Many happy returns of the Christmas season, my friends! For those who celebrated, I hope you had a wonderful holiday. For my Jewish friends, I hope you’re enjoying a magical and joyful Festival of Lights! And for the rest of my friends, I hope you’re having a fabulous end to 2016. (I know we’re all ready…) We’ve been celebrating the holiday season in a big way around here. I’m a maximizer and am always determined to pack as much fun as possible into every season – and this year, to add to my tendency to overbook, we’re celebrating our first Christmas in the D.C. area in three years! D.C. does Christmas really well, and there was no way we were going to make it to every holiday activity that I’d have liked to. But we squeezed a lot of fun into one short month.
Decking the Halls
First up: walking around Old Town to check out the scene. We got back from celebrating Thanksgiving with my parents in New York, to find that the holiday season was well underway in Alexandria. Our town was named one of the “top ten holiday towns” in the country by U.S.A. Today this year – so awesome! The ALX has some serious Christmas spirit, and we made it our mission to enjoy it as much as possible.
Of course, we also had to take care of our own house. I didn’t do much this year – our stuff is still so disorganized from the move that just finding the Christmas tree and ornaments seemed like a major coup. Next year, maybe we’ll be one of the really festive houses. (I’m envisioning miniature wreaths in each of our windows.) This year, with travel and family emergencies and work and school and two very young kids, the tree felt like plenty.
Well, that and the kids’ matching holiday jammies. Oh, yes, I went there.
Someone gave us this Christmas train with Santa riding on it a few years ago – pre-Nugget. It’s not at all to my taste but something kept stopping me from tossing it into my “donate” box over the years. Now I know there was a good reason for me to hang onto it – the little dude loves it. He’s gotten really into trains lately, and the Christmas train became an instant favorite. It’s going to be hard to pry it out of his chubby claws when the time comes to pack away the holiday decorations.
Due to our tree decorating, we didn’t make it to the Old Town Scottish Parade. The Scottish Parade is one of the quintessential Old Town holiday events, in which folks get dressed to the nines in tartans and march down the street playing bagpipes. We’ll try to make it one of these years, but it got jettisoned this year. We did catch some of the Scottish flair on our walk to the waterfront later that day, though, en route to watch the second parade of the day (you can see why Old Town is nationally recognized for its Christmas spirit – we’re basically the municipal version of Buddy the Elf). The evening parade festivities were…
Holiday Boat Parade of Lights
The holiday boat parade of lights! I’ve been wanting to attend this Old Town Christmas event for many years. Basically, it’s a flotilla of boats, festooned with Christmas lights, making their way down the Potomac in an armada of twinkles.
Our first stop upon reaching the waterfront was the riverboat! It was all decked out (<–see what I did there?) with white lights. Beautiful!
Even some of the boats that were not part of the parade got in on the action! The marina was so festive and twinkly – I loved it.
The boathouse had rainbow lights and a poinsettia plant out to show their holiday spirit.
We found a spot to stand on the riverbank and huddled for warmth. There was a bit of a chilly breeze coming off the river. Don’t mind my sunglasses – it was still light out when we left the house.
Finally, after what seemed like an hour of waiting, the parade got started. I wish they’d held it while it was still a bit light out – at twilight, rather than after dark (I know, I know, it does get dark early these days). The lack of any light in the sky made it hard to get pictures. But the parade itself was a lot of fun! Nugget was all about the fire boat, which was showing off by flashing its lights and spraying water. Peanut surprised me by saying she best liked a boat that was decorated to look like a train engine. Both kids had a fabulous time.
Christmas in Little Washington
We had more fun plans lined up for the following day – Christmas in Little Washington, complete with the second parade of the weekend! When we visited Little Washington for the first time in October, I was enchanted with the town and vowed to return as soon as possible. On that trip, a local gallery owner encouraged us to come back for the annual Christmas in Little Washington event. You don’t have to tell me twice!
Our first order of business was FOOD. The whole downtown area (about a block square) was filled with local merchants selling everything from edible treats to handmade wreaths, Christmas decorations, hats and scarves, floral arrangements and more. The world-famous Inn at Little Washington, of course, had several booths set up with goodies. We picked up some of their squash and apple soup (INSANELY delicious) and cider donuts for a treat to eat on the spot, and grabbed house-made pickles, bar nuts and gingerbread chefs to enjoy later.
The kids shared a cider donut and they gobbled up every. last. bite. Mom and Dad had our own, too – crazy delicious. What a treat.
Over Thanksgiving, Nugget learned “CHEERS!” and now he wants to toast with everything. There were quite a few “CHEERS!” with the cider donuts. Eventually Peanut put a stop to the toasting by actually eating her donut, and Nugget then had no choice but to follow suit.
After our snack, it was time for real food. We found a few tailgating tents and sat down to enjoy our picnic lunch – homemade soup, sandwiches and bananas. Had I known that there would be so many great food options (there were even a few food trucks!), I wouldn’t have packed food from home. But the kids enjoyed their packed lunches. There was more CHEERS!-ing with their sippy cups.
After lunch we warmed up by the gorgeous stone fireplace and then cruised around checking out the decorations in town while we waited for the Christmas parade to start.
The White Moose Inn, looking pretty with natural greenery on the happy yellow front door.
And of course, the Inn at Little Washington was the showstopper! How stunning is this front window?
The Inn at Little Washington outbuildings got in on the greenery action too. And imagine my delight when I happened to glance down an alley just behind the Inn and spotted…
The KITCHEN! The Inn at Little Washington is famous for being one of the most decadent (and expensive) dining options in northern Virginia. Having gotten a little taste of their work at the Christmas market less than an hour before, I was even more excited to peek in the window and see where the magic happens. The picture does it no justice, of course, but I loved the rows of copper pots gleaming just on the other side of the glass – and how perfect is that wreath? Festooned with colanders, whisks, wooden spoons, cookie cutters and other cooking and baking paraphernalia, and finished off with a golden loaf of challah! It was my favorite Christmas decoration of the season.
I couldn’t stand gazing at the kitchen wreath forever, though – we had a parade to watch! We found a perfect spot near the very start of the parade route and settled in to wait.
We didn’t have to wait long! A Colonial militia opened the parade (complete with a redcoat marching band – only in Virginia). Followed shortly by…
George Washington on horseback! He got a rousing cheer. #Virginia.
Then the rest of the parade got going. There were miniature ponies…
The local lunch club, seated around a picnic table…
MULTIPLE tractors (a certain someone was absolutely delighted)…
The Shenandoah National Park “mobile visitor center,” from which a park ranger was tossing out “Junior Appalachian Trail Ranger” patches instead of candy…
The Rappahannock County High School marching band…
And the most important part of any small-town Christmas parade…
FIRE TRUCKS! (You thought I was going to say Santa, didn’t you?)
The first one was the best (there were two, doubling the holiday happiness of a certain little boy who LIVES for fire trucks). They had a little fire truck-themed Christmas tree and two boots decorating the back of the truck. Small-town Christmas game strong.
Then came the second truck, followed by…
Santa in a vintage green pickup truck! At this point, Nugget blew a fuse in his baby brain and started shouting “SANTA! FIRE TRUCK! SANTA! FIRE TRUCK! SANTA! FIRE TRUCK!” It was altogether too adorable.
I can definitely see both the holiday boat parade of lights and Christmas in Little Washington becoming beloved holiday traditions for our family! We had a ball and it was the perfect weekend to kick off the Christmas season.
Still with me? On Friday, I’ll have Part II of the recap for you – our adventures through the rest of December, including Christmas weekend. Check back!
What local holiday activities are can’t-miss in your area?