Travel

Holiday Destinations Near DC That Feel Like a Hallmark Movie

Did somebody say holiday lights and hot chocolate?

Havre de Grace, Maryland
Havre de Grace, Maryland | Photo Courtesy of Explore Havre de Grace
Havre de Grace, Maryland | Photo Courtesy of Explore Havre de Grace

Are you a big city professional looking for some small-town charm this holiday season? Like any made-for-TV movie, you can go in search of your own winter-time adventure that’s both safe and socially distanced this holiday season.

Several quaint and historic towns in Maryland and Virginia cater to DC visitors in search of a warm cup of cocoa, holiday lights, and plenty of holiday cheer. Here are seven options to help get you in the mood this season.

igloo at King & Rye
Igloo at King & Rye | Photo Courtesy of King & Rye

Alexandria, Virginia 

Drive time from DC: 20 minutes
It’s just minutes from DC, but you’ll feel transported miles away to a holiday village vibe. Just take a stroll down King Street. There you’ll find dozens of independent boutiques and several “streetery” options for al-fresco dining and drinking, including mulled wine from the patio at Daniel O'Connell's Irish Restaurant & Bar or whiskey flights enjoyed in an igloo at King & Rye. You can also step back in time with Christmas at Mount Vernon, or take in the holiday lights and ice skating at the Winter Village at Cameron Run, as well as outdoor holiday markets in Alexandria’s Del Ray and Carlyle neighborhoods.

Middelburg, Virginia
Middelburg, Virginia | Photo Courtesy of Visit Middelburg

Middleburg, Virginia 

Drive time from DC: 1 hour
This charming town in Virginia’s hunt and wine country is typically known for its holiday parade featuring a parade of adorable hounds. While the parade is canceled this year, Middleburg is playing host to several holiday events and showcases that emphasize outdoor activities in a safe and distanced setting. The fun starts with a window decorating contest involving several shops and restaurants, as well as several holiday trees decorated in different styles and themes. For those looking to find their zen away from the rush of big city life, there’s also a grassy labyrinth in town, plus socially distanced guided meditation and yoga classes at the nearby Salamander Resort. Each class emphasizes flexibility, stability, and strength, and afterward, participants can enjoy a warm winter cocktail or mocktail.

Baltimore, Maryland
Baltimore, Maryland | Photo Courtesy of Jason Varney

Baltimore, Maryland

Drive time from DC: 1 hour
No holiday is complete without a visit to Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood for its Miracle on 34th Street light display. The 700 block of 34th Street is where you’ll find an insane amount of lights and yard ornaments that are sure to fill you up on holiday cheer. This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers ask that visitors wear a mask and adequately social distance as they enjoy the lights. Those looking to stay the night in Charm City can check-in at The Ivy Hotel in Baltimore’s historic Mount Vernon neighborhood. This small-scale, 18-room hotel is the perfect place to distance, plus there are several outdoor options for eating, including at the bistro-style restaurant Magdalena. The Ivy is also getting into the holiday spirit with a special package that includes your choice of spiked hot chocolates or in-room afternoon tea service.

North East, Maryland
North East, Maryland | Photo Courtesy of Visit Maryland

North East, Maryland

Drive time from DC: 1 hour, 30 minutes
For a Main Street full of holiday fun, plus socially distanced shopping and outdoor equestrian adventures visit North East, Maryland. This holiday season this quaint town is playing host to a hot cocoa crawl. From December 14 to 24, several shops will keep their doors open and serve complimentary hot cocoa. Before you shop, stop for lunch at Port House Grill for one of the best crab cakes in Maryland. Then, walk along Main Street for sidewalk sales at Kathy’s Corner Shop, North East Chocolates, Maryland Recycled Creations, Cottage Chic, and The Silver Buckle—just a few of the many shops where you’ll find local, artisan gifts. This town also has bragging rights to Santa’s House, which is accepting letters at the mailbox out front until December 19. Finish the day off with a sunset stroll at North East Park, which sits at the head of the North East River. 

Havre de Grace, Maryland
Havre de Grace, Maryland | Photo Courtesy of Visit Maryland

Havre de Grace, Maryland

Drive time from DC: 1 hour, 30 minutes
A quaint and historic lighthouse, carolers who stroll by candlelight, and a town Christmas tree that lights the way are just three of the reasons to visit Havre de Grace in Harford County, Maryland. Start your visit at Concord Point Lighthouse for sweeping views of the Chesapeake Bay in a park that’s filled with holiday lights, and adjacent to the town’s Maritime Museum. This town is also a place filled with antique shopping from throwback Pyrex dishes and other kitchen essentials at JoRetro to holiday-themed gifts and decor at Seneca Cannery Antiques. You’ll also find warm cups of cocoa at Concord Point Coffee, and for those looking to stay the night, a safe and socially distanced B&B in a quiet setting at the Vandiver Inn.

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Tim Ebner is a food and travel writer based in Washington, D.C. and writes for Eater, Edible, Washington City Paper, and Forbes Travel, among others. He's from Maryland and has a weakness for Old Bay seasoning. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.