Dream Wedding at Biltmore With Boston Marathon Survivors

Biltmore House WeddingOn Friday, April 4, the grand Biltmore House in Asheville was the site of the wedding of Rebekah Gregory and Pete DiMartino, both survivors of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Their wedding was planned by TheKnot, with an assist from the voting public, as part of its 2nd annual Dream Wedding Contest.


Each element of the couple’s Biltmore wedding was voted on, including the location, overall theme, the bride’s dress, bridesmaid dresses, cake, flowers and more. Asheville, the couple’s favorite vacation destination, was announced on Valentine’s Day as the location. Asheville received the most votes over other cities that the couple has ties to, including New York, Boston and Louisville.


The wedding ceremony took place on the Tennis Lawn, adjacent to Biltmore House. The Italian Gardens was the setting for reception. The bride and groom hosted 150 friends and family for the event.


The couple has been profiled on The Today Show and has been featured in several national media outlets including People magazine.


Here’s their story: Rebekah and Pete were at the finish line of the Boston Marathon cheering on Pete’s mother. When the bomb exploded, Rebekah shielded her young son. She has endured 15 surgeries and the fear of the possible amputation of her leg, which she still faces today. Pete lost 90 percent of his right Achilles tendon and suffered multiple broken bones in his ankle. He has undergone surgeries and months of physical therapy. Their shared experience as a result of the explosion and surviving their injuries brought them even closer together and strengthened their relationship.


Thousands of people across the country tuned in to help Rebekah and Pete’s wedding dreams come true. The winning wedding elements were:


• Location: Asheville, N.C. A garden ceremony at Biltmore was chosen for its fairytale setting next to a real-life castle.   

Photos: Allan Zepeda Photography

• Theme: The theme was Enchanted Garden, a vision created by Marcy Blum of Marcy Blum Associates. With green and brown woodland colors, plus whimsical elements like hanging lanterns, this theme is a nod to Biltmore’s gardens.

• Rings: Classically Cool wedding bands were selected: a pave diamond band for Rebekah and a titanium band for Pete, both by Michael C. Fina.

• Bridesmaid Dresses: Rebekah’s girls wore chiffon gowns in falcon, complete with a trendy sweetheart strapless neckline by Watters.

• The Dress: Rebekah wore an ivory fit-and-flare dress with beaded embroidery, a dropped-waist and sweetheart neckline by Sophia Moncelli for Kleinfeld Bridal.

• Flowers: The romantic and playful whimsical woodland centerpiece featured a willow adorned tree trunk base and a secret garden of flowers in shades of pink, plus blooming cherry blossoms designed by Holly Chapple. All flowers were American Grown from the California Cut Flower Commission and will play into the enchanted them with shades of pink, lavender and peach.

• Cake: Cake Alchemy created a multi-tiered confection with delicate white ruffles, buttons and peony sugar flowers to match the garden theme.

• Hair & Makeup: Rebekah traveled to NYC for a hair and makeup trial with Alli Web, founder of Drybar and Kate Turner from Too Faced.

For info on Biltmore and Asheville wedding locations, go to RomanticAsheville.com Top Wedding Venues.

Wedding at Biltmore House

Mother Earth News Fair Comes to Asheville

Mother Earth News FairThe Mother Earth News Fair makes its Southeastern debut at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center in Asheville on April 12 & 13, 2014, with workshops, demonstrations and vendors covering the gamut of sustainable living. The fair began in 2010 as a way to bring Mother Earth News magazine, the country’s largest and longest-running publication on sustainable living, to life. Go to more than 200 hands-on workshops and demonstrations from experts on preparing and preserving food, organic gardening, homesteading, renewable energy, green building and remodeling, small-scale livestock, green transportation, natural health, and related topics. See 300 artisans and vendors with goods ranging from locally made crafts and foods to solar energy systems and outdoor power equipment. Also enjoy livestock and craft demonstrations,  artisan food tastings and local and organic food offerings.

