For a brilliant way to start the holiday season, visit Asheville's Biltmore Estate beginning Nov 3rd for Christmas in the daytime.

I know we literally just finished celebrating Halloween and Thanksgiving is still three weeks away, but it’s already Christmas in Asheville. This year, Christmas comes early to Asheville’s Biltmore Estate. Beginning this Saturday, November 3rd and continuing through to the new year, the historic home will be decked out in all its Christmas finery for daytime visitors.

From 9am to 4:30pm every day, visitor’s to Asheville‘s Biltmore Estate will be treated to dozens of Christmas trees, including the 35 foot fir tree loaded with oversized ornaments located in the Banquet Hall. The grand staircase is made even grander with dozens of feet of beautiful garlands woven throughout the banister. Hundreds of poinsettias bring a dash of holiday color to this Asheville home’s 250 rooms. Take a step back in time by visiting the Antler Hill Village on the grounds. The Conservatory holds a real treat for the eyes, with color exploding from every room.

The Biltmore will be holding free seminars on how to make your very own Christmas wreaths at home as well as other fun, traditional holiday decorations. Sign up for a red wine and chocolate tasting (for an additional fee). You can even start your Christmas shopping early by visiting the gift shop for a unique present under your family’s tree this year. To really get you in the mood, traditional organ music will play throughout the entire first floor, emanating from the Earnest Skinner crafted organ located in the Banquet Hall.

Tickets for the day celebration are $59 for adults and $29.50 for kids ages 10-16. You can make your reservation now by visiting their website. Each ticket includes a self-guided tour of the estate, access to the gardens, Antler Hill Village and the current in-house exhibit The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad and a complimentary wine tasting (for the adults) as well as guided tour of the estate’s own winery. Christmas comes early to Asheville‘s Biltmore Estate. Take a step back in time with your family at the largest privately owned home in the country.

Rich Cooke, your Western North Carolina real estate specialist

Originally posted on my Western North Carolina real estate blog here:

Western North Carolina Real Estate - Whether you're interested in buying or selling your Hendersonville/Asheville area home, consider using the services of Rich Cooke, John Knapp and Jan Knapp for your Western North Carolina real estate needs.

Downtown Asheville After 5Asheville is the place to be this Friday night!  Rock the night away to live music at Downtown Asheville After 5.  From 5pm to 9pm on the third Friday of every month through September, Downtown After 5 brings a different live musical act to the downtown Asheville area.  Best of all, this live entertainment is absolutely free to the public!

Tomorrow’s Downtown Asheville After 5 opens with The Secret B-Sides.  They blend old school and new school funk with R&B.  Headliner Space Capone is a unique mixture of horns, rhythm section and electronics.  Everyone is encouraged to get up and dance.

Local breweries, such as Asheville Brewing Co, Highland Brewing Co and Pisgah Brewing, will be providing beer for sale at each concert.  Of course, national brands (like Budweiser) will be available on tap as well as wine and water.  Anyone planning on purchasing alcohol will need to be 21+, provide a valid photo ID and purchase a $2 wristband.  Your $2 purchase will go to support Katy’s Kids, a local charity working to eradicate hungry children.  Even in a prosperous country like ours, thousands of children go to be hungry every night.  Katy’s Kids give Asheville children in need a backpack full of food from MANNA FoodBank to take home.

Food vendors will also be on hand offering sandwiches, pizza, tacos and ice cream for purchase to all concert attendees.  It’s a great night out for the entire family to enjoy.  Strap on your dancing shoes, pack the kids in the care and come to the Downtown Asheville After 5 live musical event this Friday.  Don’t worry, though.  If you miss this free concert tomorrow, there will be another one next month (July 20, 2012).

