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Your Guide to Holiday Parade Day in Alexandria 2023

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Minutes from D.C., Alexandria, Virginia’s Biggest Holiday Weekend takes place December 1-3, 2023, with the city’s two signature parades occurring on Saturday, December 2. Spend the day in Alexandria and attend the 52nd Annual Alexandria Scottish Christmas Walk Parade sponsored by Wegmans at 11 a.m. and the 23rd Annual Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights sponsored by Amazon at 5:30 p.m. with riverside festivities starting at 1 p.m. From transportation tips to where to refuel to all the happenings between parades, keep reading for the details you need to spend a magically festive day in Alexandria.

Both parades will occur rain or shine. Text “ALXEVENTS” to 888777 to receive event updates.

Getting Here and Getting Around

Based on anticipated attendance, arriving early and using public transportation and alternative modes of transportation are highly encouraged. Transportation options include Metrorail (blue and yellow lines) from the King Street station, water taxiCapital Bikeshare, taxi and free DASH buses, which run from 6 a.m. to midnight. Throughout Saturday, the free King Street Trolley (11 a.m. to 11 p.m.) will run a modified route from the King Street Metro to the Lyceum (201 S. Washington St) and back until 10 p.m.

If you do drive, plan to park a fair distance from the parade locations. Find a map of garages on the City of Alexandria’s parking page and avoid driving in the parade zone. $5 parking is offered from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. at 44 Canal Center, courtesy of Canal Center Plaza.

Find additional details on road closures and the community impact around Scottish Walk and the Boat Parade.

Plus, make a weekend of it with special holiday hotel packages.

Pre-Parade Fueling

Pictured: Chadwicks; Image Credit: Scott Suchman for Visit Alexandria

Before the fun begins, grab breakfast at Chadwicks, Table TalkLaporta’s, Hummingbird, Hen Quarter or one of Alexandria’s popular brunch spots. For a quick grab-and-go option, pick up a fresh pastry and hot drink to-go from the Old Town Farmers’ Market, located steps from the Scottish Christmas Walk Parade. Select vendors will stay after the parade ends and into the afternoon.

52nd Annual Alexandria Scottish Christmas Walk Parade sponsored by Wegmans

 

The city celebrates its Scottish heritage with the iconic 52nd Annual Alexandria Scottish Christmas Walk Parade beginning at 11 a.m. 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, community groups as well as terriers and hounds and more.

Bring a pop-up chair to enjoy the parade from anywhere along the mile-long route through Old Town; just be sure not to block sidewalks, streets and residences. While we love furry friends, they may be more comfortable at home given the high volume of attendees and dogs participating in the parade.

Dining Between Parades

 

For dining post-Scottish Christmas Walk Parade, we recommend making a reservation to guarantee you’ll be seated during a busy day or else enjoying a fast casual meal. Try Old Town restaurants slightly off the beaten path of the parade, but within walking distance, like Eddie’s Little Shop & Deli, The Italian PlaceSouthside 815 or Sisters Thai. Or, warm up with a latte from Misha’s Coffee, ESP Tea & Coffee or Turkish Coffee Lady.

Can’t-Miss Afternoon Events

Image Credit: Evan Michio for Visit Alexandria

After the morning parade and re-fueling, squeeze in some holiday shopping as you pick up stocking stuffers from The Old Town ShopKing Street Souvenirs and Bellacara.

Then, check out the pre-Boat Parade programming, including the following:

Canal Center at Old Town North Waterfront

Alexandria City Marina (0 Cameron St.)

  • Holiday Festival at Torpedo Factory Art Center (2 to 6 p.m., 105 N. Union St.)
  • Santa arrives by fireboat at the Alexandria City Marina (3:30 p.m., 0 Cameron St.)
  • Video light projection by Monica Stroik, in collaboration with artists from the Art Center, on the waterfront façade of the Torpedo Factory (Dusk to 8 p.m.)

Waterfront Park (1A Prince St.)

  • Activities (1 to 5:30 p.m., 1 King Street)
    • Get creative with ornament and watercolor holiday cardmaking with Shop Made in VA, write postcards to Santa with Penny Post, craft holiday ornaments with AR Workshop Alexandria and design a children’s bracelet with Pippin Toy Co. Plus, shop sustainable gifts from Ten Thousand Villages at ALX Dog Walk‘s plastic-free pop-up. Holiday music from 97.1 WASH-FM will deliver a festive atmosphere all day, and their street team will round out the Waterfront Park experience with giveaways from 3 to 5 pm.

23rd Annual Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights Sponsored by Amazon

 

At 5:30, more than 50 brightly lit boats will cruise along Old Town Alexandria’s Potomac River shoreline during the 23rd Annual Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights sponsored by Amazon.

 

Transportation Tips:

  • Be sure to arrive as early as possible to minimize delays due to traffic or crowds.
  • Leave your car behind and travel via Metrorail (blue line to King Street Metro), bus, Lyft, Uber, taxi, Capital Bikeshare and more.
  • Note that parking garages closest to the waterfront fill up in advance of the event, and new traffic patterns and street closures near the waterfront go into effect at around 3 pm.
  • The following garages in Old Town North will offer $5 parking from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
    • 44 Canal Center, courtesy of Canal Center Plaza
    • 1033 N. Fairfax Street
  • Check out more transportation and parking information.

Viewing Vantage Points:

The parade route stretches for one mile along Old Town Alexandria’s waterfront. The Old Town North Waterfront offers the first glimpse of boats before they cruise to the Alexandria City Marina/ Waterfront Park and continue south to end at Ford’s Landing Park near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. The parade begins at 5:30 p.m., and its duration can vary from 30 minutes to one hour.

Please note there is limited visibility within the Alexandria City Marina (0 Cameron St.) while the following parks offer a more comfortable, less crowded viewing experience. Below are suggested parade viewing areas:

Extend the Evening

Pictured: Kismet Modern Indian; Image Credit: Scott Suchman for Visit Alexandria

Keep the fun going and clink glasses with a reservation for drinks or mocktails at King & RyeKismet Modern Indian or Brabo Brasserie. Or, warm up with an elevated dining experience at Elaine’s, Josephine or Oak Steakhouse.

Text “ALXEVENTS” to 888777 to receive event updates.

Discover everything Alexandria has to offer this holiday season.

Header Image Credits: Matt Chenet for Visit Alexandria (left); Evan Michio for Visit Alexandria (center and right)

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