I heard on television this morning that people were already lined up outside a Best Buy store somewhere for some crazy Black Friday special deal. This is TUESDAY. I guess there won't be a family gathering on Thanksgiving for those folks. Or, wait, isn't Best Buy one of those stores that are actually opening Thanksgiving to stretch Black Friday to an even longer retail bonanza.
I have never cared that much for the crush of Black Friday. My husband ventured out to a Radio Shack one year for a special deal that wasn't really any more special than what they offered most of the rest of the Christmas season. But the crowds, and the pushing and the shoving, and the decidedly not Christmas-like behavior is more than I can tolerate.
So if you're like me, or you are interested in starting a new day after Thanksgiving tradition that doesn't involve packed stores and crazy parking lots, consider visiting a Virginia State Park instead.
Any of our Virginia Outdoors website to find a trail to hike. Enjoy the fresh air instead of mall air. If you are looking for something more specific to do at a park, here are some great ideas.
Anti-Black Friday event. Take a holiday decorated wagon ride down to the Potomac and see what the eagles and other wildlife are up to. Hayrides are at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. and are $3 per person or $8 for the whole family. Reservations are required so call the park at (540) 663-3861.
Caledon is located in King George County between Fairview Beach and Owens, 23 miles east of Fredericksburg on Route 218. From Fredericksburg, take 218 East for 23 miles. Caledon is on the left. Or you may take Rt. 3 east 18 miles to a left onto Rt. 206 for six miles, then turn left onto Rt. 218 and go about one mile; Caledon is on the right. From U.S. 301 (MD), turn right onto Rt. 206 for four miles to Rt. 218, then west about one mile.
Drive Time: Northern Virginia, 1 hour 45 minutes; Richmond, 1 hour, 30 minutes; Tidewater/Norfolk/Virginia Beach, 3 hours, 30 minutes; Roanoke, 6 hours, 30 minutes.
If you just have to do some shopping, we have two ideas that recall a kinder, gentler time.
Holiday Open House. Escape the holiday hustle and bustle and enjoy an old-fashioned country Christmas in the park. Tour Mount Bleak House, decorated as it would have been in the 18th century. Do some holiday shopping from local artisans. Enjoy storytelling and live music in the parlor. Warm yourself by the fire in the log cabin as you enjoy homemade soup, cornbread, hot cider and hot chocolate.The only cost is our regular parking fee. This event is 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
Sky Meadows is less than two miles south of Paris, Va., via U.S. Route 50 to Route 17 South; or seven miles north of I-66, Exit 23 on Route 17 North. The park entrance is on State Route 710.
Drive Time: Northern Virginia, 45 minutes to one hour; D.C., over one hour; Richmond, two hours; Tidewater/ Norfolk/ Virginia Beach, three hours; Roanoke, two and a half hours.
If it's a bargain you're after, Leesylvania State Park is offering a special sale Friday through Sunday at their Visitor Center. Many items will be 50% off. The first twenty customers will receive a free gift. Spend $25 and receive a reusable Virginia State Parks shopping bag. I know this is starting to sound a little like normal Black Friday events but trust me, you won't find a zillion people lined up for this special. And, after you shop you can take a stroll along the Potomac.
Leesylvania State Park is in the southeast area of Prince William County, about 25 miles from Washington, D.C., and Fredericksburg. From I-95, take Rippon Landing Exit 156, then go east on Dale Blvd. to U.S. 1. Jefferson Davis Hwy. Turn right on Jefferson Davis Hwy., and then turn left onto Neabsco Rd. (Route 610) east for about two miles.
Drive Time: Northern Virginia, half an hour; Richmond, one and a half hours; Tidewater/Norfolk/Virginia Beach, two and a half hours; Roanoke, four hours.
If you are west of Roanoke, two of our southwestern Virginia State Parks are offering fantastic events.
8 Days of Christmas Celebration. Experience thousands of Christmas Lights lighting your way down the chairlift and out to the mouth of the tunnel. View movable displays of Santa, reindeer, and other critters. While at the Tunnel enjoy the sounds and smells of Christmas by listening to local church choirs/performers entertaining you while sipping hot chocolate by the nice warm fire. Parents do not forget to stop by the Visitor Center with the children so they can talk to Santa. Santa will be in the Visitor Center November 25th and 26th from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The Visitor Center is a great place for purchasing that special someone a stocking stuffer or Christmas gift.
November 25-26th the park provides a special program called "Give a friend a Lift." If you bring in non-perishable food items you get a discount on your chairlift fees during these two days only. The food collected, during November 25-26th only, will go to a local food bank. Come out and support your local food bank. Entertainment for November 25th: Tommy Short followed by the Three Bell's United Methodist Church Choir. Entertainment for November 26th: Gate City's First Baptist Church Choir. Regular $3 chairlift fee applies unless you bring in a non-perishable food item.
Natural Tunnel State Park is in Scott County, about 13 miles north of Gate City and 20 miles north of Kingsport, Tenn. To get there, from I-81, take U.S. 23 North to Gate City (about 20 miles). The turn-off to the park is at mile marker 17.4 on Rt. 23. Take Natural Tunnel Parkway about one mile east to park entrance.
Drive Time: Northern Virginia, eight hours; Richmond, six hours; Tidewater/Norfolk/Virginia Beach, eight to nine hours; Roanoke, three and a half hours.
Last but not least, the 16th annual Festival of Trees. Eighty trees will be decked out for the season as will doorways, banisters and elaborate mantles. Area businesses, schools, churches, civic groups and individuals decorate the displays with specialized themes. It's a wonderful way to celebrate the holidays. Visit the Festival of Trees during museum regular operating hours. Guided tours for groups are available. The regular admission fee applies.
The museum is in Big Stone Gap, off U. S. 23, at the corner of W. First Street North and Wood Avenue. It is 14 miles south of Norton and 35 miles northwest of Kingsport, Tenn. The facility is nestled in the Appalachian Mountains. Neighboring areas of Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina are only a one to two hour drive away. Its address is 10 West First Street North, Big Stone Gap, VA 24219.
Drive Time: Northern Virginia, 9 hours; Richmond, 7 hours; Virginia Beach/Tidewater, 9 hours; Roanoke, 4 hours.
Before you cry, "but how am I going to get all of my shopping done?" just call the reservation center on Monday at 800-933-7275 and order annual passes or buy Virginia State Park overnight gift certificates for your loved ones. Give the gift of a tonic for the mind, body and spirit for Christmas this year!