Rich Cooke, your Western North Carolina real estate specialist

Originally posted on my Western North Carolina real estate blog here:

Christmas at the Biltmore in AshevilleBuilt by George Washington Vanderbilt II (youngest son of railroad tycoon William Henry Vanderbilt), the Biltmore estate is one of Asheville‘s most opulent icons.  Over 2,000,000 square feet in size and still owned by Vanderbilt descendants, the Biltmore House welcomes thousands of guests every year.  Christmas comes to the Biltmore in Asheville beginning this Friday, November 4, 2011 with the Christmas at Biltmore Daytime Celebration.  The following weekend (November 11, 2011) is when this opulent estate begins their Candleight Christmas Evenings.

During the daytime celebration, guests will be treated to the most magnificent holiday decorations you are liable to ever feast your eyes on, including a 35 foot Christmas tree, decked out in ribbons, traditional ornaments and tons of lights.  This is only one of the several Christmas trees you’ll find around the estate.  Garlands sweep along the elegant banisters.  And Antler Hill Village, located on the grounds, is a perfect place to relax with the family and take in the sights.  The conservatory is bursting with red poinsettias, tropical flowers, white Christmas cactus and so much more.

At night, the estate simply glows from the millions of lights strewn about.  The ambiance of the estate takes on a totally different look when lit by thousands of candles.  The warmth of the lit fireplaces will get you in the holiday spirit as well.  The exterior lighting displays will simply take your breath away.

Fine dining is available at the Christmas style buffet.  You’ve never taken a wine tour like this before!  Wine tasting is even better by candlelight.  Do some Christmas shopping for that one-of-a-kind gift that evokes the feeling of days gone by.  The Winter Garden Choir helps ring in the holiday season with Christmas carol favorites.  There’s even a six foot long gingerbread replica of the Biltmore House set up in the main kitchen.

If you’re interested in experiencing Christmas at the Biltmore in Asheville, visit their website to reserve your tickets for the daytime festivities, candlelight evening celebration or even to spend a couple of days there.  Even though Thanksgiving is still a couple of weeks away, it’s never too early to get into the holiday spirit.  And what a unique way to do it!

Rich Cooke, your Western North Carolina real estate specialist

Originally posted on my Western North Carolina real estate blog here:

Leaf Collection in AshevilleFall is a beautiful time here in Western North CarolinaAsheville trees begin to wear their gorgeous autumn colors and, eventually, fall to the ground.  Now is also the best time to start pruning back your flowering shrubs and overhanging tree branches to make way for winter.  But, what do you do with your clippings and dead leaves?

As of July 1st of this year, the City of Asheville approved changes in the collection of leaves and brush from residential neighborhoods.  Leaves and brush are not collected with regular trash pickups.  In an effort to lower costs and increase customer satisfaction, brush and leaf collection was changed to twice per month from its previous once a month collection schedule.  Also, the City of Asheville will only collect leaves that are bagged and ready for pickup.  The City will provide large leaf bags on a first come, first served basis as supplies last.  You may also get the larger leaf bags at any Asheville fire station.  However, you can use regular trash bags if you would like.  Bagged leaves must be set out at curbside by no later than 7am on the Monday morning of the week your area is scheduled for pickup (click here to view the City of Asheville brush and bagged leaf collection schedule).

When you gather together your tree and shrub trimmings for collection, make sure to place them in loose piles at the curb.  No other debris can be included in the piles.  “Other debris” would include grass clippings, vines and weeds from your garden (which the City of Asheville does not collect).  If you have thorny trimmings (from rose bushes, for example), put these in a separate pile from the tree and shrub trimmings.  No tree limbs can be longer than 4 feet or larger than 6″ around.  If you have a lawn service that takes care of these, they are responsible for hauling away the debris, not you or the City. 

Bags of leaves should not be tied or be placed in containers with lids.  When using a container for leaf collection, please write “leaves” or “brush” in large letters on the outside of the container so City collection personnel will be able to identify it without difficulty.  Otherwise, it may be mistaken for regular trash and not picked up at the proper time.  It is illegal to burn leaves within the City of Asheville.  People caught doing so can be fined anywhere from $250-$500 by the Fire Marshall, may be arrested and can receive additional fines from the City of Asheville as well.

