Give your holly jolly holiday season a jolt of dashing-through-the-snow zest.
Instead of parking it under the family mistletoe again, pack up and hit the roadways, railways and skyways to experience all the action winter has to offer in offbeat, outdoor locations.
To help alleviate the traveling pressure of picking a quick winter getaway, here are five Southern stops to sightsee, stay and play to close out 2019 and usher in the new year:
Holidays on the River in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is an all-around retreat that caters to the family. The fastest Amtrak Crescent ride can get you to Alabama in 5 hours flat. Once there, Holidays on the River features a 100-by-60-foot ice skating rink, live music, carriage rides and visits from Santa at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater — the largest outdoor theater in West Alabama and primary location for arts and entertainment.
Only minutes from the University of Alabama, this winter village venue is a fun way to burn calories and bond with loved ones.
Attraction Costs: Skate passes are $15 each and include skate rental and admission to the rink. Tuesdays are family skate night with skate pass specials at $12.
Another Amtrak station stop for holiday traveling is the Northeast Georgia mountain city of Toccoa. Only an hour and 36 minutes by rail, this countryside ride rests in an area known for rich military heritage and one of the tallest waterfalls: Toccoa Falls.
The 186-foot-high cascade is located on the campus of wooded, 1,100-acre Toccoa Falls College. After touring this landmark location and campus, time travel back to World War II by way of the city's military museum. This historical draw features memorabilia from that period and stories from Camp Toccoa, which is where more than 18,000 young men trained as paratroopers during the early 1940s. Camp Toccoa also became the inspiration behind HBO's award-winning TV miniseries "Band of Brothers."
Attraction Costs: Museum admission is $10, adults; $3, students; $9, seniors 65-and-up and retired military; and free for children ages 6 and under, along with active military and society members. Toccoa Falls admission is $2, adults; $1, seniors; $6, families of four or more; and free for children ages 6 and under.
Cold weather vacationers will love this winter wonderland. Known as the coolest town in North Carolina, it's the highest municipality in the Eastern United States with an elevation of 5,506 feet. By car, this snow white escape will take you about 5 hours and 33 minutes, but a quick flight gets you there in about an hour.
Beech Mountain is also known for its living adaptation of "The Wonderful World of Oz" in theme park form. Although the "Autumn at Oz" attraction is primarily open during the summer and fall months, it's interesting to know the Yellow Brick Road and Emerald City are in the vicinity of ample winter sports to try: skiing, skating, tubing, snowshoeing and sledding from mid-November to mid-March.
Attraction Costs: Free youth sledding for kids 12 and under.
Why not spend Christmas in the city whose motto is "Where the West begins?" Avid adventurers, history buffs and connoisseurs of cowhand culture will appreciate a roughly 2-hour flight to Fort Worth, Texas. The air trip is definitely worth the plane ticket during the holidays.
First, Fort Worth is the sole place you're going to experience the world's only twice-daily cattle drive at the Stockyards National Historic District. The cattle drive takes place every day at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Second, holiday lights shower the city in intricate arrangements this time of year. And third, everything in Fort Worth is done big — mega entrées, massive Christmas trees and real, majestic Texas Longhorns, which you can actually adopt while you're there.
Attraction Costs: Free to witness the cattle drive and extravagant holiday decorations.
Road trip to the exact place believed to hold the first Christmas celebration in North America. Hernando De Soto State Archaeological Site is about 4 hours and 23 minutes from the Georgia-Florida border.
The winter encampment at Tallahassee's Governor Martin House is home to archaeological evidence that verifies the De Soto expedition camped in Florida's capital state. There's even a first Christmas painting that depicts the observance. Follow up this legendary quest with holiday shopping since Tallahassee is known for its upscale and bargain shops and shows as well.
Attraction Costs: Free and open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
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