Snow does more than just signal cold weather: It makes everything sparkle and creates opportunities for tons of outdoor fun and indoor getaways. Whether you’re looking for a place to snuggle up or to venture outside, these locations offer an unlimited amount of close-to-home entertainment.
Muskegon County, Michigan
What better way to spend your winter vacation than just a few hours’ drive from home? Muskegon County, located on the shores of Lake Michigan, is the perfect spot. This scenic western Michigan county is home to several museums, great shops and sporting activities to suit both the spectator and the adventurer.
Among Muskegon’s cultural activities is the Muskegon Museum of Art. This museum contains a wide variety of visual art, supplemented by temporary exhibitions, and is sure to impress even the most critical guests. Another staple of Muskegon is the Frauenthal Center, which hosts everything from symphonies to comedy acts in its beautiful Spanish-renaissance-inspired theaters.
Locally owned food shops are prevalent in downtown Muskegon. The Cheese Lady, which carries a variety of cheeses from all over the world, is a must-visit store, as is Clay Avenue Cellars, the producers of a variety of delicious fruit wines.
Another event Muskegon visitors shouldn’t miss is a Lumberjacks hockey game. Watching the Lumberjacks is an exhilarating experience. For the more adventuresome, Muskegon State Park hosts the Muskegon Luge & Sports Complex where, weather-permitting, thrill-seekers can shoot down the luge at up to 30 miles per hour and glide down the Midwest’s longest lighted cross-country ski slope. For details, go to visitmuskegon.org
National Museum of the United States Air Force
Love history and aviation, but hesitant to leave the comfort of your home this winter? Look no further than the website of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, the world’s largest and oldest military aviation museum. NMUSAF recently added a 360-degree virtual tour to its site, allowing visitors to experience the wonder of the museum after hours.
The tour begins with an outdoor view of the NMUSAF main building. Viewers can then navigate to other areas of the museum using the drop-down map. The completed outdoor tour includes the main entrance, Air Park and Memorial Park. Indoors, online tourists can view the Early Years, Presidential Aircraft and Research & Development exhibits. The other six main indoor exhibits should be completed by the end of 2011.
NMUSAF encourages visitors to check out this entertaining and educational tour before making the trip — it will help you decide which exhibits you would most like to see. Both the online tour and admission to the museum — located in Dayton and open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week — are free, making them perfect for a short break from work or school this winter. Go to nationalmuseum.af.mil
to view the tour and plan your visit.
Garrett County, Maryland
No matter the weather, this beautiful county — home to Deep Creek Lake — truly does offer fun for everyone. Nestled between West Virginia and Pennsylvania in northwest Maryland, Garrett County’s scenic mountains, rivers and lakes are the perfect destination for a variety of activities this winter.
Take a peaceful stroll through the snow-covered woods or snuggle up with your sweetie and take in the view as you dash through the snow on an old-fashioned one-horse open sleigh. Local outfitters also offer guided tours through the woods by dogsled, allowing you to experience what most have only seen in movies. Later, relax at a local winery or grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants that Garrett County has to offer.
Craving something a bit more adventurous? ’Snow problem in Garrett, which receives more than 120 inches of the white stuff each year.
Wisp Ski & Golf Resort provides skiers and snowboarders with a place to let loose where, with the help of its extensive snowmaking system, the fun never ends. Two of Garrett’s state parks also permit snowmobiles, so you can surge through the snow banks and forests, exploring the terrain at your own pace. For more information, log on to visitdeepcreek.com
This southeastern Ohio county is big on entertainment options. Featuring something for any interest, Guernsey County provides a cure for the winter blues.
Salt Fork Lodge and Conference Center is the perfect solution for Ohioans seeking a close-to-home vacation. Surrounded by the woods of Ohio’s largest state park, Salt Fork Lodge continues to lure visitors even after the snow begins to fall. Sledding, skiing, snowmobiling and ice activities are all available to lodge guests while indoor amenities, such as a heated pool and Jacuzzi, suit the needs of those preferring warmer climates.
