Holiday happenings in the Mid-Atlantic and elsewhere

Christmas celebrations are in full swing all over the United States, as communities stage light displays, craft shows, musical concerts, theatrical productions, parades, dinners — even strolls — to mark the season.

Boston’s Freedom Trail Foundation invites visitors to celebrate the season with historic holiday strolls led by 19th-century Dickensian-costumed guides, Thursdays through Sundays at 3:30pm through January. Strolls depart from the ArtsBoston Booth at Faneuil Hall and include a tour of holiday lights and Christmas trees along the Freedom Trail, as well as an exclusive visit to the Omni Parker House for signature refreshments and world-famous Boston Cream Pie.

Following the stroll, participants receive discounts off museum store purchases at Freedom Trail sites and are entered to win a brunch for two at the award-winning Parker’s Restaurant at Omni Parker House. Tickets are $24 for adults and $19 for children, and reservations must be made 24 hours in advance. Call 617-357-8300, extension 207, to make a reservation.

The Mid-Atlantic region also offers a plethora of opportunities for celebrating the holidays. Here’s a sampling of happenings this season:


The 94th annual lighting of the National Christmas Tree by President Barack Obama and his family on The Ellipse near the White House on Dec. 1 marks the beginning of the month-long Pageant of Peace. Entertainers for this year’s lighting are James Taylor, Chance the Rapper, Kelly Clarkson, and Yolanda Adams, followed by other musical concerts during the month.

“America Celebrates” features trees decorated by 56 different artists from every state and U.S. territory, as well as the District of Columbia. The National Hanukkah Menorah Lighting, Dec. 25 on the Ellipse, celebrates the beginning of the eight-day Jewish holiday.


More than “100 Miles of Lights” can be seen this season in Southeastern Virginia.

Richmond’s “Tacky Light Tour” continues through Dec. 31. Colonial Williamsburg hosts the Grand Illumination, and the Williamsburg Lodge offers dinner with live music on Dec. 4. On Dec. 18, the Williamsburg Inn stages “Crooning Christmas Classics in the Sinatra Style,” featuring dinner, dancing, and Christmas songs. Nearby Yorktown celebrates Christmas with its Illumination and Christmas Tree Lighting and Lighted Boat Parade on Dec. 3.

Hampton stages its annual Lighted Boat Parade on Dec. 9, followed by the Holly Day Parade on Dec. 10. Norfolk’s Dominion Garden of Lights continues through Dec. 31, and the Norfolk Botanical Garden offers “The Polar Express at Illumination Station” on Dec. 1, 2, 4, 9, 11, 15, 18, and 22. Newport News hosts “Hollydazzle,” a unique show featuring fireworks, theatrical lighting, ground-based pyrotechnics, and special effects at City Center at Oyster Point on Dec. 3, and “Celebrate in Lights” through Jan. 1. McDonald’s “Holiday Lights at the Beach” in Virginia Beach continues through Jan. 1.


Oglebay’s Winter Festival of Lights, a 6-mile display of lights in Wheeling, including its Christmas Tree Garden that features a live Nativity scene, continues through early January. (304-243-4000, 800-624-6988)

During the weekend of Dec. 2–3, tours of five Victorian homes in Parkersburg’s Julia-Ann Square Historic District will be directed by costumed guides, and a lavish Victorian tea will be offered. Tours and teas begin at the First United Methodist Church at Julia-Ann and 10th streets. Sunday

tours are self-guided and do not include tea.


The National Christmas Center in Lancaster County is a great place to soak up the spirit of past and present holidays. Not far away, the Landis Valley Museum offers a great look at the local German Christmas heritage.

Hersheypark’s holiday celebration, which continues through December in Hershey, includes a 2-mile display of lights. A visit to festive Candylane includes rides on the Twilight Express and a chance to meet Hershey characters.


Frederick’s Christmas celebrations this year include eight decorated homes on the Candlelight House Tours, Dec. 3–4, which depart from the

Hospitality Center in the Talley Recreation Center. An added attraction in the center will be a display of the floral and gingerbread entries from the Scents and Sweets Competition on Dec. 1. Festivities continue with the Kris Kringle Procession,

featuring Christmas characters Kris Kringle,Pelsnickle, Weinacht Man, Frosty, and Rudolph, on Dec. 9, and the Festival of Lights on Dec. 16.

The Walkersville Southern Railroad Santa Train in Walkersville offers rides, along with hot chocolate and cookies in the museum, through December.

The B&O Railroad Museum, where American railroading began on the first commercial mile of track in the country, offers rides on the “Magical Holiday Express” in Baltimore Dec. 3–Jan. 2, excluding Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. The museum offers “Mile One Express” train rides Dec. 26–31.


The 52nd annual “Christmas in Odessa,” a self-guided tour of 18th- and 19th-century private homes and public buildings, takes place Dec. 3.

New to Winterthur’s Yuletide Tour, which features sparkling trees and American Christmas vignettes through Jan. 8, is an 18-room doll mansion, inspired by Queen Mary’s dollhouse and created by Nancy McDaniel.


Ring in the New Year

Gayot’s list of the Top 10 New Year’s Eve Destinations includes Las Vegas, Bangkok, Los Angeles, New York City, Sydney, Paris, Chicago, London, Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands, and Rio de Janeiro.

If these destinations are not in your travel plans this year, you might look closer to home for a special place to ring in the new year.

Baltimore’s New Year’s Eve Spectacular at the Inner Harbor, 9:00pm–12:30am, features party music by Super Bueno and fireworks at midnight, as well as skating at the Pandora Ice Rink. Metro service will be available one hour after the event is over.

While the best known New Year’s Eve attraction may be the ball drop in New York City, a host of Mid-Atlantic locations have their own traditions. You can watch an apple drop in Winchester, Va., a rose drop in York, Pa., a mushroom drop in Kennett Square, Pa., and a crab drop in Easton, Md., among others.


Travel tip

Did you know that CityPASS is now available in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Southern California, Tampa Bay, and Toronto?

CityPASS bundles prepaid admission to each city’s top attractions — based on annual attendance — into one easy-to-use CityPASS ticket booklet that costs approximately half of what it would cost to purchase those same admissions separately. And, because CityPASS limits the number of attractions on each city’s pass to five or six of the most popular sights, visitors have ample time to enjoy a destination, never feeling the need to rush frantically from attraction to attraction to get their money’s worth. The pass is valid for nine days, starting with the first day of use.

Carol Timblin welcomes travel news at

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