Inexpensive Family Holiday Outings in Northern VA
This area is filled with so many holiday events and activities that it is impossible to hit them all. This is not a comprehensive guide of every single local holiday event, just highlighting some free, cheap, and fun ideas that your family can enjoy without breaking your bank account.
Reston Town Center:
Enjoy some great family time in Reston Town Center at the Pavilion Ice Skating rink. Saturday mornings even have a special Cartoon Skate time from 11 AM-1PM with favorite characters such as Scooby Doo and the Cat in the Hat. Then, check out the impressive Hyatt Gingerbread Village located in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency. “ This sweet display consists of 145 lbs of sugar, 100 lbs of flour, 2 gallons of molasses & honey, 1½ lbs of cinnamon & nutmeg, 15 lbs of pretzels, and 90 lbs of candy.” Warm up with an inexpensive cup of hot chocolate at Cosi, Starbucks, or Panera Bread. Also on Saturday evenings, horse drawn carriage rides through Reston Town Center are available for $5 per person (5 and under free) from 6:30-10:00 PM. Check out Reston Town Center’s full holiday event guide here.
Old Town Alexandria:
The holidays are magical in Old Town, and the decorations are breathtaking. Get a unique boutique gift at 529 Kids Consign and ride the free King Street Trolley down to the water to check out the decorations in the Torpedo Factory, get unique holiday decor at the Christmas Attic, and end it with some treats at Firehook Bakery or Starbucks.
Old Town Manassas:
Enjoy family ice skating at the Harris Pavilion. Then, you can do some holiday shopping and browsing at Whimsical Galerie with a fun toy attic for kids upstairs or perhaps visit historical exhibits at the Manassas Museum ($5 admission and under 6 is free.) Also, check out this guide if you are looking for a bite to eat or drink.
Holiday Parades and Festivals in NoVA
Bundle up those kiddos! Who doesn’t enjoy a parade or festival? Here are the dates and times of the top holiday parades and festivals in NoVA.
- Reston Holiday Parade: Friday, November 23rd at 11 AM, Macy’s style balloons, music, dancers, antique cars, trucks, community groups, and of course Mr. and Mrs. Claus!
- Shirlie Lights up the Village: Tues, November 27th 6:30-8:30 PM, Tree lighting, photos with Santa, horse drawn carriage rides, live entertainment, kids’ activities, and more
- Town of Vienna Holiday Stroll: November 26 from 6-9 PM, Petting zoo, lots of local entertainment, free hot chocolate, bonfires with toasting marshmallows, and historic houses/museums open with festivities, decor, and more.
- City of Fairfax Festival of Lights and Carols, Saturday, December 1, various times, performances, light displays, children’s activities, and more. Some events require advanced registration.
- Greater Manassas Christmas Parade: Saturday, December 1 at 10 AM, This year’s theme is “A Storybook Christmas,” Enjoy watching horse drawn carriages, characters, community groups, performers, and more.
- Frying Pan Farm Park’s Old Fashioned Holiday Celebration, Saturday, December 1 at 11 AM, Free admission, no registration required (some activities have fees.) Visit the farm animals, enjoy photos with Santa, live entertainment, wagon rides, equestrian demonstrations, campfire, and more.
- Scottish Walk Parade Alexandria on Saturday, December 1 at 11 AM, lots of bagpipes, horses, police, fire trucks, characters, community groups, performers, Santa, and more!
- Silverbrook Nursery Holiday Festival, Saturday, December 1 from 12 PM-3 PM, Groovy Nate the children’s entertainer, s’mores, create a holiday card for the troops, ornament and wreath making and more ($5 admission.)
- Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights: Saturday, December 1 at 6PM, The harbor lights up when more than 50 illuminated boats cruise the Potomac River at the historic waterfront, led by Alexandria’s fireboat Vigilant and Washington, D.C.’s fireboat John Glenn. Parade at 6 PM, some programs begin at 4:30 PM.
- McLean Winterfest, Sunday December 2, pre-parade entertainment and vendors begins at 3:15 PM, big parade with floats, performers, community organizations, trucks, and more.
- Leesburg Holiday Parade and Festival - Saturday, December 8 at 10 AM, Fun community parade with floats, trucks, performers, music, Santa, and more. Festival and additional performances follow the parade.
- Annual Jingle on Lake Anne Celebration, Saturday, December 8 at 11 AM, Petting zoo, children’s activities, vendors, live entertainment, and the arrival of Santa by barge at noon.
- Winter Wonderland at Clarendon Market Common, Saturday, December 15 at 4 PM, Enjoy a beautiful wintery wonderland full of festive holiday activities and entertainment, Santa’s arrival by firetruck, and visits and photos with Santa in the gazebo. Free and open to the public.
- JCCNV J Fest Hands on Hanukkah, Tuesday, December 25 at 11 AM, crafts, games, moonbounces, live entertainment, food, and more!
Other Notable Inexpensive Winter and Holiday Happenings:
- Winter Walk of Lights at Meadowlark Garden, November 16- January 6th, over 500,000 LED lights and amazing displays at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. Brand new event for 2012 that looks like a great time for the whole family!
- Bull Run Festival of Lights, November 21-January 6th, a NoVA holiday favorite event. Drive through and check out the impressive animated light displays that are timed to music in the comfort of your own vehicle. Always check online for coupons. A carnival is available on the weekends, but please note that weekdays are much less crowded.
- A Soldiers’ Christmas at Carlyle House, December 1 at 12 PM, Suggested donation of $5. Enjoy colonial treats, games, entertainment, watch military drills, and more.
- Wolf Trap’s Holiday Sing-a-long, December 1st at 4 PM, free event but arrive EARLY and bring a toy for Toys for Tots, sing along with holiday, Christmas, and Hanukkah songs with the US Marine Band
- Gardner’s Open House at Green Springs Gardens, December 2 from 12-4 PM, This free event features antique toys, train displays, Santa, a puppet show (fee,) decorations, refreshments, and more.
- Retro Classic Holiday Movies at Bow Tie Cinema in Reston: Wednesdays at 2 PM and 7 PM, Schedule is: Wed 12/5 – Home Alone (1990) , Wed 12/12 – Bad Santa (2003) , Wed 12/19 – National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
- Flakley the Naked Snowman at Hidden Oaks Nature Center, December 9 at 2 PM, Register online for this special program with hot chocolate, a craft, and a read aloud of Flakley by local author Amy Tubbs.
- VRE Santa train at the Burke Centre, Manassas, Woodbridge, and Fredricksburg train stations, more info coming soon!
- National Capital Trackers Winter Wonderland Train Show, December 12-16 at the Manassas Candy Factory
- Chanukah Wonderland: info and dates coming soon
- Home for the Holidays at the Heritage Farm Museum, December 27 (more details coming soon)
- Magic Toy Shop Puppet Show at Frying Pan Farm Park, December 28th at 10 AM and also at 11:30 AM, Please register online and join Bob Brown Puppets in the special holiday show.
- First Night Alexandria: the metro area’s largest New Year’s Eve celebration with so many performers, activities, events and fireworks. Kids under 12 are free. Check it out!
Bookmark these local holiday event guides!
- Our-Kids Holiday Light Guide: great inclusive list of DC Metro area light displays, tree and menorah lightings and festivals
- Our-Kids Holiday Show Guide: local performances, Nutcracker shows, live music, tiny tots concerts and more in this comprehensive guide!