The South is known for its iconic resorts — many of which are dotted along the coastline or tucked into mountain valleys — offering golf, outdoor adventures, sun, sand and spa experiences. But with a new year under way, perhaps it’s time to look at some of these Southern favorites from a fresh — do we dare say refreshing? — perspective as destinations for winter vacations.
From skiing and ice skating to snowy, horse-drawn carriage rides and wintry foxhunts, a long weekend at one of these historic Southern resorts is an ideal way to embrace winter and all it has to offer.
3 Southern Winter Vacation Destinations
Blackberry Farm turns 40 in 2016, and while a stay here is magical anytime of the year, when snow caps the surrounding Smokies and provides a beautifully stark landscape in the foothills, Blackberry becomes a true escape from the grind of everyday life. (SB Tip: Cellular service around Walland is spotty at best, so you really can escape. But the folks at the farm can get you fully integrated if you must stay connected.)
Beyond fine dining, being pampered in the spa or spending time with the farm’s brewmaster, winter weekends bring some unique opportunities for guests.
Three foxhunts — one each in January, February and March — offer riders and nonriders alike the chance to enjoy a typical English hunt. And whether you ride out with the hunters or follow on foot, you’ll be fortified with a hearty hunt breakfast, liquid refreshment and camaraderie.
A weekend in February is dedicated to puzzling. Stave Puzzles of Vermont supplies handcrafted wood puzzles (including a Blackberry Farm version as a take-home gift), while the farm fires up its fireplaces and offers warm libations for around-the-clock puzzle solving, group meals with special menus and prizes, too.
Also in February, the farm’s darling truffle dogs — Lagotto Romagnolos — are put to work, sniffing out the tasty black truffles throughout the farm property. Guests can enjoy truffle hunting and dog training demonstrations, meals featuring black truffles, and can even bring their own Lagotto pups to join in the fun. (We are officially smitten with these dogs.)
White Sulphur Springs, WV
The historic Greenbrier first welcomed guests in 1778. Back then, guests came to experience the healing qualities of the natural mineral springs. The sprawling resort now boasts 10,000 acres and more than 700 guest rooms, a casino, spa, championship golf and boutique shopping.
In winter, guests at The Greenbrier can choose from special events and daily activities to create a memorable weekend. The resort’s usual indoor offerings include the casino for adults, an eight-lane bowling alley, laser tag and fitness classes, as well as tours of the Bunker, a Cold War-era, top-secret bunker carved into the mountain beneath one of the hotel’s wings. It was originally intended to house members of Congress in the case of a national emergency. The bunker features dormitories, meeting rooms for the House of Representatives and Senate, and all the facilities needed to keep the U.S. government running in a crisis.
The resort’s winter offerings include a roomy ice rink that’s open until 10 p.m. daily for guests (skate rental is available for an additional fee), with music and festive light displays, as well as a rinkside fire pit to warm chilled fingers and toes.
Off-roading is better in the winter — think of all the mud and ice on which to slip and slide around while driving a specially kitted-out Jeep Wrangler through the resort’s rugged terrain. Off-road adventures range from one to three hours, cost $260 and up and include a guide to instruct guests on advanced driving techniques as they take on some steep and rocky terrain along the 30-mile course.
Those wanting to leave the driving to someone else — and perhaps enjoy not such a rugged outing — can climb into a horse-drawn sleigh or carriage to experience the winter wilderness surrounding the resort. Both group and private sleigh and carriage rides ($48 and up) are offered daily; the caveat is that sleigh rides are only offered when there’s enough of the white stuff.
Guests of The Greenbrier can enjoy special weekends dedicated to wine and mixology (winter cocktails, anyone? Yes, please!), wine tastings and pub crawls throughout the winter months, too.
The Omni Homestead Resort
Hot Springs, VA
The Omni Homestead — more commonly known just as The Homestead — celebrates its 250th anniversary in 2016, and this historic, luxury resort tucked into the Allegheny Mountains is perhaps the only one that can boast having both restorative hot springs and its own ski slopes on the property.
Thomas Jefferson frequented the resort’s hot springs-fed pools during a three-week stay in 1818, and today the Jefferson Pools offer men’s and women’s areas, each featuring naturally heated spring water pools that are open year-round. During the winter months, however, just one pool house is open, and all soaking is co-ed. A one-hour soak is $17.
The Homestead’s 45 acres of slopes are open to skiers and snowboarders, and feature nine downhill runs nicely split into thirds when it comes to difficulty, between beginner, intermediate and advanced. At the base of the mountain, a Rossignol Experience Center gives skiers expert rental advice and fittings. The Homestead’s slopes also offer a tubing park this year, complete with a tubing conveyor belt to make repeated runs easy as pie. The final piece of the snow activity puzzle at The Homestead is the Olympic-sized skating rink adjacent to the Jefferson Pools.
Ski, snowboard and tubing lift tickets start at $15, and the ski/snowboard lift ticket and rental packages are some of the best we’ve ever seen, starting at $53 per day.
Yes, there really is a winter wonderland in the South. You just have to know where to look!
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