Virginia is a bounty of history as the birthplace of our forefathers. It’s also full of fun and festivities during the holiday season. With easy access to the interstate, areas like Williamsburg, D.C., and Richmond are within an hour or two drive and provide ample opportunities to explore and take in the history of the area with all the holiday feels. Here are the nine places to make sure you put on your Northern Virginia bucket list for the winter season.
Top Nine Northern Virginia Winter Bucket List Spots
- National Museum of the Marine Corps (NMMC) — Year-round this museum is the place to be. With free admission, you can make multiple visits, explore, and enjoy the exhibits that are both kid-friendly and thought-provoking. The NMMC Kids monthly programs are themed and primed for education and fun. During the holidays, there are specific holiday events, including music, kid-friendly events, and even a visit from Santa (with a free photo)! Check your calendars twice to make sure you visit the NMMC during winter break.
- Mount Vernon — The home of our first president is all decked out for the holidays from Nov. 23 to Dec. 31. Daytime and evening programs abound with re-enactors dressed in traditional garb and music. Cooking demonstrations and special tours occur during the day. George Washington had a camel to entertain his guests in 1787, and Aladdin the Christmas Camel, is on the grounds representing this part of holiday history. During evening candlelight tours, Martha Washington welcomes you into the home and shares tales of the season. This unique experience is only available at Mount Vernon and is sure to be one remembered for many years to come.
- Busch Gardens Williamsburg — Busch Gardens becomes Christmastown from Nov. 17 to Jan. 5. If you grew up watching the holiday claymations and want to relive them with your family, make sure to head down to this theme park in Williamsburg. The light displays through the park coupled with the holiday music are sure to bring visions of sugar plums to all who attend. Rudolph, Clarice, Bumble, and Yukon Cornelius are visiting from the North Pole with the big man (ahem, Santa) and are ready for photos! Riding the Christmas Train with a cup of cocoa should not be missed.
- ICE at the Gaylord National — The ICE theme changes every year, but the magnanimous display of carved ice doesn’t. Running from Nov. 16, 2018 to Jan. 1, 2019, A Charlie Brown Christmas comes to life in 2 million pounds of ice. ITT on military bases local to the National Capital Region typically get tickets, and a military discount is also offered online (with showing your military ID at the ICE entrance). You will be provided coats to bundle up with when going in to explore the ice because the display area is a chilling 9 degrees Fahrenheit. Bonus: Slide down the two-story ice slides.
- United States Botanical Garden — The conservatory becomes dressed to the nines in holiday gear from Thanksgiving to Jan. 1. Decorated trees and poinsettias line the gallery with all the beauty and scents of the holidays. Don’t miss our favorite: the amazing train display with gorgeous details. The conservatory is well-heated, so, while you need the winter gear when first arriving, you can shed the layers once inside and enjoy the botanical scenes.
- Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens — This warm and inviting garden in Richmond, Virginia is illuminated and filled with holiday cheer starting in November. Nightly Nov. 23, 2018 to Jan. 7, 2019, the Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights fills the evening with twinkling light displays and awe-inspiring decorations. Be sure to check out the model train displays inside and the children’s garden outside — the maze entertains little ones and adults alike.
- National Christmas Tree — From the first week of December (although the official lighting ceremonies occur Nov. 28, 2018), the National Tree lights up the grounds in front of the White House. Along with the tree is the Pathway of Peace (which is free and open to the general public) — a trail that takes you through Christmas trees representing the 50 states and territories. If you’re in the area, it’s something to cross off the bucket list. While there, check out the holiday decorations at the White House through the gate across the street. Tickets to attend the lighting ceremony are awarded through a lottery, so be sure to start checking the National Parks page in October of the year you want to attend.
- Colonial Williamsburg — Williamsburg was the hub of colonial politics and development of the United States. Experience a Colonial Christmas in historic Colonial Williamsburg, walking around Duke of Gloucester (aka DOG) Street, admiring the decorations of the colonial period, including wreaths, boughs of holly and evergreen, and the nostalgic scents of gingerbread and warm apple cider. Be sure to check in with the Raleigh Tavern bakery for their baking schedule to know when to snag a gingerbread cookie made with the traditional recipe hot out of the wood-burning oven — trust us on this.
- Bull Run Festival of Lights and Holiday Village — Based in Centreville, Virgina, this nightly light spectacle is open in the evenings from Nov. 21, 2018 until Jan. 6, 2019. The nearly three-mile drive through spectacular lights is sure to fill you with holiday spirit. After the drive, check out the holiday village to meet Santa, enjoy hot cocoa, or check out rides. The cost ranges from $20 to $25, depending on the day, but there is a $5-off coupon for certain nights.
The National Capital Region is a bounty of holiday cheer and jingle bells. With all these outings, everyone is sure to be resting in their beds without any stirring at the end of winter break.
The struggle between baking cookies every day and continuing to go to work is real. Try our tips for covering child care during winter break.
Photo Credits: Heather Walsh