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With summer and fall in the rearview mirror, it's time to load up on firewood and pull out your winter gear. While it's taken some time for me to adjust to colder weather, I enjoy the lower temperatures, and the feeling winter brings.
You can still get out and enjoy the season despite the chilly weather. Northern Virginia is a fantastic area to explore winter activities, and I've rounded up my top picks. From ice skating to finding the best hills for sledding, there's no shortage of things to do when the temperature drops.
Also, while I preface it with Northern Virginia, you will find some activities in D.C. peppered in because they can't be missed. So, without further ado, here are the top things to do this winter in Northern Virginia.
Go Ice Skating
I have always loved ice skating, and I think it's the perfect winter activity. Growing up in South Florida, our ice skating rinks were strictly indoor, so I appreciate being able to enjoy the outdoor weather while skating around the rink.
While there are several indoor ice skating rinks in Northern Virginia, I chose to focus on the outdoor ones because nothing screams winter like outdoor skating. Also, remember to check the individual site before visiting for the most up-to-date hours and dates.
In addition, most ice skating rinks allow you to reserve your tickets in advance, which is ideal, so you don't get there and realize it's booked. My kids don't take that lightly, and I'm sure your kids aren't fans, either.
- Reston Town Center Ice Skating Pavilion
- Harris Pavillion Ice Rink, Manassas
- Pentagon Row Outdoor Ice Skating, Arlington
- Ice & Lights: The Winter Village at Cameron Run, Alexandria
- Canal Park Ice Rink, D.C.
- The Washington Harbour Ice Rink
- Ice Rink at the Sculpture Garden, National Gallery of Art
You'll also find ice skating at Enchant Christmas DC, which runs until January 1 at Nationals Park. If you want a magical outdoor experience, you don't want to miss it. It also has a beautiful display of lights to help add to the magic of the season.
Visit a Museum
While I mentioned how it's great to get outside once the temperatures start to dip, I also fully acknowledge kids don't always do great in cold weather. (Ok, on some days, I don't either.)
In addition, if they are on break from school, you'll want to help fill the empty calendar. Do you know how long two weeks is when it's freezing cold outside? Just ask a parent home with their kids during winter break.
I often say how lucky we are to live so close to Washington, D.C., and its numerous museums. So, visiting some of the most kid-friendly museums during the winter is a great activity to keep your family busy and learn some incredible facts in the process.
Also, you'll enjoy the festive decorations and lights around D.C., which is like icing on the cake. Here's a rundown of some of the best museums for Kids in D.C. to visit this winter.
- National Children's Museum
- International Spy Museum
- National Air and Space Museum
- National Museum of Natural History
- National Geographic Museum
Museums are also great if your kids are a bit hyped up on sugar and you need them to experience something educational.
Check Out a Light Show
Several light shows run in our area, including the Bull Run Festival of Lights, which has a 2.5-mile drive-through light display. While it's a great holiday activity, most run through January, allowing you to explore the area after the holidays.
Another fantastic show to check out is the Meadowlark Winter Walk of Lights in Vienna. If you've ever been to Meadowlark, you know what a beautiful venue it is. But, during the holidays, it takes things to new heights.
Something to keep in mind, unlike the Bull Run Festival of Lights, you walk through the Meadowlark Winter Walk of Lights. (as the name says) While no training is necessary, little legs may not love the 0.6 miles walk, so don't leave the stroller at home.
I always find the first few days after the holidays a little sad because all the hoopla has ended. So, I appreciate some activities pour into the new year, as it keeps my holiday heart satisfied until next year.
Holiday Parades, Festivals and Events in Northern Virginia
Nothing beats a good parade or holiday festival, and Northern Virginia is full of them. There is no shortage of events throughout the holidays in your area, so narrowing down the list wasn't easy.
However, I tried my best to find something in each area of town and included various events depending on what you celebrate. We are lucky to live in a diverse community, so I wanted to ensure I put a spotlight on that.
- Reston Holiday Parade at the Reston Town Center, November 25
- Old Town Manassas Christmas Fair and Holiday Craft Show, November 26
- Warrenton Christmas Parade, December 2
- Holidays through the Ages, Woodbridge, December 2-December 30
- Scottish Christmas Walk Parade, Alexandria, December 3
- Jingle on Lake Anne, Reston, December 3
- Manassas Christmas Parade, December 3
- Christmas in Middleburg, December 3
- A Unicorn Christmas Festival, Leesburg, December 10
- Christmas and Holiday Parade, Leesburg, December 10
- Chanukah on Ice, National Landing/Pentagon City, December 15
- National Menorah Lighting, Washington, D.C., December 18
Sledding in Northern Virginia
Once the season's first snowflake falls, my kids scramble to pull out their sleds, even if they need a magnifying glass to spot the flakes. If you're lucky, you have fantastic hills in your neighborhood and don't have to go too far.
