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Historic Home Tours for the Holidays

by Casey | Posted on December 4th, 2013

Virginia’s historic homes are beautifully decorated this season. Truly, this is one of the key times to see your favorite historic home in all its period glory. Candlelight, fresh swags of greenery, pineapples, and really stunning Victorian spreads await.

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon

Saturdays and Sundays in December George Washington’s Mount Vernon¬†opens for candlelight mansion tours between 5 and 8 p.m. Fireside caroling and other festivities make it an appealing family affair. $22/adult and $15/child 11 and younger.

“Roaring 20′s” is the Christmas theme at Oatlands in Leesburg, so expect to see plenty of glitz along with the greenery and numerous Christmas trees in this 1804 mansion. Tours are offered every 30 minutes daily through December 30. $12/adult; $10/senior; $8/child 6-16.

Special candlelight tours are offered December 15, 20, 21, 22 from 5 to 7 p.m. Cookies, cider and musical performances are included.  Rates are the same as the daily tour.

Celebrate the season at Maymont in Richmond and revel in Victorian holiday splendor! Major & Mrs. Dooley’s spectacularly decorated Gilded Age home brings the wonders and festivities of Christmas past to life. Tours are offered every half-hour daily (except Mondays) through January 5. $5 suggested donation.

December 6 – Come to Richmond to find out how people celebrated Christmas during the Victorian Era. Take a guided tour of the White House of the Confederacy, specially decorated for the holidays!$5 admission.

December 6, 7, 13, and 14 – Experience centuries of Christmas traditions at James Madison’s Montpelier during the Christmas candlelight tours.¬†Visitors are greeted by the gracious hostess Dolley Madison in the Mansion’s Drawing Room as she speaks about early 19th-century Christmas customs. Linger in the duPont Gallery, enjoying light refreshments, wine, and wassail while listening to harp music and Christmas carolers. $25 in advance; $35 at the door; $10 for children ages 6 to 14.

Monticello

Monticello

December 7 – Get a glimpse of Christmas from the Colonial period through World War II when you experience Rippon Lodge in Woodbridge. Candlelight tours on the half-hour with a visit from Santa in the cabin. Santa is free for everyone; tours are $10/person with the exception of children younger than 6, who are free.

December 7 – Celebrate the holidays at¬†Bacon’s Castle¬†in Surry to learn about 17th century English Christmas traditions and decorations. Guided tours of the mansion and hot mulled cider will be offered all day. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. $8/adult; $6/senior; $5/student; children 6 and under are free.

December 7, 13, 14, 20-23 and 26-30 – Head to Charlottesville to take advantage of the unique opportunity to explore Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello after dark with a special small-group house tour. The¬†tours, which include the Dome Room, offer visitors an intimate look at how the holidays were celebrated in Jefferson’s time, plus the rare opportunity to experience Monticello after dark. Tours begin at 5:30, 5:45 and 6:00 p.m. $45 in advance. Reservations required. Not recommended for children younger than 6. Portions of the tour are not handicapped-accessible.

Avoca

Avoca

December 7 and 8 – Seasonal holiday decorations and local entertainment will be featured at Centre Hill Mansion in Petersburg as part of their annual holiday open house. Refreshments will be served. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

December 7 and 8 – Don’t miss the annual Christmas weekend at Walton’s Mountain Museum in Schuyler. They’re decorated inside and out, with cookies and cider for your warmth and joy. These two days are the only two of the year when visitors are permitted to go beyond the roped areas.

December 7, 8, 14 and 15 РSee the lavishly decorated Victorian house, Avoca Museum in Altavista, celebrating Christmas memories with light refreshments and hot cider, Santa on Saturday afternoons, and a silent auction to benefit education programs. $5/adult; $4/senior.

Liberia Plantation

Liberia Plantation

December 14 РEnjoy holiday candlelight, music and refreshments at Liberia Plantation in Manassas, the 1825 house that hosted both Confederate and Union forces, as well as President Lincoln. The house will be decorated as it would have been in the 1860s when the Weir family occupied it. Tours begin at Manassas Museum where guests will be bussed to Liberia. $15/adult; $7.50/child 12 and younger.

December 14 - Take a candle lit tour of the main house and slave quarter at Ben Lomond every half-hour between 5 and 7 p.m. to learn how the enslaved community celebrated the holidays and how they resisted the institution that kept them enslaved. $7/person; free for children younger than 6. Reservations suggested.

December 14 and 15 – Celebrate an 18th century Christmas holiday at Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown¬†in Beaverdam. Enjoy the decorations, food, and holiday surprises. $5/person.

