Category Archives: Travel/Hotels

Do something FUN on Thanksgiving Day

“Be thankful for what you have. You’ll end up having more.” — Oprah Winfrey

How long, really, does it take you to eat Thanksgiving dinner? An hour, tops? That leaves plenty of time left over. Fortunately, there are plenty of fun options for Thanksgiving Day.

Watch the Macy’s Day parade or other parade on TV.

Go walking, jogging or running. Register for the Reston Turkey 5K (a 1K and kids’ race is also available), the Fairfax Turkey Trot or the Alexandria Turkey Trot.

Play Thanksgiving games. This is the best article: it lists 17 really fun-looking Thanksgiving games, including Mad Libs, an Escape Room, pumpkin races, guessing games and more. Some of these would be good for classrooms, too. Check it out!

Soak up some culture. All the Smithsonian Museums, the National Zoo and the U.S. Botanic Gardens are open on Thanksgiving Day. Mount Vernon and Luray Caverns are also open to visitors. Tickets are available for the 7:30 p.m. performance of The Nutcracker by the Atlanta Ballet at the Kennedy Center. The Kennedy Center also presents a free Millenium Stage concert at 6:30 p.m.

Have a laugh. Watch the Thanksgiving episodes of Friends. Listen to old radio show Thanksgiving programs — Jack Benny and Our Miss Brooks are funny ones. You can find them on YouTube.

Read the kids a story. I like The First Thanksgiving by Linda Hayward and One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims by B.G. Hennessy.

Play Turkey Day Trivia. You can play in teams and take turns drawing questions, or play with just two people. Here is the Word file so  you can download and print it, or customize it with your own questions: Thanksgiving Trivia.

Shop for early Black Friday bargains. Dulles Town Center, Tysons Corner and Fair Oaks will be open for shopping on Thanksgiving Day at 6 p.m.

Go to the movies. Recent releases on Thanksgiving Day will include Past Christmas, Frozen II, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and Knives Out, a “whodunnit” starring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, among others. Be sure to order your tickets in advance (e.g., on Fandango) so you aren’t disappointed.

Take a trip. Williamsburg is a great destination for Thanksgiving. Hotel prices are low, attractions are open (including Colonial Williamsburg and Historic Jamestown) and there are wonderful places to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal, not to mention Christmas Town at Busch Gardens. Richmond is also a close-by option. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is open and you can even make reservations to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at the Amuse restaurant in the museum. Luray Caverns is also open on Thanksgiving Day.

Volunteer. The Reston Community Center needs volunteers on Thanksgiving Day. Other places to volunteer: animal shelters, food banks, etc.

Three Thanksgiving Ideas (that don’t involve cooking)

Not all of us are blessed with large families, but we still want to celebrate Thanksgiving.  How to celebrate Thanksgiving for one or two?  If you don’t really want to cook a huge feast?  Here are some of my favorite past Thanksgiving activities and some new ideas to try…

An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving at Graves Mountain Lodge

Book now for overnight accommodations and Thanskgiving at Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria, Virginia.  Or just drive in for lunch or dinner.  The food is served family style, and is old-fashioned in flavor: ham, turkey, home-made rolls, sweet potatoes, fried oysters.  Lunch or dinner is $40 for adults and $20 for kids.  Be sure to purchase some of their apple butter and green pepper jelly for holiday gifting.  During the day, there is the farm to explore.  At night, there is usually a frosty hay ride into the mountains.  Luray Caverns is nearby, for a Friday side-trip.

A Historical Thanksgiving in Williamsburg

Hotel rates are generally quite low ($35-$50/night is not uncommon) and you can find bargains for this weekend. Explore Historic Jamestown and be transported back to a village of Native Americans and a 17th century English settlement.  You’ll really get a feeling of what the times were like around the time of the earliest Thanksgiving observations.  Colonial Williamsburg is also worth a visit, especially on Friday for shopping, and you don’t have to pay the admission fee to enjoy much of it.  We’ve enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner at the Fireside Chophouse in Williamsburg. The prix fixe dinner included a creamy soup, a plate of Thanksgiving favorites, and coffee and pie.  I thought it was just fine. We poked around the Christmas Mouse afterwards (open Thanksgiving night) and looked at the hundreds of Christmas ornaments for sale there.  A post-Thanksgiving visit to Christmastown Busch Gardens is a must (opens at 3 pm on Friday) and a bus from the historic area takes you right there, so you don’t even have to drive.

