Shenandoah Valley

Shenandoah Valley

Winchester, Virginia offers innumerable attractions in the spring, summer and fall —Marker Miller Orchards*, the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, and the Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre among them.

But what about in December? Is there anything to do then?

The fact is, Winchester never slows down.

Of course, holiday spirit pervades Winchester at this time of year, particularly with shopping fever.

Historic Old Town

“Get in the holiday spirit by strolling Old Town Winchester’s quaint and historic pedestrian mall,” said Renee Bayliss of the Winchester-Frederick County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The mall is decorated with festive lights and a beautiful 35-foot tall Christmas tree. Bring your friends and spend the day browsing the shops, boutiques, and galleries for gifts that are truly unique. Grab a cup of coffee, have a glass of wine, or enjoy lunch at one of Old Town’s restaurants.”

Also in Old Town, “the Annual Holly Jolly Celebration will be held on December 8,” Bayliss told us. “It will include free horse drawn carriage rides, strolling carolers, Santa’s Headquarters, and an outdoor market with locally made decorative greenery, gourmet chocolates, baked goods, and hot cocoa.”

Holiday Light Show

Yet another Christmas favorite is “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.”  This annual light show put on by Frederick County Parks and Recreation runs from November 23 at 5:30 p.m. to December 30 at 9:30 p.m. at Clearbrook Park. This spectacle sees between 35,000 and 40,000 visitors annually. Warm up in the cabin, where you might run into Santa! Stop by the heated event tent, have some free hot chocolate, and enjoy live entertainment and food vendors on select nights. (Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.)

We asked Nancy Craun of Go Blue Ridge Travel (a traveler’s event planning guide) to give us her perspective on holidays in Winchester.

“The must visit of the holiday season is The George Washington Hotel, A Wyndham Grand Hotel,” Craun said. “Experience George’s Food and Spirit or the holiday events occurring in the Half Note Lounge. Located in downtown Winchester, the property has been a center of activity for Winchester since 1924.

“If you want more great holiday ideas,” Craun continued, “reach out to our concierge at Go Blue Ridge Travel. We can connect you to close outdoor hiking options, local popular restaurants, and the brew and wine scene here, including our Taste of Blue Ridge Top Chef Picks. If you are traveling with the family, check out our blog on holiday family fun.”

Family Museums

One great example of family fun is the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum, which combines a variety of interactive exhibits, programs, and even summer camps to occupy and interest children. A few exhibits include: the Musical Garden, Health Works, Moccasin Trail, Apple Packing Shed and Pollinator Plaza. Coming up December 14: “Spy Night,” a chance to test your best James Bond skills! Receive a new identity, discover your mission, learn how to use a decoder, find the key to unlock the secret message, and more! Admission is $10/person. Members are free.

Another museum ideal for adults and kids is the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (MSV).  A new exhibit that opened November 1 and running until February 17, 2019 is “Albrecht Dürer and Master Prints.” The exhibit has more than 50 woodblock prints and engravings by German Renaissance master printmaker Albrecht Dürer and his followers. The exhibit also includes several compositions by some of the artist’s most influential contemporaries and predecessors, such as Albrecht Altdorfer (German, 1480–1538) and Martin Schongauer (German, 1448–1491).

Also on view now at the MSV, through January 13, 2019, is the Shenandoah Arts Council 40th Anniversary Exhibition. This display of 24 works represents a variety of styles and mediums and celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Shenandoah Arts Council. All works in the exhibition were created by members of the Shenandoah Arts Council.

Belle Grove Plantation

Visitors to the Winchester region can combine history and holidays at the Belle Grove Plantation. Located in Middletown, Belle Grove is a 1797 Manor House built by Major Isaac Hite and his wife Nelly Madison Hite, sister of President James Madison. “Throughout the month of December,” said Renee Bayliss, “Belle Grove Plantation’s historic manor house will be decorated for the holidays and open for tours. This year’s theme is “Belle Grove through the Ages” and will highlight the families that lived in the house from the 1790s through the 1960s.”

Belle Grove is a National Historic Landmark, a Virginia Historic Landmark, and a historic property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The centerpiece of the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historic Park, Belle Grove serves as an educational center through the many interpretive programs it offers.

First Night Winchester

To finish off the holiday season, Bayliss suggested, “Ring in the New Year at First Night Winchester! This family-friendly event features performances for all ages in venues all over Old Town Winchester and ends with a countdown and “Apple Drop” at midnight.”

Learn all you need to know about Winchester at the Winchester-Frederick County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 1400 S. Pleasant Valley Road. Follow them on Facebook, too.

Where to Stay:
The George Washington, a Wyndham Grand Hotel
The Clarion Inn and Conference Center 
Capon Springs and Farms 
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*Marker Miller is still open Fridays and Saturdays in December.

Banner Photo courtesy Renee L. Bayliss, Winchester-Frederick County Convention & Visitors Bureau