‘Tis the Season for Holiday Events in Asheville

The staff and owner of Hill House Bed and Breakfast would like to wish all of our former and future guests the happiest of holidays! This is our favorite time of year, as fireplaces blaze throughout the inn, Christmas carols sing from the parlor, and the scent of freshly baked pumpkin bread wafts through the kitchen.

We invite you to celebrate the season with us at the inn. There’s still plenty to see and do around Asheville in December. Events vary from bluegrass jam band sessions to the National Gingerbread House Competition. We even have a rock-climbing Santa…

Whether you’re a returning guest or planning your first stay at Hill House, we hope to see you here during this festive season!

Below is a list of events recommended by our staff and guests to help you plan your trip:

Bluegrass Jam Session at Zuma Coffeehouse in Marshall | Thursdays, 7 pm – 9  pm

If you like bluegrass or live jam sessions, then Zuma Coffeehouse in Marshall, NC is your scene! This is where, every Thursday from 7-9 pm, local resident and bluegrass pioneer Bobby Hicks plays. He is joined each week by a random assortment of guest musicians from near and far, producing boot-stomping licks from his fiddle.

Last week there were 17 individual musicians! We know, because two guests from S&W went – on a recommendation from a friend of theirs who used to live in Asheville – and they said it absolutely blew their socks off! The hot tip is to get there about an early to snag a table, as there are only about 8 in the entire place, and music lovers are quickly relegated to standing room only. Which only makes it easier to dance, if that’s your preference. We’ll see you there!

Santa on Chimney Rock | December 1 & 8

Chimney Rock is located in Chimney Rock State Park, about 25 miles southeast of Asheville in the Hickory Nut Gorge. Regular park admission is $13 for adults and $6 for youth ages 5-15. Younger children are free. In addition to several different trails that range from easy to strenuous, this is a family-friendly park that hosts an annual holiday event called Santa on the Chimney. Where else can you say you saw Santa rock climbing??

During the event, which lasts from 11 am to 2 pm, you’ll be able to meet Santa, joined by Mrs. Claus, while enjoying live holiday music, complimentary hot cocoa, cookies and kids’ activities – including live animals! Mr. and Mrs. Claus are available for photographs, with the stunning backdrop of Hickory Nut Gorge to complete this holiday memory.

Then, at 11:30 am, 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm, you can watch Santa rappel from the top of Chimney Rock! The best place to watch is from Cliff Dwellers Gifts parking area. All the park trails will be open, as well as village shops. Santa on the Chimney is free with park admission, so it’s a great way to spend the day.

Lake Julian Festival of Lights | December 1 – 23

This annual Festival of Lights is a local’s favorite, as it includes over 50 animated and stationary light displays set to the backdrop of Lake Julian in south Asheville.

This even kicks off with a walk-through night on December 1, from 6 pm – 9 pm, which is the only time during the month you’ll be able to walk through. Admission is $5 per adult and children are free! Santa will be available for pictures, and there will be a fire with s’mores and places to make crafts. The trail spans about half a mile and has a few inclines, but is paved for strollers and wagons, making it a family-friendly opportunity. Pets are not allowed. 

The rest of the month you can drive through the park during the same hours for $10 per vehicle ($20 for large vans, rvs and buses). This even benefits Buncombe County Special Olympics iwth 20% of its proceeds, so it’s a great way to support the local community while enjoying the lights.

National Gingerbread House Competition at The Grove Park Inn | November 25 – January 4

The Grove Park Inn is a historical treasure in its own right, and a terrific spot to sip cocktails or dine among the sweeping vista of downtown Asheville and surrounding mountains. We like to pop in this time of year, order hot cocoa and rock in the Mission style rocking chairs in front of the two dualing fireplaces in the lobby.

However, if baking is your thing… or just love to see the amazing creations of some of the country’s top Gingerbread House makers, then this event is for you! Creativity abounds as participants have only loose guidelines to follow. The only rules are that, besides the base, the structure must be entirely edible. Sounds fun already, doesn’t it?

It’s also hosted for a good cause. The Grove Park Inn has been putting on this event for 26 years and donates half the proceeds to a local charity. We’ll be going, that’s for sure!

Winter Lights at The North Carolina Arboretum | December 1 – December 31

If you’re traveling as a family, (and even if you’re not!) this is a terrific stop during your December trip to Asheville. The North Carolina Arboretum puts on a delightful display of artistically designed LED-light displays throughout the various gardens. But the fun doesn’t stop with the 8,000 individual bulbs! 

Campfires are glowing, with s’mores and hot cocoa available for purchase. The education center is set up with animatronic animals young ones are sure to love, and all the while, holiday music sets a festive tone! 

This is an outdoor experience, from 6 pm – 10 pm nightly. So remember to dress warmly and wear comfortable shoes. Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for children 5-11 (+ tax). Like many popular December events, dates do sell out, so the staff at Hill House recommends getting your tickets in advance.

Christmas at Biltmore | December 1 – January 6

One of the premier events during Asheville’s winter months is undoubtedly Christmas at Biltmore. Guests from around the world come to partake in the stunning spectacle of America’s largest private home adorned for the holiday season. The house and grounds glow with the twinkling lights of over 55 live Christmas trees! A thousand poinsettias, over five hundred wreaths, and a mile of garland embellish the property during this time. Indeed, many of our guests are coming just to see the Biltmore in such splendor. 

Due to its popularity, dates and times for both daytime visits and candlelight tours sell out in advance, so we strongly recommend booking tours in advance, especially for the candlelight tours, when choirs and musicians perform. Candlelight tickets are separate from daytime admission, and reservations are required. However, a daytime visit is included for the same or next day with any Candlelight ticket.

A Swannanoa Solstice Concert | December 16

If you enjoy folk music, you should make a plan to attend Swannanoa’s Solstice Concert. This event, in its 16th year, ushers in the winter season with world-class folk tunes, ranging from Celtic to American, that reflects a peaceful, uplifting message. This year’s line up includes Al Petteway, Amy White, Robin Bullock and Grammy-winner David Holt.

Tickets range in price from $20-$45; show hours are 2 pm – 7 pm.

Traditional Christmas Historic Home Tour | December 1 – January 5

This tour is a terrific opportunity for Victorian and Confederate era history buffs, as well as those interested in Asheville’s history. You will see the Smith-McDowell House, Asheville’s first mansion and oldest structure, which has been restored as a history museum for the city and surrounding region. You’ll get a look at restored period rooms, special history exhibits, and fascinating look into Southern plantation living. For reference, our own Hill House is older by a scant 15 years!

To celebrate the season, the mansion and history museum are authentically decorated with the ornaments and toys of the Victorian Period and feature gold, silver and glass from period collections. The cost is $9 for adults and $5 for children, ages 8-18.

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