Let yourself be surprised and delighted by Alexandria, VA’s holiday magic along historic streetscapes. Grab a mask and wander through Old Town, past flickering gas lanterns, finding new blocks decked out with seasonal décor and favorite independent shops to support. Immerse yourself in Alexandria’s holiday wonder, whether you’re taking care of seasonal shopping during Plaid Friday and Small Business Saturday, snapping a pic of the City’s sparkling tree at Market Square or perusing one of Del Ray’s delightful open-air markets. Keep reading for more inspiration.
At this time, the safest way to enjoy Alexandria is from home with takeout, online shopping, virtual experiences and more. If you decide to go out, please review the CDC’s recommendations for limiting your risk of contracting COVID-19.
Embark on an Old Town Winter Stroll
In historic Old Town Alexandria, mask up to take a stroll along King Street’s brick-lined sidewalks beneath twinkling tree lights. Pass by beloved seasonal delights, like the Market Square holiday tree (and stream the virtual tree lighting ceremony) and pop into local shops to pick up a gift or grab a hot drink or treat. New this year, amble through an Art Walk from The Art League and Old Town Business Association. See a work of art adorning a lamppost on each block of King Street, between Union and Diagonal, as well as select side streets, and find a map of the artwork, on display from December 5, 2020 to January 8, 2021.
Be Immersed in Ice & Lights: The Winter Village at Cameron Run
Ice and Lights: The Winter Village at Cameron Run will return this year, featuring an ice rink, more than a dozen holiday light displays perfect for Instagramming, retail area, food, music and more. Ice & Lights is open nightly from November 20, 2020-January 3, 2021, and then for skating only on weekends from January 9-February 28, 2021. The Ice and Lights Village is a short drive from Old Town. Masks are required in all areas of Ice & Lights except when eating or drinking in the concession areas.
Christmas at Mount Vernon
Holiday programs and tours fill each day with delight at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, from November 27-December 31, 2020. Learn about camels and George Washington’s interest in exotic animals during Camel Talks, offered Friday through Sunday beginning on November 27, 2020. During the “Mrs. Washington’s Mount Vernon” tour, hear Martha Washington discuss the day-to-day planning needed for a busy holiday season. The “Holiday Dinner for the Washingtons” tour shares how food was grown, preserved and served during the holidays.
New this year, experience Mount Vernon’s Winter Glow evenings on November 27-29, December 11-13 and 26-28, 2020. See the estate illuminated with soft lights and holiday patterns as you listen to Christmas carolers and visit an 18th-century winter encampment. Find the estate all lit up once again during Christmas Illuminations, from December 18-29, 2020, a festive fireworks show choreographed to holiday music. You’ll visit with re-enactors throughout the estate and stay toasty warm by the bonfire. Before you visit, learn about safety measures on the estate.
Discover Del Ray’s Holiday Spirit
Find more holiday cheer along Del Ray‘s made-for-strolling Mount Vernon Avenue. Pick up the perfect seasonal gifts at two holiday markets plus the 25th annual Art on the Avenue festival in an online format, and enjoy Shop Small in Del Ray Week kicking off on Small Business Saturday. Beginning December 5, 2020, grab a Holiday Scavenger Hunt map at Pat Miller Square (or download it online) for the chance to win gift cards to local businesses as you discover delightful displays hand-painted on the windows of Del Ray’s independent shops and restaurants. Then, experience the Virtual Holiday Season Kick-off on December 6, 2020 to watch the neighborhood’s Christmas tree lighting, and see the Del Ray menorah lit every evening of Hanukkah.
While in Del Ray, pay a visit to the HOPE Quilt letters outside Del Ray Artisans (2704 Mount Vernon Avenue), a tribute to frontline workers and COVID-19 victims featuring some 150 pieces of artwork by creators ages 2 to 95.
Shop Small and Support Independent Boutiques
As the region’s shop small headquarters, Alexandria’s impressive collection of boutiques offers smile-inducing gifts and personal service you won’t find just anywhere. Explore Visit Alexandria’s curated digital shopping guide for inspired ideas to fill your holiday shopping needs. Get ready to partake in Alexandria’s biggest shopping days of the season. Snag deals during Alexandria’s first ever Shop Small Week, beginning with Plaid Friday: Alexandria’s Small Business Black Friday for independent boutiques on November 27, 2020, plus special promotions on Small Business Saturday on November 28, 2020, and more events like the Laphroig Shop Stroll Sip, with a kick-off on Plaid Friday in front of The Majestic. Plus, read about this year’s Santa-gram Giveaway below.
Win a Greeting from Santa Himself
The region’s most beloved Santa wants YOU to shop small in Alexandria, Virginia this holiday season. New this year, the Alexandria Santa-gram Giveaway is an opportunity to buy in person or online from participating independently owned retailers in Alexandria for a chance to win a personalized video greeting from the big guy himself. Five winners will be selected each week for six weeks of giveaways from November 9 to December 20, 2020. Browse participating retailers in Visit Alexandria’s new digital Guide to Alexandria Holiday Shopping and get shopping.
