Have a Holly Jolly Holiday at These 15 Historic Sites

While there’s no place like home for the holidays, the American Battlefield Trust recommends that you step back in time this holiday season, and make memories at these historic sites and battlefields

Colleen Cheslak-Poulton, (202) 367-1861 x7234

(Washington, D.C.) — With a chill in the air and holiday spirit on the rise, the nation’s battlefields and historic sites are busy preparing events that commemorate holidays long ago. As these sites take visitors on a journey back in time, they present opportunities to learn about the complexity of American society, including the many ways by which winter holidays have been celebrated during both peacetime and wartime. 

In honor of this joyous time, the American Battlefield Trust recommends the following 15 events and activities this holiday season:

Throughout December: Holiday Tours of the Eisenhower Home, Gettysburg, Pa. 
Drop by the open house at the Eisenhower National Historic Site adjacent to the Gettysburg Battlefield to experience how the 34th President and his family celebrated Christmas. Tours of the home consist of a self-guided walk-through. Open houses are scheduled for every Thursday, Friday and Saturday in December between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Learn more.

December 6: DAR Holiday Open House, Washington, D.C.
Come see how the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) celebrate the season with a visit to Memorial Continental Hall, the oldest building of the DAR complex. Stroll through 31 period rooms displaying scenes of early American life, including ones depicting holiday traditions of the past. Afterwards, explore the DAR Museum’s special exhibit Pleasing Truths: Power and Portraits in the American Home and check out the American Revolution Experience traveling exhibit, produced via a collaborative effort with the American Battlefield Trust. Learn more

Prairie Grove
John Latta House at the Prairie Grove Battlefield in Prairie Grove, Ark.  Jay Stout Photography

December 7, 9 and 16: 161st Anniversary and Christmas Events at Prairie Grove Battlefield, Prairie Grove, Ark. 
This year, commemorate the December 7, 1862, Battle of Prairie Grove with a remembrance tour led by Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park staff along the ridge line that witnessed the heaviest fighting. Later, on December 9, join park staff in listening to the Christmas music of the Civil War. Meanwhile, on December 16, experience an Ozark Christmas with the traditions, food, music and decorations of antebellum Arkansas. Learn more.

December 8: USS Constitution Tree Lighting, Boston, Mass. 
Climb aboard “Old Ironsides” for a festive Christmas-themed evening. Throughout the afternoon, the museum will hold a gingerbread decorating activity. Events on the USS Constitution include the evening colors, arrival of Santa, and the annual lighting of the ship’s Christmas tree. Learn more.

December 9: Heritage Holidays at Fort Vancouver, Vancouver, Wash. 
Trek out to the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site for hands-on crafts and historical immersion at the reconstructed Hudson Bay Company fort along the Columbia River. Activities include making bookmark tassels and assembling a traditional top. In addition, rangers and volunteers will provide cultural demonstrations on life at the fort. Learn more.

December 9: Artillery Roars Again at Fort Donelson, Dover, Tenn. 
At Fort Donelson, staff and volunteers will offer talks about the use of artillery during the 1862 battle for the fort and will man the six-pounder cannon for demonstration firings. This family-friendly event provides a great opportunity for kids to talk with park interpreters, learn about the Civil War, and witness history. Learn more.

December 9: Christmas Open House at Fort Larned, Larned, Kan. 
Join Fort Larned National Historic Site for its annual Christmas event showcasing holiday traditions from 19th century Kansas. In addition to refreshments, period-appropriate games and living history demonstrations of life on the frontier, Santa will even be making an appearance. Learn more.

December 9: 161st Anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg, Va. 
While December 11 marks the anniversary of the start of 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park will host a series of commemorative events throughout Saturday, December 9. Programs include drop-in conversations with rangers throughout the day at Chatham Manor, walking tours of Prospect Hill and the Sunken Road, a discussion on the pontoon crossing and more. Learn more.

December 9: Holidays at Hampton, Towson, Md. 
Visit Hampton National Historic Site for an open house that explores the sounds of the season and demonstrates how music, songs, and storytelling shaped the holiday traditions of all those who lived and worked at Hampton from 1783 through 1948. Additionally, cider and cookies will be provided at the Orangery, while supplies last! Learn more.

December 9-10: Santa in the Hangar at Wings Over the Rockies, Denver, Colo. 
Come meet Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Wings Over the Rockies ™ Air and Space Museum on the site of the former Lowry Air Force Base. After meeting with Santa, check out games, crafts, a candy cane scavenger hunt, a magic show, and more! Events on December 9 will take place in the hangar and offer open cockpits for several aircraft. Learn more.

December 15-16: Open House and Tours at the Longfellow House, Cambridge, Mass. 
Stop by Washington’s former headquarters during the Siege of Boston to experience a delightful celebration of the holidays for folks of all ages. The home’s halls will be decked in period-appropriate decorations alongside seasonal museum artifacts, harp music and a luminaria display. Next door, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy will offer crafts and refreshments. Learn more.

December 16: Holiday Ornament Hunt, Colonial Beach, Va.
Hunt for festive baubles and trinkets in the second annual Holiday Ornament Hunt at the George Washington Birthplace National Monument. Come out early because there are a limited number of ornaments, and lucky participants who find one may return it to the visitor center in exchange for a special gift. Learn more.

Snow at dawn near the recreated cabins at Valley Forge National Historical Park in King of Prussia, Pa.
Snow at dawn near the recreated cabins at Valley Forge National Historical Park in King of Prussia, Pa.  Rob Shenk

December 19: March-In Commemoration 2023 at Valley Forge, King of Prussia, Pa. 
On the 246th anniversary of the arrival of the Continental Army, visit Valley Forge National Historical Park for a family-centered day of living history and hands-on activities. Throughout the day, reenactors will perform demonstrations on soldier and civilian life at the winter encampment, with substantial visitor participation and involvement. Commemorative activities will occur at Muhlenberg’s Brigade in the evening. Learn more.

December 24: Christmas in the Civil War at Kennesaw Mountain, Kennesaw, Ga. 
This Christmas Eve, visit Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park as park rangers discuss how Civil War soldiers would have experienced the holiday in December 1864. Learn more.

December 31: New Year’s Eve Gala on USS HornetAlameda, Calif. 
Ring in the new year with music and dance aboard the historic aircraft carrier USS Hornet. In a black-tie optional fundraiser, the event will feature 3’O Clock Jump, a 16-piece big band, and the jazz talents of Nick Rossi and His Swing Four. Enjoy food and drink, bet in a silent auction, and countdown with the band at midnight. Learn more.

The American Battlefield Trust is dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has protected more than 57,000 acres associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War across 155 sites in 25 states. Learn more at