Our Favorite Holiday Events in Alexandria & The DC Area
The holiday season is one of my favorite times of year to live in Alexandria and the DC area. From the lights twinkling on King Street to the many events providing a month-long celebration, it’s the perfect place to call home during the holidays. In fact, Alexandria was recently named the “Perfect Southern Town for a Hallmark Christmas Movie” by Southern Living Magazine! While it’s probably impossible to go to every holiday event happening in the area, I’ve listed my favorites below which I’m planning on attending with my family! You can find a more comprehensive list of holiday events in Alexandria we compiled last year (with a lot of cross-over) here.
Mark Your Calendars!
Saturday, November 23 is the Alexandria Tree Lighting happening at Market Square at 6 p.m. (the actual lighting occurs around 6:45 p.m). The T.C. Williams choir will be singing holiday music and Mr. & Mrs. Claus will be in attendance! Get your dinner reservations in Old Town now!
Saturday, November 30 is Small Business Saturday and where better to shop than Old Town & the Old Town Boutique District? There will be free parking at parking meters and lots of activities, giveaways, and tastings throughout the local individually owned businesses and boutiques. You can check out our team’s favorite places to shop here.
Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday after Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. We always love giving back to those in need after these big shopping days! Here are some of our favorite local charities to support on Giving Tuesday.
Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend (SCWW)
The weekend of December 6-8 is Alexandria’s marquee holiday weekend. The Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend is put on by The Campagna Center and has been billed as one of the South’s best Christmas festivals by Southern Living Magazine.
- December 6 – On Friday night of The Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend is The Taste of Scotland, which The Goodhart Group has proudly sponsored for the last several years. The Taste of Scotland is always my personal kick-off to the holiday season, but this scotch tasting and cocktail party also officially kicks off the Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend and is attended by many dignitaries in the community.
- December 6-7 – The Heather & Greens sale, which I have had the pleasure of co-chairing in the past, is a terrific event where you can buy wreaths, garland and everything else needed to decorate your home for the holidays.
- December 7 – The Scottish Christmas Walk (or parade) is the main event! Thousands of visitors come to Alexandria every year to attend the parade. Locals have their calendars marked a full year in advance for this holiday tradition, now in its 49th year. If you have kids, don’t forget to bring a bag to collect the candy thrown to the crowds by parade marchers! You’ll spot my family and my co-workers from The Goodhart Group and Compass walking in the parade!
- December 7 – The Historic Homes Tour is a wonderful opportunity for you to peek into some of the most fabulous homes in Old Town, decorated by local interior designers and florists!
Unofficial Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend Events
- The Holiday Boat Parade of Lights is held on Saturday, December 7, 5:30 p.m., though dockside festivities begin at 2:00 p.m. at the Alexandria City Marina behind the Torpedo Factory. The harbor is illuminated by more than 50 boats that sail or cruise down the waterfront with their holiday decorations.
- The Torpedo Factory Art Center Holiday Festival is also Saturday, December 7, from 2:00 – 8:00 p.m. Here you can shop for local gifts like jewelry, ornaments, ceramics, family portraits, couture fashions, and other original works of art while enjoying live music. Stop in before the boat parade!
- The next day on Sunday, December 8 at 6 p.m., don’t miss the Del Ray Holiday Season Kick-Off at Mount Vernon Avenue and East Oxford Avenue. This event features thousands of luminaries and a tree and menorah lighting ceremony. Enjoy carols, cookies, hot cocoa and cider, holiday shopping, and the music of the T.C. Williams High School choir. Santa will arrive to help light the tree followed by an opportunity to have your photo taken with him! You can bring an item to donate to the Carpenter’s Shelter. Click here to see a list of needed items.
That same weekend is the Holiday Train Show at the Fairfax Railroad Museum. I’ve never been to this event in the past, but given Brooks’ love of trains, I’m planning to attend this year with my kids! The Holiday Train Show features model trains of many sizes. I’ve heard a rumor that Santa himself drops in from time to time… The hours are Saturday, December 7 (10 a.m. – 5 p.m.) – Sunday, December 8 (12 – 4 p.m.) $5 adults; $2 ages 5-15; four and under free.
