One of my favorite things about this time of year are all the lights everywhere. It is so cheerful and festive! Of course Lake Anne and Reston Town Center put out the lights, and it’s lovely. But there is nothing like a lights show to really make you smile. We are lucky to have three great ones nearby, and each is worth the trip. I suggest going to all of them!
This is my favorite, and it happens to be closest to Reston—just a 15-minute drive over to Vienna. Fodor’s named it the #1 Botanical Garden with "Wow-Factor Winter Transformations." The garden is magical any time of year, but for this, it is transformed into a half-mile, animated walk of lights. There’s the Lakeside Lights, the Fountain of Lights, and the Holiday Nature Walk, along with new displays each year. At the end of the walk, you can gather around the bonfire and roast marshmallows while sipping hot beverages.
It actually started in November, and it will run until Sunday, January 7, 2018. It’s open every day from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. (last tickets sold at 9:30 p.m.) and it’s only $13 for adults if you buy your tickets online. Children under 3 are free and ages 3-12 are $8. Timed tickets are required, so that’s another reason to purchase your tickets online. Use promo code SOCIAL17 for $2.00 OFF admission January 1-7, 2018.
This is another annual favorite and is great for people who want to stay in their car as they enjoy the lights, which on cold winter nights is very appealing. The Bull Run Festival of Lights is 2.5 miles of illuminated glory. You turn off your headlights and follow the magical glow and the variety of displays. When you’re done, stop by the holiday village to enjoy rides, refreshments, and photos with Santa Claus. Monday through Thursday you can get discounts and avoid the long weekend waits.
It’s open every night from until January 7, 2018: Monday – Thursday is 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Friday - Sunday and Holidays is 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. The cost of driving through the light show varies from $20 - $25, depending on the day you attend (note: vans w/ 15-34 people and motorcoaches cost extra - visit website for details)
This one is a little more of a drive (it’s in Gaithersburg, Md., which means you have to cross the bridge!) BUT, it’s worth it. It’s a 3.5-mile drive through the enchanted setting of Seneca Creek State Park. There are 380 illuminated displays and 65 animated vignettes. So many lights! Themes include Winter Woods, Teddy Bear Land, Victorian Village, the North Pole, and much more. This one runs until December 31, 2017, so get there soon!
The hours are Sunday - Thursday: 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. and Friday – Saturday: 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. It’s closed Christmas. Price is $12 per car Mon-Thurs; $15 per car Fri-Sun. CASH ONLY. See the website for van, bus, and limo rates.
Photo: Bull Run Festival of Lights, photo by Linda M. Toki