Select keynote speakers include Sylvia Bernstein, aquaponics expert; Sherri Brooks Vinton, food preservation expert; Jere Gettle, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds founder; Sandor Katz, fermented foods ‘revivalist’; Joel Salatin, organic farmer, author and owner of Polyface Farms; and Stephanie Tourles, herbalist and licensed holistic aesthetician.

The fair hosts several off-stage demonstrations including:

  • logging with horses and constructing a tiny home (Booth 6505, stall F-40, south arena)
  • herding with dogs (show arena; ongoing)
  • blacksmithing, broom making, weaving, spinning and dyeing, and chair making (Booth 6024, ongoing)
  • carding and spinning wool (Stalls F-6 and F-7; ongoing)
  • creating fun, healthy meals even picky eaters will love (Booth 1800; ongoing)
  • companion planting from seed (Booths 1200 and 1300; Noon to 1 p.m.; ongoing for informal advice)
  • making mead (Booths 1400 and 1500; ongoing)
  • goat milking (Stall F-12; 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. daily)
  • growing and using herbs, and saving herb seeds (Booths 7010-7015; ongoing)
  • building solar panels and LED grow lights (Booths 1400 and 1500; ongoing)
  • throwing and hand-building pottery (Booth 5138; ongoing)
  • traditional broom making (Booths 5033 and 5034; ongoing)
  • making healthy, herbal no-bake cookies (Booth 2712; ongoing)

Saturday, April 12: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sunday, April 13: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Western North Carolina Agricultural Center, 1301 Fanning Bridge Road Fletcher, NC 28732
Weekend pass – Pre-ordered: $25 / At the gate: $30
Single-day pass – Pre-ordered: $20 / At the gate: $25
Children 17 and under get in FREE

Tickets are available: Online, by calling 800-234-3368, and at the gate. Read more about the WNC Agricultural Center.

Best Waterfalls Near Asheville

Crabtree FallsAsheville and western North Carolina have hundreds of waterfalls, many of which are easily accessible year-round. Enjoy cascades framed by colorful foliage in the fall, wade in cool base pools during spring and summer months, and get unobstructed views of often-hidden areas of the falls in the winter.

Here are 20 of our favorite waterfalls to enjoy in the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains:

High Falls & Triple Falls: A three-mile easy hike takes you to the base of three waterfalls in DuPont State Forest. High Falls is a powerful 150-foot drop and Triple Falls was a film location for The Hunger Games. Nearby is Hooker Falls.

Looking Glass Falls: You don’t have to get out of your car to see this 60-foot waterfall, located on the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway between Brevard and Blue Ridge Parkway. There are many other waterfalls in this section of Pisgah National Forest.

Daniel Ridge Falls (near Looking Glass Falls) is a 150-foot cascade along a tranquil hiking trail.

Sliding Rock: In the summer months, slide down this 60-foot cool cascade in the Pisgah National Forest. During cooler weather, enjoy the setting from viewing decks.

Linville Falls: The most photographed waterfall in North Carolina is on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Take a moderate 1.6-mile hike with four overlooks to enjoy a variety of views of the falls and Linville Gorge.

Dry Falls: Located near Highlands, this 75-foot waterfall allows the rare treat of walking safely behind it. Nearby, drive behind Bridal Veil Falls.

Graveyard Fields: The highland meadow on the Blue Ridge Parkway features trails to two waterfalls. Second Falls is just 1/3 of a mile from the parking area.

Rainbow Falls: This 150-foot waterfall in the Nantahala National Forest is accessed by a hiking trail in Gorges State Park. Slide and swim at nearby Turtleback Falls.

Crabtree Falls: This beautiful 70-foot waterfall, near Linville Falls, is along a 2.5-mile loop woodland hiking trail from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Upper Whitewater Falls: The highest waterfall east of the Rockies plunges 411 feet and is easily viewed via a short paved trail.

Skinny Dip Falls: This refreshing swimming hole on the Blue Ridge Parkway has several cascades, perfect for a hot summer day dip.

Pearson’s Falls: This 90-foot waterfall in a beautiful glen is located between Saluda and Tryon. It’s a must stop if you are driving on I-26 to/from South Carolina.

