A festive and nearby distraction from the end-of-the-semester madness can be found in Asheville, N.C., at the famous Biltmore Estate.
Built between the years of 1889 and 1895, George Vanderbilt II had this mansion erected as an escape from everyday life for him and his family to enjoy.
Constructed to resemble French architecture and the classic chateau style, Vanderbilt desired a home that echoed the grandeur and opulence of European estates.
The grounds today consist of 8,000 acres of North Carolina mountain terrain.
The Biltmore Village within that includes 75 acres of formal gardens, a winery, the 250-room mansion itself, the five-diamond Inn at Biltmore Estate, and a church called the Cathedral of All Souls, as well as additional shops and tourist interests.
One million visitors journey to this National Historic Landmark each year to see the Gilded Age luxury and lavishness of the renaissance novelties the Vanderbilts included in their home — elevators, forced-air heating, centrally controlled clocks, an intercom system, and fire alarms, to name only a few.
The indoor bowling alley, 70,000-gallon indoor pool, collection of 23,000 rare books in the two-story library, and room upon room of expensive artwork and ornate furniture are also responsible for bringing in the tourists.
Even more splendor can be seen during Christmas time, when each room in the Biltmore house is decorated with lights, garland and lighted and ornamented Christmas trees.
Another main attraction during the holiday season is the 34-foot Fraser Fir tree in the banquet hall and the live harpist, flautist or guitarist that plays for visitors each evening on the third floor.
Choirs serenade the guests throughout the holiday season as visitors stroll through the glass conservatory that houses the winter gardens
The Candlelight Christmas Evenings at Biltmore take the guests through a magical tour of candlelit rooms, live music, warm fireplaces, storytelling and an illuminated front lawn.
If traveling the approximate one and a half hours from Johnson City to Asheville for an evening event is not in the cards, then Biltmore’s Day Trip experience might be better suited.
Consisting of all-day access to the gardens, house, village, and the pleasure of free tasting at the winery, the Day Trip also includes a viewing at the limited time exhibition of 45 rare Tiffany lamps.
Christmas at Biltmore is an overwhelmingly dazzling experience that “even poets would struggle” to describe, as the Biltmore website concurs.
The Candlelight Christmas Evenings and Christmas day-time tours will be held through Dec. 31.
Ticket prices vary depending on which touring option, the day and date of the week chosen, and the age of the patron visiting.
The Estate recommends buying tickets ahead of time as the Christmas tickets usually sell out.
More information can be found at www.biltmore.com.