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Christmas in Washington, DC: 75+ Holiday Events & Things to Do

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With a backdrop of iconic monuments and historic landmarks, the capital region’s holiday season comes alive with fun and festive events.  From the White House and National Christmas Tree to holiday markets and neighborhood lights, magic is around every corner in Washington DC!  Whether you’re a local looking to embrace winter or a visitor seeking yuletide charm, I’ve got insider picks on the best holiday events in the area.

If you think Washington DC at Christmas is outdone by its neighbor to the north, think again: we celebrate the holidays with just as much festive spirit as New York City.  Ice skating?  Check!  Holiday lights?  We’ve got Nationals Park decked out as a Christmas village and neighborhood displays perfect for a winter stroll – plus everything in between.

Add on special holiday events at historic landmarks like the White House, Mount Vernon, Arlington Cemetery and more, and you’ll surely agree that the holidays in DC are something really special.

Ready for a big dose of Christmas cheer?  Map out your holiday plan with my best picks in the DMV (that’s the District, Maryland, and Virginia for you out-of-towners!) from my 15 years of living in our nation’s capital.

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In this Guide to Christmas Events in Washington DC

Top Sights | Lights and Festivities | Plays and Concerts | Best Christmas Trees | Holiday Shopping | Ice Skating | Festive Food & Drink | Photos with Santa | Volunteering | Northern Virginia Events | Maryland Events

Christmas in Washington DC: Top Sights

Want to know the most sought-after and popular things to do in our nation’s Capital during the holidays? Check out these top picks for some festive adventures during one of the best times to visit !

White House Christmas Tour

Christmas at the White House

A tour of the White House at Christmas offers a rare opportunity to step inside the iconic White House and experience its special holiday decorations! Since the Hoover administration in 1929, decorating the official White House Christmas tree has been a responsibility of the First Lady and her staff.

From late November through Christmas, every room of the White House is adorned with trees, garlands, lights, and festive scenes.  A gingerbread replica of the White House is displayed each year in the State Dining Room, meticulously crafted by pastry chefs for the First Family and visitors to the White House! (This is such a fun and sweet tradition – learn more about it here .)

But be aware: getting a White House Christmas Tour takes prior planning.  The tour must be requested from and scheduled through the office of your member of Congress, from 3 weeks to 3 months ahead of time.  At this time, embassies are not scheduling tours for international visitors.

  • Dates and Hours: Tours are typically available in December, Tuesday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30pm
  • Location: The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Tickets are required and must be requested at least 21 days in advance from your member of Congress.  Find your rep and contact details and learn more about visiting The White House .

The National Christmas Tree

The National Christmas Tree

The lighting of the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse is a Washington DC institution. (The Ellipse is a 52-acre park between the south fence of the White House fence and Constitution Avenue.  It gets its name from the five-furlong circumference street within the park.)  

Every year, early in December, the tree is traditionally lit by the President and First Lady of the United States. Every president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has also made formal remarks during the tree lighting ceremony.

The tree is covered in lights and ornaments and the ceremony includes live musical performances. 2023 marks the 100th anniversary of the National Christmas tree.

Apart from the National Christmas Tree, visitors can walk along the Pathway to Peace, which features 58 “mini” trees each adorned with ornaments from the states and territories of the US.

Pageant of Peace Trees - National Christmas Tree

If you’re visiting or have family around the country, it’s fun to find trees from different states to see how they are decorated.  Be sure to pose for a photo to send to loved ones!

  • Dates and Hours: The lighting ceremony typically takes place in early December, and the tree remains lit throughout the holiday season from 4:30PM until midnight.
  • Location: The Ellipse | President’s Park, Washington, DC.
  • Tickets for Tree lighting: The lighting ceremony is free and open to the public, but tickets are required and available through an online lottery system. which opens on November 1st and closes on the 8th.  Lottery entry  
  • After the lighting ceremony, no tickets or timed entry are required .  Plan your visit

Insider tip:   While the President’s helicopter, Marine 1, takes off or lands, The Ellipse is briefly closed and guests cannot enter.  Be sure to wear warm clothing and footwear in case you have to wait – but you’ll have a cool story to tell!

US Capitol Christmas Tree

The US Capitol Christmas Tree

The US Capitol Christmas Tree is an annual display on the west front lawn of the United States Capitol. The tree is adorned with thousands of lights and ornaments, creating a perfect nighttime photo op against the backdrop of the Capitol.

Annually, the Christmas tree is sourced from a national forest, marking the tradition of “The People’s Tree” which began in 1964 when House Speaker John W. McCormack (D-MA) planted a live Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn. In 1970, the Architect of the Capitol (the office that cares for the Capitol and grounds) engaged the U.S. Forest Service to supply the annual Capitol Christmas Tree. 

Each year, a different National Forest is selected to provide “The People’s Tree,” collaborating with state forests to furnish “Companion Trees” for offices in the capital.  The massive tree can travel great distances from its home state to its place on the Capitol grounds.

A highlight of this tradition is the ceremonial lighting of the Capitol Christmas Tree, where one child representing the tree’s state joins the Speaker of the House in the lighting ceremony. All youth aged 5-19 from the state who contributed ornaments for the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree have the chance to participate in a drawing for a trip to the nation’s capital.

  • Dates and Hours: The tree is typically on display from early December throughout the holiday season.  Follow the tree’s journey here.
  • Location: United States Capitol Grounds , West Lawn, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Viewing the tree is free and does not require tickets.

Season’s Greenings at the US Botanic Garden

Seasons Greenings at the US Botanic Garden

Season’s Greenings (get it – GREENings?!) at the US Botanic Garden features a display of model trains that wind through miniature scenes in the outdoor gardens. Inside, the conservatory has displays of holiday poinsettias and a collection of local landmark replicas made entirely from plant materials.

If you’re a fan of the Jefferson Memorial, you’ll love its plant-based mini counterpart with a dome crafted from a gourd!  Other highlights are the Capitol building and the Lincoln Memorial, complete with its reflecting pool.

US Capitol - Seasons Greenings at the US Botanic Garden

The Botanic Garden is wonderful to visit any time of year.  If you’re in town for the holidays, don’t miss this special annual tradition, especially if you have train-lovers in your family.

  • Dates and Hours: Season’s Greenings runs from late November to early January and is closed Christmas Day.  Check the Botanic Garden website for hours .
  • Location: United States Botanic Garden | 100 Maryland Ave SW, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Admission is free, and no tickets are required.

Insider tip: Got train lovers in your fam?  Be sure to check the listings below for holiday events at the Manassas Holiday Train Show, the B&O Railway Museum, and Western Maryland Scenic Railway.

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National Cathedral at Christmas: Handel’s Messiah Concert and Creche Exhibit

The Washington National Cathedral hosts a Handel’s Messiah concert during the holiday season which has become an annual tradition for many local residents.  Though it was originally written for Easter, it’s hard to imagine the holiday season without the Hallelujah chorus – and there is nowhere in DC better to experience it than the Cathedral.

There are usually 3 performances, each lasting 3 hours with intermission, plus an additional family matinee which lasts only 90 minutes. 

During the holidays, the Cathedral also exhibits nativity scenes from around the world .  Their core collection of 600 was gifted to the Cathedral by a former docent, but only a small portion can be displayed each year.  I saw it when I first moved to Washington DC, and it inspired my own collection of nativities from my travels!

  • Dates and Hours: Check the National Cathedral’s website for specific concert dates and times, as they vary each year.  In 2023, the concert dates are December 7-9. The creche exhibit is on display from November 20, 2023 through February 2, 2024.
  • Location: Washington National Cathedral | 3101 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Tickets are required for the Messiah concert.  Purchase online .  The creche exhibit can be seen as part of a general sightseeing ticket .

Insider tip: If you can’t make it to the Messiah, the Cathedral’s free Christmas Day organ recital can be seen in person or streamed online .

Christmas at Mount Vernon

Christmas at Mount Vernon

George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate comes alive with festive lights, decorations, historical reenactments and even fireworks over the Potomac. Visitors can explore the beautifully illuminated grounds and imagine what the estate was like during the holidays in bygone days.

Be sure to reserve tickets ahead of time as they sell out; and note that different dates offer different events.

  • Location: George Washington’s Mount Vernon , 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy, Mount Vernon, VA.
  • Mount Vernon by Candlelight (candlelit tours): November 24 & 25; December 1 & 2; 8 & 9; 17
  • Christmas Illuminations at Mount Vernon (winter lights, holiday shopping, and fireworks over the Potomac; optional mansion tours for an additional cost): December 16 & 17
  • Ticket Information: Tickets can be purchased online in advance .

Christmas at The Willard

The Willard InterContinental Hotel is renowned for its lavish holiday decorations. Guests and visitors can enjoy the opulent atmosphere and attend a free concert each day from 5:30PM – 7:30PM.  Sip champagne and seasonal cocktails from the lobby’s pop-up Moët & Chandon bar while listening to a medley of classic holiday carols.

Christmas at the Willard

Or treat yourself to a Holiday Afternoon Tea in Willard Peacock Alley, featuring their signature tea menu with a holiday twist and seasonally inspired sweets.  Note: All holiday afternoon tea reservations are filled for 2023!  Set a reminder on your calendar to reserve early next year.

Rounding out their special holiday offerings are Thanksgiving and Christmas Day brunches plus a black-tie New Year’s Eve gala.

  • Dates and Hours: Christmas festivities at The Willard start December 1 and continue throughout the month.  Holiday caroling program schedule .
  • Location: The Willard InterContinental Hotel | 1401 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Entry to The Willard is free, and visitors can enjoy the decorations in the lobby and public areas as well as the daily caroling concert.

Insider tip: The Willard Hotel is just around the corner from the White House and another local icon, the Old Ebbitt Grill.  Stop in for their famous oyster happy hour and a photo with the iconic toy soldier nutcrackers that flank the Old Ebbit’s entry.  Pop over to hear some carols at the Willard and then head to see the National Christmas Tree!

National Menorah

The National Menorah lighting ceremony celebrates Hanukkah with the lighting of the National Menorah on the White House Ellipse. It’s a significant event for the Jewish community and all are welcomed to join in the festivities.

  • Dates and Hours: The National Menorah lighting typically takes place on the first night of Hanukkah, which occurs on December 7 this year.
  • Location: The Ellipse , President’s Park, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: The lighting ceremony is free and open to the public, with tickets available online. 

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Seasonal Lights and Festivities

Want to explore the most festive holiday lights in the area? I’ve got the lowdown on the best walk-through and drive-through lights displays as well as holiday events.

Smithsonian ZooLights

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo transforms into a magical winter wonderland with ZooLights. The zoo is adorned with millions of sparkling lights, animated animal silhouettes, and festive decorations.

  • Activities: Visitors can stroll through the illuminated zoo, enjoy live entertainment, sip on hot chocolate, and even take a ride on the National Zoo Choo-Choo.
  • Dates and Hours: November 24 – December 30, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Sundays 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.); closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve.
  • Location: Smithsonian National Zoo | 3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: General admission tickets are $6.00 and can be purchased online .

Enchant Christmas at Nationals Park

Enchant Christmas at Nationals Park is a magical holiday experience featuring a massive light maze, ice skating trail, and a Christmas market. The entire ballpark is transformed into an enchanting winter village.

  • Activities: Visitors can explore the light maze, go ice skating, shop for artisan crafts at the Christmas market, enjoy food and beverages, and meet Santa Claus.
  • Dates and Hours: Enchant Christmas typically runs from late November to late December, with varying hours.
  • Location: Nationals Park | 1500 S Capitol St SE, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Tickets can be purchased online including special suite packages for a group.

DC Holiday Lights: Neighborhood Lights

DC Holiday Lights is a citywide holiday lights festival, where various main streets and neighborhoods in Washington, DC, compete to be declared the most festive and creatively decorated.  Don’t forget to cast a vote for your favorites!

  • Activities: Visitors can take self-guided tours of participating neighborhoods, enjoying the dazzling light displays and holiday decorations.
  • Dates and Hours: DC Neighborhood Lights typically runs from late November throughout December, with varying display hours in each neighborhood.
  • Location: Neighborhoods throughout Washington, DC – find the details here .
  • Ticket Information: This event is free and open to the public for viewing.

Georgetown Glow

Georgetown Glow

Georgetown Glow is a free, annual outdoor public art exhibition featuring light installations and illuminated artwork throughout the historic Georgetown neighborhood.

Guided walking tours are available through local tour companies.  Or, enjoy the installations independently at your own pace.

  • Activities: Visitors can stroll through Georgetown, admire the light art installations, and enjoy the neighborhood’s shops and dining.
  • Dates and Hours : December 1 – January 7, with the lights on from 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM.
  • Location: Georgetown neighborhood, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Admission to Georgetown Glow is free and open to the public.  Get details and plan your visit.

The District’s Holiday Boat Parade

The District’s Holiday Boat Parade is a festive maritime event featuring festively decorated boats parading along the Potomac River. It’s a unique and picturesque holiday tradition.

Get into the spirit with ornament decorating and face painting at Recreation Pier. Roast s’mores at the Camp Wharf fire pit get photos with the Christmas tree and Santa. Skate at The Wharf Ice Rink on Transit Pier and sample winter drinks at the Corona Beer Garden.

  • Activities: Spectators can watch the boat parade from various vantage points along the river, including waterfront parks and promenades.
  • Dates and Hours: December 2 from 6PM – 9PM, with the boat parade at 7 and fireworks at 8!
  • Location: The Wharf at the Potomac River waterfront, various viewing locations along the river.
  • Ticket Information: Viewing or participating in the boat parade is free and open to the public. Make plans to attend and download an event map.

12 Days of Christmas at The Conrad

The Conrad Washington, DC hotel hosts a festive “12 Days of Christmas” event featuring holiday-themed experiences, including a Christmas market, live music, and seasonal cocktails.

The official Conrad Holiday Decor Unveiling happens on Thursday, November 16 5:00-6:30pm, including their magnificent 18-foot Christmas tree, complete with an Instagram-worthy mistletoe arch. 

CityCenter’s 10th Annual Tree Lighting Saturday, November 25 begins at 6:00pm and kicks off the festive season.

  • Activities: Visitors can shop, enjoy live entertainment, savor holiday treats, and revel in the festive atmosphere.
  • Dates and Hours: Check The Conrad’s website for specific events, dates and hours during the holiday season.
  • Location: Conrad Washington, DC | 950 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Admission to some events is free; others require tickets or reservations.

Plays, Concerts, and Performances

These holiday plays and performances offer entertainment options to celebrate the season, from timeless classics to festive musical extravaganzas. 

A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theater

Ford’s Theatre presents a timeless holiday classic with its production of “A Christmas Carol.” This beloved tale of Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation is brought to life on stage with impressive performances and festive visuals.

Renowned Washington DC actor Craig Wallace returns to play Ebenezer Scrooge in Ford’s annual tradition.

  • Dates and Hours: “A Christmas Carol” at Ford’s Theatre runs from November 17 — December 31, 2023; some dates offer both a matinee and evening performance.
  • Location: Ford’s Theatre | 511 10th St NW, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Tickets can be purchased online.

The Nutcracker - Christmas events in Washington DC

The Nutcracker at the Washington Ballet

The Washington Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” is a holiday tradition featuring stunning choreography, lavish sets and costumes, and Tchaikovsky’s enchanting score. It transports audiences to the magical world of Clara and the Nutcracker Prince.

  • Dates and Hours: “The Nutcracker” performances run from November 25 – 26 (THEARC) and December 2 – December 30, 2023 (Warner Theatre) with matinees and evening shows.
  • Location: Two venues in Washington, DC, the Warner Theatre and the Kennedy Center.
  • Ticket Information: Purchase tickets online ; pricing varies based on seating and venue.

The Messiah at the National Cathedral

Handel’s Messiah at the Washington National Cathedral

The Washington National Cathedral hosts a magnificent performance of Handel’s “Messiah,” featuring a choir and orchestra in the breathtaking setting of the cathedral. It’s a classic musical celebration of the holiday season.

  • Activities: Attendees can enjoy the beautiful music and the grandeur of the cathedral’s architecture.
  • Dates and Hours: Check the National Cathedral’s website for specific concert dates and times, as they vary each year.  In 2023, the concerts are December 7-9.
  • Ticket Information: Tickets are required for the Messiah concert.  Purchase online .

Holidays at The Strathmore

The Music Center at Strathmore hosts a variety of holiday-themed concerts and performances, featuring renowned artists and ensembles. From classical to contemporary, Celtic Christmas to A Hip Hop Nutcracker, there’s something for every music lover.

The Strathmore also hosts a Museum Shop Holiday Market from Thu–Sat, November 9–11, 2023, 10am–6pm daily.

  • Dates and Hours: The Strathmore’s holiday season schedule includes multiple events; check their official website for specific shows, dates and times.
  • Location: The Music Center at Strathmore | 5301 Tuckerman Ln, North Bethesda, MD.
  • Ticket Information: Tickets for Strathmore events can be purchased online, and prices vary depending on the performance and seating.

Spirit of Kwanzaa

Since 1995, the Dance Institute of Washington has hosted The Spirit of Kwanzaa, their most popular and long-running show. and showcases the experiences and creativity of the Black diaspora. This event celebrates Kwanzaa’s principles through dance, music, and spoken word performances.

  • Dates and Hours: December 15 and 16 at 6PM.
  • Location: Howard University’s Cramton Auditorium | Childers Hall, 2455 6th St NW, Washington, DC 20059
  • Tickets: Buy tickets and more information .

Caroling at The Willard

The historic Willard InterContinental hotel in Washington, DC, hosts caroling sessions in its lavishly decorated lobby during the holiday season. 

Guests and visitors can enjoy the opulent atmosphere and attend a free concert each day from 5:30PM – 7:30PM.  Sip champagne and seasonal cocktails from the lobby’s pop-up Moët & Chandon bar while listening to a medley of classic holiday carols.

  • Location: The Willard InterContinental | 1401 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC.

Best Christmas Trees

Want to see more festive trees in Washington DC?  These exceptional displays are favorites of locals and visitors alike!

Union Station

Union Station

Union Station in Washington, DC, boasts a grand and beautifully decorated Christmas tree that serves as a stunning centerpiece for the holiday season. The tree is adorned with festive ornaments and lights.  Be sure to grab photos of the holiday train display and the iconic wreaths that hang in the arches of the building entrances.

  • Activities: Visitors can admire the Christmas tree while shopping, dining, or catching a train at this historic transportation hub.
  • Dates and Hours: The Christmas tree is typically on display from late November through December.
  • Location: Union Station, 50 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Viewing the Christmas tree at Union Station is free and open to the public.

Union Station Christmas Wreath

CityCenterDC

CityCenterDC, a downtown development, features a magnificent holiday tree adorned with thousands of twinkling lights. The tree lighting ceremony is a festive event with live entertainment.

  • Activities: Attend the tree lighting ceremony and enjoy shopping at upscale boutiques and dining at fine restaurants in the CityCenterDC complex.
  • Dates and Hours: CityCenter’s 10th Annual Tree Lighting Saturday, November 25 begins at 6:00pm and the tree remains on display throughout the holiday season.
  • Location: CityCenterDC | 825 10th St NW, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: The tree lighting ceremony is free and open to the public.

Canadian Embassy Tree

Canadian Embassy Christmas Tree

The Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC, features an iconic illuminated Christmas tree display in its exterior rotunda.

  • Dates and Hours: The Canadian Embassy’s tree is usually lit beginning in early to mid-December.
  • Location: Embassy of Canada, 501 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Viewing of the tree is free and open to the public.

Christmas at the Fairmont Tree Lighting

Fairmont Washington, D.C. Georgetown will host its 20th annual tree lighting ceremony in the hotel’s Courtyard beginning at 5:30PM on Tuesday, December 5. Tickets are required and are available on Eventbrite beginning mid-October.

Other seasonal activities include meetings with Santa, afternoon teas, Christmas Day brunch and more.

  • Activities: Families can enjoy the festive ambiance of the hotel, enjoy festivities like a choral performance and card making, and enter a drawing for prizes.
  • Dates and Hours: Christmas decorations at the Fairmont typically start in December and continue throughout the month.
  • Location: Fairmont Washington, DC, Georgetown, 2401 M St NW, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Entry to the Fairmont’s lobby to view the Christmas tree is typically free and open to the public.

Christmas at the Riggs - Designer Christmas Tree

Christmas at the Riggs

The Riggs Washington, DC, hotel features a beautifully decorated Christmas tree in its historic lobby.  The supremely Insta-worthy 2022 tree was created by famous jewelry designer Alexis Bittar.  This year’s tree and its designer was unveiled on November 28th: a colorful, playful yet chic stunner from the luxury brand Lingua Franca.

The Riggs is just across the street from the Downtown Holiday Market and around the corner from Urban Roast, so don’t miss stopping in to see if if you’re nearby!

  • Activities: Guests and visitors can appreciate the holiday decorations in the hotel’s public spaces and stay for a drink at the Bar at Cafe Riggs.
  • Dates and Hours: Christmas decorations at the Riggs start in late November and continue through December.
  • Location: Riggs Washington, DC | 900 F St NW, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Entry to the Riggs lobby to view the Christmas tree is free and open to the public.

The Library of Congress

Christmas at the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress often features a grand Christmas tree in the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building. The tree is decorated with ornaments representing different countries and cultures.

  • Activities: Visitors can explore the Library of Congress and admire the beautifully decorated tree as part of their visit.
  • Dates and Hours: The Library of Congress usually decorates its Christmas tree in early December and keeps it on display throughout the holiday season.  Closed Sundays and Mondays.
  • Location: Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St SE, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Entry to the Library of Congress is free and open to the public; see the library with a free timed entry pass which you can reserve ahead of time.

Holiday shopping in Washington DC

Holiday Shopping in Washington DC

Whether you’re just starting your holiday shopping or need a few extra stocking stuffers, check out these festive shopping stops.

Downtown Holiday Market

The Downtown Holiday Market in Washington, DC, is an annual open-air marketplace that features a wide variety of local artisans and vendors selling unique holiday gifts, crafts, and artisanal goods.

  • Activities: Visitors can browse through vendor stalls, shop for one-of-a-kind gifts, enjoy festive food and drinks, and soak in the holiday atmosphere.
  • Dates and Hours: Nov. 17 thru Dec. 23 : 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily; closed on Thanksgiving Day, Nov 23 and Monday, Dec 4.
  • Location: Penn Quarter, 8th and F Streets NW, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Admission to the market is free, and visitors can explore the vendor stalls at their leisure.  Plan your visit.

Insider tip: After the Downtown Holiday market closes, pop into The Kimpton hotel. Head through their bar, Dirty Habit, to the outdoor courtyard with fire tables, cozy couches with blankies, and festive drinks including mulled wine!

Downtown Holiday Market - Christmas events in Washington DC

Christmas Markt at the Heurich House Museum

The Heurich House Museum hosts Christmas Markt, a traditional German-style Christmas market in the heart of Washington, DC. It features handmade crafts, artisanal goods, and seasonal treats from local makers.

  • Activities: Attendees can shop for unique gifts, enjoy live music, savor German-inspired food and beverages, and explore the historic Heurich House.
  • Dates and Hours: Christkindlmarkt typically takes place the first weekend in December – in 2023, it’s December 1-3.
  • Location: Heurich House Museum, 1307 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Admission to Christkindlmarkt requires a ticket; book via the museum website.

Dupont Circle Pop-Up

Dupont Circle hosts a pop-up holiday market featuring local artisans, crafters, and food vendors. It’s a neighborhood gathering that adds a touch of holiday cheer.

  • Activities: Visitors can explore the pop-up market, shop for unique gifts, enjoy seasonal treats, and experience the vibrant Dupont Circle neighborhood.
  • Dates and Hours: The Dupont Circle Pop-Up typically runs in December; stay tuned for the announcement of dates and details for 2023.
  • Location: Dupont Circle, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Admission to the pop-up market is free, and visitors can stroll through at their leisure.  Plan your visit .

National Gallery Sculpture Garden Ice Rink

Best Places to Ice Skate in Washington DC

I’m ready to lace up my skates as soon as I hear the first notes of the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack each year!  These are some of the best places in the DMV to hit the ice for this festive winter activity.  (And keep reading for unique winter food and drink spots to warm up!)

National Sculpture Garden Ice Rink

The National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden transforms into an ice rink during the winter season. Skaters can glide past iconic sculptures while enjoying the outdoor skating experience.

  • Activities: Ice skating enthusiasts can take to the rink, rent skates, and savor the artistic surroundings in the heart of the National Mall.
  • Dates and Hours: Sunday–Thursday, 11:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m, until 10pm Fridays and Saturdays
  • Location: National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, 7th St and Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Tickets for ice skating can only be purchased on-site, and skate rentals are available.  Plan your visit.

The Wharf in Washington, DC offers a scenic ice skating experience along the waterfront. The rink is beautifully situated with views of the Potomac River and the city skyline.

  • Activities: Skaters can enjoy outdoor ice skating, take in waterfront views, and explore the vibrant Wharf neighborhood.
  • Dates and Hours: The Wharf ice rink is open beginning November 22.  Closed Mondays/Tuesdays; see hours .
  • L ocation: The Wharf, District Pier, 101 District Square SW, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Tickets for ice skating at The Wharf can be purchased on-site, and skate rentals are available.  Plan your visit.

Washington Harbour Ice Rink

The Washington Harbour Ice Rink is an outdoor ice skating rink located along the Georgetown waterfront. Skaters can enjoy picturesque views of the Potomac River and the surrounding historic district.

