Blowing Rock, 877-750-4636. www.blowingrock.com.
Blowing Rock, a warm-season destination for more than a century, whose merchants, restaurants and resorts pulled out the stops to make winter cool for day-trippers and overnighters.
Their four-day sampler - Winterfest - is the long weekend of Jan. 26-29; scheduled activities are geared to families that like outdoor fun as well as inside delights.
The evening of Jan. 26 (a Thursday) WinterFeast at the famous Chetola Resort features items from their own Timberlake's restaurant plus fare from The Inn at Crestwood, Woodlands BBQ, Crippen's Country Inn and Foggy Rock Restaurant.
The following day, there's free hot chocolate downtown and a dusk bonfire at Memorial Park - with free marshmallows, s'mores and live music. There's also a blues concert inside the Hayes Center.
Jan. 28 (Saturday) starts with the Polar Plunge, where the hardy jump into Chetola Lake. The day also brings a chili cook-off, a children's parade down Main Street, an ice-carving competition, wine tasting and auction, and a bonfire.
The festival wraps up Jan. 29 with free hot chocolate downtown, an ice-carving demonstration at Memorial Park and a dog show.
Other events include a snowman-building competition and family ski night (Friday), both at Appalachian Ski Mountain.
Outdoor events will be held weather-permitting. Some events require admission; many events are fund-raisers.
Target audience: Accent is on family fun.
Travel time from Charlotte: Two hours. Blowing Rock is 14 minutes from Boone (Sugar Mountain Resort); 40 minutes from Banner Elk (Beech Mountain).
Directions: Interstate 85 South to Gastonia, then take Exit 17 to U.S. 321 North, which will take you to Blowing Rock.