One of the advantages of moving often and living in so many different areas is our Christmas adventures are extremely versatile and ever-changing. While we have a few traditions that are most important no matter where we live (like a visit to Santa… and yes, I know my kids are teenagers), other things we do to celebrate the season are subject to change based on where we are living. From making the round of small-town Christmas parades in Tennessee and Alabama to celebrating Christmas at the John Deere museum in Moline, Illinois; we have made so many fabulous memories over the years!
While living in South Carolina the last four years (The longest we have stayed anywhere, I might add), we have built many special traditions; one of our favorites being the one-hour drive up to Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC to see dozens of beautifully decorated Christmas trees and the Gingerbread houses that are a part of the National Gingerbread Competition each year. We do this a some point during Thanksgiving week as a way to kick off our family holiday celebrations and I must tell you this year was absolutely fabulous!
A visit to Grove Park Inn is a treat in itself and a trip back in time.
Opened in 1913 as a resort, the Asheville area was chosen based on the belief that the climate was healthier for Edwin Grove, the mind behind this beautiful space. Over the years many notable people from presidents to celebrities have stayed at this luxurious and historic location. F. Scott Fitzgerald stayed here for two years writing while his wife was hospitalized in Asheville.
Besides the gorgeous lobby with its amazing fireplaces and lodge atmosphere that immediately gives you the impression of arriving home, there are several unique shops that fit the area, a restaurant that allows you to enjoy the beautiful mountain views as you dine, a sweet little cafe & coffee shop and a grand spa in which to pamper and spoil yourself.
The Inn is now owned by the Omni Group, but they have still maintained much of the charm that the Inn represents. It makes for a wonderful family get-away, or in our case an easy day trip.
The charm of the Inn is evident from the moment you arrive until you leave, especially during the holiday season.
The lobby with its double fireplaces, one on each side of the space, is magnificent and cozy all at the same time.
There are Christmas trees all throughout the hotel; so many themes, every style, and each one of them putting you in the mood to celebrate the season!
And then there are the Gingerbread houses.
These aren’t your buy a kit, assemble in the kitchen, and decorate with icing and candy gingerbread houses. These are carefully planned and crafted creations that will amaze you with their creativity and detail.
The National Gingerbread competition is held in November each year and is open to all ages and even teams of people. According to the rules, entries are not limited to the structure of a house as long as it meets the guidelines set. Except for the base, entries must be entirely composed of edible materials. That last phrase is what makes these creations so neat!
Check some of these out!
And then there was the grand prize…
Visiting the Inn to see the Gingerbread houses does not cost anything, other than parking. I do recommend if you are going to visit Grove Park, whether you are staying several days, or just spending the day, that you use the valet parking service. It’s only $5 more than self-parking and so much easier than a long walk or waiting on a shuttle. Also, be prepared to a little crowd. Going on a weekday is obviously going to be less busy than the weekend.