Slowly but surely the winter chill is settling into North Carolina. There are more leaves on the ground than there are in the trees and the chances of seeing your breath in the morning are exponentially higher than last month. Let’s face it, y’all: Winter is coming.
But colder weather doesn’t mean the fun has to stop. Here are 15 things to do in N.C. to add to your bucket list this season.
Also known as Upper Cullasaja Falls, this impressive flow of cascading water creates the ultimate winter wonderland for any adventure-seeker. A quarter-mile hike into Nantahala National Forest brings you to the falls, where the usual roar of the water comes to a halt in the cold weather. The frozen chutes are truly incredible, reminding one of the icy landscape of Narnia.
You can even go behind the falls, draping yourself in a curtain of icicles that would put the Ice Queen herself in a jealous rage. You’ll definitely want to take your camera for this trip: The photo ops are insane and you’ll need proof that this frozen paradise actually exists.
Up for a chilly adrenaline rush? Look no further than Beech Mountain Ski Resort. At 5,506 feet of elevation, the town is the highest on the East Coast. The resort draws in huge crowds each year as one of North Carolina’s most popular ski destinations.
At the resort, be sure to check out the indoor/outdoor sky bar, aptly named 5506. Grab a seat by the fireplace inside or, if the weather’s nice, pull up a chair outdoors for panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains as they stretch through North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. It’s a sight you can’t afford to miss this winter.
For those of you who can’t bear the thought of strapping skis to your feet and flying down a mountain, we’ve got the perfect solution. Welcome to Hawksnest XX, the largest tubing park on the East Coast. Release your inner child and enjoy winter the way you used to before shoveling snow became your new snow-day pastime.
Not only does Hawksnest offer the most fun in a tube you could possibly have, but you’ll also have the opportunity to go zip lining through the mountains. The park opens November 23, so be sure you grab your tickets so you can check this adventure off your winter bucket list.
Fox Mountain Guides & Climbing School
If you’re determined to keep the summer bod you’ve worked so hard for through the upcoming season, you may want to give Fox Mountain Guides & Climbing School a try. The only rock-climbing guide service in the southeastern United States, the Brevard mountain guides provide expert instruction to anyone interested in learning the ropes.
Whether you’re a novice or an experienced climber, these experts will show you the tips and tricks you need to know to get to the top. You’ll get a whole new perspective on the Brevard area mountains with these guys helping you along. And you’ll get a killer workout in the process: win-win!
Perhaps one of N.C.’s most iconic landmarks, Pilot Mountain stands out as one of the must-see places this winter. This dramatic 2,000-foot incline rises from the ground, creating a steep deviation from the mountain’s surroundings that has served as a navigational landmark for centuries.
Rock climbing and rappelling are permitted in certain areas where the cliffs are steep, and the cliffs around Pilot’s summit provide visitors with breathtaking views of the Piedmont, Sauratown Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Challenge yourself this winter by making the climb up for an unforgettable scene.
Does anything scream “holiday season” quite like The Nutcracker? Get your fill of festivities with this annual tradition as the Charlotte Ballet performs the classic tale that’s taken the world by storm for decades.
Choreographed by Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux with music from the Charlotte Symphony, the Queen City’s premier ballet company is set to perform The Nutcracker from December 7 – 23. Tickets are on sale now, starting at just $25. Make this your new CLT tradition this year and see the magic for yourself.
Calling all sports fans: You’ve still got time to see your favorite football team play at home before 2018 ends. The Panthers have three upcoming home games: November 25 (Seahawks); December 17 (Saints); and December 23 (Falcons). Can you think of a better way to spend the holiday season? We didn’t think so.
Let the crowd’s energy fuel your spirit as you sit alongside fellow fans to route the team to victory. Between the excitement, the food, and the alcoholic beverages, you’ll feel warm and toasty despite being exposed to the elements. Get your tickets now, or surprise the football fan in your life with an early Christmas present. You know they deserve it.
If you didn’t think the Biltmore Estate in Asheville could possibly get any more beautiful, you’ve clearly never been to the grounds during winter. Each year, this iconic mansion lights up the night with Candlelight Christmas Evenings. This reservation-only event features thousands of twinkling lights crystallizing the grounds in a festive glow.
