Looking for ways to usher in the Christmas season? Dozens of parades, tree lightings, holiday markets and visits with Santa are happening across Northern Virginia this season.
National Christmas Tree Lighting
Dec. 2, and Dec. 4 through Jan. 1
15th and E streets NW, Washington, on the Ellipse
This year’s 99th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting and ceremony will take place on Thursday, Dec. 2, on the Ellipse. The National Christmas Tree site is free to visit and will be open to the public Dec. 4 through Jan. 1 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Workhouse Small Business Saturday
Saturday, Dec. 3 and Saturday, Dec. 11
Workhouse Arts Center, Lorton
The Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton will offer a 20% discount on all resident and associate artists’ original creations for Small Business Saturday starting Saturday, Dec. 4. On Dec. 11 there will be a holiday-themed Second Saturday Art Walk. Stroll the community market as roving holiday carolers spread cheer. During the evenings, the campus quad will also be seasonally lighted in special and decorative ways.
Santa visits Manassas
Friday, Dec. 3, 5:15 p.m., continuing throughout December
Historic Old Town Manassas
Santa has been lighting the Christmas tree in Old Town for over 27 years. Santa arrives at the Manassas Depot on the Virginia Railway Express train shortly after 6 p.m. After Santa lights the tree, he takes time to visit with the children. Free horse-drawn carriage rides will round out the evening and continue every Sunday in December from 1 to 4 p.m., and ice skating at the Harris Pavilion will be available throughout the season.
75th Annual Greater Manassas Christmas Parade
Saturday, Dec. 4, 10 a.m.-noon
Old Town Manassas
Parade-goers line the streets of Manassas once again for the 75th annual Greater Manassas Christmas Parade, this year with the theme “Right Down Santa Claus Lane.” Over 100 marching bands, floats, dancers and more from local schools and groups will wind through Old Town to kick off the holiday season and mark the beginning of Merry Old Town.
Haymarket Christmas & Holiday Celebration
Saturday, Dec. 4, 3-6 p.m.
Haymarket Town Hall, 15000 Washington St.
Join the Town of Haymarket for their annual Christmas and Holiday Celebration and Tree Lighting. Cookie decorating, craft and gift bazaar, holiday carols, s'mores by the bonfire and local food vendors are featured, and of course a visit by Santa. This event is free, and everyone is welcome.
Occoquan holiday events
458 Mill St., Occoquan
River Mill Park in Occoquan will be transformed into a winter wonderland for a special shopping experience. Artisans and craft persons will offer original, handmade work in a full range of media, from handmade bath and body products, candles, gourmet food products and home décor to fine art and jewelry.
Visit with Santa while you are in town. The big guy will arrive by boat at the town dock at Mamie Davis Park on Dec. 4 at 10:30 a.m. Kids of all ages are then invited to escort Santa to River Mill Park. He will be ready to visit with families from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. both market days.
Jingle on Lake Anne
Saturday, Dec. 4, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Lake Anne Plaza, Reston
Santa arrives by boat at the 50th annual Jingle on Lake Anne. There will be children's crafts, music and more, with Santa arriving by boat at noon.
Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights
Dec. 3, 5:30 p.m.
Old Town Alexandria’s historic waterfront will shine for the 21st annual Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights sponsored by Amazon at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3, as dozens of brightly lighted boats cruise along one mile of the Potomac River shoreline. Enjoy dockside festivities from 2 to 8 p.m. in Waterfront Park.
Alexandria’s Scottish Christmas Walk
Saturday, Dec. 4, 11 a.m.
Old Town Alexandria
The Campagna Center’s 50th Anniversary Scottish Christmas Walk, featuring a parade of Scottish clans and Scottie dogs, hits the streets of Old Town Alexandria once again.
National Harbor holiday tree lightings
Through Dec. 31
National Harbor Waterfront District, Prince George's, Md.
National Harbor’s 54-foot tree lights up the holidays every evening through Dec. 31. Shows run on the half-hour from sunset to 9 p.m. The National Harbor Waterfront District is on the Potomac River in Prince George’s County, Md., 149 Waterfront St.
Illuminations at Mount Vernon
Dec. 17 and Dec. 18, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
George Washington's Mount Vernon
See George Washington’s Mount Vernon illuminated with soft lights and holiday patterns as you listen to Christmas carolers and visit an 18th-century winter encampment and a winter market. End the evening with a holiday fireworks show starting between 8:15 and 8:30 p.m. Make sure to stop and see Aladdin the camel, who will be at the mansion until Jan. 6. Mount Vernon is at 3200 Mount Vernon Highway in Fairfax County.
