The first week of December will be packed with holiday-season sights and sounds in Central Virginia, starting with festivities at two presidents’ residences.

Visitors attending Monticello’s fourth annual Holiday Open House from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday will be among the first to see President Thomas Jefferson’s home decked out for the season. You’ll be able to explore the mansion’s first floor on your own, lingering over the decorations and features that appeal to you.

The open house is free. Learn more at, or call (434) 984-9800.

Also on Sunday, at Highland — home of Jefferson’s friend and neighbor, President James Monroe — holiday decorations can be seen throughout the house during guided tours offered from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tours will be offered daily through the end of the year; keep in mind that Highland will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. To get tickets and specific tour starting times, call (434) 293-8000. Details are available at

Lake Monticello will begin its inaugural Festival of Trees event with a preview dinner and dance Thursday evening at Lakeside Restaurant for $35, which will benefit the Lake Monticello Beautification Group.

The Festival of Trees itself will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Lake Monticello’s main Ashlawn clubhouse. There will be 10 large trees and 10 tabletop trees, each of which has been decorated by a local business.

Children can decorate cookies with Santa Claus at 10 a.m. Saturday. Mrs. Claus and local high school students and teachers will be reading Christmas stories to groups of children. Music will be provided by a variety of community choral groups and musical ensembles.

Tickets can be purchased to cast votes for the winning trees in three categories — and to secure a chance to win one of the trees to take home.

Bring a new unwrapped toy, food or cash as admission; everything contributed to the event will be divided among five local organizations — Caring for Creatures, Fluvanna SPCA, Peaceful Passings, Happy Faces and the Monticello Area Community Action Agency Food Bank.

A seasonal tradition returns to Cabell Hall Auditorium at 8 .m. Friday and 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The Family Holiday Concerts, directed by Michael Slon, will bring the Charlottesville Symphony at the University of Virginia and UVa’s University Singers.

Ensembles of orchestra members will perform carols in the Old Cabell Hall lobby. Once inside the hall, listeners will hear such selections as “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” an annual holiday favorite that elicits enthusiastic audience participation.

Tickets range from $45 to $10, students get in for $10, and UVa students who reserve their seats in advance get in for free. Call (434) 924-3376 or go online to

The festivities for Charlottesville’s annual Grand Illumination get started 4:30 p.m. Friday at Sprint Pavilion, where there will be a holiday concert by local bands and community choirs, a Gumdrop Square filled with children’s activities, a Santa’s workshop craft area and the Reindeer Games inflatable obstacle course for youngsters. There also will be a holiday market and the Charlottesville Ale Trail collection of beers from Charlottesville-area breweries. The countdown to the illumination of the municipal tree. which brings more than 20,000 LED lights to City Hall Plaza near the Pavilion this season, will begin at 7:15 p.m.

Then it’ll be an easy segue to “Blue Christmas” and “Santa, Bring My Baby Back to Me.” Matt Lewis will team up with Big Ray and the Kool Kats for “Christmas with Elvis,” which will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Paramount Theater.

The Kool Kats will start the evening with some holiday tunes and Motown favorites, and Lewis, an acclaimed Elvis Presley tribute artist from Las Vegas, will meet and greet audience members in the lobby after the show.

Tickets are $34.75, $29.75 and $24.75. For tickets, go to or dial (434) 979-1333.

Another president’s home will open its doors Saturday to welcome visitors with seasonal splendor. Montpelier’s Holiday Open House is set for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

President James Madison’s home will be decorated in 19th-century holiday style, and tours will be offered from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The nearby David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center will offer hands-on history activities and time with Santa. A soup buffet from the Exchange Cafe, served with cornbread, rolls and pumpkin cake, is available for $10, or $6 for ages 12 and younger; cookies and cider will be free.

Admission is free. Learn more at

The third annual Brew & Buddy Run is set for 4 p.m. Dec. 8, followed by a screening of “Elf” at 6 p.m. at the Paramount Theater. Here’s your chance to dress in costumes from the film, other festive gear and plenty of reflective lights and run a 3-mile loop that starts and ends at the Paramount, stopping at Champion Brewing Company and Three Notch’d Brewing Company along the way.

The Brew & Buddy Run package is $25; it includes a stainless steel souvenir pint cup, a free pour at Champion and Three Notch’d and admission to the film. Not interested in running? Admission to the film alone is $7, $5 for youths.

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