  • Activities: Visitors can ice skate, rent skates, and experience the charm of Georgetown during the holiday season.
  • Dates and Hours : The rink is open from November 17, 2023 to February 25, 2024 (weather permitting).
  • Location: Washington Harbour, 3000 K St NW, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Tickets for ice skating can be purchased online, and skate rentals are available.  Plan your visit .

Canal Park in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood features a seasonal outdoor ice rink, offering a fun and family-friendly skating experience.

  • Activities: Skaters can enjoy ice skating, warm up with hot cocoa, and take in the urban surroundings of the neighborhood.
  • Dates and Hours: The Canal Park ice rink typically operates from mid-November to early March, with varying hours.
  • Location: Canal Park, 200 M St SE, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Tickets for ice skating can be purchased online, and skate rentals are available.  Plan your visit.

Rockville Town Center

Rockville Town Center in Maryland hosts an outdoor ice rink in a charming city center setting.

  • Activities: Visitors can enjoy ice skating, festive music, and the amenities of Rockville Town Center, including dining and shopping.
  • Dates and Hours: The Rockville Town Center ice rink typically operates from late November through early March, with varying hours.
  • Location: Rockville Town Center | 131 Gibbs St, Rockville, MD.

Pentagon Row

Pentagon Row in Arlington, Virginia, offers an outdoor ice skating rink surrounded by shops and restaurants. It’s a convenient and festive place for ice skating.

  • Activities: Skaters can enjoy the ice rink, explore Pentagon Row’s offerings, and take in the holiday atmosphere.
  • Dates and Hours: The Pentagon Row ice rink typically operates from late November to early March, with varying hours.
  • Location: Pentagon Row, 1201 S Joyce St, Arlington, VA.

Unique Holiday Food & Drink

holiday food and drink in washington dc

After all that shopping and skating, you’ll need a cozy spot to warm up!  

Winter Igloos at The Watergate

The Watergate Hotel offers a unique winter experience with its private igloos on the rooftop , each adorned with festive decorations and cozy furnishings. Guests can enjoy dining and cocktails with scenic views of the Potomac River.

  • Activities: Reserve a private igloo for dining, enjoy seasonal cocktails, and take in the panoramic views from the rooftop.
  • Dates and Hours: Winter igloos at The Watergate typically operate from late November through February, with varying hours.
  • Location: The Watergate Hotel | 2650 Virginia Ave NW, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Reservations for igloos are required and can be made online.  Book your visit.

Afternoon Tea at The Willard (or Caroling and Champers!)

The historic Willard InterContinental hotel offers a festive holiday afternoon tea experience accompanied by a harpist. Guests can indulge in a traditional tea service and holiday-themed treats.

From 5:30PM – 7:30PM, guests and visitors can enjoy the opulent atmosphere and attend a free concert each day.  Sip champagne and seasonal cocktails from the lobby’s pop-up Moët & Chandon bar while listening to a medley of classic holiday carols.

  • Ticket Information: Peacock Alley Tea reservations are sold out for the 2023 holiday season. Entry to The Willard is free, and visitors can enjoy the decorations in the lobby and public areas as well as the daily caroling concert.

Miracle at Deathpunch Holiday Pop-Up Bar

The Miracle at Deathpunch is a popular holiday pop-up bar in Washington, DC, known for its festive cocktails and whimsical decor. The bar transforms into a holiday wonderland with themed drinks.

The name comes from a mashup of the former Miracle on 37th Street holiday popup bar which is now located in the Deathpunch bar for the holiday.

  • Activities: Visit the pop-up bar to enjoy creative holiday cocktails and immerse yourself in a fun and festive atmosphere.
  • Dates and Hours: Miracle at Deathpunch runs from November 23 to December 31, from 12PM to 2/3AM.
  • Location: Deathpunch Bar & Kitchen | 1905 9th St NW, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information : Entry to the pop-up bar is free; guests can purchase drinks from the themed menu.  Book reservations .

Urban Roast - Christmas in Washington DC

Urban Roast

Urban Roast is a restaurant offering a cozy and festive winter atmosphere. The venue features seasonal cocktails, comfort food, and holiday decor.

  • Activities: Guests can savor holiday-inspired food and drink and relax in a festive setting.
  • Dates and Hours: Urban Roast operates year-round, with festive decorations during the holiday season.
  • Location: Urban Roast | 916 G St NW suite c-2, Washington, DC 20001
  • Ticket Information: Reservations are recommended.  Plan your visit.

Astro Doughnuts

Astro Doughnuts , a local favorite, offers a delightful selection of holiday-themed doughnuts and pastries during the holiday season. 

  • Dates and Hours: Astro Doughnuts typically features its holiday offerings from late November through December, with regular bakery hours.
  • Location: Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken | 1308 G St NW, Washington, DC plus other locations.
  • Ticket Information: No tickets are required.  Plan your visit .

Cleveland Park Santa Bar Crawl

The Cleveland Park Santa Bar Crawl is an annual holiday event where participants dress up as Santa Claus or other festive characters and visit participating bars in the Cleveland Park neighborhood.  NOTE: Although you’re sure to see Santa here, this one is just for the grownups!

  • Activities: Join the Santa-themed bar crawl, enjoy drinks and camaraderie with fellow Santas, and explore the neighborhood’s nightlife.
  • Date and Hours: The Santa Bar Crawl takes place on December 16, 2023.
  • Location: Cleveland Park neighborhood, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: See schedule and purchase tickets .

Where to Meet Santa: Unique Spots

While, yes, the Santa Bar Crawl WOULD be a unique place to see Santa, I recommend these options below for the littlest revelers in your group.

Where to get photos with Santa

Fairmont Washington DC

The Fairmont hotel hosts a special “Santa Suite” event during the holiday season. Families can have a quick visit and photos with Santa, with proceeds benefiting charity.  The hotel also offers other seasonal events including a Frozen Afternoon Tea , Tree Lighting Ceremony , and Christmas Brunch.

  • Activities: Attendees can take photos with Santa and enjoy holiday-themed activities.
  • Dates and Hours: “The Santa Suite” at the Fairmont takes place on select weekends in December.
  • Location: Fairmont Washington, DC | Georgetown, 2401 M St NW, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Reservations are required for the Santa Suite and tickets can be purchased in advance on Eventbrite .

Go-Go Santa

This annual tradition in Congress Heights features a caravan of go-go bands winding their way through Southeast D.C. The route begins near Navy Yard and continues to the Retail Village at Sycamore & Oak in Congress Heights.

Santa himself will be onboard a truck handing out holiday gifts and clothing from local businesses.

  • Date and Hours: Saturday, December 2 from 2PM – 5PM.
  • Location: Ending at Sycamore and Oak | 1110 Oak Dr SE, Washington, DC 20032

Brunch with Santa at The Kennedy Center

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts hosts an annual “Brunch with Santa” event. Families can enjoy brunch and meet-and-greet opportunities with Santa and his helpers.

  • Dates and Hours: “Brunch with Santa” at The Kennedy Center takes place on December 17, 2023.
  • Location: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St NW, Washington, DC.
  • Ticket Information: Tickets for “Brunch with Santa” can be purchased through The Kennedy Center’s official website , and reservations are required.

Holly Trolley Fest at the National Capital Trolley Museum

The National Capital Trolley Museum hosts the “Holly Trolley Fest,” a holiday-themed event that includes trolley rides with Santa, festive decorations, and model trains.

  • Dates and Hours: The “Holly Trolley Fest” takes place on select weekends in December.
  • Location: National Capital Trolley Museum , 1313 Bonifant Rd, Colesville, MD.
  • Ticket Information: Tickets for the “Holly Trolley Fest” can be purchased at the museum or online – advance tickets are recommended.

Santa Waterskiing on the Potomac

Santa Claus makes a unique appearance by waterskiing on the Potomac River during the holiday season. It all started 38 years ago, when a group of friends drew straws to see who had to go out and waterski in a Santa suit. The one who lost has continued the tradition each year since then!

  • Activities: Spectators can watch Santa’s waterskiing performance from various vantage points along the Alexandria Waterfront.
  • Dates and Hours: Santa’s waterskiing event takes place on Christmas Eve at 1PM each year.
  • Location: Old Town Alexandria Waterfront
  • Ticket Information: Viewing Santa’s waterskiing performance is free and open to the public. See information here .

Insider tip: Want a photo of your furbaby with the jolly man?  Check out your local Petsmart or Petco , the B&O Railroad Museum , Tysons Corner Mall , and the Mall at Prince Georges .  Be sure to check dates/times and make a reservation as needed.

Volunteering During the Holidays

Volunteering during the holiday season is a wonderful way to give back to the community and spread the spirit of goodwill. In Washington, DC, here are opportunities to make a positive impact. 

Christmas wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery

Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery

Wreaths Across America is a meaningful tradition where volunteers come together to honor veterans by placing wreaths on graves at Arlington National Cemetery. Each December, thousands of wreaths are laid on the gravesites of servicemembers, paying tribute to their service and sacrifice.

  • Activities: Volunteers help distribute and place wreaths on graves and take part in a meaningful and patriotic experience.
  • Dates and Hours: Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery takes place on Saturday, December 16, 2023.
  • Location: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA.
  • Ticket Information: Participation is free, but volunteers should register in advance. If you can’t participate, consider making a donation to sponsor wreaths.

More Volunteer Opportunities with Local Organizations

Visit the website of each organization below to see how you can get involved this holiday season.  Opportunities are available for individuals and groups depending on the organization.

  • A Wider Circle A Wider Circle focuses on ending poverty through support services, including furnishing homes for families in need. Volunteers can help collect, organize, and distribute essential items to those transitioning out of homelessness.
  • Capital Area Food Bank Join efforts to fight hunger in the Washington, DC area by volunteering with the Capital Area Food Bank. Tasks may include sorting and packing food donations, assisting with food distribution, and supporting various hunger-relief programs.
  • Thrive DC Thrive DC serves individuals experiencing homelessness. Volunteers can assist with meal preparation, serving meals, providing clothing, and participating in outreach programs to help those in need.
  • Bread for the City Bread for the City offers various services to low-income residents, including medical care, legal support, and food distribution. Volunteers can help with food sorting, pantry stocking, and supporting the organization’s mission.
  • Food and Friends Food and Friends delivers meals to individuals with serious illnesses. Volunteers can participate in meal preparation, packaging, and delivery to ensure that those facing health challenges receive nutritious meals and support.

Christmas in Northern Virginia

Holiday Lights and Events in Virginia

Virginia offers local  holiday lights and events that are sure to brighten up your season!  Here are some popular favorites.

Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade

The Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights is a charming waterfront event in Old Town Alexandria. Watch as festively decorated boats cruise along the Potomac River, creating a beautiful display of lights on the water.

  • Location: Old Town Alexandria Waterfront, Alexandria, VA.
  • Date and Time: The boat parade typically takes place in early December.  In 2023, the date is Saturday, December 2.

Bull Run Festival of Lights

The Bull Run Festival of Lights is a beloved holiday tradition in Centreville, Virginia. It features a spectacular drive-through display of twinkling lights, animated characters, and festive scenes.

  • Location: Bull Run Regional Park , 7700 Bull Run Dr, Centreville, VA.
  • Date and Time: Typically, the festival runs from late November through early January.  In 2023, the dates are November 10 – January 7. 
  • Tickets: Check the website for tickets and promo codes for discounts on certain nights.

Meadowlark’s Winter Walk of Lights

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, transforms into a magical wonderland with their Winter Walk of Lights. Visitors can stroll through an illuminated garden adorned with thousands of lights, animated displays, and holiday music.

  • Location: Meadowlark Botanical Gardens , 9750 Meadowlark Gardens Ct, Vienna, VA.
  • Date and Time: The Winter Walk of Lights usually operates from late November through early January, with evening hours.  In 2023 the dates are November 10 – January 7.

Insider tip: Note that from December 8 onward, Meadowlark tickets must be purchased online ; none will be sold onsite after that date.

Experience an 18th-century Christmas at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. The historic property is adorned with period decorations, and visitors can enjoy special holiday tours, festive music, and more.  

Manassas Christmas Parade and Santa Lights

The Manassas Christmas Parade is a delightful community event featuring colorful floats, marching bands, and, of course, Santa Claus. It’s a festive way to celebrate the season with the local community.  On the evening before the parade, the community’s tree is lit at the annual event known as Santa Lights which also includes musical performances, wagon rides, and ice skating.

  • Location: Historic Downtown Manassas, VA.
  • Date and Time: In 2023, the parade date is Saturday, December 2 and Santa Lights is Friday, December 1.

Reston Ice Skating & Holiday Fun

Reston Town Center in Reston, Virginia, offers an outdoor ice skating rink surrounded by holiday decorations and festive lights. Skaters can enjoy a winter wonderland in the heart of the town center as well as festive holiday events.

The special events kick off with a holiday parade and tree lighting on November 24, then special events continue through the season like mini train rides, live music, and horse-drawn carriage rides.  Ice skating is open daily, weather permitting.

  • Location: Reston Town Center , Reston, VA.
  • Date and Time: Find details on all RTC events here .  The ice skating rink is typically open from late November through early March, with varying hours.  In 2023, the dates are November 3, 2023 through March 10, 2024 (weather permitting). 
  • Tickets: Reserve skating tickets and get full info here .

Manassas Train Display

Visit this holiday tradition in its new location at the Boys & Girls Club of Manassas.

  • Location: Manassas Boys & Girls Club | 9501 Dean Park Lane, Manassas, Va. 20110
  • Date and Time: Wednesday – Friday, December 6-8 from 5-8 PM; Saturday and Sunday December 9 & 10 from 10 AM – 5 PM.  Info and download a flyer here.

Fairfax Festival of Lights and Carols

The City of Fairfax hosts the Festival of Lights and Carols that includes a holiday tree lighting ceremony, caroling, and a visit from Santa Claus. It’s a cheerful community gathering to kick off the holiday season.  The Old Town Square also holds a holiday market the first two weekends in December (Fri – Sun).

  • Location: Old Town Square , City of Fairfax, VA.
  • Date and Time: Saturday, December 2, 2023.

Christmas events in Maryland

Maryland Holiday Lights and Events

Marylanders also have their choice of holiday lights and festive local events to make the season merry and bright.

Christmas at The Harbor

National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, hosts Christmas at the Harbor , a dazzling holiday celebration with sparkling lights, a majestic Christmas tree with a nightly light show, 5:30PM fireworks, holiday shopping, outdoor holiday movies, and more throughout the waterfront area.

The Gaylord National Hotel here hosts its own Christmas extravaganza including shows, activities, and ice skating.

Christmas at the Gaylord Hotel

The Capital Wheel offers a birds-eye view of the harbor festivities in their cozy climate-controlled gondolas.  Holiday packages, carousel tickets and photos with Santa are also available.

MGM National Harbor has shows including Cirque Dreams Holidaze on December 16 and 17.

  • Location: National Harbor, Oxon Hill, MD.
  • Date and Time: Christmas at The Harbor runs from late November through late December.  Check each business for schedule and programming.

Washington DC Temple Festival of Lights

The annual Festival of Lights hosted by the Washington D.C. Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints takes place each year in Kensington, Maryland.

The event features more than 400,000 lights, a walking display of Christmas trees decorated with ornaments from around the world, nightly musical performances in the indoor theater, and an exhibit of crèches from around the world.

  • Location: Washington DC Temple | 9900 Stoneybrook Dr, Kensington, MD 20895
  • Date and Time: November 30, 2023 – January 1, 2024. Christmas Lights Hours: 4:45 PM – 9:00 PM | Visitors’ Center Hours: 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM
  • Tickets: Entrance and parking are free, and tickets are not needed this year. Plan your visit.

Winter Lights Festival in Gaithersburg

Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg, Maryland, presents the Winter Lights Festival, featuring a scenic drive-through display of illuminated trees, themed displays, and animated scenes.

  • Location: Seneca Creek State Park , 11950 Clopper Rd, Gaithersburg, MD.
  • Date and Time: The Winter Lights Festival operates from November 24 – December 31 (closed on Christmas). 
  • Tickets: Note that tickets are required and must be purchased online in advance.

Holiday Festival of Trains B&O Railroad Museum

The B&O Railroad Museum’s Holiday Festival of Trains in Baltimore, MD, features model train displays of festive scenes. Families can get photos with Santa Claus, enjoy reindeer and Polar Express-themed train rides, and take part in other winter activities.

  • Location: B&O Railroad Museum | 901 W Pratt St, Baltimore, MD.
  • Date and Time : The Museum’s holiday events run from late November through December, closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Check the museum’s website for the programs and events each day, as they vary.  ( Full info here and be sure to scroll for more events at the end of the page.)

Christmas train rides

Polar Express Train Ride at the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad in Cumberland, Maryland, offers a magical “Polar Express” train ride inspired by the beloved children’s book. Passengers can set off on a festive 1-hour journey to the “North Pole.”

  • Location: Western Maryland Scenic Railroad | 13 Canal St, Cumberland, MD.
  • Date and Time: The Polar Express Train Ride operates on select dates in December.

Holiday Concerts at the Strathmore

The Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, Maryland, hosts a series of holiday concerts including Celtic Christmas, The Hip-Hop Nutcracker, Manheim Steamroller, Handel’s Messiah, The Nutcracker and more. 

  • Date and Time: Holiday concerts at the Strathmore are scheduled throughout December; check for events, dates and showtimes .

Merriweather Symphony of Lights

The Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, presents the Symphony of Lights , a drive-through holiday light show featuring colorful displays and animated scenes, all synchronized to music.

  • Location: Merriweather Post Pavilion | 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy, Columbia, MD.
  • Date and Time: The Symphony of Lights runs from November through January 1 on specific dates; but dates vary for drive-through viewing or specialty walk-through visits.  

Bethesda Winter Wonderland

Bethesda Row in Bethesda, Maryland, transforms into a charming winter wonderland during the holiday season. The event features Santa Claus, live ice sculpting, live musical performances, .

  • Location: Bethesda Row |  Bethesda, MD.
  • Date and Time: The event takes place Saturday, December 2 from 1-4PM.

outdoor light display

Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens

Brookside Gardens within Wheaton Regional Park transforms into the “Garden of Lights,” featuring a walk-through holiday light display with themed gardens, sparkling lights, and seasonal music.

  • Location: Brookside Gardens | 1800 Glenallan Ave, Wheaton, MD.
  • Date and Time: The Garden of Lights operates from late November through December 31, with evening hours; check website for dates, hours, and ticket sales .

Baltimore Christmas Village

The Baltimore Christmas Village is a festive open-air market inspired by traditional German Christmas markets. Visitors can shop for holiday gifts, enjoy seasonal food and drinks like Gluhwein and hot spiked cocktails, and immerse themselves in holiday cheer.  There are carousel and ferris wheel rides for kids, too! 

  • Location: West Shore Park , Inner Harbor, Baltimore, MD.
  • Date and Time: The Baltimore Christmas Village runs from late November through Christmas Eve, with certain dates closed; check website for dates and hours .

Annapolis Eastport Lights Parade

Annapolis hosts a spectacular Lights Parade featuring illuminated boats that cruise along the Annapolis Harbor and City Dock. It’s a picturesque holiday tradition on the water.

  • Location: Annapolis Harbor and City Dock, Annapolis, MD.
  • Date and Time : The Lights Parade in Annapolis will take place on Saturday, Dec 9th, 6 – 8 PM.  Get more information and tips on the best viewing spots .

Ready for Christmas in Washington DC?

As winter settles over Washington, DC, there’s no better time to get out and explore holiday sights and events in the area. From the iconic National Christmas Tree and Mount Vernon to the bustling Downtown Holiday Market, the capital offers so many ways to make merry this holiday season!

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I was a travel hot mess, but I got better! I kept the name and now blog my best tips for culture + adventure travel from around the globe. Follow along for travel advice, destination guides, and photography from faraway lands and at home in Washington, DC.

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Daycation DC

20 Christmas Things to Do in Washington, DC

Bundle up this year to celebrate the holiday season in the DMV! Enjoy light shows, holiday markets, and festive performances.

I will do my best to update this post as often as possible but please refer to each event’s website for the most up-to-date information. Events that have not announced full details for the 2023 season are noted below.  

Christmas in Washington, DC

The National Christmas Tree : This year, the National Christmas will be open to the public starting December 2. Visiting the National Christmas Tree is a wonderful family tradition day or night. Consider visiting on a weeknight or during the day when the area is less crowded. Guests can also see the Pathway Of Peace – 1 miniature tree to represent each state and territory with ornaments made by children local to that state.  Check our tips for visiting the tree .

The US Capitol Christmas Tree : Not to be outdone by The National Christmas Tree, you’ll find another holiday tree on the Capitol lawn. It generally draws fewer visitors than the National Christmas, especially on weeknights. If you visit during the day or early evening, you can pair it with a visit to the Botanic Gardens (listed below). The Capitol tree is harvested from a different location each year. This year, it will travel from the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. The Capitol Tree usually arrives around Thanksgiving.

visit washington dc christmas

Season’s Greenings at the Botanic Gardens : The Botanic Gardens invites guests to enjoy an outdoor holiday display with model trains, DC landmarks made from plants, and holiday decor. This display will be set up from November 23 to January 1 from 10 am to 5 pm (closed Christmas Day). The Botanic Gardens are located very close to the Capitol so you visit the gardens and the Capitol Tree in one visit.

DC Neighborhood Lights : DC’s Main Streets are joining together this year to bring holiday cheer and highlight local businesses this holiday season. Find festive lights plus special promotions and events from November 17 to January 7. Participating neighborhoods include U Street, Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant, Woodley Park, Cleveland Park, Dupont Circle, Lower Georgia Ave, and Logan Circle.  

Georgetown Glow : Georgetown Glow is back this year from December 1, 2023 to January 7, 2024 with light displays throughout the neighborhood. These displays are not holiday-themed but are a great way to enjoy the neighborhood after dark.

National Cathedral Christmas Concerts : The National Cathedral is hosting holiday concerts in person and online this year. Notable dates include: 

  • Handel’s Messiah: December 8 at 7:00 pm, December 9 at 12:00 (family-friendly) and 4:00 pm, December 10 at 4:00 pm. The December 10th performance will also be live streamed. 
  • Christmas with the King’s Singers: December 15 at 7:00 pm (in person and live streamed)
  • Christmas Lesson and Carols: December 23 at 7:00 pm and December 24 at 6:00 pm (in person and live streamed)
  • Christmas Day Organ Recital Webcast: December 25 at 1:30 pm  (in person and live streamed)

Peppermint Treats from Milk Bar : 2023 Dates TBD. Tis the season for peppermint treats! Order peppermint bark cake, peppermint truffles, and cookies to complete your holiday celebrations this year. 

Winter Festival at the National Arboretum : On December 2 from 10 am to 4 pm, get some holiday shopping done at the Arboretum. Find local vendors, holiday greenery, and family friendly activities. You can also pre-order a Christmas tree for pick up. You must order trees and holiday greenery ahead of time. I have tried to buy day of but they are usually sold out.

Downtown Holiday Market : The Downtown Holiday Market will be set up daily from noon to 8 PM from November 17 to December 23 at 8th and F Streets. (Closed Thanksgiving Day and December 4.) Vendors will be selling arts, crafts, jewelry, specialty items, and more!  For fewer crowds, try to visit early or on a weekday.  Read about our 2020 experience . 

Ice Skating at the Sculpture Garden : Ice skating in the Sculpture Garden returns for the 2023 season! Enjoy the winter season from November 20 to March 3. Single sessions and season passes are available. Fees cover 2 45-minute sessions. Adults skate for $12 + $6 skate rental.  

Christkindlmarkt at the Heurich House Museum : Get started on your Christmas shopping at the Heurich House Museum German-style market featuring local craftspeople and artisans from December 1-3. More details to come but there is usually an entry fee and drinks.

The District’s Holiday Boat Parade : The boat parade at The Wharf is back! Enjoy the boats decorated with holiday lights on December 2 from 6 to 9 pm. Enjoy holiday activities like roasting s’mores, lighting the Christmas tree, ice skating, pictures with Santa, and winter drinks at the Pacifico Beer Garden. Get there early to snag a good seat. 

12 Days of Christmas at The Conrad: Join The Conrad Hotel near Metro Center for holiday fun on select dates through December 24. Enjoy special musical performances including harpist Abbie Palmer on select weekends, brunch with Santa on December 10 and 17, and a special holiday menu available after the CityCenter Christmas Tree lighting on November 25. Check their website for more events!

Light Shows and Historic Spots Ready for the Holidays in Virginia

Bull Run Festival of Lights : Drive through a 2.5 mile holiday light display in Centreville, Virginia. Open weekends starting November 10 and daily from November 20 to January 7. Tickets are $30/car online at $40/at the door with discounts on select weekdays. Pack your car with some friends, put on your favorite Christmas music, and enjoy this light show. You can also enjoy the carnival open nightly (weather permitting) to enjoy rides, holiday treats, and more. Rides require 3 to 5 tickets and can be purchased in packs. Or get a ride-all-you-want pass for $27.

Meadowlark’s Winter Walk of Lights : Located in Vienna, the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens sparkle with holiday lights. Walk through light displays of nature and holiday themes. Open November 10 to January 7 including holidays. Tickets range from $18-$22. Advance tickets are required from December 8 to January 1 but highly recommended for all nights. Dress warm! Read about our visit.

A Christmas Carol : The Little Theatre of Alexandria presents A Christmas Carol from December 2-16. Enjoy this classic holiday story in this cozy theater. Tickets go on sale November 2.

Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade : The Alexandria Boat Parade is back for 2022. Head to the waterfront on December 2 at 5:30 to enjoy the boats and small business shopping. Holiday activities begin at 2 pm.  (Note the parade continues to The Wharf – listed above.)

Christmas at Mount Vernon: Join Mount Vernon on December 15-16 at 5:30 for fireworks, a winter market, food, drinks, and decorations. The grounds glisten with holiday cheer including Christmas trees, candlelight walkways, and cozy fires. Tickets range from $50 to $60 for adults depending on membership and if you choose a mansion tour. 

Manassas Christmas Parade : The Manassas Christmas Parade steps off on December 2 at 10:00 am. Head to Downtown Manassas to enjoy Christmas floats, music, and Santa. Visit the night before on Friday, December 1 at 5:15 pm for a tree lighting, live music, and visits with Santa. 

Reston Ice Skating & Holiday Fun : Reston Town Center will light its tree on November 24 with a large parade and festive fun. Enjoy a holiday parade at 11:00 am following by local shopping and dining. Stick around for the tree lighting at 6 pm on Market Street.

Fairfax Festival of Lights and Carols : Head to Old Town Hall in Fairfax on December 2 from 12 to 6 pm for holiday fun including music, hot cider, and a tree lighting ceremony (5:30 pm). Be sure to also check out the Fairfax Holiday Market on select dates in December! 

Gray Ghost’s Christmas Cork and Cheese Celebration : The title says it all: ring in Christmas with wine and cheese at Gray Ghost Vineyard in Amissville (west of Warrenton) December 2-3. Tickets (price TBD) let you enjoy live holiday music with wine tasting, 1 full pour, a limited edition holiday logo glass, and a cheese plate. Plus, don’t miss an opportunity to see Santa on December 10 (free).

Leesburg Holiday Parade : Head to Leesburg on Saturday, December 2 from 6 to 9 pm for lights, food samples from local restaurants, and Santa. The parade begins at 6 pm. 

Shopping and Light Shows to Celebrate Christmas in Maryland

Winter Lights Festival : Head to Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg, Maryland for the Winter Lights Festival open nightly from November 24 to December 31 (closed December 25).  You’ll see over 365 displays including Winter Woods, Teddy Bear Land, and the North Pole on this 3.5 mile drive. Tickets are $15/car on weekdays and $25/car from Friday to Sunday. Tickets go on sale on October 17 and purchasing tickets in advance is required.

Merriweather Symphony of Lights : Drive through the Symphony of Lights in Columbia to see thousands of holiday lights! Open nightly from November 23 to January 1 (closed November 27-29 and December 4 and 11. $25/car. Closed to cars on walkthrough nights on November 26 (family-friendly), December 5 (dog-friendly), December 7 and 12 (Lit at the Lights with cocktails and a beer garden), and December 31 (Midnight at 7 with fireworks and food trucks.)

Bethesda’s Winter Wonderland : Head to Downtown Bethesda on December 2 from 1 to 4 pm for a winter wonderland! Enjoy a ice sculpturing demo (1 to 2), facing painting, crafts, music, and more! Visit and take photos with Santa from 2 to 4 pm.

Polar Express Train Ride : The Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad Museum a Polar Express Train Ride from November 24-26, December 1-3, 8-10, and 15-19, 2022. Enjoy the Polar Express story on the train with your little ones. After, enjoy visits with Santa.

Holiday Concerts at the Strathmore : Join the Strathmore on select dates throughout December for holiday concerts. Some big names include: 

  • Mannheim Streamroller Christmas: December 1 at 8 pm
  • The Nutcracker: December 2 at at 3 and 7 pm
  • Dave Koz and Friend Christmas: December 3 at 8 pm
  • BSO: How the Grinch Stole Christmas: December 7 at 8:30 pm
  • Sean Heely’s Celtic Christmas: December 8 at 8 pm
  • Washington Bach Consort: The Christmas Story: December 9 at 7 pm
  • The Washington Chorus: A Candlelight Christmas: December 15 at 8 pm
  • Handel’s Messiah: December 16 at 7:30 pm and December 17 at 3 pm
  • Hip Hop Nutcracker: December 19, 20, 22 at 8 pm and December 21 at 2 pm

Baltimore Christmas Village : The Baltimore Christmas Village will be back this year in the Inner Harbor. Join them November 18 to December 24 for German-style treats and decorations plus shopping from local vendors. Enjoy both boozy holiday drinks and kid-friendly options. Read about our visit from 2021.

Kelley drinking mulled wine

Garden in Lights : Located in Dowell, The Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center presents the Garden in Lights. Experience thousands of lights, nightly entertainment on this walking tour light show. Join them nighly from November 24 – January 1. (Closed November 27-28 and December 4, 5, 24, 25.) Guests are encouraged to purchase tickets online. Free for members or $17 for non-members. 

Holiday Candlelight Stroll : Join the historic district of Annapolis for a 90-minute stroll by candlelight for the holiday season. Select dates during the holiday season: November 24-25, December 1-2, 8, 15-16, 22-23, and 29-30.

Holiday Concerts with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra : The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is back with holiday performances this season!

  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas: December 7-8 at 7:30 and December 8 at 1:30 pm
  • Baroque Christmas: December 15 at 7:30 pm
  • Cirque Nutcracker: December 16 at 7:30 pm and December 17 at 3:00 pm
  • Holiday Spectacular: December 22 at 7:30 pm and December 23 at 3:00 pm

Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens : Head to Brookside Gardens in Wheaton for a stroll through the Garden of Lights! Enjoy over a million lights and special effects. Garden of Lights is open from November 17 to December 31 except November 20-23 and December 24-25. Advanced timed tickets are required for $10 per person over 5 years. The event is open rain or shine. 

Annapolis Lights Parade : Annapolis is one of the best places near the DVM to see boats and they know how to deck out for the holidays. Head to the harbor on December 9 at 6 pm to see the boats dressed in festive lights!

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The White House at night with a large Christmas tree out front. It's one of the best things to see during Christmas in Washington DC

12 Festive Ways To Celebrate Christmas In Washington DC

July 12, 2022 //  by  Southern Trippers

Are you looking for festive ways to celebrate Christmas in Washington DC? Then you’ve come to the right place! One of our favorite cities in the south to visit is Washington DC. The Nation’s Capital is beautiful all year round. However, it really shines during the holiday season. Whether you’re there for just a weekend or have a whole week to explore, a trip to Washington DC at Christmas time is worth it!

Planning your trip to Washington DC last minute?

Hotels and tours sell out fast! Make sure to book in advance to ensure availability. Here are our top picks for Washington DC:

Top Experiences And Tours To Book In Advance:

  • Monuments By Moonlight Tour (Our pick!)
  • Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour (Easy to get around)
  • Gourmet Dining Cruise (Can choose brunch or dinner)
  • Capital Wheel Entry Ticket (Save time in line)

Best Places To Stay In Washington DC:

  • The Architec t (Our choice for location)
  • Citizen M Washington DC Capito l (Hip and modern)
  • Glover Park Hotel Georgetown (four stars)
  • Hotel Washington (Panoramic views!)

Of course, many of the best things to do in DC are available all throughout the year. However, Washington DC during Christmas means an abundance of special activities and events. Many of the museums have special seasonal displays or events happening. You’ll get to take part in everything from holiday movie nights, candlelight tours, and Christmas light mazes.

Another great perk about visiting Washington DC for Christmas is that most activities are free. Because so many of the best Christmas in DC activities take place in the museums, they are generally free to attend.

That’s not the case for everything, but a vast majority of the Christmas activities in DC are free or relatively cheap. So, you could splurge on an amazing hotel or vacation rental in DC and still be able to participate in a ton of fun events. With all that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most festive ways to celebrate Christmas in Washington DC! Don’t forget to check out our list of the best boutique hotels in Washington DC to plan your visit!

The White House at night with a large Christmas tree out front. It's one of the best things to see during Christmas in Washington DC

Is Christmas A Good Time To Visit Washington DC?

Christmas is an excellent time to visit Washington DC! In general, the weather is typically fairly mild. Plus, there are tons of Christmas activities in Washington DC to enjoy. There really isn’t a bad time to visit Washington DC.

It just depends on what you want to do and see while you’re there. However, we think one of the best times to visit Washington DC in winter is in December! That way you can partake in all the fun Christmas things to do in Washington DC.

The Capitol Building lit up with a tree out front during Christmas in Washington DC at twilight

Washington DC Weather In December

As we said, the weather in Washington DC in December is typically fairly mild. However, you can expect it to get a bit cold. During the day, the highest temperature is around 50 degrees and at night it can drop to about 30 degrees.

So, if you’re walking around the city, you’ll definitely want to wear layers or pack a nice coat. Make sure to dress warmly, and remember that most of the museums offer coat checks.

A paved sidewalk in Washington DC with a row of lit up trees on either side.

Does It Snow In Washington DC At Christmas?

Yes, it can snow in Washington DC in December. However, December is often the first month it snows in Washington DC. That means that there is a good chance it won’t snow at all. If it does snow, it typically snows towards the end of December. If you’re visiting in late November or early December, you most likely won’t encounter any snow.

The Capitol Building with a big Christmas tree in front of it after a snow storm.

Best Christmas Things To Do In Washington DC

Go ice skating.

There are several places throughout Washington DC during Christmas that have ice skating rinks set up. The most popular temporary ice rink is probably the one on the National Mall. You’ll find it outside of the National Gallery of Art. It’s set up in their sculpture garden, which is super pretty. Plus, how often do you get to ice skate surrounded by National Monuments? Another popular ice skating rink is located in Georgetown. Georgetown is one of the coolest areas of DC to explore.

If you have the time, we highly suggest exploring Georgetown before you go ice skating there. You’ll find tons of cool restaurants and cafes to enjoy afterward too. You can also find ice skating rinks set up in the Navy Yard, the Southwest Waterfront, and Pentagon Row. They are all great, it just depends on what area of the city you want to be in. Outdoor ice skating is one of the best Christmas activities in Washington DC though.

People ice skating on the National Mall near the Capitol Building during Christmas in Washington DC

See The National Christmas Tree

You can’t spend Christmas in Washington DC and not go check out the National Christmas Tree. You’ll find it near the White House, near 15th St NW and E St NW. It is a large evergreen that is actually planted there. So, unlike the Christmas Tree in NYC, it’s permanent and the same tree every year. Every year since 1923 the massive evergreen has been decorated for Christmas.

If you’re visiting early in December, then you won’t want to miss one of the coolest Christmas events in Washington DC. Every year, in early December, the President and the First Lady host the Lighting Ceremony for the tree. If you get to attend the Tree Lighting Ceremony, you’ll get to hear the President give a short speech and, of course, light the tree. It’s one of the most unique Christmas activities in Washington DC.

This is truly one of the best things to do in Washington DC at night!

The National Christmas Tree lit up at night during Christmas in Washington DC

Every year, the National Zoo holds its ZooLights festival. It’s one of the best places to see Christmas lights in DC. There are over 500,000 LED lights on display during this Christmas activity in Washington DC. The ZooLights festival typically opens up in late November and lasts through the beginning of January. It’s a free event that is perfect if you are bringing little ones with you on your trip to Washington DC during Christmas.

Throughout the festival, there are nights where they have live performances. They’ll typically announce the schedule for them right before the festival returns. Along with the lights, the National Zoo also has a variety of stalls set up. You can do some Christmas shopping or just grab a cup of hot cocoa. It’s one of the best Washington DC Christmas markets to explore. If you’re looking for one of the best displays of Christmas lights in Washington DC, this is it!

Trees in a park covered in different colored Christmas lights at night

Tour Mount Vernon By Candlelight

Mount Vernon is President George Washington’s private residence. He moved there after his presidency ended. It’s actually located in Virginia, but it’s very close to DC. So close that it’s typically considered one of the top DC activities. During Christmastime, you can explore Mount Vernon by candlelight. It’s one of the best Christmas activities in Virginia .

Tickets for this candlelit tour go on sale in early October, and they often sell out. You’ll walk through the estate with a lantern and learn more about its history. As you walk, you’ll learn what Christmas would have been like for the mansion’s original residents. Included in your ticket are light refreshments, the tour, and a period-accurate performance by carolers.

An old brick building at Mount Vernon in the snow while it is snowing.

Go Window Shopping In CityCenter DC

CityCenter DC is a huge shopping district in Washington DC. Every year, they decorate the entire district for Christmas.

However, you won’t find stores like Macy’s or American Eagle. Instead, you’ll find designer stores like Burberry, Chanel, and Tiffany & Co. Even if these stores are far outside of your price range, we suggest stopping by CityCenter DC.

All of the stores go all out with Christmas decorations and it’s fun just to admire all the window displays and decorations. It’s a really cool Washington DC Christmas market with an upscale twist.

Within CityCenter DC there are also a number of restaurants and cafes. These are fine dining restaurants, which makes sense with the designer stores in the area. The restaurants also go all out with their decorations. If you’re wanting to splurge on a nice dinner while you’re enjoying Christmas time in DC, this is the place to go. It’s a really cool area to visit in Washington DC during Christmas, even if it’s a little outside your budget to actually buy anything.

Looking down the street of CityCenter DC all decorated for Christmas in Washington DC

Visit Union Station

Union Station is the main train terminal in Washington DC. Every year during Christmas in DC, Union Station hosts a variety of events and exhibits. The holiday season starts at Union Station with the Annual Norwegian Tree Lighting Ceremony. For over 20 years, the train station has hosted a traditional Norwegian Christmas tree. The ceremony typically includes performances by local musical programs, the tree lighting, and even an appearance from Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

The train station also typically has a display of model trains set up during the Christmas season. You’ll find the train display in the West Hall. It’s a super intricate scene with Norwegian elements to pair with the station’s tree. Kids in particular love to spend some time enjoying these unique and fun Christmas things to do in Washington DC. Like so many other activities in DC, it’s completely free to enjoy!

The front of Union Station in Washington DC with large wreaths lit up for Christmas at night.

The United States Botanical Garden Holiday Display

Each year the United States Botanical Garden puts on a themed display for Christmas. In the past, themes have been National Parks, Pollinators, and Roadside Attractions. The theme for the year is typically announced in the fall. Starting after Thanksgiving, you’ll be able to visit the botanical garden and see their holiday display. The display is typically up until the first weekend in January. It’s open every day except for Christmas.

Outside, you’ll find a train display that pairs with the year’s theme. Inside the different conservatories, they have another set of displays. They typically include hundreds of poinsettias and recreations of historic landmarks in the city. Even if you don’t love exploring gardens, this is one of the best Christmas things to do in Washington DC. It’s certainly one-of-a-kind!

A weeping willow tree covered in twinkly Christmas lights at night

The Holiday Boat Parade

One of the more unique Christmas events in Washington DC is the Annual Holiday Boat Parade. Washington DC is actually on the water, so it’s only fitting that they’d host a boat parade. The Holiday Boat Parade takes place in the District Wharf. You’ll be able to see the boats float along the Washington Channel.

The Annual Holiday Boat Parade traditionally happens on the first Saturday in December. It lasts about two hours and is at night. That’s because the boats are decorated with tons of Christmas lights on the outside. During the parade, you’ll see over 60 boats decorated with an abundance of Christmas lights. On land, you’ll be able to visit Mr. and Mrs. Clause and enjoy live entertainment. It’s a really fun way to celebrate Christmas time in DC.

A boat covered in Christmas lights participating in a parade for Christmas in Washington DC

Stroll The Downtown Holiday Market

Starting in the middle of November, you can stroll through the Washington DC Christmas Market. The Downtown Holiday Market, as it’s called, is located on the corner of 8th and F Streets, NW. It is open from the middle of November until December 23rd. The only days it’s closed are Thanksgiving and December 6th. With over 70 vendors, you’ll easily be able to leave with a few gifts for your family and friends.

The Downtown Holiday Market is a great way to support local and small businesses in DC. All of the vendors at the Washington DC Christmas market are hand-picked. That means it’s not full of things you may find at a swap meet. Instead, it’s all well-made or handcrafted goods. There are also food vendors, so you can get something to eat or hot cocoa while you shop.

A couple bundled up and drinking hot drinks as they shop at an outdoor holiday market

ICE! At The Gaylord

At the Gaylord National, you’ll find a huge Christmas celebration. The Gaylord National is a luxury hotel, located in the National Harbor. Every year they host ICE! , which is their Christmas festival. It’s open from the end of November until New Year’s Eve.

You can rent a room at the hotel and they have special packages that include a variety of ICE! activities. However, you don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to partake in all that ICE! has to offer.

It’s one of the most popular Christmas activities in Washington DC for a reason. There are tons of things to do at this massive Christmas festival.

There is snow tubing, snowman building, ice bumper cars, live performances, and plenty more. If you’re traveling to spend December in Washington DC and you have kids, you won’t want to miss ICE! at the Gaylord National. This is truly one of the best places to stay in Washington DC!

Kids on a sled going ice tubing outside.

At Enchant you’ll get your fill of Christmas lights in Washington DC. Enchant is the ‘World’s Largest Christmas Light Maze’ and one of its locations is in DC. When you visit Enchant , you’ll be able to explore over 10 acres of Christmas lights in DC. The main feature of this Christmas light festival is the huge maze. However, there are a few other attractions at Enchant as well.

After you make it through the maze, there is still plenty more to do. In the magical Christmas Village, you’ll find ice skating, shops, dining, and Mrs. Claus. Enchant opens in DC right after Thanksgiving and lasts until December 26th. You’ll want to book your tickets ahead of time because this super cool Christmas event in Washington DC can sell out.

A tunnel covered in white and purple lights with people walking through it.

See The Nutcracker At The Washington DC Ballet

One of the most iconic things to do in December in Washington DC is to go see a performance of The Nutcracker . The Washington DC Ballet Company puts on one of the best performances of this classic Christmas ballet. For this particular performance, the classic play is set in Georgetown, in 1882. The main players are George Washington and King George III, to give it a slight twist.

You won’t see a performance of The Nutcracker quite like this anywhere else. The Washington Ballet performs the show starting in late November and all the way through December. Throughout the month, they also have special performance nights. Like Military Appreciation night or Family Night. They also have a few extras like a tea party after the performance on select days. You can’t go wrong with seeing a performance of The Nutcracker if you’re in Washington DC during Christmas.

A closeup of a ballerina's legs with a Christmas tree on stage behind them during Christmas in Washington DC

Christmas in Washington DC is truly a magical experience that everyone should get to enjoy at least once. Whether you’re strolling through the Christmas markets, seeing a performance of The Nutcracker , or spending the day at one of the many festivals. December in Washington DC is a great time to visit and experience the charm and magic of the Nation’s Capital City.

pier at sunset one of the best things to do in kitty hawk

Christmas in Washington DC: 17 Top Festive Things to Do

christmas tree with lights in front of the us capital in washington d.c.

Sleigh Bells, roasting chestnuts, and the lilting lyrics of your favorite Christmas carol. There’s nothing like twinkling light displays, seasonal treats, and festive monuments to set the stage for Christmas in Washington DC.

Follow along to discover the 17 best Christmas events in DC

From the towering and perfectly decorated National Christmas Tree to historic candlelight tours of the homestead of George Washington, our Nation’s Capital overflows with Yuletide ambiance.

Admire miniature trains, winterberries, lights, and more at the lush U.S. Botanic Garden. Or get wild at the Zoo with a kid-friendly extravaganza of animals, sculptures, and more.

Keep things classic with a Dickens’ production at Ford’s Theatre, or embrace the winter’s chill with an invigorating ice skating session.

Whether you are a Capitol City veteran or a first-time visitor of D.C. during Christmas, there’s nowhere more full of tradition and trimmings this holiday season. Ready to uncover the treasures of DC during Christmas? Read on…

Things to do in DC in the Winter

Wondering what to do in Washington DC in December? Just because it’s sweater weather doesn’t mean the fun stops at the United States capital. Pull on those mittens and bundle up to enjoy the bounty of things to do in Washington DC in December.

Get a jump start on holiday shopping at Georgetown. Or break out those ice skates for a session at the Wharf or the Washington Harbor Ice Rink. Pay respect to our nation’s fallen heroes with an Arlington Cemetery Tour , or take in the iconic sights via a D.C. Bus Tour.

Thinking about Washington DC for Christmas? Secure those lodgings now, and see even more of Washington DC in Christmas attire. Sleep steps from the White House, or hole up in charming Arlington when you stay in any of our premier Washington DC Hotels .

Still puzzled over what to do in DC in December? Combine your eating and entertainment with the spectacle and sword fighting of Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament Baltimore . This year-round activity promises pageantry, jousting, and finger-licking good delights. 

Things to Do in Washington DC at Christmas*

Christmas events in washington dc.

Presidents, poinsettias, and piping hot cups of cider! Washington DC at Christmas time is so picturesque; it might have come straight from a storybook. Whether you are angling to hear Silent Night or wish to dive back in time at Mount Vernon. There are endless ways to commemorate a Washington DC Christmas.

From holiday light shows at the Botanic Gardens to parades of illuminated boats, there’s Yuletide spirit everywhere from Dupont Circle to the Lincoln Memorial.

*Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of things to do in DC for Christmas, things to do in Washington DC Christmas, or things to do in Washington DC in December, but rather a round-up of our top seasonal activities and attractions.

ICE! featuring Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Two tickets to a winter wonderland. Yes, please! While it might be frosty inside the Gaylord Hotel’s annual celebration of Holiday fun, that won’t stop you from seeking out every moment of action. ICE! Featuring Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer returns this year from November 19th through December 31st.

Wander through 17,000 square feet of brilliant ice sculptures and immersive experiences based on the animated Christmas classic. Catch up with Rudolph and admire hand-carved figures from more than 2 million pounds of ice.

Don’t forget to enjoy frosty slides through awe-inspiring tunnels or snap a selfie in your fetching parka.

ice sculptures of characters from A Christmas story surrounding iconic leg lamp

Joy of Christmas

Season’s greetings from the Washington National Cathedral! Melt that heart of coal when you attend the jubilant Joy of Christmas  concert this year. Revel in the love and abundance of the holiday with help from this annual concert this winter.

Listen up as the enchanting vocals, and melodious notes of trumpets, drums, and more come together. Then, hum along to old holiday favorites and newer contemporary tunes as you usher in the Season of Giving. 

Complement your itinerary of carols and candy when you see even more of the Chocolate City with a Washington DC, nighttime sightseeing tour . Festive monuments aglow with the holiday spirit are the perfect way to admire Washington at Christmas. 

Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

“God bless us, everyone.” Prime yourself for an evening of Tiny Tim and Ebenezer Scrooge when you head to Ford’s Theatre for a riveting rendition of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol . Audiences, young and old, will be captivated by this timeless tale of regret, love, and redemption.

This musical production opens on November 17th and will run through December 31st. Already heralded by critics as a ‘rich visual treat’ and ‘infectiously jolly,’ this 2-hour play will feature actor Craig Wallace as Scrooge.

Children ages five and over will fall in love with the songs and well-meaning lessons imparted by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. 

Two actors on stage, one with maroon robe and the other with gold and green dress holding a cup

George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Bring back the Christmas traditions of our forefathers when you pay a visit to the rolling hills and sprawling estate of our country’s first president. George Washington’s Mount Vernon always offers a delightful reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the Capitol.

However, come wintertime, this oasis of gardens, tombs, and working farmland is transformed. Guests can experience the inner workings of an 18th-century Virginia Christmas with Mount Vernon by Candlelight . This guided tour highlights the customs and traditions of Yuletide at the Washington mansion.

Meet a costumed Mrs. Washington, walk through a lantern-lit historic area, or clap along to carolers. Sip on complimentary spiced cider and sample ginger cookies, or participate in historically accurate 18th-century dancing. 

Immerse yourself in even more holiday razzle-dazzle when you schedule your tour to coincide with Christmas Illuminations . This family-friendly multi-colored display of fireworks, lights, and 18th-century crafts is sure to wow. Don’t forget to budget extra time to soak in the atmospheric setting of the winter encampment, working blacksmiths, and Aladdin, the live camel.

No need to break the bank over your D.C. Christmas. Keep that budget in check when you bundle your D.C. attractions, tours, and accommodations. Tripster’s top-tier Washington D.C. Vacation Packages make it easy to save. 

mt vernon estate at night with christmas lights and snowflake light projections

Washington DC Christmas Lights and Parades

The district’s holiday boat parade.

Psst! We’ve just received some sneaky news that Santa may be ditching his reindeer for the sea! Get ready to bask in the glow of thousands of lights on over 60 beautifully decorated boats at the District’s annual Holiday Boat Parade . Muster up your sea legs on December 2nd,  and watch in awe as these stately vessels parade along the Washington Channel.

Prior to the parade’s commencement, ease into the atmosphere of the Holly season with ornament decorating and face painting by Recreation Pier. Toast those frozen fingers by the firepit, take in the 40ft Christmas Tree, or skate at Transit Pier.

Capture your child’s first Santa encounter, and stay put for the evening’s firework finale. Of-age adults can even partake in delicious hot toddies and other winter drinks at the Pacifico Waterfront Beer, Wine, and Whiskey Garden. 

ZooLights at National Zoo

Giant Pandas aren’t the only draw to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo once the D.C. temperatures drop. Besides awesome encounters with otters and Asian elephants, animal-loving adventurers should flock to this esteemed conservation institution for a night of illumination.

Every year after nightfall, the Zoo is set ablaze by the glow of thousands of LED lights, sculptures, and festive designs. Spend your ZooLights strolling past lit-up zebras, lions, monkeys, and more as you catch live musical performances.

