Christmas bonus: Alexandria's candlelight tour


This week's calendar is chock-full of yuletide events: candlelight tours, old-time holiday celebrations, living-history presentations and musical offerings -- all planned to put the visitor in a holiday mood.

Five museums in Alexandria, Va., can be seen by candlelight next weekend during the annual Old Town Christmas Candlelight Tour. The Carlyle House; the Boyhood Home of Robert E. Lee; the Lee-Fendall House; Gadsby's Tavern Museum; and the Lyceum, a new addition to the tour, will be open 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets may be bought at the Ramsay House visitors' center, 221 King St., on tour nights. As a reminder of Alexandria's Scottish heritage, a bagpiper will perform at the visitors' center. Tour-goers will also hear madrigals and musicians at each museum, and light refreshments will be served at Gadsby's Tavern Museum. A Colonial Christmas wedding, decorated gingerbread houses and a visit by Father Christmas are other tour attractions.

A free trolley will be available to transport visitors between tour sites. Tour admission is $12 for adults and $5 for ages 6 to 17, and proceeds will benefit museum programs. For information, call (703) 838-4200.

Marietta tour

Every year on the first Sunday in December the town of Marietta, Pa., holds a Christmas Candlelight Tour of some of its restored homes. Today, eight historic homes and seven public buildings are open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Costumed guides are stationed about town, and carolers will be strolling the streets.

This year's event is geared to a Civil War theme. The year is 1864, and President Lincoln is in town to campaign for his re-election. A Civil War encampment has been set up at the Marietta Community House. This afternoon, soldiers, marching bands and other costumed characters will accompany the president's carriage in a parade through town. After the parade zTC there will be a Victorian tea at the Presbyterian Church from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Other events and attractions include a Civil War church service at 10:30 a.m., a presidential campaign rally, Civil War and Christmas music, an antiques show and sale, a photography and art exhibit, holiday gifts and silent movies. Tickets cost $8. Marietta is on Route 441 about three miles north of the Columbia exit on U.S. 30. Call (717) 426-4070.

'Lititz by Candlelight'

Another Lancaster County event is "Christmas in Lititz by Candlelight" on Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. The tour features nine homes ranging in style from Colonial to contemporary and ** includes a home converted from a turn-of-the-century church. St. Luke's United Church of Christ on North Broad Street will offer musical entertainment, complimentary refreshments and a gift bazaar. Light fare will also be available there from noon to 5 p.m.

Tickets cost $6, and proceeds will benefit the Lititz community. Call (717) 627-1395 or (717) 627-4772.

Hunt country tour

If you head south into Virginia's hunt country, you might attend the Middleburg Hunt Country Christmas Tour Saturday and next Sunday. President John F. Kennedy's weekend retreat, a thoroughbred stable and several historic homes are open for tour.

Middleburg is decked out in Christmas greens, and handcrafted ornaments adorn streetlights. Carolers will be strolling, and several churches will hold evening services and choir recitals. Homes in Middleburg will be open noon to 7 p.m. both days; sites outside Middleburg will be open noon to 5 p.m.

Tickets may be bought at the Pink Box visitors' center, 12 North Madison St., in Middleburg. The cost is $10; free for under 12. Call (703) 687-5152.

Woodlawn Christmas

A Woodlawn Christmas this weekend and next depicts a holiday celebration of the 19th century, complete with a Christmas wedding. Actors in the roles of Maj. Lawrence Lewis, nephew of George Washington, and his wife, Nelly, granddaughter of Martha Washington, welcome guests to their home, Woodlawn Plantation in Alexandria, Va.

During the celebration, the Woodlawn Players and members of the Living History Foundation will offer skits and vignettes based on a wedding of the period. The presentation is a blend of humor and historical fact, and, although the characters are not real, every detail of the proceedings is authentic. There are carols around a bonfire, musicians, a children's storyteller and complimentary refreshments near the Christmas tree in the dining room.

Hours are 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. today and next Sunday; 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission is $7 and free for children 3 and under who do not require a seat. To be assured of your choice of date and time, you should make reservations. Woodlawn is at the intersection of Virginia Route 235 south and U.S. Route 1 in Alexandria. Call (703) 780-4000.

'Carols by Candlelight'

"Carols by Candlelight" is the seasonal offering at Gunston Hall, home of Colonial patriot James Mason in Lorton, Va., next weekend.

Decorated for an 18th-century celebration, the mansion will feature entertainment and music on Friday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Costumed interpreters will portray members of the Mason family and their friends, and open-hearth cooking demonstrations will take place the outside kitchen.

Visitors can enjoy refreshments and join the carol sing in the Ann Mason Meeting Room. Friday's entertainment includes the Congressional Chorus in the visitors' center and holiday singers in the museum. The Mount Vernon Madrigal Singers will perform Saturday, and the St. Paul United Methodist Handbell Choir Sunday. Fiddler Dick Irwin will play in the mansion all three days.

The entertainment is included in the regular admission of $5 for adults and $1.50 for students through grade 12. Decorations in the mansion will remain up until Jan. 6. Gunston Hall is 20 miles south of Washington and can be reached by Interstate 95 or U.S. Route 1 to the Lorton exit. Call (703) 550-9220.

Old-fashioned holiday

An old-fashioned Christmas celebration is taking place this weekend and again next weekend at Old Bedford Village near Bedford, Pa.

Luminarias light the paths of this re-created pioneer village, and the log buildings are decorated with grapevine wreaths and ornaments made from corn husks and pine cones. Carolers and musicians stroll the village, serenading visitors. A living Nativity scene and hayrides are other attractions. Hot apple cider and funnel cakes are served in the Pendergras Tavern, and a traditional turkey dinner is available in the visitors' center. Admission is $4 for adults, $3.50 for seniors, $2.75 for ages 6 to 12 and free for children under 6.

Old Bedford Village is on Business Route 220, one mile south of the Bedford exit on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Call (800) 622-8005.

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