You don’t have to go far to keep your little ones enchanted this holiday season. These festive events prove just how much adventure one family can fit into a short road trip, with everything from personal shopping with elves to indoor snow showers and every stop full of twinkling lights. Scroll through to find your next merry holiday destination near Washington, DC. 

photo: Children's Museum of Richmond

Legendary Santa

As Richmond legends since 1936, Legendary Santa and the lovely Snow Queen have been delighting families for 84 years. Families come from across the country and even across the ocean to participate in this magical tradition. See Santa in person or virtually if you'd prefer to keep your distance. Register for Sensitive Santa if your little ones have sensory or special needs.

Editor's note: While most events are now sold out, you can still register for Sensitive Santa, held on Dec. 2, or a virtual Tea with Santa, held on Dec. 12, 13, 19, 20. 

Children's Museum of Richmond
2626 West Broad St
Richmond, VA 23220

Where to Stay: If you are going to go all out for Santa, why not do the whole celebration in style? The Jefferson Hotel in downtown Richmond is an elegant, but surprisingly, family-friendly getaway. The holiday decorations alone are worth the reservation.

The Jefferson Hotel
101 W Franklin St.
Richmond, VA 23220

Where to Eat: Check out the New York Deli, and you'll find yourselves amid a fun history lesson. Opening in 1929 and in its present location since 1934, the New York Deli is Richmond's oldest (any maybe yummiest) restaurant. Stop at the 50-year-old photobooth for an epic photo op.

New York Deli
2920 W Cary St.
Richmond, VA 23221

photo: Koziar's Christmas Village

Koziar's Christmas Village

Step inside an enchanting village and soak in the beauty of a valley glowing with over a million twinkling lights. Santa and his elves have been the sparkling center of this event since 1948. You and your crew won't want to miss this holiday spectacular.

COVID-19 Update: Timed Entry passes are required on prime nights. 

Cost: $12/adults, $11/seniors, $10/children 4-10, free/3 & under
When: Now-Jan. 2: Mon.-Fri. 6-9 p.m., Sat. 5-10 p.m., Sun. 5-9 p.m.

Koziar's Christmas Village
782 Christmas Village Rd
Bernville, PA 19506

Where to Stay: Homewood Suites by Hilton Reading is less than 10 miles from Krozier's Christmas Village, and your family will enjoy the full kitchen and two-bedroom suite. You'll have room for everyone to spread out and free, hot breakfast.

Homewood Suites by Hilton Reading
2801 Papermill Road
Reading, Pennsylvania 19610

Where to Eat: Blue Mountain Family Restaurant offers good old fashioned homestyle cooking and a few delicious Greek specialties. The portions are generous so that you might have leftovers for the next day, or a late-night snack, at least.

Blue Mountain Family Restaurant
24 Roadside Dr.
Shartlesville, PA 19554


GumDrop Square

Experience the splendor and tradition of Christmas in Old Town Warrenton with the award-winning Gum Drop Square. Your kids can shop for family gifts with festive elves in Santa's Secret Shop. Shopping with elves? Yes, please! Presents are wrapped and ready to go when your kiddo leaves the Workshop and can be purchased for only $2 each.

COVID-19 Update: Masks are required while standing in line. 

Cost: $2 to enter Santa's Secret Shop; $1 per gift (includes wrapping). 
When: Dec. 5-19

VonCanon General Store
92 Main St Ste 102
Warrenton, VA 20186

Where to Stay: Make the 45-minute drive to stay at The Inn at Evergreen. Book one of their family-friendly suites, and you will all enjoy the sprawling property and views. A visit to this manor on the National Register of Historic Places won't disappoint.

Inn at Evergreen
15890 Berkeley Dr.
Haymarket, VA 20169

Where to Eat: Black Bear Bistro & Brick Oven has a fun vibe and a huge menu. Combining the best of farm-fresh local and organic ingredients with old-fashioned family value, the restaurant serves up generous portions of great food at very reasonable pricing.

Black Bear Bistro & Brick Oven
32 Main St.
Warrenton, VA 20186


Check into Great Wolf Lodge for a fun place to stay and enjoy the holiday festivities. Your family can soak up the holiday spirit with daily snow showers in the Grand Lobby, seasonally themed crafts, fun stories and songs, and new this year: a Cocoa Trolley. Decked out with oversized snowflakes, twinkling garland, decorative shimmering trees, and more, your whole gang will love this whimsical winter wonderland.

COVID-19 Update: Guests are required to wear masks in public spaces. 

When: Now-Jan. 2

Great Wolf Lodge
549 E Rochambeau Dr.
Williamsburg, VA 23188

Where to Stay: Why leave the lodge when it is the perfect family getaway? In addition to unlimited access to the water park, all the family activities offered during Snowland are included. Book a themed suite for a fun outdoor or wildlife motif your littles will love.

Where to Eat: Food for Thought Restaurant features biographical pictures of inventors, scientists, and social leaders while the walls display thought-provoking quotes. While you're perusing the walls, your family will love the foodie options for all ages.

Food for Thought
1647 Richmond Rd.
Williamsburg, VA 23185

photo: B&O Railroad Museum

Reindeer Railway

Tickets to the perennially popular Breakfast with Santa are sold out, but you can still catch the holiday spirit on the Reindeer Railway. Explore Santa's Winter Village, take a spin on the Roundhouse carousel and hop aboard the Reindeer Railway where children wear light-up reindeer antlers to help light Santa's way. Kids are served cookies and juice while adults can enjoy a spiked hot cider. 

Cost: $10-30
When: Now-Jan. 3

B&O Railroad Museum
901 W Pratt Street
Baltimore, MD 21223

Where to Stay: The Baltimore Marriott Waterfront has excellent views, an indoor pool and water taxi access to tons of local activities. Downtown is always decked out in its holiday finest, and there is a unique German Christmas Village in the Inner Harbor.

Baltimore Marriott Waterfront
700 Aliceanna St.
Baltimore, MD 21202

Where to Eat: Don't miss build-your-own pasta at Amicci's in Baltimore's Little Italy. This casual spot is perfect for pasta-loving little ones. If you prefer to take dinner back to your hotel room, they offer a $20 three-course carryout menu.

231 S High St.
Baltimore, MD 21202

Spirit of the Holidays Cruise

Start a new holiday tradition and cruise the Cape Fear River in Wilmington, NC, while your gang enjoys the sights, sounds and yumminess of the holidays. Enjoy the views of magical lights while cruising along the historic Wilmington Riverwalk aboard the 46′ catamaran, the Wilmington. Want more fun on the water? Head to the near-by Carolina Beach for the Island of Lights Christmas Parade on Dec. 6 (pictured above). 

Cost: $20/adults, $10/children
When: Fri.-Sat., Now-Dec. 27

Wilmington Water Tours
212 South Water Street
Wilmington, NC 28401

Where to Stay:  Embassy Suites Wilmington Riverfront Hotel is right across from the Wilmington Railroad Museum and just across the water from the Battleship North Carolina, both fun and educational stops. Ask for a room with a water view when you make your reservation. It is epic.

Embassy Suites by Hilton Wilmington Riverfront
9 Estell Lee Pl.
Wilmington, NC 28401

Where to Eat: Go off-the-beaten-path to a delicious lunch stop, Savorez, a Latin American spot with amazing flavors. The Churrasco Tacos and yucca fries are mouth-watering. Ask the chef to make grilled chicken and coconut rice for your kiddos. They'll love it.

Savorez Restaurant
402 Chestnut St.
Wilmington, NC 28401

—Angelica Kajwara


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