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North Carolina

Asheville at Christmastime: The Biltmore and Beyond

Program No. 22980RJ
Experience the magic of a Vanderbilt Christmas at the ornately decorated Biltmore House as you learn about turn-of-the-century traditions, and explore the charming city of Asheville.
Length
6 days
Rating (5)
Activity Level
Starts at
1,599

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Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Dec 11 - Dec 16, 2022
Starting at
1,599
Dec 18 - Dec 23, 2022
Starting at
1,749
Nov 26 - Dec 1, 2023
Starting at
1,949
Dec 3 - Dec 8, 2023
Starting at
1,949
Dec 10 - Dec 15, 2023
Starting at
1,949
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Dec 11 - Dec 16, 2022
Starting at
2,059
Dec 18 - Dec 23, 2022
Starting at
2,199
Nov 26 - Dec 1, 2023
Starting at
2,429
Dec 3 - Dec 8, 2023
Starting at
2,429
Dec 10 - Dec 15, 2023
Starting at
2,429

At a Glance

Evergreen trees twinkle with thousands of white lights. Poinsettias, wreaths tied with bright red bows and miles of ornate garland adorn nearly every surface. Cinnamon sticks scents blended with aromas of fresh balsam and carol music greet you as you enter the gloriously festive Biltmore estate, in full regalia for Christmastime. There’s nothing like it. Celebrate the season at this landmark estate as you step back in time to learn about what the holidays were like for the Vanderbilt family at the turn of the century. While you’re in town, explore charming Asheville and learn about Southern Appalachian and Native American traditions.
Activity Level
On Your Feet
Walking up to 1.5 miles daily, sometimes on uneven surfaces. Getting on/off trolley. Standing in museums up to an hour for lecture. Some historical structures have stairs/no elevator.

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.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Lee Knight
Raised in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, Lee is a folk singer, story teller and outdoor leader, performing at concerts, workshops, festivals and schools. He shares his knowledge of the natural world leading hikes, canoe trips and guiding whitewater rafts. Lee has collected and shares Cherokee legends and plays the Cherokee flute and rattle, as well as the Native American drum. He also plays the five-string banjo, guitars and the Appalachian dulcimer.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Lee Knight
Lee Knight View biography
Raised in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, Lee is a folk singer, story teller and outdoor leader, performing at concerts, workshops, festivals and schools. He shares his knowledge of the natural world leading hikes, canoe trips and guiding whitewater rafts. Lee has collected and shares Cherokee legends and plays the Cherokee flute and rattle, as well as the Native American drum. He also plays the five-string banjo, guitars and the Appalachian dulcimer.
Profile Image of Kevan Frazier
Kevan Frazier View biography
Kevan Frazier is an Asheville native whose family settled in the Asheville area in the late 1700s. He is the author of “Legendary Locals of Asheville,” which details the pioneers, educators, artists and others who have had a lasting impact on Asheville. Kevan is a former member of the history faculty and administration at UNC Asheville, where he served for 17 years. He holds a doctorate in history from West Virginia University.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Lady on the Hill: How Biltmore Estate Became an American Icon
by Howard E. Covington Jr. and The Biltmore Company
"What William Cecil has accomplished at Biltmore Estate is one of the great preservation success stories of all time. He has set a high standard for what all historic house museums strive for: magnificently preserved buildings and grounds, engaging interpretation, and--perhaps most challenging of all--economic self-sufficiency. It is no surprise that Biltmore Estate is widely recognized as one of America's finest places to visit." --Richard Moe, President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation "Biltmore is a glorious national historic landmark that, through creative vision and entrepreneurial management, preserves and provides insight into a way of life in the early 1900s. Bill is the imaginative and multifaceted leader who has built this great monument to enrich his community. George and I admire his dedication and success." --George and Abby Rockefeller O'Neill "Bill Cecil and his team at Biltmore Estate have sure proved that they know how to build a successful business. They did it the old-fashioned way: embrace a bold idea that others said could not be done and--through commitment, determination, and hard work--bring it to life. Their achievement against the odds is inspiring, and their vision and perseverance are valuable lessons to us all." --Don Logan, Chairman, Media & Communications Group, Time Warner "If George Vanderbilt did nothing more than engage the two most prominent and storied designers of their time, architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, to carry out his vision of a European estate in the southern Appalachians, he would have created an American icon. The beauty of the method by which the estate was executed and, even today, the meticulous attention to detail, in the presentation and care of the estate by William Cecil, have brought history to life." --Gary J. Walters, Chief Usher, The White House
Asheville's Historic Architecture (NC) [Paperback]
by Richard Hansley
Asheville, known for its architectural diversity and intriguing Art Deco style, has been fortunate in attracting brilliant architects who, with imaginative foresight and design expertise, have created lasting testaments in brick and stone. Local architectural enthusiast Richard Hansley recounts the history behind dozens of Asheville's most prominent buildings and historical neighborhoods in Asheville's Historic Architecture. Discover how Douglas Ellington, Richard Sharp Smith, James Vester Miller and Tony Lord influenced this busy metropolis, as landmarks like the Jackson Building, the Grove Park Inn and the Art Deco City Building were constructed along the city's thriving streets. These buildings have stood the test of time and remain as breathtaking in concept and appearance today as when first completed.
Legendary Locals of Asheville
by Kevan D. Frazier
Legendary Locals of Asheville tells the stories of the people who founded, built, and rebuilt Asheville. From the first woman elected to state office in the South, who won her primary before women had the right to vote, to the grandson of a famed railroad magnate who built a 250-room chateau that became the largest home in America, to the entrepreneur who helped ignite the city’s renaissance when he risked opening an art gallery downtown when most of it was still boarded up, Ashevillians are an amazing lot. Likewise, there are stories of extraordinary groups like the renowned faculty of an experimental college that redefined the American arts or the brave high school students who joined together to fight segregation. Their stories are as touching and fascinating as they are varied.
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6 days
5 nights
11 meals
5 B 3 L 3 D
DAY
1
Check-In, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Asheville, North Carolina
D
Cambria Hotel Downtown Asheville