Soco Falls: This spectacular twin waterfall is easy to miss. Located along busy Highway 19 between Maggie Valley and Cherokee, there are no signs for the small parking area. A short walk takes you to an observation deck.

Deep Creek Waterfalls: See three waterfalls (Tom Branch Falls, Indian Creek Falls and Juney Whank Falls) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with a beautiful hike near Bryson City. A great spot for tubing!

Mingo Falls: Located near Cherokee in the Great Smoky Mountains, this 200-foot waterfall is a short walk from the parking area.

Catawba Falls: Located just three miles from I-40 near Old Fort. Hike 1.5 miles to the lower falls, a 100-foot cascade with best views in the winter since leaves hide the top of the falls.

For detail guides with photos and videos for these and other waterfalls, along with a scenic drives, see our Top 50 Asheville Waterfalls.

Guided Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains for 2014

Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains

Explore America’s most visited national park on guided hiking tours with Friends of the Smokies. See stunning vistas, tumbling waterfalls, and discover the hidden gems of Great Smoky Mountains National Park with the 2014 Classic Hikes of the Smokies, a great day trip from Asheville.

These guided hikes feature interpretation and leadership by celebrated outdoor author, blogger, and hiking expert, Danny Bernstein. Each hike highlights an achievement or cause Friends of the Smokies has supported in the Park. These full day hikes are on the 2nd Tuesday of each month. To support the Smokies Trails Forever program, a donation of $10 for members and $35 for non-members is requested. Non-members receive a complimentary 1-year membership to Friends of the Smokies on their first hike. Members who bring a friend hike for free. To register for any 2014 Classic Hike of the Smokies, contact Brent McDaniel at Outreach.NC@FriendsOfTheSmokies.org or call 828-452-0720.

March 11: Little Cataloochee
6.1 miles, 1,100 ft ascent
Featuring support for historic preservation, in Cataloochee Valley (home to the elk) with historic log cabins and Little Cataloochee Church.

April 8: Newton Bald
10.5 miles, 2,800 ft ascent
Featuring support for cultural protection, spring wildflowers.

May 13: Ramsey Cascades
8 miles, 2,200 ft ascent
Featuring support for hemlock protection, 100-ft waterfall & old growth forest

June 10: Hazel Creek
8 miles, 900 ft ascent
Featuring support for Kress Hall cabin repair. Highlights: Fontana Lake, mills & homesites

July 8 & 9: Cades Cove Experience
Special overnight engagement
Call for details (828) 452-0720

August 12: Charlie’s Bunion via Appalachian Trail
8 miles, 1,800 ft ascent
Featuring support for Appalachian Trail programs
Highlights: Spectacular views

September 9: Clingman’s Dome via Mountains-to-Sea Trail
7.2 miles, 1,600 ft ascent
Featuring support for the Trails Forever Fund
Highlights: Panoramic vistas

October 14: Pretty Hollow Gap
8 miles, 1,500 ft ascent
Featuring support for wildlife management
Highlights: Elk rut and stunning fall color

November 11: Deep Creek Circular
9 miles, 1,600 ft ascent
Featuring support for trout management
Highlights: Beautiful waterfalls

December 9: Kephart Prong
4 miles, 300 ft ascent
Featuring support for environmental education
Highlights: Historic CCC camp structures

Also, for a list of our favorite hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains near Asheville, NC,  that you can enjoy anytime, go to http://www.romanticasheville.com/smoky_hiking.htm.

Winter Specials at Biltmore Estate

Biltmore House in snowJanuary through March is typically a quieter time of year for visiting America’s largest home at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, allowing time to discover extra touches. Special deals combined with warm indoor attractions make a winter visit at Biltmore the best value of the year.

