Sandy McLeod

February 2015 Things to Do in Asheville

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If you’re looking for things to do in Asheville this month, you can always go skiing, snowboarding or snow tubing at one of the area ski lodges: Beech Mountain, Cataloochie or Wolf Ridge.


There are, however, plenty of indoor events so you can beat the cold if that’s what you want. Listed below are some of the best things to do in Asheville during February 2015:

Umphrey’s McGee in Concert

Umphrey’s McGee is a band known for its longevity, improvisation and mix of rock-and-roll genres. They play February 7 at the US Cellular Center at 8:00 pm. With 16 years under its belt, the band has just released its eighth studio album. Tickets — $30 in advance for general admission — are still available. Buy Umprey’s McGee tickets online. 

Master Storyteller David Novak

Appalachia is the storytelling capital of the country, if not the world. David Novak is an award-winning Disney Institute Master Storyteller who has spun yarns at all the country’s major festivals. Come hear him bring his stories to life in a salon setting at Metro Wines, 169 Charlotte Street, on February 8, at 3:00 pm. $15 cash admission gets you a free beverage. Visit David Novak’s website.

Arlo Guthrie: Alice’s Restaurant 50th Anniversary Tour

If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember The Alice’s Restaurant Massacree, a seminal recording by Pete Seeger’s boy. Fifty years later, Arlo returns to sing that song and others at the beautiful Diana Wortham Theatre on February 13 and 14, as pat of an international tour. Both performances are at 8:00 pm and the cost is $48/$43 for adults and students. Read more about Arlo’s concerts. 

Valentine’s Day Drag Queen Bingo

Of all the things to do in Asheville in February, this has to be the most unique. This unusual event benefits pets in need, thanks to Brother Wolf Animal Rescue. Held at the DoubleTree Hotel at 115 Hendersonville Road on February 13 and 14 from 7:00 to 9:00 pm, you get eight bingo games, prizes, raffles, a silent auction and a cash bar. Admission is $25. Get more information about Drag Queen Bingo. 

Asheville Symphony on Valentine’s Day

On Valentine’s Day, treat your lover to the symphony. Asheville Symphony plays three selections (by Zhou Tian, Bartók and Dvořák) inspired by the earth’s beauty. You cannot get more romantic than that. The concert starts at 8:00 pm at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. Tickets are $22 to $62. Get details about the symphony concert and buy tickets.


Les Femmes Mystique Presents ValenDine

Also on Valentine’s Day is this provocative dinner/show at White Horse, Black Mountain. For $50 ($20 without the meal), you get a farm-to-table four-course dinner, sensual dancers and poetry, and of course your choice of beverage. The fun starts at 7:00 pm, and dancing continues until closing. Find out why they call it “Delight in All Things Delicious.” 

Passion, Temptation and Tango at Lex 18

On Valentine’s Day, you’ll never run out of things to do in Asheville. Lex 18, a local restaurant, presents two seatings for a four-course meal and a bottle of wine in a stylized 1920’s Argentinean setting. For $90, you get food, wine, chocolates and a show featuring professional tango dancers. Get more information about Lex 18’s dinner show. 

Winter at Biltmore

During this time of year, the Biltmore Estate offers its lowest admission prices. Let the Asheville Cabins of Willow Winds staff make your reservation for Asheville’s biggest attraction. You’ll get a free audio tour guide — and kids under 10 get in free. After February 5, you also get the free exhibit Dressing Downton, showing more than 45 period costumes. See what’s going on at the Biltmore Estate. 

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This is just a smattering of things to do in Asheville during February. Stay at Asheville Cabins of Willow Winds, and let us plan your perfect vacation.

Sandy McLeod

Outdoor Winter Activities in the Mountains

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When the fireplace is roaring in your Asheville cabin, you may be tempted to spend your vacation time curled up by the fire, sipping wine and staring into each other’s eyes. That’s fine if that’s your preference, but don’t be fooled; there is still plenty to do in the Western North Carolina Great Outdoors.


