Road Trips: 2013 Winter Escapes Travel Guide

Why take a road trip once the leaves have fallen? There are many good reasons. Among them:

You don’t have to fight the crowds – whether on the highways or at your destination. This is especially noticeable at the beach.

Lodging rates drop. Most weekends, you can get accommodations for a fraction of what you’d pay between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

The scenery can be breathtakingly different. Fans of mountain getaways are quick to point out that vistas change once the trees are bare. Beautiful views can be long-haul, especially in the High Country. And if there’s snow on the ground, consider it “cool” eye candy.

Your recreational options also change in Western North Carolina. Minutes from Asheville and Boone – or a short drive to Virginia and West Virginia – you can enjoy a weekend of skiing, snowboarding, tubing or snowshoeing.

As for ice skating, thanks to modern technology, public rinks open for business in cities near and far.

Attractions change. Vacation destinations like the Biltmore, Brookgreen Gardens and the Grand Strand’s live-theater venues shift gears and adjust their offerings for winter.

Then there are the lights – you can find great drive-through (and walk-through) holiday illuminations in big cities and small villages.

The shift to holiday fun is evident in other respects. There are seasonal shopping events, including shows featuring hundreds of vendors.

And restaurant menus change, to match the season, even in the S.C. Lowcountry.

Where to go and when?

We’ve put together a sampler of great winter escapes from the Atlantic Ocean to Gatlinburg, Tenn.; from the ski resorts of Virginia and West Virginia to the S.C. docks at Beaufort and the golf courses of Kiawah. And some that are very close to home.

That’s a lot to do. And a lot to report.

Joining me in writing “Road Trips: Winter Escapes” are two veteran travel journalists. Randy Johnson’s “Southern Snow: The Winter Guide to Dixie” (soon to be reissued by the University of North Carolina Press) was one of the first guides to winter sports in the South. He lives in Banner Elk. Lynn Seldon, who lives in Oak Island (on the coast, halfway between Wilmington and the S.C. line), writes the blog about great things to see and do in the Carolinas.

Check the websites listed in the various articles for updates and additional information. It may be a bit soon to lock in your winter getaway. But it’s never too early to start thinking, planning and dreaming.

Drive time in the Carolinas

Winter Escapes: Ski slopes, outdoor light displays, holiday events

S.C. Coast

Myrtle Beach | Holiday shows | Brookgreen | Charleston |

James Island | Mount Pleasant | Kiawah | Beaufort

S.C. Piedmont

Columbia | Riverbanks | Greenville

Here & There

Illuminations | First Night events |

First Day hikes | Gatlinburg |

Virginia slopes | West Virginia slopes

N.C. Mountains

Boone & Blowing Rock |

Boone area slopes | Asheville | Biltmore | Southwest N.C. slopes

N.C. Piedmont

Greensboro | Yadkin wineries | Winston-Salem | Tanglewood | Raleigh | Stowe Botanical Garden | Charlotte | Davidson | McAdenville | Pinehurst | Seagrove

N.C. Coast

Wilmington | Elizabethan Gardens | Wright Brothers