10 Great Things to Do on Thanksgiving Weekend in Northern VA

Updated on November 22, 2023 by Julie McCool

Looking for fun things to do this Thanksgiving Weekend in Northern Virginia? Happily, there are lots of great options to choose from. Here are 10 of the best Thanksgiving Weekend activities in the Washington DC region, including free and paid options.

There are great activities on our Thanksgiving to-do list whether you want fun with the family, a couple's outing, or a little me time. Follow the links for hours and ticket options (where needed).

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1. Impress Your Guests at Top NoVA Attractions

View from the catwalk at the Smithsonian Air and Space Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Northern Virginia.
Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Family and friends visiting for Thanksgiving? Impress your out-of-town guests at these top attractions in Northern Virginia. They are all open on Thanksgiving day and throughout the weekend.

There are both indoor and outdoor destinations on our Top 10 NoVA Attractions list, so you'll have options even if the weather doesn't cooperate. Parks, museums, and national sites offer something for every interest.

2. Attend a Dazzling Holiday Show

Meadowlark Gardens Winter Walk of Lights Fairy Garden
Meadowlark Gardens Winter Walk of Lights

Most of the best holiday light shows in Northern VA are open on Thanksgiving Weekend. Walk through a garden of lights at Meadowlark Gardens Winter Walk of Lights. Or enjoy the drive-through sparkle of the Bull Run Festival of Lights (great for little kids and family groups).

A spectacular laser light show and a colorful collection of characters combine at Gaylord National Harbor's Christmas on the Potomac. The walk-through ICE! show is back and the 2023 theme, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, provides lots of great photo opps.

3. Shop Local at Holiday Markets and Small Businesses

Alexandria Virginia, One of the Best Christmas Towns Near Washington DC
Shop Local in Northern Virginia

Get a jump on your holiday gift list at fun holiday markets in Northern Virginia and DC. Or head to some of Virginia's quaint towns to shop local on Small Business Saturday. Unique boutiques in Old Town Alexandria and other NoVA neighborhoods offer special Thanksgiving Weekend deals.

Seasonal decorations, tasty restaurants, and great breweries and wineries make local towns perfect for a Thanksgiving day trip with the gang. Find more great places to visit in our guide to the best Christmas towns in the DC area.

4. Cheer on the Reston Holiday Parade

Reston Town Center Holidays Are Here Parade float
Reston Town Center Holidays Are Here Parade

One of our picks for the best holiday events in Northern Virginia is held on the day after Thanksgiving. The Reston Holiday Parade features giant Macy's-style balloons, bands, dance troupes, and more. The celebration continues with the Christmas tree lighting, caroling, carriage rides, and other festive fun.

5. Celebrate with Santa at Mosaic District

Another popular holiday tree lighting takes place the day after Thanksgiving at the Mosaic District in Merrifield. The fun kicks off when Santa arrives in a Fire Truck Parade. Then, bundle up for fun live performances at Strawberry Park.

6. Glide at NoVA Ice Skating Rinks

Ice Skating at Reston Town Center, one of the Fun Things to Do on Thanksgiving Weekend in Northern Virginia
Ice Skating Rink, Reston VA

The weather is finally cold enough for a day or night glide at Northern VA ice skating rinks. Outdoor rinks are open all Thanksgiving Weekend in Old Town Manassas, Reston, Pentagon Row, and more. After your skate, warm up at nearby restaurants and shops.

7. See the Dazzling Winter Lantern Festival

Lantern Festival Flower Tunnel
Lantern Festival Flower Tunnel

Christmas and holiday-themed light shows are not the only options for Thanksgiving Weekend 2023. This year the DC Winter Lantern Festival returns to Lerner Town Center in Tysons just in time for Thanksgiving weekend. The walk-through display features beautiful and elaborate Chinese Lanterns with many interactive elements. (Closed Thanksgiving Day).

8. Take a Washington DC Day Trip

National Botanic Garden DC Holiday Display of the US Capitol
National Botanic Garden DC Holiday Display

One of the best holiday events in Washington DC opens on Thanksgiving Day and it's free to attend. Seasons Greenings returns to the National Botanic Garden in 2023 with an outdoor model train display and indoor Poinsettia display. Also inside the conservatory, check out the gorgeous models of DC museums and monuments created with natural elements.

9. Tour Mount Vernon by Candlelight

Mount Vernon by Candlelight Holiday Favorites
Mount Vernon by Candlelight

George Washington's Mount Vernon is one of our favorite places to take out-of-town guests. During Thanksgiving Weekend (and other December weekends) you can tour the estate beautifully lit by candlelight. Costumed guides lead Mount Vernon by Candlelight tours and share 18th-century holiday traditions. Did you know that George Washington started the holiday with his “thanks-giving” proclamation in 1789?

10. #OptOutside and Hit the Trail

Shopping deals get a lot of attention during Thanksgiving Weekend, but retailers like REI encourage everyone to Opt Outside and enjoy time in nature. Late fall hikes are a great way to spend time with family in a non-stressful environment.

Fortunately, Northern Virginia is full of fantastic trails for every activity level. Head to family-friendly parks like Great Falls Park and Riverbend, tackle a mountain climb at Bears Den or Raven Rocks, or choose an easy walk on beautiful boardwalks and wheelchair-friendly trails.

Virginia State Parks in Northern Virginia, including Sky Meadows, Mason Neck, Sweet Run, and Leesylvania offer more great places to #optoutside during the long Thanksgiving weekend.

Whether you choose an outdoor adventure, a sparkling holiday show, or a fascinating local museum we wish you a happy and fun-filled time this Thanksgiving Weekend in Northern Virginia.

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