With falling temperatures come Ashville winter activities. Just because there’s no snow on the ground in the city doesn’t mean there’s no snow. Asheville sits in a valley, surrounded by mountains: the Blue Ridge and the Smokies. If you love the mountains and the outdoors, you can find lots to do. Here are some of the Asheville winter activities.

Asheville Ice-Skating, Skiing and Snowboarding

While you can’t actually ski or snowboard in Asheville, you can find decent slopes within a short drive. All ski lodges offer runs all winter. When Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, snowmaking equipment comes to the rescue.

  • Sugar Mountain: South of Banner Elk, this ski resort is a 1½-hour drive away from Asheville. Sugar Mountain offers day and night skiing, tubing, snowshoeing and even ice-skating. With 21 slopes, including a double-diamond, and 11 lifts, you’re sure to find a fun run for you and your family.


  • Wolf Ridge: An easy 40-minute drive north of Asheville, this Mars Hill ski lodge has 15 runs and three lifts. Wolf Ridge, the closest of all the resorts, features a family-friendly tube run, too.
  • Cataloochie: Less than an hour west of Asheville, the Cataloochie Ski Area in Maggie Valley has day and night skiing and snowboarding. Five lifts and 18 slopes cover this little part of the Smoky Mountains.


  • Beech Mountain: North of Banner Elk, this ski resort is 1¾-hour drive from Asheville. Beech Mountain offers 15 slopes and seven lifts, as well as a freestyle terrain park for adventurous skiers and snowboarders. A 7,000-square-foot ice-skating rink sits in the midst of an Alpine Village.
  • Appalachian Ski Mountain: This ski resort lies 1¾ hours northeast of Asheville, near Boone. With day and night skiing, snowboarding, a terrain park and ice skating, Appalachian Ski Mountain has six lifts and 12 slopes, including three freestyle terrain runs.

Asheville Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing can be arduous, so we recommend it only for our fittest guests. It’s basically hiking on top of snow, but there is a technique to it. Before you go, make sure you know what you’re doing and alert someone if you’re going off alone. But among the Asheville winter activities, snowshoeing can best take you to remote, quiet, breathtaking vistas.

When Asheville gets any significant amount of snow, the city shuts down, making it the perfect opportunity to rent some snowshoes for a hike across town or along the Blue Ridge Parkway, just above the Asheville Cabins at Willow Winds. Of course, if you want a more adventurous trek, some of the nearby ski resorts also offer snowshoeing. To really get away from it all, take your snowshoes to a state park, such as Dupont State Forest, Mount Mitchell or Elk Knob State Park.

Whatever your proclivities during the winter months, let the staff at Asheville Cabins at Willow Winds know, so that we can recommend the best experience for you. A visit to Asheville can delight and surprise you whether you want to test your skill on the slopes or snuggle by the fire.

Sandy McLeod

Day Trip from Asheville: Cherokee

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From the front door of your cabin at Asheville Cabins of Willow Winds, you are minutes from the Biltmore Estate, downtown Asheville and numerous hiking trails on the Blue Ridge Parkway. At the same time, you’re just a short drive from a wide range of other, exciting venues and vacation destinations.


A very popular day trip from Asheville, for natives and visitors alike, is the Cherokee reservation, its shows, casino and authentic Native American shopping and displays. Cherokee is only 52 miles from the heart of Asheville, about an hour drive if you take the more direct route on the freeways; a three-to-four-hour drive on the scenic parkway.

And once you arrive, you’ll find activities to suite the entire family.

