Snow blankets the mountains, and fires pop and crackle in the fireplaces around Blowing Rock and Boone this time of year. While it's technically off-season for tourists, skiers and romance seekers know it's one of the best seasons to experience North Carolina's High Country.
Friday: Blow Into Blowing Rock
You'll love strolling through Blowing Rock, a charming town with a lively Main Street full of shops. Duck into The Bob Timberlake Gallery, where you'll find the North Carolina native and internationally known artist's traditional paintings, furniture, and gifts.
After 3 p.m. check in to your room at Chetola Resort at Blowing Rock (1-800-243-8652 or www.chetola.com). This time of year, lodge room rates start at $114 during the week and $139 on weekends and include breakfast. Named for the Cherokee word meaning "haven of rest," the resort carries a rich history, but you'll be most interested in its newest project, the Bob Timberlake Inn (rates start at $175). Last winter, Chetola fully renovated the upper floors of its 1846 Manor House Estate House to offer eight estate rooms, all designed by the artist.
Step right downstairs for dinner at The Manor House Restaurant. The menu features a classic cuisine, including our favorites, the Jack Daniel's steak ($30) and the veal piccata ($26).
Saturday: A Booming Time Around Boone
Drive to King Street, one of the main drags in downtown Boone, and stop for breakfast at the Boone Bagelry ( 262-5585). You have to try a toasted bagel with olive-pimiento spread ($2.45).
Now you're ready to wind up Beech Mountain to Ski Beech Resort (1-800-438-2093 or www.skibeech.com). With 15 slopes and the highest elevation of any ski resort in eastern North America (5,506 feet), it's our favorite place to ski. The slopes are less crowded between 8:30 and 11 a.m. (2 p.m. is the busiest time), so get your lift ticket early ($40 half-day, $50 full day).
Once you've had your fill of the slopes, grab a bite on your way down the mountain at Fred's General Mercantile and Backside Deli ( 387-9331). Snag a table out in the sunroom to enjoy a burger ($5.49) and a couple of homemade cookies (89 cents each).
You can't leave Boone until you visit one of Appalachian State University's gems, the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts ( 262-3017 or www.turchincenter.org). The 40,000-square-foot center curates classical and contemporary art exhibits in a variety of media.