Merry and bright ideas

Maybe the kids are home from college. Maybe you have out-of-town visitors. Maybe the whole family is camping out at your place for the holidays. Maybe you find yourself with too much time on your hands and not enough Netflix envelopes in your mailbox. Just because it's holiday vacation doesn't mean there's tons to do with all that free time — clubs are closed, concerts are few and far between, and the next festival is months away.

Still, you don’t have to resort to stringing popcorn and left-over cranberries for entertainment. Xpress has tracked down some holiday fun (there's something for everyone), so gather your group (or strike out on your own) and get busy:

• Ghost Hunters of Asheville offers an interactive/spooky tour of downtown Asheville. Groups leave from the lobby of the Haywood Park Hotel daily (except Christmas) at 7 p.m. Reservations required: call 779-HUNT (4868). $17 adults/$9 kids age 8-14 (ask about discounts). ghosthuntersofasheville.com.

• Here's something special (and secular) for Christmas Eve — a set by Brooklyn transplants Copper Kettle at Jack of the Wood. The music is described as a blend of "traditional bluegrass, country and gospel." Pair that with Jack of the Wood's cozy setting, good friends and family and a beer or two — perfect for setting the celebratory mood. 8:30 p.m. jackofthewood.com.

• Visit the Carl Sandburg Home in Flat Rock — The National Park historic site/house of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and poet will be decorated in the style of Sandburg Christmases past with poinsettias and a Christmas tree through Thursday, Jan. 6. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily (except Christmas). $5 adults/$3 seniors/free for children age 15 and younger. nps.gov/carl.

• Go to camp! (Only without a tent and a pair of hiking boots.) Holiday Arts Extravaganza at Asheville Art Museum is an art camp for students in grades 1-4 — both a break from the holiday grind and a chance to get creative. Monday, Dec. 27-Thursday, Dec. 30, 1-4 p.m. daily, $18 members/$20 non-members per day. ashevilleart.org

• Get crafty: Leicester Library Knitters, "A casual knitting and needlework group for all skill levels," meets Tuesday, Dec. 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the Leicester Library (1561 Alexander Road, 250-6480).

• ”Not-so-serious holiday cheer” is how LaZoom Tours sums up its annual holiday ride. The city-wide bus tour features comedy skits, live music, Asheville facts, holiday snacks, tips and prizes. David Ostergaard of Bright Star Touring Theatre joins the mobile show; passengers age 21 and over can bring beer and wine on board. The all-ages rides run several times per day through Friday, Dec. 26. $12 children/$20 seniors and Asheville residents/$22 adults. Advance tickets (required) at 225-6932 or lazoomtours.com.

• Yes, there are plenty of art districts and galleries to peruse. And a couple are having openings and special exhibits over the holidays. Check out "Wintertide," a rotating exhibition at the Haen Gallery through Jan. 31. Artists include Lynn Boggess, Emily Wilson, GC Myers, Wendy Whitson, Jane Filer, Phyllis Stapler and Marci Crawford Harnden. thehaengallery.com.
Also, Woolworth Walk introduces "Revelations" with works by painter Abby Lee and sculptor Michelle Sumares on Saturday, Jan. 1. (There's a reception on Friday, Jan. 7, 4-6 p.m.) woolworthwalk.com.

• The Drygoods Shop in West Asheville hosts Parent and Child Art Hour on Friday, Dec. 31, 11 a.m. to noon. Says the description, "Get in here and make something! This will not be a 'taught' class, rather a time with your child where you make art together." The theme is monoprints. Ages 3 and up. $5 for materials. thedrygoodsshop.blogspot.com.

• Make a leisurely Sunday or Tuesday or … any day. Gather the family and/or friends (or, heck, have a little me-time) and wander around the Grove Park Inn. The historic hotel is decked out in holiday finery, including themed Christmas trees and the entries (hundreds of them!) from the National Gingerbread House Competition Display. Speaking of which, the Inn's Magnolia Lounge is serving gingerbread martinis daily from noon to 5:30 p.m. through Saturday, Jan 1. groveparkinn.com.

Want to see more gingerbread creations? The Grove Arcade has a display through Sunday, Jan. 2. grovearcade.com.

• Christmas at Biltmore actually extends through Saturday, Jan. 1. According to the website, "Firelight and candlelight fill the house with a warm glow and accent delicate ornaments and priceless treasures, while the Front Lawn of Biltmore House sets the scene with a sparkling holiday illumination of evergreens bathed in thousands of twinkling lights." Candlelight Christmas Evenings include self-guided tour of house and a next day visit of the gardens and winery (for $10 more, you can also get daytime admission to the house along with your grounds visit). 5:45-8:15 p.m. Tickets are $79 adults/$39.50 youth ages 10-16 through Wednesday, Dec. 29 (closed Dec. 24 and 25); $69/$34.50 on Thursday, Dec. 30; $59/$24.50 on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. biltmore.com.

• Kick off the new year in the great outdoors — the Carolina Mountain Club holds a New Year’s Day Hike along a series of trails around Green River Gamelands. Carpool from Westgate Shopping Center to the Cracker Barrel in Hendersonville for an 8 a.m. breakfast. The 6.5-8 mile hike begins at 9:15 a.m. According to the group, "We’ll hike down to and along the Green River, with a late lunch at the big rocks on the Green River, and then hike up and out on the Pulliam Creek trail." carolinamtnclub.com/Hiking/Schedules/sundays-all-day-11-1st.asp.

• Poetrio returns to Malaprop's on Sunday, Jan. 2 at 3 p.m. The event features Tracey Schmidt, Sean Hill and Laura Newburn. malaprops.com.

• The Ladies-only climbing night at ClimbMax (climbmaxnc.com) takes place Monday, Jan. 3. Learn more about this group and its events at ladiesonlyclimbing.blogspot.com.

— Have you thought of some fun holiday activities? Share them at mountainx.com.

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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