5 winter road trip destinations you get to in 4 hours or fewer

Fast facts on Asheville, N.C.Asheville is the headquarters of Croatan, Nantahala, Pisgah, and Uwharrie national forests.Mount Mitchell, just outside of town, is the highest point in all of North Carolina and the highest peak east of the Mississippi River.Asheville is home to the famous Biltmore estate, established by philanthropist George Vanderbilt.Asheville was originally a Cherokee hunting ground, before being settled in 1794 by John Burton

While we all like to cozy up to the fire with a warm cup of hot cocoa during winter, there’s no reason why you have to do that at home. Get out this winter, and explore these nearby destinations for mouthwatering cuisine, scenic attractions, and, of course, hot cocoa by the fireplace.

Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted desisgned the grounds of Asheville’s Biltmore House. (Photo by John Warner)

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Asheville, N.C.

Many people flock to Asheville to tour the Biltmore Estate each year, and why not? It’s gorgeous, especially when decorated for the holidays. But that’s just the beginning.

Asheville makes an excellent winter destination for both families and couples!” said Durham, N.C., resident Christina Riley, owner of NC Tripping, a travel site dedicated to North Carolina travel. “During the holidays, the Omni Grove Park Inn hosts the National Gingerbread House Competition, and the houses remain on display throughout the Christmas season. Also, couples can retreat to a cozy cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and then soak in Japanese-style outdoor hot tubs at Shoji Spa.”

Another exterior view of the Opryland Hotel.

Credit: Donnie Beauchamp -Nashville Convention and Visitor's Bureau

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Credit: Donnie Beauchamp -Nashville Convention and Visitor's Bureau

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, Nashville, Tenn.

Just minutes from downtown Nashville, the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center is an attraction all its own. Entering the resort’s 4.5-acre Delta Atrium, visitors can take a stroll among the trees, enjoy a drink alongside the indoor river, or shop in one of the many boutiques and stores. You can even take a riverboat tour on the river. Plus, you can choose from a variety of cuisines without ever leaving the property, including Italian food, a steakhouse, Southern specialties, Mexican food, and more. When you’re ready for some pampering, head to the Relâche Spa for a massage, body treatment, facial or salon services.

Huntsville, Ala.

Well known as Rocket City, Huntsville certainly sets the stage for entertainment with the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, but prepare for much more.

Huntsville Botanical Garden is fun for all ages with unique focal points scattered throughout the trails,” said Becky Beall, a freelance travel journalist from Pelham, Ala., and owner of The Travel Voice By Becky. “Between mid-November and the end of the year, Galaxy of Lights transforms the garden into a winter wonderland with lights and music.”

You’ll also find fabulous food selections as well as popular breweries like Straight to Ale situated on an old middle school campus, she said.

Hickory, N.C.

This small city offers big entertainment during a winter escape. In downtown Hickory, you can shop till you drop at a variety of boutiques and shops featuring handcrafted and local merchandise. To get the blood pumping, hit one of the trails throughout Hickory. For instance, the Hickory Trail includes more than 10 miles of walking and biking paths throughout the city. Art lovers will enjoy the Hickory Museum of Art, where you can see both American and Southern Folk art in addition to changing exhibitions from near and far.

The 680-foot-long SkyBridge, which debuts at 1 p.m. May 17, is part of the newly renovated SkyLift Park at the top of Crockett Mountain.

Credit: Gatlinburg Skylift Park

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Credit: Gatlinburg Skylift Park

Gatlinburg, Tenn.

At the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg welcomes you to cozy up in one of its many vacation rental cabins. When venturing out, you can explore the national park or stroll through downtown to pop into a variety of shops, attractions, and restaurants. You also can enjoy the city’s annual holiday lights anytime through February.

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