Top Things to Do in Alexandria This Holiday Season

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Experience holiday magic on historic streets in Alexandria, Virginia, located just minutes from Washington, D.C. Recognized by Oprah Daily as one of the Most Charming Christmas Towns and Villages Across the World in 2021, Alexandria transports visitors with an old fashioned sense of holiday wonder on Old Town’s centuries-old brick-lined streets, twinkling with holiday traditions and magical events. From the return of the Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights sponsored by Amazon, Campagna Center’s 50th Anniversary Scottish Christmas Walk Parade and other signature holiday events to al fresco holiday markets to explore, keep reading to see our top reasons to visit Alexandria this holiday season.

Don’t forget to plan a New Year’s Day brunch for a luxurious start to 2022.

There’s even more holiday magic to experience in Alexandria. Discover more reasons to visit this season.

1. Holiday Magic Along Historic King Street

Image Credit: Misha Enriquez for Visit Alexandria

In historic Old Town Alexandria, twinkling lights shine in the trees above brick-lined streets and dozens of independent boutiques welcome you with greenery at their doorsteps. Take a stroll down King Street and be transported into a real-life Dickens Village as you pass lantern-lit doorways and pop into buzzing shops and eateries. On November 20, 2021, see the city sparkle during the annual Tree Lighting in front of City Hall, with a welcome by the Town Crier, musical performances and an appearance from Santa and Mrs. Claus.

2. 50th Anniversary Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend & Parade

Image Credit: Rusty Kennedy for Visit Alexandria

Join the revelry of Alexandria’s biggest holiday weekend with the Campagna Center’s 50th Anniversary Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend & Parade December 3 to 5, 2021. The weekend kicks off on Friday evening with the Taste of Scotland Scotch Tasting in the newly renovated Atrium Building. The parade takes place on Saturday at 11 a.m., with dozens of Scottish clans dressed in colorful tartans parade through the streets of Old Town, joined by pipe and drum bands from around the region, as well as terriers and hounds. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) will serve as the Grand Marshal of the parade this year.

3. 21st Annual Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights Sponsored by Amazon

Image Credit: Evan Michio for Visit Alexandria

On the same day as the Campagna Center’s Scottish Christmas Walk Parade during Alexandria’s biggest holiday weekend, Old Town Alexandria’s waterfront will shine for the Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights sponsored by Amazon on December 4, 2021, at 5:30 p.m. as dozens of brightly lit boats cruise along one mile of the Potomac River shoreline. Enjoy dockside festivities from 2 to 8 p.m. in Waterfront Park including a pop-up beer garden from Port City Brewing Company, a hot chocolate bar from Dolci Gelati and gourmet popcorn from America’s Favorite Gourmet Popcorn and savory bites from Mae’s Market and Café. Families will also enjoy hands-on activities from locally owned shops Penny Post and AR Workshop. For the best views and to avoid crowds, parade-goers are encouraged to spread out along one mile of viewing areas stretching from Founders Park to Ford’s Landing Park.

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Alexandria Health Department recommends that masks are worn during outdoor public gatherings where conditions are crowded and close contact cannot be avoided, regardless of vaccination status.

4. Christmas at Mount Vernon

Image Credit: George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Holiday programs and tours fill each day with delight at George Washington’s Mount Vernon from November 26 through December 2021. Visitors can tour the mansion, meet Aladdin the Christmas camel, watch chocolate-making celebrations and pick up gifts at the Shops at Mount Vernon.

During Mount Vernon by Candlelight, visit with Mrs. Washington and other 18th-century residents of Mount Vernon during a 45-minute candlelit tour of the Mount Vernon estate, followed by a reception complete with live music, cider and treats. Experience Mount Vernon by Candlelight on November 26 and 27, December 3, 4, 10, 11 and 19.

Then, continue celebrating the holiday season with sparkling fireworks overlooking the Potomac River. During Christmas Illuminations on December 17 and 18, 2021. Tour the Mansion to learn about holiday celebrations during Washington’s time with live 18th-century music. Browse the winter market for colonial crafts and wares, visit Aladdin the Christmas camel and much more.

