Holiday Hot Spots in the Mid-Atlantic

With the holidays rapidly approaching, it’s time to start planning some short holiday trips—especially if you’re in the mid-Atlantic region, where holiday hot spots are close enough for a festive weekend trip. I’ll be the first to admit that I am a bit of a Grinch when it comes to this time of year. November and December should be a time of reflection and joy, and yet, it’s somehow become the most stressful and even angriest time of the year (are we happy with the 2019 Starbucks’ Red Cups, everyone?). 

That being said, every year I try my hardest to rediscover the holiday spirit. This year, that journey is going to take me on a day trip to Christmas Town USA—a small town in North Carolina known for going all out for the holidays every December. But, this planned adventure made me think about other hot spots in the region to celebrate the holidays—besides Rockefeller Center and Times Square.

The Carolinas

Christmas Town, USA

Christmas Town, USA is the nickname given to McAdenville, North Carolina (population: 651). Starting the first weekend of December, McAdenville transforms into a winter wonderland, featuring over 200 evergreens, 160 decorated homes, and a large lake–also surrounded by lighted trees. 

2019 marks McAdenville’s sixty-fourth year as one of the top holiday travel destinations. So, if you’re in the area, consider stopping by for an enchanted evening. 

Christmas at Biltmore Estate

Biltmore Estate is among the top tourist destinations in North Carolina. Located in Asheville, Biltmore Estate was built for George Washington Vanderbilt II and is the largest privately-owned property in the United States. While this is a popular attraction at any time of the year with luscious gardens, restaurants, a winery, and gilded-age architecture, it becomes truly magical from late November to early January.

The estate has two options for holiday visitors: Christmas Daytime and Candlelight Evenings. Both include tours of the estate to view its decorated halls and fifty-five Christmas trees, with the key difference being the time of day. With your ticket, you will have access to all the Biltmore has to offer, including entry to Antler Hill Village to view their stunning light display. The Candlelight Evening tours also feature live music inside the house.  

Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC
Image by Ernest_Roy from Pixabay

The Washington, DC, Metro Area

I love Washington, DC, during the holiday season, and it’s one of the few destinations on this list that feels a bit more secular and less geared toward one specific demographic. And because the DC metro area is so large, there’s something for everyone. 

The National Christmas Tree, a sixty-seven–foot-tall evergreen adorned with lights, is the main attraction during this season. However, when I visited the tree a few years ago, it wasn’t my favorite part; instead, I loved how they had fifty-six smaller trees surrounding the National Tree—one decorated to represent each US state and territory. And not too far away, you’ll find the National Chanukah Menorah, the largest public menorah in the world. 

There’s so much going on in the city during the holiday season, it’s hard to keep track of when and where everything is. To help plan your trip, check out The 20+ Best Holiday Light Displays and Events in Washington, DC. 

Old Town Alexandria

Old Town Alexandria will always be special to Postcard Press, and it’s one of the most beautiful places to visit during the holidays. As soon as Thanksgiving ends, the entire community puts up decorations and transforms into its own winter wonderland; in fact, it’s hard to go anywhere in Old Town without being surrounded by the holiday spirit. 

Old Town sign at the Old Town Theatre on King Street
Photo by Sam

But the decorations aren’t the only thing to see in Old Town during the holidays. Every season, the town is host to the Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend, which includes a Scottish Christmas Parade, a holiday homes tour, and the Taste of Scotland—an event featuring a menu of Scottish cuisine. The proceeds from the event benefit the Campagna Center, a non-profit organization that offers daycare and afterschool care for children throughout the city of Alexandria. 

And if you’re a fan of shopping, you can wander up to John Carlyle Park for the Holiday Market. The market is open the first weekend of December and features live music and an appearance from Santa and Mrs. Claus. Don’t worry if you miss this particular holiday market because it’s not the only one going on in Alexandria. There’s also the Del Ray Artisans Arts and Crafts Festival in Colesanto Park begins after Thanksgiving and runs through Christmas Eve. Both markets feature amazing crafts and baked goods that make excellent gifts for friends and family.


Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Williamsburg

From November 16 through January 5, Busch Gardens Williamsburg decks the halls and transforms into Christmas Town. It’s one of the biggest light displays in North America, and it also features live events, food, and shopping. However, the rides at Busch Gardens are not open during this event—except for the train and the sky trolley. Instead, the park features a multitude of dining options, shops, and holiday-themed entertainment. Consider it a larger scale Christmas Town, USA; however, keep in mind that this holiday experience comes with a $60 price tag. 


Spirits of Giving

If you’re interested in learning more about Christmas Folklore around the world, then Pittsburgh’s Spirits of Giving is a must. The event is free, so you’ll have no excuse to miss this spectacular experience.

Christmas Village in Philadelphia

If you’ve always wanted to visit a German Christmas Market, but don’t have the time or the funds, then Philadelphia is the perfect holiday destination. Every year, Center City transforms into a traditional Christmas market filled with holiday vendors selling authentic European crafts and food. The market is open from Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, which will give you plenty of time to find the perfect presents and enjoy a small taste of German culture. The market is free to enter; however, it is host to several events that require tickets purchased ahead of time, such as beer and wine tastings. 

The Christmas Village is both kid and pet friendly, so bring the whole family!

Christmas Villages are a tradition throughout Europe
Photo by Arthur Edelman on Unsplash

You don’t have to visit New York City to find a Winter Wonderland. The mid-Atlantic region is home to several holiday hot spots that are worth a visit. So, if you’re in the area and looking for something magical to do over the holidays, why not give one a shot?

Where is your favorite place to celebrate the holiday season? Tell us about it below!

See Also:

Postcard Press Picks: Norad Santa Tracker

New Year Celebrations Around the World

Cold Weather Camping

8 Winter Experiences for Your Travel Bucket List



It's cold outside but that doesn't mean you need to spend the holidays indoors. In this article, Sam names some of the great holiday hot spots in the Mid-Atlantic.
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