December 2016 events bring holiday lights, parades, markets, and festivals to Northern Virginia for a month of holiday fun. You’ll also find interesting Civil War history at area parks, and fun fireworks to finish the year.
December 2016 Events in Northern Virginia
Christmas Tree Lighting, Mosaic District, Fairfax, December 1
Celebrate the holidays with the Christmas Tree Lighting at Mosaic District. The seasonal celebration includes an outdoor screening of Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas, storytelling sessions, free pedicab rides and selfie opportunities with Santa Claus. Free; 5:00 – 7:00 pm.
Merry Old Town: Christmas Tree Lighting, Manassas, Dec 2
Enjoy old-fashioned family fun at the “Merry Old Town” celebration in Old Town Manassas, beginning with holiday music, Santa’s arrival at the Manassas Depot on the VRE train, and the annual Christmas Tree Lighting. Free; 5:00 – 8:00.
Christmas in Middleburg, Middleburg, December 2 – 4
The Christmas in Middleburg event has been held during the first weekend in December for over 100 years. The highlight of the festivities is the “Hunt and Hounds Review” featuring hounds trotting down the main Washington Street alongside mounted fox hunt riders. Other activities include a greens sale, craft fair, caroling, a holiday concert, a traditional parade with floats and a progressive food/wine/cider/spirits tasting throughout town. Follow link for schedule details.
Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend, Alexandria, Dec 2 – 3
Old Town Alexandria hosts the annual Scottish Walk weekend, featuring tours of historic homes, a parade filled with hundreds of Scottish clansmen complete with bagpipes, the Torpedo Factory Holiday Festival, Holiday Parade of Boats, and more holiday fun.
Del Ray Fine Art & Craft Holiday Market, Alexandria, Dec 2-4, 9-11, 16-18
Del Ray Artisans’ annual Holiday Market offers unique handmade fine arts and crafts from local artists, and features different artists each weekend. Choose from wall art, pottery, photography, jewelry, glass, and more. The market is open Fridays 6:00 – 9:00; weekends 11:00 – 6:00.
Holiday Arts and Crafts Show, Audrey Moore Rec Ctr, Annandale, Dec 3 – 4
The annual show features over 120 area artisans plus door prizes throughout the day. You’ll find unique gifts for everyone including art, pottery, woodwork, quilts, and more at this juried show. Admission $2 (12 and under free). Saturday 9:00 – 4:00, Sunday 10:00 – 3:30.
Holiday Model Train Show, Fairfax Station Railroad Museum, Dec 3 – 4
The Annual Holiday Model Train Show features model trains of many sizes to delight train lovers of all ages. Even Santa himself drops in from time to time, and the “Train Doctor” is on hand to fix or advise on broken models. Gift Shop, snacks and drinks available. Admission is $5/$2 adults/children (members free). Saturday 10:00 – 5:00, Sunday 12:00 – 4:00.
Holiday House Tours, Sky Meadows State Park, Dec 3-4, 10-11, 17-18
Enjoy the aroma of holiday treats cooking over the hearth, costumed interpreters will tell stories of holidays past, and you’ll enjoy the sounds of the season from music in Mount Bleak House. Visit each of the houses in the park’s Historic Area and discover how the people who called Sky Meadows “home” celebrated the holidays in the past. $5.00 parking; 11:00 – 5:00
Burke Lake Winter Wonderland, Burke Lake Park, Dec 3-4, 10-11
Take a train ride on the Holiday Express, cruise on the U.S.S. Rudolph, take a spin on the Carolers Carousel, experience the Snowman’s Wagon Ride, play Gingerbread Man Golf or warm yourself by the fire and cook s’mores. Visit with Santa, enjoy hot chocolate and candy canes.. Passes are $15 until Dec 2, $20 day of event. Registration required, follow the link. 10:00 – 4:00.
