Skiing destinations abound in the U.S. and where you decide to head during the holidays depends not only on your budget but also on whether or not you're most comfortable in a big crowd. Popular destinations like Aspen (Colorado), Mammoth Mountain (California) and Jackson Hole (Wyoming) get crowded during Christmas, but other areas offer equally wonderful skiing with more of a chance to rest and relax once you get off the mountain. Squaw Valley in California, for example, is near Lake Tahoe but is one of the most challenging mountains in the area, so only seasoned skiers head here, reducing the number of skiers competing for lift time considerably. Sun Valley, in Idaho, was a favorite in the 1940s but is now less popular and somewhat outdated in terms of facilities available in more modern destinations. The quality of the skiing, however, is still fantastic and Mount Baldy offers not only some of the best skiing in the country, but also some of the best background views.
Keep in mind that skiing destinations are not all about skiing. Most offer other options as well, such as snowshoeing, sledding and snow-tubing. The most popular destinations, such as Taos or Vail, are complete resorts that include top restaurants, spas and a rich nightlife. All these destinations have special events during Christmas, from live music to night skiing to light shows and holiday-themed surroundings.
Christmas Town, North Carolina
The town of McAdenville, in North Carolina, is known around the country as Christmas Town. A tradition started in 1956 and continued until today is that the town turns into a winter wonderland once the holiday season rolls around. Rather than just houses being decorated by their owners, the whole town becomes full of Christmas lights and decorations. Attracting more than 300,000 each holiday season, Christmas Town is an excellent destination for the whole family. Aside from the highly decorated sights, which include City Hall and the J. M. Carstarphen Bridge, there is also a yule log parade plus a series of related activities and events.
McAdenville is part of Gaston County, an ideal destination for outdoor pursuits. There are six public golf courses in the area, a marina, dirt track racing and public fishing locations. For those who would rather take a slower approach, the county is home to several formal gardens, which can be accessed year-round and offer trails and picnic facilities. Boating and water sports are also popular in the area.
Gaston County Parks and Recreation Department
1301 Dallas-Cherryville Hwy.
Dallas, NC 28034
Visiting Family (with a Twist)
If you can't afford to go somewhere exotic for Christmas, visiting family is always an option. However, a simple trip to see Mom and Dad or Aunt Sylvia can quickly turn into a family feud once the stress of the holidays starts putting pressure on everybody. To make the trip more of a vacation, you may want to consider staying at a local hotel. No matter where your family lives, there's bound to be a hotel (or, better yet, a charming bed and breakfast) nearby. Hotels usually offer special events and activities during Christmas week, which can provide a welcome break from the family-only atmosphere.
While you're likely to spend Christmas Eve and Day with your loved ones, there's no reason why you can't go out and explore your surroundings on the other days you're in town. Look for local parks offering hiking trails, boating opportunities or ice skating. In warmer climates, you may be able to escape to the beach or find a lake where you can go boating or swimming. If going alone seems a bit of a stretch during the holidays, invite your family along for a stroll or a bike ride. Help them discover their own town and spend some quality time together that doesn't involve eating, drinking or opening presents.