It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and there’s no better place to find your new favorite festive tradition than in beautiful Virginia. Your next yuletide destination awaits at one of these 15 magical places in the Mother of States.
Start the season out strong in Virginia’s state capitol this year. Each year, this gorgeous, historical town puts on a Christmas display in the government district that gives nearby Washington D.C. a run for its money. Along with the district’s celebratory display, residents engage in friendly competition as they decorate their homes with the most garrish, hideously overdone decorations you’ll ever lay eyes on.
Richmond is also the starting point to Virginia’s famous 100 Miles of Lights, one of the most elaborate and impressive holiday displays in the world. This annual tradition covers the 100-mile corridor from the State Capitol Building in Richmond all the way to the coastal town of Virginia Beach. Start your magical journey this season with a trip to the state capitol.
The final destination in Virginia’s 100 Miles of Lights, Virginia Beach effortlessly combines coastal charm with Christmas celebration to create an warm, inviting holiday atmosphere. Those who visit here during the holiday season are greeted with plenty of family-friendly events that will make you feel right at home.
The Virginia Aquarium will dazzle believers with its annual Sailing With Santa event, while the McDonald’s Lights on the Beach display provides a perfect backdrop for your next Christmas card. For a cozy, coastal Christmas, look no further than the Mother of States’ favorite beach town.
What’s Christmas without a trip down memory lane? Experience the historical sites in Fredericksburg, where Ye Olde Goode Days are in full swing through the month of December. Throughout the holiday season, tourists can enjoy carriage rides, nightly Christmas displays, and a full-scale Christmas parade downtown.
From the end of November through January, Fredericksburg features a series entitled Jingle Bell Christmas Rides. Visitors can tour over 40 blocks of historic neighborhood by horse-drawn carriage. Bundle up with some warm blankets and hot cocoa as you travel down the cobblestone streets in true colonial fashion with holiday lights and Christmas carols to make your spirits soar.
If you want a Christmas that would make St. Nick himself jealous, then a trip to Bedford is just what you need. At the welcome center, you’ll be greeted with the Festival of Trees, which extends all through town for a delightfully decorative holiday display. Like Hansel and Gretel’s trail of breadcrumbs, the trees lead you to the brilliant lights at Liberty Lake Park and into the residential neighborhoods surrounding the city center. Similar to the festivities in Richmond, neighbors compete with one another to see who will have the most elaborately decorated house of the season.
Each year on December 4, the town gathers in Centertown for the tree-lighting ceremony, followed by a parade. Catch a carriage ride through the town center to SantaLand, where the Big Guy will be waiting to hear all your Christmas wishes.
A colonial Christmas is calling your name in the historic town of Williamsburg. With costumed tour guides trained and positioned throughout the town, Colonial Williamsburg provides a historical holiday experience, complete with reenactments and tours about how the yuletide season was celebrated way back when Virginia was still a colony.
If you’re lucky enough to be in town for the Christmas parade, you’ll be able to catch a live theatrical performance. Sometimes players take the stage to perform their rendition of popular classics, such as A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker. Get in on some holly, jolly history this season with a trip to Colonial Williamsburg.
It’s bound to be a Dickens of a Christmas in Roanoke — literally! Each year, this time-honored tradition is brought back to the coastal town, featuring live shows, street performances, and holiday activities in honor of the annual City of Roanoke Christmas Tree Lighting. It’s a magical time that draws the attention of all who seek to enjoy a Victorian holiday celebration.
One of the best parts of spending the holidays in Roanoke is the chance to go ice skating at Elmwood Park. You’ll feel as though you’ve traveled back in time to see Dickens himself as you twirl around on the shimmering ice surrounded by Victorian-inspired decorations that populate the town.
Alexandria is the last word in holiday tradition with annual events that will have you wondering why you ever did Christmas any differently. Alexandria was actually founded by a Scottish fellow by the name of John Alexander, which is why each year the town celebrates its heritage with the Annual Campagna Center Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend & Parade (say that ten times fast).
Watch dozens of Scottish clans dressed in decorative tartans parade through town, blowing their bagpipes and banging on drums with their hounds and terriers in tow. You’ll even get to see a Scottish Santa serenade you with tunes from his own set of bagpipes.
Another of Alexandria’s long-standing traditions is the Holiday Boat Parade of Lights. Named one of USA Today’s Top 10 Best Holiday Parades, this magnificent display of decorated watercraft shimmers across the sea for an unforgettable night of lights and seasonal fun. You’ll enjoy craft beer stations, the Dolci Gelati hot chocolate bar, and a dockside grill to keep you full and festive well into the evening. See why Alexandria was named one of America’s Top Holiday Towns by USA Today.
There are few places more magical during the holiday season than Chincoteague Island. Enjoy a Christmas by the Sea, a fun-filled, month-long celebration featuring a plethora of events on Virginia’s favorite island.
Kick off the holidays with the Annual Old Fashioned Christmas Parade, where marching bands, color guards, fire trucks, and Santa himself parade down Main Street for a truly old-fashioned yuletide celebration.
