Cover photo: Courtesy of Visit Charlottesville
As the temps get cooler and the days get shorter, winter unveils a magical playground for outdoor enthusiasts.
The Mid-Atlantic and southern landscapes become a canvas for a myriad of winter activities that promise both adventure and tranquility. From exhilarating skiing and snowboarding to cozy small-town getaways, this enchanting region offers something for every winter enthusiast. Use this guide to discover unforgettable seasonal experiences for you and the whole family to enjoy.
A Cozy Mountain Escape in Charlottesville & Albemarle County, VA
The rolling hills and mountains of Charlottesville and Albemarle County adorned with glistening frost creates a postcard-perfect scene that’s ideal for winter photography and outdoor activities. Although temps may be dropping, Charlottesville is the ultimate basecamp for your outdoor excursions and for seasonal thrills.
Before embarking on your cozy winter escape, indulge in a visit to a charming local cafe or bakery, where you can savor delightful treats and hot beverages to warm your spirit. Nearby Shenandoah National Park offers stunning winter hiking and snowshoeing trails, while the Blue Ridge Parkway reveals breathtaking vistas of the tinted mountains. The quieter winter months make for less crowds and more tranquil treks. Many other outdoor activities enjoyed throughout the year are just as fun to do in the winter too! Cycling, horseback riding with Indian Summer Guide Service, and even golfing are possible and not as busy. If you are looking for a winter-specific experience, Winter Wander at Boar’s Head Resort takes place throughout the month of December and features a new synthetic ice skating rink. This is perfect for the whole family to celebrate the winter season and get in a festive mood.
Rivanna River Company has what you need after a long day of cool activities. With a new rustic riverside sauna opening this winter, complete with a locally-fueled wood stove and a “nature-based cold plunge”, your body will thank you for the much needed rest and relaxation.
Wind down the day in Wine Enthusiast’s Wine Region of the Year! The 40+ wineries on the Monticello Wine Trail offer an unforgettable winter experience. Sipping on a glass of locally produced wine by a cozy fireplace, while enjoying the snow-covered vineyards is a memory to last a lifetime. When your glass is empty, settle into a warm bed at the winery itself, with sip and stay lodging options, or at one of the many accommodations the area has to offer, from luxurious resorts and hotels, to comfortable inns and bed and breakfasts.
Dazzling Winter Displays in Bristol, TN/VA
Bristol is a beautiful destination any time of the year, with various winter activities to help you get into the festive mood. Whether you prefer a relaxed pace or crave some excitement, Bristol has an array of winter adventures for folks of all ages.
Light Up the Night
One of the most popular events in the city is The Pinnacle Speedway In Lights, held at Bristol Motor Speedway and Bristol Dragway. This annual tradition is the premier holiday light show in the region and features a four-mile drive-through route around the half-mile oval and through Thunder Valley. The event showcases over three million lights and dozens of animated light displays, including the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies’ Sea of Illumination and Race to Space.
Speedway In Lights attracts tens of thousands of visitors annually, who can experience the Christmas Village stop in the BMS infield. The kids can enjoy rides, arts and crafts, hot chocolate, food, and meet Santa Claus. The event runs from Nov. 17 to Jan. 6. After gazing at the lights, you can enjoy ice skating. The rink is one of the few in the area and is a favorite for people of all ages. You can bring your skates or rent a pair to showcase your skills every day from Nov. 16 to Jan. 14.
Downtown Bristol is always dazzling during winter, particularly during the holidays. State Street, which is in Tennessee and Virginia, is beautifully decorated, and the Christmas Tree Village is always fun to check out. Trees are displayed in multiple locations, including the Downtown Center, Cumberland Square, and Anderson Park. The downtown area also offers plenty of shopping opportunities and several top-notch locally owned restaurants, craft breweries, and distilleries. It’s also home to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, which features a store filled with handcrafted items.
Indoor and Outdoor Festivities
Located downtown is the majestic Paramount Theater, which features a variety of shows throughout the winter. Beginning in November, you can catch Kathy Mattea, Joan Osborne, Henry Rollins, Chi-Town Transit Authority – Tribute to Chicago, Louis Black, The Nutcracker (performed by the Bristol Ballet), Soultown to Motown – Tribute to Motown, and even an appearance by major league great Pete Rose.
Theatre Bristol, established in 1965, is a community theater focused on reaching children performers and audiences and is always a fun outing. During the holidays, you can enjoy “A Christmas Carol” on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from Nov. 17 to Dec. 17.