A Cultural Thanksgiving in Richmond

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is open 365 days a year, including Thanksgiving.  You can enjoy a rather sophisticated meal in their upscale restaurant, Amuse, for $52/person — 3 courses includes offers like an appetizer of roasted oysters, an entree of game hen, and molasses cake with pumpkin ice cream.  Or head to the Patrick Henry Pub & Grill for deep-fried turkey on their buffet.  I haven’t tried either of these restaurants, actually, but the menus sound delicious to me. Afterwards, check out VMFA’s exhibit on Hollywood costumes and fashion, “Made in Hollywood,” and explore their fabulous gift shop for unique and artsy holiday gifts.  At night, catch a movie at the Byrd Theatre. Shopping at the Carytown boutiques would be a perfect way to spend Small Business Saturday.

Any ideas?

If you don’t cook on Thanksgiving or get together with family, how do you celebrate?  Share your tips and ideas!

Winter driving tips from AAA

It’s going to snow in the Washington, DC area, and there may be ice.  If you, like me, are inexperienced with driving in snow and ice, and you don’t have anywhere you must be, consider not driving in the winter weather.  I’m getting milk and doing a laundry run tonight!  🙂

If you are planning to drive some place in the Washington, DC area, expect trips to be longer (tip: go to the bathroom before you get on the Beltway!)  You may be a good driver, with a weather-hardy car, but you can be sure there will be plenty of accidents out there.  However, if you must drive in the snow, here are some winter driving tips from AAA…

In addition to common sense (wear your seat belt! and routine car maintenance…

  • Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.  (Also check your washer fluids.)
  • If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
  • Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).
  • Watch/listen to weather reports before driving. Delay trips when especially bad weather is expected. If you must leave, let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
  • Good to have in your car: a cellular telephone with your local AAA’s telephone number, plus blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and any needed medication.  (I would add road maps, a GPS, first aid kit, car emergency kit, battery or hand-crank operated radio, change of clothing, umbrellas, and flashlight, and possibly a bag of non-clumping kitty litter for traction if your wheels get stuck).

Tips for driving in the snow:

  • Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  • Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
  • The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds.  (This is my emphasis because I think it’s so important!)  This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down hill as slowly as possible.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.

If you are traveling in a remote area and become snow-bound…

  • Stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Don’t try to walk in a severe storm. It’s easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
  • Don’t over exert yourself if you try to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
  • Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps.
  • If possible run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline.

Cool Yule Shopping Review: Colonial Williamsburg

Christmas ornament at The Santa Mouse

Williamsburg is a three-and-1/2 hour drive from the Washington, DC area — and 95 South is never any fun until you pass Fredericksburg — but it may be worth a visit for you if you are in the mood to mix holiday shopping with historic sightseeing.   I just spent the Thanksgiving holiday with my mom in Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown and we discovered lots of treasures in the local shops, in addition to wonderful dining and sightseeing.  Best of all, everyone was amazingly friendly to us.

On Thanksgiving night, The Christmas Mouse was open and we explored two floors of decorated trees and walls of ornaments.  The prices were reasonable, and the staff was helpful. Some ladies were visiting from Canada (where the dollar is stronger) and were buying out the store.  I found a sparkly green sea horse ornament for my tree, and mom took home a bevy of ballerina ornaments for her ballet buddies.

Christmas Mouse

Decorated trees at The Christmas Mouse

Mom making her purchases at The Christmas Mouse

There is all kinds of great shopping in the Colonial Williamsburg area.  One of the best Christmas music compilation CDs I have seen is available at Everything Williamsburg for $14.95.  I also liked their seasonal soap set ($12 for a set, $2 for each small bar) in scents like orange and clove, fig pudding, and pomegranate.

Saturday Morning Farmer’s Market

Check out the outdoor farmer’s market on Saturday morning in Merchant’s Square (adjacent to the historic section of Colonial Williamsburg).  Vendors offered everything fro holiday greenery, fresh goat cheese, Greek pastries, honey products, and handmade gingerbread houses.

Gingerbread houses for sale at the Farmer’s Market in Williamsburg

Mom checks out the greenery for sale

 

Binns of Williamsburg, a local fashion boutique, presented a beautiful selection of gifts at their outdoor display at the open-air market, including Faberge-style Christmas ornaments (about $36 each), wooden German pyramids (the kind that are candle-powered), and Christmas candies.  The display reminded me of a Christkindl Market from Germany.

Binns of Williamsburg outdoor display

German pyramids at Binns of Williamsburg

Faberge-style egg ornaments

A Christmas Carol

If you go, try to catch one of the free, street performances of “A Christmas Carol” presented by two gentlemen from Virginia Theater Machine.   It’s only 17 minutes long and it’s hilarious!