As the mercury rises and ice cream sales peak, many Brits will have opted for local staycation plans this summer, or a short hop to a familiar European resort. Travel experts are predicting that there will be a rise in the planning and booking of long-haul trips for this winter and beyond with the hope that there will be more destinations open for travel. Below is a round-up of travel news and updates to inspire winter holiday plans for 2021 from the destinations that we look after.
Saddleback Mountain Ski Resort comes out of a 5-year hibernation
Boston-based Arctaris Impact Fund, which recently purchased Saddleback Mountain, announced earlier this month they have purchased a high-speed detachable quad chairlift for the coming season. The new lift will replace the aging Rangeley double chair that had been the main lift of the mountain for 57 years.
The new Rangeley high speed quad will reduce the ride time from about 11 minutes to about 4 and move 2,400 people up the mountain per hour; up from the current rate of 750. The impact will be that our Saddleback guests will spend a lot less time on a lift and a lot more time skiing or riding. The new lift will also set a new standard of excellence at the resort and transform the uphill experience for Saddleback guests.
Located in the beautiful High Peaks and Lakes district of western Maine, Saddleback Mountain was founded in 1960 and has grown its reputation for exceptional snow, some of the best skiing terrain in the East and a friendly, laid- back culture. At 4,120 feet of elevation and 2,000 feet of vertical, Saddleback is Maine’s third biggest mountain, and its base elevation of 2,100 feet is Maine’s highest. Just below the mountain is the iconic village of Rangeley, which is the gateway to Rangeley Lake, Mooselookmeguntic and Richardson Lakes.
March is Maple Month in Massachusetts
Try Maple-sugaring in March, when the days bring more sun, the nights are crisp, and sap is collected for a favourite sweet treat. All across Massachusetts, maple sugar trees are being tapped and sap is turned into maple syrup.
Take a tour of a local sugarhouse and watch the transformation from sap to syrup. Many local attractions and maple sugarhouses host maple days and maple breakfasts all season.
Hardwick Sugar Shack has open houses every Sunday in March from 11am-4pm. Visitors can follow the process of making maple syrup from tree to tasting. Enjoy free samples of the finished products while you sip on their hot apple cider and visit the farm animals.
Old Sturbridge Village, a living history museum focused on the 1830’s and early New England living, is hosting maple days every weekend in March. Visitors can see how sugaring has evolved with time. History and foodie buffs alike can enjoy looking at the different sugaring equipment and tapping techniques of 19th century New England.
New Hampshire offers snowy experiences for those who don’t ski with the Mt Washington Snowcoach and Muddy Paw Dog Sledding.
The 9 passenger Mt. Washington SnowCoach, powered by a 4-track, all-wheel-powered drive-train, transports guests approximately 4,200 feet up to tree line on Mt. Washington. Anyone can enjoy this unique adventure daily from 8:30am to 3:30pm depending on weather and snow conditions.
Experience the landscape of the White Mountains off the beaten path this winter with a dog sledding tour. Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel has over 100 sled dogs, many rescue and second chance sled dogs, to take visitors age 2 and up on two to three hour tours in Jefferson, NH.
The iconic Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina provide winter outdoor fun for the whole family with an abundance of activities such as skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing, to name just a few. At Beech Mountain, visitors can hit the slopes at the highest ski area in Eastern America. Then enjoy the warmth and cold brews at Beech Mountain Brewing Company — one of the only craft breweries operated by a ski resort – it is America’s biggest craft beer state after all!
Along with great ski slopes, waterfalls in the North Carolina mountains give the state picturesque winter scenes. Visit on a chilly winter day to experience a magical, sometimes frozen, cascading scene. Head to Transylvania County for dozens of these stunning waterfalls such as Rainbow Falls. Its name comes from the constant mist that rises from the cascading water and sends rainbows vaulting toward the summer sun. During winter, the spray congeals on everything it touches, turning the trail icy and perilous.
The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, America’s largest home, is stunning all year round. However, add a blanket of snow and a million twinkling lights and it’s picture perfect. After touring the incredible Biltmore House, warm up in Antler Village with a tasting at the estate winery – very nice in the colder months!
A multi-day stay at one of West Virginia’s great high-country ski resorts is probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the Mountain State and great wintertime breaks offering some of the finest snow and slopes in the USA
Snowshoe Mountain is the biggest resort with the most diverse lodging options, from hotels to luxury slopeside chalets. Canaan Valley Resort State Park is adjacent to some of West Virginia’s wildest backcountry and is a bit smaller and more laid-back than Snowshoe. There’s also Winterplace, southern West Virginia’s foremost ski resort. Slopes stay open at night, including the 20-lane snow tubing park!