Poplar Forest

Poplar Forest

December 14 and 15 – Historic Berkeley Plantation in Charles City welcomes you to learn how the Harrison family celebrated Christmas during the 18th century. Partake in the festive atmosphere created by colonial music and decorations of fresh greenery and natural arrangements from Berkeley’s gardens. Costumed guides will add a special treat to your holiday season with stories about Christmas hospitality over 200 years ago. Holiday refreshments will be served. $11/adult; $7.50/student; $6 for ages 6 to 12. Reservations required.

December 15 – Enjoy period inspired holiday decorations and music, living history interpreters in the kitchen, storytelling, various children’s activities and demonstrations from craftspeople when you visit Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest retreat in Forest. Free with non-perishable food donation.

 

For more festive events and opportunities, visit Virginia.org/HolidaysInVirginia.

Virginia is for Lovers.



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New for Christmas Town 2013

by Casey | Posted on November 25th, 2013

The lights glisten, dance and twinkle at Busch Gardens during their annual Christmas Town event.¬†In a matter of three weeks the park is transformed to remove the frights of Howl-O-Scream and introduce merriment for Christmas Town, which just opened Friday, November 22. Here’s what you can expect and what’s new this year.

Carolers in England. Busch Gardens Christmas Town. Photo by Casey Higgins.

Carolers in England

About Christmas Town

Nearly seven million lights bring a holiday feel to the countries of Busch Gardens beginning at 3 p.m. and lighting the night through 9 or 10 p.m. (see schedule below)

The tone is set by the carolers of England as you enter the park and then you’re on your way to¬†The Polar Pathway. This area offers¬†a moment of serenity. Pose on a polar bear as you by pass.

Meander on toward Holiday Hills, a 1950′s retro area laced with big bulbs, plastic, and vintage-style Coca-Cola billboards. Take a whirl on Peppermint Twist or Snowman Summit. Dasher’s Diner serves up your childhood favorites if you find that you’re hungry.

Holiday Hills, Busch Gardens Christmas Town. Photo by Casey Higgins.

Holiday Hills

Depart Holiday Hills for Italy where The Battering Ram, The Flying Machine and DaVinci’s Cradle are all operational. Ristorante Della Piazza is serving dinner and you can take in a beautiful show called “Miracles” at Il Teatro di San Marco Theatre. The ballerina in your midst will love this one!

Soak in the moment as you cross the bridge and look to your left for the “Peace on Earth” art suspended from the train trestle. It’s perfect for a family photo.

As you approach Oktoberfest you’ll notice that Mach Tower has been dubbed Nacht Tower for Christmas Town. Glide up and sail back down before or after your spin on Verbolten. Der Wirbelwind and Der Autobahn are operational in Germany, and you’re invited to a fantastic dinner and “Deck the Halls” show at Das Festhaus. Toy solders and Frosty the Snowman are just a few of the fun characters you’ll find inside.

O Tannenbaum is a sight to behold as lights dance in animation on the 50-foot Christmas tree. If your timing is right, a choir will sing to you from the balcony of Das Festhaus. Find more gifts – many handcrafted by Virginia artisans – to take home from Mistletoe Marketplace.

Ho, ho, ho! Santa’s near! The North Pole is home to Santa’s Workshop, of course, as well as the Kinder Karussel and gift shops. By the way, it snows at Santa’s workshop, making the experience all the more amazing.

New France has fun shops for carved candles, metal art, and paint-your-own pottery, not to mention the comfort food of Trappers Smokehouse. Le Catapult is ready to give a spin, too. (Careful with eating and spinning!)

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Tinted in blues and purples is France, and this is where you’ll find the Ice Palace: A Penguin Paradise. The penguins of Sea World San Antonio made their way to Virginia for your enjoyment. The line can get long to see these sweethearts, so plan accordingly. New to France are the King, Queen and Court Jester. They’re available for photo ops and interacting with them is a ton of fun!

The walk to¬†Ireland is a¬†peaceful one complete with the nostalgic smell of Christmas trees.¬†At Abbey Stone Theater you’ll find “Gloria!,” the re-telling of the first Christmas. Magi, a manger, and amazing musical and dance talent bring home the true meaning of Christmas. If you purchase the add-on for Santa’s Fireside Feast, Ireland is where you’ll rendezvous with the Jolly ol’ Elf.

Highland Stables. Busch Gardens Christmas Town. Photo by Casey Higgins.

Highland Stables

Before you know it, you’re to Highland Stables where white and blue stars twinkle just out of reach and the famous Clydesdales are waiting.

Christmas Town is nothing if not stunningly beautiful. Each country has its own flavor (literally), and as cliche as it sounds, there is absolutely something for everyone. Both secular and non-secular shows, fantastic dining, and some of your favorite Busch Gardens rides will make you want to come again.

