Winter may mean spending more time indoors, but Virginia’s sometimes mild weather and beautiful scenery will encourage you to get out and explore what Virginia has to offer winter travelers. Take to the road to see a fantastic frozen waterfall or two, something very different from that summer visit.
Head to the beach to watch the humpback whales leap from the water, hit the slopes skiing, tubing, or snowboarding, marvel at one of the epic holiday light displays across the state.
Peruse the ideas below to help plan the perfect road trip for those winter Facebook and Instagram pictures. There definitely is not a shortage of things to see, do, and explore during the winter in Virginia.
Table of Contents
- 1 Holiday Light Displays
- 2 Hit the Slopes
- 3 Whale Watching in Virginia Beach
- 4 Plunge into one of Virginia’s Indoor Waterparks
- 5 Go Ice Skating
- 6 Festival Time
- 7 Go for a Winter Hike
- 8 Hike along the Cascades National Recreation Trail
Holiday Light Displays
Stroll down Beverley Street and do a little holiday shopping at the local businesses that are all decorated with garland and festive lights.
Old Town Alexandria
King Street offers more than 200 restaurants and shops to explore while enjoying the beautiful holiday decorations and historic charm.
During a summer trip to Williamsburg or Virginia Beach, you may have visited Colonial Williamsburg, but a return trip during the winter holidays is a must. During November and December, walk down Prince George Street and see the historic district has come to life with fruit wreaths, fresh garland, and all the colonial-era holiday decorations. Stop in one of the landmark taverns for a hot chocolate before lacing up the skates at Merchant Square’s outdoor Liberty Ice Pavilion.
Busch Gardens Christmas Town
Travel through Europe and enjoy seeing the carolers singing at the base of Big Ben and enjoy watching Scrooge No More at the Globe Theatre before heading to Ireland, Germany, Italy, and France for more lights, shows, and tasty treats. You can also take a brisk ride on Finnegan’s Flyer, Apollo’s Chariot, and 20 other rides throughout the park.
Take in the scent of fresh pine from all the marvelously decorated Christmas trees. Don’t miss the gigantic tree in Germany that has lights synchronized to music every half-hour.
As you stroll through the park looking at all the fantastic decorations, enjoy sipping on a peppermint hot chocolate before heading up Mach Tower to get a birds-eye view of the decorated park.
Grand Illumination Celebration and Holiday Kick-off
Come out and watch the Norfolk skyline light up with festive lights at the annual Grand Illumination Parade. Get into the holiday spirit as the marching bands, dancers, floats, giant balloons, and of course, Santa makes their way down the streets of Norfolk.
Hit the Slopes
Even though many people want to say inside during the cold weather, come out and face that chill head-on by enjoying a day or weekend of snowboarding, tubing, or skiing.
The four Virginia resorts offer skiing options for both the expert and novice skiers in your group, along with lessons.
Those who prefer the warmth of a fire enjoy lounging beside the fireplace at a luxurious lodge or get pampered in the resort spa.
Virginia is home to five ski resorts with 16 miles of slopes and 18 ski lifts.
Whether you are ready to hit the slopes or not, use the guide below to find the perfect Virginia winter destination, then have some fun.
Wintergreen Resort along the east side of the Blue Ridge Mountains is much more than a place to ski.
The 11,000-acre resort offers fun year-round. Take to the 26 slopes and trails or Virginia’s longest tubing hill during the winter ski season. They have two golf courses featuring 45 holes, hiking, swimming, and a mountaintop spa.
More Skiing in Virginia
This premier ski resort offers 70 acres to ski and has eight lifts to take you to 14 runs ranging from beginners to advanced.
This year-round resort offers both families and friends a place to enjoy day and night skiing, tubing, zip-lining, and one of the best terrain parks around.
Learn more about Massanutten Resort in winter
Nestled in the Allegheny Mountains, Bryce Resort offers not only excellent skiing but spectacular views.
Spend the day tubing at the terrain park or just enjoying the views and entertainment at the Copper Kettle Restaurant.