However, if the streets permit, you may choose to seek the best sledding spots in Northern Virginia. I did a little digging to find some popular sledding spots that will offer a fun time for the whole family.
- Huntsman Lake, Springfield
- The Masonic Temple, Alexandria
- Pinecrest Golf Course, Alexandria
- Lake Braddock, Burke
Prince William County
- Stone House at Manassas National Battlefield
- Bull Run Plaza, Manassas
- Signal Hill Park, Manassas
- James S. Long Park, Haymarket
It should go without saying, but ensure you respect the location you decide to visit.
Go Hiking in Northern Virginia
There are so many fantastic hiking spots in Northern Virginia, and if you're lucky, you'll have snow mixed in. (Just don't forget your boots!) While you'll need to bundle up, hiking in the winter is a great way to take in the season.
You can also bring your sleds along if you find perfect sledding hills. I love how the snow sits on the trees, and the sun shines through. While your kids might not appreciate the beauty, you can breathe in the moment of zen.
And hiking doesn't mean you're scaling the side of a mountain. There are plenty of spots that have just the right amount of hills.
Also, since I know my kids must snack every 20 minutes, ensure you bring a backpack full of necessities.
Plus, don't forget your camera because you might snag some perfect pictures of your family enjoying nature because you never know what will make your next holiday card.
Here's a rundown of some hiking spots in Northern Virginia. Did I miss your favorite? Send me a message, so I can add it to the list.
- Bull Run Occoquan Trail, Fairfax Station
- Bluebell Trail, Centreville
- Lake Thoreau Loop Trail, Reston
- Scott's Run Nature Preserve, McLean
- Algonkian Regional Park, Sterling
- Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve, Leesburg
- Red Rock Overlook, Leesburg
- Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park, Ashburn
Prince William County
- Conway Robinson State Forest, Gainesville
- Locust Shade Park, Triangle (Next to the National Museum of the Marine Corps)
- Manassas Battlefield (Deep Cut Loop Trail), Manassas
- Silver Lake Regional Park, Haymarket
- Cedar Mountain Battlefield, Rapidan
- Lost Mountain, Upperville
- Sky Meadows State Park, Delaplane
- Whitney State Forest Loop, Warrenton
The list of places to hike in Northern Virginia is truly a snapshot of what the area offers; however, I can't include them all as much as I would like.
Watch a Play
I fondly remember watching The Nutcracker as a little girl and look forward to taking my children one day. Several venues in the area have a fantastic schedule this winter. Here's a sampling of some of the magnificent shows to check out.
- The Washington Ballet - The Nutcracker, Warner Theater
- Kansas City Ballet - The Nutcracker, Kennedy Center Opera House
- Manassas Ballet Theatre - The Nutcracker, Hylton Performing Arts Center
- A Christmas Carol, Fords Theater, and National Theater
- Charlie Brown Christmas, The Hamilton
- Trans-Siberian Orchestra: The Ghosts of Christmas Eve, Capital One Arena
- Cirque Dreams Holidaze, The Theater at MGM National Harbor
The great thing about shows and plays is you can find something throughout the year, so you might start a new tradition.
Volunteer in the Community
The great thing about volunteering is you can help the community regardless of the season. If your kids are home from school and you have time off of work, it's a fantastic time to give back to the community.
The holidays are full of presents, lots of food, and family, so it's a good reminder that not everyone is as fortunate. I think volunteering after all the holiday busyness is a great reminder that people are in need all year round.
Several volunteer opportunities exist in Prince William and Loudoun counties, many allowing children to participate. However, it's always best to check with the individual location for volunteer guidelines.
Volunteering is an excellent way for kids to learn useful leadership skills, broaden their experiences, and provide balance to their extracurricular activities.
Go to a Washington Capitals Hockey Game
To wrap up the list of what to do this winter in Northern Virginia is attending a Washington Capitals Hockey Game. With the football season ending, and basketball season on deck, it's a great time to support your local hockey team.
The Capitals were founded in 1974 and have evolved over the past several decades, with the team taking home the Stanley Cup in the 2017-2018 season.
You're in for a real treat if you've never been to a hockey game. It's a great activity for the whole family, and you'll appreciate everything Capital One Arena offers, including Rita's Italian Ice, DMV Wings, Tenders Love & Chicken, and Sidekick Bakery.
If you want something to do this winter, you can't go wrong with attending a Caps game and cheering on the local hockey team.
There is no shortage of winter activities in Northern Virginia, and while some cold days keep you inside, there is also plenty to do to enjoy the chillier weather. I'm always reminded of how fast seasons go once they come to an end, so while my Florida-born blood took time to adjust to colder temperatures, I also enjoy the activities that come with it.
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