The Cherokee Experience

Cherokee, North Carolina, actually is a sovereign nation within the state borders. It’s a base camp for hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway in Western North Carolina as well as a destination in itself. Attractions on the reservation include:

  • Museum of the Cherokee Indian, an interactive experience that vividly explores the 11,000-year-old Cherokee traditions.
  • Oconaluftee Indian Village gives visitors an interactive journey through the lifestyle of the Cherokee nation, where you’ll see traditional sacred rites, dwellings and work areas.
  • Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual, Inc. is where you can purchase handmade artwork, such as beads, wooden masks and clay jugs.
  • Unto These Hills is a dramatic presentation produced in the newly renovated Mountainside Theatre. The critically acclaimed outdoor drama features Cherokee actors in a production that centers on the lifestyle and values honored through time.
  • Sequoyah National Golf Club is an 18-hole course designed by Robert Trent Jones II set in the majesty of the surrounding landscape. Sequoyah National offers an intriguing challenge for beginners and scratch handicappers alike.
  • Harrah’s Cherokee Casino has 150,000 feet of gaming space where you can play everything from slots and blackjack to roulette and craps.

imagesNature at Its Best

In Cherokee, you’ll be able to engage in a wide variety of outdoor activities. The reserve is host to more than 200 species of birds, making it a bird-watchers heaven. Go hiking and check out the magnificent waterfalls on the reservation and spot elk roaming the hills. Spend the day:

  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Horseback riding
  • Biking
  • Motorcycle riding


Fill Your Soul and Your Stomach

While you’re in Cherokee, you won’t find an absence of food options either. Check with your Asheville Cabins staff for information about regular events in Cherokee, such as the Cherokee Indian Fair, the North American Indian Women’s Association Annual Strawberry and Blueberry Festivals and the BBQ and Bluegrass Throwdown.

You’ll also find plenty of interesting dining options serving traditional Native dishes, such as:

  • Paul’s Restaurant — with rabbit, pheasant, and buffalo on the daily menu
  • Little Princess
  • Newfound Lodge
  • Deer Clan Production
  • Granny’s Kitchen

Asheville to Cherokee is worth the trip, especially if you plan an extended stay at the Asheville Cabins of Willow Winds. As you wind your way back to your cabin, you’ll feel closer to North Carolina’s original inhabitants and maybe even bring back a piece of that culture to hang on your walls or fit in your scrapbook.

Sandy McLeod

2015 Asheville Restaurant Week

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In addition to being a thriving arts community and a hub of outdoor enthusiasts, Asheville, North Carolina, is recognized around the country as a place for foodies. When you book your stay at the Asheville Cabins of Willow Winds for the third week of January 2015, you’ll be in for a special culinary treat. That’s when the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce presents the annual Asheville Restaurant Week.

From January 20 through 29 — which is slightly longer than your normal week, extended to give you extra time to get to one more restaurant — you can experience a taste of the Asheville dining scene. During those 10 days, many of the best Asheville restaurants offer a prix fixe experience. Prix fixe is a complete meal consisting of several courses, served for a prearranged fixed price.


Most of the participating Asheville restaurants are within minutes of your cabin. All pride themselves by using fresh, local ingredients whenever possible. Choose from a $15 two-course lunch or a $30 three-course dinner. You also can select a $20 or $30 two-course dinner for two.

So Many Choices

As of this writing, 39 restaurants have signed up to participate in this annual food-fest. Find one you like at Call ahead or ask the Asheville Cabins of Willow Winds staff to hold a table for you. This is a very popular local event, so it’s strongly suggested that you make reservations when you can (not every restaurant accepts them).


You’ll find that most of the Asheville restaurants offer farm-to-table pickings in line with the reputation that’s earned Asheville dining a place on so many national lists. Asheville Restaurant Week is an ideal opportunity to try as many new eateries as you can fit into your schedule. The special prices fall well below the average for many of these fine establishments.