Christmas Village at Leesburg Animal Park, Dec 3-4, 10-11, 17-18
Leesburg Animal Park in Loudoun celebrates December weekends with a nativity scene with live animals, pony rides, animal encounters, pictures with your furry friends, holiday crafts, a bonfire, holiday lights and more. $7.95, free two and under. 6:00 – 9:00 pm
Jingle on Lake Anne, Reston, December 3
Jingle on Lake Anne, is an annual holiday celebration for kids at Lake Anne Plaza in Reston. It includes a petting zoo, crafts, caroling, and a tree lighting, and the highlight every year—Santa’s thrilling arrival by boat. Be sure to stop in the Community Center to shop local at the 18th annual Gifts from the HeART exhibit. Farmers market begins at 8:00 AM; follow link for full schedule.
Children’s Holiday Shopping, Frying Pan Park, Dec 3
Children 3 to 14 can do their own gift shopping with the help of volunteers. The Country Store stocks many unique items in all price ranges. Free wrapping assures surprises for family and friends. Free; 10:00 – 1:45.
Clifton Holiday House Tour and Horse Parade, Clifton, Dec 3
Charming Clinton sparkles with spirit at the annual Holiday Horse Parade and costume judging. Visitors can also tour homes decorated for the holidays. Free; 2:00 – 7:00.
Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-A-Long, Vienna, Dec 3
One of our favorite family events of the season is the holiday sing-a-long at Wolf Trap, featuring the U. S. Marine Band and other vocal groups. The free event begins at 4:00, but arrive early as parking fills up. Bring an unwrapped toy to donate, a bell for the jingle bell sing-a-long, and a candle for the closing candlelight procession during the last verse of Silent Night. Free; 4:00.
Del Ray Christmas Tree Lighting, Alexandria, Dec 3
Live entertainment, a holiday sing-along, a visit with Santa, and thousands of luminaria add even more sparkle to the annual Christmas tree lighting in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood. Free; 6:00 pm.
Celebration of Lights, Great Falls, Dec 4
Celebrate the season at the annual Christmas tree lighting, featuring hot cider and cocoa next to the fire, local children’s choral groups sing seasonal music, a petting zoo and pony rides, and Mr. and Mrs. Claus arriving by antique fire truck. Free; 4:00 – 6:30
Christkindlmarket, Reston, Dec 8
The German Military in Reston transforms its parking lot into a traditional German Christmas Market with German food and beverages, arts and crafts, and mulled wine. All proceeds go to local charities, and traditional music adds to the fun. The event gets very busy, so arrive early if you can. Free; 4:00 – 9:00.
Christmastide at Gunston Hall, Mason Neck, Dec 10
Experience George Mason’s simple, unadorned Christmas in the 1780s, and Mr. Hertle’s glittering festivities in the 1920s.. Enjoy period music, holiday craft activities, 18th-century style fare, a Christmas carol sing-along, and a visit with Santa. $10/$5 adults/kids; 2:00 – 7:00.
Santa at the Mill at Colvin Run Mill, Dec 10
Visit Santa and see the Victorian-themed Christmas tree in the mill. Outside, join the costumed 49th Virginia Volunteer Infantry for caroling and marshmallow roasting around a bonfire. The fee also includes a family craft activity. $5; 3:00 – 6:00.
Occoquan Winterfest, Historic Occoquan, Dec 10
Visit Historic Occoquan during WinterFest and enjoy strolling carolers, musicians, fire pits, re-enactors, historic demonstrations and a fire truck. Stores will stay open late for holiday shoppers and visitors can watch a festive fireworks display from the riverfront in town or from Occoquan Regional Park. At the Workhouse Arts Center, enjoy the Second Saturday Art Walk featuring refreshments in the Holiday Lounge, fire pits for S’mores, and caroling from 6:00 – 9:00. Winterfest is free, fees for some activities; 3:00 – 9:00.
Christmas at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, Triangle, Dec 10 + 14
On Christmas Family Days (Dec 10 and 14), a very magical Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on hand to visit with little ones, along with activities to keep the young ones busy while they wait in line. Free; 2:30 – 4:30.
