10 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in Charlottesville & Albemarle County! (2017)

It may be hard to believe, but the holiday season is upon us once again, and this festive, joyous time of year is one of the best times to make a visit to Charlottesville & Albemarle County! The area is teeming with special holiday events beginning shortly after Thanksgiving and lasting all the way through the start of 2018. Here are ten reasons you should consider planning a trip to the Charlottesville area this holiday season!

1.) Lighting of the Lawn at the University of Virginia

Lovers of holiday lights will not want to miss this popular annual event set to take place at the prestigious university that Thomas Jefferson founded! On November 30th from 7:00 – 10:00 p.m., the University of Virginia will host its 17th annual Lighting of the Lawn event. This enchanting evening draws thousands of people each and every year to Thomas Jefferson’s historic university, all in anticipation of the magical moment when the switch is flipped and The Lawn, Rotunda and all of the historic buildings making up the Academical Village begin to glow from the light of thousands of LED bulbs. The event wraps up with an orchestrated light show coordinated to music, much to the delight of a cheering crowd. Click here for more information about this year's Lighting of the Lawn!

Lighting of the Lawn 3

(Lighting of the Lawn at the University of Virginia)

2.) The Grand Illumination

Taking place the very next day on December 1st on Charlottesville’s historic pedestrian Downtown Mall is the 20th annual Grand Illumination event. The Grand Illumination is a holiday tradition among visitors and locals and draws hundreds of people each year to Central Place on the Downtown Mall to watch as the beautifully decorated tree begins to sparkle with more than 20,000 LED bulbs. The festivities begin at 5:30 p.m., with the tree lighting set to take place at 8:00 p.m. This family-friendly event is free and will also feature special musical performances, kids’ crafts, a visit from Santa Claus, and much more. The fun will continue with a free showing of A Christmas Story at 8:30 p.m. at the historic Paramount Theater. Click here for more information about this year's Grand Illumination!

Grand Illumination

(Grand Illumination on Charlottesville's Downtown Mall)

3.) The Barracks Road Annual Holiday Parade

The Charlottesville area will once again be host to two festive holiday parades this season. The Barracks Road Annual Holiday Parade will take place on Saturday, December 2ndbeginning at 9:30 a.m. at the Barracks Road Shopping Center. This parade route, which runs the length of the shopping center, features Santa Claus, colorful floats, costumed characters, impressive marching bands, horse-drawn carriages, and various community members.

4.) The Wells Fargo Holiday Heritage Parade

The following week, the Wells Fargo Holiday Heritage Parade will take place on the historic pedestrian Downtown Mall on Saturday, December 9th starting at 10:00 a.m. This parade is comprised of a series of decorated golf carts, all proceeding down one of the longest pedestrian malls in the country. In addition to colorful floats, there will be holiday music, marching bands, animals, Santa Claus, and even the Grinch!

5.) Events at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

The holidays are an amazing time to rediscover history in an interesting and unique way at several of the presidential homes located in the Charlottesville area. Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello will be offering an array of special events during the holiday season, including wreath-making workshops, a free holiday open house, the 6th annual Monticello Holiday Classic 5K and Deck the Halls Kids Dash, holiday evening tours of the home which include the iconic Dome Room, and a children’s woodland ornament workshop. Click here for more details about holiday events at Monticello.

Monticello Holidays

(Thomas Jefferson's Monticello)

6.) Events at James Monroe's Highland

James Monroe’s Highland will be opening its doors to special evening tours on four dates in December, giving guests a unique glimpse into this presidential home. Visitors will be able to take part in cooking demonstrations on open hearths to create several different Monroe-era desserts, all enjoyed by candlelight. Guests will then receive a guided visit of the presidential guest house and museum spaces, which will be decorated for the holidays. For more information about holiday events at Highland, visit www.highland.org.

7.) Events at James Madison's Montpelier

Located a short and scenic half-hour drive northeast of Charlottesville is James Madison’s former home of Montpelier, which will also be offering a special holiday-themed event. A free holiday open house will take place on December 2nd from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., giving guests the opportunity to tour the Madisons’ home, decorated according to 19th-century customs, and visit with James and Dolley Madison. At the David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center, guests can enjoy visits with Santa, hands-on history activities, and delicious food offerings. For more details about holiday events at Montpelier, visit www.montpelier.org.

8.) Events at the Paramount Theater

Located at the heart of Charlottesville’s historic Downtown Mall, the historic Paramount Theater has several exciting and festive performances lined up for the holidays! The hilarious holiday comedy Elf will be shown on December 10th, followed by performances of Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker on December 11th and December 12th. The holiday fun continues as the Oratorio Society of Virginia Presents: Christmas at the Paramount on December 16th and then country musicians Phil Vassar and Kellie Pickler take the stage on December 23rd during a live event featuring their new original holiday single “The Naughty List!” For more information on all of the shows and performances taking place at the Paramount Theater this holiday season, visit www.theparamount.net.

Paramount Holidays

(Paramount Theater on the Downtown Mall)

9.) First Night Virginia

The year 2018 will start with a bang on the Downtown Mall as First Night Virginia celebrations take center stage for the 36th year in a row. First Night Virginia is one of the oldest First Night events in the nation and is a terrific and family-friendly way to usher in the New Year. Families and visitors will be treated to a plethora of entertainment acts, live music, magicians, face painting and more, plus a laser light show and ball drop at the stroke of midnight! For more information on this iconic New Year’s Eve celebration, visit www.firstnightva.org.

10.) Shopping, Shopping, Shopping!

The holiday shopping season has arrived and there are plenty of options for picking the perfect holiday gift in Charlottesville & Albemarle County. The Downtown Mall offers dozens of boutique shops and stores, selling a wide variety of locally-made products. The Holiday Market, an extension of the weekly City market, continues from November 25th until December 23rd, 2017 on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. offering a variety of unique gifts, decorations, food, and crafts made by local farmers, artists and bakers. Plus, parking will be free in the Market Street Parking Garage on weekends from November 17th – January 1st, 2018. Finally, a trip to the Crozet Artisan Depot in Crozet will give shoppers a wide selection of arts and crafts made by local artisans from Central Virginia. To learn more about the Crozet Artisan Depot, visit www.crozetartisandepot.com. The destination is also home to a variety of shopping centers, including Barracks Road Shopping CenterThe Shops at Stonefield, and Fashion Square Mall.

Winter Downtown Mall

(Holiday shopping on the Downtown Mall)

While this may be an extensive list, it only scratches the surface of all of the holiday events taking place in Charlottesville & Albemarle County this season. Be sure to check out our calendar of events and stop by our lodging and accommodations page for suggestions on more things to do and places to stay. From all of us here in Charlottesville & Albemarle County, happy holidays and best wishes for a healthy and happy 2018. We look forward to seeing you soon!



Charlottesville, Virginia, is a quaint and charming destination, located near the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s home to Monticello and the University of Virginia.

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