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Winter Wonderlands: Destination locations perfect for a winter weekend getaway

Dec 01, 2015 02:14PM ● By Cate Reynolds

Holiday spirit is alive and well at these destination locations; perfect for a winter weekend getaway

By Lisa A. Lewis

While it’s true that our own hometowns offer rich experiences in terms of seasonal camaraderie, events, shopping, dining, and that special something—that holiday magic—it can be equally fun to venture to locales just a gas tank away. Whether you’re itching for some mountain magic on the ski slopes or the cozy confines of a hometown-away-from-home, we present several bundles of joy—tastes of travel perfect for breaking the winter mold.

Deep Creek Lake, Maryland

Located in Garrett County, Deep Creek Lake is Maryland’s largest freshwater lake—covering 3,900 acres and 65 miles of shoreline—and the county’s most popular tourist attraction. Offering breathtaking natural beauty and a variety of activities, the area is the perfect getaway. And with its thriving tourism industry—due in part to Wisp Resort, Maryland’s only ski resort—this beautiful part of the state is an ideal destination to visit during the winter.

Located near Deep Creek Lake in the town of McHenry—about a three-hour drive from the Baltimore/Washington metro area—Wisp Resort is a winter wonderland for sports enthusiasts, offering skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and more. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, ride Maryland’s only Mountain Coaster. Similar to a roller coaster, the Mountain Coaster winds down the ski mountain, providing a thrilling ride. Or soar high above the treetops on the Flying Squirrel Canopy Tour, a challenge course that offers spectacular views of the lake below.

Although Wisp uses its snowmaking system if there is no natural snow, opening for the winter season is still dependent on the weather. (Temperatures must be consistently cold enough to make snow; traditionally mid- to late-November.) So if the resort isn’t open yet, don’t worry: there’s still plenty to do in the Deep Creek Lake area.

Visit Swallows Falls State Park where you’ll see Muddy Creek Falls, Maryland’s highest waterfall at a height of 53 feet. If you prefer more leisurely activities, enjoy a horse-drawn carriage or horse-drawn sleigh ride through the countryside. Visit an alpaca farm, and interact with these beautiful animals. Or simply explore the local shops, and spend a relaxing afternoon at a spa. After a fun-filled day, treat yourself to a delicious meal. From flatbread pizza to Southwestern cuisine to fine dining, the restaurants certainly don’t disappoint.

If you’re visiting during the holiday season, don’t miss the Festival of Trees on November 27th–28th and Christmas in the Village on December 4th–5th. But no matter which season of the year you visit, the Deep Creek Lake area will captivate you, and you’ll definitely look forward to your next getaway.

To learn more about Deep Creek Lake and plan your trip, search

Mercersburg, Pennsylvania

If you’re suffering from the winter blues, don’t despair. Perhaps you simply need a change of scenery, and Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, is the perfect getaway. Located in Franklin County—about a two-hour drive from the Baltimore/Washington metro area—this quaint town is an ideal place to visit during the winter. Home of Whitetail Resort, a ski resort that offers a variety of recreational activities, including skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing, Mercersburg is a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts.

Whitetail Resort offers 23 trails that are designed for various skill levels. So whether you’re a beginner or an advanced skier or snowboarder, you’ll find trails that are perfect for you. Spend the day racing down the slopes, skiing or snowboarding to your heart’s content. Or experience the sheer exhilaration as you speed down the snow tubing lanes.

Whitetail Resort is definitely a must-see tourist attraction, but don’t overlook Mercersburg’s other sights—many of which are rich in history. Take an historic walking tour of downtown, and enjoy the chimes of the 43-bell carillon of the Mercersburg Academy Chapel. See the boyhood home of James Buchanan, the only Pennsylvanian to be elected President of the United States. (The log cabin where he was born is located on the Mercersburg Academy campus.) Visit Zion Union Cemetery, and pay your respects to the United States Colored Troops (USCT). Eighty-eight African-American men served in the USCT during the Civil War, and at least 38 members are buried in the cemetery.

After visiting some of Mercersburg’s historic sites, explore the town’s charming shops where you’ll find gifts, books, artisans’ wares, antiques, homemade truffles, and much more. With so many unique items available, you’re sure to find something that delights you. After a long day, share a delicious meal with your family and friends. From gourmet restaurants to charming tearooms, Mercersburg offers a variety of dining options to please every palate.

And if you’re in the mood for something particularly special, visit Star Theatre/Pennsylvania Opry, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. You’ll be captivated with its Branson-style variety show, featuring performances by professional musicians, instrumentalists, and vocalists. With so much to see and do, Mercersburg offers the perfect winter getaway. In fact, this quaint town may truly be the cure for the winter blues.

For more information about Mercersburg and to plan your trip, visit or


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

It’s a time-honored tradition in Annapolis: Every December, football fans head to Philadelphia to cheer on the Midshipmen in the much-anticipated Army vs. Navy game. But the fun doesn’t have to end when the game is over and you leave Lincoln Financial Field on December 12th. In fact, December is a wonderful time of the year to visit Philly and get in the holiday spirit. Holiday festivities abound, so check out some of the city’s popular annual events, which will be in full swing when you’re in town for the game.

If you love holiday lights, you won’t want to miss Macy’s Christmas Light Show in which a large wall inside the Wanamaker Building is illuminated with nearly 100,000 LED lights. A Philadelphia tradition since 1956, this festive show culminates with the sounds of the Wanamaker Organ. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the season during the Comcast Holiday Spectacular, a high-tech holiday show at the Comcast Center. This awe-inspiring show features holiday imagery set to the music of a 64-piece orchestra, which is displayed on the world’s largest four-millimeter LED screen in the building’s lobby. Or visit Morris Arboretum, and marvel at the Holiday Garden Railway. This magnificent model train display features a quarter mile of track with loops, tunnels, rail lines, cable cars, and bridges, all set in a veritable winter wonderland that includes miniature replicas of Philadelphia-area landmarks.

