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As our nation continues to deal with COVID-19, the very thought of holiday lights should bring smiles to our faces. And we need look no farther than the Mid-Atlantic to find stunning light displays, starting in early November and continuing into January. The displays may be walk- or drive-through outdoor venues, with allowances for safe distancing. Of course, it is important to wear a mask, if needed.

Washington D.C.

During November and December illuminations around the capital city provide visitors with many opportunities to experience the holiday magic. Two outdoor markets open to shoppers on Nov. 22. Enchant Christmas at Nationals Park features a light maze, street vendors, and ice skating trails through Dec. 29, while the Downtown Holiday Market makes the Penn Quarter a sparkling shopping experience through Dec. 25. Visitors may also enjoy artwork and lights at the Georgetown GLOW, set for Dec. 6-Jan. 5.

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There’s more to see than holiday lights at the Mount Vernon celebration, planned for Nov. 29-Dec. 31. Aladdin, similar to the camel President Washington arranged during his 1787 Christmas celebration, will be on hand to greet visitors. Lights and entertainment are on the schedule at Six Flags America weekends and selected days, Nov. 22- Jan. 1.

Zoolights at the National Zoo features more than 500,000 LED energy-efficient lights, Nov. 29-Jan. 1, except Dec. 24-25, and 31. A much-anticipated event on Dec. 5 will be the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on the White House Ellipse. Chosen from the Gunnison, Uncompaghre and Grand Mesa National Forests in Colorado, the tree will be on display daily from 4:30 until 10 p.m., with musical entertainment adding to the event. Visitors should take time to enjoy the surrounding 56 trees from all the states and territories decked out in handmade decorations and lights.

The lighting of the National Menorah will take place on the White House Ellipse at 4 p.m. on Dec. 22.

Another great holiday event is the boat parade from Alexandria to The Wharf downtown, plus fireworks, on Dec. 7.

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Getting into the holiday mood is guaranteed at the National Harbor, a shopping, dining and entertainment venue. Gaylord National Resort at the harbor hosts ICE!, an interactive village constructed from 2 million pounds of ice, Nov. 15-Dec. 30. The theme of this year’s event is Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Looking for spiritual inspiration? The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception features more than 50 Christmas trees, 65,000 lights, 500-plus poinsettias, and two manger scenes (washington.org)

Maryland

Started in 1947, Baltimore’s annual Miracle on 34th Street continues this year on the 700 block of 34th Street in the Hampden community. The light display features lighted Christmas trees, menorahs, trains, Santas, Frosty snowmen, and more (christmasstreet.com).

Ocean City’s Winterfest of Lights, Nov. 19-Jan. 2, will charm visitors with over one million holiday lights and hundreds of animated light displays in Northside Park. Visitors may also enjoy the Winterfest Express, which winds through 58 acres of lights in the park, plus a 50-foot Christmas tree, visits with Santa and hot chocolate in the pavilion (ococean.com).

At Rock Creek State Park in Montgomery County, the Winter Lights Festival will be open for its 450 drive-through displays. In Prince George’s County, the Winter Festival of Lights is hosted at Watkins Regional Park, where 2.5 million lights will illuminate the park.

Pennsylvania

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During Nov. 13-Jan. 3, Hershey Park Christmas Candylane will exhibit over five million lights, while the show NOEL will feature 250,000 lights dancing in tune to music. A number of holiday activities will take place indoors at The Hotel Hershey, but S’more Roast will be outside the Harvest Restaurant. And, for the first time ever, visitors may explore Hershey’s Chocolate town during the winter! (hersheypark.com).

Koziar’s Christmas Village, known for its dazzling light displays in Bernville, celebrates its 73rd year of operation, with its opening on Nov. 7 and continuing shows through the holiday season (koziarschristmasvillage.com).

Delaware

Winter Wonderfest in Milton, Delaware, will offer holiday activities, Nov. 16-Dec. 30, but the drive-through Light Spectacular, featuring thousands of twinkling lights in festive designs, is definitely a crowd-pleaser. Visitors may also enjoy the Christmas Village, Coastal Tree Farm, and the Delaware Ice Skating Rink (visitdelaware.com).

More than 500,000 lights will illuminate Longwood Gardens in the Brandywine Valley from Thanksgiving through Jan. 6 (longwoodgardens.org).

Rehoboth Beach holds its annual Apple Illumination Christmas Light Show. Hosted by Apple Electric, the display comprises 50,000 Christmas lights that are synchronized to some of the most popular holiday tunes.

New Jersey

Cape May will offer myriad ways to celebrate during November and December, including holiday-themed trolley rides to see the lights, visits with Santa, and more (capemay.com).

Virginia

Busch Gardens will be swathed in more than 10 million lights that illuminate Christmas Town, Nov. 14-Jan. 3. Visitors may also enjoy the holiday train and festive holiday shows, Nov. 14-Jan. 3 (buschgardens.com).

West Virginia

Rated one of the top light displays in the United States, the Winter Festival of Lights in Wheeling, West Virginia, slated for Nov. 5-Jan. 3, features 300 acres of lights, seen over a six-mile drive, plus 90 attractions, lit by over one million LED lights (oglebay.com).

Travel Trends

  • According to the U.S. Travel Association, 55 percent of all small travel businesses in the country are at risk of taking longer than six months to recover or may never recover at all. The data prepared by Tourism Economics shows that travel-supported jobs, which employed one in 10 Americans prior to the pandemic, are extremely threatened. More than half of travel-supported jobs in the U.S. disappeared between the onset of the pandemic and May 1, and the overall U.S. economy is projected to lose $1.2 trillion this year because of the drop in travel. Prior to the pandemic, travel was a Top 10 employer in 49 states and the District of Columbia. There is “an urgent need for further legislative measures to provide immediate relief to small travel businesses and their employees,” states President and CEO Roger Dow (ustravel.org).
  • Meanwhile, a new “Retravel Life” virtual event, which made its first appearance in late September, is focusing on new travel topics. G Adventures, a small group adventure operator, is hosting a series of live discussions with leading voices in the travel industry — travel agents, suppliers, consumers and the media — to tackle the most pressing issues facing travel today and to shine a light on the travelers’ power to enact change and contribute to making the new way of travel better for everyone. The expectation is that a new style of travel will emerge — one that is centered around cultural exchanges and ensures that local people and places benefit from all forms of travel (retravellive.com).
  • With travelers’ increased interest in road trips and camping staycations, bookings for RV rentals have surged 350 percent this year. In response to the demand, VacationRenter, a company that puts together the best rentals to help travelers find the RV that fits their needs, and RVshare, the first and largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace have formed a partnership that will make finding the perfect RV easier. For more details, check out vacationrenter.com.

If you’re planning to travel to Europe in the future, follow the advice of savvy traveler Rick Steves: Self-isolate at home as much as possible, socially distance in public and be sure to wear a mask. By the way, Steves has a plethora of travel articles, videos and podcasts on his Facebook page. He is currently welcoming suggestions for “No Travel Tips.” Here’s a sample: “Serve coffee to your quarantine mates in petite cups and charge for refills.”

Carol Timblin welcomes travel news at ctimblin@gmail.com.

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