Take a minute to pursue the wares at the many unique holiday stalls set up for shopping. Or, wind down with a cup of cocoa or hot cider. This year’s event will begin will begin on November 24th and run on select evenings through the end of the year.

Wondering what landmarks you absolutely can’t miss in the District? Plan your D.C. Christmas to perfection with our Guide to 13 Absolute Must-See Washington DC Landmarks .

bright orange and yellow christmas lights wrapped around trees at the zoo lights entrance to the national zoo

Winter Walk of Lights

For over a decade, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens has served as a shining example of the artistry and creativity of winter lights. Pull on those walking shoes, as merry elves of all shapes and sizes will be drawn to the sights, sounds, and sweet snacks of the Winter Walk of Lights . 

Traipse through the elegant half-mile garden trail complete with animated displays, photo opportunities, and an ice pond. Spot the animals, enjoy lively synchronized lights lakeside, or sing along with the ‘sing to me’ tree. Participate in an interactive search, munch on a fluffy fresh pretzel, or assuage that sweet tooth with a gooey chocolatey s’more made over a crackling fire.

Garden of Lights and Train Show

All aboard! Thrill the mini conductors and green thumbs in your life when you drag them to the U.S. Botanic Garden. Ease yourself into months of candy canes, mistletoe, and more when you carve out an afternoon to observe the charming Garden of Lights and Train Show .* 

Fawn over festive adornments, lighted trees, shrubs, conifers, and more. From plump winter berries to painstaking recreation nature train displays, the attention to detail is unparalleled. Don’t forget to take a gander at the greenery-filled farming scenes made from plant parts from all over the world. 

*Please note that this year’s event information is awaiting confirmation.

The Smithsonian, SeaQuest, Medieval Times, oh my! Reap the benefits of our best Washington, DC deals here.

Washington DC Christmas Tree

The lighting of the national christmas tree & national menorah at the white house.

Christmas Tree, oh, Christmas tree! Treat yourself to a once-in-a-lifetime tree lighting ceremony when you celebrate 100 years of the lighting of the National Christmas Tree. Since 1923, Americans have delighted in the celebration of the Yuletide spirit on the west lawn. Each year, a different national forest is chosen to provide the Capitol Christmas Tree.

This year’s tree will come from the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. Her regal boughs will be draped in unique ornaments representing every U.S. State. Keen to see this momentous display of lights, patriotism, and live music? This year’s lighting is scheduled to occur on November 30th. However, you can also catch the televised broadcast in December.

CenterDC Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration

Looking to inject some sugar and spice into your social media presence? Brighten up your Instagram feed with plenty of ice sculptures, lights, and 25 ft tall reindeer when you stop by the CityCenterDC. Then, get swept away in the luxurious fantasy of decadent window displays from Louis Vuitton, Hermes, and Tiffany & Co. Or, perform quality control on cookies for Santa.

To appreciate the drama of the tree lighting, come by and jam out to the live musical entertainment. Tiny tykes can participate in holiday activities, including balloon artists, face painters, and more.

Beep Beep! Give those barking dogs a rest when you see the Capitol by comfortable bus. Washington DC Bus tours are a terrific way to see the sights and skip out on the less-than-favorable elements. 

Union Station Tree Lighting Ceremony

‘Tis the season for friendship, festivities, and tons of tinsel. Become part of a twenty-plus-year tradition when you witness the lighting of the Union Station Tree this November*. As is customary, the Royal Norwegian Embassy, on behalf of the citizens of Norway, will present a holiday tree to the people of Washington, DC.

This towering evergreen gift symbolizes Norway’s gratitude for the assistance received from the U.S. during WWII. Take in all 32 feet of this glorious fir, which will be decorated with recycled materials in an ocean theme. This marine homage is being executed to bring awareness to sustainable ocean care.

In addition to opening remarks from Norway’s Ambassador to the United States, there will be stirring performances by the Washington Performing Arts Children of the Gospel Choir and the Howard University Gospel Choir.

Keep your eyes peeled for Mr. and Mrs. Santa, and don’t move a muscle as this magnanimous evening will conclude with a simulcast concert of the Yo-Yo Ma Bach Project from the National Cathedral.

*Please note exact dates for this year have yet to be confirmed. Musical acts are based on the previous year’s entertainment.

Washington DC Christmas Market

Downtown holiday market.

Shop til you drop and support local small businesses when you conquer your Christmas to-do list at the Downtown Holiday Market . Under the glow of fairy lights and falling snowflakes, stroll through this iconic outdoor market, showcasing more than 70 vendors.

This year’s retail, food, and artisan wares will stretch over two blocks from F Street N.W., from 7th to 9th Street N.W. Beginning on November 18th, 2022, visitors and locals alike can enjoy regional musical performances, mouthwatering food options, and more. 

Ruby red slippers from the Wizard of Oz, antique airplanes, and the Hope Diamond. Let yourself be entranced by the wonders of our nation when you visit any of the Smithsonian Museums this winter. 

The Holly Days

Tender gingerbread, hand-painted ornaments, and fresh Christmas trees are what’s in store for the lucky purveyors of Eastern Market’s most merry event. Pop into the Holly Days for a healthy helping of holiday charm, themed music, seasonal lighting, and tasty eats.

This local community market promotes small businesses and will run through December 31. This year’s events will include special after-hours such as kiddo crafts, holiday photo booths, and silent discos. 

gingerbread man coming out of the door of his gingerbread house with a gingerbread bunny, sleigh, and tree all on white icing.

Washington DC at Christmas, is a magical place chock full of history, culture, and fun.

Pretend your Rudolph as you make your way through feet of ice slides and tunnels. Or learn about Norway and the U.S.’ special relationship to the Union Station tree lighting.

From holiday tunes and lights lakeside in Virginia to witnessing the outrageous colors of the stunning Washington Monument, there’s no better gift than Washington DC at Christmas.

Tell us, How Will You Spend Your Christmas in DC?

Did we miss any of the best Christmas Washington DC events?

Leave us a comment below and tell us your plan for Washington DC Christmas time!

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Written by Isis Maya Nissman

A New York native, Isis-Maya spent most of her professional life working in TV production until a vacation whisked her away to Central...

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Christmas in Washington DC

Markets, public christmas trees, tours, and shows..

visit washington dc christmas

The holidays are a magical time of year, but there is something extra special about spending Christmas in the Nation's Capital.

The popular holiday shows, as well as the famous holiday tree lightings at the National Christmas Tree, start at the end of November.

Top Things to Do during the Christmas Season

1. Holiday Light Tours 2. National Christmas Tree 3. Holiday Markets & Christmas Shopping 4. Christmas Performances 5. Christmas at the Cathedral 6. Zoolights 7. Wreaths Across America at Arlington Cemetery 8. Boat Parade of Lights 9. Christmas at Mount Vernon 10. US Botanic Gardens "Seasons Greetings" 11. Willard Hotel Carolling 12. Christmas Themed Teas, Drinks & Dinners 13. Go Ice Skating 14. Enchant Christmas 15. Christmas at National Harbor

Keep reading for details about our favorite things to do during Christmas as well as:

  • WHAT TO DO ON CHRISTMAS DAY IN DC
  • KID'S EVENTS FOR CHRISTMAS

Is Christmas a good time to visit DC?

Absolutely! Generally, we don't have to worry about a "white Christmas" and it is not unbearably cold (see our December weather post for more!).

While many locations are closed on Christmas Day, there are enough attractions that remain open that you won't need to worry about missing out if your trip falls on Christmas.

The days leading up to and after Christmas have holiday decorations and festivities.

visit washington dc christmas

There are many things to do during the holiday season, which is why we created this guide.

Timing is everything. Most decorations, lights, and window displays start going up in late November.

Thanksgiving, a U.S. national holiday that takes place on the last Thursday of November, is considered the start of the Holiday Season.

DATES TO KNOW:

  • Downtown Holiday Market - 2024 dates TBD. Last year dates: November 17 - December 23
  • US Botanic Gardens "Seasons Greetings Display - 2024 dates TBD. Last year dates: November 23 – January 1
  • National Christmas Tree Lighting - 2024 dates TBD. Last year dates: November 30
  • Holiday Lights Tours - 2024 dates TBD. Last year dates: December 01 through December 30

Christmas in DC

If you are planning on visiting many attractions during the holidays, then consider a tourist discount pass , and be sure to check out our ultimate guide for things to do in DC.

Below, we highlight the top things to do in DC during the Christmas and holiday seasons. 

The city decks the halls, lights the menorah, and celebrates the holidays with markets, parades, and joyous celebrations.

1. Holiday Lights Tours

We have listed the top Christmas light displays around the city if you want to explore on your own but we hope you'll join us for a holiday tour.

DC by Foot's Holiday Lights Tour

We offer an evening stroll through downtown DC to view some of the best holiday light displays - from the famous Old Ebbitt's Grill giant nutcrackers to the National Christmas Tree.

Want to see even more Christmas trees? We also have a bus version of our popular Holiday Lights Tours.

visit washington dc christmas

Georgetown Glow Lights Tour

While it isn't meant to be a holiday lights tour, the Georgetown Glow tour is full of holiday decorations and light displays.

For the holiday season, the historic neighborhood of Georgetown hosts 5 temporary light installations.

They are not holiday-themed, but they are sure to make for an unforgettable experience.

Along the way, we'll see the best holiday decorations up in Georgetown.

Find out more .

Holiday Lights in the Neighborhoods:

Many of the city's local neighborhoods' Main Streets are sponsoring Holiday Lights and Window display competitions.

visit washington dc christmas

You can shop local and vote for your favorite in Logan Circle, Lower Georgia Ave, Eastern Market, Columbia Heights & More.

Find out more at: https://dcholidaylights.org/

Festival of Lights at the Mormon Temple

Monday - Sunday | December 1 - January 2 | Dusk – 9:00 pm

If you drive into the city on 495 north of DC, you see the giant white castle that is the Mormon Temple.

Each Christmas, the grounds are decorated with over 400,000 lights and Christmas trees.

MACY'S HOLIDAY WINDOWS

Like most Macy's nationwide, the DC store downtown unveils its holiday windows in mid-November with holiday theme displays.

Walk down the street to see them all or pop into the store for even more.

visit washington dc christmas

2. Visit the National Christmas Tree

The National Christmas tree is an actual tree planted on the south side of the White House on what's called the Ellipse - we visit it on our Holiday Lights of DC tour.

So while it is there year-round, it's not until December when it is lit up and surrounded by smaller state-themed threes.

visit washington dc christmas

Find out more about the National Christmas Tree as well as how to attend the official lighting ceremony.

Near the National Christmas tree is the largest menorah in the world, the National Menorah.

You can also attend the tree lighting ceremony if you have a ticket , available through a lottery system.

Other Holiday Trees around Washington DC to see:

  • National Christmas Tree
  • US Capitol Christmas Tree
  • Union Station Norwegian Tree
  • The Wharf Holiday Tree
  • City Center Holiday Tree
  • Main Street Holiday Lights

visit washington dc christmas

3. Shop at the Christmas Markets in Washington DC

While we only have one main holiday market that lasts all month long, there are a number of pop-up holiday markets in December.

If you're looking for DC-themed gifts, be sure to check out our DC Holiday Gift Guide !

The main market is the Downtown DC Holiday Market , located just outside the National Portrait Gallery.

2024 dates TBD. Last year, it opened daily from 12 pm -8 pm from November 17 to December 23, you can find locally made art, jewelry, ornaments, winter scarves, and gloves.

Below is a list of the most popular markets in DC, but for a full list read our post on  the best Christmas markets to find some unique pop-up markets.

  • Heurich House Museum Christkindlmarkt - 2024 dates TBD. Last year's date: December 1 - 3
  • White House History Shop's Holiday Book Festival - 2024 date TBD. Last year date: December 1
  • Takoma Pajama Rama - December 8, 2024
  • Van Ness Main Street Pop Up Market - 2024 date TBD. Last year date: December 2

4. Attend Christmas Performances

From late November until the beginning of January, DC hosts several Christmas and winter holiday-themed plays, musicals, and other performances.

  • Olney' Theatre's Fiddler on the Roof - Nov. 8 - Dec. 31
  • NPR’s  A Jazz Piano Christmas  – Dec. 2
  • The Washington Ballet presents  The Nutcracker  – Nov. 25-26 & Dec. 2-30
  • Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, DC Holiday Show   – Dec. 2-3 & 9-10 (Come see DC Tour Guide Alex in this performance singing Tenor (very loudly, he says) )
  • NSO Pops:  A Holiday Pops!  with Norm Lewis   – Dec. 8-9
  • Handel's  Messiah   – Dec. 8-10
  • Step Afrika!’s Magical Musical Holiday Step Show  – Dec. 8-17
  • National Symphony Orchestra: Handel’s  Messiah  – Dec. 14-17
  • Christmas with The King's Singers   – Dec. 15
  • The Washington Chorus presents  A Candlelight Christmas  – Dec. 15-16 & 20-22
  • The Hip Hop Nutcracker  – Dec. 19-22

The most popular events:

2024 dates TBD. Last year, the Washington Ballet's The Nutcracker ran from December 2 to December 30 at Downtown DC's Warner Theatre.

One of the most famous Christmas performances in DC is Ford's Theatre's production of A Christmas Carol which runs Nov. 17 – Dec. 31 ( get tickets at www.fords.org )

PRO TIP: If you want a good view of the President's Box, select seats in the Left Orchestra (but not too far back) or in the Left Balcony. However, you will have a chance before, during intermission, and after the play to get out of your seat and get a good photo of the President's Box.

5 . C hristmas at the Washington National Cathedral

All December | More popular services do require tickets.

The National Cathedral is a beautiful place to visit. You can even find the Darth Vader gargoyle on it if you search hard enough!

While we offer tours throughout the year, the National Cathedral puts on special programs during holidays, including Christmas at the Cathedral concert.

There will be a mix of medieval and modern music being performed that will surely put you in the holiday spirit!

In addition to this, there will also be a Christmas Day Organ Recital on December 25th at 1:30 p.m.

6. Smithsonian National Zoo's ZOOLIGHTS

November 24 - December 30, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Sundays 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

ZooLights includes live music performances, tasty winter treats, and plenty of opportunities for holiday shopping. 

Environmentally friendly LED lights and dozens of glowing animal lanterns transform the Zoo into a winter wonderland! 

TIP: Tickets are required with a small cost of $6 per person.

Discover more about Zoolights and how to get tickets .

visit washington dc christmas

7. Wreaths Across America at Arlington Cemetery

December 14, 2024

Participating in Wreaths Across America is a special way to honor our fallen veterans.

Every year, this organization lays out thousands of holiday wreaths on graves in military cemeteries across America, including Arlington National Cemetery.

Volunteers will make sure every grave gets placed with a beautiful wreath, and the effect of seeing these thousands of wreaths laid out is incredibly moving. ( website )

If you can't participate, you can still visit Arlington National Cemetery on one of our free walking tours .

8. Boat Parade of Lights

December 7, 2024 | Alexandria, Virginia & The Wharf

The annual Holiday Boat Parade of Lights takes place in Alexandria again this year.

This family-friendly event invites you out to see the boat parade floating down the Potomac River.

Prior to the parade, there are lots of family-friendly festivities and the parade begins at 5:30 p.m.

The parade stretches a mile along Old Town Alexandria's waterfront and there are a number of places to observe from:

  • Founders Park (351 North Union Street)
  • Alexandria City Marina (0 Cameron Street)
  • Waterfront Park (1 King Street)
  • Shipyard/Harborside Park (1 Wilkes Street)
  • Ford’s Landing Park (99 Franklin Street)

If you want to explore more of Old Town Alexandria we recommend taking our  Old Town Alexandria free walking tour .

Not to be outdone by its colonial neighbor, The District’s Holiday Boat Parade at the Wharf also occurs on the same day.

The Wharf offers a holiday tree, hot cocoa and smores, live music, photos with Santa, and fireworks in the lead-up to the 6 pm board parade.

Over 60 decorated boats will sail down the channel.

Read our Christmas Lights in DC post for some tips about attending the Wharf Boat Parade!

9. Christmas at Mount Vernon

Weekends in December | Fireworks December 20 & 21, 2024

Come out to Mount Vernon and celebrate the Christmas festivities!

Tour George Washington's estate and see where the very first family lived. You can learn about the history of the place and partake in a number of holiday activities.

On one weekend, the will be a holiday fireworks show, you can see how 18th-century chocolate is made and there will be a special guest, Aladdin the camel.

Other select weekends in December will offer tours by candlelight - wander his home the same way he and Martha did in the 18th century.

Grab your tickets here .

10. US Botanical Gardens Display

2024 dates TBD. Last year dates: November 23 – January 1 | 10:00-5:00

On three Thursdays in December - Dec. 14, Dec. 21, and Dec. 28, the Conservatory and outdoor train display will have extended hours, staying open until 8:00 p.m.

The US Botanical Garden is a great free place to visit anytime you're in Washington DC but the holiday decorations are some of the favorite amongst DC locals.

The highlight is the miniature train display, a large structure you can walk around and under to see nearly a dozen trains in a natural landscape.

The gardens also create small-scale versions of DC landmarks out of natural elements.

For the holidays they usually decorate the area with winterberries, lights, and greenery in the Terrace Gardens and Bartholdi Park.

11. Willard Hotel Carolling

The Willard Hotel is one of the most famous hotels in Washington, DC, located right near the White House.

The lobby will be decorated beautifully and will be hosting nightly choral concerts that you and your loved ones are welcome to attend. You can also join them for holiday afternoon tea!

2024 dates are yet to be announced but last year the Caroling started on December 01 and ran through December 23, at 5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

If you're in town for Christmas Day, attend their Christmas Brunch from 11 a.m. to 230 p.m.

To learn more, view their website here .

12. Christmas Themed Teas, Drinks and Dinners

Many places get in the holiday spirit in DC and offer holiday-themed dining options.

Old Ebbitts Grill comes to mind first - a classic DC restaurant, its entrance is flanked by larger-than-life nutcracker statues. It's such a famous site that we include it on our Holiday Lights tour.

Holiday Teas happen at many of the luxury hotels in the city.

  • Willard Hotel - Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – 1:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. seating
  • St. Regis Hotel - 2024 dates TBD. Last year dates: Nov 24 - Jan 7, Daily between 1:00 pm and 4:30 pm
  • Salamander Hotel - Friday, November 24th - Monday, January 1st Daily Seatings at 1:00 p.m. & 3:30 p.m.
  • Hay-Adams Hotel - Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. in December
  • Read more about afternoon teas in DC that happen year-round...

Festive Pop Up Bars show up in December around the city mixing themed drinks and Instagrammable decorations.

  • Miracle at Death Punch Bar - 2024 dates TBD. Last year dates of kitschy decorations and holiday drinks were Nov 24 - Dec 31 | 12 pm - 2/3 am
  • Sippin' Santa at Black Whiskey - a more tropical version of Christmas, think Santa on a surfboard.

13. Go Ice Skating

A traditional winter past-time, DC offers a few different ice rinks though the most famous one is at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden.

The rink is located on the National Mall, surrounded by large contemporary art sculptures and a view of the National Archives.

14. Enchant Christmas at Nationals Park

2024 dates TBD. Last year dates: November 24 - December 31

Each year the baseball stadium at Nats Park is transformed into an enchanting Christmas light maze.

There is a village to shop, photos with Santa, ice skating, and activities throughout the park.

15. Christmas at National Harbor

NOVEMBER 19TH — DECEMBER 31ST

National Harbor is not in DC and it's not easily accessible by public transportation ( though we have advice here ) but for their holiday events it is worth the trip.

The Gaylord National Hotel essentially becomes a giant Christmas village with light shows, fireworks, live entertainment, and games.

The 60 foot RBG digital tree has nightly light shows every half hour from sunset to 9 pm.

On Saturday nights from November 11 – December 30 at 5:30 pm has fireworks lighting up the skyline.

A favorite of our family is the ICE! experience. This year follow the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer™ with larger than life ice sculptures and ice slides!

The Capitol Wheel is one of the highlights of a trip to National Harbor and on select days in December you can join Santa for photos at the wheel.

What to do in DC on Christmas Day

There is only one day a year that the Smithsonian Museums are closed and that is Christmas Day, there are still many other things to do on December 25 in DC.

These locations are open on Christmas Day

  • Walking Tours: We are usually able to run one or two tours on Christmas Day (shout out to our Jewish guides!)
  • Organ Recital at the Washington National Cathedral
  • Enchant Christmas at Nationals Park
  • US Botanic Gardens
  • Memorials on the National Mall
  • Arlington National Cemetery (both the cemetery is open and the trolly tours operate)
  • Mount Vernon
  • Capitol Jewish Museum

Kid's Events for Christmas in DC

I may love the Nutcracker but my 4-year-old will 100% not sit through it without making a scene (I learned this the hard way!).

Luckily, many of the Christmas events in DC have special days just for kids with shorter performances, interactive parts, or just an understanding that the kids will dance along.

Handel's Messiah at the Washington National Cathedral Family Day : 2024 dates TBD. Last year date: December 9

The Washington Ballet's Family Day at the Nutcracker : 2024 dates TBD. Last year date: December 10

Maryland Youth Ballet's Mini-Nut shorter kid's version of the Nutcracker: 2024 dates TBD. Last year dates: Dec 15-17, Dec 21-23

Kennedy's Center A Family Christmas: 2024 dates TBD. Last year dates: December 16 and 24

Where to find Santa in DC - you can find Father Christmas at the usual places like malls (search for Pentagon City, Tyson's Galleria, Downtown Silver Spring) but here are a few unique to DC places to take a photo with Santa.

  • The Capitol Wheel at National Harbor | TBD for 2024. Last year dates: Dec 2,3, 9,10, 16,17
  • District Holiday Boat Parade | TBD for 2024. Last year dates: Dec 2
  • Holly Trolly Fest at the National Capitol Trolley Museum | December 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, and 23, from 11am - 4pm.
  • Santa Fly-In at the College Park Aviation Museum | Date TBD but usually first Saturday of the Month
  • Polar Express Train Ride at the B&O Museum: TBD for 2024. Last year dates: November 24-26 & December 1-3, 8-10 & 15-19
  • Waterskiing Santa Show in Alexandria, VA : usually Christmas Eve but 2024 information is not published

Find a Santa Like Me:

  • The Mall at Prince George's in Hyattsville has a Black Santa every year, embracing the diversity of the DC Metro area.
  • In years pass, Deaf Santa Charles has visited DC for the hard of hearing but there are no published dates or locations for 2024 yet.

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visit washington dc christmas

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3 Days of Holiday Wonder in Washington, DC

The holidays are a magical time to plan a trip to the district. discover an array of seasonal activities, many of which are free, through our three-day itinerary below..

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Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Warm up your morning with a visit to one of Washington, DC's many Smithsonian museums on the National Mall . From dinosaurs at the National Museum of Natural History to new displays at the recently renovated National Air and Space Museum to the vital stories featured inside the National Museum of African American History and Culture , each museum is a treasure trove for families.

Lincoln Memorial

Spend your day seeing DC’s iconic monuments and memorials on the National Mall . With Big Bus Tours , you can stay warm and cozy as you see some of the city’s most popular attractions, such as the Washington Monument , memorials dedicated to Lincoln and Jefferson , the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial , the World War II Memorial and many more.

ZooLights

Venture over to Adams Morgan, where kids can enjoy ZooLights at the Smithsonian's National Zoo . The free exhibit features environmentally friendly animal light displays. Many of the animal houses also remain open in the evening for special animal keeper talks.

Downtown Holiday Market

Head over to Chinatown for some shopping at the Downtown Holiday Market . With dozens of exhibitors and artisans displaying everything from fine arts to fair trade, you can find great gifts for everyone on your list. Live music also sets the mood and the on-site mini doughnuts are an annual favorite.

NGA Ice Skating

Feel like a kid again at the National Gallery of Art , where you can go ice skating in the Sculpture Garden and then warm up with some hot chocolate. Of course, the museum’s East and West Buildings contain some of the finest works of art in the world, if you’re into that sort of thing.

The Nutcracker Ballet

Take in a holiday-themed show at one of DC’s many reputable theaters. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts , the historic Ford’s Theatre , Arena Stage , Warner Theatre and many others all offer seasonal programming.

Georgetown during the holidays

Um, you might have some presents to buy, no? If so, the cobblestone streets of Georgetown make for an awesome morning destination. Get some shopping done in the city’s most fashionable neighborhood, where you’ll find a wonderful selection of high-end options.

visit washington dc christmas

The Willard InterContinental Hotel ’s gorgeous lobby gets decked out with all the holiday trimmings each year. Warm up with a hot toddy in the hotel’s lavish Round Robin Bar or reserve a special holiday tea service.

Photo captured from the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony outside of The White House

National Christmas Tree Lighting

We saved the best for last. Each evening, the National Christmas Tree is lit on the White House Ellipse, creating a holiday atmosphere that cannot be beaten. You can view and visit the tree for free throughout the day (the tree is lit up for the night at approximately 4:30 p.m.). The Pageant of Peace features smaller trees decorated for every state and territory, so make sure to pick yours out. The National Christmas Tree opens to the public with a special lighting ceremony.

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  • Washington DC

22 Washington D.C. Christmas Festivities To Experience

For those able to visit our nation's capital during the holidays, there is so much to do to celebrate the season.

visit washington dc christmas

Washington D.C. goes all out for the holidays. The Big Apple has the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree , high-kicking Radio City Rockettes, and elaborate Fifth Avenue window displays—all of which are well worth seeing. But our nation's capital, our very own city on a hill, brings a little something extra. D.C. rivals NYC's celebrations with a dizzying array of tree lightings, events, performances, and all-around festive fanfare that are guaranteed to get you in the Christmas spirit.

