Winter Getaways

If you’re itching for a winter getaway, there’s no need to venture too far from Florida. Sugar Mountain in North Carolina and Callaway Resort & Gardens in Georgia each offer their own unique blend of recreation and relaxation opportunities. It may be just what you and the fam need, either before or after the pomp and circumstance of the holiday season. 

Written By Karin Fabry-Cushenbery

Sugar Mountain Resort

If snow skiing is a family favorite, or even something you have yet to try, a visit to North Carolina’s High Country is in order. 

“For skiing and other winter sports, the North Carolina mountains are a great option, especially for travelers heading north from Florida,” says Wit Tuttell, executive director of Visit North Carolina. “Our six ski areas cover a lot of ground when it comes to experience levels, and each of them comes with its own unique appeal. Beech Mountain has the 5,506-foot Skybar, Sugar Mountain is loved for its 1,200-foot vertical drop and challenging runs, and Appalachian Ski Mountain’s terrain parks make it a standout. A great thing about these High Country ski areas is that they’re close enough to each other that a traveler can hit more than one in a single trip.”

Photo by, courtesy of Sugar Mountain Resort

We suggest starting off at Sugar Mountain Resort. Throughout the winter season, which is typically November through March, an average of 78 inches of snow falls, making Sugar Mountain one of the most skiable resorts in the region with 125 skiable acres. And when the white stuff isn’t falling naturally, the grounds crew is busy making snow, weather permitting.

The winter months at Sugar Mountain, which has been in operation for more than 50 years, offer a variety of recreational opportunities in addition to skiing, including snowboarding, tubing, ice skating and snowshoeing. One of the best parts is that, as a Floridian, you don’t even have to invest an arm and a leg in winter clothing and gear. You can rent everything from the skis and boots to the jackets and bibs right on site at the base lodge. 

If you’re a skiing newbie, the resort offers a variety of lessons, including the Sugar Bear lessons for youngsters ages 5 to 10. The lesson includes slope and ski equipment, a slope ticket, helmet, the lesson and even lunch (when choosing the full-day option.) The Polar Bear Snowboarding School is also available for kids ages 7 to 14. Or, sign up for a selection of group or private lessons for kids as young as 4 on up to any adult brave enough to strap on a pair of skis. We have confidence in you—you’ve got this! The resort boasts 20 ski slopes, 14 of which are lit for night skiing. 

The resort’s tubing run opens at 10am, and sessions run for an hour and 45 minutes. The 700-foot-long tubing lanes are guaranteed to provide a thrill, and the magic carpet lift makes getting back up to the top of the run a cinch. For added adventure, try night tubing. 

Another fun thing to try while on vacation is snowshoeing. Take a guided walk through the mountains. Tours can be as relaxing or intense as you like, and snowshoes are included. Adult tours are for ages 12 and up, and kids’ tours are offered for kids ages 8 to 11. Nearby, a 10,000-square-foot outdoor skating rink offers six skate sessions each day, including night skating. Ice skates are available for rental. 

While visiting this season, check out the Winter Music Series, which runs from December 9 through the last day of the season in March. Local and regional favorites will provide a festive ambiance from 4 to 6pm.  

For the ultimate ski vacation experience, plan to stay at Sugar Ski & Country Club, the only ski in, ski out resort-style condo on the mountain. The resort offers accommodations that sleep two to six people, plus an indoor heated pool, hot tub, fitness center and more. 

When planning your North Carolina winter getaway, don’t forget to check the weather!

“Winter weather can be hard to predict, especially with El Niño, but advanced snowmaking equipment helps our resorts to keep skiers and snowboarders happy,” says Wit. “Even if the forecast takes a turn for the warmer at the time of a long-planned ski trip, travelers can find other diversions in our mountain destinations. In the High Country, for instance, there are ample rewards for exploring Boone, Blowing Rock and Banner Elk, which is home to the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster.”

Sugar Mountain Resort, Inc.

1009 Sugar Mountain Drive

Sugar Mountain, NC 28604

(828) 898-4521

For additional North Carolina travel suggestions, check out

Callaway Resort & Gardens

Tucked away in Western Georgia, south of Atlanta, you’ll find Callaway Resort & Gardens, an upscale resort that offers an abundance of family-friendly fun. There’s the spring flower fest and pumpkins at Callaway, but nothing beats the Fantasy in Lights each winter. It’s a Christmas tradition that dates back three decades. 

This year’s event runs through January 1 and includes the Tree of Traditions, a 40-foot Pixel Pine Tree. The surrounding forest is illuminated with 10 million twinkling lights and 17 unique Christmas scenes. The Jolley Trolley will take you on a memorable journey through the seven-mile, 2,500-acre Winter Wonderland. Or, if you prefer, you can choose the walk-through or drive-through experience. 

At Callaway Christmas Village you’ll find the Callaway Market, where a warm mug of hot chocolate is sure to hit the spot on a cold winter evening. Plus, who can resist some last-minute gift purchases? It should also come as no surprise that Callaway Gardens is where you’ll find the tallest Christmas tree in the South, towering 10 stories above the Field of Lights, which you’ll just have to see to believe. Oh, and there’s a snowflake valley, Christmas tree lane, a tunnel of lights and so much more. 

Of course, the resort and gardens offers much more than just the Fantasy in Lights. For nature lovers, the resort is surrounded by Pine Mountain hiking trails and nature walks. And whether you’re out for a stroll or a serious heart-pumping cardio session, there’s a trail for you. The trails range from a half mile to a mile and a half in length and are surrounded by some of Georgia’s most beautiful flora and fauna. 

For the adventurous members of your group, the Treetop Adventure Ziplines operates year-round and includes three adventure courses that climb more than 70 feet into the air. The combo of zip lines and obstacles is open to kids and adults ages 4 and up. 

The site offers bike rentals so visitors can enjoy the Discovery Bike Trail, which winds its way through 10 acres of gently rolling hills plus lots of stops along the way at the adjacent gardens and attractions that span over 2,500 acres. 

Two golf courses, the Mountain View Course and the Lake View Course, situated in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, provide challenging, scenic and fun golf outings. Before hitting the links, get in a few practice swings at the Twin Oaks Practice Facility. 

Overnight options include rooms in the lodge, cottages or villas, the most upscale accommodations in the resort, which come in two-, three- and four-bedroom floorplans. Additional recreational opportunities include the Day Butterfly Center, where more than 1,000 tropical butterflies fly freely in one of North America’s largest butterfly conservatories, and the Callaway Discovery Center, a 35,000-square-foot facility that features educational and interactive exhibits and kiosks. A favorite is Megabugs!, which includes more than 70 larger-than-life insect displays that will delight any visitor. Bug lover or not! 

There’s so much to do at Callaway Resort & Gardens that you can plan your entire vacation around the resort itself… no need to venture too far!

Callaway Resort & Gardens

4500 Southern Pine Drive

Pine Mountain, GA 31822