10 Great Festive Christmas Towns Near Washington DC

Updated on December 3, 2023 by Julie McCool

The 10 most festive Christmas towns near Washington DC add sparkle to the season with holiday lights, parades, festivals, and fun activities for every age. Many destinations host special events, but these Christmasy towns keep the festive spirit going throughout the holiday season.

Like many Northern Virginia locals, I love to celebrate the holidays in DC. But I also love to find Christmas towns near me to visit. Fortunately, these towns deliver fun for all ages just a short drive from Washington DC.

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Our list of Christmas towns near Washington DC includes festive destinations in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Most are close enough for a day trip, but they all make great weekend getaway destinations too.

1. Alexandria Virginia

Alexandria Christmas Tree
Alexandria Christmas Tree

One of the best Christmas towns in the USA (just ask Oprah Daily), is right across the river from DC. Historic Alexandria Virginia sparkles during the holiday season. Beautiful decorations adorn Old Town Alexandria's homes, while businesses are festooned with lights and garlands.

The best time to visit Alexandria for holiday fun is on the first weekend of December. During Scottish Walk Weekend, a parade of kilted clansmen takes over the streets of Old Town. The festivities continue at night with a Lighted Boat Parade in the Potomac River.

Fortunately, Alexandria continues its Christmas town vibe throughout the season. Shop for gifts at King Street's unique boutiques, capture perfect photos at the giant Market Square Christmas tree, and relax at beautifully decorated restaurants and bars. Stay at the Hotel Indigo Old Town and you're in the heart of the action.

2. Charlottesville Virginia

Christmas Lights and Decorations at the Pedestrian Mall in Downtown Charlottesville; photo by VisitCharlottesville.org
Downtown Lights by VisitCharlottesville.org

One of our favorite Virginia getaways, Charlottesville is a fun destination during the holiday season. The pedestrian shopping mall is perfect for holiday gift shopping, and Charlottesville restaurants offer a delicious range of festive foods.

Magic on the Mall brings a holiday market, Santa photos, and kid-friendly activities to downtown C'ville. December holiday events include the Lighting of the Lawn at the University of Virginia. This beautiful tradition is followed by the Grand Illumination tree lighting at Ting Pavillion.

Holiday lights sparkle all season long at Winter Wander, a walk-through display on the ground of the Boar's Head Resort. In addition, historic homes including Monticello, Highland, and Montpelier offer seasonal tours featuring traditional holiday decor.

Two of our favorite Charlottesville hotels—The Residence Inn Downtown and The Draftsman Hotel have great locations near the downtown mall and UVA.

3. Leesburg Virginia

Leesburg Virginia Santa and Christmas Tree
Leesburg Santa and Christmas Tree

Christmas in Leesburg spreads fun events throughout the holiday season so visitors have lots of time to enjoy. The season kicks off with the Christmas tree lighting on the town green where you'll find garlands and decorations all month.

Other weekends feature a holiday market and a big parade featuring Santa. The free Marshall Plan Tree Walk at historic Dodona Manor features 17 decorated Christmas trees.

Even if you don't attend a special event, you'll enjoy downtown Leesburg shops, restaurants, and breweries decorated for the holiday season. It's a beautiful place to celebrate with friends and shop for gifts.

4. Manassas Virginia

Old Town Manassas Holiday Banner
Old Town Manassas Holiday Banner

Treat the kids to a unique holiday experience when Santa arrives by train to Old Town Manassas on the first Friday in December. After his festive arrival at the historic train depot, Santa will visit with kids (great photo opp!) and update his Christmas list.

The weekend fun continues when Manassas hosts its annual Christmas Parade (now in its 76th year). Shops stay open late during the holiday season and free Holiday Carriage Rides carry visitors through town.

The Courtyard Manassas Battlefield Park (about 8 miles from the depot) makes a good base for exploring Prince William County, especially if you also plan to visit Manassas National Battlefield.

5. Middleburg Virginia

Christmas in Middleburg photo by Jay Hubbard
Christmas in Middleburg photo by Jay Hubbard

Weekend-long festivities in early December make Middleburg one of the best Christmas towns in Virginia. The highlight of Christmas in Middleburg is the Hounds and Horses Parade when red-jacketed huntsmen ride down the main street accompanied by their beautiful dogs.

Middleburg is worth a visit even if you miss the big weekend events. Stores in the historic downtown are beautifully decorated, setting a charming scene for holiday shopping. Holiday specials at Middleburg restaurants are perfect for a celebratory group meal or a quiet couple's getaway.

Treat your love at Salamander Resort and Spa, the DC area's only 5-star destination resort, and you'll be surrounded by luxury. There's fun for kids too, including visits with Santa and the Elf on the Resort's Shelf.

