Every year, as part of our Asheville winter traditions, we attend The Annual National Gingerbread House Competition at The Omni Grove Park Inn. It’s one of the best ways to get into the holiday spirit and see the most unique gingerbread displays. Discover all that you need to know (don’t get turned away) along with where to eat and how to beat the crowds, from Asheville locals.
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What To Know About The National Gingerbread House Competition (2023)
If you are in a hurry, find dates, parking info, and more. Then, keep reading to discover our favorite gingerbread house displays and restaurants around the Grove Park Inn.
5 Top Things To Do
Touring the Grove Park Inn gingerbread houses is one of our favorite things to do in Asheville in winter along with seeing holiday lights and visiting Biltmore at Christmas. This is how we spend a day at The Omni Grove Park Inn to get our money’s worth for that hefty parking fee.
1. See the gingerbread house displays
A holiday tradition in Asheville for over 30 years, the gingerbread houses at the Grove Park Inn are a top local and visitor attraction. The event kicks off with a nationally renowned competition, with gingerbread makers young and old competing in categories for cash prizes.
These structures aren’t your average gingerbread houses; find violin, dragon, and castle gingerbread creations along with iconic characters, stories, and more. Each innovative gingerbread display has to consist of at least 75% gingerbread.
You’ll find three main areas for the displays: to the left of Edison (hallway), the winner/display entrance in front of The Marketplace to the right of the lobby, and down the elevator/stairs at Level 7.
Grand Prize Winners Across The Years
These are just a few of the winners in recent times. In addition, The Grove Park Inn’s “12 Days of Christmas” virtually showcases the top 12 finalists on Facebook (@omnigroveparkinn) and Instagram (@omnigrovepark) from December 1 – 12, 2023.
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2. Dine on property
While we enjoy small local Asheville restaurants, we also frequently dine at Edison, especially with out-of-town guests. The Grove Park Inn has that “wow” factor and the food is delicious.
While there are multiple on-site restaurants, we prefer Edison – American cuisine – for its gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountain views. The Great Hall Bar is perfect for lighter snacks, charcuterie, and cocktails. In previous years, we have not made advanced reservations for Edison, but we highly suggest you do so on OpenTable. Sunset Terrace is their fancier rooftop dining option.
If you’ve toured the display and wish to leave the property, we also recommend heading to Grovewood Village across the street. ELDR is a delicious newer restaurant in a storybook cottage setting, perfect for casual lunch and coffee. Then, shop in Grovewood Village and tour their free museums like the Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum.
3. Grab coffee or drinks by the fire
The National Gingerbread House Competition in Asheville has one more famous component: The Great Gingerbread House, which serves up non-alcoholic and boozy hot chocolate. The structure, a life-sized model of the Grove, takes about 25 days to complete and is made up of 64 pounds of egg whites and 400 pounds of powdered sugar, along with many other traditional baking goods.
Since we are lactose-intolerant – and awaiting vegan hot cocoa options (cough, cough) – we order craft cocktails from The Great Hall Bar or coffee at The Omni’s Marketplace. Then, we hunker down in front of the floor-to-ceiling fireplaces in the lobby. Edison also serves delicious seasonally flavored drinks, such as gingerbread beer in collaboration with Highland Brewing (one of the best and oldest area breweries).
4. Shop for gifts and local treats
While in The Marketplace, pop into The Pink Pig and Emporium 1913 for gifts, apparel, local snacks and beverages, and more. We own a s’mores ornament from The Pink Pig as well as Asheville shirts with mountains and bears from its neighboring shop.
We also enjoy dipping into the Sammons Wing Promenade stores. We’ve purchased hiking ornaments and even Patagonia winter coats at the N.O.C. Asheville Basecamp. Gallery of the Mountains promises handcrafted jewelry and home decor from local artists. Asheville has great shopping options for souvenirs, clothing you wish you packed, and gifts.
5. Catch a Blue Ridge Mountain sunset
Before moving to Asheville, everyone told us we had to see a famous Grove Park Inn sunset. The sunsets are incredible, especially in the winter. Whether dining at Edison, Sunset Terrace, or Blue Ridge restaurant or heading outside to the patio, be sure to watch the sunset over Downtown Asheville, Mount Pisgah, and the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s one of the most romantic things to do in the city too!
