Hansel and Gretel would not miss this Christmas extravaganza, as it showcases dozens of ginger bread houses and holiday decorations galore! Luckily you don’t have to worry about the waistline, because this is a feast for the eyes, not the stomach… The charming Grove Park Inn in Asheville is a seasonal delight you won’t want to miss this holiday season, and who knows – once inspired, maybe you’ll find yourself building a gingerbread house with the kiddos!
This article can also be found on Kidding Around Greenville.
The Annual Gingerbread Competition at Asheville’s Grove Park Inn
While you may have missed your chance to participate in the famous gingerbread house competition at the Grove Park Inn this year (the deadline to enter the 24th Annual Competition was November 4th), you still have plenty of time to plan a visit to this historic Asheville venue; not only will you have the opportunity to view the gingerbread house winners, but the whole family can get into the holiday spirit!
The gingerbread houses are as diverse as they are amazing; on our visit last year we saw everything from clock towers to sleighs to igloos to skate parks. The entries must be constructed entirely of edible materials with the exception of the base, but the ingenuity in construction is simply remarkable. There are four entry categories: adult, teen, youth and child, and entries are judged on overall appearance, originality & creativity, difficulty, precision and consistency of theme. This year judging will take place on November 21st, and the winning entries in each category (plus the 2nd and 3rd place finishers) will be on display starting tomorrow and running until January 5th, 2017 in both wings of the main floor. You’ll find a map at the information desk in the lobby – yes, the Grove Park Inn is an expansive enough venue that you need a map!
There is no admission charge to view the display, although there is a $10/car parking fee. Half of this fee goes to local non-profits; the list of not-for-profit partners that will benefit from this year's donations can be found here. The Omni Grove Park Inn invites guests not staying at the resort to view the display Sundays after 3pm and Mondays through Thursdays. For more information on hours and the gingerbread competition visit the website, and make sure to keep a lookout for entries from the Upstate; last year an entry from Greer placed second in the teen category, while a Greenville entry in the child category received an honorable mention.
As you walk through the hotel viewing the gingerbread competition winners you’ll see more than a few Christmas trees decorated in all sorts of motifs. My boys’ favorite part of the visit was discovering the elaborate ornaments on these themed trees, deciding on their favorites, and planning which decorations we should have in our home. The giant Christmas tree in the lobby is a perfect place for that family photo, the entire Great Hall filled with the smell of the giant evergreen.
The enormous fire places in the Great Hall are adorned with wreaths, heat radiating out to warm those seated in the area. Last year there was a gingerbread house in the hall, built by the pastry department. The ingredients included 50 pounds of egg whites, 440 pounds of powdered sugar, 220 pounds of red fondant and 400 pounds of bread flower! Visitors could purchase hot beverages and gingerbread from the gingerbread house, and then settle into the giant rocking chairs near the fireplace with hot chocolate to enjoy the holiday bustle. Spend a little more time than just a couple of minutes in the rocking chairs – sitting by a roaring fire in a relaxing chair is part of the mystique of the Inn that should not be glossed over.
The original Grove Park Inn was built in 1913 and over the years has grown to encompass a golf course, spa, sports complex, 5 restaurants, 3 bars and a café. To truly appreciate the scenic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains it is worth stepping out onto the veranda, or even descending down into the gardens and spa area. This descent via outdoor stone staircases is also a good use of the kids’ extra energy; ask them to take a photo of the Inn from the lowest level...
The view of the front of the hotel is also quite grand, and after imagining the long-ago sound of horse-drawn carriages rattling across the cobblestones you might want to take a short stroll. From the front of the hotel up to Sunset Mountain is a short hiking trail that is appropriate for all skill levels and ages that will let you work off whatever delectable you may have bought at the Inn, but will also let you appreciate the spectacular natural setting of the Grove Park Inn. Then, as you set off on the drive home take a minute to determine whether you should enter next year’s Gingerbread Competition – or once more return as a spectator to this wonderful annual event.