By Eileen Hagan
It’s that time of year again: the temperature is dropping, holiday decor is on the shelves and schools are gearing up for winter break. From kindergarten to now, my winter breaks have consisted of sitting on my couch and watching over-the-top Hallmark movies. While “12 Dates of Christmas” is a classic, there are definitely better things to do around Alexandria during the time off from school.
Here are seven ways to spend your winter break and get festive this year.
Ice & Lights: The Winter Village at Cameron Run
Mid-November through December, this waterpark is transformed into a winter village. After making a reservation, you can experience all the winter wonderland has to offer: Ice-skating under colorful lights, hot cocoa, snacks and an interactive Christmas tree. Ice & Lights is open nightly until January 1.
Where: 4001 Eisenhower Ave.
Breakfast with Santa at Joe Thiesmann’s Restaurant
Visiting Santa right before the holidays is a classic tradition. This year, do it in style: with food and drinks! Kids can enjoy taking photos with Santa, eating a breakfast feast with family and friends and taking home treats. Food is served family-style and includes a bagel basket, tater tots, a yogurt parfait and french toast. Thiesmann’s holds this event each Saturday and Sunday starting at 8 a.m., leading up to Christmas Day. Tickets are available on their website and run between $30 and $50. My family did this when I was younger, and I loved the holiday spirit this brings.
Where: 1800A Diagonal Road
Del Ray Artisans’ Holiday Market
For the first three weekends in December, you can shop for any mix of arts at the Holiday Market. From jewelry to wood carvings, there is something for everyone. Each weekend rotates and features different small creators and businesses. This weekend, there will be many artisans, including Victoria Barnes Photography, Steve Lapin and Lynn Chadwick, just to name a few. You can find the full list of artisans on their website. This year, the market has added two extra days – December 22 and 23 – which is great for last-minute shoppers! The market is open Fridays from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: 2704 Mount Vernon Ave.
Little Theatre of Alexandria: “A Christmas Carol”
LTA’s traditional showing of “A Christmas Carol” is returning this year. The community theater’s tickets are $20-25 and shows run until December 16. Watch Ebenezer Scrooge discover his Christmas past, present and future – all the while supporting local theater.
Where: 600 Wolfe St.
Mount Vernon by Candlelight
While technically not in Alexandria, this fun can’t be passed up. It’s an activity that is perfect for history buffs. Learn about the lead-up to the American Revolution on a candle-lit tour of George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate with character actors portraying the Washington family, friends, enslaved and/ or hired staff. The experience will cover 18th-century holiday traditions through music and dancing. Tickets range between $20 and $38 depending on your membership status, and the event runs every weekend until December 17. Enjoy themed Christmas trees and concessions while getting in the holiday spirit at this historic site.
Where: 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway
This ceramic painting studio is perfect for kids and adults alike. You can paint pre-made ceramics, from dinnerware to picture frames. Especially transitioning into winter, Paint This offers many holiday and winter-themed options. I’ve been going there with my family my whole life and we’ve always had a blast. We still use the Santa bowl that my sister painted every holiday season! Prices range from $8 to $12 per person, which includes an hour of painting to a full day of studio time.
Where: 1013 King St.
Bark Social Alexandria: Winter Wonderland
Whether you have a dog or not, nobody can resist spending a day decorating cookies and ornaments with adorable dogs. At Bark Social in Alexandria, they put their own canine spin on a winter wonderland with sugar cookie decorating, a “snowball” toss and ornament calligraphy. You and your pup can also take pictures with Santa Paws, but they must be registered with current vaccination records and have a club membership or monthly/daily pass to enter. The event is December 16 and is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets range from $5 to $20.
Where: 529 East Howell Ave.
The writer is an eighth grade student at Alexandria Country Day School.