No matter the time of year, Jackson County is well-known for its endless active outdoor adventures and beauty.
The area serves as an incredible getaway destination during winter months and is a great choice for those looking to relax and cozy up in the mountains. Lower lodging rates, winter festivities, beautiful views, and, if you’re lucky, a little snow make Jackson County the perfect place to experience endless fun and adventure this winter.
Keep Warm in Sylva and Dillsboro
Out and About
Warm up with some shopping in a variety of locally-owned stores, and find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Shops throughout the county sell handmade and artisan goods that can’t be found anywhere else. In Dillsboro, explore the work of incredibly talented local potters. Tree House Pottery and Riverwood Pottery are a couple great stops out of many to visit while in town for beautiful creations, and one-of-a-kind holiday gifts. Find a full list of potters and crafters to visit along the way here. There are many specialty Christmas stores in town that have festive decorations and gifts that are sure to put even the biggest scrooge in the holiday spirit. Stop into Nancy Tut’s Christmas Shop, open since 1969, for an incredible selection of holiday ornaments, décor and more.
Celebrating its 30th year, the Mountain Artisans Hard Candy Christmas returns to Western Carolina University’s Ramsey Center in Cullowhee on November 24-25, 2017. The show features incredible collections of handmade goods from local and regional basket makers, leather craftsmen, master jewelers and many more.
Also at Western Carolina University, don’t miss the Mountain Heritage Center, a regional resource for education and research that aims to celebrate the people, and the natural and cultural heritage of the Southern Appalachians. Check their calendar for event dates and times, or their website for a complete list of current exhibits.
When the sun goes down, the lights turn up and guests to the area will experience the most wonderful time of the year as Dillsboro is transformed into a winter wonderland of lights, candles, laughter and music during their annual Lights and Luminaries event. 2,500 luminaires light guest’s way to shops, while horse and buggy rides carry people through the streets, and shopkeepers welcome guests with live music and treats. Lights and Luminaries takes place the first two Fridays and Saturdays in December from 5-9 p.m. each night. A free shuttle service is available from Monteith Park.
Stop into Cherokee for the three-dayLights & Legends Christmas event on December 8-10, 2017. Enjoy interactive displays and learn more about ancient Cherokee Christmas legends. The event also boasts a 40-foot Christmas tree, a synthetic ice rink, and photos with Santa and other holiday favorites.
On December 2, 2017, the Sylva Christmas Parade marches through Historic Main Street with more than 50 floats and a special guest appearance from Santa.
Head over to the ecological, artistic and environmental marvel, the Jackson County Green Energy Park,for another activity to keep you out of the cold. Situated on an old landfill that now harnesses the methane to create energy, the Green Energy Park uses that renewable energy as fuel for glassblowing studios, blacksmith forges and pottery kilns – this is one of the only art studios powered by renewable energy in the world.
Wanting to pamper yourself? Head to Fusions Spa. Located in downtown Sylva, Fusions is the perfect way to recharge your body and mind during the colder months. Choose from the extensive menu of offerings, including massages, facials, body treatments, makeup, fitness and wellness options.
City Lights Café provides “quick, tasty and healthy” fare, and uniquely decadent menu items to satisfy any palate. Many of their ingredients are locally-sourced and organically-produced. At the City Lights Bookstore, which is located above the City Lights Café, find a quiet corner to enjoy a good book and relax.
If you’re in need of a hand warmer or pick-me-up, visit Soul Infusion Tea House & Bistro, which carries a wide variety of loose-leaf, organic premium teas served hot or cold.
Visit the popular farm-to-table, tropical fusion restaurant Guadalupe Café for dinner. Sit down, relax and enjoy the ambiance and live music. The menu is full of innovative and flavorful delights, and includes a wide variety of zesty and delectable Caribbean-flavored meals with spices that are sure to warm you up on a cold day.
Take a break from the chilly temperatures outdoors, and grab a slice of pizza and a movie at the local hotspot, Mad Batter Food & Film. Mad Batter offers creative comfort food with a free feature film every Thursday, Friday & Saturday in their theater. Here, you can eat, drink and catch a flick all for an affordable price. Check their website for the monthly movie selections.
Begin planning your escape to Jackson County by selecting from various lodging options. Ranging from spacious cabins and cottages to comfy hotels and B&Bs, there is sure to be one cozy enough to work for your winter mountain getaway.
Cozy Up in Cashiers
Out and About
During the holidays, start a new tradition and bring your family along to choose and cut your own tree! Due to the location, range of elevation, excellent soil and rainfall, Jackson County is home to the southern-most natural stand of Fraser fir in the world. Researchers have even shown that the genetics recovered from this southern stand produce some of the fastest growing, most aesthetically pleasing Christmas trees. Jackson County has several nostalgic choose and cut tree places, many of which are family owned.
Hit the slopes at Sapphire Valley Resort with skiing and snowboarding on the 1,600-foot main run with a vertical drop of 200 feet. The resort added $1.5 million in new snow-making machines last season to improve the visitor experience. Ideal for a day of family fun, take a lesson from the mountain’s professional instructors, and save money with rentals included in lift ticket prices. Sapphire Valley Resort also features Frozen Falls Tube Park, where tubers can slide down the 500-foot run with a vertical drop of 60 feet, and the moving sidewalk makes it easy to get to the top for another ride down. Snow-seekers can also enjoy full-service amenities now offered at Sapphire Valley Resort, making it easier than ever to plan a day on the slopes.
Continuing the fun at Sapphire Valley Resort, the always-popular Outhouse Races return on Saturday, February 17, 2018, providing thrills for both participants and spectators. Attendees cheer on teams as two people push homemade outhouses secured to a set of skis down the race track while a third team member holds on for one wild ride. Teams with outhouses both simple and elaborate are welcome to enter, as long as they follow a short list of rules for the competitive event.
Explore the unique stores Cashiers has to offer, and walk along 107 North and South to the boutiques located near the Village Green and Cashiers Crossroads to grab those last-minute gifts.
Winter is a great time of year to enjoy fishing in the crystal-clear streams of the Great Smoky Mountains, so look into hiring one of the many local premier guide services to coordinate a fly fishing excursion. The area hosts the most picturesque trout waters east of the Mississippi River. With a large concentration of rainbow, brown and brook trout, the opportunity exists daily to achieve the Tuckasegee fly fishing grand slam – catching all three species of trout in the same day.
Bundle up and head outdoors for a one-of-a-kind experience at Whitewater Falls, one of the highest waterfalls east of the Rockies at nearly 400 feet. This natural beauty is sure to be stunning in the winter months – you might even glimpse a few icicles!
If you’re visiting between mid-February through early March, you might be lucky enough to catch the Shadow of the Bear, a naturally occurring phenomenon that makes an appearance for just 30 minutes on sunny days at 5:30 p.m. It starts with a small dark shadow at the bottom of the valley and grows until it finally evolves into the bear that appears to be walking along the treetops below.
Comfort Food (And Drinks)
Try Randevu for lunch – they are known for their culinary specialties with a Southern twist and a French flair. The lunch menu features warm soups, delicious salads, incredible sandwiches and more. Be sure to grab a table close to their fireplace!
Close out your chilly evening with a dinner at The Orchard, which is set in a 100-year-old farmhouse. With a dining ambiance reflecting rustic elegance with mountain charm, this restaurant features several historical artifacts on display. From trout almandine to bacon-wrapped filet and lamb chops flambeau, The Orchard’s extensive menu touches on American cuisine with a Southern flavor. Pair any dish with a bottle from their cellar, which heavily focuses on New World and California wine regions.