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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
9. Seasonal Shopping Along Enchanting Streetscapes
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
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
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
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.