Biltmore also offers Christmas Daytime Celebration, which does not require a reservation. Daytime celebrations include daytime admission to Antler Hill Village & Winery, Biltmore’s beautiful gardens, holiday shopping, restaurants, and The Biltmore Legacy. At dusk, you’ll get to see the evening illumination. While it is a little on the expensive side, it’s definitely worth it to make a trip at least once. Make sure you grab your tickets now!
Holidays at the Garden
The Biltmore Estate isn’t the only place that undergoes a serious seasonal transformation: Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden’s annual Holidays at the Garden lights up the spirits of all who visit — literally. Featuring thousands of lights throughout the garden, this event is a must for the winter season.
The towering orchid tree stands tall and illuminated in true Christmas fashion while live music plays daily from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Visitors can shop for holiday gifts at The Garden Store and are invited to warm their hands and roast marshmallows by the crackling fires that dot the walkways. You’ll also enjoy the food service available at this event, including such wintery treats as hot chocolate, cider, coffee, beer, wine, and other spirits. Holidays at the Garden begins November 23 and lasts until January 6.
Holiday on Ice
Returning for the 14th time on November 16 is Charlotte’s only outdoor ice skating rink: Holiday on Ice. Located in the NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza in Uptown, the rink is a popular destination for Queen City residents seeking to twirl around with their loved ones on the icy surface.
Lovebirds in particular will be drawn to this attraction. Who doesn’t want to have their own Buddy the Elf and Jovi moment on the ice? Besides, nothing’s more romantic than scrambling to stay upright in front of hundreds of equally wobbly strangers.
Santa Bar Crawl
Charlotte’s largest holiday bar crawl is back for its 19th year, and we couldn’t be more excited. On December 8, more than 20 participating bars will open their doors to thirsty customers seeking to fill their cups with holiday cheer. Participants are encouraged to dress up in their holiday best (read: Santa suit) and hit the town for a night of unforgettable fun.
The first 1,500 crawlers will get a commemorative koozie to mark the occasion. Registration for the event is required and begins at 3 p.m. at Flight Beer Garden & Music Hall. You can purchase tickets now here.
North Carolina’s favorite theme park is back again with WinterFest. Come to the park on select nights between November 18 and December 31 for an amazing display of holiday fun. With over 5 million shimmering lights decorating the park, you’ll be overwhelmed with merriment as you bask in their festive glow.
A 70-foot tree marks the occasion with lavish displays appearing throughout the park. Food and drink along with rides and entertainment only serve to make this event the one you’ll be talking about for many winters to come. Experience for yourself why the Queen City loves this Christmas tradition so much.
Annual Singing Christmas Tree
You can’t be a real Tar Heel if you’ve never been to the Annual Singing Christmas Tree show put on each year by the Carolina Voices. Now in its 64th year, the annual show will feature a fun twist this year as jazzy, swinging arrangements leave their mark on familiar Christmas classics.
Santa will be in the lobby for visits as usual, but the swing dancers also entertaining show-goers is a new addition that is sure to leave you feeling merry and bright. Come join the fun and sing along with Carolina Voices as they perform gorgeous renditions of all your favorite holiday songs.
Candlelight Christmas at Latta Plantation
Give yourself a history lesson this season by paying a visit to Latta Plantation during their Candlelight Christmas tours. With tour dates on December 1 and December 8, this Christmas-themed candlelight tour leads visitors through the plantation home and shines a light on what the holidays were like in the 1800s.
Find out how your ancestors may have passed the time as they waited for Santa’s sleigh to land on their roof. At the end of the tour, gather by the fire in the plantation’s kitchen for hot cider and cookies. Trust us: This is a history lesson you’ll want to be present for.
Afternoon Tea & Holiday Cheer at The Duke Mansion
The Duke Mansion returns this season with Afternoon Tea & Holiday Cheer for all to enjoy. Reservations are required for this event and space is limited, so be sure you grab your tickets now before it’s too late.
You won’t want to miss shopping around the mansion’s ornate Christmas tree (starting at 2 p.m.). At 3 p.m., grab some afternoon tea, featuring Duke Mansion Signature Tea and other tea selections, tea sandwiches, canapes, sweets, scones, jams, and chocolates. This delicious event will not disappoint.
Don’t let winter blues get you down. There’s plenty of great fun to be had in the Tar Heel state once the snow settles in. Have a favorite winter tradition that wasn’t listed here? Let us know about it in the comments below. Happy holidays!