Virginia December 04, 2015
11 Unforgettable Places In Virginia That Everyone Must Visit This Holiday Season
From the start, Virginians have had a special affinity for the holidays. Early colonial writings report that Virginians feasted, danced and had festivities for weeks, this at a time when many other more Puritanical colonies didn’t celebrate the holiday. In fact, one of the first Christmas trees in America was thanks to William and Mary’s Professor Charles Minnegerode. And, arguably, Williamsburg is still one of the best
Christmas Towns to this day.
It’s no wonder that, today, we still celebrate the season with enthusiasm. For this holiday season, here are some of the best places in Virginia to explore traditional holiday customs, see brilliant light displays, and maybe even create a few new traditions of your own.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date. If you know of a local business that could use some extra support during these times, please nominate them here:
1. George Washington's Mount Vernon, Mt. Vernon
Throughout the year, Mount Vernon supplies a living history like no other. During the holidays, it only gets better. Celebrate the holidays at Mount Vernon with candlelight tours, fireworks timed to Christmas music, dancing, caroling and, of course, Aladdin the Christmas camel. After the holidays, the festivities continue with events like Tea with Mrs. Washington, classical music performances and, on February 12, 2016, The Mount Vernon Chocolate Dinner. To see a complete listing of events, dates and times, visit
2. Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens Dominion Festival of Lights, Richmond
Lewis Ginter lights up the nights with their annual Dominion Festival of Lights. This year’s theme is H2Whoa. Featuring more than 500,000 lights, handmade botanical decorations, model trains, holiday dinners, a fire pit, s’mores, family activities and so much more, the gardens in Richmond are the perfect way to spend a winter evening. The display is open nightly from 5pm -10pm, November 27, 2015 - January 11, 2016 (closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Visit
Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens
3. Richmond Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” Norfolk and Richmond
This age-old classic follows the Christmas Eve adventures of young Clara Silberhaus and her magical Nutcracker. The Richmond Ballet will perform this timeless ballet in 2 locations, including Chrysler Hall in Norfolk, December 4-6 and the Carpenter Theatre in Richmond, December 11-23. For tickets and showtimes, visit
4. 100 Miles of Lights: Richmond, Williamsburg, Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach
This award-winning winter lights spectacular covers, quite literally, 100 miles, stretching from Richmond to Virginia Beach. With 7 participating cities, 100 Miles of Lights offers unique displays and events in each city, including festivals, parades, living history re-enactments, caroling, music and much more. Shown here is the Celebration of Lights in Newport News, Virginia’s oldest drive-through lights display.
Learn more about the participating cities and event listing at
100 Miles of Lights
5. Natural Tunnel State Park Holiday Lighting of the Tunnel, Duffield
Natural Tunnel is undoubtedly one of Virginia’s natural wonders. But with holiday lights? It just gets better. At the Natural Tunnel State Park's Lighting of the Tunnel event, you'll pass thousands of sparkling lights as you ride the chairlift to the entrance of the tunnel, followed by music, hot chocolate and Santa visits, as well as historic re-enactments of a 1775 Frontier Christmas at the nearby Carter Cabin. Learn more at
Virginia State Parks
6. MacArthur On Ice and the Winter Carnival at the MacArthur Center, Norfolk
Featuring MacArthur On Ice and an outdoor Winter Carnival, the fun at the Mac Arthur Center has already started and lasts through January 18, 2016.
MacArthur On Ice offers a 7,200-square-foot outdoor ice rink with public skating, ice hockey clinics, figure skating exhibitions and more, with a special “snowfall” every Monday through Saturday at 6pm, 7:30pm and 8:30 and Sunday at 6pm and 7pm.
The Winter Carnival features 7 family-friendly rides, including a 55' LED-lit Ferris Wheel, a 20' fun slide, a Tilt-a-Whirl and much more. Learn more about MacArthur On Ice, the Winter Carnival and the many other holiday events going on now at the MacArthur Center
7. Tacky Lights Tours throughout Virginia
Even if you’re a “few tasteful white lights around the door and lamppost" kind of holiday decorator, you’ve got to appreciate the enthusiasm of those who don’t know the meaning of the word “subtle.” With many displays lasting through the New Year, you can get your fill of Tacky Lights this holiday season by visiting
to find the best lights displays in your areas and map out your tour.
8. Candlelight Tours of Thomas Jefferon's Poplar Forest, Forest
Thomas Jefferson’s elegant vacation home just outside Lynchburg is a popular historic destination throughout the year. But for a different perspective, be sure to visit any Friday and Saturday evening between now and December 19, 2015 for a special, after hours candlelight tour of Jefferson’s home. Tours begin at 5:30 p.m., but please note, reservations are required. Call the Museum Shop at 434.534.8120 to reserve your tour today. Or visit
to find out more and see a complete list of historic holiday events.
9. Norfolk Botanical Garden’s Dominion Garden of Lights, Norfolk
Join the Norfolk Botanical Garden for their 21st annual Dominion Garden of Lights. This spectacular drive-through display covers more than 2 miles and features millions of sparkling lights. The 2014 display was voted #8 in the nation by USA Today and "10 Best.” The display is open from November 27 - December, 31, 2015. Visit
Norfolk Botanical Gardens
for times and pricing.
10. Visit your favorite winery or brewery for special winter events, Statewide
Wineries and breweries are a great place to warm up with friends and family this winter season. Check out events like
Weihnachtsmarkt (German Christmas Market) in Bridgewater, taking place this Saturday, from 11am-5pm. Enjoy spiced wines, food and more than a dozen vendors.
11. Meadowlark Garden’s Winter Walk of Lights, Vienna
Meadowlark’s Winter Walk of Lights is a beautiful display of twinkling lights, special events and fun for the whole family. Special features include Lakeside Lights, Funny Photo Night, special musical performances, face painting and many other family-friendly activities. To see a complete list of upcoming events, visit
Winter Walk of Lights
As we get closer to Christmas, be on the lookout for other special events in your area – living nativities, Christmas musicals and Christmas Eve services. In the meantime, we hope you’ll get out and enjoy some of these holiday festivities. Do you have any special places or events that are part of your holiday traditions? We would love to hear about them in the comments below!