By Josette Keelor
In the days before Christmas, festive cheer can still be found far and near.
• Area stores, restaurants and art galleries will be open late for Third Friday Music & More beginning at 5 p.m. Friday in downtown Strasburg.
• Saturday, Samuels Public Library will host its Kooky Chefs Cook the World party from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for children age 8 and older, followed by a public non-library Christmas party from 2:15 to 5 p.m. in the White Meeting Room, 330 E. Criser Road, Front Royal. Registration is required for the Kooky Chefs party, at 635-3153.
• In Winchester, the Bright Box Theater, 15 N. Loudoun St., Winchester, will host a Winter Solstice Party at 8 p.m. Saturday with the Burning Dirty Band and Viva la Muerta. Information: 665-2878, brightboxwinchester.com
• Inviting the public into its festively decked halls, Long Branch Plantation in Millwood will have a $5 open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and a free 1850s Christmas celebration from 5:45 to 8 p.m. Sunday, with holiday treats and drinks and live old-time string music at 830 Long Branch Lane, Millwood. Information: 540-837-1856, www.visitlongbranch.org
• Spend the weekend skiing or snowboarding at Wintergreen Resort south of Waynesboro, before Monday's kickoff of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas and New Year's Celebration. Holiday craft workshops, story time with Mrs. Claus and a party for all ages will continue through Dec. 31, with snow sports available from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. On Christmas, hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Holiday events will include The William Walter Duo performing blues and rock from 9:30 p.m. to closing on Friday and Saturday, and a holiday concert with a sing-a-long at the Gristmill at 6 p.m. Saturday. On Sunday, family holiday fun with cookie decorating, story reading and a visit with Mrs. Claus and Santa's elves will take place in the Crawford Room at 7 p.m., and on Tuesday Santa will be on the slopes handing out candy. Information 434-325-8180, www.wintergreenresort.com
• Bryce Resort in Basye also will be open for skiing and snowboarding, tubing and miniature golf, with buffet meals planned for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through Tuesday. Christmas Eve hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Christmas Day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Night skiing begins with regular season hours on Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday to Tuesday. Information: 540-856-2121, www.bryceresort.com.
• Or take in a show. The Rockingham Ballet Theatre will perform "The Nutcracker" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at Cole Hall, Bridgewater College, 102-B S. Main St., Bridgewater. Reserved tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors; general admission is $13 for adults or $10 for students and seniors. Information: 540-828-0026, www.rockinghamballettheatre.com
• The Christmas musical "Christmas Comes to Lone Star Gulch" will be at Fort Valley Church of God, 8540 Fort Valley Road, at 7 p.m. Friday. Information: 540-933-6140.
Beyond the valley:
• The Christmas extravaganza "Elf The Musical" begins at The Kennedy Center in Washington this weekend and runs through Jan. 5. Tickets run from $35 to $150. Showings are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, at 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and at 8 p.m. on Dec. 31. The website at www.kennedy-center.org lists a limited availability of tickets remaining for most dates, with best availability on Dec. 31 and Jan. 2 and 5. Information: 800-444-1324, www.kennedy-center.org
• "A Broadway Christmas Carol" will continue through Sunday at MetroStage, 1201 N. Royal St., Alexandria, with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 7 p.m. Sunday. Prices are $35 to $50. Information: 703-548-9044, www.metrostage.org
• "A Christmas Carol" is also showing at the Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, Md., through Dec. 29. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Monday and Thursday; 3 p.m. Saturday to Monday; and 1:30 and 5 p.m. Tuesday. The last performance is at 3 p.m. Dec. 29.
Also at the Olney Theatre Center, "The Nutcracker" will continue until Christmas Eve. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and Monday; 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Monday and Tuesday; and at noon Sunday.
Tickets for both shows are $15 to $45. Information: 301-924-3400, www.olneytheatre.org.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or email@example.com