Four Fun Things to Do in NOVA

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Local activities for some winter fun this finals season


With finals on your mind, it can be hard to focus on anything else. As the holidays are just around the corner, if you can pull yourself away from your textbooks even a little, there are plenty of fun things to do around NOVA to help you get in the holiday spirit.

One recurring event right here in Fairfax is the Fairfax Holiday Market. This event will take place the first three weekends in December, from 5 to 8 p.m. on Fridays, 12 to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and 12 to 4 p.m. on Sundays. It will take place just a few miles off campus in Old Town Square. Different local vendors offer live music, refreshments and crafts every weekend from Connie’s Chocolate to Wood & Glass Design, so there is something for everyone. For a complete list of the vendors that will be present each weekend, visit  

No winter would be complete without gathering a few friends to go ice skating with. Consider heading to the National Gallery of Art’s Skating Rink, located in Washington D.C., if you and your friends get a chance. On Saturdays, the rink is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and if you bring your Mason ID, it is only $8 for two 45-minute sessions plus $4 for skate rental. After skating, visitors can warm up at the Pavilion Cafe, and take in the beautiful view of the Sculpture Garden while enjoying the cafe seasonal menu which includes pizzas, sandwiches, salads and desserts. The skating rink will remain open until March 10.  

After a long day of studying, the Bull Run Festival of Lights might be the perfect activity for getting into the holiday spirit cheaply and easily. At $20 a car, this is also a pretty good deal. The festival is 2.5 miles long and glistens with holiday lights. This event occurs daily from Nov. 21 to Jan. 6. During the week, the festival opens at 5:30 p.m. and goes till 9:30 p.m. On weekends and holidays the festival closes at 10 p.m. giving you an extra 30 minutes to see the lights before heading home for winter break.

The last event you should check out is Zoolights, which is completely free and open to the public. For the entire month of December with the exceptions of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Eve, you can head into D.C. and go to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo to experience the 500,000 LED lights that will be used to transform the zoo into a winter wonderland, as well as two lazer light shows set to music. Starting at 5 p.m. and ending at 9 p.m., there will also be live musical performances by local artists throughout the night. Of course, no holiday event would be complete without holiday treats and refreshments, so don’t forget to keep an eye out for gingerbread, apple cider, eggnog, kettle corn and more while visiting.

A holiday craft show called GRUMP on December 7, 8 and 9 featuring local crafters offering unique options for Christmas gifts will also be shown at the Zoolights. Visit the Zoo’s Connecticut Avenue entrance to browse homemade artwork like soap, candy, jewelry and hand-bound books. It’s a great way to support local artists and vendors while enjoying the illuminated zoo.

These are some of just a few holiday events that are going on right in our area. Attending any of them would be sure to put you in the Christmas spirit, as well as a great way to unwind as finals come closer.