Celebrate Christmas like a Vanderbilt

Visit the richest estate in America this holiday season without breaking your own bank.

For Christmas, the 250 rooms of the Biltmore estate in Asheville, N.C., are transformed into a holiday wonderland.

The towering 35-foot Fraser fir Christmas tree in the Banquet Room is only the beginning. Dozens of Christmas trees - decorated with handmade ornaments - are throughout the halls of the house, modeled after a 16th century chateau in the midst of 25,000 acres.

Daily, the talented staff at the Biltmore offers how-to workshops on decorating, centerpieces and creating the perfect wreath.

And Santa is ready for your gift orders on weekends at nearby River Bend Farm.

Directions: From I-26 west, follow the interstate toward Asheville to exit 31A (Hickory/Knoxville exit). Take I-40 east to exit 50 (U.S. 25), then turn left at the traffic light after exiting. Stay in the left lane and follow signs to the Biltmore entrance.

Special events: During Candlelight Christmas Evenings, the front lawn of Biltmore House is lit with thousands of twinkling lights and filled with choirs, dancers and storytellers. The evenings continue until Jan. 2.

Money-saving tips: Try going during the week. Admission to some special events are cheaper. Check for deals: Biltmore and nearby hotels are offering discounted packages. Buy tickets online - and get an immediate discount.

Also: Get there early. The house opens at 9 a.m. and the front door closes at 4:30 p.m. During the Candlelight Christmas Evenings, the front door closes 30 minutes after the last scheduled entry time.

Did you know? George Vanderbilt formally opened the home to guests on Christmas Eve in 1895.

Info: (8000 411-3812 or (828) 225-1333 or