One of the best features of Bryce Resort is their children’s teaching program and their adult and children’s ski training. They even offer classes dedicated to ski racing and snowboarding.
The Omni Homestead
This year-round resort offers plenty of indoor and outdoor activities. It is most well-known for its spa and the mineral hot springs that run through the area.
Within the resort, enjoy a movie in the theater, head to the bowling alley, arcade room, or enjoy walking the beautiful grounds.
In the winter, take to the slopes for a day of skiing, tubing, or snowboarding.
Whale Watching in Virginia Beach
Throughout the summer, tourists crowd the Virginia Beach oceanfront while enjoying the sun, sand, and passing dolphins.
When the chillier winter weather visits between December and March, many of those tourists disappear.
However, there is still much to see and do along the Virginia Beach shores. Annual winter visitors like the humpback and other whales that pass through the region as they migrate down from Canada and New England to the warmer Atlantic Ocean waters.
Take a whale-watching trip and watch the humpback whales breach, slap their flipper or tail as they play, and eat along the coast.
Rudee’s Tours provides a convenient location near the south end of the Virginia Beach Oceanfront at the Virginia Beach Fishing Center at Rudee’s Inlet.
This convenient ocean water location has you searching for whales within minutes of leaving the dock.
The captain and crew will take you on a two-hour educational tour through the Atlantic Ocean waters off the Virginia Beach coastline as they search out the migrating whales as well as seals, dolphins, and large waterfowl.
Virginia Aquarium Winter Wildlife Boat Trips
Let the ocean come to you and board the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center’s Atlantic Explorer for a 2½-hour ocean exploration. You will accompany some of the best local marine educators and researchers. They will share their expert knowledge and spot a variety of fascinating winter wildlife along your journey.
Shortly after leaving the dock, you will be scanning the waters for not only those energetic humpback whales jumping in the air and blowing their spouts but bottlenose dolphins, harbor seals, and harbor porpoises.
First Landing Charters
First Landing Charters gives you a small group option when it comes to hitting the seas to watch the whales jump, play, and feed off the Virginia Beach coast.
This trip begins in the Lynnhaven Inlet and heads out the Chesapeake Bay, passing the historic Cape Henry Lighthouse and into the Atlantic Ocean.
Plunge into one of Virginia’s Indoor Waterparks
There is nothing better than being a kid or acting like a kid at one of Virginia’s indoor or outdoor waterparks.
These days it doesn’t have to be a 90o day in July or August to enjoy the slippery slides, wave pools, and lazy rivers.
Thanks to the indoor waterparks, you can continue to enjoy splashing around when the temperature is below freezing at one of the indoor parks at Massanutten and Great Wolf Lodge
Great Wolf Lodge
Great Wolf Lodge offers guests year-round fun at the 67,000 square-foot waterpark.
The indoor park is always 84o and offers something for everyone. The little tikes will have a blast splashing in the water at Raccoon Lagoon or Club Paw Pool. Wolf Rider Wipeout or the River Canyon Run is where the adrenaline seekers will be hanging out.
When you need a break from the slides, head to the Hot Springs, the North Hot Springs is an adult-only hot tub, while the South tub is open to everyone.
Massanutten Indoor WaterPark
After a hot day of hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains or skiing down Massanutten’s black diamond slopes, head to the 84o year-round indoor waterpark for some fun on the FlowRider and surf in the mountains, slip and slide down the water slides, or relax as you mosey around the lazy river.
During the summer months, the water fun doubles when the Outdoor Water Park is also open. This park offers a beachy atmosphere around the White Caps Wave Pool, private cabanas, and waterslides to race with friends and family.
Young children will want to spend hours at the massive Massaunutten Meltdown or the Frog Pond, where they can play the day away.
At the park, besides the water fun, you can golf, ski, shop, dine, and spend the night, weekend, or an entire week to take in all there is to do at Massanutten Four Seasons Resort.