Some Suggestions

The depth and breadth of Asheville dining may astound visitors unprepared for the varieties in this small mountain haven with a population of only 85,000. In Asheville alone, however, there are more than 250 independent restaurants, a growing number of craft breweries and more than 20 tailgate markets.

imagesDuring Asheville Restaurant Week, you can choose from Southern comfort food served with modern sophistication at Roux or high quality steaks at the Chop House Asheville Downtown. Go international with Latin fare at Chorizo’s, Mexican at the Cantina at Biltmore, Indian street food at Chai Pani or Italian at Strada. Make a day of it with breakfast at Another Broken Egg, lunch at King James Public House, dinner at The Market Place Restaurant & Lounge and dessert at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge.

Dress for Success

The Asheville dining scene offers an eclectic, casual atmosphere, where you’ll be just as comfortable in jeans and a sweater as you will in your finest evening wear. If you’re unsure what to wear, contact the restaurant or ask at the Asheville Cabins of Willow Winds office. In general, Ashevillians dress to suit their moods, so feel free to do the same. The only caveat is that you may want to wear something with a stretchy waistband if you plan on hitting a number of the Asheville restaurants on the list.

Sandy McLeod

The Best Asheville Events in January

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The mountain scene around Asheville, NC, buzzes with activity in the winter. Local businesses use any excuse to get people out of the house and bring them together. Now you can share these activities with the locals. Here are the best Asheville events for January 2015:

Polar Plunge at Lake Lure

Since most of the visitors to Asheville come from the Southeast region, it’s a sure bet no one has experienced — or witnessed — a polar plunge. This annual event at nearby Lake Lure on January 1 raises money for local firefighters. Go watch otherwise sane people do something insane. You may never get another chance. Find out what the Polar Plunge is all about.


Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding

Winter tourists from five states come to the Western North Carolina mountains to ski. Our nearby ski lodges are open all month. You can ski all day and then come home to your warm cabin in the woods. Get lift tickets for Beech Mountain, Cataloochie or Wolf Ridge.


Downton Abbey Dinner Theater

Starting on January 4 and on every Sunday of the month, Lex 18, a downtown restaurant that bills itself as an “Appalachian Fine Dining Supper Club and Moonshine Bar, hosts a five-course meal ($56) with period cocktails ($85) with actors representing the Crawley family of the show. After dinner, everyone can watch the live broadcast. Get more information and buy your tickets. 

American Kennel Club Agility Trials

If you’re a dog-lover, you may enjoy this weekend Asheville event. On January 17–18 at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center, more than 400 purebreds compete on obstacle courses, jumps and other agility drills. Admission is free. Read more about the dog agility trials. 

Asheville Restaurant Week 2015

From Tuesday, January 20 until Thursday, January 29, you can get special meals and special deals at area restaurants. This annual event, sponsored by the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, encourages locals to eat out, but you can enjoy the prix fixe menus at discount prices, too. Peruse the list of participating restaurants. 


Asheville Fringe Arts Festival

Asheville has a “fringe” culture, and this fest — modeled after the first and most famous fringe festival in Edinburgh, Scotland — boasts highly original and uncensored (read: adult) performing arts. On January 22–25, you’ll see things you’ve never seen before and may never see again. Of all the Asheville events this month, this one promises to be the most unique. Learn more about Asheville’s Fringe Arts Festival.

Winter Warmer Beer Festival

A month without a beer festival in Asheville is a lost opportunity for the many breweries in and around the city. From 3:00 to 7:00 pm on Saturday, January 24, Asheville Beer Fest presents Winter Warmer at the U.S. Cellular Center. More than 40 breweries and a few live bands will entertain guests for $48. Get the details about the Winter Warmer Beer Fest. 


Asheville events in January reflect the independent spirit that resides in this mountain town. From the Polar Plunge to the Fringe Festival, Asheville shows its unusual character in the winter. Some people claim it’s the “Keep Asheville Weird” crowd. Others believe that in Asheville, normal is weird. Decide for yourself when you visit Asheville Cabins of Willow Winds in January.