5. Open-Air Holiday Markets

Image Credit: The Carlyle Council

Bundle up, grab a hot drink and peruse Alexandria’s al fresco holiday markets for the perfect gifts or treats to take home. During Port City Brewing Company’s Hometown Holidays market on Small Business Saturday, November 27, 2021, browse 30 Alexandria-based makers spread out across the brewery’s parking lot, and sip while you shop.

On December 11, enjoy a Christmas Market and Holiday Craft Show at John Carlyle Square with more than 80 artisans and crafters, a Christmas carols show and an Elves’ Shop where little ones can create a customized Christmas ornament. That same day, the holiday edition of the Del Ray Vintage & Flea Market hosts more than 50 vendors offering vintage, antique, thrift and artisan goods at two open-air lots, with free appraisals plus bakery and coffee booths. During the first three weekends of December, browse Del Ray Artisans’ 26th Annual Fine Art & Fine Craft Holiday Market for unique handmade fine arts and crafts from local artists.

Explore Old Town North’s festive, European-style holiday markets on December 5, 12 and 19, for hand-crafted gift items and specialty food items. Saturdays and Sundays throughout the season through December 19, Torpedo Factory Art Center’s Waterfront Art Market features a rotating lineup of the Art Center’s studio artists. Find paintings, photographs, jewelry and wearables, then step inside to browse the three floors of the Art Center for even more original art for purchase.

6. Experience Maritime Merriment

Image Credit: Nick Eckert

Update as of December 22, 2021:Unfortunately, due to mounting health and public safety concerns, Waterskiing Santa has been cancelled.

On December 11, 12, 18 and 19, 2021, children can come aboard tall ship Providence, a reproduction of the first ship authorized to serve in the Continental Navy, for a Christmas-themed story time. Then, Waterskiing Santa returns for its 36th year on December 24, 2021, at 1 p.m. Gather along historic Alexandria’s Potomac River waterfront for a spectacular show by Santa and his merry crew. The prime viewing area is Waterfront Park (1A Prince St.), with more great views from the Alexandria City Marina (0 Cameron St.), Founders Park (351 N. Union St.), and Point Lumley Park (1 Duke St.). Come early to see Santa during the pre-show on jet skis.

7. Be Immersed in Ice & Lights: The Winter Village at Cameron Run

Image Credit: J. Weilepp Photography for Visit Alexandria

Ice and Lights: The Winter Village at Cameron Run will return this year, featuring an ice rink, multiple new holiday light displays perfect for Instagramming, a retail area, food, music and more. Ice & Lights is open nightly from November 19, 2021 to January 2, 2022, and then for skating only on weekends from January 8-February 27, 2022.

8. Historic Holiday Events

Image Credit: Lee-Fendall House
 

Step back in time for a seasonal celebration at some of Alexandria’s centuries-old sites, in addition to Mount Vernon. At Fort Ward’s Civil War Christmas in Camp on December 11, 2021, you’ll find a patriotic Union Santa Claus, reenactors in winter camps celebrating the season, period decorations, fort tours and children’s activities. On December 11, partake in A Victorian Christmas at Lee-Fendall House, complete with traditional décor, music, seasonal crafts, a visit with Santa, a toy exhibit and more.

At Carlyle House, you can attend the Scottish Walk Open House after the parade on December 4, experience Colonial Holiday Nights on December 10 and 11 and learn about the holiday traditions when the Mansion House Hotel was being used as a hospital during Civil War Christmas at Carlyle House on December 17 and 18.

9. Seasonal Shopping Along Enchanting Streetscapes

Image Credit: Kristian Summerer for Visit Alexandria

For a mood-boosting and merry-making holiday shopping experience, stroll Old Town’s enchanting King Street Mile, the largest collection of independent boutiques in the D.C. region. Step inside local shops charmingly decorated for the season and offering curated selections of stationery, vintage barware, sustainable fashion and more. From November 26 to December 2, 2021, experience Alexandria’s biggest shopping week of the year, the second annual Alexandria Shop Small Week, kicking off with Plaid Friday: Alexandria’s Small Business Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. Enjoy 7 days of deals and happenings including Museum Store Sunday, a small business Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, an “Alexandria Shop and Stay giveaway” on Wednesday and a new Moonlight Merriment event on Thursday.