Ticket Specials
Travelers can take advantage of the lowest admission prices of the year January 13 through March 19, 2014. Estate admission begins at $39 when tickets are purchased online seven or more days in advance. Regular tickets are $49, and kids aged nine and younger are free. Available at no additional charge during this time are two new Biltmore House audio tours. For the first time, they have a children’s audio tour in addition to the standard audio tour, created to give kids an imaginative connection to life in the Vanderbilt household. The children’s tour is told from the point of view of Cedric, the Vanderbilt’s beloved Saint Bernard. Both tours follow the same route through Biltmore House for families to enjoy together.

Garden Walks and Orchid Talks
More indoor enchantment awaits in the Conservatory in the Biltmore gardens. Possibly one of the warmest spots in North Carolina’s mountains in winter, the Conservatory is filled with thousands of tropical plants, including an expansive orchid display at its showiest peak in March. Orchids and Biltmore have a long history; in fact, some 800 orchids were on Vanderbilt’s list to be purchased for the Conservatory in 1894. A new educational tour is offered in the Conservatory Mondays through Fridays, January 20 through March 19 at 11 a.m. Expert gardeners discuss the many types of orchids in bloom and topics such as Biltmore’s heritage orchids, the history of orchid cultivation, and details about the Conservatory. Growing tips and general care information will also be offered. Capacity is limited and orchid talks are free with the price of estate admission.

The South’s “Downton Abbey”
As the fourth season of “Downton Abbey” airs on PBS this winter, fans of the show have taken note of similarities between Biltmore and the period drama hit. Thematic story lines and the era of the show overlap with the time when George and Edith Vanderbilt lived in the 250-room Biltmore House and raised their daughter Cornelia. Parallels between Biltmore and Downton Abbey can be brought to life in two specialty tours at Biltmore. During the Butler’s Tour, visitors discover how Biltmore House functioned, past and present, and learn about the work of the Vanderbilt’s domestic servants. As for the opulence upstairs, it’s easy to imagine what it would have been like to stay at Biltmore (circa 1895 to the early 1930s) with the Vanderbilts as your hosts during the Vanderbilt Family & Friends Tour. Tours are offered daily and advance registration is required. Each tour is $17 per person in addition to estate admission. Finishing an afternoon with English tea at the Inn on Biltmore Estate, complete with traditional English finger sandwiches, scones, fruit breads, and tea pastries, will round out a day in the spirit of “Downton Abbey.”

Warm-up at the Winery
A stop at Biltmore Winery is a delightful way to spend a chilly winter afternoon with free guided tours of the production facility and complimentary tastings. Specialty wine tours offered at an additional price include the Red Wine and Chocolate Seminar and the Biltmore Bubbles Tour. Antler Hill Village is just steps away from the Winery and features “The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad,” an exhibition highlighting archival letters, personal items and exotic treasures collected around the world.

Special rates at the Inn on Biltmore Estate
The four-star Inn on Biltmore Estate has special winter pricing with savings up to half off. Rooms start at $149 per night.

Read more about Winter at Biltmore: http://www.romanticasheville.com/Biltmore_winter.htm

New Year’s Celebrations & 20 Things to Do in Asheville

Here’s our Top 20 ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve and Day in Asheville and the NC mountains – with many things to do, ranging from festive parties to outdoors solitude! Read more details at www.romanticasheville.com/new_year.htm.

