages about 1.5 hours; there is no seating in the mansion, only walking and standing, but there is limited seating near the entrance.
Breakfast: At the hotel.
Morning: We will be joined by a long-time resident of the Southern Appalachians, a folksinger-folklorist for more than 30 years. We’ll learn about Cherokee history and culture as it relates to Asheville and the surrounding area. Before the arrival of the Europeans, the land where Asheville now exists lay within the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation. Your local expert who has collected and continues to share Cherokee legends, will play the Cherokee flute, rattle, and the Native American drum. Our presenter also plays the five-string banjo, guitars, and the Appalachian dulcimer. Through this presentation and performance, we’ll delve into hundreds of years of Cherokee culture and history in a short time including one of America's darkest tragedies, the Removal of tribes to the West, and into the present.
Lunch: At the hotel.
Afternoon: We will be joined by a long-time resident of the Southern Appalachians, a folksinger-folklorist for more than 30 years. We’ll learn about Cherokee history and culture as it relates to Asheville and the surrounding area. Before the arrival of the Europeans, the land where Asheville now exists lay within the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation. Your local expert who has collected and continues to share Cherokee legends, will play the Cherokee flute, rattle, and the Native American drum. Our presenter also plays the five-string banjo, guitars, and the Appalachian dulcimer. Through this presentation and performance, we’ll delve into hundreds of years of Cherokee culture and history in a short time including one of America's darkest tragedies, the Removal of tribes to the West, and into the present.
Dinner: At Biltmore.
Evening: Live music, firelight and candlelight will all enhance our experience and enjoyment of the Biltmore Estate on this Candlelight Christmas Evening. Audios will not be used on the candlelight visit due to the choirs, dancing and musical performances that take place throughout the home. We’ll go on a candlelit stroll around and through the Biltmore House, which will be adorned with beautiful grand-scale holiday decorations. Step back in time to the late 1800s as we view elegant Victorian decorations including wreaths, bows, poinsettias, evergreen garlands and thousands of ornaments twinkling in the firelight; each tree will be uniquely decorated to match the room in which it is located; and marvel at the forty foot Christmas tree that towers above visitors in the formal dining hall – it will be an unforgettable evening at Biltmore! There will also be dancing and singing, choirs, and performances on site. We’ll then rendezvous at a predetermined time and place for transfer back to the hotel.
Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 10 miles, approximately 1/2 hour riding time. Walking up to 3/4 mile and standing during field trips. At Thomas Wolfe home, no elevator to second floor; approxkimately15 steps down/up-to/from dinner location. At NC Arboretum, walking on gravel walkways, some uneven along woodland edge and garden areas for Winter Lights.
Breakfast: At the hotel.
Morning: We'll begin the morning with our study leader who will give a presentation on Appalachian History. Setting out from the hotel via motorcoach, we'll travel to the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Museum for an introductory film followed by an expert led visit through the Victorian style home of Thomas Wolfe. As stated on the museum website, "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."
Lunch: On your own to have what you like from the many restaurants surrounding the hotel.
Afternoon: Free Afternoon.
Dinner: Dinner will be on your own.
Evening: At an appointed time, we will board our motorcoach for the North Carolina Arboretum for the Winter Lights display. Winter Lights features beautifully lit displays and glowing landscapes snuggled along the Arboretum’s woodland edge and garden areas. Be amazed at the new nature-themed displays like winter wildlife, colorful butterflies, special insect lantern exhibit, and a giant daisy "garden." Guided by green principles, the design team created a show composed of energy-efficient LED lights, which use 80% less energy than conventional lights.
Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 10 miles, approximately 1/2 hour riding time. Walking up to 3/4 mile and standing during field trips.
Breakfast: At the hotel.
Morning: Christmas is a special time of year and this afternoon an Appalachian Cultural expert will join us at the hotel to present a program on the rich history, culture and Christmas traditions of the Southern Appalachians. Prepared with fresh greenery that the locals have used for ages, our expert will demonstrate how the Appalachian culture made their holiday decorations and will explain what Christmas was like "back then". After a short break, We will then ride to the grand Omni Grove Park Inn. This beautiful hotel has captured the hearts of many travelers who sought the peace and tranquility of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Grove Park Inn has withstood time to secure a permanent spot as a landmark in history. During a self-directed exploration, we will have an opportunity to view the Inn’s historical displays.
Lunch: At Omni Grove Park Inn.
Afternoon: After lunch we will have time to independently view the entries in the Gingerbread House competition. The Omni Grove Park Inn National Gingerbread House Competition is one of the nation's most celebrated and competitive holiday events. The caliber of judges and competitors has changed since it first started and now the panel of judges represents nationally renowned food, arts, and media professionals and the level of competition has attracted the highest quality of design, artistry and pastry expertise. The competition has merited broadcast coverage by ABC's Good Morning America, the Travel Channel, and the Food Network. The national gingerbread house competition is held annually at the inn in mid-November, and entries will be on display through the Christmas holidays. Enjoy taking some time for a self-led exploration through the site and its exhibits. We will have the opportunity to 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. After exploring each museum independently at one’s own pace we’ll rendezvous at a predetermined time and place for transfer back to hotel via motorcoach.
Dinner: At a local restaurant.
Evening: We will enjoy our final evening together as we say a fond good-bye to newfound friends and hold on to the memories we have made.
Activity note: Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m.
Breakfast: At the hotel.
Morning: This concludes our program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.