If you’re in need of last-minute gifts, The Pinnacle is the largest retail shopping destination in the region, featuring Belk, Bass Pro, Marshalls, Dicks Sporting Goods, and many other stores. You will also find a variety of dining options and entertainment experiences, including Just Jump’s trampoline park and Pinnacle 12 by Marquee Cinemas, which features two 71-foot Marquee Extreme Cinemas with Dolby Atmos sound and incredibly comfortable recliners. Additionally, you can visit Santa’s Wonderland at Bass Pro, where kids can take a photo with Santa and mail him letters.
Another holiday shopping destination is The Falls, located along I-81 in Bristol, VA, offering a variety of shopping and dining options. Feeling lucky this Christmas? Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol temporary casino offers 870 slots, table games, restaurants, entertainment and live music!
If you’re looking for a great outdoor adventure, especially during snowfall, the Mendota Trail, South Holston Dam, Steele Creek Park and Sugar Hollow Park each offer stunning winter scenery.
Winter Fun in the Sun in Newport News, VA
Don’t let cooler winter temps end your warm weather fun! In Newport News, Virginia, extreme cold and snowfall are rare, making winter a fun time to enjoy experiences in the city.
Hiking, Golfing, and Birding
At Newport News Park, one of the largest municipal parks in the country with 7,000+ acres, hikers, bikers, bird watchers, wildlife viewers, anglers, boaters, and Sunday strollers can delight in over 30 miles of trails. Winter camping is also an option, with a 180-site campground and full service Visitor Information Center. Other popular walking paths in the city include the Noland Trail at The Mariners’ Museum and Park and the five-acre fountain in City Center at Oyster Point!
Golfers love Newport News due to the ability to play a round, year-round! Tee off at Newport News Golf Club at Deer Run and Kiln Creek Golf Club and Resort for a fun day out with some friends.
Due to Newport News’ diverse wildlife, bird-watching is popular, especially during migration season. Since 1965, The Hampton Roads Bird Club has monitored the bird population of Newport News Park, and a free “Bird Walk” occurs twice a month year-round! Join club volunteers every first and third Sunday of the month for some early morning birding. Beginners are welcome, and binoculars and field guides are recommended.
Get in the Winter Spirit
While temperatures may be mild, Newport News still knows how to embrace the winter season. From noon to 5 pm on Feb. 3, a Winter Carnival will be held at the corner of Warwick Boulevard and Oriana Road. The event will feature a synthetic ice-skating rink, carnival games, food trucks, arts and crafts, a DJ, photo ops, and more! Admission and parking are FREE.
For those rare wintry days, consider checking out the many museums and cultural centers the area has to offer, like the Mary M. Torggler Fine Arts Center, or head to the movie theaters, shopping centers, spas, and art studios for shopping, relaxation, and entertainment. There are also plenty of cozy cafes and coffee shops to step into for a warm drink.
A Host of Holiday Happenings At The Omni Homestead Resort, VA
Nestled in the picturesque Allegheny Mountains of Hot Springs, Virginia, The Omni Homestead Resort is a timeless destination that offers a unique blend of history, luxury, and natural beauty. As a place where presidents and dignitaries have sought refuge for over two centuries, The Omni Homestead invites you to indulge in an unparalleled getaway that seamlessly weaves together tradition, opulence, and adventure.
Hit the slopes for a true winter escape! The Omni Homestead’s Mountain Lodge offers ski and snowboard rental equipment. Lessons for all experience levels are available through the Sepp Kober Ski School for those aged 4+, as well as private and group lessons. The Little Penguins Program is perfect to introduce kids to the sport while still having fun! Try your skills on the Upper Main run, which is just steep enough to provide a bit of confidence building for novice skiers and riders, but also provides a great view of the valley.
Consider visiting during one of the many events The Homestead hosts. MLK Jr. Weekend, from January 12-15, and Presidents Weekend, from February 16-19, has activities for the whole family to enjoy.
The resort has recently completed a $150 million renovation which includes all 483 guest rooms, public spaces, meeting facilities and restaurants!
Stick around the Resort for more activities off the slopes like carriage rides, trap, skeet, sporting clays, ice skating, tubing, archery, and The Homestead S’mores Express. Unwind and relax with a massage, facial, or body treatment at The Spa at The Omni Homestead. The little ones can try out some mini snowmobiles at the ski area, while the whole family can enjoy ice skating, swimming, and arcade games in the family game area!
The Omni Homestead Resort and the surrounding area is where history meets hospitality in a setting of timeless elegance. Soaking in the Warm Springs Pools is the ultimate apres ski activity. The naturally warm, mineral rich waters are refreshing and soothing. Enjoy a specially curated flight of Virginia wines or purchase a bottle to take home at The Virginia Wine Experience, another popular destination after a day on the slopes.
- Expected Opening in Late December
- 24 inches of average snowfall
- 3 beginner, 5 intermediate, and 1 expert trail