Polar Plunge

Polar Plunge in Lake Lure on New Year’s Day

  1. Asheville Restaurants: Many are open late on New Year’s Eve and feature a lively bar to celebrate the New Year. Make reservations ASAP!
  2. Downtown Asheville: While there is no public outdoor event to welcome the new year, there will be plenty of indoor venues to celebrate – including many restaurants, clubs, pubs, live music venues, etc. If the weather is nice, the streets will be buzzing with lots of activity and fun street entertainers.
  3. Grove Park Inn: The New Year arrives with parties, dancing, champagne, and party favors throughout the resort – make restaurant and hotel reservations ASAP! And see the Gingerbread creations.
  4. Inn on Biltmore Estate: New Year’s Eve Gala is high style! Their hotel package (Dec 30-Jan 1) includes your guest room, breakfast buffet, black-tie five-course gala, midnight fireworks and toast, admission tickets to the estate, and more.
  5. Harrah’s Cherokee Casino will have live entertainment at multiple locations. At Essence Lounge is the New Year’s Eve Roaring 20s Countdown. Reserve a table for 2 for $200 and receive VIP Wristbands, a bottle of Möet & Chandon, keepsake champagne flutes and more.
  6. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad: Spend the evening on the train, rolling along the tracks while dancing the night away! Includes a three-course gourmet dinner, live music and midnight toast.
  7. Mountain Magnolia Inn: This historic inn in Hot Springs has a great New Year’s Package that includes one, two nights or three nights with a special dinner for two, live entertainment, dancing and sing-along, appetizers, party favor and a sparkling toast.
  8. Beer Pubs: Plenty of pubs and bars to celebrate with local brews! Many are within walking distance in downtown Asheville.
  9. Orange Peel: Railroad Earth concert
  10. Tressa’s Jazz & Blues: Great jazz club with live music, party favors, midnight toast & balloon drop. Dance all night to the soulful groove of Asheville’s wildly popular band Lyric with special guest Ruby Mayfield on saxophone. Complimentary soul food. Champagne fountains and midnight toast.
  11. Fur Ball Gala: A black-tie benefit for Brother Wolfe Animal Rescue, DJ, live entertainment, open bar, heavy hors d’oeuvres and silent auction.
  12. Wine & Cocktails: Hang out with your sweetie at a downtown Asheville wine or cocktail bar.
  13. Vacation Packages: See our holiday vacation packages page for the latest deals and specials.
  14. New Year’s Polar Plunge: Take the plunge into Lake Lure and freeze for a reason – to support local charities.
  15. Pampering in Style: Get pampered in one of the fabulous bed and breakfast inns in and around Asheville.
  16. Hibernate: Recover from holiday stress with a tranquil stay in a cozy cabin, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
  17. Biltmore Estate: Biltmore Estate is open on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. See America’s largest home decked out in festive finery! Restaurants are open (make dining reservations in advance)
  18. Get Outdoors: Start work on that New Year’s resolution to lose a few pounds and enjoy a hike to a waterfall!
  19. Shop: There’s plenty shopping options on Friday and Saturday to find those special after holiday deals.
  20. LaZoom Comedy Bus Tours: Take the zany tour on the big purple bus.

Get more details on all of these events for New Years in Asheville at www.romanticasheville.com/new_year.htm.

Best Christmas Holiday Asheville Special Events

Biltmore House Candlelight

Biltmore House Candlelight

There are so many great events to enjoy during the holiday season in Asheville and the western North Carolina mountains. See details on these upcoming events and more at http://www.romanticasheville.com/holidays.htm.

Now through January 12: Christmas at Biltmore with candlelight evenings inside the Biltmore House

Now through December 29: Polar Express Train excursions on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.

Now through January 5: Carolina Christmas at Smith-McDowell House museum with decorations from the Victorian period.

Now through January 2: National Gingerbread House Competition on display at Grove Park Inn.

Now through January 1: Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland two-mile drive through light spectacular.

Now through January 2: Winter Wonderland with wintery décor, gingerbread houses and great shopping at Grove Arcade.

December 4-21: Aluminum Christmas Tree Museum in downtown Brevard.

December 4-22: A Christmas Story at Flat Rock Playhouse, State Theatre of NC.

December 5-22: Favorite holiday play, A Christmas Carol, by Montford Players in Asheville Masonic Temple downtown.

December 6-8: Historic Biltmore Village transforms into a quaint Victorian village on the first weekend of December for Dickens in the Village. Horse-drawn carriages will trot along decorated streets as carolers, storytellers and instrumentalists stroll the village in period costumes.

December 6-8: Toe River Studio Tour, About an hour north of Asheville, tucked in the lush green mountains is one of the finest collections of artists and craftsmen in the world and the acclaimed Penland School of Crafts. More than 100 fine artists and crafts people in every medium open their studios for a free, self-guided cultural adventure.

December 6: Asheville Downtown Gallery Art Walk. Galleries stay open late with special exhibits and artist mingling.

