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RoadTrips: 2014 fall & winter travel guide
Read about where to see the best fall foliage and holiday illuminations in the Observer's travel guide.


Still hankering for holiday displays the last weekend before Christmas? Head about 75 minutes northwest of Charlotte to The Trail of Lights, in the little foothills town of Valdese.

One of the most unusual attractions in North Carolina is the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, deep within the Pisgah National Forest, near Rosman.

The Museum of Life + Science, in Durham, is a day-long, indoor-outdoor adventure where inquisitive visitors of all ages can expect to do a lot of walking.

Sylvan Heights Bird Park, in Scotland Neck, exhibits 1,000 birds representing 170 species – some of which can be seen nowhere else in the country.

Blue Ridge, Ga., along the Toccoa River, makes relaxation a year-round reward for visitors.

The best places to see colorful leaves this weekend will be close to home – in the Charlotte area and in locations like Morrow Mountain State Park and along the drive to Raleigh.

Rocky Face’s craggy outcropping of gray stone, 100 feet in height, will convince you the mountain has the perfect face for rock climbing and/or rappelling – just two of the park’s popular activities.

Observers say the best colors this week are between 2,000 and 3,000 feet, which puts Asheville and the Chimney Rock areas in the spotlight. But Piedmont conditions are improving rapidly.

Visitors to the event will be able to move with the troops and watch their skirmishes. Those skirmishes are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. each day, and there will be fife-and-drum concerts at 3 p.m. each day.

There is plenty of leaf color to see, and it’s centered this weekend around the 3,000-foot elevation. That means parts of the North Carolina foothills – and even sections of South Carolina’s upstate – will produce plenty of beauty this weekend.

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