The Business Plan with Bill Reagan: The holidays with a twist

The Business Plan with Bill Reagan: The holidays with a twist
Bill Reagan (Alexandria Small Business Development Center)

‘Tis the season, but this year we’ll be doing things a bit differently.

We’ve started losing daylight and the holiday season is compensating with decorations, lights and the occasional costume. We’ve just experienced Halloween with many of the same trappings as in past years, but the personal interactions required a little extra planning and execution. The same is true for the rest of the season.

Alexandria’s charming neighborhoods and iconic shopping districts are the perfect backdrops for seasonal celebrations. That’s not just our own opinion. Oprah Magazine and Southern Living both recently highlighted Old Town’s setting as magical for the holidays. 

Given this year’s conditions, merchants and community leaders have undertaken extensive preparations to retain as much of the spirit of the season as possible while assuring social distancing and safe surroundings. Look for the ALX Promise shield that signals the independent boutiques’ extra efforts to keep visitors safe. Don’t miss the plaid masks to encourage stylish healthfulness!

Below are some ideas to motivate you to experience more of what’s around us and support local businesses in the community. Masks and social distancing are essential for all of them.

Start by driving or walking the commercial streets. Our merchants have gotten into the spirit with great window displays and décor, and many have assembled beautifully landscaped spaces for outdoor shopping and dining. They’re also making provisions for cooler weather. Our shopping districts have never looked more festive and inviting.

Visit the residential neighborhoods and look at the incredible door and yard displays. The ghoulish Halloween themes were so much fun, and offered clever ways to feel creepy, yet allow treats to be delivered to little goblins safely. Those same creative yard and door designs are now giving way to stylish holiday décor for the rest of the season. Always worth a stroll or drive-by. 

Seasonal events happening throughout Alexandria include Ice and Lights: The Winter Village at Cameron Run from Nov. 20 to Jan. 2. The venue, a short drive on Eisenhower Avenue, includes ice skating, holiday light displays, retail, food and music.

The Del Ray Holiday Market on Mt. Vernon Avenue on Nov. 28 and 29 features an open-air holiday market with local artists.

A holiday-themed Art Walk from Union to Diagonal – and select side streets –will feature works of art adorning lampposts in Old Town beginning Dec. 1.

Check out the Colonial Winter Nights and Mansion House Christmas at Carlyle House, and Christmas Illuminations at Mount Vernon, beginning in December.

The 26th Anniversary of First Night Alexandria will be a bit different this year, with a drive-in concert experience to celebrate the arrival of 2021. You can sing along, dance and enjoy a night filled with classic hits, local food truck favorites and exciting giveaways. Ticket sales begin late November with limited in-person capacity. It can also be streamed virtually.

Alexandria has much to offer with some great options for family and friends to celebrate the holidays together safely. Let’s make this season a healthy and rewarding experience. 

The writer is executive director of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center.