Sandy McLeod

Asheville Shopping: Malls and Boutiques

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Whether you’re looking for the latest trendy boots, an Asheville souvenir or a quirky, one-of-a-kind piece of pottery, Asheville shopping options make anything possible. When you stay at Asheville Cabins of Willow Winds, you are ideally situated to take advantage of all that Asheville has to offer avid shoppers. From the big malls to streets lined with unique boutiques, your Asheville shopping adventures begin here.


Indoor Malls for Everyone

  • Asheville Mall

You’ll find big department stores at the Asheville Mall, which is about 15 minutes from your cabin door. Sears, Belk, Dillard’s and JC Penny anchor the mall, and most of the other stores are chains like Banana Republic and Barnes & Noble, but it’s Asheville! Grab coffee at Starbucks and watch the locals. During the Christmas shopping season, the Asheville Mall usually is bustling.

  • Grove Arcade


A more unique indoor mall option exists inside the Grove Arcade, one of Asheville’s premier historic buildings. Built by tonic salesman and multi-millionaire E.W. Grove in 1910, the building houses a smattering of locally owned stores and some of the most delectable eating establishments. You’ll find handcrafted instruments at Appalachian Strings and custom bath crystals at Bath Junkie. Visit Roberto Coin jewelers for world-class jewelry or Alexander & Lehnert for locally made fine jewelry.

Outdoor Malls Thrive in Asheville

  • Biltmore Village

Since the weather supports outdoor Asheville shopping pretty much year-round, you can enjoy the many boutiques and high-end chain stores in historic Biltmore Village, near the entrance of the Biltmore Estate, just minutes from your cabin. Antiques, art, clothing, gifts and food are spread around the six-block village. You’ll find Chico’s and Lilly Pulitzer situated comfortably beside Brian Boggs Chairmakers and Monkees of Biltmore. Grab a bite at the Corner Kitchen or West End Bakery while perusing the Southern Highland Craft Gallery and Thomas Kincade.


  • Asheville Outlet Mall

In spring 2015, Asheville expands its diverse shopping base even further with Buncombe County’s first outlet mall, featuring 75 stores. As of this writing, the names of the stores are being kept hush-hush, but New England Development promises visitors won’t be disappointed. The open-air mall is situated right at the intersection of I-26 and Brevard Road, making it an ideal stop on your way to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Boutique Neighborhoods

  • Lexington Avenue and Downtown

Get in a little urban hiking as you go Asheville shopping the old-fashioned way — door-to-door on the downtown sidewalks. It will take you more than a one day to visit all the shops along Lexington Avenue, Haywood Street, Broadway and Wall Street. The most eclectic mix of clothing, gifts, art and antiques you’ve ever encountered line the streets of downtown Asheville. And there are plenty of bars, restaurants and coffee shops dotting the landscape to keep you energized for the true Asheville shopping experience.


  • River Arts District

Stick with the art that Asheville has gained a national — nay worldwide — reputation for by spending one of your shopping days in the River Arts District or the RAD. Not only will you be able to score a one-of-a-kind painting or well-turned bowl, but you’ll also get to meet the artists who make the pieces and possibly even see them work. Some of the shops are within walking distance of each other, since some are housed in refurbished industrial buildings in the area. Others are a few minutes’ drive apart. The entire area is about 10 minutes from your cabin door.

No matter what kind of mood you find yourself in when you visit Asheville, North Carolina, the shop owners are waiting anxiously for your appearance. Asheville shopping is rife with options to fulfill any shopper’s fantasy. Please ask at the office for directions and suggestions because those of us who live here in one of the most beautiful places on earth also love to shop until we literally drop.

Sandy McLeod

Bring On the Lights!

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It just isn’t Christmas without a bevy of bright lights and gaudy, over-the-top holiday decorations. And if you spend Christmas in Asheville, North Carolina, you won’t be disappointed. The town and surrounding areas get into the spirit whether we’ve got snow on the ground or sunshine over the mountains. Drive through some of the neighborhoods surrounding your cabin or take a tour a little further out. The lights of Christmas are alive and well in Asheville.

