Happy Holidays! I’m going to share some of my favorite DC-area holiday festivities, but first, let me say that I am NOT one of those people who is straight up ready to go from Halloween to Christmas. Thanksgiving is actually my favorite holiday because it feels like the introduction to our holiday season. It’s always just the three of us here at home, but I love watching the parade and making a big meal (I go overboard every year) and then, only once Thanksgiving is over, do we start preparing for Christmas.
With one exception.
Santa at Tyson’s Corner Center
We get the earliest appointment with Santa we can so that we don’t have to go anywhere near the mall after Black Friday. We went mid-November this year and it was already nuts. Thankfully, you can reserve your Santa photos beginning early in November and get them out of the way. Plus, it gets Jacob thinking about what he wants for Christmas, and it also serves as a reminder that the Big Guy is keeping an eye on him. And then we don’t have to go back to Tyson’s and deal with the holiday madness.
In addition to avoiding the mall, we avoid pretty much anything Black Friday-related. My mom used to work retail so as Black Friday got crazier and crazier, there were several Thanksgivings where our Thanksgiving DINNER was actually her LUNCH BREAK. She would go to work early in the morning to prepare, dash home to have dinner with us, then go back to the store to start getting ready for Black Friday… which seems to start earlier and earlier every year. We keep an eye on some of the online stuff, to see if anything we were looking for or considering buying is on sale, but we usually don’t set foot in any stores. We spend our Black Friday outside.
Snickers Gap Christmas Tree Farm
Instead of hitting the mall, we hit the road and drive out to Snickers Gap tree farm to get our Christmas tree. This has been our Black Friday tradition since Tommy and I moved in together in 2012. We go out in the morning to get our tree, sip some hot apple cider, pose for pictures, tie the tree to the roof of the car and hope it stays, and then head home. We get the tree in the stand and have lunch, then when the kid goes to take his nap, we get busy working on the lights. So many lights. You could probably see our tree from space. When the kid gets up from his nap, he comes downstairs to help with the rest of the decorations.
Downtown Holiday Market
Starting in late November, the Downtown Holiday Market appears on F St. between 7th and 9th – in front of the Smithsonian Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery. I think we’ve managed to make it there every year, usually after a date night or dinner. You can browse art, crafts, jewelry, and gifts while sipping hot cocoa or coffee. And there’s also a donut stand. I think that’s the real reason why we go. Fresh, hot donuts loaded with powdered sugar and toppings. It might not be a big European Christmas market, but it’s a nice way to spend an evening.
Bull Run Festival of Lights
When the kid was seven months old, we took him on his first drive through the Bull Run Festival of Lights. Being that he was still really little, he fell asleep on the ride. The light displays are really cool – as you drive, there’s a 12 Days of Christmas countdown, characters from the Wizard of Oz, and other holiday and winter scenes. There’s also a big light tunnel that you drive through!
We decided to make looking at lights one of our holiday traditions and went back the following year, but… the kid fell asleep again. The lights were still enchanting, but the same as the year before. I think we’ll wait a few years before we go back so that the kid is a little more into it.
Meadowlark Gardens Winter Walk of Lights
This is another holiday light display that hasn’t changed much, if at all, the two times that we went, however, we really like this one because you can stroll through the gardens at your own pace and admire the lights. When we went last year, it was REALLY cold and windy and we ended up hurrying through. If we have time this year, maybe we’ll go back and do this one again. The kid was in the stroller both times and now he would love to explore the gardens on foot!
If we do any light-seeing this year, though, it will be at the National Zoo. Unlike the other two events, Zoo Lights, is free admission (pay for parking) and there is a lot more to keep a kid entertained. For one thing, it’s at the zoo, so even though it’s after hours, there are still some animals to see. There’s also the carousel and tubing down the hill, which the kid did for the first time at the Zoo’s Halloween event… I’m betting we won’t be able to walk past the hill without him begging for a ride!
Falls Church Volunteer Fire Department Santamobile
This is one of my favorite things about the holidays, for so many reasons. To start, my dad was a firefighter. Plus, there’s something about a fire truck covered in Christmas lights with Santa on top, driving through the neighborhood with the sirens going, blasting “Feliz Navidad.” But it’s so much more than that.
In 2016, the week before Christmas, we lost our home and everything in it because of a fire. It took us nearly a year before the house was rebuilt and we got to move back in. Now, when we hear the sirens and the Christmas music, we go out and wave at Santa and the truck as it comes around the corner. The firefighters wave back and they lean on the horn. Jacob covers his ears and we watch the truck go down the street and I hold back tears, thankful that the truck isn’t stopping, it’s just driving right on past our house to spread some holiday cheer to the rest of the neighborhood.
Here’s hoping that you have a very happy holiday season, and that your 2020 is full of love, laughter, and adventure!