FAMILY-FRIENDLY TRIPS TO SEE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, HOLIDAY PLAYS, CREATE CRAFTS & MORE
Any time of year is a great opportunity to visit Charlottesville, Virginia. There is something for everyone, from browsing through charming locally-owned shops where you can discover the most delicious delicacies and artisan gifts to visiting wineries to see illuminated vines and tall trees. For families with children, there is ice skating, holiday lights, holiday feasts and more. The Central Virginia region, which is abundant of scenic rural areas, becomes something spectacular during the Christmas season. These are some of the best options in Virginia for holiday celebrations and daytrips. Explore our Family Events Calendar to find out more about each amazing event.
Charlottesville Ballet’s The Nutcracker
See The Nutcracker, a stunning audience favorite performed by Charlottesville’s very own ballet! This holiday season, families can enjoy performances in Charlottesville and Lynchburg in addition to special Class with Clara activities in Culpeper. The captivating ninety-minute production tells the tale of Clara’s journey through the Lands of Snowflakes and Sweets, where she encounters both allies and adversaries. On a few dates, enjoy live performances of Tchaikovsky’s beloved score led by Benjamin Rous of the Charlottesville Symphony. More than a hundred community dancers from all throughout Central Virginia join the professional company in this timeless holiday performance! “Class with Clara” is an extra special treat. After some matinee performances, boys and girls ages 3-8 can discover the wonders of The Nutcracker by enrolling in a ballet lesson on stage with Clara and her friends! “Class with Clara” is accessible at every location and does require a separate ticket. Learn more about Charlottesville Ballet’s holiday offerings.
Charlottesville Balloon Glow
A balloon glow is just what it sounds like… but better! While tethered to the ground, hot air balloons inflate and the pilots light them from within. This special event will be held at Foxfield. The sight of hot air balloons lit up like giant colorful light bulbs is breathtaking. Pilots also coordinate “all burns,” illuminating all balloons at once as well as “countdowns,” which are very crowd participatory events.” Food trucks will be on-site at this free event perfect for families and children on December 13. Balloons will be operated by local businesses for the enjoyment of all the Charlottesville community: Monticello Country Ballooning, Thomas Jefferson Hot Air Ballooning & Blue Ridge Balloon Company. Event may be canceled due to inclement weather. Check social media and the Foxfield website for updates.
The sight of hot air balloons lit up like giant colorful light bulbs is breathtaking.
Charlottesville Grand Illumination
This spectacular community tree lighting event on the Charlottesville Historic Downtown Mall features music, food, games, prizes, special guests, and plenty of holiday fun for all ages. Admission is free and parking is complimentary at the Market Street and Water Street garages from 5-9 p.m. In honor of the holidays, the Ting Pavilion stage will host nine thrilling musical performers for the Grand Illumination Holiday Concert! The Jeffersonland Chorus, Terri Allard, The Virginia Sil’hooettes, DMR Adventures, Art Wheeler, Music Resource Center, The Charlottesville Band, Voices of Service, American Military Spouses Choir, and many more have been past performers! Browse over two dozen Holiday Market vendors for tasty treats, holiday crafts and hot food and beverages, It’s a kid focused wonderland with bounce houses, face painting, games, and photo-ops! Join in on December 1 at 7:30 p.m. to count down to Charlottesville’s Grand Illumination of the Holiday Tree and watch as 20,000 LED lights transform City Hall Plaza into a glowing wonderland. Plus, don’t miss a special visit from Santa!
Monticello by Candlelight Evening Tours
From clocks that go into the floor to 11,000-year-old mastodon bones. The family-friendly tours during the day offer hands-on activities that the youngest guests will find to be a blast. And who knows, maybe their favorite grown-ups might have some fun too. There will be many special tours available every evening on December 8–9, 15–18, 20–23, and 26–30. Enjoy this unique chance to see Monticello after dark, decked out in the kind of festive foliage that was prevalent in Thomas Jefferson’s day. This tour provides a close-up view of how the residents of Monticello, both free and enslaved, observed the holidays (note: this is not the specific for children tour but is kid-friendly). Explore both public and private spaces, including the famous Dome Room at Monticello. Adults and children seven years old and older are advised to take these tours. Note that this tour requires ascending steep stairs and is not accessible. Kids need to be able to go up and down stairs without help from an adult and no stroller access.
