Christmas can either be the biggest commercial event one experiences or it can be one of the most unique holidays of the year. So put the commercialism of Christmas aside and let’s capture the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland where culture and heritage are rich
Here are ten top events to look forward to in Go Blue Ridge Travel’s region. If you need to escape the hectic – join a town’s festivities and shop at wonderful small shops on any given weekend during December.
#1 – Christmas Middleburg, Virginia
What is most unique and sets the Middleburg parade apart are the horses and hounds and red coat riders. Located in the heart of Virginia horse country, the small town attracts local residents and visitors from around the region to take part in traditional festivities that have become an essential part of the spirit of Christmas in Middleburg. Each year the Middleburg Hunt has over 100 horses and hounds in the mile long parade. Parade features a unique assortment of floats, marching bands, local community groups, antique fire trucks, and a variety of animals including horses, llamas and dogs. Santa brings up the rear riding on a beautiful horse drawn coach. Festivities are thru out the day Throughout the day there are hayrides, choir performances, the Garden Club’s Christmas Flower & Greens Show and the Craft Show. Looking to spend the weekend, The Ashby Inn and Goodstone Inn & Restaurant were both voted two of the top 50 restaurants in Northern Virginia. This parade is on December 7th.
#2 Christmas at Oatlands Leesburg, Virginia
Just down the road on Route 15 between Route 7 and Route 50 is Oatlands Historic House and Gardens. welcomes Christmas celebrating the history of the region. With Wreath Making Workshop, Ginger Bread House Contest, and Candlelight Tours, one can experience Christmas past in the countryside of the grand south. Offering a Children’s Theater play – “Jingle in the Jungle”, performances are available December 15, 20. 21, 22nd. Oatlands showcases an Art Show thru December 30th.
#3 Christkindlmarkt at Village Commons Front Royal, Virginia
Celebrating a German and Austrian tradition, Christkindlmarkt is about a 16th – 17th century tradition of toymakers coming to the villages to sell their wares. Many of these villages would celebrate with a small festival since the work of the harvest would be over and winter would only just be beginning. Here in Front Royal, the Town Crier announces the official opening of “Christkindlmarkt”. The ten year old festival is on December 6th and 7th. Just off of Interstate 66 and Route 522, Front Royal is known as the Canoe Capitol of the World.
#4 Historic Harrisonburg’s Downtown Holiday Tour Harrisonburg, Virginia
Located off of Interstate 81, Harrisonburg’s Downtown is going thru a Renaissance growth period of change. With over 25 restaurants and 45 plus speciality shops, ‘Shop Small Shop Local’ is celebrated during the entire holiday season. This Holiday Tour on Sunday, December 8th, start at the Virginia Quilt museum showcasing a selection of old town homes as well as downtown lofts decorated for the holidays. For families, make sure you visit, Explore More Discovery Museum on Main Street.
#5 Christmas On the Farm – New Market, Virginia
Just north of Harrisonburg on Interstate 81 is the New Market Battlefield State Historic Park. On December 7th, Civil War-era Yuletide traditions will be re-enacted in a program titled “Christmas on the Farm.” Costumed historic interpreters will share traditions of the season from the mid-19th Century including the visit by the Belsnickel. The Belsnickel tradition which was tied to St Nicholas was familiar to immigrant German families.
#6 Christmas Movie Celebration – Winchester, Virginia
If one is a movie follower, then The Alamo Drafthouse’s Holiday Movie Series will be a must experience Christmas event. The Alamo is right off of Interstate 81 before you reach Winchester. On December 2nd, the most popular Christmas movie ever made will be showcased. Wrapping up the series which began in November will the The Nutcracker Ballet, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Home Alone.
“Each year, we kick off our holiday programming at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Winchester with The Polar Express. Originally screened based on customer requests, the film now plays for nearly two weeks each year to packed houses. We encourage our guests to wear pajamas, and we have a live conductor at every show. With optional treats like holiday cookies, hot chocolate and coloring pages, The Polar Express draws several thousand viewers every year and is the single biggest annual event at the Alamo.” said Steve Nerangis, owner of The Alamo – Winchester VA
#7 Christmas Tours at Historic Jordan Springs – Winchester, Virginia
On the northside of Winchester, Historic Jordan Springs has one of the oldest recorded histories in the Shenandoah Valley region. Dating back to 1549, the Catawba Indians discovered two mineral springs on what is today’s historic property. The property has a long history as the Jordan Family Resort Hotels beginning in 1832 and closing in the 1930’s. As was true of many homes, the hotel served as a hospital during the Civil War. In 1893, the present faciiity was built and used as a resort destination. The property was purchased in 1953 by the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity and then sold again to the present owners in 2001. As a Christmas tradition, Toni Wallace Aitken oversees the decorating of the home as a fundraiser for the community. Opening on December 6th with a Ghost of Christmas Past Candelight Tour and Wine-tasting, the venue is open for tours, a tea and a concert thru December 20th.
#8 Festival of Flights – Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Definitely the most unusual Christmas experience in the valley, at River Riders beginning December 14th thru January 4th on Saturdays, one can experience a luminary experience by ziplining thru the canopy of trees. A 2 – 3 hour spectacular adventure, one will zip thru tree tops high above the forest floors. Experience Old World Holiday Shopping in Harpers Ferry.
#9 Christmas in Shepherdstown – Shepherdstown, West Virginia
Being a small German town rich in history and hertiage, the town has all the typical activities of the past such as chestnuts roasting, carriage rides thru the town, a parade and the lighting of the tree. A month long celebration with something happening each weekend, the season kicks off on November 29th with the arrival of Santa and the Grinch. It is fun to join the bonfire and save the cornbread and chili. The a parade is scheduled on December 7th. Anyone who has experienced Shepherdstown knows the town’s parades are informal small town fun. This is a great time to get your holiday greens and Christmas bazaar crafts. The town is know for its many unique restaurants and coffee shops as well as its the small unique shops open.
#10 – Christmas Memorial Illumination – Sharpsburg, Maryland
On Saturday evening December 7, 2013, Antietam National Battlefield, in cooperation with the American Business Women’s Association and the Washington County Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, will host the Annual Antietam National Battlefield Memorial Illumination in honor of those soldiers who fell during the Battle of Antietam. A must see Go Blue Ridge Travel Bucket List experience for every adult and child. Over 23,000 luminaries for each soldier who died at this battle. This is a 5-mile driving tour and will stay in one’s memory for a lifetime.
Have 48 hours to spend, any of these events or combination of will make a great road trip to the Shenandoah Valley in December. Check out GoBRT’s accommodations from resorts, bed and breakfast, cabins, vacation rentals and hotels.