Cover photo: Colonial Beach Plaza Bed & Breakfast
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, holidays are looking a little different this year. Large family gatherings, crowded Christmas functions, and air travel are out. Still, towns and villages across Virginia are doing their best to keep the holiday season jolly, with events and experiences that are socially-distanced and as safe as possible.
This year, take a #WanderLOVE roadtrip through the quaint villages of Virginia. Experience a Norman Rockwell Christmas in our charming small towns. Stroll the shops of Main Street USA. Marvel at historic Colonial architecture decked out in twinkling lights for the holidays. Spend a few nights in a romantic bed and breakfast or boutique hotel. Make family vacation memories at a luxury resort. Celebrate the end of a difficult year and cheer in the new one with fireworks or gourmet cuisine at one of our award-winning fine dining restaurants.
Get Out of the City for the Holidays!
Known for its importance during the Civil War, the Old Town historic district of Manassas, Virginia, is an excellent jumping-off point for our WanderLOVE Holiday roadtrip. Only 32 miles from Washington, DC, and accessible by Metro out of Union Station (beautifully decorated during the holidays!), Manassas offers free horse-drawn carriage rides down narrow, picturesque streets, past quaint, family-owned shops and turn-of-the-century homes and buildings. For a fun and unique experience, reserve an igloo at Farm Brew LIVE! These 12 ft. heated domes are located in the patio area of The Yard adjacent to the Pour House at 2 Silos Brewing Co. as well as on the decks of The Black Sheep Restaurant.
Pass through Prince William County to reach I-95. Stop to hear the Quantico Marine Corps Band perform their Holiday Concert Celebration. Next, head south to Fredericksburg, Virginia’s 40-block historic downtown, which takes the holiday season VERY seriously. Holiday Laser Light Show set to music. Decorated Window Wonderland riddle contest. Christmas performing art shows. Candlelit tours. Horsedrawn carriage rides. Gingerbread House Contest. Art Exhibit. Holiday Craft Show. Winter Wine Fest. Christmas Parade and more.
Take me to the (Potomac) River–or ‘rivah’, as locals like to say–and have the beaches to yourself! Caledon State Park is putting its endless and aged collection of driftwood to good use. Make a naturally beautiful, rustic driftwood Christmas/Holiday tree to give as a gift or for keep for yourself.
But first, a pitstop at King George County’s Backporch Vineyard, a member of Chespeake Bay Wine Trail, may be just what you need to inspire holiday cheer. Visit during the Trail’s Holiday Sip & Shop event (see below) on December 12 and take advantage of wine, food and gift specials.
Christmas in Town of Colonial Beach
Though a number of Town of Colonial Beach, Virginia‘s (CBVA) eagerly anticipated holiday events are canceled to ensure the safety of residents and visitors, new ones were added and a few beloved favorites are on schedule.
CBVA kicks off the holiday season December 4 with its first ever Pop-Up Christmas Art Market, where you can find the perfect gift or unique souvenir! The art show and sale, presented by Colonial Beach Artists Guild, will be held the first two weekends of December and features wall art and artful objects created by local artists.
The Annual Lighted Jeep Parade, hosted by Dockside Restaurant and Tiki Bar, features a parade of festively-decorated Jeeps and is a fundraiser for the No Child Left Behind Colonial Beach Elementary School Toy Drive.
Santa Claus makes several appearances this season, including atop a fire truck courtesy of Colonial Beach Volunteer Fire Department. You can also hop in your own vehicle (including your golf cart!) and cruise through Santa’s Village at Colonial Gardens, the Town’s annual Holiday Display on Town Hill, and local neighborhoods to view displays for the Light Up Town of Colonial Beach decorating contest.
Leave out the prettiest cookies for Santa he’s ever seen after attending The Tides Inn Market’s Christmas Cookie Decorating Class on December 13. Seasonal holiday beverages, such as Gingerbread Latte, The Grinch (white chocolate mint latte), Peppermint Mocha, Eggnog Latte, Toasted Marshmallow Latte and more are on then menu at Julie’s Coffeehouse.
Spend the night at Colonial Beach Plaza Bed & Breakfast, housed in a 19th Century Victorian mansion and decked out for the holidays.
Happy Holidays from the Northern Neck
Just south of Town of Colonial Beach, pop-in to Ingleside Vineyards and shop for presents at its vast gift shop. Ingleside is one of ten members of Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail, host of an annual Holiday Sip & Shop event (December 12) featuring wine and gift specials, food and refreshments, and live music at participating member sites.
While in the area, visit Stratford Hall, homestead of the Lee family. The historic site is open for ticketed tours (residents of local counties can take advantage of free days in December), as well as a number of holiday-themed virtual events, such as Colonial Christmas Cuisine. Historical interpreters discuss Christmas traditions of early African America, highlighting some of the foods the enslaved African American cooks would create for the big house, as well as the traditions of those residing in the quarters. Hear the history of Caeser, the enslaved chef at Stratford, and one of the earliest chocolate makers in the colony. Shop Stratford’s Gift Shop online and choose a holiday gift for everyone on your list such as local jams and honey, home decor, books on the Lee men and women, and all who lived at Stratford Hall.
Continue south to shop ’til you drop! The Lancaster County town of Kilmarnock, located in Virginia’s River Realm, was named Eastern Virginia’s Favorite Main Street by Virginia Living Magazine. Shops and businesses dress up their windows and storefronts with holiday cheer. Kilmarnock’s LoveWork sign gets a seasonal refresh. Festive lights and decorations are strewn throughout the village, including Town Centre Park which boasts the tallest Christmas tree in the county. Don’t forget to stop by Town Hall to take a picture at the Holiday Selfie Station!
Remember the reason for the season! Nearby Weems is home to Historic Christ Church & Museum, built in 1732-35. The church is notable for its unique Georgian design, and is one of the best-preserved colonial churches in the southern United States.
Town of Irvington, Virginia is Open this Holiday Season!
Take the ‘hectic’ out of the holiday season with a stay in the coastal Town of Irvington, Virginia. Located on the banks of Carters Creek, near the intersection of the Rappahannock River and Chesapeake Bay, Irvington is a popular waterfront destination for boaters during the warmer months.
This winter, however, the Town is welcoming visitors to explore its holiday offerings. The newly refined resort The Tides Inn is remaining open through the season, inviting guests to take advantage of endless activities, such as crafting handmade pottery under the tutelage of local artisans; expert oyster shucking with a seasoned chef, followed by exquisite jewelry, candle and ornament-making with the leftover shells; creating homemade pies, holiday cookies, and seasonal flower arrangements; and simply relaxing under the guidance of wellness professionals. Musical performances and appearances from Santa, too! The Tides Inn will serve Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals in Chesapeake Restaurant, or for take home with pre-order. A romantic New Year’s Eve includes either a prix fixe, coastal cuisine dinner accompanied by live piano music, or casual dining at Fish Hawk Oyster Bar.
Country Roads Take Me Home
As you prepare to make your way back home, you might want to head north by way of Ashland, Virginia, 15 miles outside of Richmond. Every year, the historic railroad town celebrates its past and Lights Up the Tracks for over a mile through the vintage holiday village. Ashland’s Victorian haunted history is told through the stories of the Ghosts of Christmas Past walking tour. The Ashland Railroad 5K, 10K, 15K, or Kids’ 1-Mile Run/Walk benefits the non-profit Hanover Arts & Activities Center, with prizes for the most festive running attire. Or go on a snowball hunt (just like an egg hunt) in search of “snowballs” filled with candy and prizes.
Happy holidays from all of us in Town of Colonial Beach!