Audience, Accessibility, and Parking
The entire family will enjoy the Grove Park Inn gingerbread houses along with couples, solo travelers, and older visitors. We see people plan their family reunions and getaways here along with romantic overnights and holiday getaways. The Grove Park Inn isn’t a bad classy Bachelor/Bachelorette option too.
The Omni Grove Park Inn is accessible with large hallways, elevators, and more. Service dogs and registered resort dogs (with limitations) are welcome on the property.
During the fall and holiday seasons, there is no complimentary parking on the property. From October 1, 2023 to January 2, 2024, parking rates are $35 for valet day parking & overnight guests and $25 for self-parking day & overnight guests.
Plan The Best Visit
The best time to visit The National Gingerbread House Competition is on a weekday in the morning, either when public viewing opens in November or immediately following the Thanksgiving holiday. The event will grow much busier toward Christmas week, and if the hotel hits parking and visitor capacity, they may turn you away.
Note There Are Restricted Viewing Times: Guests not staying at The Grove Park Inn may view the display after 4:00 PM on Sundays or anytime Monday through Thursday, based on parking availability and excluding the following dates: December 23, 24, 25, 30, 31, and January 1. Fridays and Saturdays are reserved for registered resort guests and guests who have confirmed dining reservations.
Celebrate The Holiday Season in Asheville with these guides
More About The Omni Grove Park Inn
A destination for the wealthy to relax and recover in the clean mountain air, The Grove Park Inn opened on July 12, 1913. With the help of Fred Seely, Edwin Wiley Grove – known for Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic, quinine to prevent malaria – the two created what is today Asheville’s finest historic resort.
Former U.S. Presidents like Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower stayed here along with the famous writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Tiger Woods, The Beatles, and Thomas Edison are just a few more notable names.
While here, spy the Pink Lady (and her dress), the Grove Park Inn’s resident ghost. A few interesting articles on the history of the Grove Park Inn include:
- “The Most Famous Hotel In North Carolina Is Also One Of The Most Historic Places You’ll Ever Sleep” on Only In Your State
- “Did You Know They Stayed at an Omni?” on The Omni Hotels & Resorts Blog
- “The Grove Park Inn and Its Host of Prominent Guests” on North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
- “The Pink Lady of the Grove Park Inn” on North Carolina Ghosts
Contact Info & Directions
Address: The Omni Grove Park Inn
290 Macon Ave, Asheville, NC 28804
Phone: (800) 438-5800
Directions: Located in North Asheville close to Kimberly Ave. and Charlotte St., The Omni Grove Park sits on Sunset Mountain. For GPS, we use “The Omni Grove Park Inn” or “290 Macon Ave, Asheville, NC 28804,” and park in/enter through the back of the resort (near Grovewood Village). Here, find Grove Park Inn lots and the Vanderbilt Parking Garage. Do not park in Grovewood Village, though, as they will tow you. Or, drive up to the front of the Grove Park Inn and self-park or use the valet. See where else to stay overnight in the area.
An 18+ facility, The Spa at The Omni Grove Park Inn boasts 20 water features, including mineral and waterfall pools. The lap pool has 6,500 fiber-optic stars and underwater music. Enjoy skin care treatments like facials and body wraps along with access to wellness pods and massages. Spa treatments are reserved for overnight guests, but they occasionally open them to non-guests. Locals can call to check last-minute availability.
You Might Also Like These Tours
If you are looking for guided tours of the Asheville area, three popular ones that are likely to sell out include:
Before you go…
What are your favorite places and events to get into the holiday spirit in Asheville? Have you attended the National Gingerbread House Competition? What did you think? What have been your favorite gingerbread house displays? Be sure to let us know in the comments, and check out these guides:
- More things to do around the Asheville area
- Our North Asheville/Grove Park Inn area guide
- Top restaurants in the North Asheville area
Christine (pronouns: she/her) is the owner and lead writer of Uncorked Asheville. After falling in love with those gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains, Christine and her husband Tom decided to call Asheville, North Carolina home. When her pointy Italian nose isn’t stuck in a book, Christine is adopting all of the kitties, getting lost in the forest, and drinking an ESB. She has a BA in English and History from Smith College, her MLIS from USF-Tampa, and is a former U.S. Fulbright Scholar - Indonesia. Christine also owns The Uncorked Librarian LLC with books and movies to inspire travel.