6 festive holiday destinations within an easy drive from DC

Peddler’s Village outside New Hope. Photo by Andrew Barth.

It is not called the Christmas town for nothing. Founded by Moravian missionaries in 1741 – and named Christmas Eve – Bethlehem performs a show each holiday season with its “Star of Bethlehem” lights throughout the city, a birthday contest, horse-drawn carriage rides and even a “live” Advent calendar handing out treats. A major attraction is its German-style outdoor holiday market, Christkindlmarkt, where about 60 retailers sell handmade nutcrackers, Moravian glassware and other items. The historic and lovely center is home to dozens of restaurants and retailers, including the Moravian Book Shop, which opened in 1745 and claims to be the oldest continuously operated bookstore in the world. Also in the center – and not only dressed up, but also fragrant for the season – is the Historic Hotel Bethlehem, voted the best historic hotel in the country this year by readers of USA today. Distance from DC: 195 miles.

Bethlehem. Photography by Hub WiLson Photography / Discover Lehigh Valley.

Santa may have reindeer, but this hunting village has horses. From kl. At 11 a.m. on December 4, about 150 of them, along with riders in hunting suits and dozens of hunting dogs, took to the streets to get a “hunting report.” Today’s Christmas in the Middleburg festivities also includes a craft fair, hayrides, a “Santa’s workshop” for families and an afternoon parade with floats, antique fire trucks, llamas, alpacas and, yes, more horses. Parking is limited and must be purchased in advance ($ 30 to $ 50). Throughout the season, the city’s “Dickens Christmas” themed car rides and tastefully decorated shop windows mean. Distance from DC: 42 miles.

The Eastern Shore town pulls the sledges forward for its annual celebration, Christmas in St. Louis. Michaels – this year December 10-12. Do not miss the Saturday parade through the center of town with marching bands, vintage cars and festive llamas. Evening is when local captains cover their decks in artful holiday lights for a boat parade around the harbor. Scammers can burn up at two churches that host holiday breakfast tickets or lunches with Chesapeake specialties such as fried oysters. Shoppers can pick up oyster shell wreaths and crab decorations at the pop-up marketplace or Christmas store. Our favorite: Homecoming with tickets ($ 25 per person), where you get a glimpse into the historic homes and nearby property on the waterfront by the 19th-century town, hung with beautiful decorations. Distance from DC: 83 miles.

Williamsburg. Photo courtesy of Williamsburg, Virginia.

‘It’s season at Colonial Williamsburg to find Santa Claus strolling Merchants Square and carolers’ voices in the air. The historic district’s most celebrated annual holiday event, Grand Illumination, was canceled last year due to Covid, but is back with a bang: The usual one-night event now extends to six (the first three Fridays and Saturdays in December). Depending on the evening, the activities include a Christmas log procession; 18th century music and entertainment; and fireworks. Nearby, Busch Garden’s theme park becomes a blazing “Christmas town” thanks to more than 10 million candles, and Jamestown enters the festivities with an illuminated boat parade (December 4) and an outdoor Christmas market with nearly 100 vendors (December 4 and 5). . Distance from DC: 152 miles.

This Victorian beach town does not rest in the low season – it is a bloom of activity in December. Washington Street Mall with three blocks, pedestrians only, with shops and restaurants, is adorned with decorations. The same is true of many of the magnificent Victorian houses in the city – you can see some on a candlelight ride (4th, 11th and 18th December) or by hopping aboard a trolley ride with “holiday lights”. (If ghost stories are more your thing, choose the Ghosts of Christmas Past trolley ride.) Also story: Emlen Physick Estate from 1879, which goes all out in Victorian finesse – complete with a model train that revolves around a miniature Dickens-inspired village. It is open for day and evening trips. Distance from DC: 189 miles, or 143 miles via the Cape May-Lewes ferry.

New Hope, Pennsylvania

Old St. Nick greets passengers on the antique cars on New Hope Railroads “Santa’s Steam Train Ride”. Just outside the city, 1 million candles adorn the 65 colonial-style shops of Peddler’s Village. While this destination in Bucks County is full of charm this season, perhaps the best reason to visit is a different kind of holiday tradition: On December 21 and 25 at the nearby Washington Crossing Historic Park, you can see hundreds of people dressed in the Continental Army uniforms reconstruct General George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas night in 1776. Distance from DC: 180 miles.

Gets warmer

It’s not too late to plan a winter or spring break – if you know where to go

If what you really want for the holidays this year is to spend them a warmer place than here, then can we suggest Ireland? Sure, it’s often humid and humid and only slightly warmer than DC, but it usually does not snow and that may be the best thing you can do.

That’s because, warns Alisa Cohen, founder of DC’s Luxury Traveler Club, you’ll be pressured to book a room at sought-after beach resorts in Mexico, the Caribbean and Florida. Anything you could find would be unusually expensive, she explains: “The Caribbean and Mexico are costly right now. Five star hotels cost a minimum of $ 2,000 per night and there is no availability. It would be better to look for an alternative winter vacation . ”

The same goes for the president’s day-week in February and the Easter week in April, she says, which already has limited availability and high prices.

For those who still want a beach vacation, but who can live with temps in the 60s versus 80s, Cohen recommends Southern California: “An LA-San Diego coastal drive is a beautiful week.”

Do not need the beach? She suggests Arizona where warmer than direct current means you will be able to hike.

Better to drive than to fly? Cohen likes resorts to the south, such as Sea Island, Georgia; the sanctuary on South Carolina’s Kiawah Island; and Palmetto Bluff, also in South Carolina: “It’s milder than here, and there’s plenty of outdoor activities.”

As Europe has opened up, so have the possibilities.

“We’re frankly taking more and more winter holidays to Europe,” Cohen says. “Paris for the New Year or London.” And, she adds, the aforementioned Emerald Isle: “Ireland is a more affordable destination than almost anything else in Europe. It’s cozy too. It’s all the fireplaces and mansions in the countryside. They do a lot for the holidays – it feels very festive.”

This article appears in the December 2021 issue of Washingtonian.

Food editor

Anna Spiegel covers the food and beverage scene in her home country of DC. Prior to joining the Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. Louis. John, US Virgin Islands.

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