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.

DAY
2
History Field Trip, All Souls Cathedral, River Arts District
Asheville, North Carolina
B,L
Cambria Hotel Downtown Asheville

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. Our first stop will be at the clay works pottery shop. A demonstration will allow us to see the work up-close. Artists from across the country come with all levels of experience for the expertise and challenge at this state-of-the art, 5000 square foot former warehouse in the River Arts District. Next, 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!

DAY
3
Cherokee History, Biltmore Estate by Candlelight
Asheville, North Carolina
B,L,D
Cambria Hotel Downtown Asheville

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 board a motorcoach and set out on a field trip to the extraordinary Biltmore Estate. We will start out to explore the Estate Gardens and Conservatory. The gardens, formal and informal, were designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed parks throughout the U.S. including Central Park in New York City. Present-day horticultural experts work diligently to preserve Olmstead’s vision. Leaving the gardens, we will ride to the Biltmore Estate Winery and adjacent Antler Hill Village with time to see and do what interests each of us most. George Vanderbilt appreciated fine wines and it was his grandson, William A. V. Cecil, who developed Biltmore’s vineyards and winery in the 1970s. After a wine tasting demonstration at Antler Hill, we will return to the Biltmore Mansion for dinner in the Stable Cafe.

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.

DAY
4
Appalachian History, Basilica, Winter Lights At Arboretum
Asheville, North Carolina
B
Cambria Hotel Downtown Asheville

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. approximately 15 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 will be joined once again by this long-time resident of the Southern Appalachians, a folksinger-folklorist for more than 30 years. We’ll learn about Appalachian history and culture as it relates to Asheville and the surrounding area. We’ll then set out on a walking field trip to the Basilica of St. Lawrence where a docent will lead our exploration. The Basilica was designed by Rafael Guastavino (Valencia, Spain, 1842 – Asheville, North Carolina 1908). After being commissioned by George Vanderbilt to work on Biltmore, Guastavino settled in the Asheville area and designed the basilica in 1905, a structure completed shortly after his death. It boasts the largest freestanding elliptical dome in North America, a span of 58 by 82 feet.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like.

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.

DAY
5
Appalachian Traditions, Thomas Wolfe Museum, Grove Park Inn
Asheville, North Carolina
B,L,D
Cambria Hotel Downtown Asheville

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 morning our expert study leader on Appalachian traditions 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'll ride to the Thomas Wolfe Museum where we'll see a film about the life of Thomas Wolfe. 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.

DAY
6
Program Concludes
Asheville, North Carolina
B

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!






Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.