Winter Mountain Escapes
Whether you are a "Jingle Bells" type of person or a "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" grinch, dust off your sleigh and take the high road to the Smokies this month. The cities of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tennessee, sing with entertainment, glow with millions of lights, and lure visitors with special treats not even Santa Claus can match. So y'all come on down. It's gonna be fun!
The best cure for the winter blahs is not a mug of hot chocolate, a roaring fire, or even your fuzziest sweater. No, the very best way to warm up this month is a healthy dose of fun. You don't need to go West to find a snow-loving mountain town. Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, invites you to stay and play in the snow--right here in the South.
Here's a little secret: Now 'tis the season to avoid the crowds at Dollywood and enjoy the park's two-month-long holiday festival, Smoky Mountain Christmas. Tucked in the hills of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, Dollywood is a popular place to celebrate any time of year. So popular, in fact, that the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development ranks this park the state's number one paid attraction. But now is a great time to go. The lights are strung, the carolers are singing, the lines are shorter, and the beauty of the park is at its peak.
When old man winter waves his hand like a wand, families flock to the snow-capped mountains of Canaan Valley Resort in West Virginia. This retreat offers both cascading slopes for beginners and rugged terrain for the experienced sportsman.
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.
During the Candlelight Christmas Evenings, Biltmore dazzles you with embellishments, transforming the magnificent mansion into a winter wonderland. Bells, bows, and bangles perch on every pedestal, tabletop, and horizontal surface in the château. You could stand in one spot in any room, turn slowly for 15 minutes, and still feel as if you've missed something. You probably did.
The Homestead was designed to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Founded in 1766, the 15,000-acre resort grew up around its natural mineral springs, where guests came from all over the world to "take the waters." Today, it's a world-renowned golf destination. In the winter, the focus turns to outdoor sports. There's snow skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and ice skating.
You know you're on Southern slopes when you zip down a black-diamond run called Moonshine. Snowshoe is way more "y'all" than "dude." Yet it's filled with the requisite perks you'd expect to find out West. This is the kind of place where you can chow down at Foxfire Grille on Way Uptown Mac 'n Cheese (secret ingredients: lobster and crabmeat). Where resort management cancels all meetings on powder days. Where Ember, the fancy new bistro in town, serves fresh-caught fish flown overnight from Hawaii; Champagne in a can (Francis Ford Coppola's latest drink); and artisan cotton candy.