Santa visits Potomac Mills
Daily through Dec. 24
Potomac Mills Circle, Woodbridge
Mr. Claus will return this year for the Santa Photo Experience at Potomac Mills beginning this weekend and continuing daily through Christmas Eve. Reservations are required. For details, see simonsanta.com.
Bull Run Festival of Lights
Through Jan. 2. Monday-Thursday nights, 5:30-9:30 p.m.; Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holiday nights, 5:30-10 p.m.
Bull Run Regional Park, Centreville
Load your family in the car for one of Northern Virginia’s favorite holiday activities. The route is 2.5 miles, illuminated by a wide array of holiday light displays. Be socially distant and drive the festival route from the comfort of your car; turn off your headlights and just follow the magical glow.
Through Jan. 22
45425 Holiday Drive, Sterling
Open nightly, timed tickets start at $28
Tinsel! is an immersive outdoor festival and interactive winter destination featuring light displays, food and drink, entertainment and Washington Capitals experiences like a Capitals-themed Igloo experience, oversized Capitals-themed photo opportunities and alumni and mascot appearances.
Nights of Lights
Through Jan. 9, 6-10 p.m. daily
Prince William County Fairgrounds, Manassas
Nights of Lights features mesmerizing holiday light displays spanning over one mile along with a Christmas Village where visitors can join holiday sing-a-longs, take a photo with Santa, shop local artisans, get lost in the mazes, find the perfect holiday selfie stations and more. A special addition to the village will be the custom-designed Gingerbread Café featuring gingerbread cookies, sweet treats, hot cocoa, hot apple cider, s’mores kits for the fire pits, and hot soups catered by a local bakery.
‘Gift of the Magi,’ The Musical
Weekends through Dec. 12
Fauquier Community Theatre
4225 Aiken Drive, Warrenton
It’s Christmas in New York in 1905. Imagine the excitement of a busy street, bustling with shoppers and carolers singing joys of the season. Della, a stunning young woman, strolls along, looking in store windows, a bit saddened that she has only $1.87 to spend on a gift for her husband, Jim. Down the street, Jim does likewise; wistfully knowing that the items in the stores that he would love to buy for Della are beyond his means. You will enter a beautiful musical adaptation of O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi.”
Warrenton Christmas Parade
Friday, Dec. 3, 6 p.m.
Old Town Warrenton
The parade is back on Main Street this year, led by Santa in his horse and sleigh, and featuring lighted floats, bands, and kids and lots of holiday cheer. The parade will travel down Main Street from 5th past the Courthouse and down to Pelham Street. Christmas carols and the tree illumination at the courthouse follow, then fireworks to usher in the season.
Warrenton’s GumDrop Square
Opens Friday, Dec. 3, 5-8 p.m.
Gloria’s, 92 Main Street, #204, Warrenton
GumDrop Square is a long-time Warrenton holiday tradition and photo-op for families. The visit provides a personal experience with Santa and a beautifully decorated backdrop including Christmas trees and a fireplace on Gloria’s stage – the perfect spot to capture that traditional Santa photo. Another highlight of a visit to GumDrop Square is Santa’s Secret Shop, where children can purchase $2 tickets to buy gifts for family and friends without parents looking over their shoulder.
Swing into the Holidays with the Silver Tones Swing Band
Saturday, Dec. 4, 7 p.m.
Vint Hill Community Center, 4235 Aiken Drive, Warrenton
The Silver Tones Swing Band kicks off the holiday season swing concert and dance featuring your holiday favorites plus big band swing hits. The Vint Hill Community Center features a huge dance-floor with plenty of room to swing. There will be a beginner swing dance lesson with world-class swing instructor Ewa Burak at 7 p.m. Light refreshments will be for sale.
Downtown Holiday Market
Daily through Dec. 23
Penn Quarter, Washington, D.C.
Downtown Holiday Market, presented by the DowntownDC Business Improvement District, Diverse Markets Management and Events DC, returns to the nation’s capital for a 17th year. DowntownDC’s open-air village runs through Dec. 23, filling two entire blocks of F Street NW, from 7th to 9th Streets NW, with the main entrance in front of the National Portrait Gallery.
Admission is free, and the market is open daily from noon to 8 p.m.