The winter woods have returned to the Shenandoah Valley and the surrounding mountains with the possibility of snow in the air as shops, restaurants, and hotels welcome guests during the holiday season. It's a special time of year and many activities are planned throughout the region. Get in the holiday spirit with continuous Christmas music on the radio from FM 96.1 and FM 93.1.
There's a festival of holiday lights now through January 5 in Staunton's Gypsy Hill Park located in the central Shenandoah Valley. Individuals, churches, civic groups, and businesses have teamed up for the seventh year in a row with light displays along the two-mile drive around the park including the "Field of Deer" dedicated by local citizens in honor or memory of others.
Hitch a ride during the holidays in historic downtown Staunton on the free trollies that carry folks around the area, hopping off and jumping on at stops along the way. Enjoy shops and restaurants that are decorated for the holidays with thousands of twinkly lights welcoming guests to celebrate a Valley Christmas.
The folks in Highland County invite all to western Virginia to celebrate Wintertide, an old-fashioned Victorian Christmas in downtown Monterey the weekend of December 3-5 featuring a tree-lighting at the courthouse, carolers on horseback, handmade fresh holiday wreaths, and hand-spun wool items in Virginia's Little Switzerland.
Santa will make an appearance at Natural Bridge on three Sundays -- December 5, 12, and 19 -- listening to little ones as they pass along their Christmas wishes. Join the jolly old elf for some cookies and hot chocolate from 2-5 pm.
Dress warmly and join in a free outdoor sing along on Friday, December 10, at Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in Lexington as the cadets from the Glee Club present their "Carols in the Courtyard" concert at 7:30 pm featuring fun Christmas music and hot cider.
A tradition for 28 years, The Nutcracker returns to Staunton with local talent under the direction of the Shenandoah Civic Dance Company on Saturday, December 11 at 7:00 pm, and Sunday, December 12 at 2:00 pm. It's a magical ballet for young and old alike.
Historic Wade's Mill in southern Augusta County, one of the few working grist mills in the Shenandoah Valley, offers a unique opportunity on Saturday, December 11, to make decorations for the tree and also help prepare the pizza for a festive holiday party. It all begins at 10 am and costs $25 for decoration and meal. Reservations are required.
On Saturday, December 11, just over the mountain from the Shenandoah Valley in Charlottesville, Mr. Jefferson's Monticello will offer the first family-oriented 5K Holiday Classic and Deck the Halls Kids Dash at 8:00 a.m. featuring an adult event and the kids 1,000 meter dash and scavenger hunt.
The annual Christmas in River City features a family-friendly evening on December 17 from 5-8:00 pm in downtown Waynesboro that includes horse drawn carriage rides, Santa, caroling and a yule log.
After last year's snows kept Afton's Hebron Baptist Church from presenting its annual "Bethlehem Village," this year they're back from December 17-21 at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Nelson County. A recreated "Bethelehem" offers the opportunity to walk the quiet, dark streets of the little village and interact in a living nativity reminiscent of a time long before Santa. Experience the reverence of Christ's birth with animals in the stable, village people going about their business, and Roman soldiers guarding the gate in this unique remembrance of the first Christmas.
There is a quiet in the cold winter air as visitors walk the darkened pathways with costumed interpreters during the Holiday Lantern Tours at Staunton's Frontier Culture Museum, taking place December 17-22. Experience a one-of-a-kind visit back in time to the Old Country and Early America. Four tours leave from the visitor center every 30 minutes beginning at 6:00 pm. Reservations are required.
For those who want to ski on Christmas Day, they're making snow at Massanutten Ski Resort and Wintergreen Ski Resort. Both offer Christmas packages with housing, skiing, snowtubing, special holiday meals, and all kinds of winter activities to celebrate the holidays in these winter wonderlands.
For the ultimate Christmas vacation at an historic landmark about an hour west of the Shenandoah Valley, The Homestead Resort in Hot Springs offers their Holiday Lights and Ice winter celebration with skiing, ice skating, carriage rides, indoor spa, soaking waters, and much more. They have been taking care of families for over 200 years. The Grand Hall's wood-burning fireplaces, the Grand Tree, twinkly lights on the grounds, afternoon tea, delicious holiday meals, and family-friendly activities make The Homestead a special destination.
There's always a birthday party on December 28 at Woodrow Wilson's Presidential Library and Museum in downtown Staunton. Free admission allows all to tour this presidential birth place and grounds during the holidays with costumed interpreters, period music, cake, and punch.
Kick off 2011 with a New Year's Eve Gala at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel in downtown Staunton on December 31 to benefit the Frontier Culture Museum. Enjoy an expanded buffet, open bar, and entertainment from 8:30-midnight with special overnight packages available. It's a special way to welcome in the New Year in the Shenandoah Valley's Queen City.