Buy from Black-Owned Businesses
Whether you’re practicing self-care virtually with PIES Fitness Yoga Studio, warming up with a chai latte at Café du Soleil or gifting eco-friendly fashion from Threadleaf, you’ll find lots to love this holiday season from dozens of Black-owned businesses. Shop European fashion trends at donna lewis, schedule a hairstyle refresh at Hazel O. Salon and start here to support more Black-owned businesses during “Buy Black Friday” and into the new year.
Warm Up with Winter-Proof Outdoor Dining at Locally Owned Restaurants
Eager to dine al fresco but worried about dropping temperatures? Warm back up with heated outdoor setups and festive ambiences outside Alexandria eateries, like Yunnan by Potomac Noodle House (pictured above at right). Plus, experience King & Rye’s Winter Wonderland from December 2, 2020 to January 30, 20201. New this year, you and up to eight guests from your household can book a private igloo, outfitted with heaters as well as the option to play your own music via a Bluetooth speaker. Enjoy a tapas style menu with a Southern twist along with festive cocktails. Igloos are cleaned by a sanitizing machine between parties.
Look out for more creative outdoor dining initiatives. At Bastille, receive 10% off your check when you BYOB—bring your own blanket—or purchase a fluffy covering at the French-inspired eatery. Staying in? Show your support for your favorite Alexandria restaurants by buying a gift card for yourself or a loved one.
Explore Virtual and In-person Holiday Markets
Bundle up and spend an afternoon in the frosty air perusing Alexandria’s al fresco holiday markets. Alexandria’s Holiday Market, The Carlyle Vitality Initiative’s annual signature event, transforms John Carlyle Square into a lively outdoor festival. This year, shop early online from November 27-December 4, 2020, then enjoy vendors and musical entertainment for the in-person, socially distanced market on December 5-6, 2020.
In artsy Del Ray, find the perfect gift at the neighborhood’s Holiday Market on November 28-29, 2020, featuring local artisans and at-home entrepreneurs. Head to Del Ray again on December 4-6, 11-13 and 18-20, 2020, for the indoor Del Ray Artisans’ 25th Annual Fine Art & Fine Craft Holiday Market, offering unique handmade creations from different artisans each weekend. Plus, virtually explore the 25th annual Art on the Avenue festival, featuring regional artists’ work online through Christmas.
Experience Historic Holiday Happenings
Step back in time for a seasonal celebration with Alexandria’s centuries-old sites. For family fun, upgrade your kids’ winter break with the Office of Historic Alexandria’s virtual activities, from an activities-filled online portal going live on November 20, 2020, to hands-on “Winter in Alexandria” kits that you can order online beginning November 20, 2020, to a Kwanzaa How-To Workshop on December 5, 2020.
For socially distanced in-person opportunities, craft your own Victorian keepsake at Lee-Fendall House’s Kissing Ball workshops on December 3 and 6, 2020, and take a candlelight tour during the first three Saturday evenings of December. On December 12, 2020, enjoy A Victorian Christmas for the whole family, filled with traditional décor, music, seasonal crafts, a visit by Santa and more.
Be Inspired by Holiday Arts Happenings
Enjoy the holiday season alongside Alexandria’s arts scene. Fans of “A Christmas Carol,” take heart—The Little Theatre will be putting on a production unlike ever before from December 4-19, 2020. This year’s production will feature seven “actual” actors portraying all the traditional roles and even a few new ones. The production also combines animation, 3D and virtual reality to totally bemuse and confuse the audience. Seating will be socially distanced and limited.
Support local visual artists with a visit to Torpedo Factory Art Center and participate in the Holiday Festival on December 5, 2020, with the option to shop from your favorite studios online, in addition the the virtual Olde Year’s Day event on New Year’s Eve. Or, peruse one-of-a-kind gifts in the City of Alexandria’s Artful Gift Guide, live through January 9, 2021. One hundred percent of revenue generated by sales will support artists.
Cozy Up at Home
Bring the city’s holiday comforts home to you. Warm up and calm down with a new blend from The Spice & Tea Exchange, a new pair of fuzzy socks from Old Town Sock Co., candles from Goldfinch and loungewear from Bloomers. Make a night of it with a virtual tasting—including Tidings Ale—from Port City Brewing Co., or pick up holiday cocktails or mocktails-to-go from The Peoples Drug. Find more ways to bring the best of Alexandria’s restaurants home to you.
Attend or Tune into First Night Alexandria
New this year, First Night Alexandria celebrates New Year’s Eve with “A Night of Nostalgia,” a drive-in and virtual concert experience. Load up the car and celebrate the arrival of 2021 in the West End of Alexandria with a drive-in concert experience of pre-recorded music and comedy projected on the big screen. Sing along, dance and enjoy a night filled with classic hits, local food truck favorites and exciting giveaways. Or, let First Night Alexandria be the soundtrack for your at-home celebration, featuring the same great music as the live event, streamed to you virtually.
Find more ways to celebrate the holiday season here.
Header Images Credits: Kristian Summerer for Visit Alexandria (left and center); Sam Kittner for Visit Alexandria (right)