December 6: Candlelight Christmas Stroll in Weaverville, 6-9 PM, with luminaries along the streets, local choirs and bands will provide music, and horse and buggy rides will be available through town.

December 6: Olde Fashioned Hendersonville Christmas, walk down Main Street in downtown with hot cider and cookies with carolers, music, food and great shopping! 5-8 PM

December 6-7 and 13-14: Dillsboro Festival of Lights & Luminaries, journey back to the days of yesteryear. Experience the magic as the entire town is transformed into a winter wonderland of lights, candles, laughter and song.

Grove Park Inn Gingerbread House

Grove Park Inn Gingerbread House

December 6: Art After Dark in downtown Waynesville with shows, refreshments, live music at many galleries. 6-9 PM.

December 6-23: Lake Julian Festival of Lights drive-thru show with more than 50 animated light displays and thousands of colored lights from the comfort of your vehicle.

December 7: Experience an 1830s era Christmas as it may have been celebrated in the mountains of North Carolina with a Christmas Candlelight Tour at Vance Birthplace.

December 7: Holiday Twilight Tour in downtown Brevard. The downtown businesses will be “open-housing” all day, providing refreshments, entertainment and a preview of holiday gifts. The streets will be closed and many holiday activities have been planned, 4-8 PM.

December 7: Handcrafted Christmas at Addison Farms Vineyard in Asheville features locally crafted gifts.

December 7 & 14: Guild Artist Holiday Sale  at the Folk Art Center: The Guild Artist Holiday Sale provides an opportunity for individual members and the organization to sell over-runs, discontinued stock and studio seconds in a festive atmosphere during the holiday season. 10 AM-4 PM

December 7, 14, 21 & 28: Christmas at Connemara. Visit on Saturday mornings between Thanksgiving and New Year’s with local musicians and storytellers performing traditional holiday stories and music. Hot cider and cookies will be served. This free festive celebration honors Carl Sandburg and the family holiday tradition of music.

December 7: A Night Before Christmas along Downtown Waynesville’s Main Street area is filled with bright lights, friendly folks, the wonderful sounds of the Christmas season, delicious food & drink. 6-9 PM.

December 7 & 14: Santa on the Chimney at Chimney Rock State Park. Watch Santa practicing for his world-wide chimney-dropping tour on Christmas Eve. Only his “practice chimney” is 312 feet tall!

December 11-29: Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol by NC Stage Company. We know what happens to Scrooge, but what about his old business partner Marley?

December 13-14: Warren Haynes Christmas Jam in downtown Asheville with a stellar line-up.

December 14: “A Victorian Candlelight Christmas” at Thomas Wolfe Memorial. Discover some of the oldest Christmas customs in an authentic Victorian home in downtown Asheville with two special guided tours (5 & 5:30 PM) and an open house of the Thomas Wolfe home, a Queen Anne-style boardinghouse run by our most famous native son’s mother, Julia Wolfe. The house will be filled with authentic-era decorations and furniture and lit by candlelight. Open 6-8 PM. $10/person

December 14: Montford Home Tour. Explore Asheville’s oldest, most historic neighborhood comprised of Victorian, Arts and Crafts, Greek Revival and Dutch Colonial homes built in the 1890s to 1920s. 1-5 PM.

December 15: A Swannanoa Solstice  is a tapestry of joyful and thoughtful seasonal reflection beautifully woven from the mountains’ Appalachian, Scots-Irish and world influences. Two shows at Diana Wortham Theatre in downtown Asheville.

December 19-22: The Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris at Asheville Community Theatre.

December 21: Christmas on the Mountain at Thomas Wolfe Memorial. Come and experience one of our greatest Appalachian traditions of Storytelling with one of the world’s best Storytellers, Shelia Kay Adams.

December 21: Holiday Homecoming  at Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 10 AM-2 PM. Located near Cherokee, see old time crafts being demonstrated. Learn by observing the practical arts of quilting, weaving, and basket and doll making, apple cider and apple butter.

For more information, go to http://www.romanticasheville.com/holidays.htm.