  • Biltmore Estate

Don’t even plan on leaving the area without at least one day, or evening, touring Biltmore at Christmas. You’ll find lights, trees and decorations on display at the historic mansion. It’s one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country during the holidays, and you’re just minutes away.

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  • Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland Lights

Take a 20-minute drive out to the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center for a real treat. For only $20 per car, you can drive the winding two-mile stretch of LED lights that are synchronized to music you listen to through your car radio. The 12 Days of Christmas forms the theme for the display, which is sure to produce giggles and guffaws as the nationally acclaimed light show adds touches of humor and diversity.


  • Lake Julian Festival of Lights

Not far from your cabin, you’ll find thousands of lights surrounding beautiful Lake Julian and the adjoining park. Admission here is only $5 per car ($15 for a van and $25 for a bus). The spectacle provides a show of nearly 50 lighted displays that are both stationary and animated. The light show is put on by the Buncombe County’s Parks and Recreation Department. It highlights (literally) some of the features of the Arden park, such as boating and fishing. Expect to see lighted fish flying through the Christmas air. You might even catch a glimpse of a few real fishermen too because the lake offers some great fishing this time of year.

  • Winter Lights at NC Arboretum

A first for the mountain park, Christmas in Asheville will be transformed with lights transforming the well-maintained gardens in the shadows of the Blue Ridge Parkway. This winter wonderland light show is a walking tour that features designs by former Walt Disney World lighting guru Jerry Stripling. In addition to the nightly lighted walking tours, you’ll be able to dance outdoors in the courtyard of the newly completed Education Center and purchase snacks, coffee and hot chocolate at the Savory Thyme Café. Admission is $18 for adults and $16 for children 5 through 11. Kids younger than four get in free.


Christmas in Asheville is never boring when you share all the blessings our mountain town has to offer. Spend a day skiing at nearly Wolf Laurel, eat at one of the world-famous restaurants near your cabin and then take in the holiday lights. Your cabin and its wood-burning fireplace will welcome you home when you return.

The staff at Asheville Cabins of Willow Winds wishes you and your friends and families the very merriest holiday season. We hope you’ll choose us for your stay while you celebrate Christmas in Asheville.

Sandy McLeod

The Biltmore Estate at Christmas

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The Biltmore Estate at Christmas

Asheville Christmas wouldn’t be the same without the Biltmore Estate. Heck, Asheville wouldn’t be the same without the Biltmore Estate. It’s a major draw for tourists from around the world.

It’s easy to brag about the Biltmore Estate. They’re good neighbors who give back to the community. They practice sustainability: 20 percent of their energy use comes from its own network of solar panels, while 10 percent of the food served in its restaurants is grown and raised locally, some of it on the Estate grounds.

So at Christmastime, Biltmore does it right. While the gate to the Estate and nearby Biltmore Village shine with holiday lights, the house itself gets decked out, inside and out. Whether it’s the time of the year or the holiday celebrations, Christmas has proven to be one of the most popular times to visit Asheville and the Biltmore Estate.

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Christmas Décor at the Biltmore

It all starts with the 35-foot-tall Christmas tree — with all the trimmings — that adorns the Banquet Hall. Every year, it’s a highlight of the house tour. Towering over a long table set for more than 20 guests, the tree lights up not only the room, but everyone’s heart as well. It’s a sight not to be missed.

But that’s not all the Biltmore Estate does to celebrate its Asheville Christmas. Many rooms feature smaller trees, all decorated to the max and each one a heart-warming treat. Garlands and wreaths and ribbons and bows (even on some of the statuary on the grounds) somehow make it easier to surrender to the holiday spirit.

Biltmore Estate

Christmas Spirit at the Biltmore Estate

The Estate has an ornate grand organ, which pumps holiday cheer through the halls of the first floor, adding to the feeling of jubilee. At night (see more below about the Candlelight Tours), live singers and musicians entertain guests as they wander through the house. From choirs to harpists and flutists, the Biltmore Estate welcomes you with song.

