Cover Story

Sights and Sounds of the Season

Entertainment at a Virginia Location Near You.

by Rosemary Dietrick, Contributing Writer


Stop by the historic Jefferson Hotel in downtown Richmond to see the decorations and call about having an afternoon holiday tea.

This year, Virginia travel is the holiday gift that keeps on giving before, during and, in some cases, throughout the holidays and beyond.

It starts, of course, with the re-enactment of the First Thanksgiving at Berkeley Plantation on the James River. Two museums appear on the entertainment calendar, exciting film buffs and country music fans. Both the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond and Winchester’s Museum of the Shenandoah Valley will be there for you in mid-winter.

For the harried households preparing for Dec. 25, there’s respite galore: Ice- skating under the stars, a beloved ballet, light shows in gardens and caverns, theater tickets in southwest Virginia, a parade with horses and hounds in hunt country, all invariably hosted by Santa Claus.

Take a break from trimming the tree. There’s holiday fun to be had throughout the Old Dominion.

To See and Do in the Capital City

Film buffs can open a Christmas present from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) by viewing Hollywood Costume, an exhibition organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. From Nov. 9, 2013, to Feb. 17, 2014, see the clothes worn by favorite characters in movies like The Wizard of Oz, My Fair Lady, Titanic, Superman, and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

Complementing Hollywood Costume, is Made in Hollywood, a collection of more than 90 original prints featuring iconic stars like Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Humphrey Bogart, and Clark Gable. The prints will be shown Nov. 23, 2013, to March 10, 2014 (804-340-1400; www.vmfa).

From VMFA, it’s a short trip downtown where Richmond’s skyscrapers   provide a twinkling backdrop for RVA on Ice. After a spin on the new ice-skating rink, sip hot chocolate by a fire (804-592-3330; Nearby at the Carpenter Theatre, catch a performance of the Christmas classic, The Nutcracker (Dec. 14. to Dec. 23), performed by the Richmond Ballet with the live music of the Richmond Symphony (804-592-3330;

At Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, enjoy the Dominion Gardenfest of Lights (Nov. 29 through Jan. 13 -- only closed on Dec. 24/25) where over a half-million lights depict the beauty and bounty of the natural world (804-262-9887; www.lewisginter. org).

Tidewater Holidays

Historic Berkeley Plantation is the place to be Nov. 3, to celebrate the arrival of the English settlers in 1619. It was on this spot that the exhausted voyagers, sent by the London Company, gave thanks for their successful voyage to the New World. The First Thanksgiving Festival is an annual commemorative event held on the banks of the James River in Charles City County (804-829-6018;

For families, the holiday spirit reigns in Williamsburg at Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town with Santa’s Workshop, an Ice Palace, Broadway-style shows, and a 50-foot-tall light-animated tree (800-343-7946; christmastown-williamsburg).

Christmas fires light the streets of Colonial Williamsburg.

Nearby at Colonial Williamsburg, 18th-century decorating traditions hold forth outdoors and in public buildings.  Garlands of greenery and the glow of candlelight evoke the Christmas spirit in the Revolutionary City as crowds await the fireworks of the Dec. 8 Grand Illumination (1-800-HISTORY; 

At the College of William & Mary, the exhibition, Glenn Close: A Life in Costume, will be shown at the Muscarelle Museum of Art in honor of the actress who is an alumna of the college’s Class of 1974. The collection of costumes includes clothes worn by Close in such films as Fatal Attraction and 101 Dalmatians (Sept. 29, 2013, to Jan.12, 2014; 757-221-2700;

During the Thanksgiving holidays, photographers and birders make an annual trek across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge for some Eastern Shore serenity and the opportunity to participate in the Assateague Island Waterfowl Weekend. Tours are conducted along trails normally closed to the public. The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge notes the fall migration will be at its peak Thursday, Nov. 28, to Sunday, Dec. 1. (757-336-6161;

Showtime in the Valley

In the exhibition, Becoming Patsy Cline, the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley tells the story of the music icon in her early years in the Valley. Cline was the first female solo artist inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Artifacts like clothing, furnishings and rare photographs are on display. The exhibition is on review through Feb. 2, 2014 (540-662-1473;

At the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, the American Shakespeare Center offers a stage adaptation of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens    (Dec. 8 to Dec. 28). The stunning playhouse is the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s original indoor theatre.  Playing concurrently are The Twelve Dates of Christmas, The Santaland Diaries, Othello, and The Merry Wives of Windsor (540-851-1773;

Don’t miss Staunton’s spectacular Celebration of Holiday Lights in Gypsy Hill Park. For the ninth year — from Nov. 25, 2013 to Jan. 5, 2014 — a sprawling 214 acres are aglow with displays in lights (540-332-3865;

Mountain Venues

Check out the acoustics of Christmas carols sung in a cavern. Against the backdrop of stalactites and stalagmites of the Grand Caverns, the Grottoes Ruritan Club presents candlelight tours and musical performances in Solomon’s Temple, the armory, and ballroom (Dec. 14). America’s oldest continuously operated show cave is also a National Landmark (540-249-5705;

In Abingdon, the legendary Barter Theatre pulls out all stops during the  holidays. Back onstage for the theater’s 80th anniversary year is the popular A Christmas Story plus two more holiday-themed plays: ’Twas the Night Before Christmas and Another Night Before Christmas (276-628-3991;

In Appalachia at Duffield, celebrate the season at the Natural Tunnel, carved by nature, through a limestone ridge over thousands of years. William Jennings Bryan called the attraction — as tall as a 10-story building — “the eighth wonder of the world.” Colored lights enhance chair-lift rides and the interior of tunnel; local church choirs fill the air with carols. Santa welcomes children at the Visitor Center. The program begins Nov. 29; runs every weekend through Dec. 21 (276-940-2674;

Hunt Country

Horses and hounds share Santa's spotlight in Middleburg's Christmas parade.

The town of Middleburg knows how to put on a parade. On Dec. 7 approximately l00 horses, riders in red coats, and dozens of hounds will make their way down Washington Street followed by floats, marching bands, and antique fire trucks. The grand finale is Santa riding on a handsome horse-drawn coach. The day’s agenda consists of hayrides, choir performances, a Christmas Flower and Greens Show, and a craft show (540-687-8888;

The Vienna Boys Choir will bring its Christmas in Vienna concert to the Fairfax campus of George Mason University’s Center for the Arts on Friday, Dec. 13. The Austrian singers’ program includes popular and classical music, traditional Christmas carols, Gregorian chants, and songs from around the world (888-945-2468;

The Gray Ghost Vineyard’s annual Christmas Cork and Cheese Celebration is more festive than ever. Decorative    displays — don’t miss the tree — crafted from more than 80,000 corks create a challenge. Visitors are invited to guess the number of corks comprising new items to win a selection of Gray Ghost wine. Admission to each event, Dec. 7 and 8, includes cheese tasting, desserts, winery tours and a collectible holiday glass. On Dec. 15, Santa will visit the Gray Ghost to discuss children’s wish lists (540-937-4869;


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