Words by Penny Neef.
Images courtesy of Lynette James and the City of Portsmouth.
My heart is happy. The world, or at least our little part of the world, is opening up. Families are getting together again for holiday dinners and traditions.
One of those traditions is definitely on my list this year. After a two-year absence, Winter Wonderland: The Coleman Nursery Collection returns to the Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center (PACC) on November 26th through December 31st.
My family loves going to the beautiful old courthouse that is now Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center at the corner of High St. and Court St. any time of the year. There is a farmers’ market there on Saturdays. PACC has a sculpture garden, a cute little gift shop, curated exhibits throughout the year, and a shaded courtyard where you can stop and listen to a concert from time to time.
My grandchildren love Winter Wonderland the best. So do I. The galleries are full of twinkling lights, Christmas trees, fluffy snow and animated yuletide displays that have brought generations of families together for a holiday tradition that began years ago at the Coleman Nursery in Portsmouth.
The animated displays feature woodland creatures in an enchanted forest, Santa’s workshop, a gingerbread factory and more. There is an electric train, a candy-making operation, and the North Pole post office. Each year, the creative staff of the Portsmouth Museums add clever touches to the exhibit and little surprises that my grandchildren love to find.
On weekends, Olde Towne Santa will be holding court at the old courthouse. There will be seasonal crafts, roaming musicians and more. All this holiday fun for $3 per person. If you are a member of the Portsmouth Museums (including the Children’s Museum), it is free for you and your family.
PACC is closed on Monday and Tuesdays with the exception of December 27th and December 28th. All Portsmouth Museums are closed on December 25th. For a complete list of hours, go to their website.
Winter Wonderland at PACC is just a short walk down High St. from Children’s Museum of Virginia. The Children’s Museum is open, check the website for hours, but after hours on Friday and Saturday evenings at 5:30, snow will be falling from the rooftop of the Museum onto the Middle Street Mall. There hasn’t been a lot of snow around here in a while. This is a magical event. It is free and open to the public.
If you live on the other side of the water (I’m talking to you, Norfolk), you can hop the Elizabeth River ferry at Waterside and be delivered to the end of High St., just a short walk to both the Children’s Museum and Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center. Too cold you say? You can bundle up and ride on the upper deck to see all the Christmas lights on both sides of the river, or stay warm in the lower level of the ferry. Either way, kids under 12 ride free.
People are sometimes surprised when they find out how much is going on in Olde Towne Portsmouth, especially during the holidays. We love it. It is family friendly, nostalgic and a tradition we are so happy to resume this year.