Holiday celebrations are well underway in the Mid-Atlantic, with spectacular light displays, European-style Christmas markets, lavishly decorated homes, musical concerts, and plenty of other activities.
Maryland’s capital city of Annapolis is brimming with holiday fun. A popular light show with more than 60 animated and stationary light displays continues evenings through Jan. 1 at Sandy Point State Park, near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
A Hogshead Holiday takes place on the evening of Dec. 5. That’s when visitors can step into the candlelight to experience an 18th-century Christmas celebration at The Hogshead, with costumed interpreters telling stories of the past. Food and drink, including “switzel” — a concoction of apple cider vinegar, water, cinnamon, and sweetener — will be served. All tickets will be entered in a raffle to win an elk-skin shoulder bag crafted by a Colonial-style craftsman.
On the evening of Dec. 18, there’s a flotilla around the Annapolis City Harbor. And, ringing in the New Year on Dec. 31 at Susan Campbell Park is a family event, featuring children’s activities, “Dancing Under the Stars” to big band music, and fireworks at 7:30pm and midnight. (annapolis.org)
The Gaylord National Harbor presents its annual ICE! event through Jan. 4, featuring a Frosty the Snowman theme carved out of 2 million pounds of ice. There are free nightly holiday fountain shows featuring the hotel’s 60-foot-tall glass “candy” tree and an indoor snowfall, as well as special packages with other activities. (christmasonthepotomac.com)
The B&O Railroad Museum, located in Baltimore, hosts its Holiday Festival of Trains & Toys through Dec. 31. The event features operating model train layouts, train rides with Santa and Frosty, and an indoor carousel. (borail.org)
After a successful debut last year, Baltimore’s Christmas Village, patterned after German markets, is making its second appearance through Dec. 24. Located at West Shore Park on the Inner Harbor, it features German-style wooden huts clustered around the Walter Sondheim Fountain, a heated tent for shoppers, a huge Christmas tree, and Deutschlander foods such as waffles, gingerbread, bratwurst, and gluhwein. International holiday gifts, ornaments, jewelry, and arts and crafts are also available for purchase. “It’s the spirit of the traditional Christkindlesmarkt,” said founder Thomas Bauer, a native of Nuremberg, Germany.
The resort town of Ocean City, Md., is dazzling visitors with more than 1 million lights at Northside Park. Visitors may view the lights aboard the Winterfest Express and then enjoy refreshments and shopping at the Winterfest Village through Dec. 23. (ococean.com)
Also on the Eastern Shore, Christmas in St. Michaels takes place Dec. 12–14, with a parade, great food, home tours, a gingerbread house display, and lots of music. (christmasinstmichaels.org)
The spirit of Christmas is alive and well in Wilmington, Del., and the surrounding Brandywine Valley. All can be experienced in day excursions through Dec. 24.
Begin your tour at the Hagley Museum and Library, also known as Eleutherian Mills, the 1802 original home and estate of the du Pont family. Enjoy holiday decorations, French interpretations of exchanging gifts, and a Twelfth Night celebration.
Next, take time for lunch and shopping at Greenville Center, Greenville Crossing, and Powder Mill Square. In the afternoon, visit Winterthur, the premier museum of American decorative arts founded by Henry Francis du Pont. It focuses on Christmas traditions of the past and dazzling Yuletide displays through Jan. 4, which also marks the end of its popular Costumes of Downton Abbey exhibit.