Find more Virginia Water Parks
Go Ice Skating
- Ashburn Ice House
- Pentagon City Ice skating Rink
- Chilled Ponds Ice Sports Complex in Chesapeake
- Fairfax Ice Arena
- LaHaye Ice Center in Lynchburg
- Harris Pavilion in Old Town Manassas
- Prince William Ice Center in Woodbridge
- Reston Town Center Ice Skating
- Iceland in Virginia Beach
When you usually head to the local festivals is during the warmer spring and summer months. However, there are plenty of celebrations happening during the winter months too.
- MacArthur Center Wine Festival – Norfolk in January
- Virginia Fly Fishing and Wine Festival – Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane in January
- Chocolate Lovers Festival – Fairfax in February
- Richmond FrostFest – Richmond in February
- Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival – Virginia Beach in February
- Chinese New Year Festival – Falls Church in February
- Coastal Virginia Winefest – Virginia Beach in February
- Virginia Festival Of The Book – Charlottesville in March
- Highland County Maple Festival – Monterey in March
- Virginia Wine Expo – Richmond in March
- Hampton Roads Tattoo Arts Festival – Norfolk in March
- Virginia Dance Festival – Midlothian in March
Go for a Winter Hike
Head to a Frozen Waterfall
During the coldest winter weather, a trek to a frozen waterfall is a marvelous adventure and so, so different from a summertime visit. Get out your hiking poles and head to one or more of these magnificent winter waterfalls:
Crabtree Falls offers visitors snapshots of five large cascades as it flows down 1,200 feet.
You will not find any other U.S. waterfall on the east side of the Mississippi River with a higher vertical drop.
The 700-feet path to the bottom cascade is wheelchair accessible. However, after that, the trail becomes dirt and rocks and rises1,072 ft in elevation.
During the winter, the cascading water of Crabtree Falls often freezes and features breathtaking sparkling ice.
NOTE: There is a $3.00 parking fee. At the beginning of the trail, there are picnic tables and vaulted toilets.
More gorgeous Virginia waterfalls
Dark Hollow Falls
Head to the very popular Dark Hollow Falls in the Shenandoah National Park. During the cold winter months, this waterfall sometimes freezes and forms a spectacular winter wonderland.
Other Frozen Waterfalls to See
- Falls Ridge Preserve – Blacksburg
- Roaring Run Trail – Eagle Rock
- Cascade Falls – Pembroke
- Bottom Creek Gorge – Bent Mountain
Hike along the Cascades National Recreation Trail
The Cascades National Recreation Trail is a fantastic 4-mile hike for the whole family. Once you reach the end of the trail, the 66-foot waterfall makes it all worth the effort. This waterfall could be frozen during the coldest of winters.
The four-mile hike on Cascades National Recreation Trail is achievable for even beginner hikers, and the 66-foot waterfall (which can even freeze during the coldest parts of winter!) at the end of the trail makes it worth the distance.
Brown Pelican Trail
When visiting the Eastern Shore during the winter, visit the Kiptopeke State Park and stroll along the Brown Pelican Trail. Along the trail, you will have superb views of the Chesapeake Bay.
Belle Isle Trails
In the middle of the James River in downtown Richmond, you will find a 54-acre island that is perfect for hiking, rock climbing, fishing, and biking.
The flat walking/biking trail around the island is 1.7 miles and is pet-friendly. There is also a 3,263-foot long mountain biking trail that takes about six minutes to make the circuit.
To reach the island, take the Tredegar Street pedestrian footbridge.
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
Meadowlark Botanical Garden is not only a beautiful place to walk during the spring and summer, but during the winter, it is a quiet place for a peaceful stroll. With most of the gardens dormant, there is no charge to walk in the park from December 1 through the end of February.
Great Falls National Park
Along the Great Falls National Park’s Potomac River, you will find the beautiful Great Falls.
Spend time wandering the trails through the park. The three main overlooks near the Visitor Center offer easily accessible spots to view the multiple cascades that tumble over the rocks as the Potomac River drops swiftly in elevation.
Explore the falls and Mather Gorge by hiking along the 1½ mile River Trail. This trail has very little elevation change and often is not crowded during the winter months.
Before visiting the park, check the National Park website for flood advisories. While there, observe the flood signpost to see the record-high floodwater lines.