Christmas at Biltmore
If you've ever wanted to see a European castle but can't make it to Europe, head up to Asheville, in the mountains of North Carolina. You'll find the Biltmore Estate, the largest privately owned house, if you can even call it that, in the United States. It was built in the late 1800's by George Washington Vanderbilt and has remained in his family, though it hasn't been lived in for a long time. I won't say Biltmore does Christmas better than New York City, but it's definitely at the same level.
Every room, and there are over 200 of them, is decked out with Christmas trees, wreaths, and lights. The house is beyond huge but luckily is set up in a way that guides you through it so you don't miss anything. Although there are floors and floors of bedrooms, my favorite floors were actually the first and the basement. On the first floor you'll find sitting rooms, dining rooms, and the library, filled with real books collected and read by Vanderbilt. In the basement, you'll find everything you could ever need to entertain yourself (if you get tired of hide-and-go-seek) from a bowling alley, to a gym, to a swimming pool. I also found the basement really cool because it's where the kitchens, pantry's and servants rooms were.
I didn't want to share pictures of EVERYTHING, partially because that would be impossible, but also because I want to leave some surprise for anyone looking to visit. If you've been thinking about visiting Biltmore, I say go. I was a little shocked by the ticket prices but it's definitely a multi-hour activity and worth it, in my opinion. I loved the house and the Christmas decorations, but what really stood out to me was the approach to the house. The entire time we were driving up to the main house, we were passing through this perfectly constructed woodland. There was something to look at around every bend and I couldn't stop staring out the window in awe. Towards the end of the tour, we entered a room that showed pictures from the construction of the house and described the building of it. I read that Fredrick Law Olmsted did the landscape architecture for the approach and it was the least surprising thing I learned/saw all day. In case you missed it, I talked about him in this post in bullet five.
Beyond visiting the house, there's also a winery on the property, and our tickets included a free tasting but we ended up heading back to Charlotte the same day and skipped that part. If you're planning a visit to Asheville, definitely allow at least half a day to get the full Biltmore experience.