The year 2022 marked the launch of Veritas Illuminated, a Christmas event that saw the award-winning winery illuminate its vines with lights. A half-mile walk winds through the lit grounds, starting at the Tasting Room and extending all the way up through the trees. The winery also conducts a night of Christmas carols and an extravagant New Year’s Eve celebration. Veritas, a 20-year-old family business in the Monticello AVA in Afton, is at the forefront of the Virginia wine scene. The Hodson family’s love of wine and dedication to producing great wine and hospitality is what gave rise to the vineyard. Enjoy the tasting room’s fireplace and the patio’s twinkling lights. Warm up next to inviting fire pits that are perfect for everyone to enjoy. The event is made more festive and sparkling by the enchanted illuminated trees. There will be food available, and Chef Andy Shipman has introduced his delicious new farm-to-table winter menu. Indulge in decadent s’mores around fire pits or sip hot chocolate or wine in the tasting room while you watch the dancing flames to cap off the evening.
Winter Wander Trail of Lights
At the Boar’s Head Resort Winter Wander Trail of Lights, enjoy the beauty of the terrain while taking a stroll around the lakeside under the glow of a brilliant array of lights. It is an incredible, one-of-a-kind light display. Wanderers entering the event through the main entrance will be welcomed by a lit archway and a unique 12-foot-tall boar-faced nutcracker. See Dogwood Way for beautiful lanterns, an animated fountain of lights and walk through the illuminated tunnels. New in 2023, even if it’s not freezing outside, families and kids can still enjoy winter by putting on some skates and skating on a synthetic ice rink. The rink is always available for you to glide, spin, and twirl to your heart’s content—rain, shine, heat, or cold. This artificial rink, constructed from a special plastic polymer, captures the sensation of skating on a frozen pond.
New in 2023, even if it’s not freezing outside, families and kids can still enjoy winter by putting on some skates and skating on a synthetic ice rink.
Wreath Workshops at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Celina DeBrito, head gardener at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards, is offering a course on wreath-making with evergreens, citrus, herbs, and flowers produced on the winery’s property. Who wouldn’t want to attend? Attendees are invited to participate in the wreath class at an award-winning winery in order to receive gardening advice, learn how to make the wreaths, and take home their 14-inch creations. Additionally, there is a kid-friendly version of the event where kids can decorate cookies while adults make tabletop wreaths. Learn more about Pippin Hill’s holiday wreath workshops and more here on Virginia Wine & Country Life.
Yuletide Dinner at Michie Tavern
Visit Charlottesville, Virginia’s Michie Tavern, a Virginia Historic Landmark, to experience a bit of the 18th century. The public-serving tavern, named for its proprietor Corporal William Michie, opened its doors in 1784. Michie Tavern is now a museum and dining area with colonial-style décor, southern cuisine, and wait staff dressed in period garb. Savor a traditional Yuletide Dinner by candlelight this holiday season. Find precise dates, timings, and hours of Michie Tavern’s Yuletide Dinner.
More Fun Daytrips for Kids in Virginia
Looking for even more fun day trips with kids near Charlottesville and Central Virginia and other activities your kids with enjoy? Check out our favorite events and daytrips in and around Charlottesville, Va, find a Christmas Tree farm, dog & family-friendly hikes, daytrips for art-lovers, young scientist daytrips and much more!
is Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of CharlottesvilleFamily. She started her career in teaching, is a mom of four and avid gardener. She enjoys visiting lots of museums, zoos, art exhibits, theater performances and nature attractions with her family.
CharlottesvilleFamily.com, a collection of local resources including a popular calendar of events, family services guides and features on education, health and family day trips for parents and teachers in Charlottesville, as well as Virginia Wine & Country Life, a semi-annual life & style magazine, and Wine & Country Weddings, an annual art book celebrating elegant Virginia weddings.