‘Tis the holiday season to be jolly, and the Shenandoah Valley presents a multitude of ways to do just that. Here are 10 that are among our favorites, concentrating on performances, house tours, and shopping in no particular order.
November 30: Christmas Cocktail Party and Fundraiser
December 1: Charlottesville Ballet performs The Nutcracker.
December 4: The Shoemaker and The Christmas Elves, an Arts Education presentation
December 8: The Nutcracker presented by Albemarle Ballet Theatre
December 9: Les Miserables, Faith in Film movie series
December 15: Wilson Fairchild in Concert
December 16: Making Spirits Bright, presented by Valley Dance Theatre
December 17: (SOLD OUT) Celtic Angels Christmas with Celtic Knight Dancers and The Trinity Band Ensemble of Dublin
December 19: The Grinch, part of the Wayne Theatre’s Christmas Movie series
December 20: Polar Express, part of the Wayne Theatre’s Christmas Movie series
December 21: Community Sing-A-Long followed by screening of A Christmas Story, part of the Wayne Theatre’s Christmas Movie series.
If you have not visited the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriar’s Playhouse, you have not seen Staunton. Blackfriars Playhouse is the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s original indoor theater. Here, the American Shakespeare Center troupe performs Shakespeare’s works on a simple stage, without elaborate sets, and with the audience sharing the same light as the actors. The December calendar includes such classics as Richard III, As You Like it, A Christmas Carol, The Comedy of Errors and more. Check the calendar for specific dates and times.
The Court Square Theatre in Harrisonburg offers movies, stage plays, and concerts. They kick off the holiday season with The Polar Express on December 1. Starting December 2 will be the Royal Opera House Season Package, featuring prerecorded live performances of shows like Mayerling, The Nutcracker, Don Quixote, Faust and more. December 5 is the Any Given Child Lip Sync Battle Finals. December 15 listen to the Nothin’ Fancy Holiday Show for a bluegrass version of the season. They will close out the month on December 28 with a tribute to Hank Williams, Jr. Call 540-433-9189 for ticket information.
Holiday House Tours:
Enjoy a trip to Middletown’s Belle Grove Plantation November 30–December 30, when the Manor House is decorated for the holidays. This year’s theme is “Belle Grove Through the Ages” and will highlight the families that lived here from the 1790s through the 1960s. When your tour concludes enjoy warm spiced tea and cookies in the cozy historic kitchen.
Historic Staunton Foundation’s 46th annual Holiday House Tour highlights five beautifully restored homes/businesses in the Stuart Addition Historic District and downtown Staunton. Walk this wonderful neighborhood and visit houses decorated to convey the spirit of the season. Saturday, December 1st, 5-8pm; Sunday, Dec. 2nd, 1-5pm. Tour tickets are $25 in advance or $30 tour day. Tickets may be used once at each location on either day. Get tickets online. Combine a trip to the theater with dinner in downtown Staunton, or just a walk through one of its five nationally registered Historic Preservation Districts.
The Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton is globally known for its authentic displays and demonstrations that bring to life early European influence to the Shenandoah Valley. The 2018 Lantern Tours are evening walking tours around the museum. They address the themes of changing times and changing traditions through living history vignettes reflective of England, Ireland, Germany, and America. Some Old World traditions are carried to the New World. Ideas and customs evolve into new traditions. How people deal with change varies, but the spirit of the holidays endures. Visitors will enjoy a Mummer’s play near the Irish Forge, a horse-drawn wagon ride from the Old World to the New World and back, and refreshments and live music following the tour at the Dairy Barn Lecture Hall.
Tour Dates & Times: December 14-16 and 21-23; 6:00, 6:30, 7:00, 7:30, & 8:00 pm
Tickets: Adults $15, Children $8.
Poplar Forest Holiday Candlelight Tours allow visitors to see a Jeffersonian style Christmas décor on a candlelight tour of Thomas Jefferson’s private retreat. See the president’s cherished hideaway decorated for the holidays, as was the custom in Jefferson’s time, on these hour- long tours. Explore the villa by candlelight as your guide paints an intimate portrait of the Jefferson family celebration and Christmas in the slave quarter, sharing true stories and anecdotes gathered from Jefferson’s letters and diaries. Admission is $20 per person. Reservations are required.
Holiday Antiques/ Shopping:
Said to be the largest antique mall in America, the Factory Antique Mall in Verona has also been voted—several times– the Number 1 antique mall in the Shenandoah Valley, with good reason. Their 130,000 square feet includes furniture, artwork, collectibles of all types—200 dealers in all who offer a mind-boggling array of treasures you will love searching. Stop at the café and enjoy a bite when your feet need a break. December 2 is their eighth annual Christmas Open House and Customer Appreciation Day, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.
A “community of shops,” the Dayton Market near Harrisonburg is an eclectic collection of specialty shops offering: fresh beef and poultry, fine cheeses, spices, jams and jellies, produce, gourmet coffee, fresh baked goods, authentic country cooking, and more. Shop for gifts, too, such as handmade crafts, creative books, toys, games and delicious chocolate.
The Shenandoah Heritage Market in Harrisonburg combines food, antiques, gifts, quilts, seasonal produce, horse tack, Amish furniture, Civil War memorabilia, western apparel, and more in about 20 indoor and outdoor vendor booths. Water gardens and park benches provide relaxation in an otherwise exciting day of shopping discovery.
Banner photo courtesy American Shakespeare Center