Another popular vacation spot is the Colonel Taylor Inn Bed and Breakfast in Cambridge. Owners Jim and Patricia Irvin provide visitors with a relaxing, small-town atmosphere. Rooms include private baths, fireplaces and complimentary five-course breakfasts. The renovated Victorian home, where “history and romance come alive,” allows guests to slip back a few centuries during their retreat.
Guests at the Lodge or Inn, or those just visiting Guernsey County for the day, are a short drive from the Wilds. Reserve a Saturday winter tour, where through the windows of a heated Safari transport, you can experience deer, bison, takin and other animals in their natural habitats. Find more activities at visitguernseycounty.com
Splash Harbor at Comfort Inn
Comfort Inn, located in Bellville, isn’t just the typical hotel providing accommodations en route to another destination: It is the destination for a family-friendly retreat this winter, offering Splash Harbor to heat-seeking vacationers who don’t want to stretch their travel time or budget.
Splash Harbor has a glass ceiling and wall, allowing guests to witness the beauty of Ohio’s winter while soaking up the warmth emanating from the 6,000-square-foot tropical paradise, complete with a kiddie pool and basketball hoops. The “sprayground,” featuring dumping buckets and spraying geysers, is sure to entertain children of all ages. Comfort Inn’s amenities also include a video arcade and free putting green, making it perfect for a fun family getaway.
And it’s not just kids who’ll get a winter break at Splash Harbor. This water park also keeps its adult guests’ interests in mind. Paradise Oasis, the adults-only hot tub, provides a chance to relax and refresh with that special someone. The hotel offers health-conscious guests free access to a fitness center as well.
Up to four Splash Harbor passes are included in Comfort Inn room rates, allowing the fun to last one night or more. Special family and couples packages are available, along with daily passes for water lovers who live close to the inn. To reserve a room, visit splashharbor.com
Findlay’s Winter Blues Festival
Music lovers won’t want to miss the second annual Winter Blues Festival on Feb. 5 from 6 p.m. until midnight. Located in the heart of historic downtown Findlay, the festival welcomes last year’s headliner, the Jimi Vincent Band, which has performed three times at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee. Also performing is Louisiana native Josh Garrett and the Bottomline.
Those hesitant to step outdoors on a chilly February Ohio night can cast their fears aside; although the location is on Crawford Street, the Winter Blues Festival is indoors. Parts of Findlay’s streets are covered in heated tents for the event, ensuring that attendees are toasty warm while enjoying the bands’ smooth sounds. In addition to excellent music and a lively atmosphere, the festival features beautiful ice sculptures and delicious craft beers. Don’t hesitate to check out one of downtown Findlay’s many eateries sometime during the evening.
Like last year, the Winter Blues Festival will donate proceeds to The Center for Safe and Healthy Children. The event, sponsored by Waldo Pepper’s Restaurant, Red Tornado Art Productions and the Findlay-Hancock County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, is sure to be entertaining for all ages. Find out more at visitfindlay.com
Canaan Valley Winter Sports
Located in the northern mountains of West Virginia, Canaan Valley is the highest large valley east of the Rocky Mountains and home to some of the best winter sports opportunities in the region. The average natural snowfall in the valley ranges between 150 and 200 inches, while last season it totaled more than 250 inches – that’s over 20 feet! Home to two downhill ski resorts, Canaan Valley and Timberline Four Seasons, this picturesque location offers many opportunities for fun this winter.
Canaan Valley and Timberline feature a 1,000-foot vertical drop, seven lifts and 76 slopes and trails in a true high-mountain environment. Both resorts have certified ski schools for all levels of skiers. Guests can also enhance their trip with a “Ski the Valley” lift ticket, a two-consecutive-day pass valid at both resorts.
This winter playground offers much more than downhill skiing. Whitegrass Ski Touring Center is one of the East Coast’s premier cross-country ski spots. If skiing isn’t for you, enjoy some family-friendly fun on the tubing hill or the covered ice rink at Canaan Valley Resort. Non-skiers can also visit Whitegrass, or three other centers in the Valley, for a snowshoeing adventure.
Explore the shops, galleries, outfitters and restaurants of the Valley’s quaint mountain towns, sure to satisfy even the most insatiable shopper. Lodging options are numerous, ranging from cabins and condominiums to hotel/motels, inns and B&Bs. For details, visit skithevalley.com