A Biltmore Christmas: Vanderbilt Estate Attracts Tourists With Fantastic Holiday Decorations

Storied Asheville, N.C. estate decorates holiday set of "GMA."

Dec. 8, 2009.— -- Christmas at Biltmore House is always special.

The historic, enchanting estate in Asheville, N.C., draws more than 1 million tourists a year. As many as 300,000 of them come during the holiday season.

Biltmore, site of the nation's largest private residence, is famous for having one of the largest holiday displays in the Southeast.

Biltmore House, along with the surrounding 8,000 acres of the estate, will celebrate its annual Christmas at Biltmore through Jan. 3. "Good Morning America's" weather anchor, Sam Champion, visited Biltmore this holiday season.

Decorating Biltmore is a tradition that began on Christmas Eve in 1895, when the owner, the wealthy industrialist George W. Vanderbilt, first welcomed friends to his estate to check out the Christmas splendor. It's still in the family.

This season, Biltmore will be transformed into a virtual Christmas wonderland.

A staff of 1,800 people worked for a full month, decorating 100 Christmas trees and placing hundreds of wreaths and bows, hundreds of poinsettias, 30,000 lights in the house, with another 150,000 lights used around the estate, 10,000 feet of fresh garland and more than 25,000 ornaments.

Biltmore House's holiday centerpiece, a 34-foot Fraser fir, spends the holidays in the 72-foot high Banquet Hall, adorned with lights and surrounded by hundreds of brightly packaged gift boxes.

The estate's front lawn will glow with a lighted 55-foot Norway spruce, surrounded by eight clusters of smaller lighted trees and nursery shrubs.

Biltmore has designed a holiday set for "Good Morning America" in honor of the imminent departure of the show's anchor, Diane Sawyer, for the anchor position at "World News."

This year's theme focuses heavily on flowers, and the set decoration combines several colors in various frosty shades, as well as a vintage winter feel.

More About Biltmore

The spectacular estate was Vanderbilt's vision. Designed by Richard Morris Hunt, Biltmore House is modeled after a French Renaissance chateau, and has 250 rooms.

Biltmore estate encompasses more than 8,000 acres, including renowned gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of U.S. landscape architecture.

Today, Biltmore has grown to include the award-winning Biltmore Winery, four-star Inn on Biltmore Estate, Equestrian Center, Outdoor Center, five restaurants, event and meeting venues and Biltmore for Your Home, the company's licensed products division.

To learn more about Biltmore, visit www.biltmore.com or click HERE.

Decorate Your Home, Biltmore-Style

As for your own home, the decorations should tell your guests something about you and create a spirit for your holiday season. They can feature decorations from your childhood, they can be designed from natural materials, be opulent and glittering or they can reflect current trends.

Although many are tempted to simply decorate their homes and in green and red, they are not mandatory holiday colors. Don't be afraid of using other colors for the Christmas season. If you use other colors, you can add seasonal accents in green and red.

Remember to have a theme that repeats throughout your decorations to achieve continuity.


Add the lights after your tree has been fluffed and shaped.

Connect up to six strands of lights. Never plug more than six strands into an extension cord or single outlet. For taller trees requiring more than 300 lights, wire a power bar found at any hardware store against the trunk midway up the tree.

The power strip can then be plugged into another power strip or a heavy-duty drop cord.

Place the lights from the top of the tree, working them in and out on the branches to create depth of light. Judge the placement of each light so the tree is evenly lit.

Add any garland material, beading, vines or other materials before placing ornaments.

Beading should start at the top of the tree and then be wrapped in scallops, dropping down a branch level at the back of the tree.


Add a variety of coordinating ornaments to add character and interest to the tree, placing the largest ornaments toward the bottom of the tree.

Work shiny ornaments back into the tree to catch the light. Place ornaments in and out on the branches to create depth. Ornaments that may be unusual or delicate should be set aside and should be the last to be placed onto the tree.

The Tree

The tree topper completes the look of the holiday tree, and it's best to place it on the tree before standing it up.

Tree toppers can be something simple like a bow, angel, blown glass point, dried flower bouquet. Streamers from the bow should be weaved or curled to the sides of the tree for interest.

Chose an appropriate tree skirt such as a piece of tapestry or velvet material, a tablecloth or even a solid colored throw.

Add some wrapped packages, toys, poinsettias or other plants to the base of the tree.

Placing crumpled tissue paper under the fabric can fluff the tree skirt. This tissue can be used to wrap fragile ornaments when you take down your tree at the end of the season.

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