Since moving to this area three years ago, I look forward every year to driving through the Bull Run Festival of Lights in Centreville, VA with my favorite Valentine family! (We did miss it last year!) It’s a very cool event for anyone to enjoy, especially since you can stay in your warm car the whole time (unless you want to visit the outdoor Holiday Village winter carnival at the end … read on).
After paying your admission, turn your car radio to 97.1 FM (or whichever station is playing Christmas music) and cruise on down the lighted pathway for the next 15-20 minutes. On either side of the road, and sometimes arching over it, are figures made out of Christmas lights. Many of the figures “move” – Old Man Winter blows a gust of wind at you, gingerbread men and reindeer fly over your head, Santa and his elves make toys, etc. You’re supposed to turn off your headlights so that everyone can get the best view in the dark; the road is lined with lights the whole way, so there’s no need to leave anything but your parking lights on. The first year I went, I was driving Frank the Buick and it turned out the automatic sensor lights could not be turned off, so we went through with headlights glaring the whole time. Oops.
Most of the light scenes show holiday stuff, but there are plenty of random ones that depict fairy tales and whatnot. We didn’t see any new ones this year that I can think of which was disappointing. Eric took pictures this year, but most of them came out awful. That’s probably because we weren’t drifting to a halt every other second to take umpteen flash photos while holding up the rest of the line, like SOME people in front of us kept insisting on doing! Here are a couple shots that came out decently, but you’ll probably need to do the click-and-enlarge bit to get a decent look.
The Holiday Village at the end is like a carnival in freezing weather. There are a few kiddie rides and food and game booths set up. I would’ve loved to ride the Ferris wheel, but it was just too cold for me to sit still for that long. As for the games, this year I got some weird deformed aqua-colored animal (“It’s whatever you want it to be, honey,” said the lady at the booth) from the pick-a-duck “game”, and a cup of hot chocolate that tasted just like what I imagine hot motor oil tastes like. They did have a crepe truck at one end but I was not hungry enough to get one. Too bad … I love crepes! A crafts store was open, and the Valentine family posed for a cute picture with Santa Claus inside. Little Stephen looked adorable walking around in his sock monkey hat and caused lots of people to stop and go “Awwwww.”
I was saddened to see that the heaters-on-poles and the little slick of an ice rink (if it was really ice … to me it looked like vinyl, hehehe) were missing, perhaps to make way for the new light show feature this year. We sat down to check that out. Warm blankets were provided; thank goodness for that because until I put one on the bleachers I felt like my butt was glued to a block of ice. The light show consists of several Christmas trees flashing lights in synchronization with a couple of blaring Christmas carols. Kind of fun, but the one who got the most out of it was Stephen, who was fascinated.
Another thing that you can do at the Holiday Village is get some marshmallows on sticks and roast them over the big fire pits. For some reason we neglected to do this this year. There was also a hay ride available to go through another section of the lights; I don’t remember its being available before. I felt like something was “missing” this year and I guess the ice rink and heaters would be it. I still highly recommend visiting Bull Run this month for an evening of fun. Prices vary based on type of vehicle and number of people, but we paid $20 for an SUV with five people. If you want a preview of the show, just drive by on I-66 – you can see the light displays at the end of the forest trail, and the carnival with the Ferris wheel.