The Queen of Christmas Music (In My Opinion)
This year, I couldn’t be more excited to go to “Hallmark Presents: Mariah Carey All I Want for Christmas” with my girlfriends across the river at the MGM National Harbor. There are shows on December 9th and December 10th at 8pm. Grab dinner beforehand in Old Town, National Harbor or at one of the MGM restaurants!
Other Holidays Events in Alexandria
Friday, December 20, and Saturday, December 21, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. is the Christmas Illuminations (Fireworks) at Mount Vernon. This is another family-friendly event I haven’t attended in the past, but am hoping to add to my calendar this year. Who would miss fireworks choreographed to holiday music? Before the 8 p.m. fireworks, you can visit the estate and grounds (where you can meet Aladdin the camel) while local choirs sing holiday music. There is also a bonfire where you can enjoy hot chocolate and cider. Yes, please! Tickets are $20 to $36 per person.
On Christmas Eve at 1 p.m., enjoy the 34th annual water-skiing Santa, flying elves, jet-skiing Grinch and Frosty the Snowman on the Potomac River. The best view is found along the Alexandria Waterfront between King and Oronoco Streets!
Afterwards, our family always enjoys a Christmas Eve dinner at Landini Brothers in Old Town, where the entire restaurant is filled with familiar faces! In years past, we’ve also enjoyed dining at 1789 in Georgetown, which has the best Christmas decor in the city. If you don’t have reservations yet, call ASAP and hope for a cancellation!
Holidays Events in Across the DC Area
Throughout the holiday season, there are many events to enjoy that aren’t date specific. Below are some of my yearly favorites and some new activities I’m excited to try with my family.
- I can’t wait to visit Enchant DC at Nationals Park this year with my kids! There is a Christmas Light Maze and market, ice sculptures, food and drinks (including hot alcoholic beverages), an ice skating trail, cinema and of course, Santa! There are several dates available but it is close to selling out!
- Zoolights at the National Zoo is another favorite, perfect for a date night or night out with young kids. The zoo is illuminated with over 500,000 LED lights and live musical performances. The event is free and is a really special way to tour the zoo.
- “Season’s Greenings” at the U.S. Botanical Gardens is an annual tradition in the model train room with live seasonal music and exhibits.
- There’s nothing more magical than an old-fashioned afternoon tea during the holidays. The best ones are served in Washington’s most luxurious hotels. I personally love The Willard Hotel for tea or champagne at the holidays in Peacock Alley. The gorgeous historic hall is filled with beautiful holiday decorations and always makes Christmas feel even more special. They are already sold out on the weekends, so sign up quickly for the waitlist or a weekday! If you don’t want to sit through a couple of hours of tea, tiny sandwiches and champagne, just opt for the champagne in one of “Old Washington’s” historic bars like those at The Willard, The Hay-Adams and The Jefferson Hotel.
- I’m hoping to find time to make it to Baltimore’s National Aquarium to see the Polar Express 4D experience with my boys. I’ve heard it’s amazing!!! This 15-minute immersive film experience brings on-screen images to life with special effects, such as mist, wind, snow, scents, enhanced lighting, and even vibrating seats!
- Ice & Lights, The Winter Village at Cameron Run transforms the waterpark from mid-November through February into a winter wonderland with an ice rink, fir pits, a 100 foot lighted tunnel, 20 foot walk thru tree, beautifully lit photo ops, music, food and a nightly snowfall! We’re planning to save this one for after the holidays since it is open through February!
- Who doesn’t love getting their picture taken with Santa? Here are some of our favorite places for a photo op in Northern Virginia.
Whether you are looking for family-friendly events or a way to toast to the holiday season, there are plenty of holiday events in Alexandria and the DC Metro area. If you have any questions about any of the events or have some great events to add that we missed, please don’t hesitate to send them along for us to include next year! Happy Holidays!