Christmastime often offers the opportunity for family travel. Many families make plans for a big and fun trip together. But what if time or resources don’t permit for the big trip this year? A mini vacation might be just the answer! There is still fun to be had, and often it can be found in unlikely places with these 4 mini vacation destinations from Virginia for the Holidays!

mini vacation ideas

The beach is a fun place to be for Christmas!
Photo credit: Dee Dean/Serendipity TravelingMom

Mini Vacation Spots From Virginia

With our home based in Virginia, we decided to change our travel plans up with mini vacation spots. Don’t get me wrong. Big trips during Christmas and the holiday season are amazing, but not always possible.

Over the past few years, our family has had the pleasure of visiting the “House of Mouse” for our Christmas vacation. This would be the big trip that we looked forward to every year. Our kids didn’t mind staying home for the summer for one reason: as long as they knew that a visit to see Mickey might be coming, they were good.

Well, things change sometimes, and so have our vacation plans. While we aren’t doing the big vacations as often, there is still fun to be had as a family together over the holidays in the form of mini vacations! We have found that the fun can be found fairly close to our home in Virginia.

Mini Vacation Destination #1: Visit a Beach

The beach…really?? Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical when a family member suggested this as part of our family vacation for Christmas.

Now, now, I know some beaches in the very southern part of the United States are warm, even in December, but this friend suggested Myrtle Beach. South Carolina is only two states south of our home state of Virginia. And if it is cold where we live, then most likely, it is still pretty chilly in SC? Right?


Nevertheless, I let myself be open to the idea.

4 mini vacation destinations includes Myyrtle Beach./

My family convinced me to walk Myrtle Beach in the freezing cold!
Photo credit: Denedriane Dean/Serendipity TravelingMom

And what do you know? We had loads of family fun!

Myrtle Beach is not just sand and water. There is also Broadway at the Beach, a local attraction with places to eat, places to shop, and even a mechanical bull to ride.


My daughter tries to hang on to the bull at Broadway By the Beach in Myrtle Beach, SC. Photo Credit: Denedriane Dean/Serendipity TravelingMom

Yes, we even took a few moments to walk along the beach. Yes, it was quite chilly, but we bundled up in winter coats, hats, scarves, and gloves. We just couldn’t resist making a holiday memory like this!

Mini vacation destinations including walking Myrtile Beach in December. Brrr, but oh so fun!

It was freezing, but my teens had a fun time walking Myrtle Beach in December!
Photo credit: Denedriane Dean/Serendipity TravelingMom

Mini Vacation Destination #2: Visit a harbor

Enjoying the holidays as a family doesn’t have to be expensive or arduous. My family and I have had great times visiting a big mall, doing a little shopping, and eating out. My kids thought this was fabulous to do when they were little. Now that they are young adults, nothing has changed…they still consider this a special way to make memories.

National Harbor is a beautiful destination that sits in a gorgeous setting along the Potomac River in Maryland. It is an AMAZING place to play, shop, dine and even stay overnight. We had the opportunity to make a visit in between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Yes, because the Harbor is right on the water, it’s {another place that is} quite chilly in December. We definitely had to bundle up, but it was so worth it!

4 mini vacation destinations

PIN ME! Photo credit: Denedriane Dean/Serendipity TravelingMom

Holiday lighting is all over the Harbor, including the Capital Wheel and the centerpiece Christmas tree. My husband and our eldest daughter braved the cold to ride in a heated gondola on the Wheel, and even in the dark, they enjoyed the ride. The Christmas tree sits on an elevated pedestal so that you can see it from all directions.

The Christmas tree at National harbor, one 4 mini vacation destinations.

The Christmas tree at National harbor, one 4 mini vacation destinations.
Photo credit: Denedriane Dean/Serendipity TravelingMom

An extra bonus is the Tanger Outlet nearby. All of us in our multigenerational group had a ball window-shopping and catching a few after-Christmas deals. Fun tip: We stopped by the main office there to purchase the coupon books. We were able to get a discount on the books with our AARP cards (which you can get starting when you are 45 …I have had mine for a couple of years now, and I love using it!)

Mini Vacation Destination #3: Visit the Smithsonian Museums

While the museums cannot all be done in one day, they can be done for free! The Smithsonian on the National Mall in DC offers an amazing educational and sensory experience for the whole family. We have enjoyed the National Air and Space Museum, as well as the Museum of Natural History during the holidays. We loved the festive decorations to boot!

Mini Vacation Destination#4: Visit a zoo

The zoo?? Yes indeed! The National Zoo in DC offers a bit of extra fun during the Christmas holidays. While there are still some animals that can be seen on a visit, there is so much more. “Zoolights” is their free annual lights festival, and it is held after dark 5 -9 PM from November 25 to January 1. This is a fun a different way to experience the zoo with the family. We enjoyed seeing animals, drinking hot cocoa…and were thrilled to just be at the Zoo in the dark.

A cold but fun time at the National Zoo "Zoolights" festival, a mini vacation destination

A cold but fun time at the National Zoo “Zoolights” festival, a mini vacation destination!
Photo credit: Denedriane Dean/Serendipity TravelingMom

Mini vacation destinations can be the way to go when a big holiday trip is not in the plans. These destinations don’t have to cost a lot of money, and they make for enjoyable family time together. I learned from my mother-in-law that any time we’re together as a family is a prime opportunity for us to make lasting memories!