Sunday, November 20, 2016

Christmas and holiday parades in Northern Virginia

Every year there is plenty to see and do in the Washington D.C. area for the holidays and, in Northern Virginia, there are a number of annual traditions to look forward to, including parades. 

Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend

A very popular event each year, this one is usually scheduled for the first weekend in December. The tradition has been a staple for more than 45 years. In recent years the parade has featured more than 100 marching units and typically draws a big crowd. We’ve gone a couple of times and really enjoyed it! Sponsored by the Campagna Center (in partnership with The Scottish Government, The Saint Andrew’s Society of Washington, D.C. and the City of Alexandria), proceeds go to benefit the center’s six educational programs. There are a number of events throughout the weekend. Check out the Campagna website for more information. Events take place rain or shine. 

Warrenton Christmas Parade

This annual Christmas parade takes place in Old Town Warrenton as it marches down Main Street. See Santa and the town’s Christmas tree lighting too! In previous years Christkindlmarkt (Christmas Market) was also running. For more information and updates associated with the parade, you can visit the official website. In 2016 it advertises the town’s annual tree lighting at the conclusion of the parade, followed by fireworks. This is a town I would love to explore more. I’ve been there a couple of times and really enjoyed my tour of the 19th century jail and museum at the Fauquier History Museum.

Greater Manassas Christmas Parade

Each December this parade takes place in Old Town Manassas. A tradition for more than 70 years, the parade usually takes place in early December. Check out the official website for details. Historically, this parade has been advertised as being held rain, snow or shine.

Annual Christmas and Holiday Parade (Leesburg)

Every year Leesburg holds its annual parade, it used to be held during the day, but in recent years I’ve noticed it takes place in the evening. The parade is scheduled for the second weekend in December in the historic district. It starts at Ida Lee Drive, travels down King Street and finishes on Fairfax Street. We really enjoyed the parade we saw in 2012 (that was when it was still the day parade).

Winterfest (McLean)

Another annual tradition, this parade takes place on the first Sunday of December.  The parade route is listed as being from Old Chain Bridge Road from Fleetwood Road to Elm Street. This year is the first year I’ve heard of this parade and don’t know much about it, but wanted to include it. It also advertises pre-parade entertainment. For more information on this year and previous year’s, see the official website and its Facebook page. 

Other towns that have parades in Northern Virginia include Dumfries and Purcellville, according to Northern Virginia Magazine

Parades are definitely not just for the warmer months in Northern Virginia. Keep in mind, the evening parades are likely to be a little chilly, so bundle up and have fun!

If you’re looking to spend time in D.C. proper during this year’s holiday season, there are many family-fun activities to check out.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Family fun during the holidays in Washington DC

There is just so much going on in Washington D.C. (and Northern Virginia) during the holidays, it can be hard to keep up with it all. If you’re looking for something to do with the kids at any given time during this year's festive season, you won’t be lacking for places to go. Here are a few ideas -

Zoolights, National Zoo

Zoolights is a fun time for the kids. On our last visit, we went during the holiday break and, while it was a little chilly, there was enough to see and do to keep us moving around. Lots of lights and enough of the animals were awake to visit with. During the week between Christmas and New Year, it’s likely to be a bit crowded but is still a great time. Admission is free!

Season’s Greetings at the US Botanic Garden

The USBG is a wonderful place. Always free admission year-round, during Season’s Greetings, the gardens transform into a botanical winter wonderland. You’ll find festive displays and the star of the show - the model train exhibit that is displayed each year. Season’s Greetings usually starts in late November and runs to early January, usually ending just after New Year’s Day. USBG is located a hop, skip and a jump from the U.S. Capitol, so if you're in town and wanting to take a tour, this is a great time to schedule it.

ICE! At the National Harbor 

Every year the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center hosts its ICE! Extravaganza. The theme changes each year and it’s touted as a day of family (albeit verrry chilly!) fun. We finally got down there in 2016 and we had a great time. Prices typically vary depending on the day of your visit (peak vs. non-peak). Check the official website for more information as there are other things to do too from what I hear. There are also some discounts available if you qualify. They give you a parka to wear but still dress warmly. And definitely don't forget the hat, gloves and boots!

Norwegian Christmas Tree Lighting

Union Station, which is a historic building worth seeing in itself, hosts its annual Norwegian Christmas Tree Lighting. As a longstanding custom for 20 years now, Norway presents a Christmas tree to the people of Washington as a recognition of friendship between the two nations. On the evening of the event, Santa makes an appearance and there is live music. Additionally, there is a holiday train display on exhibit in the Main Hall. The trains are hand-made replicas of Norwegian trains set in a Norwegian landscape. Admission is free. Check the official website for details. Even if you can't make the lighting, the tree and trains will be on display throughout December. 

When walking around town, check out the National Christmas Tree and Pageant of Peace. The tree is located in the White House ellipse and is usually lit early in the season (tickets for this evening are given out via an online lottery) and, after the initial lighting, the tree is open to the public to view. The Capitol Tree is usually lit the first week in December and shines each night through the holidays.

Happy holidays!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Photos on Friday: Barboursville Ruins (Virginia)

As the summer came to a close we took a road trip to James Madison's Montpelier, located in Orange, Virginia. It's about a 90 minute ride from Northern Virginia. After our tour we decided to check out the local area. We had spotted a sign on the road for Barboursville Ruins and decided to follow it and we arrived after just a few minutes. It began to pour when we arrived, but I wanted to jump out to take some photos anyway. Having a fascination with historic architecture the way I do, it was worth the rain. 

The home is the ruin of James Barbour, a former U.S. Senator, Secretary of War and Virginia Governor. The property was built in 1814 and was designed by Thomas Jefferson. The home is now in ruins due to a fire that took place on Christmas day in 1884. It is located on the property of the Barboursville Vineyards. 


Friday, November 4, 2016

Photos on Friday: National Museum of the American Indian

In honor of American Indian Heritage Month, I thought I'd post photos I'd taken at the National Museum of the American Indian in D.C. It's a beautiful museum located on the National Mall (near the Air & Space Museum and U.S. Capitol) and houses artifacts and history dating back tens of thousands of years right up until more recent times. 

Here are some photos I'd taken in 2015 and 2016 in some of the exhibits. If you are visiting, I highly recommend stopping in. There is an excellent, hands-on area for the kids (and fun for adults too!) and its restaurant is one of my favorites on the Mall.

Women's moccasins circa 1906

The photos I took of descriptions got a little mixed up, but (based on some of the photos I have), I think this piece was made around 850 AD. Either way, it's from an ancient time.

Ancient pottery - unfortunately I didn't catch the description in my photos

Seminole boy's shirt circa 1925