Visiting Christmas Town

ADMISSION
Single-Day: $30
Christmas Town Fun Card (unlimited visits): $30
Busch Gardens Annual Pass Holders: $20

HOURS
3 to 10 p.m.: November 29-30, December 6-7, 13-14, 16-23, 26-31
3 to 9 p.m.: December 1, 8, 15, 24

TRAVEL PACKAGES
Colonies at Williamsburg:  Three nights, four tickets to Colonial Williamsburg and Christmas Town: $719.99
Choose Your Own Hotel: Two nights, unlimited visits to Christmas Town: rates from $35/person/night
Embassy Suites Williamsburg: Two-three nights, four tickets to Christmas Town, cooked-to-order daily breakfast: $529-$597

Download a Christmas Town map!

Have you been to Christmas Town at Busch Gardens? We’d love to hear your favorite experience! Leave a comment.

Virginia is for Lovers



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12 Places to Craft for Christmas

by Casey | Posted on November 21st, 2013

Some have green thumbs and others have fingers that can make something extraordinary from scraps. Is that you? I enjoy the challenge of crafting during the season of merriment and have identified 12 places for you to knock out some Pinterest inspiration and get your Picasso on.

Let's Paint, Virginia Beach

Let’s Paint, Virginia Beach

Paint-your-own pottery is a hit for those who don’t own a potter’s wheel and a kiln. Walk in, pick the piece you’d like to paint, and get to it. Some studios offer a flat fee where the price tag on the piece includes firing. Others offer a flat firing fee that applies to all of the pieces you paint that day.

  • All Fired Up¬†has three locations in the metro Richmond region – Midlothian, Carytown and¬†Short Pump
  • Color Me Mine is another Richmond paint-your-own business.
  • You Made It! LLC in Harrisonburg is open daily for your painting pleasure.

Keep your eye on art centers for class offerings geared toward adults or kids. You’ll find glass fusing, whittling, basketry, glass blowing, watercolor painting and more. You just need to know where to look!

Blow your own ornament at Sunspots in Staunton.

Blow your own ornament at Sunspots in Staunton.

  • Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center is located in Covington and has a Whittling Make-and-Take class for adults on November 23.
  • ArtSquare in Leesburg has many classes to offer, but of note is the Holiday Card Workshop for ages 10 and up on December 8.
  • Arts Depot in Abingdon has a Terra Cotta Angel workshop for all ages. Two dates: November 23 and December 7.
  • Bay School Community Arts Center is all about teaching. Sign up for a wide selection of upcoming classes: No-Sew Christmas Stocking, Christmas Tree Basket, Kids Gingerbread House and more.
  • Let’s Paint¬†is located in Virginia Beach within Barclay Towers Resort on the oceanfront.
  • The Portsmouth Arts and Cultural Center is offering an Ornament and Tile Workshop November 29 and 30.
  • Sunspots Studios & Glass Blowing in Staunton invites you to blow your own glass ornament daily, by appointment.
  • The Glass Palette in Charlottesville is a studio where people of all ages can come in and fuse their own glass creations every day of the week.
  • The Jacksonville Center for the Arts in Floyd has a wide variety of classes coming up: Needle Felting, Solid and Blown Glass Ornaments, Metal Ornament Experience and more.

    The Glass Palette, Charlottesville

    The Glass Palette, Charlottesville

 

If you’re really not the crafty type but appreciate the art of others, explore our Arts Directory to locate an established painter, carver, potter, or other tradesperson for your holiday gift giving.

 

Virginia is for Lovers.



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Halloween at Virginia Theme Parks

by Casey | Posted on October 25th, 2013

If you have yet to experience the haunted parks of Busch Gardens and Kings Dominion this month, you need to go this weekend. It’s your last chance! Eeek!

Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens

Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens

Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens is in its 15th year and spookier than ever with four themed¬†Terror-tories‚ĄĘ and killer food and drink options:

  • Ripper Row¬ģ in England
  • Vampire Point‚ĄĘ in Germany features¬†Blood Banquet‚ĄĘ
  • Demon Street‚ĄĘ in France features Demon Drinks
  • Ports of Skull‚ĄĘ in Italy features¬†Pirate Baarrrgh‚ĄĘ
  • Cut Throat Cove‚ĄĘ in Festa Italia features¬†Buccaneer Galley

Buy Now | $62-$72

 

Halloween Haunt

Halloween Haunt

Halloween Haunt at Kings Dominion has more than 450 monsters roaming the park as shrieks and screams fill the night.