Whether you want to marvel at the majesty of the famous National Christmas Tree, go ice skating on a massive rink, or shop at an authentic German Christmas market, once December rolls around (and maybe even a little before), D.C. is all about tinsel, garland, and decor galore. Certain traditions like the Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting have been around for decades, while others like the Downtown Holiday Market are a little newer on the scene. One thing's for sure, there's never a dull moment when it comes to Christmas in the Capital. Here are some of our favorite ways to celebrate the season in Washington D.C.

See The National Christmas Tree

Going to Washington D.C. over the holidays and not seeing the National Christmas Tree would be like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. Each year, a massive live evergreen is erected and decorated in President's Park near the White House. If you can't make it for the president's official lighting during the first week of December, you can stop by any day after 4:30 p.m. throughout the month to see it lit in all its glory.

Experience ZooLights At The Smithsonian National Zoo

This free holiday lights display kicks off Thanksgiving weekend and runs through the end of December. It's a favorite for D.C. families, as well as visitors from near and far, who flock to the zoo to see the 500,000 LED lights and glowing lanterns put on their brightest show for the holidays. There's also an adults-only sister event called BrewLights that features craft beer tastings and snacks alongside the regular show.

Skate At Washington Harbour Ice Rink

Rivaling the Rink at Rockefeller Center, the Washington Harbour Ice Rink is D.C.'s largest outdoor ice skating space. Make an evening of your visit by grabbing dinner at one of many surrounding restaurants like Fiola Mare, Guapo's Restaurant, or Farmers Fishers Bakers, then rent some skates and go for a twirl on the ice. The rink opens on November 17 this year (weather permitting) and will remain open through most of February 2024.

Visit The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

The U.S. Capitol Tree travels far and wide before reaching its final display place on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Each year, a Christmas tree farmer from somewhere in the U.S. is given the honor of having his or her tree selected as the U.S. Capitol Tree, and thus begins its harrowing journey to the capital. The massive tree is often twice as tall as the National Christmas Tree and has measured up to 75 feet in the past. It's also decorated with more than 10,000 ornaments, so it's truly a sight to behold.

Attend Mount Vernon By Candlelight

This attraction isn't technically within the parameters of the city, but we give it a pass because it doesn't get much more festive than visiting the former estate of President George Washington during the holidays. This special event begins with a tour of several Christmas trees highlighting the Washington family history, then launches into a walking tour of the property where you'll learn all about historic holiday traditions and the Washingtons' personal family celebrations. The tour concludes with some 18 th century dancing, live music, and cider and cookies.

Attend The CityCenterDC Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration

Head to this mixed-use development in the heart of downtown D.C. for fun and fanfare all season long. The excitement kicks off on the Saturday after Thanksgiving when the area unveils its 75-foot lit Christmas tree with a massive party featuring live music, vendors, food, and holiday-themed activities. While you're in the area, be sure to peek into the windows at Louis Vuitton, Hermes, and Tiffany & Co. for Fifth Avenue vibes.

See Union Station's Model Trains

As one of the country's busiest train stations, there's always a sense of hustle and bustle around Union Station, but the energy becomes truly electric around the holidays. Part of that has to do with the added foot traffic from visitors stopping in to see the model trains and giant Christmas tree, both gifts from Norway. The trains are located in the West Hall and are handmade replicas of real Norwegian trains. Little ones will love spotting all the tiny details like skiers, mountains, and fjords meant to depict the Nordic landscape.

Visit The U.S. Botanical Gardens

Red and green are the official colors of Christmas, and you can find plenty of the latter at the U.S. Botanic Garden . In addition to seeing gorgeous holiday displays full of pine, poinsettias, and maybe even a little mistletoe, you should also take special care to find each of the gardens' replicas of landmark D.C. buildings. They're on display in the gardens year-round, but they're only outfitted in their Christmas best for the season!

Watch The Holiday Boat Parade At The Wharf

This one-of-a-kind D.C. event puts a spin on the classic Christmas parade by taking the celebrations out to sea. The Holiday Boat Parade features more than 60 boats covered from bow to stern in colorful Christmas lights. Bring the whole family to watch them peacefully glide by The Wharf, then stick around for the big firework show at the end of the night. Kids can sip on hot cocoa and cider, while parents can grab an adult beverage from the Waterfront Beer and Wine Garden.

Catch A Movie At The National Museum Of American History

There's not a better setting to see a classic Christmas movie than at the National Museum of American History . See seasonal favorites like It's A Wonderful Life , White Christmas , and A Christmas Story on the big screen, and don't forget to grab a bucket of popcorn and some Junior Mints to complete the night.

See The Washington Ballet Perform "The Nutcracker"

Watch a special D.C. version of the famous ballet courtesy of the Washington Ballet . Their interpretation of the classic story is set in historic 1882 Georgetown with George Washington, King George III, and other historic figures all joining in on the fun. The performance features original period costumes, stunning set design, and more than 100 dancers, including students from The Washington Ballet.

See "A Christmas Carol" At Ford Theatre

This landmark is best known as the theater where President Lincoln was shot. It's open to the public for tours year-round, but around the holidays it's a stunning setting to see the traditional Christmas play A Christmas Carol . The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future take up their residence from November 17 to December 31 this year.

Attend A National Cathedral Christmas Concert

As the world's sixth-largest cathedral, D.C.'s National Cathedral is a must visit. Plans for its construction were born in 1791, but it didn't open as Bethlehem Chapel until 1912. Today, you can attend a Christmas concert at the historic church featuring a mix of Medieval and modern music from a live choir and accompanying instrumentalists. A performance of Handel's Messiah is especially resounding in the setting.

Shop The Downtown Holiday Market

Christmas shopping is a real treat at this annual holiday market held in front of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery. The market is open from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily, with more than 150 vendors and craftspeople selling artisan goods. You'll also find local roasters ready to keep you warm with coffee and tea, plus holiday treats like mini donuts and pastries.

Browse Christkindlmarket At The Heurich House Museum

This traditional German Christmas market is celebrating its 10 th anniversary at the Heurich House Museum this year. From Dec. 2-4, stroll through the German-style craft market, where you can find gifts from more than 50 local small-scale makers. Make sure to grab a mug of Gluhwein to keep you warm, and get shopping!

Georgetown Glow

Georgetown GLOW

The Georgetown GLOW in D.C. is a free outdoor light installation experience. In its ninth year, these immersive and artful displays will feature five different artists in 2023. Starting on December 1 and running to January 7, the installations are featured in different parts of the city and are lit from 5 pm to 10 pm.

ICE! Featuring Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer™'

Gaylord National Resort

This is a magical journey through immersive scenes from the iconic classic ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer™' carved from over two million pounds of ice. In this larger-than-life holiday experience, you'll zip down two-story-tall slides made of pure ice, traverse through immersive ice tunnels and arches, and step into colorful, multi-sensory scenes that will be the Christmas activity to end all activities.

Enchant: Reindeer Games

Enchant Christmas

Enchant is an immersive experience weaving magic into every corner, perfect for joyful seasonal celebrations. Adventure through Enchant’s newest adventure Reindeer Games , a captivating light maze that is the foundation of the Enchant experience. Wander the Enchant storefronts that feature artisans, specialty crafters, and boutiques. Indulge in a seasonal treat with the availability of vendors who are there to satisfy your holiday cravings.

DC Winter Lantern Festival

Winter Lantern Festival

The Winter Lantern Festival’s unique luminescent night walk brings the culture and craftsmanship of traditional Chinese lantern festivals into your holiday celebration. Step into a dazzling world of light with over one thousand Chinese lanterns; all handmade by artisans with decades of experience. Each unique piece holds a story of its own that will be told to visitors to help contextualize their experience even more.

Alexandria Scottish Christmas Walk Parade

Visit Alexandria

Alexandria was founded in 1749 by Scottish merchants and was named after Scotsman John Alexander. Today, the city continues celebrating its heritage with the classic Alexandria Scottish Christmas Walk Parade . This year the event will be held on Saturday, December 2, 2023. Dozens of Scottish clans dressed in colorful tartans and parade through the streets of Old Town, joined by pipe and drum bands from around the region.

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30+ Things To Do in Washington DC During the Holidays in 2023

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Andy Feliciotti

visit washington dc christmas

The DMV is full of magic in December and we look forward to seeing how you capture the holidays every year. This year, we decided to create a guide of all the sights that will make any photographer happy.

From stunning Christmas lights to events for kids we’ve covered all types of events in the DC area to fill your holiday todo list.

Here is IGDC’s list of the best things to do in DC for the Holidays :

1. Enchant DC

visit washington dc christmas

Want to surround yourself in lights? How about inside a baseball stadium? Then Enchant DC will have your eyes twinkling and your lens overloading on bokeh. There’s a light maze, ice skating, Santa and more. Adult tickets from $35 and kids under 2 are admitted free. Enchant DC is located inside Nationals Park at the Yards.

2. Union Station

visit washington dc christmas

Union Station offers so many holiday delights. Outside are the iconic wreaths but inside you can visit the Norwegian Christmas Tree, a 22+ year tradition with the Norwegian Embassy. And of course there’s a holiday train display!

3. Capital Christmas Tree

visit washington dc christmas

Each year, “The People’s Tree” is chosen from a different national forest and places in front of the US Capitol. Once selected, residents from the respective state then create decorations celebrating our national forests and the great outdoors. The Capitol tree has become a beloved tradition for DC residents.

4. National Menorah

visit washington dc christmas

Located on the Ellipse, steps away from the National Christmas Tree, the National Menorah stands 30 feet tall and enjoys stunning backdrops like the Washington Monument and the White House.

5. Willard Hotel

visit washington dc christmas

The historic Willard Hotel features dozens of Christmas trees with decor that matches the already-opulent interior and you may be lucky to catch local chorus from around the city singing in the lobby!

6. Canada Embassy

visit washington dc christmas

Christmas Tree display inside rotunda at Canadian Embassy fits in well with the rotunda as a backdrop which perfectly frames it and gives it a timeless classical look. The added lights on the pillars are also a nice touch.

7. Georgetown Waterfront

visit washington dc christmas

Holiday wreaths on every lamp post and lights along rooftops makes the Georgetown Waterfront Park an enchanting walk along the promenade.

8. ZooLights at the National Zoo

visit washington dc christmas

One of the classic family-friendly DC traditions for the holiday’s is ZooLights at Smithsonian’s National Zoo. There is plenty to enjoy at ZooLights including LED lights, dozens of animal lanterns, live music, and much more.

9. Filomena

visit washington dc christmas

Honoring a long family tradition of holiday decorating, Filomena’s is filled each with a spectacular tree and fun, silly and whimsical decorations inside and out. The over-the-top display is a visual delight.

10. Botanic Gardens

visit washington dc christmas

A highlight of the season is seeing the holiday display at the US Botanic Gardens. The US Botanic Garden features a large outdoor displays with model trains. All displays are made from plant parts and feature farming scenes from around the world. Window displays in the main building will have some of the DC landmarks that visitors typically expect to see but that are likely too fragile for the outdoor life this year.

11. City Center

visit washington dc christmas

Whether you’re at City Center to shop, or just see the holiday lights, there is plenty of spirit along the promenade including ice sculptures, string lights, and not one but two 25-foot tall reindeer. And the stores festive windows take it to a whole new level.

12. Light Yards at the Yards Park

visit washington dc christmas

Along the Anacostia River comes an annual light instillation for the whole family. This year, from December 1 through January 1, 2022, several 22-feet tall trees will light the sky from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. every night. Enjoy the lights and browse into the 20+ local restaurants and shops near Yards Park.

13. Light Up The Wharf

visit washington dc christmas

Camp Wharf (aka the fire pit) eating s’mores, caroling, or watching the District’s Holiday Boat Parade with more than 60 decorated and glittering boats, the DC Wharf is a wonderful place to spend the day or night!

14. Tudor House

visit washington dc christmas

Every year, this 1815 Federal-style mansion with a connection to Martha Washington decorates for the holidays. On December 7th, they are hosting a Lantern Light Tour from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. to see this year’s decorations and learn about the mansion’s past Christmas traditions. Tickets are between $15-$25.

15. NGA Ice Rink

visit washington dc christmas

One of the more charming ice rinks in the city is surrounded by artwork and neoclassical architecture. The National Gallery of Art’s rink is the perfect spot for a first date or to have that first skating lesson. Open daily and a 2-hour session runs between $6 and $7 plus a $3 skate rental if you don’t bring your own.

16. DC Georgetown Ice Rink

visit washington dc christmas

Skate every day at DC’s largest outdoor skating rink at The Washington Harbour–open for skating every day, including the holidays. Tickets run between $9 and $10 plus a $7 skate rental if you don’t bring your own.

17. Canal Park Ice Rink

visit washington dc christmas

Every year, Navy Yard’s Canal Park’s splash park transforms into an ice rink from the end of November through February 2022. Skate rentals and admission range between $13 and $14. After skating, grab pizza and ice cream from nearby Wiseguy Pizza and Altani Gelato.

18. Maxwell Park Christmas Bar

visit washington dc christmas

Looking for a cozy bar decked to the halls in holiday decor? Maxwell’s has tapped the brilliant installation artist Adriana Salame Aspiazu to transform their space and it is a visual delight.

19. National Christmas Tree

visit washington dc christmas

A tradition since 1923, the U.S. President lights the National Christmas Tree on The Ellipse. This year’s tree is an 18.5-foot Fraser fir from North Carolina and it’s surrounded by smaller trees honoring each U.S. state and territory.

20. Seneca State Park Winter Lights Festival

visit washington dc christmas

Long before the pandemic hit, the Winter Lights Festival at Seneca State Park has been social distancing. Visitors stay in their cars, driving 3,5 miles passing 450 illuminated displays and lit-up trees. Tickets are $15-$30 and they are open daily from November 26th through December 31st. (They are closed Christmas Day.)

21. Brookside Gardens’ Garden of Lights

visit washington dc christmas

For the 23rd year, Brookside Gardens’ 50 acres are transformed into a holiday light extravaganza with over one million LED lights decorating the gardens. Admission is free and it’s open daily from November 19th through January 2nd, 2022. Note that the gardens are closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

22. Holidays at the Harbor

visit washington dc christmas

Just south of Washington, D.C. is Holidays at the Harbor at the National Harbor. From holiday storytime on Saturdays at 2 p.m. to free hot chocolate at select stores on weekends, there’s much to do! Every night from sunset to 9 p.m. there’s a light show on a 54-feet Christmas tree. At 5:30 p.m. on Saturday through December 1 8th, a holiday firework show is set off. They even have a holiday pop-up bar and classic holiday movie nights!

23. Reston Town Center

visit washington dc christmas

The ice rink underneath the grand pavilion certainly takes center stage for a picturesque holiday experience but the Reston Town Center shimmers in thousands of strands of lights at every turn. There’s a weekend horse-drawn carriage and a mini-train ride, too. You will have SNOW MUCH FUN dining, shopping and playing in this dynamic urban destination.

24. Meadowlark Walk of Lights

visit washington dc christmas

This 95-acre garden in Vienna, Virginia hosts a holiday half mile Winter Walk every night now through January 2nd. Tickets are between $5 and $18 and it’s one of the few places open on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Years Day.

25. Mount Vernon’s Christmas Illuminations

visit washington dc christmas

For historic buildings and properties, holiday decor must be historically accurate and can be limiting in our modern day of visual overload. What better way to push the limits than with a grand firework display? George Washington’s Mount Vernon gets it right and we love to see the mansion framed in light bursts. The event only runs for one weekend in December–the 17th and 18th this year–and tickets are available at www.mountvernon.org

26. LuminoCity

visit washington dc christmas

Once Roer’s Zoofari closes in Vienna, Virginia, it transforms into a holiday light show depicting animals from around the world, including a dinosaur exhibit. Tickets are $32 per adult and $22 per kid age 3-12. On-site parking costs $5. It’s open most Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights in December and it’s open every day of Christmas Week. Go early to enjoy the zoo too!

27. Christmas Card Lane in Del Ray

visit washington dc christmas

Dubbed “Christmas Card Lane,” Del Ray’s East Luray Avenue decorates for the holidays by painting large cards for their lawns. It started when a woman wanted to replicate the tradition from her hometown in Michigan. For a fun outdoor family activity, grab frozen custard from The Dairy Godmother and walk along East Luray Avenue.

28. Pentagon Row Ice Rink

visit washington dc christmas

Pentagon Row’s 6,840 square foot ice rink is the largest in Northern Virginia. Open daily, admission and rentals range between $15 and $16. Online reservations are required. Surrounding the ice rink are fire pits making for cozy breaks from the ice.

29. Old Ebbitt Grill

visit washington dc christmas

The Old Ebbitt Grill is Washington’s oldest saloon and dates back to 1856. Every year we look forward to the giant Nutcrackers that flank the entrance to this beloved establishment and the coziness inside makes it a holiday tradition for both visitors and residents.

30. Old Town Alexandria

visit washington dc christmas

Across the river in Old Town Alexandria, VA, all the trees are decorated along King Street and the historic homes hang the best wreaths. The George Washington Masonic Temple lit up in red and green offers the perfect backdrop!

31. Downtown Holiday Market

visit washington dc christmas

Live music, mulled wine and goods from over 70 local businesses, the 18th annual holiday market is open daily from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. now through December 23rd, 2022.

Thank you to everyone who shared holiday cheer with #igdc ! We appreciate your help to create this valuable guide

We hope you enjoyed our list of places to see in things to do in DC in December .

If you have any recommendations or places that we missed, hit us up in the comments below.

Written by @golightly , @dccitygirl , and @austinkgraff

Andy Feliciotti Avatar

2 responses to “30+ Things To Do in Washington DC During the Holidays in 2023”

someguy Avatar

Fantastic post!

David D. Avatar

Great list! Planning spots to hit on a staycation in DC Christmas week!

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An image of the capitol building and presidents park made up with a fully decorated National Christmas tree, one of the best ways to enjoy Christmas in Washington DC!

15 Best Ways to Celebrate Christmas in Washington, DC!

August 28, 2023 //  by  Follow Me Away //   Leave a Comment

It’s never too early to start thinking about your festive celebrations and this holiday season, Washington, DC is packed with things to do and explore! When considering spending your Christmas in Washington, DC, you’re never wanting for activities and holiday cheer!

When looking into the best ways to spend Christmas in the USA , the weekend at the country’s capitol is a fantastic option! While there are plenty of quaint Christmas towns in the USA and some awesome Winter Vacations to consider, a Washington DC Christmas really doesn’t compare because they put out all the stops!

If you’re hoping to take a break from your regular ski slopes this holiday season or shake up your usual weekend getaways on the East Coast during your time off, nothing can beat fantastic Christmas Lights and big trees and hot chocolate with loved ones!

I’ve been to Washington, DC so many times and I’ve never had a bad experience in this awesome city! It’s only natural to combine a fabulous holiday with a fantastic city! I think it’s a great place to visit for the holidays and can only be made better by traveling with loved ones, furry or human, and seeing more of what Christmas in DC looks like!

So sit back with a cup of hot chocolate, turn up the Christmas music and get ready for some great ideas for Christmas in Washington, DC!

An image of the capitol building and presidents park made up with a fully decorated National Christmas tree, one of the best ways to enjoy Christmas in Washington DC!

Is Christmas a Good Time to Visit Washington, DC?

Visiting Washington, DC is always a fantastic idea and making the trip during Christmas? Even better. This capital city goes all out for Christmas! With fantastic lights displays, cool parades and plenty of holiday-themed shows and experiences to be had, Christmas events in Washington, DC are never a disappointment!

Christmas in DC definitely gives NYC’s allure a run for its money! So whether you’re looking for something majestic and magical, or something a little more laid back and nostalgic, Washington DC during Christmas delivers on all levels! Many even consider this the best time to plan your Washington DC itinerary!

Washington Weather in December

Weather in Washington strives to give you a picturesque winter wonderland as much as it can! It gets as low as 50 degrees during the day and dropping to even 30 degrees during the night!

December in Washington, DC is not the coldest month of the year, that award goes to January, so you’re getting there at a great time to enjoy the area while still experiencing some moderately cold temperatures!

Not only this but it snows! And while they do get an amazing amount of snow during the year, weirdly enough, they have a study revealing that only NINE days since the 80’s have had snow on Christmas Day! A weird fact to know, but that’s how serious a Washington DC Christmas is.

Best Ways to Celebrate Christmas in Washington, DC!

Ice at gaylord national resort.

First on our list of the best ways to spend Christmas in Washington, DC is definitely exploring ICE at Gaylord National!

Complete with the work of ice sculptors from Harbin, China, ICE boasts amazing sculptures of plain ice and colored ice with incredible detail! This is in incredible immersive experience that makes it one of the unmissable Christmas things to do in Washington, DC!

The display is always at a cool 48.2 degrees so you always need a big coat, and if you don’t have anything you can borrow one of their parkas! It has two million pounds of ice on display, and is around 17,000 square feet filled with three-dimensional scenes from your favorite Christmas shows! Winter in Washington, DC would not be complete without viewing some awesome ice sculptures!

colourful ice sculptures of a scene from the cartoon grinch with his sack full of toys and max tugging them along!

Experience the Lighting of the National Menorah

A benefit of visiting Washington, DC in December is that it’s diversity means a lot of holidays celebrated over December are highlighted on a grander scale! The Lighting of the National Menorah is another fantastic example of holiday celebrations!

With amazing musical performances, special guests and readings from winners of an Essay Contest, the Lighting of the National Menorah is an awesome thing to do in an evening in December in Washington, DC!

If it gets too chilly and you don’t want to miss it, you can watch it online from the comfort of your hotel room and still enjoy the festivities! Visit throughout Hanukkah and enjoy the decorations for the holiday!

Enjoy a Christmas Concert at the National Cathedral

The National Cathedral in Washington has some amazing holiday festivities to enjoy!

Throughout December and close to the holidays, the National Cathedral puts on some cool concerts over the first few weekends of the month! The special programs are a mixture of medieval and modern music to get you into the holiday spirit!

Washington, DC in winter would not be complete without a gorgeous display of musical talent and some cool architectural wonders, so definitely take some time and explore the National Cathedral while taking in one of their holiday programs. And keep an eye out for the Darth Vader gargoyle!

Downtown Holiday Market

Another classic option for Christmas things to do in Washington DC is to visit a Christmas Market.

With local artisans and homemade goods, not only are Christmas markets the ideal spot to get locally sourced gifts for loved ones, you have a chance to taste local cuisine and unique dishes themed around the holidays.

Downtown Holiday Village is a Washington, DC market that’s perfect for people who are looking for an activity to keep them busy for either a few hours or enjoy it for a little bit! With food, live entertainment, and artisans, one can’t go wrong with exploring around this Washington, DC Christmas market!

Open from November 18th to December 23rd, you’ll have plenty of time to get something for all your loved ones when visiting this market during its open hours of 12 pm to 8pm!

Don’t miss this cool option for things to do in Washington DC at Christmas!

Two individuals enjoying each others company and loving some hand made goods at an artisans booth at a market with lovely bright holiday lights!

View Holiday Movies Across Washington

In the month leading up to Christmas, the theatres across Washington release a schedule to get the hype up for the Holidays!

From family friendly Christmas movies to adult-focused holiday films, with multiple screenings over the day, there is a great schedule of screenings leading up to Christmas to get you ready for the holiday! You could plan an amazing movie hop across the city if you wanted to see a little bit of everything!

Their different showtimes are great for families with littles who need to be in bed earlier, and also good for couples who are out all day and want an evening screening of a lovely, heartwarming Christmas film before bed!

Don’t miss out on some classic Christmas movies!

Christmas at Mount Vernon

If you’re a history buff and you’re looking to explore some of the history present in Washington, DC during the holiday season, then getting tickets to enjoy Christmas festivities at Mount Vernon is a can’t miss activity!

Tour George Washington’s estate and see where the very first, first family lived! With history lessons and holiday-themed activities, you can enjoy some eighteenth-century focused things and truly enjoy Washington DC in winter!

Their event boasts live music, cider, cookies and holiday fireworks as well as eighteenth-century dancing and chocolate-making! Tickets for this Christmas festivity need to be purchased ahead of time and the event will take place the week before Christmas, so definitely check in advance if this is something that interests you!

bright green grass, full trees and a lovely image of mount vernon property, the location of a unique experience for Christmas in Washington DC!

Explore Enchant Christmas

Enchant Christmas runs from November 25th to January 1st and is another cool option to enjoy Washington DC at Christmas!

Hosted by the National Parks, Enchant Christmas is the perfect winter wonderland to be explored! With ice skating, shopping and a light display maze, there’s some lovely activities to spend the day! Complete with local vendors around the area makes this a great time to have and get some Christmas shopping done while enjoying the atmosphere!

This is the perfect time for family, couples and large groups to explore the grounds and all the display! There’s also Santa’s Landing with the amazing opportunity to visit Santa!

Check Out the National Christmas Tree

When it comes to Christmas lights in DC, the lights of all lights are on the National Christmas Tree!

This massive tree is located in Presidents Park and is a free Christmas activity in Washington, DC to enjoy! It’s surrounded by other beautiful trees that are decorated with homemade and original ornaments from the other states and territories of the USA. Visiting the National Christmas Tree is a great evening to spend walking around with a cup of hot cocoa and enjoying the weather!

