The holiday season looks very different this year, with masks, social distancing, and travel restrictions. While staying close to home, this is a great year to check out the historical tours in your own area to start a new holiday tradition. Many historical homes and sites have holiday decor from their respective time periods, which is fun for kids to explore. My kids are always fascinated when hearing how children from the past celebrated Christmas. Look at your local newspaper for ideas in your area or get inspired from my list below!
Historical homes are some of the best places to visit this time of year. My absolute all-time favorite home to visit at Christmas is the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina. Spectacular any time of year, it really goes over the top at Christmas! We visited last year and even my boys were amazed at the holiday decorations, especially the gingerbread house!
Some other favorites in Virginia include:
- Centre Hill Mansion, Petersburg: You’ll recognize the elaborate staircase from PBS’ Mercy Street, and the mansion itself is beautifully decorated for Christmas.
- James River Plantations: Shirley, Berkeley, Edgewood, and Westover are all decked out for the holidays.
- Agecroft Hall, Richmond: A Tudor mansion brought over from England timber by timber, this historic home has many fun events planned, including Yuletide games and festivities. Don’t miss its Christmas virtual educational event tomorrow!
- Lee-Fendall House, Alexandria: This historic home is hosting a candlelight tour this weekend.
Presidential homes can be great places to soak in important history while enjoying beautiful seasonal decorations. Many Presidential sites have special holiday tours and events so take advantage of those!
- Mount Vernon: Be sure to check out its Winter Glow events.
- Monticello: The private holiday evening tour makes a wonderful Christmas gift. It’s one of the few tours that takes you into the dome room.
- Montpelier: James and Dolley Madison’s home is decorated beautifully for Christmas.
- The White House: While not open for holiday tours this year due to COVID, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience not to miss if you can get tickets in coming years! I’ll never forget my Christmas visit in 2003! Special thanks to Libby McNamee for the pictures from last year’s White House decorations.
- Some governor’s mansions are also open to the public at Christmas. Last year, my son and I visited the Virginia Executive Mansion, the oldest continually occupied governor’s mansion in the country, where they served cookies and cider! Check out your state capital to see if the governor has opened their doors, in person or virtually.
Many large and small cities have opulent historic hotels that are amazing to visit this time of year.
- The Jefferson Hotel, Richmond: While only open for registered guests this year, it’s still possible to see the fantastical Christmas decorations of this grand hotel celebrating its 125th anniversary. We never miss a Christmas tea and a chance to view the enormous gingerbread creation!
- Charleston Place Hotel, Charleston, SC: This is one of my favorite hotels in my favorite historical city. It has an elegant staircase and train display to entertain children for the holidays.
- Historic Peabody Hotel, Memphis, TN: Even the ducks love to see the Christmas decorations at this historic hotel!
Historic Walking Tours
In Richmond, Virginia, several local companies provide walking or biking tours of the historic areas. The Valentine Museum usually does walking tours but they are suspended this year due to COVID. Basket and Bike is still doing historical biking tours of the holiday sights and lights of Richmond. Find a local company near you that is providing these types of fun, active tours!
Historic Open-Air Museums
This year, open-air museums are some of the best places to visit. You can take in the sights without having to be indoors. Places like Colonial Williamsburg are wonderful to walk around and can even include special holiday treats like ice skating!
Enjoy a historical holiday season this year!