Beyond the house, the conservatory features poinsettias and much, much more — it’s a veritable explosion of color in flowers, all within the warm confines of the conservatory. Antler Hill Village and the Winery also roll out the holiday welcome with lit-up trees and decorations reminiscent of a Thomas Kinkaid painting.

Candlelight Tours at Christmas

Even if you’ve seen the house during the day, it literally glows at night. During the holiday season, from early November into January, the Biltmore Estate offers evening tours. The illuminated entrance and the Estate and the brightly lit tree on the front lawn are merely teases compared to the house. Music rings out every evening. Christmas trees and candlelight shine in almost every room. You’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.

Biltmore Estate Candlelight Evenings cost extra, and you have to buy your tickets in advance, when you’ll be given a specific time to enter the house.


Shopping at the Biltmore Estate

It is the Asheville Christmas season, and the shops at the Estate offer special sales while rolling out the holiday treats and seasonal merchandise. From the many shops by the stable courtyard to the shops in Antler Hill Village and the Winery store, you’ll have ample opportunity to take a bit of the Biltmore home with you.

And the dining experiences on the Estate are among the best in the region. Explore the Estate and then settle down — and get off your feet — for a gourmet meal and a glass of Biltmore wine. We recommend you make reservations in advance on the day (or evening) you plan to visit. Just make sure you give yourself plenty of time to see the house and wander the grounds before your meal.

Enjoy your Asheville Christmas at the Biltmore Estate!


Sandy McLeod

Asheville Events in December 2014

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Asheville, NC, is in the South, but in the mountains, too. It gets cold here. We even get snow sometimes. It might slow us down, but it won’t stop us. Here are some Asheville events going on in December 2014:

2014 National Gingerbread House Competition

From now through January 1, the Omni Grove Park Inn is displaying the gingerbread houses from this year’s competition. The viewing is free, but you must pay for parking. It’s really worth it if you’ve never seen them. Get details, directions and dining options at the Grove Park Inn. 


Christmas at Biltmore

The time to go to the Biltmore Estate is from now through New Year’s. Come see the enormous Christmas trees and all the holiday cheer. There are also evening tours. Learn more about Christmas at the Biltmore Estate.

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Paws to Give

The local no-kill animal rescue center Brother Wolf is throwing a fundraiser on Thursday, December 4, from 6:00 to 9:00 pm in The Millroom. For $20, you get live music, heavy hors d’oeuvres, two free drinks and a “huge silent auction.” Get the facts about the event and order your tickets. 

Biltmore Village Dickens Festival

The area just outside the Biltmore Estate gateway is a quaint shopping/dining area called Biltmore Village. Workers and artisans lived there during the Estate’s construction, but now it’s a commercial district. On December 5–7, the Village comes to life with more than 300 musicians, singers (including choral groups) and dancers. The Montford Park Players also make an appearance. Read more about the Dickens Festival.


Southern Rodeo Association Finals

On December 5–7, at the WNC Agricultural Center in nearby Fletcher, the SRA holds a rodeo. If you’ve never been to one, you’ll be able to watch events like bareback riding, bull riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing and breakaway roping. You might want to dress warm, but it promises to be a fun day. Find more information about the rodeo. 

The Big Crafty

If you’re worried about what to get your loved ones for the holidays, don’t! Instead, attend the free arts and crafts extravaganza called The Big Crafty. Held on Sunday, December 7, in Pack Square, Asheville. It’s been called the city’s best community holiday bazaar. Find out why the Big Crafty is so awesome.

Warren Haynes Presents: The 26th Annual Christmas Jam

An Asheville holiday tradition, the Christmas Jam is a start-studded concert to benefit Habitat for Humanity. This year’s Jam on December 13 features Gov’t Mule, Billy & the Kids, Hard Working Americans, Jason Isbell, and many many many more. Tickets sell out fast, so get yours soon. Get the Christmas Jam details. 