Another option in Wilmington is the Nemours Mansion and Gardens holiday tours, featuring Christmas
trees, a gingerbread replica of the mansion, toys, and more, through Dec. 31. At Longwood Gardens, in nearby Chester County, Pa., you can see more than 500,000 lights, dancing fountains, and floral displays, with special performances throughout the season. (visitdelaware.com)
In Virginia, the Middleburg Hunt Christmas Parade takes place on the afternoon of Dec. 6. It’s a colorful sight, with more than 100 horses, riders attired in red coats, and dozens of hounds, plus floats, marching bands, and more parading through town. You’ll also find crafts, food, hayrides, and wine tastings — plenty to do for the entire day. (christmasinmiddleburg.org)
Dec. 6 is also a big day in Alexandria, where hundreds of Scottish clansmen march through Old Town. There will be pipe and drum bands, Scottish dancers, re-enactors, Scottie dogs, and Santa Claus. In the evening, there’s the Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights, featuring more than 50 boats decked out for the holidays traveling on the Potomac River. (visitalexandria.com)
And, don’t forget that throughout the month of December you can always find many things (often free) to do in the nation’s capital. (dc.about.com)
The Wolf Trap National Park Holiday Sing-A-Long, scheduled this year at the Vienna, Va., venue for Dec. 6, is always a popular free event. Appearing with the U.S. Marine Band are choir and vocal groups from the metropolitan area. Visitors to Wolf Trap may bring a candle and a bell for the candlelight processional, plus new, unwrapped toys for the Toys for Tots program. Parking is free, but limited. (wolftrap.org)
Looking for a place to ring in the New Year? “A Jazz New Year’s Eve” at The Kennedy Center begins with a pre-concert feast, followed by a performance in the Terrace Theater, dancing to big band music, and a balloon drop in the Grand Foyer. (washington.org)
Christmas at Biltmore
Candlelight Christmas Evenings continue at the Asheville, N.C., Biltmore Estate through Jan. 3, and Christmas at Biltmore daytime tours run through Jan. 11. This year’s Christmas displays draw inspiration from the theme “A Vanderbilt Christmas Celebration,” which reflects the Gilded Age and George Vanderbilt’s legacy in the western part of the state.
Santa will be on hand at Antler Hill Village on the estate through Dec. 21. Guided tours of the winery are available, as well as free wine tastings and special wine seminars by reservation. In addition, there are free daily seminars on floral arranging and gardening through Jan. 11. Guests may enjoy tea and assemble a gingerbread house with the pastry chef at the Gingerbread House Tea on Dec. 18, 19, and 20. The four-star Inn on Biltmore Estate offers several holiday packages, including Candlelight Christmas Evenings, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve packages. (biltmore.com)
Cabin Stays in West Virginia
If you’re hankering for a cabin in the woods, you might want to rent a cozy place at a discounted rate through Adventures on the Gorge. The company operates the TreeTops canopy tour, ranked one of the “Top 10 Zip Lines” in the country by USA Today, and the Bridgewalk, a 3,000-foot-long catwalk (the highest of its kind in the world) under the New River Bridge in West Virginia. Located in Fayetteville, it’s a five-hour drive from D.C.
Winter-season lodging discounts of up to 48 percent off peak-season rates are available through March 31.
Accommodations include luxury homes, cabins, and cabin suites, with some being pet-friendly. Rates are the lowest on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights, and $20 per night higher Thursdays through Sundays.
There is a two-night minimum stay for all cabins. Rates at Sunnyside cabins start at $99 per night; Deluxe
cabins, $249-$269 per night; Outback cabins, $149-$239 per night; Mountaineer cabins, $129 per night; and luxury homes, $475-$675 per night. Upcoming events at the site include the New Year’s Eve Bash on Jan. 24 and Murder Mysteries on Feb. 21.
“There is a serene quality to the New River Gorge region in the winter, and many winter-season guests like to immerse themselves in the beauty of our gorge by taking long walks or enjoying a meal in Smokeys on the Gorge, with million-dollar views of the New River and the New River Gorge Bridge,” said Dave Arnold. Arnold is co-founder of Adventures on the Gorge, named one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth” by a National Geographic Adventure survey.
“Adrenaline junkies won’t be disappointed, though,” added Arnold. “Two of our aerial adventures are open for business and extremely popular, and there are plenty of land-based past-times like hiking, bird watching, and disc golf.” (adventuresonthegorge.com)