If you need to catch up on some last-minute holiday shopping, you’re in luck. Philadelphia offers a variety of shopping districts, where you’re sure to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. An added bonus: Every neighborhood in Pennsylvania offers tax-free shopping on clothes and shoes.

When it’s time to grab a bite to eat, indulge in delicious food the way only Philly serves it. While it’s no secret that Philly is renowned for its cheesesteaks, make sure you also treat yourself to some of the city’s other delicacies. From fish tacos to spinach gnocchi, the entrees are sure to delight. And if you’re just in the mood for a side dish, a sandwich, or a beer, you won’t be disappointed. You can especially find almost anything for your appetite at the famous Reading Terminal Market.

So come to Philly for the game, but stay for the festivities. Perhaps you’ll even start a new holiday tradition.

For more information about holiday events in Philadelphia and to plan your trip, search

Snow Hill, Maryland

Offering small town charm and a variety of festive holiday events, Snow Hill is an ideal destination to celebrate the season. Located on the south banks of the Pocomoke River in Worcester County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore—about a 2.5-hour drive from the Baltimore/Washington metro area—this quaint town provides a winter getaway that will definitely get you into the holiday spirit.

Usher in the season at the Furnace Town Living Heritage Museum during the first weekend in December. Watch the Furnace Town artisans as they weave, make brooms, and pound iron at the forge. Enjoy the annual hymn sing with Charlie Paparella from WBOC on Sunday. And watch your child’s eyes light up with delight as Santa stops by for a visit on both days.

Journey back in time, and celebrate the joy of the season during an old-fashioned Victorian holiday gathering at the Julia A. Purnell Museum on December 5th. Marvel at the Victorian-style Christmas trees as you sip mulled cider and enjoy old-fashioned sweets. Everyone loves a parade, so head downtown for the Lion’s Club Christmas Parade on December 7th at 7 p.m. This festive event showcases the talents of Snow Hill High School’s award-winning marching band as well as the Pocomoke High School and Stephen Decatur High School marching bands.

Obviously, the holidays aren’t complete without model trains and beautiful holiday lights. So visit Corddry Crossing Train Garden (located on the second floor of the Pocomoke River Canoe Company), which is open weekends during December. Watch as O Gauge trains travel along the tracks through scenic routes reminiscent of Snow Hill’s past. And drive through the Christmas Light Display in Byrd Park. The display is open from December 1st through January 3rd and features animated seasonal displays that reflect Snow Hill’s rich history and rural setting.

The fun doesn’t have to end when the holidays are over, so visit Snow Hill again in February for the Oyster Roast. Sponsored by the Snow Hill Area Chamber of Commerce, the event will be held February 28th. Savor all-you-can-eat oysters prepared six different ways, and enjoy live musical entertainment. (Plan ahead; tickets sell out in early January.)

With its small town charm and quaint, rural setting, Snow Hill is the perfect destination for a winter getaway. Explore this beautiful town, and discover all it has to offer.

For more information about Snow Hill and to plan your trip, visit


Snowshoe, West Virginia

If you’re an avid winter sports enthusiast, Snowshoe, West Virginia, is definitely a must-see destination. Located in Pocahontas County in the Allegheny Mountains—about a four-hour drive from the Baltimore/Washington metro area—Snowshoe is best known for its wide variety of winter recreational activities. Indeed, home of Snowshoe Mountain Resort, a popular tourist attraction often called the “Aspen of the East,” Snowshoe offers an active winter getaway for the entire family.

With a 4,848-foot summit and 57 trails on 251 acres of terrain, Snowshoe Mountain is a veritable paradise for skiers of all skill levels. Enjoy a leisurely pace on one of the beginner trails, or race down the intermediate runs. If you’re seeking a challenge, Snowshoe Mountain’s Western Territory offers 1,500 feet of vertical expert terrain and was designed by Olympian Jean-Claude Killy. In addition, Silver Creek, a separate area of Snowshoe Mountain, is open for night skiing.

But don’t just visit Snowshoe for the skiing. Other attractions in this winter wonderland include snowboarding, snowmobile tours, snowcat rides, and snow tubing. Enjoy the sheer thrill of the six-story, eight-lane snow tubing hill at the Coca-Cola Tube Park at Silver Creek. And if you’re seeking a truly unique experience, spend the night at the Sunrise Backcountry Hut, which offers an adventure dining experience. Sip hot cider, savor a delicious meal, and enjoy a backcountry adventure without the hassle of camping during the winter.

After a long day on the slopes, unwind at the Village at Snowshoe. Located at the summit of the mountain, rather than its base, the Village offers a variety of shops, restaurants, and an exciting nightlife. From Tex-Mex to Italian to gourmet cuisine, the dining options definitely don’t disappoint. Enjoy blues music and delicious barbecue at the Foxfire Grille, or listen to great live bands at The Connection Nightclub.

If you prefer a more relaxing experience after spending some time “playing” in the snow, relax at Split Rock Pools, which features water slides, indoor and outdoor swimming areas, a sauna, and a hot tub. Or head to the Spa at Snowshoe, and pamper yourself by indulging in a relaxing spa treatment.

With its combination of exciting adventures and relaxing experiences, Snowshoe is truly the perfect getaway. In fact, you may have such a good time that you decide to visit every winter.

For more information about Snowshoe and to plan your trip, visit