Throughout Arkansas and the River Valley the days shorten as brisk autumn air paints the landscape. Our natural state is vibrant in brilliant hues of red, yellow, and orange--showcasing a unique perspective and season. This is the season I love, and the place I call home.

Throughout Arkansas and the River Valley the days shorten as brisk autumn air paints the landscape. Our natural state is vibrant in brilliant hues of red, yellow, and orange--showcasing a unique perspective and season. This is the season I love, and the place I call home.

Yet, about 12 hours east of us is a place worthy of a Christmas visit. Asheville, North Carolina is the location of the Biltmore Estate. Built by George Vanderbilt, the home was completed in 1895. It has the distinction of being the largest privately owned estate in the United States, and it is still owned by a Vanderbilt descendant. However, it is open for tours.

Five years ago a job promotion required my leaving the River Valley and relocating to Asheville. While I looked forward to the new job and adventure of a different life, I was not prepared for being away from my Arkansas friends and family for the holidays. As the summer leaves faded into fall colors at my new home, my family seemed a million miles away. For a moment I feared spending the holiday season away from those I love.

  

The Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding Asheville were ablaze in color when a co-worker invited me to be a guest at the Biltmore’s annual harvest. Each year the bounty of the Biltmore Estate is celebrated as the gardens and vineyards are harvested and brought in for a season of thanks and entertainment.

The harvest bounty spread across the lawns with fun games, barrels of fine wine and shopping. This is the season when the Biltmore Estate becomes a reminder of a time forgotten. It becomes not a place to visit, but an experience that immerses its guests into knowing they are home. A few weeks later I was not only lucky, but really blessed to return to the Biltmore Estate to experience a big, bold, and bright Christmas there.

Christmas at the Biltmore House is a bigger-than-life experience. Entering the banquet hall is an awe-inspiring moment as your eyes behold the 35-foot Fraser fir that brings cheers from guests and staff alike when it is raised and adorned in lights and ornaments. The whole mansion is alive with thousands of twinkling lights and hundreds of candles, every one of them reflected again in thousands of ornaments.

Outside, luminaries light the driveway right up to the mansion doors. A breathtaking 55-foot Norway spruce adorns the front lawn. Truly, it is a magnificent site and reminiscent of a time long past in American history.

Sometimes, much as we love home and our family traditions, it does our heart good to immerse ourselves in a new experience. My own Biltmore Christmas is one I will enjoy over and over in a lifetime of memories. The holidays are meant to find and experience joy...and Biltmore offers up a new tradition.

This year Biltmore is celebrating the holidays from November 4, 2016 through January 8 2017. To plan your Christmas experience visit Biltmore.com.

The Biltmore Library

George Vanderbilt’s Library stands out among the most beautiful and unique collections of the estate. The collection of books that forms the Biltmore House Library reflects Vanderbilt’s tastes and interests. Most of the books he collected were sent to one of the great bookbinders of the period. A few months later they would be returned beautifully bound in Moroccan leather, with gilt lettering and decoration, to be placed on the shelves of the Biltmore House Library.

More than 23,000 volumes make up the library’s collection. The major strengths of the collection are 19th century English and American literature, art and architecture; travel, philosophy and religion; history; and French fiction and nonfiction.

Whatever time of year a guest arrives at Biltmore - the Library is a sight not to be missed. Visitors are encouraged to relax with a book or just take in the breathtaking view of the estate.

By Jason Bourne

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