There are nightly performances around the tree, and it is on display from the first of December from 10 am to 10 pm and absolutely free! It is lit at 4:30, so if you’re looking to catch the first twinkle of lights get there early with your warm drink to enjoy these awesome Christmas lights in Washington, DC!

An illuminated capitol building and brightly lit national Christmas tree, a beautiful site for a lovely Christmas in Washington DC!

Experience the Holidays Through History Open House

Another great option for history buffs is to enjoy the Holidays Through History Open House!

Hosted at the Woodrow Wilson House, which is now a museum for the 28th president, involves a walk-through of the house as well as holiday displays!

You can enjoy a tour or a self-guided tour, you can witness the amazing and beautiful festive decorations around the house and activities for the holidays! With music and historic cocktails, Holidays Through History is a lovely treat for historians who are looking to enjoy a unique experience and learn more about the past presidents of the United States!

Don’t miss out on this great option for Christmas things to do in Washington, DC and get your tickets ahead of time!

Explore Washington’s Many Light Displays

DC has some amazing light displays that you can take advantage of during your stay!

The DC Holiday Lights are set up in the different boroughs and neighborhoods of Washington and they have very detailed maps so you can take advantage of both the areas by foot or during cute car rides with hot chocolate!

With dazzling light displays and decorative figure scenes, DC Holiday lights are a great option to explore! In areas like Mt Pleasant, Logan Circle, Dupont Circle, U Street, Woodley Park and Columbia Heights, they have amazing displays that you shouldn’t miss out on! Georgetown also has Georgetown GLOW which runs through to January 26!

Don’t skip these beautiful Christmas lights in DC!

A beautiful tunnel of multi-coloured lights, showing of some extreme festive spirit during the holiday season!

Wander the US Botanic Garden Holiday Display

Another fabulous display of Christmas cheer is at the US Botanic Garden’s Holiday displays!

Complete with model trains, miles of poinsettias, pine and mistletoe arrangements, the US Botanic Garden display is a unique spot for botany enthusiasts and even train lovers! This location has garden replicas of landmark DC buildings, as well as model trains that explore throughout the displays running from 10 am to 5 pm!

This option is fabulous for families with kids! There’s plenty to explore at this location and it runs from November 24th to January 2nd, so there’s tons of time during your Christmas in DC to see the Holiday Display!

Watch the Holiday Boat Parade at the Wharf

The Holiday Boat Parade is a family-friendly event and such cool thing to enjoy during your time experiencing Washington DC during Christmas!

On Old Town’s Alexandria’s waterfront you can witness boats with amazing light displays float by! If you’re planning on watching the parade, go a little earlier and enjoy a free walking tour around Old Town Alexandria to get some perspective on the cool history of the area!

You’ll get a chance to see sixty boats covered from bow to stern in phenomenal lights, making this one of the most unique displays of Christmas lights in Washington, DC! And if you stay long enough, there is an amazing fireworks show at the end! If you’re looking to take advantage of some adult beverages during your watching experience, there are two places at two of the watch points to be able to get something you’d like and still enjoy everything!

Don’t miss out on this cute opportunity to enjoy Christmas lights in DC!

Visit the Smithsonian National Zoo ZooLights! Experience

ZooLights is an amazing experience organized by the Smithsonian National Zoo and is another amazing demonstration of Christmas lights in DC!

This is another free but ticketed event in Washington, all you need to do is go online and reserve your time in order to take advantage of this free experience!

With lights displays of environmentally friendly LED lights, holiday shopping and tasty winter treats, the performances during this event will keep you entertained for hours and is a perfect option for family Christmas activities in Washington DC!

a lovely lit up Zoo sign at the entrance of the Smithsonian National Zoo!

See A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre

A classic Christmas activity is enjoying one of the most quintessential Christmas stories of all time; A Christmas Carol.

At the legendary Ford’s Theatre, yes the very same, you’re able to enjoy not only the historical background of the Theatre but also see a cool live show! From November 17th to December 31st, this phenomenal play with definitely get you in the Christmas spirit and give you the chance to see a live performance during your time in Washington!

This is the very theatre which Lincoln was assassinated in, making this a great location for both historians and theatre enthusiasts! Ford’s Theatre is doing its best to keep Lincoln’s legacy alive and it’s recurring show of A Christmas Carol is a lovely way of bringing people into this historic spot and sharing in the history!

Please consider this as an awesome way to spend your evening enjoying Washington, DC at Christmas!

Enjoy a Hot Chocolate at L.A. Burdick Chocolates

An absolutely classic Christmas activity is hopping around cafes and restaurants to find the best hot beverage, and a delicious hot chocolate is the best drink to search for!

Hot Chocolate featured at L.A. Burdick Chocolates is known as drinking chocolate, meaning it is rich and different from powdered cocoa. This is an amazing option to get you out of the cold of Washington, DC in winter, and enjoy some warm drinks and a lovely ambiance.

All drinks at this location are customizable, meaning you can choose from a selection of different kinds of chocolates and milks in order to make your beverage the best possible! This is a lovely option for taking a break from walking and wandering and indulging in a tasty winter treat is the perfect thing to do!

a warm cup of hot chocolate covered with a mound of mini marshmallow, sticks of cinnamon!

Christmas time in DC is made perfect by the presence of those you love, or doing things that you truly enjoy! The holidays are not always easy for everyone and whether you’re looking for a chance to get some alone time, or looking for a more private getaway, Washington, DC in December is never a bad idea!

And now that you’ve seen our list of the best Christmas activities in Washington, DC which will you do first?

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visit washington dc christmas

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Things to Do in DC on Christmas Day

The holidays are a wonderful time to visit Washington, DC. We have several blog posts with ideas for holiday things to do , less touristy Christmas activities , and an entire podcast on the holiday season in DC, so be sure to check those out.

However, this article is specific to one single day: Christmas Day in DC. Christmas Day deserves its own post because it’s one of the only days of the year when a significant number of things in DC are closed, so you need to be strategic with your plans.

Christmas DAY in Washington DC

How to Get Around DC on Christmas Day

Let’s start with transportation. Metro runs 365 days per year, so it will be open and operating on Christmas day. However, Metro will reduce the service down to holiday levels, which means there can be long waits for trains. But, on the plus side, there probably won’t be any track maintenance, so it will likely be more reliable than on a typical weekend day. 

You can still hail a cab, Uber, or Lyft; there will always be some drivers who elect to work on Christmas day. As another option, Capital Bikeshare also operates every day of the year. And of course, if you’re staying downtown, you can still walk to your destination if you’re up for it. 

Where to Eat in DC on Christmas Day

Next, let’s talk about where you’re going to eat. Start by assuming that most restaurants will not open at all on Christmas Day. That said, there will be some Starbucks locations that will open, so you can check the Starbucks app or website to find one. But for sit-down restaurants—or even fast casual restaurants—most of them will take the day off. 

With that in mind, I recommend going on OpenTable and Resy a few weeks before Christmas to see who is open, then make reservations as soon as you can. Also, so you’re aware, some restaurants will switch to fixed menus on Christmas to make things easier for their kitchen staff. That means you may not see every dish on the menu, but there could be some fun holiday specials.

What to Do in DC on Christmas Day

Smithsonian Museums are open 364 days per year (barring a government shutdown, pandemic or weather emergency). In other words, every day except this one. The same goes for the National Gallery of Art and most other museums. Likewise, the Capitol and Library of Congress will be closed, as will many other federal sites.

One big exception is the U.S. Botanic Garden , which hosts the awesome Seasons Greetings exhibit . However, be warned: this attraction does get pretty crowded. Since everyone in town is looking for something to do on Christmas Day, most of them wind up here.  

If you have transportation to Northern Virginia, Mount Vernon , George Washington’s Home, is open on Christmas Day and a very festive place to be. Keep in mind that Mount Vernon is a private historic site, so it charges an entrance fee, but it’s well worth the price of admission.

The Benefits of Being in DC on Christmas

Back in the city, monuments and memorials on the National Mall are always open. If you’re a photographer, this is a chance to get photos with almost no bystanders in the way—or just enjoy the sites with much less traffic.

Unfortunately, most tour companies usually don’t operate on Christmas. Trip Hacks DC tours take the day off for the holiday. But there are a handful of companies that still operate, so if you really want to do one, you can check their operating calendars or contact them in advance. 

Lastly, Christmas is a great day to just stroll around some of DC’s neighborhoods and enjoy the city in peace while no one else is out and about.

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11 Magical Things to do in Washington DC at Christmas Time

Posted on Last updated: October 24, 2020

Washington DC at Christmas time is absolutely magical. When I was planning my trip there last year I had no idea what I was in for. Sure, I had a long list of political landmarks, monuments, museums, and galleries that I wanted to visit. But what I didn’t expect was just how FESTIVE Washington DC is during the Christmas season. All it took was one afternoon of strolling around downtown to fall completely in love with Washington DC at Christmas time.

Washington DC at Christmas time truly is magical

Why Visit Washington DC at Christmas Time?

There’s something about seeing a city with such historical and beautiful architecture that’s all decked out for the holidays that makes you feel like you’ve walked into a Hallmark Christmas movie. I’m not kidding. That’s exactly how I felt walking around Washington DC last Christmas. Washington DC at Christmas time is absolutely beautiful. Every corner is more festive than the next and you will feel like you stumbled into a Christmas dream.

What to See and Do in Washington DC at Christmas Time

If you’re wonder whether visiting Washing DC at Christmas time is a good idea, let me tell you I would go back in a heart beat. Beyond being incredibly beautiful this time of year there’s just so much to see and do.

I hope this list of incredibly festive things to do in Washington DC at Christmas time inspires you to plan your own trip there during the holidays.

Festive things to do in Washington at Christmas time: Visit the Library of Congress and check out their beautiful Christmas tree.

1. Visit the Library of Congress – FREE activity to do in Washington DC at Christmas Time

The Library of Congress is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. It officially serves the United States Congress and is also one of the top tourist destinations in Washington DC. Although the Library of Congress is absolutely stunning year round, it’s even more beautiful during the Christmas season. Entrance is completely free so you should definitely plan to pop by while you’re in Washington. Visit the Thomas Jefferson building to take in the beautiful Christmas tree before exploring the rest of this historically stunning library. You’ll see why it’s such a beautiful site to see in Washington DC at Christmas time!

Things to do in Washington at Christmas time: Visit the Old Ebbitt Grill for a holiday drink.

2. Grab a Holiday drink at the Old Ebbitt Grill

The Old Ebbitt Grill is Washington’s oldest saloon and was founded in 1856. To this day it remains one of the city’s greatest treasures and is a definite must visit while in Washington DC. Stop by for a picture with the adorable nutcrackers outside before venturing in for cocktails and oysters in their beautiful Victorian bar. You’ll quickly realize why the Old Ebbitt Grill is always so busy and it’s especially beautiful to visit at Christmas time.

I just loved the giant Nutcrackers outside Old Ebbitt Grill

What to do in Washington DC at Christmas time: Visit the Intercontinental the Willard to admire the gorgeous holiday decorations

3. Enjoy the Festive Decor and Holiday Christmas High Tea at the InterContinental the Willard

The Willard InterContinental is a AAA four diamond hotel located in the heart of downtown Washington DC. If you think the Willard is stunning year round (which it is) it’s even more spectacular during the holiday season. One step into the lobby of the Willard will transport you into an elegant Christmas wonderland that’s sure to take your breath away.

If you’re looking for a one stop shop of the most incredible Washington DC Christmas decorations then the Willard hotel is definitely for you. From the incredible tree lined hallways to the stunning lobby, to the garlands, wreaths, and lights galore outside. Every corner at the Willard is more breathtaking than the next.

Once you’re done taking in all of the Christmas decor you should enjoy the Willard’s Holiday high tea. The Willard’s Holiday High Tea is complete with holiday themed teas and treats which are a must to help get you into the Christmas spirit! This is a definite must do while you’re in Washington DC at Christmas time.

Incredibly festive things to do in Washington DC at Christmas time: Visit the Willard and have their holiday high tea

4. Stop for dinner and enjoy the festive decor at the Occidental

Located just steps from the Willard is the Occidental , a local landmark of Washington DC. The Occidental serves high-end American meals in a posh space lined with portraits of statesmen. Stop by for a true DC dining experience and enjoy the beautiful Christmas decorations and tree outside. You’ll also enjoy portraits of famous past patrons including political powerhouses, sports figures, authors and celebrities on display throughout the main dining room. The Occidental is the perfect place to dine to give you a truly American holiday experience in Washington DC at Christmas time.

Things to do in Washington DC at Christmas time: Have dinner at the Occidental and enjoy the Christmas decorations

5. Browse the Boutiques and Enjoy the Holiday Decor at CityCentreDC

If you haven’t gotten all your Christmas shopping done yet here’s the perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. CityCentreDC is an expansive outdoor shopping centre in downtown Washington DC boasting boutique after boutique that’ll make all your shopping dreams come true. Featuring the best in haute couture shops, restaurants, luxury skincare boutiques and more that are even more fun to visit during the holidays. From light lined walkways to giant reindeer to a massive Christmas tree, there’s tons of festive decor to stumble upon at it’s such a magical place to visit in Washington DC at Christmas time.

Strolling through CityCentreDC at night

Washington at Christmas: National Christmas Tree

6. Take in the Beauty of the National Christmas Tree – A FREE activity to do in Washington DC at Christmas Time

Although I didn’t get the chance to visit it this year, the National Christmas Tree was high on my list of things I wanted to do in Washington DC at Christmas time so I had to include it in this list! The National Christmas tree is an almost 100 year old tradition and is completely free to visit. The tree is lit every night from 4:30pm-midnight as part of the America Celebrates display at President’s Park. Musical entertainment also happens every night for the 2 weeks leading up to Christmas.

Surrounding the National Christmas Tree is the America Celebrates display which features 56 trees each representing a U.S. state, territory, and the District of Columbia. The 2019 ornaments were handcrafted by students of 56 schools across the US to celebrate the history, culture, and heritage of their homeland. It will be exciting to see what this year brings!

Things to do in Washington at Christmas: Enchant Christmas

7. Get lost at Enchant Christmas – the World’s Largest Christmas Light Maze and Holiday Market

Open November 22 to December 29th at National Parks in DC, Enchant Christmas is the world’s largest Christmas Light maze! If you’re looking for something new to try this holiday season then this should definitely be it. Centered around a 100 foot lighted pine tree that’s bigger than the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Centre in New York, the Enchant maze is like a living storybook of larger than life stunning lit sculptures and displays. There’s also an ice skating trail which makes it a perfect afternoon activity to do with friends or family while in Washington DC at Christmas time.

Enchant Christmas - Washington at Christmas

8. Browse the Unique Vendors and Enjoy a Hot Apple Cider at the Downtown Holiday Market

Located conveniently right downtown Washington and next to the National Portrait Gallery, the Downtown Holiday Market is a great daytime activity to do while visiting Washington DC. Loaded with tons of unique vendors ranging from artists to apparel brands, jewelers and chocolatiers, the holiday market has something for everyone. It’s completely free to attend and they also feature live music throughout the afternoon and evening!

Explore the festive decorations downtown Washington DC at Christmas time. There's so much to see everywhere!

9. Take a walk around the Downtown core and Enjoy all the Decorations – A FREE activity to do in Washington DC at Christmas Time

After checking out the downtown holiday market why not head for a stroll and just enjoy all the festive decorations in the downtown area? I was so in awe of how festively decorated downtown Washington DC is at Christmas time. Every single business building and hotel we passed was even more festive than the next. Peek into the lobbies of the buildings you pass and you’ll be amazed! It’s so impressive how festive Washington DC becomes at Christmas time. You will feel like you walked into a Christmas movie.

Washington at Christmas: Miracle on 7th Pop up bar is a great thing to do

Sunday 25th of October 2020

So magical!!! Your outfits are so festive and cute too, love them!

Saturday 24th of October 2020

I don’t know how I lived right outside of Washington D.C for almost all of my life and didn’t know about all these events! Saving this for when I move back!

I lived in DC last Christmas and you totally nailed it! These are definitely all of the best things to do in DC over the winter holiday season! beautiful pictures!

Love your festive outfits! We have visited DC several times but never during the holidays - thanks for the tips!

Pink Caddy Travelogue

Best Ways to Spend Christmas in Washington DC

by Maggie McKneely | Oct 31, 2018 | Washington, DC , USA , Virginia | 55 comments

visit washington dc christmas

Last Updated on December 10, 2023 by Maggie McKneely

If you’ll be spending Christmas in Washington DC, be sure to check out one (or several!) of these fantastic holiday activities. (Updated for 2023)

Table of Contents

Christmas in Washington DC

Christmas is my favorite time of year! All of the colorful, twinkly lights, Mannheim Steamroller music playing on a neverending loop, Santa, elves, reindeer – yeah, I’m into all of it. Most people think of New York City when it comes to Christmas in America, but that’s not the only city with awesome holiday activities. Fortunately, Washington, DC is into all of it too. I love living near a city with so much going on during the holiday season! So, I’ve put together a list of the best Christmas activities in the city that happen every year. If you’re lucky enough to be spending Christmas in Washington DC, be sure to check some (or all) of them out!

White House Christmas Tour

The White House is open for tours year-round, but going on a tour at Christmas-time is particularly special. The White House staff goes ALL OUT on Christmas decorations. The halls are filled with glittering lights, fresh pine garland, icicles, and beautiful wreaths. Every room has at least one (but usually more!) immaculately decorated Christmas tree. And every year, a gingerbread replica of the White House is placed in the State Dining Room!

And yes, you can appreciate a White House tour regardless of your political affiliation. I have visited the White House during the administrations of both parties, and have enjoyed myself every time. The White House is the People’s House and is always beautiful at Christmas time!

christmas in washington dc

What you get to see on a White House Christmas Tou r:

  • East Wing and Movie Theater – The Movie Theater wasn’t part of the tour until 2017, so this is a real treat! In the East Wing is a collection of Christmas cards sent from past Presidential families, a tradition started in 1953 under President Eisenhower
  • Library – a beautiful cozy ringed by inset shelves filled with books, including President Teddy Roosevelt’s personal copy of A Christmas Story
  • East Room – the largest room in the White House, most often used for entertaining. In here you’ll find a magnificent 18th-century Italian creche (nativity scene) that has belonged to the White House since 1961
  • Green, Blue, and Red Rooms – each room is beautifully decorated to suit its namesake color theme, often including the works of local artisans among the Christmas ornaments
  • State Dining Room – this is where the traditional gingerbread version of the White House lives during the Christmas season. But don’t try and taste it (unless you want an untimely meeting with the Secret Service!)
  • Grand Foyer – this is always the grand finale of a White House Christmas tour. Don’t forget to take a photo under the Presidential seal before you leave!

christmas in washington dc

Family pic in the White House

White House Christmas Tour Info:

  • Admission : Free
  • The earliest you can request a tour is 3 months in advance, and if you want to visit during the Christmas season, you’ll want to schedule a tour as far in advance as possible. Only a certain amount of people can tour the White House each day, and tours fill up very quickly.
  • American citizens must request a White Tour through the office of their Congressman. To find out who your Representative is, go here .
  • Foreign visitors can request a tour through their embassy
  • Dates : White House Christmas Tours are available throughout the month of December

Christmas at the Willard

Just a block from the White House is the beautiful Willard Intercontinental Hotel . For 200 years, the Willard has been hosting Washington D.C’s most elite visitors, from international dignitaries to pop icons. So no, I’ve never stayed here. Maybe one day 😉

christmas in washington DC

Inside the Willard

But, you can walk into the lobby for free! At Christmas, The Willard gives off an “Eloise at the plaza” sort of vibe, with a magnificently decorated central Christmas tree and lights and garland elegantly draped throughout the lobby, as well as an impressive gingerbread house. And every night in December, from 5:30-7:30, there’s a free musical performance by local groups such as the Children’s Chorus of Washington. This is a great way to experience Christmas in Washington DC like one of the elite, without paying the price tag.

christmas in washington dc

Last year’s gingerbread house was a recreation of Mount Vernon!

Christmas at the Willard Info:

  • Address : 1401 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004
  • Holiday events calendar : Click here

National Christmas Tree

Did you even visit DC during Christmastime if you didn’t see THE National Christmas Tree?! The beautifully decorated conifer is located in President’s Park just outside of the White House property and has been a DC tradition since 1923 when Calvin Coolidge lit the first decorated tree. The date for the official lighting ceremony for 2023 will be November 30th and the lottery for tickets to attend runs from November 1-8. Go here to enter!

The tree stays lit for the whole month of December, from 4:30 to midnight each day, and is worth visiting during your time in the city. Because if you visit the National Christmas Tree, you’ll get to see a lot more than just one tree. Around the main tree are 58 smaller trees, one for each U.S. state and territory. Each tree is decorated with ornaments made by residents of those states. Also near the National Christmas Tree is the National Menorah.

Related: Both New York City and Chicago are great cities to spend Christmas too

Most nights in December the Ellipse stage hosts performances from groups all over the country, from well-known celebrities to local schools and choirs.

(Fun fact: I got to perform here several years in a row as part of a kids’ choir I was in when I was little! I liked to tell people I sang at the White House; not technically true, but close enough 😛 )

christmas in washington dc

The National Christmas Tree

National Christmas Tree Info:

  • Hours : The display is open from 10 AM-10 PM and the tree is lit from 4:30 PM-10 PM
  • Dates : December 2 – January 1, 2023
  • Musical Performances : TBD

U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

Why have one National Christmas Tree when you can have two?! That’s right; the Capitol building  also  has a Christmas tree. Since the 1960s, a tree has been brought to the steps of the U.S. Capitol from a different National Forest each year. This one doesn’t have all of the extras, like the mini trees and musical performances, but it does get its own lighting ceremony. And in my personal opinion, this tree is much prettier than the official National Christmas Tree.

The Capitol Tree is located on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building. One of the most iconic pictures of Christmas in Washington DC is a photo of the Capitol Christmas Tree with the famous rotunda and Capitol steps behind it. Make sure to stop by here if you’re spending Christmas in Washington DC!

christmas in washington dc

Follow the tree’s progress on Facebook !

U.S. Botanic Garden Seasonal Exhibit

Every year, the U.S. Botanic Garden has a special “ Season’s Greenings ” (see what they did there?) exhibit. The exhibit always features amazing plant-based recreations of famous landmarks and buildings. 2017’s theme was Roadside Attractions and included Cadillac Ranch made from bamboo leaves, Mr. Potato Head made from a gourd, and Mt. Rushmore made from a combination of mahogany, black walnut bark, sponge fungi, and driftwood!

The entrance hall also has huge recreations of DC landmarks, such as the White House and the Capitol Building, as well as a 3,000+ poinsettia display that includes varieties not yet on the market. It’s an awesome exhibit, and it’s free!

Visitor info:

  • Dates : November 23, 2023 – January 1, 2024
  • Times : 10 AM-5 PM every day
  • Admission : Free, no tickets required (but expect long lines!)

christmas in washington dc

Plant-based recreation of the U.S. Capitol

U.S. Botanic Garden Info:

  • Admission: Free
  • Dates: The seasonal decorations will be on display Nov 23 – Jan 1
  • House: The garden is open 7 days a week, from 10 AM -5 PM

Downtown Holiday Market

Don’t want to rely on Amazon for all of your Christmas shopping needs? Check out DC’s Downtown Holiday Market! 2023 marks the 19th year in a row that this outdoor shopping village has showcased unique and local small businesses. This year’s market will take up two entire blocks of F Street NW, from 7th to 9th Streets NW, to allow for maximum social distancing. The retail lineup will include over 70 vendors from around the Washington, DC area. Check out their website for details.

dc holiday market

Holiday Market info:

  • Dates:  November 18 to December 23, 2023
  • Hours: 12-8 PM every day except Mondays
  • Location: F Street NW between 7th and 9th Streets; NW Entrance is outside the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum

Enchant Christmas at Nats Park

After its debut in 2019, Enchant is coming back to DC for the 2023 season! Enchant Christmas is set to take over Nats Park this holiday season once again with the largest light maze in the world. In addition to the maze, there will be an ice skating trail through the park and Christmas market featuring over 60 local and international artisans and vendors.

Enchant Christmas DC

Enchant Christmas Info: 

  • Admission: $32 for adults, $24 for youths (3-17). Upgrades available
  • Dates: November 24 – December 31, 2024
  • Location: Nationals Park
  • Purchase tickets here

The Messiah at the National Cathedral

Handel’s Messiah unveils the story of Christianity in a way no other composer has ever accomplished. Handel wrote The Messiah to be performed in a place just like the National Cathedral, and attending a performance of it here is an experience you won’t forget. Just thinking about the jubilant notes of the pipe organ and trumpets of the Hallelujah Chorus being rung in that space sends chills down my spine. If you have the time, do not miss out on this performance!

christmas in washington dc

The National Cathedral

Messiah Info:

  • Dates : December 9, 2023
  • Ticket Price : $20 – $95
  • Location : Washington National Cathedral
  • Tickets : Purchase here

Every year, the Smithsonian National Zoo gets into the holiday spirit by putting on its free event, Zoolights . With over 500,000 LED lights, the zoo is transformed into a colorful winter playground! The event also features live musical performances and holiday drinks and treats (like mulled cider and eggnog, and spiked hot chocolate for the 21+ crowd), along with a light show set to music. This is a great event to take kids to but it’s a lot of fun for adults too! (I’m 30, and I think it’s pretty cool!) This is one of the most family-friendly ways to celebrate Christmas in Washington DC.

