50 Ways to Play—Winter

50 Ways to Play—Winter: Chill out with outdoor activities as well as indoor fun and games
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Hit the Slopes! 

When snow falls, skiers and snowboarders flock to the slopes. Western North Carolina’s six ski resorts offer diverse terrain for various skill levels. In the High Country, Appalachian Ski Mountain has three great terrain parks for snowboarders, Beech Mountain Resort has the highest slopes on the East Coast, while Sugar Mountain is the state’s largest ski area, with 125 skiable acres and the region’s only six-person high-speed chairlift. Cataloochee in Maggie Valley and Sapphire Valley in Transylvania County are great for beginners. And Wolf Ridge in Mars Hill is a close option for those in and around Asheville. https://www.appskimtn.com/; https://www.beechmountainresort.com/;
http://cataloochee.com/; http://www.skisapphirevalley.com/; http://www.skisugar.com/; http://skiwolfridgenc.com/

Explore Offbeat Museums

When you tire of giggling at the gravity-defying phenomena at Mystery Hill’s Mystery House in Blowing Rock, the 70-year-old attraction’s Appalachian Heritage Museum will catch your eye. Originally home to one of Appalachian State University’s founders, and among its earliest structures, the 1903 Dougherty House is an antique-packed look at nineteenth and early twentieth century Appalachia. Downstairs, the Native American Artifacts Museum boasts more than 50,000 arrowheads and other items from 23 states. https://www.mysteryhill-nc.com/

Asheville Pinball Museum allows visitors to look at the more than 75 vintage machines for free, but fans will think the $15 entrance fee is a bargain to play dozens of them as well as classic arcade-style video games, no coins or tokens needed. http://ashevillepinball.com/

Cat lovers rejoice: Sylva’s American Museum of the House Cat is a quirky and intriguing collection of thousands of cat-related items ranging from fine art to funny and even includes ancient artifacts reflecting our love for felines. The nominal entry fee and gift shop sales support the admirable efforts of owner Dr. Harold Sims’ Catman2 no-kill cat shelter in Cullowhee. http://www.catman2.org/

Given the region’s Celtic connections, America’s only museum dedicated to Scottish tartans is right at home in Franklin. Explore the rich history of these colorful, iconic clan fabrics at the Scottish Tartans Museum while perhaps learning about your own family heritage and the migration of Scots that made highland games events a big part of summer fun in the South. http://scottishtartans.org/

Go Snow Tubing

Snowmaking machines revolutionized skiing and they’ve done the same for sledding at the South’s burgeoning number of tubing sites. Hawksnest Snow Tubing in the town of Seven Devils is the state’s premier tubing resort, with four interconnected areas and more than 30 tubing lanes from 400 to 1,000 feet long, all of it lit for nighttime fun. Overhead, four miles of zip lines whisk the adventurous above the snow. https://hawksnesttubing.com/

Escape the Ordinary

Why cheer for a movie hero when you can be one? At WNC’s breakout rooms, you and a partner or group of friends need to think and act fast to defuse all kinds of intensely engaging scenarios. In Asheville, Breakout epitomizes high-tech, sophisticated excitement, while Conundrum shakes it up with local actors who vividly embody the story line. Here, ages six to 14 will enjoy Kidnundrum, an experience with educational challenges discovered via a secret-door bookcase. There’s also a way-cool speakeasy bar with quirky events. In Boone, Mysterium Escape Adventure calls its experience “real-life gaming.” https://breakoutgames.com/asheville/; https://www.entertheconundrum.com/; https://www.mysteriumboone.com/

Tour a Chocolate Factory

Tour a Chocolate FactoryStep beyond just savoring the magical confections crafted by Asheville’s French Broad Chocolates by taking a factory tour. The hour-long visit, offered on Saturdays, starts with harvesting cacao beans and includes a guided tasting ($10, reserve in advance). On a tight schedule? Also on Saturdays between 2 and 5 p.m., the factory hosts 10- to 15-minute walk-throughs. https://www.frenchbroadchocolates.com/

Swing Your Partner

There’s nothing like a little nightlife to counter cabin fever, especially when the evening includes piloting your partner around the dance floor of the Alleghany Jubilee in Sparta’s historic Spartan Theater. Every Tuesday and Saturday evening year-round starting at 7 p.m. there’s live old-time mountain music and traditional square dancing, clogging, and Appalachian flatfooting. Even the kids are invited to this alcohol-free entertainment venue, and those under 12 get in free. http://alleghanyjubilee.com/

Get Into the Game

Whether you’re into conventional board games (think everything from Monopoly and Battleship to Ticket to Ride), role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, or elaborate tabletop fantasy war games like Warhammer, there’s a place in Asheville to escape the cold and feel the heat of competition. The Wyvern’s Tale, north of downtown on Merrimon, just turned five and welcomes newcomers to a community of enthusiasts with regular game times. Well Played on Wall Street has more than 500 board games (the state’s largest selection) and a complete menu of drinks and bites. http://www.thewyvernstaleavl.com/; http://wellplayedasheville.com/

Go Ice Skating

Twirl away a day or evening on ice skates for a classic winter experience. Pirouette at municipal rinks in Highlands or Hendersonville (the latter, an artificial ice substitute) or skate amidst High Country ski resort settings at Appalachian Ski Mountain, Beech Mountain, or Sugar Mountain. All these locations have various skate sessions, rental skates, and nearby hot chocolate for breaks in the action. The ski areas offer instruction too, and a few have rink-side fire pits for atmosphere. http://highlandsnc.org/recreation-ice-rink; http://www.exploreboone.com/outdoors/skiing-snowboarding/ice-skating/

Bounce Back from Boredom

Imagine a warehouse full of ways to get airborne. That’s Launch Trampoline Park in Arden. Four massive courts contain interconnected trampolines mounted at all angles and accessories sufficient to attract gymnasts—or make you feel like one. Imitate Michael Jordan soaring for the dunk, or train on gear straight out of American Ninja. Fall off a climbing wall into a pool of pads or launch yourself into a huge airbag. Or just be a spectator—burger and beer in hand—from the all-surveying mezzanine. “There’s a part of the park for every member of the family,” says manager Dequan Hobdy. Asheville’s other trampoline park, Sky Zone, also requires a waiver, since safety is a focus at these excitingly active outlets for excess winter energy. http://launchasheville.com/; https://www.skyzone.com/asheville

Go Snowshoeing

North Carolina’s highest mountains receive sufficient snow to make snowshoes a reasonable purchase for real fans of winter. Places like Roan Mountain, north of Burnsville, and Elk Knob State Park, north of Boone, are bona fide attractions. If you just want to give it a try, Sugar Mountain Resort rents snowshoes and leads a guided tour through the snowy mountain wilds Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3 p.m., and at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturdays. The Beech Mountain Parks & Recreation department offers snowshoeing free of charge for half-day sessions from the Buckeye Recreation Center. Call 24 hours in advance to arrange a free guided hike. Best bet for awesome snow? The Emerald Outback trails on the mountaintop. http://www.skisugar.com/snowshoeing/; https://www.beechmtn.com/

Check out 50 Ways to Play for the other seasons:




Photographs (Sugar Mountain) by Todd Bush; (skier) courtesy of Beech Mountain Resort; (pinball) courtesy of Asheville Pinball Museum; (cat museum) by Jon Elliston; (tubing) Hawksnest Resort; (breakout) by Rodney Smith; (sweets) French Broad Chocolates; (Well Played) by Andy Ormond; (ice skating) courtesy of Beech Mountain Resort