March of Prisoners: Revolutionary War Living History, Sky Meadows State Park, Dec 10
In 1781, British prisoners of war were marched through what is now Sky Meadows State Park following their surrender at Yorktown. Join the 2nd Virginia Regiment living historians as they demonstrate glimpses of military life during the American Revolution, as well as Christmas traditions of the 18th century, including cooking demonstrations in the Log Cabin. 10:00 – 4:00.
Civil War Christmas in Camp, Fort Ward, Alexandria, Dec 10
This interpretive holiday event features a Union patriotic Santa Claus, soldiers in winter camps, and a Victorian tree in the Museum. Visit the Officers’ Hut decorated for the season, and tour the historic fort with a soldier. Children can make a period holiday card or ornament. Suggested $2/$5 individual/family donation; 12:00 – 4:00.
Civil War by Candlelight, Sully Historic Site, Dec 10
Experience a Civil War Christmas as Confederate soldiers cook dinner in the field and fire the Christmas guns. Also enjoy live music and dance, a holiday craft, hot cider and cookies. $10; 5:00 – 8:00.
Closing Wassail, Claude Moore Colonial Farm, McLean Dec 11
Welcome winter hibernation 18th century style at the closing wassail event at Claude Moore Regional Park. Head to the orchards for music, singing and chants to encourage the orchid to bear well in the coming year. Enjoy hot spiced cider, sugarcanes, a bonfire and period games, and shop for holiday gifts. $3/$2 adults/children; 1:00 – 4:00.
A Very Merrifield Christmas, Mosaic District, Dec 11
A fun family festival with live music, holiday eats and drinks, kids’ crafts, face painting and more.
Christmas Illumination at Mount Vernon, Alexandria, Dec 16 – 17
Join Mount Vernon for an evening of family-friendly fun and fireworks choreographed to holiday music, with fireworks beginning around 9 p.m. Take a stroll through the estate while being serenaded by local choirs, visit with re-enactors from the First Virginia Regiment in winter encampment, and learn 18th-century dance moves from costumed guides in the Greenhouse. $34/$24 adult/youth; 5:30 – 9:00
Wreaths Across America, Arlington National Cemetery, Dec 17
Join other volunteers in laying wreaths on headstones at Arlington National Cemetery. There is no sign-up required, and there is no age limit—simply show up if you would like to participate. Gates open to volunteers at 8:00 am; opening ceremonies at the McLellan Gate at 9:30; wreath-laying begins at 10:00 am.
Civil War Christmas at Leesylvania State Park, Woodbridge, December 17
Enjoy a Civil War Christmas at Leesylvania State Park with period music, costumed interpreters and refreshments. Make decorations as folks did during the Civil War and take pictures with Civil War era Santa. $2/$6 per person/family; 10:00 to 4:00.
Waterskiing Santa, Alexandria, Dec 24
Gather at Alexandria’s Potomac River waterfront for a spectacular show by the Waterskiing Santa and his wakeboarding reindeer, plus flying elves, the Grinch and his friends, Frosty the Snowman and Jack Frost. Free; 1:00 (pre-show at 12:45).
Chanukah on Ice, Reston Town Center Pavilion, Dec 25
Ice skate to lively Chanukah music with family and friends and join in the Grand Menorah lighting. Enjoy hot latkes and donuts, dreidels, and chocolate gelt. Admission is free; $12 for skate rental. 4:30 – 6:00.
Menorah Lighting, Mosaic District, Dec 29
Join the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia for songs and stories celebrating the miracle of Hanukkah. Complimentary Kosher donuts and chocolates provided. Free; 5:00.
New Year’s Eve at First Night Alexandria, Alexandria, Dec 31
First Night Alexandria transforms Old Town into a big New Year’s Eve celebration with more than 100 live performances at 22 indoor venues and a fireworks display over the river at midnight. Your First Night badge lets you in to all the venues which include art galleries, historic sites, churches and even retail shops leading up to midnight fireworks. 7:00 – midnight.