Zoolights info:

  • Dates:  November 24 – December 30, 2023
  • Time:  5-9 PM
  • Admission: $6
  • Location : Smithsonian National Zoo
  • Tickets:  Purchase here

christmas in washington dc

Christmas at Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon makes for a great day trip from DC , but particularly so during the Christmas season. During the holiday season, the estate is illuminated by festive winter lights and Christmas carolers enchant visitors.

You can also say hi to Aladdin the Camel, a tribute to the camel that Washington hired to entertain guests for Christmas in 1787. This is a Christmas in Washington DC tradition that you definitely don’t want to miss!

christmas in washington dc

Mount Vernon by candlelight

Christmas at Mount Vernon Info:

  • Admission : $38 for adults, $30 for youths (6-11), kids 5 and under are free
  • 2023 Dates : November 24-25, Dec. 1-2, Dec. 8-9, and Dec. 17

A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theater

The musical version of Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol is coming to DC’s most historic theater this season! Ford’s Theater was the site of President Lincoln’s assassination, but your experience watching the ghosts of Christmas lead Scrooge to redemption will have a happier ending.

Ford's Theater

Ford’s Theater

A Christmas Carol info

  • Dates : November 17-December 31, 2023
  • Tickets : Range from $30-$104 (museum admission is included)

There are plenty of other things to do to celebrate Christmas in Washington DC, but these are my absolute favorites! Have any questions about visiting America’s capital during the holidays? Let me know in the comments or contact me !

For another magical city Christmas, check out things to do in New York at Christmas .

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Headed to the nation's capital this holiday season? Here are some of the best ways to celebrate Christmas in Washington DC! #washingtondc #usa #virginia #christmas

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St. patrick's day in DC

55 Comments

This completely got me in the Christmas spirit! I’ve never considered going to the white house for Christmas, but now it’s on my list.

Great article! I loved the pics of the C&O canal. The White House is always so beautiful for Christmas.

Looks like fun! We were just there in May for a school field trip and I would LOVE to see D.C. decorated for the holidays.

Those gingerbread houses are so cool. I’d love to see the white house in gingerbread – do they use frosting to make the whole thing white?

Thanks for getting me in the Christmas spirit! I really love the Botanic Garden’s “Season’s Greenings” holiday fun and didn’t know you could visit the White House for a Christmas tour!

Love it! The U.S. East Coast was one of my first solo trips and I loved all the lights, trees, and Christmas atmosphere. To see D.C. and the White House with the Christmas trees from all over the country was special to me. Thanks for bringing back these memories!

We are thinking about going to DC the weekend after Christmas – I lived there for 7 years but that was a long time ago. Def going to see about a white house tour!

I’d love to experience Christmas in the US, especially in Washington – you’ve really sold it to me! I spent Christmas in the Algarve once, but normally I stay at home.

I never thought of DC as a Christmas destination but reading this I have certainly changed my mind. A White House tour would be so amazing, because as you say it is the people’s house and it doesn’t matter what your political affiliation is.

What a lovely guide! I always think that New York must be spectacular at Christmas time but now I may have to try and squeeze DC in as well! Love the idea of looking around the white house at Christmastime!

So cool! I had no idea that there was a Christmas tour at the White House! That one goes directly to my bucket list!

I’m so jealous of the White House tour! Even planning well in advance of our April trip to the nation’s capital, everything was booked and we couldn’t go inside. It’s even more amazing at Christmastime!

It looks so pretty and Christmassy. Somehow I would never have thought of Washington like that. Its been years since I visited there.

I love the idea of spending Christmas in Washington or any big city. Adore the trees and now I know about advance reservations for the White House. So much fun.

We’ve been meaning to get our boys to DC but had never considered it at Christmas time- I think we should!!

I love Christmas in DC! It’s so utterly beautiful, and reading your post brings back memories. My friends and I did something like “Christmas Tree hunting” where we met all over town trying to spot Christmas trees in public places. Didn’t know about Willard though! Your family pic is adorable btw!

I’ve always wanted to spend a Xmas holiday in the United States. And after this post, I’m really considering it! Maybe this year, who knows?! Thanks for so much inspiration!!

Cheers from Argentina 🙂

Wow, this looks amazing! I’d love to visit Washington DC someday, and now I want to do it at Christmas Time. Thanks for the inspiration!

Wow. Was not aware that you could go on a tour to White House for Christmas time. That is amazing. Would share with friends heading to US for Christmas. Am yet to visit Washington myself and hope to plan it during Christmas time. Loved U.S. Botanic Garden Seasonal exhibit. Copper color stands out.

I didn’t even realize they were giving tours of the white house anymore. I have also spent Christmas in DC and it is magical

Definitely got me into the Christmas mood now, always nice to see what is going on in other places. The tour inside the White House would be my first pick!

I absolutely love hearing carols played by grand church organs and I absolutely love cathedrals so this will be a treat to hear/see. I have to go on a WH tour one day; it is the People’s House regardless of party affiliation. I really need to do D.C. beyond a weekend and the sights cos I didn’t know of the canal.

I have been to DC in the winter but never did the full “Christmas” tour. I always get skunked on White House tours because they book so far in advance. Now I know the window is 3 months so I can plan accordingly. I never thought about popping into hotels like the Willard but that’s on the list too. Very informative article.

I still have to spend a Xmas in the USA. Every year I promise that it will be next year, but I never seem to be able to plan it. DC is definitely on my list of towns to spend some time in, but I never thought about visiting at Xmas. It looks stunning! Thanks for an interesting read.

Washington DC is a nice place to visit around the holidays. The weather is usually cool enough there to feel appropriately seasonable, but it’s rarely cold enough to snow. The monuments and public buildings, which are always well lit and attractive in the evenings, look even prettier with the extra lights and color of the holiday season.

I’ve always wanted to visit Washington in Spring for the blossom trees, Autumn for the beautiful coloured leaves and now I have the perfect excuse to visit at Christmas too! It all looks so festive and the lights look so pretty!

Thanks for sharing!

I have never made it to D.C. during Christmas. It looks so magical. What a great insight to take a tour of the White House during this season. I love the creations at the Botanical Gardens. I am very impressed that Zoo Lights is free. Most events like that come with a hefty price tag. I would love to do a candlelight tour at Mount Vernon. You have added so many things to my bucket list!

It looks like there’s quite a bit to see and do in the DC area around Christmas! I definitely need to visit a GLOW festival! I read that they are organized in multiple places around the world and I love the idea. Guess it must be a great experience too!

I never thought to go to Washington over Christmas but it actually looks unbelievable!! Thanks so much for all the recommendations 🙂

I love to stroll through Christmas markets, drink mulled wine and look at the colorful stalls. Surely I would like the Christmas spirit in Washington too. The Christmas trees look so gigantic.

One day, we HAVE to spend Christmas in DC! Yep, your post has just inspired us to do that! 😀 In fact, we visited DC 2 years ago and really loved this city! But we didn’t spend many days in the city and there’s so much to do and see, plus it was super hot during summer, so we sweared that we’ll visit again soon. Christmas is definitely a great time to go there. We’d love to tour the White House, and have a walk inside the Willard. Thanks for sharing this! 🙂

That’s it. After reading this and admiring all of your gorgeous pictures, I am definitely adding a visit to DC for my 2019 holiday plans. I’ve always wanted to see the White House all decorated but never really planned to do it. I love the Botanic Garden, as well.

What an informative post! I’ve never been to Washington DC and it almost feels like a sin as an American 🙂 but now I am dying to go at Christmas time! I loved all of your pictures of the different Christmas trees. Visiting the White House at Christmas must have been so cool… I always enjoy watching the White House Christmas Special on TV every year!

Christmas is my favorite time of the year too. I’ve always had Christmas in New York on my bucket list but after going through this post I must add Washington DC on that list. I had no idea one can visit the White House. That’s pretty cool. Are all these places near to each other, as in can it be visited in a day or would it take more days?

You could get all of these done in a couple of days! The White House, the Willard, and the christmas trees are right near each other, and the National Cathedral is right next to the zoo. DC is a very easy to navigate city

This is way too cool! I went around christmastime like… 10? years ago and remember it being lovely. Clearly, I need to go back because I don’t remember half of these things, and I’m OBSESSED with the gingerbread re-creations! How long do you think it should take to visit all these spots? A day? A week?

You could do most of them in just a couple of days! But if you wanted to do more in DC besides just this list, a week would be more than enough time.

Thanks so much for sharing and putting me in Christmas mode! I can’t believe it’s so soon already 🙂 I’ve never been to Washington DC but looks like I should plan my first visit around Christmas!

Christmass is the wonderful time of the year that we all look forward to. I would love to do the White House Christmass tour.

Christmas is my absolute favourite time of year! It’s so magical. I was in America with my family one Christmas, when I was quite young and it’s one of my most special memories. We were in Florida and it was like something at of a fairytale. I don’t think any other places does Christmas quite like America! Would love to go back someday. Christmas in Washington also sounds like a good time 🙂

I lived in DC for two years, and loved being there during the holidays! We did a tour of the White House once during the holidays, and it was all decked out in holiday decorations. I also loved visiting the National Christmas tree to see the ornaments that were there. I think I would enjoy going back during the holidays and visiting Mount Vernon.

All those Christmas decorations are insane! I love the Capitol Christmas tree, it adds a lovely vide to the scenery. DC surely has a lot to offer for Christmas.

I had no idea there were so many holiday-themed winter attractions in DC! I hadn’t thought of it as a particularly Christmas-y destination, but it seems hard to beat (in the U.S.) between those huge trees, the White House, and the botanical gardens.

Ohh I have never seen a Christmas from a country where it is celebrated in full swing. The US is on my list to visit during Christmas especially the western part. I’d definitely love to see the White House & the National Christmas tree, especially loved the idea of 60 smaller trees for each state.

Wow the National Christmas tree looks insane! I would love to spend Christmas somewhere like this – seems like DC goes all out!

How fun. Never knew you could do a tour of the White House and at Christmas. Looks like a great time and like you, I love the Christmas season too. Great idea to consider DC instead of the traditional Times Square in NYC.

That makes sense that Christmas in DC would be awesome! A tour of a Christmassy White House would be a great treat!

People always tell me to visit Washington DC in the autumn (fall for you, I guess!) but actually it looks so much prettier at Christmas time! I love the idea of the plant-based replicas of famous buildings, and the Zoolights display looks right up my street too!

I have been wanting to see the White House Christmas decorations but I had no idea there was so much more to see. Hope to make it there one of these years.

So I definitely want to stay at The Willard on my next visit to DC, which I am more than due for a visit. The Messiah at the National Cathedral would be amazing! YOu’ve listed a really nice selection of things to see and do for the holidays.

This list is getting me extra excited for the holidays ahead!!

There’s so much to do! I would love to go to the Botanic Garden as well as ice skating, looks like so much fun! The Georgetown GLOW looks amazing too, thanks for sharing!

Anything Christmas related and I’m sold. But I also really want to visit Washington DC. Sounds like a great time of year to visit, and everything looks so magical. Great tips, and some things I can’t wait to do when I finally make it there

I would love to visit the White House during Christmas. I bet all of the trees and the decorations are so beautiful! Thanks for a fun share

The White House Christmas tour looks amazing and beautiful! Definitely adding that to my bucket list.

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visit washington dc christmas

I’m Maggie, a 30-something politico from Washington, DC, who always has one foot off the ground, looking for adventure. I work full-time in the Swamp, but use travel as a way to stay sane! Read on for my crazy stories from the road, and tips to help you in your own travels! Learn more about me

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TWO WORLDS TREASURES

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A Trip to Washington DC During Christmas Break: 6 Days Itinerary

Visiting Abraham Lincoln in DC after Christmas. (Two Worlds Treasures)

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Thinking about a trip to Washington DC during Christmas Break but no itinerary yet? You are at the right place as I am going to share my itinerary with you when we visited DC during Christmas vacation.

Washington DC has so many things to offer to its visitors. From places of interest and history to outdoor and enjoying the food. First time visitors will be overwhelmed in making itinerary.

Then you might ask, “How many days do I need to spend in Washington DC?” It all depends on what kind of attractions you want to see.

Next, are you going alone? With friends, family? Are you taking your dog to DC ?

You will find out that two or three days, or even a week will probably not enough, because there are so many places you want to visit. So, what to do?

I was in your shoes. I wanted to see this and that, but I was visiting with my family. So, I had to make an itinerary that fit my husband and our son also, who was a first grader at the time.

After searching around, I finally came with this itinerary. A six days itinerary that you can follow bit by bit, or adjust to your like. But first…

Why visiting Washington DC during Christmas Break?

Once again, the dentist waiting room gave me an idea for a vacation trip. This time I read a short info in a parenting magazine about visiting Washington DC at the end and beginning of year, between Christmas and the first week after New Year.

It is said that end of year to the beginning of year is the only time of the year when the city is not crowded, when all the Congress and Senate people went home to celebrate the holiday with their family. Also, it’s when not too many tourists think about visiting the capital because of the weather. That way hotels are cheaper and Metro is not crowded. Moreover, the Smithsonian museums are still open except on the 25th of December.

Added with a promo price from Southwest Airlines flying from Dallas to DC, my family and I had a memorable Christmas Break in DC at the end of year.

Visiting Washington DC During Christmas Break – Day 1 (10 places)

After returning our rental car (we went to Pittsburgh first to celebrate Christmas with family) and checked-in to the hotel, we took a Metro to the National Mall & Memorial Parks area. It was already in the afternoon and we didn’t want to waste our time in the capital. This was not a slow travel. There are so much to see in DC.

Here are the spots we got to visit or see on our first day in the capital, in order, from afternoon to evening:

#1 Washington Monument

#2 World War II Memorial

#3 Reflecting Pool

#4 Lincoln Memorial

#5 Vietnam Veterans Memorial

#6 White House

#7 Lafayette Park (across the White House)

#8 National Christmas Tree

#9 Boy Scout Memorial

#10 National Museum of American History

Note: We stayed in Arlington, Virginia and took a Metro from Crystal City Station. We got out at Smithsonian Station and started our walk from there. Also, we stopped at each places to read the information, to talk about what we saw with our son, and took pictures. So, we didn’t only stop for a few minutes, took pictures, and left. The National Mall & Memorial Parks is a National Park, so our son got to do the Junior Ranger program. All of these places are located in a big loop.

Visiting Washington, D.C. during Christmas Break-Washigton-Monument

Washington DC – Day 2 (2 places)

It’s the last day of the year. We left early to visit one of the Smithsonian museums that easily became my son and husband’s favorite.

#11 National Air and Space Museum

Believe it or not, we spent the whole day here, from they open until they closed. My astronaut wannabe son and my husband found their home here. I couldn’t blame them. This museum is awesome!

When you go, try to arrive early in the morning. National Air and Space Museum is very popular, you want to beat the crowd when enjoying this museum.

#12 China Town for our New Year’s Eve Dinner

Note: If you are not like us, you can add other Smithsonian Museums in your itinerary. National Museum of the American Indian and Hirshhorn Museum (acclaimed contemporary art showcases) are next door.

Visiting Washington, D.C. during Christmas Break-outer-space

Visiting Washington DC After Christmas – Day 3 (6 places)

On the first day of the new year, we woke up early so we could get tickets to climb the Washington Monument. Sounds crazy, but we’re not even the first on the line. Apparently cold weather didn’t stop people to enjoy Washington, D.C.

#13 Climbed the Washington Monument (with escalator)

From here we made a loop to the south mall and continued to west before we went back to the hotel. Here are the places we visited:

#14 Thomas Jefferson Memorial

#15 Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

When you come to DC with your dog, you must take a picture of your dog with the famous Fala, a statue of FDR beloved dog.

#16 Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

#17 DC War Memorial

#18 Korean War Veterans Memorial

Note: We could get tickets to Washington Monument online but we weren’t sure on what day we would visited. If you want to get the tickets in advance , make sure you will arrive on your preferred time because they will voided your ticket if you don’t show up at the right time. And don’t forget to join the tour guide when visiting Korean War Veterans Memorial for a deeper information. I would say it’s my favorite war memorial in town.

Visiting Washington, D.C. during Christmas Break-FDR-Memorial

Visiting Washington DC After Christmas – Day 4 (1 place)

Today we ventured out from the Mall area. We went to Chantilly in Virginia (near Dulles Airport) to see another museum that was also under Smithsonian that made my son and husband mouth-watering.

#19 Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Note: From where we stayed near Reagan Airport, we took a combination of Metro and bus to get here. It’s quite long but worth the ride. Then my aunt came to pick up us from the center and we spent the rest of the night with her and her daughter.

Visiting Washington, D.C. during Christmas Break-Udvar-Hazy-Discovery

Christmas Vacation in DC – Day 5 (3 places)

#20 Smithsonian Zoo

#21 Union Station

#22 National Museum of Natural History

Note: Too band the pandas were in the cage that day. But I would say although the zoo is not that big, it’s a pretty good one. We had lunch at the Union Station because my niece told me about the best sandwich she had here during her school field trip, but we’re not sure which one. Haha.. At the museum, our son had fun exploring and learning in the lower ground. This is became his third favorite Smithsonian museum.

Visiting Washington, D.C. during Christmas Break-Smithsonian-Zoo

Christmas Vacation in DC – Day 6 (6 places)

Our last day in DC and we didn’t leave until evening. So, we still had time to enjoy the capital. I only put US Capitol in my itinerary, then we walked following our legs took us. Here are places we visited on our last day:

#23 US Capitol

Since the decision to visit DC came in early December, we didn’t have enough time to contact the local Representative to tour the Capitol. We did it on our second visit in DC. You can’t just walk in, you must make a reservation online in advance.

#24 Ulysses S. Grant Memorial

#25 American Art Museum National & Portrait Gallery

We didn’t stay long at this museum as my son and husband are not into art.

#26 Ford’s Theater National Historic Site

I wasn’t sure we would have time to visit Ford’s Theater, and we did. A couple of years later we visited President Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield, Illinois and they have this theater replica in their exhibition. A cool museum that you must visit when in the area.

#27 Petersen House (house where Lincoln died)

The house is located right across the street.

#28 FBI Building

Visiting Washington, D.C. during Christmas Break-US-Capitol

By the time we had to leave for the airport, we knew that we will be back. Lots of places that we didn’t get to visit, like the Arlington Cemetery, Iwo Jima Memorial, Mt. Vernon, Holocaust Museum, National Cathedral, and more. Not to mention the eating places around town and just strolling admiring the old buildings in the capital.

I didn’t put the Arlington Cemetery, Mt. Vernon, and Holocaust Museum in our itinerary because our son was still too young to understand those places. Other because we ran out of time.

Like I mentioned above, even a week stay won’t be enough to explore Washington, D.C. You just have to make more visits.

Tips for visiting Washington DC during Christmas Break

  • Tour the Mall involves lots of walking; wear your most comfortable shoes.
  • It’s winter, so dress properly because you’re going to stay outside for hours.
  • Don’t forget to carry snacks and drinks.
  • Make sure your cell phone and camera are fully charge and have plenty of room in the memory card.
  • Smithsonian Museums are free of charge .
  • It’s easier and faster to take a Metro around the city rather than driving your own or rental car.
  • Hotels around the Mall are more expensive and mostly don’t come with breakfast and airport pick up. You better find one outside the city but close to the Metro station, and offers breakfast and airport pick up (if you fly.) We stayed in a hotel in Arlington , Virginia.

Have you ever visited Washington DC during Christmas Break? What do you think? Tell me your opinion by leaving a comment below.

visit washington dc christmas

Thank you for sharing this:

Umiko Buhl is a travel blogger and the founder of Two Worlds Treasures. She travels around Texas to neighboring states and around the country with her family and dog from their family home in the south of Dallas/Fort Worth. Originally from Indonesia, she tries to go home every 2-3 years to spend time with her families and friends while exploring Indonesia. Her mission is to share her honest reviews of places she visited.

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25 comments.

I did not know Washington DC had so many things to do. I visited the city for a few days and I saw only a few touristy things. I wish I had known about National Museum of the American Indian and Hirshhorn Museum. I would have definitely gone. But I remember visiting one or two of the museums there. This is a really good guide, I will follow it the next time I am there.

There are so many things to see and do in DC. Even after a couple of visits, we still haven’t visited half of them.

Washington DC seems to be a great Christmas break destination! Visiting all these places linked to American history must have been an experience!

We really had a great time! I’ve never thought about visiting DC before and I was wonder why people visiting DC. Now I understand why.

I’ve always wanted to visit Washington DC but I had no idea there were so many places to visit and see! Will definitely remember a lot of these for the future!

I’ve only ever visited DC in summer, but it would be interesting to visit around the holidays! I’ve heard the winters are fairly mild, especially compared to New York and Boston. One of the things I love about Washington DC is that there’s so much to do both indoors and outdoors with all the museums, so it’s very easy to choose an activity based on the weather.

I’ve never been to NY or Boston, but you are right, DC in December is not as cold as those two cities. I heard summer is humid and crowded, so I will think twice to visit DC at this season.

Wow such a comprehensive list of things to do in Washington DC! Sorry to say that I always thought it was a bit boring city to explore but I have been proved so wrong. Thanks for sharing 🙂

I never thought about visiting DC, but I proved myself wrong. And if you like museums, and it’s really a must visit.

DC would be a fun road trip over Christmas. We visited a few years back when we were in NYC but we only had a day. We’ve been wanting to go back and spend a little longer there next time. It’s also a good time to go because it’s not like you need it to be warm for the sights and there’s lots of indoor museums too.

You are right. We went back for the second time during Christmas holiday, too.

Love this…you gave me a great memory. My family is from Northern Virginia, so for most years, we went up from New Orleans to that area for Christmas. Of course time was spent with family but my mom would often pile us in the Metro or our old VW van and we would roll over into DC to see all the Christmas Decorations and especially the National Christmas Tree! We loved seeing the Smithsonian Museums too especially the Air and Space. I had no idea that there was a Boy Scout Memorial. That would be cool to see too. I think hopefully we can get back next Christmas and maybe tour around again.

There’s so much monuments waiting to be found around DC. I just couldn’t believe my eyes.

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Such a lovely list – I get all christmassy reading this!

Well, hope you will have a great time this Christmas holiday.

I have a student in Washington DC who told me about many of the places you mentioned and she also said that entrance to the museums is free with some exceptions. Didn’t know that the zoo had pandas. However, they’re normally quite lazy, aren’t they?

The pandas are the most attracting animal in the zoo, I think. If it snows in D.C., there must be TV station airing pandas playing in the snow. Every year.

Looks like a pretty jam-packed trip! How awesome that you were able to visit so many important sites. I’ve only been to Washington, D.C. once before for a school trip. It never ceases to amaze me how much history there is in such a condensed location!

Yeah! We’re not the type of family who would spend sometime at the hotel unless it’s a resort. Left in the morning, came back in the evening. Still, there are so much historic places that we haven’t get a chance to visit. I guess that’s why D.C. is (or one of) the most visit in the U.S.

D.C is so close to me, yet I’ve never visited for more than a couple of hours! You just inspired me to make a weekend trip 🙂

So funny! Because when we were there, we wondered whether people who live in D.C. and surrounding area been to the places we visited. I said probably only during school field trip.

Awesome list!! I’ve never been with kids, so definitely have to keep this list in mind when I go there with them!

Great to help!

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visit washington dc christmas

Christmas in Washington, D.C: 10 Things to do in Washington, DC at Christmas

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The United States’ hub of history and politics, Washington, D.C brings millions of visitors each year to see its museums, monuments, and the famous White House. A great city for visitors all year, it gets even better as the holidays near.

If you’re planning to visit Washington, D.C over the holidays, be sure to check out our list of 10 things to do in Washington, D.C at Christmas for some festive fun and yuletide cheer at the capital of the United States.

1. The National Christmas Tree

A tradition for nearly 100 years, the National Christmas Tree at the White House almost needs no introduction. Crowds from all over gather each December to watch the lighting ceremony of one of the world’s most recognizable Christmas trees. 

The Tree Lighting ceremony always kicks off the holiday season in Washington, D.C, full of spectacle, pageantry, and live music to brighten anyone’s holiday spirit. If you miss the ceremony, you can still visit this beautiful tree throughout the month of December. 

In addition, you’ll want to see the famous Pathway of Peace, a walkway of 56 smaller Christmas trees representing all 50 states, 5 US territories, and the District of Columbia. 

visit washington dc christmas

2. Downtown Holiday Market

Looking for a place in Washington D.C to get your Christmas shopping done? Washington, D.C’s outdoor Downtown Holiday Market will delight any holiday shopper seeking unique gift ideas from local artisan vendors.

With over 70 exhibitors featured, as well as ample food and drink options, you can find that unique D.C souvenir and sample some tasty local cuisine at the same time. 

Stay into the evening to enjoy some festive ambience while you stroll along listening to live music and make a date of it by grabbing a nice cocktail at a number of local restaurants nearby.

3. Christmas at the Wharf

The Wharf , one of Washington, D.C’s lively neighborhoods, provides waterfront shopping, food, places to stay, and entertainment year-round along the Potomac River.  At Christmastime, the Wharf provides a variety of things to do throughout the holiday season.

Visitors will want to see the Wharf Christmas tree lighting, as well as the famous District’s Holiday Boat Parade , which showcases over 60 boats adorned in Christmas lights and decor cruising along the Washington Channel.

In addition, visitors can go ice skating, enjoy classic outdoor Christmas movies, and connect with friends while roasting s’mores by the fire at Camp Wharf, a refurbished airstream trailer. 

