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

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

ByABC News via logo
December 7, 2009, 11:51 PM

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.

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.