Cirque Dreams: Holidaze

On December 17, this theater production comes to the U.S. Cellular Center with 20 unique acts, 30 artists from around the world and more than 300 costumes. If you’re a Cirque fan, do something different on your vacation and see this show. Find out more about Cirque Dreams: Holidaze. 

New Year’s Eve 2015

There are no city-sponsored fireworks this year, but downtown Asheville will still be jumping. Most restaurants are open late, and clubs throughout the city will feature live music. Pick a place and make reservations. Let the office at Asheville Cabins of Willow Winds know if we can help, either when you arrive or in advance.


Asheville opens its doors, figuratively speaking, to guests in December. When you stay at Asheville Cabins of Willow Winds, we’ll help you find what you’re looking for. Let us help make your Asheville vacation memorable.

Sandy McLeod

2014 National Gingerbread House Competition

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The Gingerbread House Competition receives extensive national media coverage each year. In 2014, the 22nd year for this Asheville event, the national competition begins on November 7, when entries are due. The judging takes place on November 17, and then the gingerbread houses will be displayed at the Omni Grove Park Inn from November 19 to January 1, 2015. The Inn is located in North Asheville, just minutes from Asheville Cabins of Willow Winds.


The viewing allows visitors to see which entries won prizes. The ribbons attached to winning entries show both the category — Adult, Teen, Youth, or Child — and the placing — 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or Top 10. The top three winners in each category receive cash prizes. For example, the 1st Place winner in the Adult category receives a $5,000 prize check, a two-night Club Floor stay at the Omni Grove Park Inn, a dinner for two, daily breakfast for two, a Prize Package from Chef Nicholas Lodge (including a two-day class at the Nicholas Lodge School in Atlanta, GA), and a blue ribbon.


While the prize might seem exorbitant, the competition is fierce, and every year, the bar gets raised as imaginations and technical prowess reach ever more wondrous heights. While the 2nd and 3rd prize winners each take home more than $1000 plus extras, the Teen, Youth, and Child categories pay out very little in comparison. Want to try your luck? Start making plans for next year!


Viewing Options

The hotel limits the gingerbread house viewing on Saturdays and Sundays to hotel guests only. Visitors and other gingerbread house enthusiasts can view the creations on Thursdays through Sundays (excluding holidays). Drive-on guests are required to pay a $10 parking fee, half of which will be donated to local Asheville charities during this exhibition.


The trip is well worth the trouble, however, because in addition to seeing the nationally recognized gingerbread displays at this Asheville event, you can stroll among nearly 100 Christmas trees decorated in different themes. In addition, you can find numerous shops, cafes and fine dining restaurants throughout the hotel, as well as a variety of seasonal and holiday buffets. See the list of Omni Grand park Inn dining options. 


Gingerbread Houses Aren’t Just Houses

The term “gingerbread house” is a bit of a misnomer because many of the finest creations are anything but houses. Expect to see seasonal themes, birds, outdoor scenes, fanciful lamps and bowls, nativity scenes, a carousel or two and cute animals among the more traditional houses made of the sweet confectionary.


1st Place

Judges use a set of criteria to rate the entries, which must be made out of at least 75 percent gingerbread. The entire display, with the exception of the base, must be edible. The other criteria judges use during the Asheville event include:


  • Theme consistency
  • Originality
  • Difficulty
  • Creativity
  • Precision
  • Overall appearance


National Attention

If you visit during the third week of December, you might miss the Grand Prize winner and a few other select entries. That’s the week that the finest of the fine sweet creations are carefully packed up and moved to New York City, where the competition takes center stage on the set of ABC’s Good Morning America.


1st Place

The movers do everything in their powers to maintain the integrity of the exhibits so they can return to their place of honor in the halls of the Omni Grove Park Inn. Sometimes, the long trip takes a minor toll on the fragile gingerbread works of art, but you’ll be amazed at all of them, including those made by the tiniest of hands.