If you’re a Christmas nut like we are, you switch the channel to Hallmark Christmas movies ASAP after Thanksgiving. (Or, maybe a little before…?)
There’s something about the magic and serenity of these films that calms your nerves and boosts your spirit. And, the movies always transport you to a small, little, mountain town, right? (Sound familiar?)
A town full of picturesque streets with charming downtown stores, homey bed-and-breakfasts and cabin rentals, Christmas lights, Santa, and, of course, a large community Christmas tree in the town Courtyard.
A small village with welcoming town folks who don’t necessarily know the meaning of the word “stranger.” (See where I’m going with this?)
I’m telling ya – if you want to experience a REAL small town, just like those in Hallmark Christmas movies, visit Highland County. You won’t be disappointed… And, here’s why:
Small Town Vibe
Many Hallmark movies tell a story of a man or woman stuck in the big city… at their job… which they thought they’d like but don’t… in a fancy, cold, high-rise condo… It’s the dream life, right? Nope… They yearn for a simpler experience. So, they, in one way or another, stumble upon a small town that rejuvenates their Christmas Spirit and shows them what life is really all about. For me, that’s Highland County in a nutshell. (I’m just thankful I grew up here and never had to search for it!)
Those Hallmark movies that have the magical senior citizens that impart so much wisdom? We’ve got ’em. (And, we love ’em!)
Seeing neighbors helping neighbors whether it’s bringing soup to someone who’s sick? Sharing a fresh cut of deer meat from the latest hunting trip? Bringing firewood to an elder member of the community? Or, baking DOZENS of cookies for a local fundraiser? Highland County does it. Every. Year. Without even thinking about it.
In our little Hallmark-like, mountain town, you’d have to be an absolute Grinch to miss the true meaning of Christmas. (And, to miss the true meaning of Community, which is our next reason!)
A Welcoming Community
In Highland County, neighbors care for neighbors. It’s how we’ve always done things, and it’s how we’ll continue to do things forever. We instill this in our youngsters, who are taught at an early age how important it is to help those in need.
If we pass you on the street (even if we don’t know you), you’re going to get friendly eye-contact, a smile, and a “Hi! How are you?” (And, we genuinely want to know the answer to that question!) Southern hospitality? You got it.
Our people are magical. From the local basket weaver who has a passion for local arts and tourism to the town baker who is constantly posting pictures of mouth-watering cupcakes and cookies to her Instagram feed. To top it off, our churches are alive, active, and always ready to brighten the community!
And, whether they realize it or not, our local farmers add to the magic by simply going about their day-to-day as they drive their tractor down the road to deliver a haybale to their waiting (and appreciative) cattle.
We even have horse-drawn carriages on our roads daily! (I’m, so, not even exaggerating!)
No Hallmark movie is complete without a lovely downtown featuring Christmas-themed storefronts, unique gifts, welcoming shop owners, and a beautifully-decorated Courthouse yard. Stroll the scenic sidewalks while taking in views of the mountains, which surround and hug our town.
We also kick-off the holiday season with our annual Wintertide Celebration, which takes place annually on the first weekend in December. Santa Claus visits. Local artists set up their wares for a small town Winter Vendor Market, “Happy Holidays” banners line Main Street, and our beautiful Courthouse Clocktower adds a warm illumination to the town.
A Christmas tree? We’ve got TWO! Yes, two Christmas trees, donated by a local bank and decorated by the local floral designer/florist, stand cheerfully-resolute on the porch of our historic Courthouse. (There’s a life-sized Nativity scene close by, too.)
And, on the Saturday night of our Wintertide Celebration, as the grande finale for the event, we all gather in the Courthouse Lawn adorned in our snuggliest of mittens and scarves (and maybe a cup of hot cocoa in hand!) to countdown the lighting of our Community Christmas tree.
JUST like a Hallmark movie!
Note: Due to COVID-19, our community will not have it’s formal Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony; however, the Highland County Chamber of Commerce will light the tree at 6 pm on Saturday, December 5.
Highland County’s Christmas magic doesn’t stop in town. Nope, it’s county-wide! Even though, Highland County is one of the most sparsely-populated areas east of the Mississippi River, our per capita Christmas Spirit is high!
Some community members can hardly wait until Thanksgiving to decorate their houses. (In fact, some post a “sorry-not-sorry” picture of their fully-decorated home on social media in mid-November signaling they’ve succumbed to their already-bursting holiday cheer.)
The closer Christmas gets. The more lights you see popping up. Multi-colored strands line the eaves of family homes. Cascading snowflakes animate a newly-built house. And, simple, but magical, candle lights appear in the windows of historic, pre-Civil War structures.
While we don’t receive as much snowfall in early winter as we used to, our rolling landscapes are still jaw-dropping, and our big skies can rival Montana. Plus, when we do get those big snows, which we typically do, it adds a whole other element of magic to the county.
Charming Places to Stay
Don’t have a home here? No problem! After all, Hallmark movie characters typically stay in a charming bed-and-breakfast or find the perfect winter cabin nestled in the woods. With over 25 lodging facilities, we have plenty of unique stays to make your holidays merry, bright, and cozy! It will make you feel like coming home whether you’re originally from our area or not.
Ok, Hallmark… I’m speaking directly to you, now… How have you not found Highland County, Virginia, yet?? We understand we’re a little hidden, but the magic that awaits is something you won’t have to create on a movie set. Because… it just comes naturally to us.
About the Author
Dorothy Stephenson grew up on her family's cattle operation in Meadowdale, located in the southwest corner of Highland County. When she wasn't on horseback helping her father gather and work cattle, you'd likely find her (still on horseback) jumping creeks in her family's nearby "Big Pasture." Today, though she doesn't ride horses much anymore, she has her own cattle, land, and expansion plans for a farm. Additionally, (and with the inherited, Stephenson, entrepreneurial spirit) she owns two small businesses in Highland County - Sundance Media & Design and Sundance Studio & Productions, which houses another of Dorothy's long-time loves - Clogging. Dorothy loves exploring new places, skills, and ideas, and she intends to live life to the fullest as long as it will let her. (Oh! And she LOVES Christmas!)