Christmas in Northern Virginia: Parades, Tree Lightings, & More

Those who will be spending the holiday season in Northern Virginia will be treated to Christmas tree lighting ceremonies, parades, visits with Santa, lively community sing-alongs, historic homes adorned with holiday décor, and more. These charming settlements on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., offer a small-town alternative to big-city festivities. You wouldn't want to wrap up a trip to the capital before stopping by Northern Virginia's Christmas attractions.

Please note some of these events have been altered or canceled for 2020, so check below and event websites for details.

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Experience 18th-Century Christmas at Colonial Williamsburg

Christmas Horse Carriage


Kirkikis / Getty Images 

Colonial Williamsburg, known as one of the world's largest living history museums, teleports visitors to the 18th century. The 300-acre estate and its numerous restored buildings, 88 of which are originals, provide a backdrop for over the top light displays and other holiday decorations. Beating drums, trilling fifes, firework displays, theatrical programs, and interpretive characters make visitors feel like they're living in colonial times.

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Have an Old-Timey Holiday in Old Town Alexandria


Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association

In 2020, the City of Alexandria's Tree Lighting Ceremony will take place virtually. The Campagna Center's Scottish Christmas Walk Parade and the Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights are canceled.

Throughout the holiday season, the City of Alexandria hosts events such as the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony, the Campagna Center's Scottish Christmas Walk Parade weekend, the Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights, candlelight tours, and a variety of holiday concerts. The brick sidewalks and colorful shops in Old Town make for a festive setting for Christmas gift shopping, too.

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Marvel at Holiday Lights at George Washington's Estate

Mount Vernon Prepares For Christmas


Joe Raedle / Staff / Getty Images 

If it's an authentic old-fashioned holiday experience you're looking for, Mount Vernon might be the place. Here on the banks of the Potomac River is where George and Martha Washington once laid their heads. The picturesque white mansion and surrounding estate is a major D.C.-area tourist attraction and Christmas is its real time to shine.

In 2020, you can buy a ticket for the Winter Glow event on select December dates. Enjoy soft holiday lights, an 18th-century winter encampment, Christmas carols, shopping for items made by artisans, food and drinks for purchase, and more. Mount Vernon also offers a Christmas meal to go; you can pick the food up at the curb on December 23. The estate is open on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

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Get Into the Spirit at Busch Gardens

In this photo providedPeople dressed as the Christmas Town elves ride Busch Gardens' Alpengeist rollercoaster (Photo by Scott K. Brown/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via Getty Images)

Handout / Handout / Getty Images 

Fans of light displays can take the family to see one of the largest in North America, located in Williamsburg, Virginia. The Busch Gardens amusement park is transformed into a wonderland at the Christmas Celebration through early January 3, 2021. This immersive holiday experience offers one-of-a-kind shopping and dining opportunities, 15 coasters and rides, shows, a Gingerbread Scavenger Hunt, trees, holiday décor in eight European villages, and more.

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Tour the Lights at Bull Run

Bull Run Christmas Lights

Courtesy of Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority

The Bull Run Festival of Lights—located at Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville—has extended its dates this season, running from November 6, 2020, through January 10, 2021. You can drive through 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) of lighting displays: penguins, snowmen, deer, candy canes, Santa Claus, and the works. After the drive, the Winter Wonderland Holiday Village usually offers amusement rides, ice skating, shopping, and Christmas treats to munch on, but in 2020, these activities are canceled. The light festival is a popular drive for much of the season, but is most crowded on weekends and the week before and after Christmas.

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Celebrate in Old Town Manassas

If you're in the neighborhood of Manassas, you'll get your holiday fix at various celebrations. Free charming carriage rides start at the Historic Manassas Visitor’s Center and go through the historic downtown. The rides take place on select December dates from 1 to 4 p.m. Families may also enjoy storytelling with Mrs. Santa Claus, a ticketed event through December 20, 2020, featuring stories from around the world.

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Eat S'mores and Drink Cider in Downtown Fairfax

The 2020 Fairfax Festival of Lights and Carols will be virtual, featuring a tree lighting, Santa Claus, and city government officials.

The kids will love having lunch with Santa at the Fairfax Festival of Lights and Carols in early December. A crackling yule log provides a perfect opportunity for toasting marshmallows for s'mores. Wash that down with a hot cider while you marvel at the artistic creations of local ice sculptors. There will be face painting for the children, caroling, and a Christmas tree lighting, right in Old Town Square.

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Sip on Tea at a Mansion

In Leesburg, Virginia, the 360-acre Oatlands Historic House and Gardens estate comes alive with historic and handcrafted decorations, shopping, and weekend theater dinner shows by Stage Coach Theatre Company. Guests can also enjoy afternoon tea on many December days, devouring scones, desserts, and sandwiches for the holidays. Visitors can find the perfect gift at the Oatlands gift shop, and explore the formal terraced garden, which is beautiful in every season. The mansion is open daily through December 31, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Line Up for the McLean Winterfest Parade

The community of McLean, Virginia, celebrates the holiday season with its one and only McLean Winterfest community parade in early December. The 2020 event marks the 12th year of the festivities held in honor of local residents, churches, businesses, nonprofits, and others. The parade route runs along Chain Bridge Road beginning at Fleetwood Road and ending at Elm Street.

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Do Your Holiday Shopping in Leesburg

For 2020, the Holiday Fine Arts and Crafts Show will be held outdoors at Freedom Park and the Christmas and Holiday Parade Glitter and Glow will be a drive-through event. The Jingle Jam concerts have been canceled.

Pick out a meaningful gift for a friend this year at the Holiday Fine Arts and Crafts Show in the historic town of Leesburg. This fair features stalls from nearly 30 different artists, selling wooden trinkets, linens, jewelry, hand-dipped candles, and other homemade goods. After the market is over, the Christmas and Holiday Parade Glitter and Glow takes place, along with a day of holiday-themed Jingle Jam rock concerts.

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Join Jingle on Lake Anne

Jingle on Lake Anne was canceled in 2020.

Lake Anne, also located in Reston, celebrates the holidays with an annual Jingle that involves live music courtesy of local school choirs and orchestras, kid-friendly ornament making, a craft market, cookie decorating, caroling, and more. At this gathering, Santa traditionally makes his grand entrance via a barge or paddleboard. It's free and takes place in early December.

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See Giant Balloons in Reston

This Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting event was canceled for 2020.

The Reston Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting is this Northern Virginia community's version of New York City's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. On the Friday after Thanksgiving every year, the town has car-sized balloons going through the town center, then tree trimmings after the sun goes down. The center also has holiday entertainment, carriage rides, ice skating, and mini train rides.

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Mingle With Hounds and Horses in Middleburg

Christmas in Middleburg was canceled for 2020.

Middleburg is a fun place to explore, with over 150 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The town's idea of a Christmas Parade involves fewer balloons and more hounds and horses. There are more furry critters than floats at this one-of-a-kind procession—over 100 of them in total, to be exact. The celebration typically takes place the weekend after Thanksgiving and there's a breakfast with Santa, a craft fair, and a hot chocolate warm-up before the afternoon parade. Afterward, the local pubs open their doors for wine tastings, ciders, and bites all evening long.

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