Dec 1, 2023 - Things to Do

Small towns near D.C. go big for the holidays

A hunter wearing a red coat on a white horse trots down a street surrounded by hunting dogs

Middleburg's holiday hunt and hound parade. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Small towns in the D.C. region are celebrating the season with holiday markets, Christmas parades, and plenty of Main Street charm.

Why it matters: It's a nostalgia-filled year, and nothing says Hallmark Christmas like a big small-town celebration.

Be smart: Book any reservation — especially ticketed events — as soon as you can.

We've mapped our holiday destinations from closest (and Metro accessible!) to farthest afield.

Fireworks over historic Mt. Vernon
Holiday fireworks over Mt. Vernon. Photo courtesy of Claire Mouledoux

ğŸŽ„ Alexandria and Mt. Vernon, Virginia

Details: Nearby Old Town feels a world away during the holidays — especially this weekend during the Scottish Christmas Walk Parade and Holiday Boat Parade on Saturday. Festivities continue throughout the season: Take in the giant tree at historic city hall, skate through Ice & Lights park, or check out a holiday market.

Distance: Alexandria (8.3 miles); Mt. Vernon (22.8 miles)

🛥️ Annapolis, Maryland

Details: Maryland's charming capital hosts holiday events throughout the month, including the fantastic Eastport Yacht Club boat parade (Dec. 9), a downtown holiday market (Dec. 7-10), "midnight madness" shopping, and plenty of waterfront lights.

  • Sandy Point State Park (a 15-minute drive) is aglow during Lights on the Bay, a two-mile, drive-thru holiday light display inspired by historic Annapolis (through Jan. 1). Online passes start at $20 per vehicle.

Distance: 32 miles

Boats in Christmas lights on the Potomac River with the Capitol in the background.
Decked-out decks in Alexandria. Photo courtesy of Misha Enriquez

🏇 Middleburg, Virginia

Details: Holidays in hunt country aren't complete without Middleburg's famous Christmas parades, which start at 11am Saturday with the must-see procession of mounted sportsmen and their hunting hounds. Throughout the month go for carriage rides, free cocoa, caroling, and a ton of great shopping (don't miss German holiday finds at The Christmas Sleigh).

Distance: 43 miles

✨ Washington, Virginia

Details: Christmas in Little Washington, the tiny Rappahannock County town made famous by The Inn, is a big affair. On Sunday, horses and hounds parade with Santa in the streets, kids ride ponies and get face paintings, shoppers can browse a local artisan market, and bonfires keep everyone warm (see the full activity lineup here).

Distance: 70 miles

A historic home decorated for Christmas with a tree and ornaments on the mantle above a fire
Bethlehem's Sayre Mansion at Christmastime. Photo: Jumping Rocks/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

🦪 St. Michaels and Easton, Maryland

Details: Charming decorations and maritime shops are always a draw, but the small harbor town's big event is Christmas in St. Michaels (Dec. 8-10). The packed weekend includes ticketed tours of historic homes decorated for the season, parades by boat and land, and church-hosted holiday meals with local fried oysters.

  • Nearby Easton has chic local shops, light displays and holiday events throughout the month. On Dec. 16, there's a special Christmas concert with football-turned-opera star Morris Robinson — a regular at the Metropolitan Opera — and famed Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero at the Ebenezer Theater ($150 per person).
  • We also love the decadent Friday afternoon tea at nearby Bonheur, which serves a special holiday tea on Dec. 16 in connection with the concert.

ğŸ§‘â€ğŸŽ„ Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Details: They don't call it "Christmas City" for nothing. You could make a weekend out of the Pennsylvania town's Bavarian Christkindlmarkt, filled with local vendors and warm food and drinks, a new ice rink, and tons of holiday light displays. The historic Sayre Mansion even has a Christmas Suite for overnight guests.

Distance: 193 miles

Go deeper: Holiday light displays around D.C.

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