Not everyone loves winter weather, but these three winter spa getaways will have even the biggest bah humbugs feeling pampered, relaxed and rejuvenated. Each spa offers seasonal treatments to help target common winter side effects such as dehydrated skin, holiday stress and aching joints, and many infuse the scents of the season, too.
So whether you want to escape to the mountains for a relaxing snow-filled retreat, the coast for a wintry beach getaway, or our biggest city, Charlotte, for some urban fun to pair with your self-care, we’ve got you covered.
Enjoy the natural spoils of the Outer Banks with half the crowds
Winter makes for a wonderful time to visit the Outer Banks with friends, for a romantic rendezvous, a trip with mom or as a solo adventure, as the emptier beaches will feel like your own private sanctuary and temperatures hover in the comfortable 50s. Beach bonfires are permitted on many of the islands, and although some shops and restaurants close for the slower season, plenty of delicious options remain open. Try Duck Donuts in Kill Devil Hills – a local phenomenon born in Duck that has taken over much of the East Coast. Of course, high-quality seafood reigns supreme in North Carolina’s barrier islands at places such as The Blue Point, with a commitment to sourcing all its seafood locally. Or the charming Roadside Bar & Grill, known for its oyster roasts, quality cocktails and fun vibe inside a cottage-esque building (Thursday-Monday only in the offseason).
The chance to view the majestic wild horses of Corolla will certainly soothe your mind and soul in profound ways, and that will pair perfectly with the winter spa treatments at Sanderling Resort, specifically created to help you de-stress after the busy holiday season. Try the Toast to the Coast, an espresso mud body scrub coined “the ultimate reboot” that includes a 50-minute massage and champagne toast afterward. Or soak your feet in a sweet birch-infused bath – with accompanying scents of peppermint and lavender – inspired by Native American traditions. And special to January: If you buy one year-round treatment at full price, you get another treatment half off.
For your lodging, choose between Sanderling’s hotel rooms or vacation home rentals to fully immerse yourself in all this luxurious resort has to offer: a concierge beach experience, Adventure Planners and three on-site dining options – including what’s considered the Outer Banks’ best breakfast at the Lifesaving Station Restaurant (think duck sausage hash, surfer’s omelet made with goat cheese and lime creme, or pecan waffles with maple butter). Or try your hand at winter camping for the ultimate de-stresser at Cape Hatteras KOA – cabins optional – or Kitty Hawk RV Park and pick up fresh, locally caught goodies at one of Duck’s many local seafood markets to grill.
Pair an award-winning spa experience with Charlotte's nightlife
Sometimes what you need to feel rejuvenated is a day of pampering at a fabulous spa coupled with a fun night out on the town, so perhaps you and your sweetie both indulge in the winter spa treatments available at The Spa at Ballantyne Charlotte (valid through Feb. 29). Bring on the luxe with the 24K Golden Glow Therapy, which promises intense relaxation, firmer skin and a radiant glow. Or embrace the smells of the season with a cranberry orange-scented mani, pedi, massage or deep conditioning treatment – unless you feel like splurging on one of their signature packages such as the Carolina Lavender Escape or Time Together Retreat.
After your revitalizing treatment, slip into The Daily Details Beauty Bar for expert assistance in hair and makeup. Once you’ve beautified, it’s time to hit the town, and a progressive dinner through the Queen City will surely make your heart (and taste buds) sing. Start with bar bites – short ribs, fritto misto or BBQ pimento dip – at The Ballantyne’s Gallery Bar alongside the daily selected whiskey flights chosen from an impressive collection of more than 200 whiskeys. Then belly up at Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar, a hip gastropub with unique, handcrafted burgers topped with ingredients such as shoestring fries, an over-easy egg and rosemary ham, or fresh mozzarella, tomato jam and garlic mayo. Wrap up your tasting tour of Charlotte’s Ballantyne neighborhood at Hazelnuts Creperie for dessert crepes, or go to Zinicola for espresso and authentic Italian desserts like chocolate panna cotta or vanilla-filled cannolis.
During your jaunt through Charlotte, ensure you clear some time to brewery or bar hop through Uptown, South End or NoDa, or peruse the calendar at AvidXchange Music Factory, a huge entertainment complex with a variety of acts performing simultaneously each week. Need to stop and smell the roses a bit more to complement your spa day? Visit UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens, take a walking tour in the historic Fourth Ward or admire Charlotte’s legendary urban tree canopy as you bike, jog or stroll through Freedom Park.
Find upscale elegance and pampering in Highlands
For the ultimate mountain getaway that will certainly soothe whatever ails you, head to the Highlands and Cashiers area, nestled within the Appalachian Mountains and Nantahala National Forest. You’ve probably heard by now how powerful forest bathing can be – with doctors even prescribing time in nature to frazzled patients – so hit the area’s most popular hiking trails, including Whiteside Mountain, Sunset Rock and Satulah Mountain, or hope for frozen waterfalls when you seek out Dry Falls, Bridal Veil and Glen Falls trails.
Lake Glenville offers another way to submerge yourself in the natural beauty of western North Carolina. Paddle, fish or walk along the shore when you’ll have much of the water to yourself. Between your outdoor fun, be sure to enjoy a meal at Wild Thyme Gourmet to nibble on warm brie served with maple syrup, luscious lump crab fillo purses, or shrimp and tasso linguine. Plenty of warm, savory sandwiches are available for lunch, too, along with a huge wine list. Enjoy hitting the slopes to escape your day to day? Sapphire Valley Ski Area sits just under a half hour northeast of Highlands.
But you’re really visiting Highlands for the luxurious stay at Old Edwards Inn and Spa. This magical 4-star destination, named a world’s best resort hotel by Travel + Leisure, features two "Stay & Spa" packages. The Romantic Mountain Escape includes all of Old Edwards' offerings in a two-night package: a three-course dinner at Madison's, two $100 spa credits, a rose petal turndown plus all the exceptional amenities the spa is known for. Then the Winter Slip Away and Save includes two nights in deluxe accommodations, a three-course dinner for two at one of Old Edwards' food outlets, and two 50-minute spa treatments.
If you'd rather make The Spa at Old Edwards just an afternoon stop, you can find accommodations at other unique hotel options like the dog-themed Park on Main or Old Edwards' motel-chic sister location, 200 Main Hotel. For a quality bed-and-breakfast experience, go for the lovely Main Street Inn.