Berkeley Springs is also a great destination for a winter getaway. Billed as “America’s First Spa,” this hot springs resort was visited by luminaries like George Washington. Soak away the winter cold in the 102-degree Roman Baths or jacuzzi; both are fed by natural mineral water. The park also has a steamy sauna. Berkeley Springs also boasts quality restaurants and your choice of B&Bs, cabins, and hotels. The dignified historical feeling of the town is especially profound in the winter.
Gatlinburg, in the heart of the Smoky Mountains hosts many festivities over the holiday season. Winterfest, Festival of Trees, Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales, the Great Smoky Christmas Arts & Crafts Show, the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade, and the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop and Fireworks are just some of the various activities that are on offer in the picturesque town. Visit https://www.gatlinburg.com/to-do/events/winter/ for more information.
New to Pigeon Forge in 2020 is Santa’s Haus at The Incredible Christmas Place, the south’s largest Christmas store, where it’s Christmas 365 days a year. The 2,000-square-foot attraction features cookie decorating, story time with Santa, milk and cookies, ornament making, the Elf Academy, a place to write letters to Santa and a photo opportunity with the jolly old elf. Foe more on winter in Pigeon Forge visit: https://www.mypigeonforge.com/planning/winter/
Stroll around downtown Knoxville along the Peppermint Trail, to enjoy trees, windows, doors, and patios dripping in lights and dipped in peppermint. More than 100,000 lights and garlands throughout downtown create a Winter Wonderland and restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, bars and boutiques feature peppermint specials.
Gaylord Opryland’s A Country Christmas gets visitors in the mood for the holiday season. Marvel at more than 3 million holiday lights and almost 10,000 acres of magnificent decorations, plus spectacular holiday activities and events that are sure to get visitors in the spirit of the season and create lasting family memories. Experience ICE! a self-guided walk through experience, which has over 2 million pounds of ice, comprising of ice sculptures and four two-story tall ice slides. The entire attraction is kept at around -13°c to ensure everything stays crisp and solid.
Louisiana and New Orleans
The milder winter climate in Louisiana means the is still plenty going on outdoors no need for too many layers. Camping or an RV Roadtrip is a classic winter activity in Bayou state. It is just cold enough to enjoy a nice campfire, but not too cold to be out hiking and exploring.
From the holiday trail of lights and fireworks over the water, the Louisiana winter season is filled with a unique charm complete with Cajun Christmas and traditions like bonfires on the levee. Louisiana’s premiere holiday event in the City of Lights, Natchitoches, celebrates its 94th year! Enjoy live musical entertainment, arts and crafts, and fireworks each Saturday. Over 300,000 Christmas lights and 100+ illuminated set pieces along the scenic Cane River Lake and Historic Downtown Landmark District.
There are many traditions dating back to the earliest Cajun settlers of the regions of southern Louisiana to the west and north of New Orleans. One of them is the lighting of the bonfires along the Mississippi River on Christmas Eve.
These bonfires, erected on the river levees by the keepers of this old tradition, are intended to light the way for “Papa Noël,” the Cajun Santa Claus, on his airborne journey to the area.
The earliest bonfires on the levees were relatively simple in design and assembly, with long logs arranged into a pyramid-shaped cone, some as high as twenty feet. Shorter horizontal logs holding the structure in place gave it a ladder-like appearance. Most of today’s bonfires still incorporate that design, but more imaginative creations have since evolved.
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Mix adventure with stunning scenery and for a winning, adrenaline filled trip to Massachusetts. Moonlight is the guide on the Trustees’ Full Moon Brew Tour: Moonlight Ski & Snowshoe through Notchview’s trails, followed by a beer, wine and cheese tasting.
Try your hand at Nordic skiing and snowshoeing at Hilltop Orchards, finished off with warm apple cider. Take it down a notch with an easy hike through Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in scenic Easthampton.
In October 2020, AlUa, an open-air museum in the North West of Saudi Arabia, which includes Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, will officially re-open and welcome visitors.
For the first time, AlUla’s landmarks of unprecedented historical and cultural significance and its 250,000 years of human legacy are going to be accessible to visitors year round.
With a focus firmly on conservation and responsible tourism, since 2017 RCU has been transforming AlUla into a culture and heritage destination.
The four key heritage sites that visitors will now be able to access are, Hegra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008; Dadan, probably one of the most developed 1st millennium BCE cities of the Arabian Peninsula; Jabal Ikmah, often referred to as the ‘open-air Library’, offering insights to ancient beliefs, rituals and practices of every-day life; and Old Town, the ancient walled city of AlUla which has been at the crossroad of civilisations from the twelfth century CE.
AlUla’s immersive experiences will however extend beyond the heritage sites. Walks, treks and trails will be available both guided by the local Rawi (Arabic storyteller) or self-guided for visitors who want to delve deeper into the stories and customs of the region.
There will be immersive, light-touch experiences that harness the power and silence of the landscapes, experiences like guided stargazing in a desert night sky that has inspired science, religion, philosophy, art and literature for millennia.
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