It’s January. The evergreen that looked so glorious last month is now shedding needles on the carpet, the brown landscape has lost its romance — and it’s becoming increasingly apparent that you’re facing three long months of thermal underwear and Friends reruns.
Don’t despair. Just because you can’t hop the next cruise ship to Aruba doesn’t mean you have to succumb to cabin fever. Here’s the quick fix: Embark on a day (or perhaps extended-weekend) trip to infuse the dreary months with a change in scenery and a little unforeseen culture.
Bank on it
Forget the History Channel: A couple-hour drive from Asheville can drop you back more than 200 years. Old Salem, located in Winston-Salem, is a restored Moravian village founded in 1766.
The Moravians came to this country from their native land (now the Czech Republic) in the 1750s as missionaries, Protestants looking for a safe place to settle. Their N.C.-based homestead was called Wachovia — as in the eventual regional financial institution — and featured houses, storefronts, gardens and a college for women.
In the 1950s, Old Salem, Inc. was formed to protect the historic structures, and the tract was restored to a working village where visitors can check out the old buildings, watch re-enactors carry out the daily chores of the 1700s, and enjoy tasty Moravian treats. Mmm … sugar cookies.
The gardens, resurrected by using the meticulously kept records of the Moravians, portray the year-round plots of those early settlers. In fact, according to one promotional source, Old Salem boasts one of the leading horticultural programs in the U.S.
More details on the history can be found on the organization’s Web site (www.oldsalem.org) or by visiting and taking a walking tour. Other not-to-miss sites include the Old Salem Toy Museum and Children’s Museum, the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, and the restored African Moravian Church (the oldest still-standing African-American church in the state).
Travel time: 2-1/2 hours
Meeting with the masters
Here’s the good news: You don’t have to endure the long trip to the Louvre to see big-name art. Through Sunday, Jan. 16, the works of such wall-calendar regulars as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso will be on view at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. Matisse, Picasso and the School of Paris: Masterpieces from the Baltimore Museum of Art features 74 paintings from the trove of art collectors Etta and Claribel Cone.
According to a press statement, the Cone sisters, who earned their fortune through the Carolina textile industry, invested in modern art. Their spoils include more than 400 pieces by French Fauvist painter Matisse and more than 100 by Spanish-born Cubist Picasso. As its title suggests, this show displays the output of those who rendered Paris an indelible artistic hub during the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Catch the auxiliary film Michael Palin and the Ladies Who Loved Matisse, shown each day in the museum’s video theater.
Atlanta’s High Museum boasts a complementary exhibit: VanGogh to Mondrian: Modern Art from the Kroeller-Mueller Museum. These 84 paintings, drawings and decorative art objects have never before been displayed in the U.S. Twenty of the pieces are the works of Dutch Expressionist Vincent Van Gogh.
The exhibit runs through Sunday, Jan. 16, and can be viewed during the museum’s regular hours and during the evening program, scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 6.
Travel time: 4 hours
Another side of Charleston
Some trips are all about exploring fresh territory, getting lost in some new place or culture, and soaking in the atmosphere. Others are about being led around by the sleeve (which is not to say you can’t still soak and explore — you just aren’t as likely to get lost).
While most tourist-friendly towns offer their own version of the guided excursion (buses, trolleys and horse-drawn carriages are popular), Charleston, S.C. boasts some of the most inventive. Whatever your curiosity, there’s a tour to satisfy it. Civil War history? Check out Fort Sumter by boat, or stroll among the sumptuous antebellum mansions on the Battery. Ghosts? Sure — because, while history can be dusty and musty, it can also be downright creepy. (One tour’s Web site promises not only “lost souls” but the lingering taint of bygone murderers, as well.) Wildlife? Trawl through the inland waterways by kayak.
But don’t overlook some intriguing off-the-grid options. One worthy side trip involves delving into the history of the Gullah people, a community of African-Americans originally brought to South Carolina as slaves.
Isolated on the coastal islands, the Gullah population was able to preserve its native traditions, including a unique dialect, while developing sustaining craft techniques such as elaborately woven sweetgrass baskets. If you’ve ever visited the famous outdoor Market in Charleston, you’ve likely seen these baskets being made on-site. But a bus trip with a Gullah-speaking host will take you to the remote sea-island outposts associated with these history-shaping Charlestonians.
Travel time: 4 hours
• Old Salem is located in Winston-Salem. Visitors Center hours are Monday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Sunday 12:30-5:30 p.m. For more information, call (888) 653-7253 or visit www.oldsalem.org.
• The North Carolina Museum of Art is located at 2110 Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Open to 9 p.m. Jan. 6, 7, 13 and 14. Tickets are $12/general, $9/seniors and students. For more information, call (919) 839-6262 or visit www.ncartmuseum.org.
• Find The High Museum at 1280 Peachtree St. NE in Atlanta. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., open to 9 p.m. the first Thursday of the month. For more information, call (404) 733-HIGH or visit www.high.org.
• Gullah Tours in Charleston, S.C.: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and Saturdays at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Tickets are $12-$17. Info: (843) 763-7551 or www.gullahtours.com.