Plan a First Day Hike, Virginia State Parks
On January 1st, America’s State Parks will host special events and guided hikes to kick off the new year with healthy, family-friendly activities. Join in the fun at Virginia First Day Hikes, offering free entry to all Virginia State Parks, special programs, and a photo competition with some nice prizes.
Ongoing and Road Trip Worthy December 2016 Events
Chinese Lantern Festival, Roers Zoofari, Vienna, Nov 16 – Jan 1
Visitors walk through a display of 800 beautiful, hand-crafted lanterns made by a master of the craft in Zigong, China, the center of China’s lantern tradition. Many of the wild animal-themed lanterns are animated and accompanied by animal sounds. $25/15 adult/child; 5:00 – 9:00 pm nightly.
Meadowlark Winter Walk of Lights, Vienna, Nov 18 – Jan 8
Over 500,000 lights and displays on a .6 mile outdoor walking trail plus s’mores and hot chocolate by the fire and holiday Snowflake Shoppe. Tickets $5 – $13 depending on age and time; nightly including holidays, 5:30 – 10:00.
Christmas on the Potomac with ICE!, National Harbor, Nov 19 – Jan 1
More than 2 million twinkling lights, nightly snowfall, and beautiful dancing fountains at Gaylord National’s Christmas on the Potomac. ICE! returns with 2 million pounds of ice sculptures and 5 ice slides. Follow the link for ticket prices and hours, and consider turning your visit into a National Harbor weekend getaway.
Bull Run Festival of Lights, Bull Run Regional Park, Nov 23 – Jan 8
A dazzling 2.5 mile drive-through display of holiday and fairytale vignettes. In December 2016, the drive ends at a Holiday Village with rides, merchandise, and activities. Weekday/weekend admission is $15/20 per car. 5:30 – 9:30 weekdays, -10:00 weekends.
Christmas at Mount Vernon, Nov 25 – Jan 6
Tour the grounds and the Mansion, including the third floor which is only open during the Christmas season. You can also tour Mount Vernon by Candlelight, weekends, November 25 – December 18. Follow the link for details and to purchase timed entry tickets.
GardenFest of Lights, Lewis Ginter Botanic Garden, Richmond, Nov 25 – Jan 9
More than half-a-million twinkling lights, hand-crafted botanical decorations, model trains, holiday dinners, firepit with s’mores and hot chocolate (for purchase), nightly family activities, and more. $13/11/8 for adults/seniors/children. 5:00 – 10:00 pm nightly.
Holiday Tuba Carol Fest, Gettysburg, Dec 9
The 21st Holiday Tuba Carol Fest is an annual gathering of musicians in historic Lincoln Square playing carols around the Christmas tree. Musicians from elementary schoolers to seniors play tubas and instruments in the same family (euphonium, baritone, and sousaphone) while visitors sing along. After the show, explore the downtown shops and restaurants, or stay overnight and visit Gettysburg’s historic sites too.
Holiday Lights in the Northern Virginia Area
Fill your month with sparkly lights, from professional displays to private homes and neighborhoods decked out for the holidays. December 2016 is the perfect time to check out decorated houses and neighborhood displays.
Historic Homes of Virginia, Multiple Locations and Dates
Most historic homes of Virginia offer seasonal tours of the homes decorated in period style. Northern Virginia homes with holiday tours include Carlyle House, Morven Park, Mount Vernon, and Oatlands. Follow the link to find an historic home near you.
Holiday Shopping Fun in Northern Virginia
Visit with Santa for that magical holiday picture, and enjoy kid-friendly activities at area malls.
Whatever December 2016 events you choose to attend, we wish you a happy and fun-filled month!
You might also enjoy these articles about more holiday events:
- Holiday Lights in the Northern Virginia Area
- Meadowlark Gardens Winter Walk of Lights
- Roer’s Zoofari Chinese Lantern Festival in Northern Virginia
- ICE! 2016 and Christmas on the Potomac at Gaylord National Harbor
- Day Trip to Enjoy DC Holiday Fun
- Holiday Shopping Fun in Northern Virginia
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