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Life and Religion

Winter escapes
It's the perfect time for a getaway
Published Thursday, December 19, 2013
by Michaela L. Duckett

clientuploads/v38n13photos/Myrtle Beach 300.jpg
Early birds can catch a breathtaking sunrise at the beach all year round.

The holidays are here. You likely have a vacation day or two coming up. Why not use your time off to take a quick trip out of town? Whether you have an entire week, a weekend or just a day to get away, here are three destinations that make for a great winter trip:

A day in the mountains

A short drive, about two hours away, from Charlotte, Asheville is the perfection destination for a day trip. Spend the day exploring Asheville's funky and eclectic downtown area, where you'll find over 30 galleries, several unique boutiques and a world-class culinary and craft beer scene all set against the beautiful backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Stop by the historic Grove Park Inn (290 Macon Avenue) and view the gingerbread houses, currently on display through Jan. 2 for the National Gingerbread House Competition. The annual contest, which is in its 21st year, draws over 200 culinary contestants from all over the country. While it’s named after gingerbread houses, not all entries are houses.

In addition to the gingerbread masterpieces, The Grove Park goes all out decorating for the holidays with 80 themed trees, thousands of twinkling lights and massive fireplaces burning 12-foot logs. If you decide to stay the night, visit their website for more information on their special holiday packages. (www.groveparkinn.com)

The holiday season is also the ideal time to see Asheville’s Biltmore House, America’s largest home, in all of its splendor and glory. Christmas is a special time of year at the estate because George Vanderbilt first opened his doors to family and friends on Christmas Eve 1895 for a regal yuletide celebration that continues to this day.

A weekend in the valley

Spend a weekend touring North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley, home to some of the state’s best wineries and vineyards.

Tour ten of the area’s wineries for $60 ($95 for couples). Price includes wine tasting, handcrafted ornament, keepsake glass and wine related recipes from each winery, some of which offer live music and/or food pairings on the weekends.

Wineries included on the tour are Brushy Mountain Winery, McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks, Round Peak Vineyards, Carolina Heritage Vineyards & Winery, Surry Oak Vineyard, Olde Mill Vineyard, Elkin Creek Vineyards, Slightly Askew Winery, Stony Knoll Vineyards and Grassy Creek Vineyard & Winery. Specials run through Jan. 15. Visit www.SurryWineries.com for more information.

Be sure to visit Elkin Creek Vineyards on a Sunday, and ask about their Sunday pizza specials.

A week at the beach      

Think summer is the only time to take a trip to the beach? Think again.

Visiting Myrtle Beach in the winter has plenty of advantages. For starters, you don’t have to fuss with the crowds. And even though it’s winter, the weather at the beach is typically warmer than it is here in Charlotte.

But best of all, the greatest advantage of an off-season stay on the Grand Strand is the ridiculously low rates for lodging. You can get a fully furnished, oceanfront condominium for as low as $40 a night.

While in Myrtle Beach, go see “American Idol’s” La Toya London perform with The Carolina Opry in “Christmas Special.”

After the kids have been tired out and put to bed, the adults can head over to Broadway at the Beach for some nightlight. Grab a seat and a frozen beverage at Fat Tuesday (similar to Wet Willies). It’s the perfect spot for having a cocktail and people watching.

There is plenty to do to keep your week filled with activities from museum hopping and enjoying live music to fine dining and spa resorts.


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