One of my favorite times of year is Christmas and I would decorate our house extensively when we lived in a bricks and mortar home. But we also rarely traveled during the holidays since there was so much to do. With our change in lifestyle to a motorhome, I was excited for the chance to visit other celebrations around the US and experience their traditions.
Our visit to the Smoky Mountains timed well with the beginning of the Christmas season. While Gatlinburg was focused on fall harvest, the city had started decorating for Christmas and there were a couple of super Christmas stores to visit.
Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge has multiple village displays including a few unusual ones like this Who-ville display.
However, I was most excited to see the Biltmore decorated for the season. My mom, who is the ultimate Christmas decorator, joined me in Asheville as a kickoff to our holidays. We spent a full day on the estate and also enjoyed other Asheville sites that got us in the spirit. Grove Park Inn was already decked out and was putting the finishing touches on a lifesize Gingerbread House in the lobby. As the site of the annual International Gingerbread Competition, it seemed appropriate. Last year’s winner was on display, but the competition was not until the next month.
The Grove Park Inn lobby tree welcomes visitors, who will inevitably find their way to the rocking chairs in front of fireplaces which are large enough to stand in.
Gingerbread plays a starring role at Grove Park Inn with the gorgeous lifesize entry to the porch. On left is last year’s winner display.
Our day at the Biltmore was wonderful and perhaps a bit exhausting! We did the Candlelight tour in the evening and enjoyed music along with the audio tour sharing all that was involved in the Vanderbilts’ celebrations. The giant tree in the dining hall filled the room with the smell of fir, while the roaring fireplaces fit the mood. Before the tour, we spent a full day exploring the estate as we enjoyed the Village with its decorations and shops as well as a stop at the winery for a tasting. We were also there during an exhibit on Downton Abbey and the costumes worn on the iconic show.
The various rooms at the Biltmore were lavish in decor.
As we headed to Baton Rouge, the holiday displays started popping up more and more. We were surprised by light displays in some smaller towns as we drove and landed outside the city in Barry’s hometown of Denham Springs, LA the week before Thanksgiving. Light displays on the houses and towns became more prominent and we decided to decorate our new home with lights and a few decorations.
After Thanksgiving, we made a quick trip to New Orleans to see City Park’s lights and the decorations at some of the city’s great hotels. My favorite was the Roosevelt which was a forest of white lights, but the gingerbread trolley at the Ritz was simply amazing in size! The annual light show at City Park was worth the trip with millions of lights including some fun stories like the Night Before a Cajun Christmas told with moving lights and a narrator.
Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans
A Cajun Night Before Christmas in lights
Celebration in the Oaks at City Park New Orleans includes more than one million lights
Before leaving the area, we visited Nottoway Plantation for its annual Bonfire Festival. The mansion is completely decorated for the holiday while the Randolph Ballroom hosts a variety of seasonal favorites including a visit with Santa. The highlight of the night, though, is the lighting of the bonfires along the levy of the great Mississippi River. While normally held on Christmas Eve in other areas, we were pleased to find a mid-month display, especially since the evening was capped off with fireworks.
Another famous celebration in Louisiana was on our way back to Dallas for our family holidays. With a stop in Natchitoches, we visited the City of Lights and enjoyed their 93 year tradition of light displays along the Cane River. These beautiful sets celebrate the history of the oldest city in Louisiana and the holiday with more than 300,000 lights.
We continued our holiday explorations when we arrived back to Dallas by going downtown to enjoy an evening with friends. Of course, it was nice to relax and pick up our normal traditions to celebrate with family. We hope that wherever your travels take you, you also enjoy a season of wonder and love!
Happy Holidays! And here is to the New Year.