  • 10 haunted mazes including to new ones – Miner’s Revenge and Zombie High
  • 5 spooky shows
  • 6 scare zones
  • Planet Snoopy transforms to Planet Spooky for daytime family fun – treasure map adventure, hay maze, pumpkin painting and more.

Buy Now | $38.99-$64.99

 

Find more Halloween fun!

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10 Free Things to Do this Fall in Virginia

by Casey | Posted on September 9th, 2013

One of Virginia’s most beautiful seasons is upon us, and you must get out and enjoy the view. Take your scenic drive, but also incorporate one or two of these 10 free things to do this fall. Your weekends are going to be amazing!

Callands Festival

Callands Festival

1. The Callands Festival in Callands, Virginia was named a Local Legacy of American Folk Life and Culture by the Library of Congress in 2000. Join in the fun with reenactors representative of both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, musicians, artisans, and guided tours of the historic buildings. Traditional foods will be available, as will beautifully handcrafted items. It’s happening the first Saturday of October!

Harvest Time of 1864

Harvest Time of 1864

2. The Booker T. Washington National Monument in Hardy marks the birthplace, early life and emancipation of educator, esteemed orator and presidential advisor, Booker T. Washington. The third Saturday in September is Harvest Time of 1864, which will portray tobacco plantation life during the harvest. Interpretive programs, craft demonstrations, horse-drawn wagon rides and fun for the children are all included.

3. Visit Westmoreland Berry Farm in Colonial Beach. Acres of Rappahannock River frontage are perfect for picnics and bird watching. The kids will enjoy a play area just for them, as well as the antics of the skywalking goats. Give the goats a nibble from the pulley feeder system; they love it! Westmoreland is a pick-your-own farm offering fall raspberries and pumpkins. Hitch a ride on the hay wagon to head to the fields. The only fees incurred at the farm are for pick-your-own products and cafe purchases.

Annual Day at the Point

Annual Day at the Point

4. Day at the Point is an annual fall festival held the first Saturday of October in Lynchburg at Point of Honor, an 1815 Federal style mansion. The festivities include living history, kids games and activities, craft vendors, period music, candle making, beekeeping, blacksmithing, open hearth cooking, farm animals, and free tours of the home. Food will be available for purchase, including Brunswick stew, barbecue, hot dogs, and homemade baked goods.

Richmond Folk Festival

Richmond Folk Festival

5. It’s rare to find a free three-day music festival, but Richmond has one. Check out the Richmond Folk Festival¬†during the¬†second weekend of¬†October. Seven stages will host more than 30 music and dance groups – ballet, reggae, bluegrass, Vietnamese, Scissors Dance, polka, salsa, gospel, Cajun … the list goes on. And there’s a place for kids with make-and-take crafts and special performers.

Bluebird Gap Farm

Bluebird Gap Farm

6. ¬†How about a hayride? The 60-acre¬†Bluebird Gap Farm in Hampton offers the Bluebird Country Hayride once a month at noon. Head that way on¬†the second Saturdays of September, October and November. It’s a leisurely ride around the farm, the pond, through the woods and back again. Find a picnic area to enjoy lunch, walk the nature trail or let the kids loose at the playground. Hayride is weather dependent.

Burke's Garden Fall Festival

Burke’s Garden Fall Festival

7. Burke’s Garden is often referred to as God’s Thumbprint thanks to its aerial appearance – a giant thumbprint on the landscape of southwest Virginia. Visit this beautiful mountaintop valley during the Burke’s Garden Fall Festival on the last Saturday of¬†September. The festival is an annual event dating to 1987, and its “handmade, homegrown and hands-on” reflects farm living in the Heart of Appalachia.

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

8. The next opportunity for you to enjoy Virginia’s National Parks for free is the last Saturday of¬†September. Not all of the National Parks charge a fee, but there are some very popular ones that do. Mark this date to visit Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Shenandoah National Park and five others for free!

Culpeper Harvest Days Farm Tour

Culpeper Harvest Days Farm Tour

9. Check out the two-day Culpeper Harvest Days Farm Tour through Virginia’s beautiful Culpeper County during the first weekend of¬†October. Take your time touring through 18 farms and farm related businesses to get involved with some hands-on activities and demonstrations, as well as mingle with llamas, horses, cattle, and buffalo. Expect to see both traditional and unique farm experiences during this free weekend that really does have something for everyone – even wine and moonshine!

10. Always held the last Friday and Saturday of September, the Guinea Jubilee in Hayes is a celebration of the Chesapeake Bay way of life. Join in the fun of the parade, car show, delicious fresh seafood, arts and craft, fireworks, and more!

Find more free ways to LOVE Virginia this fall: 40 or More Free Things to Do in Virginia

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