6. Occoquan Virginia

Festive wreaths and garlands decorating a store in Occoquan, one of the best Christmas towns near DC
Occoquan Christmas Decorations

One of the smallest Christmas towns near Washington DC, Historic Occoquan packs a lot of fun into its compact downtown. Shops and restaurants in Occoquan go all out with decorations (check them out at Halloween too!) creating a Hallmark movie setting for holiday gift shopping.

The town hosts a month-long Occoquan HolidayFest which opens with the annual tree lighting. Other December weekends feature a popular craft market and visits with Santa. Festive decorations on the gazebo make Mamie Davis Park a nice spot for beautiful Christmas family photos.

There are no hotels in historic Occoquan, but you can book a cozy Airbnb right downtown. You'll find more unique holiday shopping nearby at the Workhouse Arts Center.

7. Richmond Virginia

Christmas Tree and Holiday Decorations at The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond Virginia
Holiday at The Jefferson Hotel

Stunning Christmas decorations and special holiday events make Richmond one of the most festive Christmas towns near Washington DC. Okay, it's a city, but there is fun for everyone in the many holiday festivals in Richmond.

The annual Gardenfest of Lights at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is one of the best holiday light shows in Virginia. More than one million lights and decorations fill the garden and conservatory for this walk-through light show. Also near Richmond, Kings Dominion Winterfest fills the popular amusement park with holiday lights and ice skating, and many of the rides are open to enjoy.

The Christmas spirit is strong in downtown Richmond as well. December holiday fun kicks off with RVA Illuminates and the downtown Christmas Parade and decorations brighten neighborhoods like the Fan District. Stay at the historic Jefferson Hotel and you'll be surrounded by stunning holiday decor.

8. Annapolis Maryland

Annapolis Holiday Lighted Boats and Waterfront during Eastport Yacht Club Parade photo by Bob Peterson
Eastport Yacht Club Parade by Bob Peterson

Combine quaint streets and a waterfront destination and you have a magical holiday setting. Annapolis Maryland has long been a favorite among east coast Christmas towns. Here, traditional decorations adorn historic homes, and holiday lights are reflected in cobblestone streets.

Annapolis holiday fun includes Christmas tree lightings, time with Santa, carriage rides, the Eastport Yacht Club Parade, and more. Explore on your own or join a candlelight tour with a costumed guide and hear stories of Annapolis' holiday traditions. A short drive away, Sandy Point State Park hosts Lights on the Bay, one of the prettiest drive-through light shows in the DC region.

We like the central, but quiet location of the Graduate Annapolis and there are many other historic inns and hotels to choose from. And since Annapolis is only 30 miles east of the city it's also one of the best Christmas towns near Washington DC for a shorter day trip.

9. National Harbor Maryland

A Christmas Tree and Laser Lights are Part of the Dazzling Holiday Light Show at Gaylord National Resort, Photo by Chris Militzer
Holiday Light Show Gaylord National Harbor photo by Chris Militzer

While it's not officially a town, National Harbor packs enough holiday cheer into this “census-designated place” to make our list. Close proximity to Washington DC makes the harbor perfect for a short visit or a quick getaway.

A highlight of the holiday season, Christmas on the Potomac and ICE! takes over the Gaylord National Harbor Resort from Thanksgiving through December. Visitors to ICE! walk through a 9° tent filled with elaborate, colorful ice sculptures. The 2023 theme, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, features beloved scenes from the Christmas classic carved from huge blocks of ice.

Even if you skip the ICE! tent you can still watch a spectacular laser light show in the Gaylord lobby and try ice skating and ice bumper cars outside. At the edge of the river, a giant Christmas tree and a ride on the Ferris wheel make fun holiday memories.

10. Gettysburg Pennsylvania

Christmas Season in Gettysburg at the Tuba Carol Fest
Gettysburg Tuba Carol Fest

While Gettysburg is best known for its historic sites, it's also a beautiful destination to visit during the Christmas season. Festive decorations and special events fill the town from downtown Lincoln Square to historic homes like the Eisenhower National Historic Site.

Visitors can celebrate a Gettysburg Christmas all season long. The town's beautiful Christmas tree towers over Lincoln Square, surrounded by quaint shops and brightly decorated businesses. It would be hard to find a shop more Christmasy than The Christmas Haus where you can find authentic German nutcrackers, ornaments, and more.

One of the most unique Christmas events close to DC is the annual Gettysburg Tuba Fest. Locals and visitors fill the square to sing Christmas carols accompanied by tuba players from around the country. Stay at the Gettysburg Hotel and the festivities are right outside your door.

Whether you visit for a day or a weekend getaway, these festive Christmas towns near Washington DC will put you in a holiday mood. Find more holiday fun in our guides:

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The 10 most festive Christmas towns near Washington DC add sparkle to the season with holiday lights, parades, festivals, and fun activities for every age.
Christmas Towns Near Washington DC