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Cutest Christmas Towns: Alexandria, VA

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The best thing about Christmas time in DC? Hard to say. It could be the crisp morning air or the frost-covered everything, but we have to hand it to the city’s famous architecture. It stuns with the backdrop of shimmering lights, holiday wreaths, and picturesque snow. The holiday spirit emanates from the nation’s capital, dousing the surrounding suburbs in cheer and twinkly lights. It would be remiss of us not to mention the charm of Georgetown (which hosts GLOW – the region’s only curated exhibition of outdoor public light art installations, featuring the work of local, regional, and international artists), or even McLean’s popular Brunch with Santa at The Ritz-Carlton. However, one town stands out as the real show-stopper of Christmas spirit: Alexandria, VA. There’s a reason it’s been named one of America’s Top Holiday Towns. So, in honor of this enchanting area’s total embrace of the season, here are our top five reasons why Alexandria is a perfect Christmas Town:

Photo: Principle Gallery

 

It’s Picture Perfect

 

Old Town is adorable. It was settled in 1695 and has maintained a real sense of history. The cobblestone street and historic brick buildings on the sparkling waterfront are beautiful year round it was even named one of the South’s prettiest cities by Southern Living but the Christmastime brings out even more of the city’s magic. Even without a plan for the day, you’ll come away with that special Christmas feeling whether you wander the King Street under a twinkling canopy of lights, pop into local boutiques, or simply bask in the charm.

Photo: Rachel E.H. Photography

 

It’s Unique

 

Where else are you going to find a hugely popular Scottish Christmas Walk followed by a Parade of Lighted Boats and after-hours art at the Torpedo Factory? Not to mention a Colonial Handbell Ringers Concert complete with period dress, five octaves of bells, and audience participation? Locals also take advantage of the waterfront to carry on a tradition started in 1986 the Water Skiing Santa (linked so you know we’re serious).

Photo: C Davidson for Visit Alexandria / Courtesy of Where Traveler

 

It’s Steeped in (Interactive) History

This picturesque town offers a lot more than window shopping and Scottish bagpipes. In Alexandria you can dive head first into a time portal to Christmas past. Historic brick buildings decked out in evergreen boughs and twinkling lights, candlelit tours through Carlyle House Historic Park, Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, and Lee-Fendall House offer tastings, seasonal decorations and period music.

 

You might be surprised to learn that the Civil War Christmas in Camp at Fort Ward features a Union Santa despite VA’s Confederate history, the area was held by the North throughout the war. The Union Army build the Alexandria Fort for the defense of Washington DC.

Photo: K. Summerer / Courtesy of Visit Alexandria

 

It’s Delicious

 

This is true of Alexandria’s chef-driven culinary culture year-round. Ask a local and they’ll be sure to point you in the direction of mainstays like Vermilion (one of the first Old Town restaurants to commit to farm-to-table eating), Brabo, or Taverna Cretekou.

 

The Holidays offer special drinking and dining opportunities like the Del Ray Candy Cane Bar Crawl which benefits local non-profits and seasonal cocktails at trendy spot The People’s Drug.

 

Go straight from your candlelit tour of Gadsby’s Tavern Museum to the Tavern itself, where you can find waiters in period garb and updated takes on bygone dishes like “George Washington’s Favorite Duckling” and “Gentleman’s Pye”. There are also plenty of places open on national holidays (some with special menus), in case you want to leave the cooking to someone else this year

Photo: K. Summerer / Courtesy of Visit Alexandria

 

It’s the Perfect Place for Gifts

 

While many people head straight to the mall to bang out all their shopping in a day, Alexandria offers upscale shopping that won’t feel like a chore. Take the free trolley down King Street, where national brands like Anthropologie are tucked in between independently owned boutiques, art galleries, pop-up markets, and jewelry shops featuring handmade wares. You can find everything from antique treasures to of-the-moment high fashion. There is also an entire pet-friendly shopping scene, so you don’t have to leave your furry friends at home for the day (unless of course, you want to leave the kids with a babysitter for the “Shops of Del Ray’s Ladies’ Night Out” featuring Virginia wines.)

Photo: Stock Image

 

When a place is as rich in history as Alexandria and deemed (by us and USA, Today) as one of the top holiday towns to visit, it’s a trip any family and holiday-enthusiast must take – stat!