Enjoy a night of sophisticated celebration with Chincoteague Island’s “Savor the Season” Progressive Home Tour. During this event, you’ll get to taste the culinary stylings of Chincoteague’s finest dining establishments, including the Marina Bay Hotel & Suites, Myrtle on Mumford, and the Christmas Manor. You’ll even make a stop in a traditional colonial home for part of your festive feast.
Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to spend Christmas in Dr. Seuss’ Whoville? See the magic for yourself in Front Royal with their annual Christmas celebration downtown. This year’s theme is “A Whoville Christmas,” and will include a free holiday movie at Royal Cinemas on the morning of December 1. Moviegoers will even be greeted by Santa.
The holiday fun doesn’t stop there. Front Royal’s annual yuletide celebration includes specials, deals, and activities from downtown merchants, with food vendors, entertainment, and crafting activities lining the gazebo area. At 4 p.m., the parade will commence, culminating in the main event: the downtown Holiday lights by Santa and the mayor. Have yourself a Whoville-style holiday this year with a trip to Front Royal.
For over 70 years, the Greater Manassas Christmas Parade has been a staple of the community for which it was named. It is one of the largest parades in northern Virginia, including over 100 units-marching bands, floats, high-flying balloons, and more.
Over 2,000 participants and more than 300 volunteers help to put on the Christmas parade—an impressive workforce that leaves a lasting impression through its glamorous display of parading holiday lights and music.
This year’s theme for the parade is “A Rockin’ Christmas." The night before the parade, believers can gather for Santa Lights Manassas, the annual tree-lighting ceremony that’s been a part of the town’s tradition for over 25 years. Here, you’ll enjoy free wagon rides, ice skating, and deals from downtown merchants as Santa lights the tree and grants all of Manassas’ children’s wishes.
Christmas in Clifton Forge has got to make your list of seasonal stops this year. Ring in the holiday season by attending the town’s annual Christmas parade. Here you’ll see elaborately decorated floats roll through Main Street as judges score them in different areas, awarding each category winner a trophy to commemorate their hard work and holiday spirit.
This year, the parade will offer guests something extra-special: After parade festivities dwindle, attendees are invited to the auditorium for caroling, cocoa, and a free viewing of the Christmas classic Rudolph: The Red-Nosed Reindeer. Don’t miss out on Clifton Forge’s most-anticipated event of the season.
This quaint, 18th-century village in the Mother of States is a perfect setting for a quiet and cozy Christmas. Middleburg’s Christmas parade weekend is no joke, featuring a list of festive events throughout the weekend. At 5 p.m. on November 30, the tree-lighting ceremony will kick off the holiday season with the parade coming to town on December 1.
This year’s parade features some amazing additions, including Breakfast with Santa and Silent Auction, Santa’s Workshop, and the Middleburg Hunt & Hounds Review. Finishing off the weekend on Sunday, December 2, don’t miss the Live Animal Christmas Pageant at Foxcroft School. All set in a colonial village, you’ll never forget your holiday in Middleburg.
History, tradition, and the spirit of giving gather in one location in stunning Lexington, Virginia. Here you’ll enjoy Christmas at the Jacksons’, an annual historical experience taking visitors back to Christmas in 1859 at the Stonewall Jackson House. Visitors will help churn butter, knead dough, help select proper Christmas attire, and decorate the house tree with hand-made ornaments.
For more traditional activities, Lexington offers up an amazing Christmas parade downtown on Main Street, where festive floats roll through town and Santa waves to all his true believers. If the opportunity to give back is at the top of your list, sign up for the Jingle Bell Run, a 5K run where spirited sprinters run through the streets with bells strapped to their laces all to support the upkeep of their beautiful town. With this much holiday spirit packed into one place, it’s no wonder Lexington makes our list of best Christmas towns in Virginia.
Everyone knows the best way to spread Christmas cheer is going for a run while drinking a beer (and then heading to the Paramount in Charlottesville to catch Elf on the big screen). That’s exactly what you’ll be able to do at the Second Annual Brew & Buddy Run presented by Paramount in partnership with Champion Brewing Company and Three Notch’d Brewing Company.
Starting at the theater, runners will make the three-mile loop through downtown, stopping for a beer at each brewery before heading back to watch everyone’s favorite festive Ferrell flick.
Charlottesville has plenty to offer in the way of tradition as well, with its holiday market being one of the town’s older open-air markets. Here you’ll get to shop the wares of local merchants, sample the flavors of nearby dining establishments, and much more. The town also offers the chance to get in touch with the historical side of the holidays, with an open house at James Madison’s Montpelier.
In Staunton, every Christmas is cherished, which is why the town has aptly named their annual holiday celebration “Cherish Every Christmas.” In Downtown Staunton, you’ll have tons of festive fun with carriage rides, ugly sweater contests, hot chocolate, a tree-lighting ceremony, a spindle tree contest for charity, and so much more. The celebration never stops in Staunton, where Santa and Mrs. Claus make their grand entrance on the Christmas Train by Buckingham Branch Railroad to the Staunton Train Station.
The Historic Staunton Foundation also hosts an annual holiday house tour, now in its 46th year. Featuring restored homes and storefronts in the Stuart Addition Historic District and Downtown Staunton, the tour dazzles and delights with an incredible display of holiday decor and Christmas lights.