Finally, one of the best possible ways to get rid of your leaves is to compost them for future use on your gardens and lawn.  This natural fertilizer works wonders for moisture retention, warding off bugs and cultivating beautiful landscaping.  By spring, you’ll be good to go!

Leaf collection in Asheville is fairly easy if you follow a few simple rules.  Keep our streets and gutters free of debris so that water can drain properly, reducing the risk of flooding streets.  Most of all, enjoy the beautiful fall picture that Mother Nature graces us with every year here in Western North Carolina.

Rich Cooke, your Western North Carolina real estate specialist

Originally posted on my Western North Carolina real estate blog here:

Loving the Arts in Asheville

September 15, 2011

Loving the arts in AshevilleHere in Western North Carolina, we love nature, we love apples (the North Carolina Apple Festival was just a few days ago, in fact) and we love art of all kinds.  So, I’m happy to let you know that you’ll have the opportunity to start loving the arts in Asheville over the next couple of weekends with the Southern Highland Craft Guild’s Heritage Weekend, Art in Autumn street festival, Heritage Craft Weekend at the NC Arboretum and the Pisgah Mountain Craft Show.

Heritage Weekend – September 17-18, 2011
Folk Art Center (Milepost 382, Blue Ridge Parkway), 11am to 5pm.  Cost: FREE.  In addition to the many heritage craft demonstrations, there will be live traditional mountain music and dancing, including clogging.  Local experts will be on hand to teach you how to whittle, create pottery, beekeeping techniques, basket weaving, wood carving, quilting, blacksmithing and much more.  There are plenty of nice grassy areas to have a beautiful family picnic.  You definitely don’t want to miss the World Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle Competition being held on Saturday from 2pm to 3pm.  The Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle is an Appalachian stick toy.  Parking is free, too.  For more information, please call 828-298-7928.

Art in Autumn – September 17, 2011
Main Street, Downtown Weaverville, 10am to 5pm.  Cost: FREE.  For the fifth year in a row, downtown Weaverville plays host to more than 100 local artisans showing off their talents.  But that’s not all!  There will be live bluegrass music (traditional to the great Smoky Mountains) as well as fantastic food to enjoy.  For more info on this event, please email

Heritage Craft Weekend – September 24, 2011
North Carolina Arboretum (100 Frederick Law Olmstead Way), 11am to 4pm.  Arts and crafts created from a wide variety of mediums will be available to view, including those made from local, natural materials as well as recycled materials.  Learn the art of basket making, spinning and weaving as well as enjoy live music.

Pisgah Mountain Craft Show – September 24-25, 2011
Blue Ridge Parkway (Milepost 410), Pisgah Inn, 10am to 6pm.  Cost: FREE.  Live glassblowing demos, painting and jewelry are just some of what you can expect from 70 of the area’s best and brightest artists and crafts people. 

So, if you enjoy the beautiful Smoky Mountains and all they have to offer, learn more about what inspires local artists and even become one yourself by attending one of these fun arts and crafts events.  Pretty soon, you’ll be loving the arts in Asheville, too!

Rich Cooke, your Western North Carolina real estate specialist

Originally posted on my Active Rain blog here:

Asheville's Recycling Program Receives AwardThe Carolina Recycling Association honored the City of Asheville with its “Best Local Government Recycling Program” award.  This award is only handed out to one city in North Carolina or South Carolina.  Asheville’s recycling program received the award because they have successfully provided a complete recycling program to its residents.  In fact, 80% of Asheville’s inhabitants utilize the Asheville residential curbside and city facilities regularly, the highest participation levels in the state.  The recipient of the Carolina Recycling Association’s award serves as a model for other government agencies within both North Carolina and South Carolina on how they can implement successful recycling programs in their respective cities.