10. Festive Concerts and Shows

Image Credit: The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Get ready to give a standing ovation when you see a live show and support the city’s performing arts groups. Catch Alexandria Symphony Orchestra in concert with “Home for the Holidays” performances on December 17 and 19, 2021, and attend Little Theatre of Alexandria’s heartwarming annual adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” from December 3 to 18.

Check out the Alexandria Choral Society’s Snow Globe Concert series with pop-up performances throughout the season, beginning with a kick-off show at Carlyle House on November 20. Get spirited away by the sugar plum fairies during the Metropolitan School of the Arts’ presentation of “The Nutcracker” on December 4 and 5. Then sing your heart out (beneath a mask!) alongside the Alexandria Citizens Band during the group’s 5th Annual Holiday Sing-Along on December 10.

11. Del Ray Revelry

Image Credit: Instagram User @diydelray (left); Courtesy of Del Ray Business Association (right)

During the holidays, Del Ray’s made-for-strolling Mount Vernon Avenue is even merrier than usual. Work up an appetite for Thanksgiving supper with the 46th Annual Turkey Trot on November 25, 2021. Two days later, on Small Business Saturday, find special giveaways and surprises during the Del Ray Shop Small Crawl. On December 5, see the annual Holiday Tree and Menorah Lighting. Continue the celebration with a stroll down Mount Vernon Avenue, which will be illuminated by thousands of luminarias and feature storefront windows hand-painted for the holidays. Complete a scavenger hunt of the painted windows for the chance to win gift cards to your favorite small businesses in Del Ray.

On December 9, participate in the Shops of Del Ray’s Holiday Sip & Shop and enjoy special promotions and complimentary wine and refreshments. At the 6th Annual Candy Cane Bar Crawl on December 11, take a break from the bustle of holiday preparations and enjoy specialty drinks and delights at Del Ray restaurants during a neighborhood bar crawl to benefit Neighborhood Health. Enjoy holiday costume contests for individuals and groups, raffle prizes and live music. Trolley transportation will be provided along the avenue. Naomi L. Brooks Elementary students will sing holiday songs in and around Pat Miller Square at 10:30 a.m. and 12 p.m. From December 8 to 19, find self-care tips and special promotions during the Twelve Days of Wellness in Del Ray.

12. Warm Up with Winter-Proof Outdoor Dining

Image Credit: Cameron Davidson for Visit Alexandria

Eager to dine al fresco but worried about dropping temperatures? Warm back up with heaters, firepits and a festive ambience outside Alexandria eateries. Raise a glass of moonshine with a gourmet grilled cheese at Hops N Shine’s back patio, complete with heat lamps, fire pits and string lights, or try Belgian ales from Augie’s Mussel House. For an elevated experience, sit by the heaters and warm up with wine from Bistro Sancerre’s extensive menu, poured alongside mouthwatering dry-aged ribeye. Taverna Cretekou’s lush hidden garden casts a spell with its sparkling lights, cozy heat lamps and exquisite Greek plates, while Urbano 116 offers a festive and toasty setting to savor sauce-drenched enchiladas. In Carlyle, try a luxurious outdoor brunch at Laporta’s, from seafood crepes to roasted pepper frittata, under a heated cover.

13. New Year’s Eve Fireworks and Festivities

Image Credit: J. Clifford for Alexandria

Usher in the new year with special chef-driven menus, a fireworks show over the river and more.

Update: Due to mounting public health concerns, First Night Alexandria activities have been cancelled, with the exception of the fireworks show which will occur as planned.

Experience First Night Alexandria’s fireworks show above the Potomac River. The midnight show will last for approximately 10 minutes. Visitors are encouraged to spread out among the viewing areas listed below, and wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status, if social distancing cannot be maintained.

Prime viewing locations:

Header Images Credits, left to right: Evan Michio for Visit Alexandria; Cedric Angeles; Matt Chenet for Visit Alexandria

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