Christmas vacation: mid-lantic cheapskate empty-nest MY TURN version
October 11, 2018 7:43 AM   Subscribe

Where should we go for Christmas?

My nest is finally empty and while that is mostly a good thing, it's not without complications and this Christmas is going to be rough for me emotionally. I would like to plan a road trip that helps me mark and celebrate the switch from "mom" to "my turn" during these post-child/pre-grandchild years. Can you help me?

On the trip will be me and my wonderful partner and potentially a random assortment of my 2 grown sons and his 3 grown sons - everyone gets along fine but we're not looking for an all-inclusive cruise or family resort type of experience. Partner and I can take as much time as we want; we will drive separately from others, who will come and go as their work schedules/social lives/other family trips allow.

What I'm looking for:
- Driving distance from Roanoke VA, 6 hours max one way
- Something fun/interesting/useful to do or learn - museums, snowshoeing, turtle hatching, scuba diving, bat-house building, ballroom dancing, moonshining
- Something family members can easily opt in to/out of
What I'm not looking for:
- DC/Baltimore/Asheville/western NC/Charleston - these are places we go at other times during the year
- Shopping or anything really Christmassy (midtown Manhattan is out)
- Solitude, although that's usually a plus - no closed-for-the-season beaches
- Holiday volunteering - happy to volunteer with something local wherever we go, I don't want to make that the purpose of the trip
- Tears (I'll be bringing enough of them with me, so no holiday parades/movies/concerts)
Any kind of lodging is fine - hotel, resort (for the activities - pampering is not a goal), airbnb, regular b&b, yurt... and any setting is fine too - beach, mountains, city, town - as long as there's something going on.

Where should we go? Pittsburgh? Nashville? Wilmington? Philadelphia? And what should we do when we get there?
posted by headnsouth to Travel & Transportation around Woburn, MA (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I have no idea why this is categorized as travel near Woburn, MA. We are looking at the mid-Atlantic region/southeastern U.S.
posted by headnsouth at 8:10 AM on October 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you give me enough time, I could easily plan an entire itinerary for you in Pittsburgh. But I'm biased.

To start - Phipps Conservatory has it's winter flower show. It's lovely, and the past few years the weather has been nice enough to enjoy the outdoor gardens in light coats. *knock wood*

In the same neighborhood is the Cathedral of Learning, which is home to the Nationality Rooms. I know you're not super into holiday whoo-ha, but they decorate each of the rooms for the seasonal national holidays, and Ive learned quite a bit there.

Bonus points for both of those activities, being the holiday break, it won't be over-run with college students. Also in that neighborhood (like all three of these things are walking distance from each other) is the main Carnegie Museum, which houses the art, natural history, and main library branch. I believe this weekend kicks off the annual Carnegie International exhibit, which is honestly, so worth the visit. Also at some point in December, they'll do a room of holiday trees, but they always have crazy themes - like one year it was Andrew Carnegie and the trees were in alternating versions, hilarious (political cartoons about him), terrifying (Scottish folklore), and awesome.
posted by librarianamy at 8:42 AM on October 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Ok, I'm back.

The Gateway Clipper offers three weekend sightseeing cruises. They also do dinner cruises, but those are more like proms on a boat with a buffet. The sightseeing cruises are actually informational.

I would recommend the Grand Concourse for your Christmas meal. There is a definite love/hate relationship for it as a restaurant among foodies, but I think the venue is gorgeous, it gives you a chance to get dressed up, and it's a nice piece of Pittsburgh history. Also, most importantly, open on Christmas day.

If you like architecture, there are five(?) Frank Lloyd Wright houses open to tour about an hour south of the city. Fallingwater of course, and then three at Polymath Park (try to do dinner there too), and Kentuck Knob (my favorite). If you plan enough in advance, you can also stay in one of them at Polymath Park, which would be a nice romantic overnight for just the two of you. I believe last season they also did sleigh rides around the property. (That area is a lovely mountainous side trip unto itself, honestly. If you're hikers it's gorgeous down there.)

The Carnegie Science Center is "family friendly" but it also has a very nice miniature railroad exhibit that I truly adore at the holidays. It's modeled very loosely on old Pittsburgh, and the volunteers there are all gems to talk to if that's your sort of nerdery.

There's also the Warhol of course. And if you like hockey, the Penguins are in town vs Detroit on the 27th.

This is all very broad brush tourist stuff though. If you let me know your specific areas of interest (trolley museum? Bicycle museum? Earliest signs of human habitation? Mister Rogers' Sweater? I mean, lord if you ask me what kind of food to eat, I can give you a whole other entry.)

Ok, I'm going to give other cities a chance to chime in. I hope you enjoy your trip where ever you go. :)
posted by librarianamy at 9:48 AM on October 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Pittsburgh is great around Christmas when all the universities are on break (I mean, the weather probably will suck, but that's a given). Some of the international students and grad students stick around but the urban neighborhoods around the campuses are basically a city with amenities for many more people than are actually around.

librarianamy has made some excellent suggestions. I'd also suggest visiting the Strip District (wholesale and ethnic food district) the Saturday or Sunday closest to Christmas Eve. It's wild. The Feast of Seven Fishes is still a thing that Italian families attempt to do at Christmas and they're all at Penn Mac buying baccala before Christmas Eve. Last time I was out doing my own shopping close to Christmas, Penn Mac had opened up their (atrocious) homebrew plonk wine barrels and anyone could just help themselves. (Don't tell the liquor control board.)

Pittsburgh also has incredible Catholic churches [previously] if you're interested in attending something like a Midnight Mass. Lots of Orthodox churches too but that's a different liturgical calendar.

The Squirrel Hill neighborhood is a good place to go if you don't want to celebrate Christmas on Christmas, as it has large Jewish and Chinese populations and stuff is open on Christmas day.

Other things to do: Ice skating either at Schenley Park or PPG Place downtown, take a short road trip to the Laurel Highlands* (it's about 90 minutes on the interstate) if the weather is good to see Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, and if you stick around for New Year's, there's a big Hoohah downtown for that.

*If you go out to the Laurel Highlands I would also like to hip you to the spa at the Omni Bedford Springs Resort which has day passes to their spring-fed wet areas (sauna, hot pool, cold plunge, all the chilled and scented facecloths you could ever hope for--it's bliss) and I hiiiiighly recommend it for some serious me-time.
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:36 AM on October 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hmm .. Raleigh durham chapel hill? Does that count as western nc? There's museums affiliated with the colleges , the duke *lemur* center, and great food and etc etc etc. Or, williamsburg and yorktown? Or if you want a beach experience, va beach/norfolk/hampton roads in the off season, with a day trip to Williamsburg and/or the Chrysler museum in norfolk and/or the mariners museum in newport news?. Or Charlottesville? Before i saw the 6 hr radius I was going to suggest Rehoboth but thats a bit far i think for you from Roanoake..
posted by elgee at 11:21 PM on October 11, 2018

Response by poster: It has been decided. We are going to Pittsburgh. We found an airbnb near Randyland and are building the itinerary now. Thanks guys!
posted by headnsouth at 2:02 PM on November 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

« Older Tips & Tricks: Italy   |   Essay about caring for the audience in performance... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.