The City of Asheville has set a goal of 80% carbon reduction within its city limits by the year 2050.  Their recycling program is just one step in that journey.  Since its implementation in 1997, the residential curbside recycling program in Asheville has taken in more than 90,000 tons of recycled material.  That is more than 90,000 tons of material that has been kept out of the landfills and re-used into the system, which also reduces the drain on our resources by using less materials initially in new products.

Asheville contracts with Curbside Management to provide their curbside recycling program to residents.  Two bins are provided to each Asheville household specifically for recyclable materials (one bin is for glass, plastic, newspapers, cardboard boxes and metal cans while the other bin can be used for junk mail, cereal boxes, magazines, catalogs, paper shopping bags, etc).  The bins are picked up by Curbside Management every other week.  If you have questions about how to participate in Asheville’s residential curbside recycling program, please contact Curbside Management at 828-252-2532 or visit their website.

You don’t have to wait for someone to pick up your recyclable materials, however.  Any Asheville resident can drop off their recyclable goods at any one of the following locations:

  • Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company (behind the business) – 675 Merrimon Avenue
  • Buncombe County Landfill – 85 Panther Branch Road
  • Buncombe County Transfer Station – 190 Hominy Creek Road
  • Curbside Management’s Materials Recycling Facility – 116 N Woodfin Avenue in Woodfin, NC

Congratulations to Asheville’s recycling program for receiving this fantastic award.  It’s a combined victory for both the city’s efforts as well as its people.  This is yet another reason why Asheville real estate is tops.  Our city is beautiful because we make an effort to keep it that way.  Let’s continue our efforts for generations to come.

Rich Cooke, your Western North Carolina real estate specialist

This Asheville NC text scam is a reminder to make sure that you protect yourself from identity theft.  Learn how here.Identity theft remains a huge concern for Americans.  With consumers using credit and debit cards more than cash and turning to the internet to pay their bills, thieves have had to adapt.  The Asheville Police Department recently issued a warning about a text scam that has come to their attention.

Several Asheville residents have reported receiving a text from someone saying that their Telco credit union account has been suspended.  This was a red flag from the text recipients because they do not currently nor have they ever in the past had an account with Telco.  These scams aren’t just isolated to text messaging, though.  Here are a few ways to spot an email/text message scam:

  1. Provides a link to click on in the email.  Never click on a link provided in an email.  Hover over the link provided with your mouse (again, do not click on it).  While hovering, look at the lower left hand side of your screen.  A website address will show up (http:// ).  If the address is not the web address of the website it says it is, this is a scam.  If the email provides a link using a link shortener (such as or, it is a scam.  It is best to open your internet in a new window, type in the web address you know for sure is correct and log in to your account from there.
  2. Requires you to provide personal information.  Banks and credit card companies will not require that you provide an account number, social security number or any other personal information via email or text.  If you want to make sure there isn’t an issue with your account, call your bank or credit card company directly using the customer service number provided on your statements.  Don’t contact the company using the phone number provided in the email or text message because this most likely is a scam to get your personal information.
  3. “From” email address is fishy.  Customer service accounts for most companies, especially banks and credit card companies, use the company’s website address as part of their email.  For example, if you receive a legitimate email from Wells Fargo, their email address ends with some form of  However, scammers are aware of this and may put the company they are pretending to be somewhere in the email address to throw you off.  Be careful.
  4. “To” email address is not you.  If the email address in the “To” line is to “undisclosed recipients” or lists a long line of email addresses, this should throw up a red flag as a possible scammer.
  5. Text message comes from a bank.  Banks will NEVER contact their patrons via text message to let them know about an issue with their account.  If someone says they are your bank and wants you to call them back at a specific phone number, do not do it. 

The police department’s Asheville text scam warning is a great reminder to be careful with your personal information.  Avoid identity theft by being proactive.  Since identity theft ruins your credit and can sometimes take years to clear up, your chances of owning an Asheville home can be seriously affected.  Protect your personal information as closely as you would protect your physical property.

Rich Cooke, your Asheville real estate specialist

You'll never get a lemon in Hendersonville real estate if you use Rich Cooke.