Events: Alexandria kicks off the holiday season with a weekend of festivities

Bagpipers prepare for the 2017 Scottish Christmas Walk parade in Old Town. (Photo by Louise Krafft)

By Missy Schrott | [email protected]

The start of December is bringing with it a flurry of festivities in Alexandria. From the tree lighting in Del Ray to the legendary Scottish Christmas Walk Parade in Old Town, it’s time to get in the holiday spirit. In honor of the three Scottish merchants who established Alexandria in 1749 and the city’s namesake and founder, Scotsman John Alexander, several events will also celebrate the city’s Scottish heritage. Launch into the most wonderful time of the year at one – or many – of the following events.

Taste of Scotland scotch tasting

The weekend kicks off with the Taste of Scotland Scotch Tasting on Friday. The annual event, attended by hundreds each year, features a scotch tasting menu that includes scotches straight from Scotland distilleries and samples of Scottish ale, in addition to beer, wine and food. Tickets are $180 per person or $290 per couple. Proceeds benefit the programs of the Campagna Center, the official sponsor of Alexandria’s Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend, which serves more than 2,000 children and families in Alexandria each day.

Time: 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Location: The Atrium Building, 277 S. Washington St.

Scottish Christmas Walk Parade

A Saturday full of events starts with the 48th Annual Scottish Christmas Walk Parade through Old Town. The iconic parade features dozens of Scottish clans dressed in colorful tartans, pipe and drum bands from around the region and flocks of terriers and hounds. The parade will also include reenactment groups, classic cars, city leaders and Santa Claus. The parade starts at South St. Asaph and Wolfe streets, travels along St. Asaph, Queen, North Fairfax and King streets and concludes at Market Square with a band concert. The event will take place rain or shine. Find a map of the parade route here.

Time: 11 a.m.
Location: Old Town

Holiday Home Tours

After the parade, stroll through Old Town as part of the Holiday Home Tours. Explore Alexandria’s history and take advantage of this rare opportunity to stroll through some of Old Town’s most festive homes, decked out for the holidays by acclaimed interior designers and local florists. Home tour tickets may be purchased or picked up at your first stop, which can be any of the houses along the route. Tickets are $40, payable by cash, check or credit card. All ticket sales go toward funding the programs at The Campagna Center. Visit the website below for a printable map of the homes along the route. Find the list of participating homes here

Time: 12:30 to 4 p.m.
Location: Old Town

Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights and festivities

Santa Claus was a special guest at the 2017 Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights. (Photo Credit: Secor for Visit Alexandria)

Saturday’s festivities will continue into the evening with the 19th Annual Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights. Watch Alexandria’s historic waterfront come to life as dozens of brightly lit boats cruise the Potomac River for the parade of lights, which was named a Top 10 Best Holiday Parade by USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards in 2017. Tommy McFly of and NBC4 will serve as the parade announcer.

Enjoy festivities at the Alexandria City Marina from 4 to 8 p.m., including a pop-up beer garden from Port City Brewing Company featuring their popular seasonal Tidings Ale, a pop-up Vola’s Dockside Grill and giveaways from Lyft, which is also offering 20 percent off rides to the Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights with the code HOLIDAYPARADE18!. Take part in a “Letters to Santa” postcard pop-up from paper goods boutique Penny Post, a DIY holiday wood ornament craft activity from AR Workshop Alexandria and a hot chocolate bar from Dolci Gelati. Parade-goers are invited to step into the Torpedo Factory Art Center, located at the Alexandria City Marina, for their annual holiday festivities from 2 to 8 p.m.

Time: The Parade of Lights begins at 5:30 p.m.
Location: Alexandria City Marina, 0 Cameron St.

Del Ray holiday season kick off

*Note: this event was originally scheduled to take place on Saturday, Dec. 1. Due to weather, it has been rescheduled to Sunday at the same time.

A panoramic view of the Del Ray tree lighting ceremony from 2017. This year’s tree lighting in Del Ray will take place Saturday at 6 p.m. at Pat Miller Neighborhood Square. (Photo Credit: Mike Anderson)

On Sunday, head to Del Ray to celebrate the season with a Christmas tree and menorah lighting. Join the Del Ray community in singing holiday carols, getting pictures taken with Santa and enjoying special performances by the T.C. Williams High School Choir. Visit businesses that will be open late for shoppers and will feature holiday specials and enjoy the thousands of luminarias along Mount Vernon Avenue. In the spirit of giving, donations will be collected at the event for Carpenter’s Shelter. There will be marked boxes for disposable diapers, washcloths, toothpaste and tooth brushes, deodorant, razors and shaving cream, Metro Smart Trip cards and canned goods. A Best Decorated Tree competition also begins on Saturday. Vote for your favorite of the 12 trees along Mount Vernon Avenue that have been adopted and decorated by area nonprofits. Voting will be open until 5 p.m. on Christmas Day and the winning nonprofit will receive $500 from the Del Ray Business Association.

Time: 6 p.m.
Location: Pat Miller Neighborhood Square

Del Ray Holiday Pop-Up Market

Also on Sunday, get a jump on your holiday shopping at the Del Ray Holiday Pop-Up Market in Pat Miller Neighborhood Square. Support local vendors this holiday season by stopping by the Del Ray Business Association’s pop-up retail market featuring local artisans and home-based businesses.

Time: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Location: Pat Miller Neighborhood Square