Road Trip: Historic Williamsburg for the winter holidays

Yorktown Christmas Treet Lighting

From dazzling light events to festive concerts to seasonal celebrations of colonial history, Virginia’s historic Williamsburg and surrounding area is one of the best destinations to experience the spirit of the winter holiday season. The area is packed with as many special events as there are in the winter solstice sky. Here is just a sampling of the holiday highlights guaranteed to keep you jolly till the new year. 

Have a Blast at Busch Gardens Christmas Town: Be wowed by one of the largest Christmas light displays in North America with more than 8 million twinkling lights when Busch Gardens Christmas Town returns for select dates through Sunday, Jan. 2. You can pay a visit to Randolph and Santa, watch a holiday show, and enjoy festive food and drink to help get into the spirit of the season.

Revel in the Yorktown Christmas Tree Lighting: A tradition that began in 1945, the Yorktown Christmas Tree Lighting will take place on Friday, Dec. 3. The tree is a 20-foot artificial commercial Giant Everest Fir placed in Riverwalk Landing. The celebration will include a performance by the Fifes and Drums of Yorktown at the Victory Monument and the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Thrill to the Grand Illumination: As part of Grand Illumination, you can enjoy fireworks over Colonial Williamsburg on select Saturdays in Dec: Dec. 4, 11 and 18. In addition to the fireworks, each evening includes a dramatic presentation of an original holiday story, yuletide music and a joyful appearance by Father Christmas.

Enjoy Holiday Music: A seasonal tradition for the entire family, The Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra presents its annual Holiday Pops Concert during the first Grand Illumination weekend, Dec. 4-5. Share in joyful holiday classics and beloved carols with family and friends at the Kimball Theatre.

Watch Lights Dancing on the River: Join in the 25th annual Yorktown Lighted Boat Parade on Saturday, Dec. 4 at the Yorktown Waterfront. Start by caroling around the beach bonfire, listening to the Fifes & Drums of York Town, and sipping complimentary hot cider before the decorated motorboats, sailboats, and Chesapeake workboats begin their lighted parade on the York River as they compete for best in show.

Colonial Williamsburg

Have a Christmas-Themed Walk: Williamsburg Walking Tours offers its Christmas Past and Present Walking Tour from Dec. 1 to 31. You can stroll through the colonial streets of the historic area, learn how early Americans celebrated Christmas and discover the sources of modern-day celebrations in Williamsburg as well as how a Christmas decoration sparked a battle on Duke of Gloucester Street between a rooster and a Dalmatian.

March in a Parade: Bundle up to join the Williamsburg Christmas Parade on Saturday, Dec. 4. For the first time, the parade, which kicks off the holiday season with themed floats, live performances, and of course Santa himself, will be held at night.

Munch Cookies with Santa: Bring the whole family to the Gallery at York Hall on Sunday, Dec. 5 for Cookies with Santa — a complimentary event to make the season bright. After enjoying the refreshments, find unique Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers among the work of hundreds of local artists, including ornaments, paintings, quilts, pottery, and many other one-of-a-kind pieces.

Shop for Unique Christmas Gifts: Looking for the perfect gift for a friend or family member? You’re sure to find it at the Yorktown Christmas Market on Main Street, Dec. 4 and 5. One of the most anticipated events every holiday season. close to 100 vendors line the street selling everything from nautical paintings to handmade soaps to Christmas ornaments and wreaths. More Yorktown shopping opportunities also await at Mistletoe Market on Dec. 11. Browse for chowders and soups; baked goods; jams, jellies, and honey; holiday wreaths; candles and soaps; and local seasonal art.

Catch the Colonial Williamsburg Christmas Tree Lighting: Gather in Colonial Williamsburg on Thursday, Dec. 16 for the annual Community Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. Listen to a special reading of The Night Before Christmas in front of the Courthouse steps and learn about the first Christmas tree in the United States. Sing along to classic Christmas carols and watch as the 40-foot spruce tree on Market Square is illuminated with 7,500 twinkling lights.

Live an Authentic Colonial Christmas: Christmastide in Virginia returns Dec. 18-31 at Jamestown Settlement and American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, offering a glimpse of 17th- and 18th-century holiday traditions through interpretative programs and demonstrations and period musical entertainment. At Jamestown Settlement, special programs will compare English Christmas customs of the time with how they were observed in the difficult early years of the first permanent English settlement. At the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, learn about winter camp life and hear accounts of Christmas during the war.

Participate in a 19th-Century Christmas: Spend an hour with the Colonial Singers for a re-creation of a 19th-Century Williamsburg Christmas in the “living room” of the famous Tucker family home in the Hennage Auditorium in Colonial Williamsburg on Dec. 26. Clad in beautiful 19th-century costumes, they share stories and songs centered around the Civil War, the college town of Williamsburg, circa 1850, and tales of Charles Dickens. Enjoy decorating the Tucker family Christmas tree.

Kingsmill Resort

Have a AAA Four Diamond Experience: Situated on the banks of the scenic James River, Kingsmill Resort is the only AAA four-diamond resort in Williamsburg. Kingsmill features 425 comfortable, villa-style guest rooms and one-, two- and three-bedroom condos, private spacious vacation homes, two world-class golf courses, a spa, a 15-court tennis center, four restaurants, indoor and outdoor pools, and a fitness center. For the holiday season the resort is offering a number of packages and a full calendar of events.

Troy Petenbrink

Troy, also known as The Gay Traveler, is a well known travel and food writer. His has been a regular contributor to a variety of outlets including National Geographic, Travel Channel, DCRefined, CBS Local, and Metro Weekly. He also appears on local Washington news outlets as a travel expert.

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