Top Things To Do With Kids This Holiday Season

Alexandria’s holiday season is in full swing, and there’s plenty of exciting family-fun to be had by all. To help find the best things to do with kids during the holidays, we asked local parents about their favorite family holiday traditions in this historic city. Don’t have kids? Don’t worry, there’s no age requirement for these fun activities—grab a few friends and find your inner child.

Amy Rutherford
Red Barn Mercantile

city_of_alexandria_holiday_tree_1_credit_r_kennedy_for_visit_alexandria_720x519_72_rgbImage Credit: R. Kennedy for Visit Alexandria

We love the tree lighting on Market Square. Even after a long Black Friday at the store we always make a point of being there to kick off the holidays. It feels like the official start of the season. Then we always end the year with First Night and all the fireworks. It’s such a fun cap to another wonderful season in Alexandria. This year we are going to add two new traditions by attending the Historic Alexandria Candlelight Tour and the Del Ray Artisans Holiday Market. My kids are at an age that they will really enjoy both of these.

We also love to shop and eat our way down the twinkling path that is King Street, stopping for our favorite treats like hot chocolate at Nickels and Scheffler, fudge at Kilwins, and pizza at Pizzeria Paradiso and stepping into our favorite shops like Hooray for Books and The Christmas Attic. It’s such a delight to see the whole town lit up and decorated for the holidays. The twinkle lights, the store fronts, the tree in Market Square, the wreaths on every door, they all add up to a magical experience.

The holidays in Alexandria are special. You won’t find crass capitalism or the trappings of a commercial holiday here. Instead you will find a close-knit community who throws open it’s doors for its neighbors and out of town guests as if they are family. It’s warm and welcoming for people of all ages – a place where it’s okay to be a kid no matter how old you are.


Liz Jones

waterskiing-santa-credit-nick-eckert_720x500_72_rgbImage Credit: N. Eckert 

Old Town is a favorite destination any season! We call it a family date night and always head to Bugsy’s for some deep dish pizza, a walk to the waterfront, followed by ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s! We’re always sure to pack some food to feed the ducks and fish off the dock, as well as a few extra dollars to tip the artists and entertainers we see on the boardwalk. Make sure to park a little farther out, so you can enjoy a leisurely walk the streets and window shop and sight-see.

Each December, the Holiday Boat Parade of Lights is a must-attend! However, the Waterskiing Santa trumps any holiday entertainment you could ever see! Santa on waterskis? Really what else could you ask for?! Check out our pics from last year here.

Also, when we’re in town for New Year’s Eve, First Night is a great opportunity for families! Old Town is so walkable, that much of the fun between entertainment and destinations is walking past unique stores, historical markers, as well as beautifully decorated homes.

During the holidays Old Town really does take on the charm of a waterfront community from the olden days. From authentic gas lights to cobblestone streets and brick front buildings, it’s easy to imagine this city a century ago. Add in a little modern twinkle with illuminated storefronts, trees, and more, and you’ll definitely get into the holiday spirit!

Katharine Briscoe
DIY Del Ray

img_7156v2-3_scottish_walk_bagpipes_credit_matt_chenet_for_visit_alexandria_720x480_72_rgbImage Credit: M. Chenet for Visit Alexandria

I love the mix of old, new and borrowed traditions during the holidays. My kids always enjoy the Scottish Walk Parade and the tree lighting, but we’ve also discovered new ways to celebrate in our Del Ray neighborhood, borrowed from places around the country. 

On Luray Ave., neighbors have started displaying over-sized, hand-painted “yard cards” in their front lawns, a tradition that one resident brought from her home town in Michigan. They can be viewed by day or by night. On Rosecrest Ave., magnificent glowing orbs created from chicken wire and string lights hang from the trees, modeled after a North Carolina neighborhood. They only come out at night, but they are magical site to see.

Alexandria is special because people from all over the country have made a home here, bringing regional customs along with them. It’s fun to explore the city and see what new traditions begin each year. 

Linda Samuel

boat_parade_698_credit_r_kennedy_for_visit_alexandria_720x500_72_rgbImage Credit: R. Kennedy for Visit Alexandria

The Holiday Boat Parade of Lights is a can’t-miss in Alexandria. All of the boats illuminated with festive holiday colors and displays cruising along the Potomac River is so beautiful and magical to see.  And the performances, art shows, and other fun on land at the Torpedo Factory round it all out for a fantastic holiday experience. 

Tiffany Moy
Local Instagrammer

img_8059v2-3_shop_small_credit_matt_chenet_for_visit_alexandria_720x480_72_rgb-1Image Credit: M. Chenet for Visit Alexandria

The holiday season in Old Town is our absolute favorite! We love Small Business Saturday. There are so many amazing stores to visit and wonderful gifts to pick out for friends and family. Camden gets to pick out gifts for his cousins. They always ask where we find such perfectly unique gifts.

Old Town gives me the warm fuzzies during the holidays. One of my absolute favorite things to do is bundle up, make a comfy-cozy blanket nest for Camden in his stroller and walk up and down King Street with a hot chocolate in hand. We walk under the fairy lights which line the street, take photos in front of the beautiful tree in Market Square, check out the decorated houses and pick out a new ornament for our tree from The Christmas Attic on S. Union Street.

We have made a lot of memories in Alexandria during the holiday season. We have grown as a family with this town and cherish it so very much.


For more on holidays in Alexandria, click here.


Header image by Richard Nowitz for Visit Alexandria