4. A Christmas Carol at the Historic Ford’s Theatre

By attending a performance of A Christmas Carol at the historic Ford’s Theatre you can experience a fascinating combination of live entertainment and history in one setting. 

As the location where President Abraham Lincoln was notoriously assassinated, Ford’s Theatre is a historic site that still continues to host live performances to this day. 

It’s long-running production of A Christmas Carol remains a popular tradition each year. You’ll want to get tickets in advance for this unique Christmas experience that allows you to take a step back in time to 1865 while enjoying a wonderful classic Christmas tale. 

5. An Italian Christmas Dinner at Filomena Ristorante

A dining staple in Washington, D.C for over 30 years, locals and visitors come to Filomena Ristorante in Georgetown especially during the holidays. 

For a fun and festive Christmas dinner filled with hearty Italian dishes (some of the best in the city), you’ll want to add a stop at Filomena to your Christmas in Washington, D.C visit.

While the food is excellent, Filomena Ristorante really draws the crowds at Christmastime for its famous holiday decor. Get your cameras ready!

A whimsical and magical place at Christmas, the restaurant boasts over 5,500 Christmas ornaments, over 10,000 Christmas lights, and its popular centerpiece Christmas tree. 

visit washington dc christmas

6. Christmas at Mt. Vernon

A short drive from Washington, D.C, visitors come to Mt. Vernon all year to immerse themselves in the history of George Washington’s famous home and estate. During the holidays, Mt. Vernon provides a winter wonderland of activities full of history and fun.

Guests can take a fascinating step back in time touring Mt. Vernon by candlelight during the holidays and learn about area Christmas traditions in the 18th century over some cider, cookies, and live music. Other holiday festivities include:

  • Christmas Illuminations holiday lights and fireworks show
  • Meeting Washington’s Christmas camel
  • Touring Mt. Vernon with Martha Washington
  • Listening to holiday fifing performances
  • Decorating Christmas ornaments
  • Chocolate making demonstrations

visit washington dc christmas

7. Water Skiing Santa Christmas Show 

For over 30 years, Alexandria, VA (a Washington, D.C suburb) has been the place to see Santa on Christmas Eve, but not in a way you’d expect. While most people see Santa at the mall or in a parade around the holidays, you can see him water ski only in Alexandria. 

On Christmas Eve, visitors and locals come out to the historic Old Town Alexandria waterfront to see Santa put on a holiday water skiing show with some other festive friends, braving the chilly Potomac waters. Afterwards, attendees can meet and take pictures with water skiing Santa.

8. Christmas Concerts at the National Cathedral

Christmas in Washington, D.C wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the National Cathedral , the second largest cathedral in the US and 6th largest in the world. 

Since its final completion in 1990 after 83 years of construction, locals and tourists have been attending concerts, recitals, and services there each holiday season. Hearing the sounds of a large choir singing Christmas carols and songs in such a beautiful setting mesmerizes and lifts your spirits at the same time. 

In addition, visitors can tour the cathedral and see this opulent structure covered in festive holiday decor and learn about its impressive history.

9. The US Capitol Christmas Tree

Each year, a special tree from a different US national forest is selected to become the US Capitol Christmas Tree . Once the tree is selected, it goes on a tour across the nation with stops along the way until it arrives at the US Capitol.

An annual tradition for over 50 years, the US Capitol Christmas Tree is decorated with over 10,000 ornaments made by kids from the tree’s home state and lit on the West Lawn of the US Capitol by the Speaker of the House.

A visit to see this gigantic, magnificent tree is a must during your Christmas in Washington, D.C visit. The backdrop of the US Capitol behind the tree provides excellent holiday selfies and family photos.

visit washington dc christmas

10. Gray Ghost’s Annual Christmas Cork and Cheese

Needing a break from the big city during your Christmas in Washington, D.C visit? You’ll want to take an hour’s drive to Amissville, VA to attend the annual Christmas Cork and Cheese celebration at the scenic Gray Ghost Vineyards . 

Attendees can enjoy Gray Ghost’s wine and local cheese tastings, festive desserts, vineyard tours, live holiday music, and a souvenir holiday glass to take home. Plus, you can see the world’s largest cork Christmas display with decorations made from over 120,000 corks!

Looking for more US travel inspiration?

Check out these guides on the best places to visit in…

  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas (North)
  • Texas (South)
  • Texas (East)
  • Texas (West)
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Washington, D.C

Did we miss any of your favorite things to do in Washington, D.C at Christmas?

Let us know in the comments so we can add more to the list!

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VISIT The Tree

The National Christmas Tree site is free to visit and will be open to the public starting December 2, 2023. Learn more at nps.gov

Over 100 Years: An American Tradition

In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge walked from the White House to the Ellipse to light a 48-foot fir tree decorated with 2,500 electric bulbs in red, white and green, as a local choir and a “quartet” from the U.S. Marine Band performed. Decades later, this American holiday tradition continues to bring citizens together to share in a message of hope and peace.

visit washington dc christmas

Ornaments Across the USA

Each year artists give their time and talents to design and create ornaments that symbolize the history, heritage, and culture of their homelands. Explore ornaments created for the 2023 America Celebrates display.

Illustration split on two sides: one depicts the Las Vegas skyline at night, and one depicts a desert landscape during the day

Plan Your Visit

Need help planning your visit to President’s Park? Check out the park’s website for  operating hours ,  things to do , and  contact information .

Sign Up for National Christmas Tree Lighting News and Updates from the National Park Foundation:

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By submitting my email I agree to receive correspondence from the National Park Foundation. Privacy Notice: The National Park Foundation adheres to the privacy policy found at nationalparks.org .

31+ Christmas Activities in Washington DC (+ Events) in 2023

It’s Christmas in DC when the last golden leaves fall from the trees in the nation’s capital.

There are many Washington DC Christmas events for your family to enjoy, from the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on the White House Ellipse to the colorful, frozen sculptures at ICE! at the Gaylord National.

visit washington dc christmas

Fountains are transformed into ice skating rinks for Christmas in DC, botanic gardens into grand light displays, and model trains chug through conservatories.

The tallest and most beautiful evergreen trees are brought in to decorate The National Mall, kicking off an exciting season!

Table of Contents

#1 Skiing Santa (Water Skiing Santa On The Potomac)

Cross the Potomac River to Old Alexandria, VA for an out-of-this-world Santa experience. What began as a dare in 1986 has evolved into an annual community event not to be missed. Santa, his reindeer pals, the Grinch, and a few other friends ride waterskis and jet skis from Founders Park to Point Lumley Park. Yes, just for kicks.

Every Christmas Eve at 1pm, the fun begins. Following the show, there will be a meet-and-greet near the waterfront pavilion and behind the Torpedo Factory.

#2 Ice! at Gaylord National

The Gaylord National hosts a massive Christmas celebration . The Gaylord National is a luxurious hotel in National Harbor. Every year, they hold their Christmas festival, ICE! It is open from late November to New Year’s Eve.

The hotel has rooms for rent and special packages that include a variety of ICE! activities. However, you do not have to be a hotel guest to enjoy everything ICE! has to offer.

For good reason, it’s one of the most popular Christmas activities in Washington, DC. This massive Christmas festival offers a plethora of activities.

Snow tubing, snowman building, ice bumper cars, live performances, and much more are available. If you’re visiting Washington, DC in December and have children, you won’t want to miss ICE! at the Gaylord National. This is without a doubt one of the best hotels in Washington, DC!

B&O Railroad Museum

#3 Polar Express at the B&O Railroad Museum

901 W Pratt St, Baltimore, MD | Full Details

We all know the B&O Railroad Museum as a great place for train lovers as it has the largest collection of 19th-century locomotives.

But at Christmas time, the museum is also home to The Polar Express !

Hop aboard this real train ride and receive your very own golden ticket. You’ll ride the train to the north pole and even see Santa along the way.

#4 Enchant Christmas

This season, Nationals Park is transformed into Enchant Christmas , the world’s largest light maze and market, with snow falling and larger-than-life sculptures as you make your way through this North Pole wonderland.

Special treats will be prepared exclusively for the event, and favorite D.C. vendors such as Ben’s Chili, Dog Tag Bakery, and Meribeth’s Bakery will be present. They’ve heard that if someone asks, “May they Enchant that for you?” you should always say, “Yes!”

What other activities should you not miss? The Ice Skating Trail (skates can be rented) and Santa’s Landing, where professional photos can be taken with the big man himself.Keep an eye out for Paws ‘n’ Claus dates, when you can bring your pup to take photos with Santa as well.

Enchant Christmas is expensive, and it doesn’t always come to D.C., but it’s worth seeing when it does.

#5 Light Shows

Holiday light displays in the DC Metro Area are their favorite family tradition! They are ideal for early winter nights, social distancing, and rekindling the holiday spirit. Every winter, neighborhoods across the country come alive with holiday cheer. Beautiful LED displays and quirky fixtures can be found everywhere, including parks, malls, and private properties.

While some cities’ holiday lights are modest, D.C.’s displays are extravagant, with over 500,000 LED lights and a few roaring tigers!

Holiday displays in Washington, D.C. include more than just lights. Food, live music, and vendors may also be available. Many of the light displays in Washington, D.C. are free, and some aren’t even holiday-themed.

Christmas lighting

There is sure to be something to add to your “Winter in Washington, D.C.” bucket list, from art exhibits and massive installations to Christmas trees and ice skating extravaganzas.

#6 Annual Christmas Party

4101 Yuma Street NW, Washington DC 20016 | Website

Christmas has arrived, and it is taking place! Many Christmas Eve events, such as:

  • Gospel Choirs
  • Santa Claus Gift Distribution
  • Christmas Dinners
  • the Annual Christmas Party in Yuma

People decorate small Christmas trees in their homes, children sing Christmas carols, and families take a week off for Christmas and New Year to celebrate with people from all over the world.

Apart from vacations, there is still plenty to do! Explore some of the best Christmas events and activities for kids near you and reserve your seats for delectable buffets, dinners, and gala nights! Make Christmas Eve memorable with fun activities and events to get you ready for New Year’s Eve.

#7 Holiday Light Displays

You can’t spend Christmas in Washington, DC without visiting the National Christmas Tree. It’s close to the White House, near 15th and E Streets NW. It is actually a large evergreen that has been planted there.

So, unlike the Christmas Tree in New York City, it is a year-round fixture. The massive evergreen has been decorated for Christmas every year since 1923.

If you’re in town early in December, don’t miss one of the coolest Christmas events in Washington DC. Every year in early December, the President and First Lady host the tree lighting ceremony.

If you are able to attend the Tree Lighting Ceremony, you will be able to hear the President deliver a brief speech and, of course, witness the lighting of the tree. It’s one of Washington, DC’s most unusual Christmas activities.

visit washington dc christmas

#8 US Capitol Christmas Tree

In Washington, D.C., they adore their Christmas trees. While Christmas tree scavenger hunts are entertaining, sometimes you just want to see the best, and the United States Capitol Christmas tree is without a doubt one of the best. Every year since 1964, a tree from a different national forest has been chosen to be the official “People’s Tree” on display on the West Lawn of the United States Capitol.

This tree travels far from home, stopping in at least 20 towns along the way. People enjoy following the tree’s progress and stopping by when it comes close to their town.

Thousands of volunteers help raise funds and ensure that the tree is watered and protected during its journey to the nation’s capital.

Viewing this massive tree, which can be nearly twice as tall as the National Christmas Tree and can reach heights of 75 feet, is free.

The more than 10,000 ornaments on this tree were made by children from the tree’s home state. It is truly a tree that affects the entire country, not just the people of Washington, DC.

#9 Library of Congress Christmas Tree

They always know that they can warm up and find holiday joy in front of the Library of Congress Christmas tree on a cold and rainy day in Washington, D.C. This tree, located in the Thomas Jefferson Library of Congress, is sure to make you smile.

It is well-lit throughout the day, making it an ideal destination for families with young children who have an early bedtime. When all you want is a little holiday cheer to brighten your day, you won’t have to worry about the weather.

Get your library card while you’re there for even more fun, and you’ll have access to the stunning Reading Room.

#10 Season’s Greenings at the Botanic Gardens

They love a little greenery in the winter, and D.C. excels at it. The annual holiday exhibit at the United States Botanical Garden features poinsettias, seasonal music, and greenery.

The replicas of many of the city’s landmark buildings decked out for the holidays inside the greenhouse set it apart. These miniature structures, replicas of which can be found on the National Mall, are entirely made of natural materials. They are on display in the conservatory’s entryway, just past the visitor’s desk, all year.

Scavenger hunts for the Washington Monument, the United States Capitol, the Supreme Court, and even the National Museum of African American History and Culture will be popular among children.

You can also visit the tropical room, cactus garden, children’s gardens, and special U.S. Botanical Christmas exhibits, each with a different theme. There are, indeed, Christmas trains.

The best part is that the US Botanical Garden is open all year. There are no more excuses not to visit this greenhouse near the United States Capitol.

#11 Washington National Cathedral Christmas Concerts

The National Cathedral is a stunning structure. If you look hard enough, you can even find a Darth Vader gargoyle on it!

While tours are available all year, the National Cathedral puts on special programmes during the holidays, such as the Christmas at the Cathedral concert.

There will be a mix of medieval and modern music performed to get you in the holiday spirit!

In addition, on December 25th at 1:30 p.m., there will be a Christmas Day Organ Recital.

visit washington dc christmas

#12 Peppermint Treats From Milk Bar

1525 15th St NW Washington, DC 20005 | Website

Milk Bar is a sweet (and occasionally savory) shop that has been shaking up the dessert scene since 2008 by turning familiar treats upside down and on their heads. “One of the most exciting bakeries in the country,” according to Bon Appetit magazine.

However, you can simply refer to us as Milk Bar. They don’t believe in feeding the hype beast. They are, however, very interested in feeding our flavorful treats to those who crave the unexpected. Try our best-selling Peppermint Bark Cake and the rest of our holiday treats.

If you’re referring to Candy Cane Chocolate Chip Cornflake Ice Cream. You’ve got an excellent topping bar or a very fancy ice cream sandwich with perfectly sweet and salty Peppermint Snaps and crushed candy cane bits.

#13 Downtown Holiday Market

The Downtown Holiday Market is an annual tradition that honors local D.C. artisans. It’s the bright spot in the Penn Quarter and Chinatown during the holiday season, set up in front of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery.

The market is open daily from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., with vendors changing throughout the season, so make sure to stop by more than once. This much-anticipated D.C. The Christmas event will feature hot coffee from local roasters, fresh mini donuts, and other festive treats, as well as 150 crafters, artisans, and stylish boutiques with customized tents.

#14 Experience Handel’s Messiah 

3101 Wisconsin Ave., Washington DC 20016 | Website

Handel’s Messiah at the Washington National Cathedral is a yearly tradition for many D.C. residents and visitors from across the Mid-Atlantic region. The second weekend of December features at least three late afternoon/evening concerts.

That same weekend, there is also a midday family concert, a shorter performance featuring the highlights.

#15 Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theater

Ford’s theater is always available for public tours (for a small fee). Seeing a performance at the theater where Lincoln was shot becomes an extra special treat during the holidays. Yes, it may sound morbid, but this historic theater has been hosting performances for centuries.

This holiday season, family and friends will enjoy seeing Ford’s theater’s A Christmas Carol, which is something not many people can say they have done.

This haunting and moving production based on Charles Dickens’ novel tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge (usually played by a well-known actor), a grumpy old man who is visited by his old (dead) business partner and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.

He learns about his own life as well as the lives of those around him and eventually changes his mind.

#16 See The Nutcracker at The Washington Ballet 

3515 Wisconsin Avenue NW Washington, DC 20016 | Website

Seeing a performance of The Nutcracker is one of the most iconic things to do in Washington DC in December. This classic Christmas ballet is performed to perfection by the Washington DC Ballet Company. The classic play is set in Georgetown in 1882 for this performance. To add a twist, the main characters are George Washington and King George III.

visit washington dc christmas

You won’t find a Nutcracker performance like this anywhere else. The show is performed by the Washington Ballet beginning in late November and running through December.

They also have special performance nights throughout the month. As an example, Military Appreciation Night or Family Night.

On certain days, they also have a tea party after the performance. If you’re in Washington DC during the holidays, you can’t go wrong with seeing a performance of The Nutcracker.

Christmas in Washington, DC is truly a magical experience that everyone should have at least once in their lives. Whether you’re strolling through the Christmas markets, watching a Nutcracker performance, or spending the day at one of the many festivals. December is an excellent time to visit Washington, DC and experience the city’s charm and magic.

#17 Go Ice Skating at The Washington Harbor 

The largest outdoor ice skating rink in Washington, D.C. is open from mid-November to mid-March each year along the Potomac River. Weekly themed events like Cartoon Skate or Rock the Rink are sure to entice your children to learn a new skill or your friends to bundle up even on a chilly evening.

Restaurants such as Fiola Mare and Sequoia are ideal for warming up with cocktails and a bite while the Zamboni smooths the ice. Better yet, reserve a table for brunch at Farmers Fishers Bakers and burn off those calories with a few laps around the rink.

#18 Ice Skating at the Sculpture Garden

The National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden ice skating rink is one of their favorite winter traditions in Washington, D.C. Bring the kids or a date to enjoy the beauty that surrounds this fountain-turned-ice-rink during the winter months.

From mid-November to mid-March, the ice rink is open. Check out the $5 food and drink specials at the Pavilion Cafe during the week from 4-7pm if you’re looking to save money on family dinners and date nights. This is one well-kept local secret that will undoubtedly leak.

Lessons are available for both beginning and advanced skaters. If you’re visiting from out of town, a 30-minute drop-in lesson is your best bet, but season-long lessons are also available for locals.

#19 The District’s Holiday Boat Parade

The Wharf has become the place to be in D.C. for Christmas. Bring the kids down to decorate ornaments, and then relax by the fire pit with a cup of hot cocoa.

The Annual Holiday Boat Parade will pass by as you all wave at the captains, who are excited to show off their ships, which are all decked out for the holidays. Before the fireworks show, adults can enjoy a few adult beverages at the Waterfront Beer and Wine Garden.

With children, you can visit restaurants such as La Vie and Lupo Marino to stay warm and enjoy your beverages together.

BONUS : The Saturday after Thanksgiving, don’t miss Light Up the Wharf, which kicks off a season of events at The District. As the tree is lit for the first time, the dock transforms into your own winter wonderland.

#20 Christkindlmarkt at the Heurich House Museum

Don’t know what to get that special someone on your Christmas list? The annual Christkindlmarkt, a traditional German Christmas market held in the Heurich mansion, is held in Dupont Circle (now the Heurich House Museum).

The event brings together 40 local artisans from Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia to celebrate their crafts, art, and delicious food gifts.

If you can tear yourself away from the tables piled high with things to buy, tours of the property decked out for the holidays are available.

But don’t put off purchasing tickets to this market. It is only available for one weekend, the first weekend of December. Tickets include a self-guided tour of the house, and all proceeds help to keep the museum open for future generations.

visit washington dc christmas

#21 US Botanic Garden Holiday Train Display

The US Botanic Garden has a separate entrance that leads to an elaborate model train display that is built to reflect a different theme each year. During the holidays, the train display is one of the best things to do in DC with kids .

The majority of the train decorations are made of natural materials and highlight locations across the United States. And every year they focus on a different theme.

Whatever the theme, multiple trains are always in motion over bridges, through mountains, and past scenes you’ll recognise if you’ve traveled the United States.

#22 Zoo Lights at the National zoo

3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008 | Website

ZooLights at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo is one of Washington, D.C.’s best free holiday light displays. This magical, holiday-themed event takes place from Thanksgiving weekend to New Year’s Day. Live music, glowing animal lanterns, and over 500,000 LED lights are all part of ZooLights.

Arrive early to secure a parking spot (for a fee) and see the pandas, their favorite zoo animals. Bei Bei may have returned to China to meet a lady friend, but his parents Tian Tian and Mei Xiang, along with their other zoo pals, are still there to wish you a Merry Christmas.

The zoo shops are also open, so you can stock up on Christmas gifts that benefit the zoo’s conservation efforts all year.

zoo lights at the national zoo

#23 Georgetown Glow

Georgetown Glow is an annual free exhibit of illuminated public art installations. 11 curated lighted art pieces are scattered throughout Georgetown’s historic buildings and shops.

Spend a festive evening exploring the lighted art and visiting the many shops, bars, and restaurants in Georgetown.

You can visit GLOW on your own or as part of one of the many themed walking tours that include history, food, photography, and art.

#24 See A Christmas Carol at The National Theater

Experience A unique Christmas Carol | past, present, and future. “There is no better gift this season for true theater fans.” The National Theater is a live stage production venue in Washington, D.C. Broadway musicals, concerts, lectures, opera, ballet, seminars, and receptions are all held at the Theater.

Beetlejuice – The Musical, Hadestown, and Aladdin are among the events scheduled for the National Theater in 2023. TicketSales.com has the largest inventory of National Theater tickets, so keep an eye out for great resale deals.

#25 See An Irish Carol at The Keegan Theater 

1742 Church St NW, Washington, DC 20036 | Website

The Keegan Theater is a Washington, D.C.-based American professional theater that produces a mix of classics, musicals, and new works, including world premieres. Acting that is intense: always well-emoted but never overplayed. Great prices and a diverse menu. I really like “Hands on a Hardbody.”

Keegan has been described as “eclectic” and as one of the “most popular small [theater] companies” in Washington, D.C. Its repertoire has expanded from its initial focus on Irish plays and playwrights to include musicals and contemporary American and British works.

#26 Skating at the National Sculpture Garden

A spin on the ice at the National Sculpture Garden is a fun, though not free, addition to any holiday visit to Washington, DC.

During the day, explore the large-scale sculptures by major artists that surround the rink, and at night, skate under festive lights.

Tip : The skating rink is open daily from mid-November to early March, weather permitting, except for major holidays.

#27 See a Family Christmas 

1666 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 525 Washington DC Website

Bring the kids for an unforgettable holiday experience as the Choral Arts Chorus performs holiday favorites just for them! They’ll take you on a festive tour of holiday favorites that will have your entire family singing all the way home. Santa, Frosty, and Rudolph are on their way! This one-hour concert is appropriate for kids aged 5 and up.

visit washington dc christmas

#28 National Menorah

2110 Leroy Place NW Washington DC, 20008 | Website

The White House Ellipse also houses the National Menorah. Proclamations, entertainment, hot donuts and latkes, and free dreidels and menorah kits are all part of the annual Menorah Lighting Ceremony.

#29 Help out at The National Wreaths Across America Day  

214 McNair Rd, Arlington, VA | Website

Participating in Wreaths Across America is a unique way to remember their fallen soldiers.

Every year, thousands of holiday wreaths are placed on graves in military cemeteries across America, including Arlington National Cemetery.

Volunteers will ensure that every grave has a beautiful wreath placed on it, and the sight of thousands of wreaths laid out is extremely moving.

If you are unable to attend the ceremony, you can still visit Arlington National Cemetery on one of their free walking tours.

#30 Listen to The United States Airforce Band  

Washington, DC | Website

It is the premier musical organization of the Air Force and is based at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. There are six performing ensembles in the band:

  • Singing Sergeants
  • Airmen of Note
  • Air Force Strings
  • Ceremonial Brass
  • The Concert Band

These musical ensembles perform a wide range of styles, including classical, jazz, popular, patriotic, and ceremonial music.

The Band’s mission is to provide musical products that elicit emotions, create positive impressions, and communicate information in accordance with Air Force objectives for the defense of the United States of America.

#31 Visit Santa

Christmas is the season of Santa!

While there are plenty of places to visit Santa in the Washington, DC Metro area, often they are for a short period of time or even a one time appearance.

Shopping malls provide an opportunity to visit Santa 7 days a week for 4 or more weeks prior to Christmas.

Convenience is the biggest advantage to visiting a shopping mall Santa, but the high cost of pictures, packages ranging in price from $21 to $45, can be a disadvantage.

Photo packages at all malls are also available.

#32 Bass Pro Shops

Who can forget last year’s Bass Pro Shop Santa Wonderland ? It had everything we were looking for to have an adventurous Christmas. From holiday displays, Santa, games and a lot more!

visit washington dc christmas

Mixed in with all the free fun are displays of toys and Christmas novelties to buy.

The main attraction…Santa of course and the free photo with Santa you can get.

The dates for this year, are going to be announced soon, and you definitely don’t want to miss that. You can check the latest information here .

Related Christmas Fun!

  • 10 Spots for Snow Tubing Near Tobyhanna PA: Where to Go
  • Holiday Plays & Shows in DC, MD & VA
  • 45+ Holiday Light Shows in the DC Area
  • The Polar Express at the B&O Railroad Museum
  • Christmas at Gaylord National
  • ICE! and the Christmas Village at Gaylord National

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8 Things To Do in Washington, DC, During the Holidays

  • December 21, 2022

visit washington dc christmas

In the United States, late November through early January is a time filled with many holidays celebrated by individuals all around the country. Some of the most popular holidays include Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. These occasions bring friends and family together to spend time with one another and celebrate, including by checking out special holiday events in their area. Whether you live there or are just visiting, our nation’s capital is a wonderful place to enjoy the holidays. In this article, we’ll share 8 things to do in Washington, DC, during the holidays.

How To Enjoy the Holidays in DC

  • Visit the Downtown Holiday Market

The  Downtown Holiday Market  is an outdoor shopping village that features many local small businesses and entrepreneurs, as well as food and live entertainment. It is open every day from 12 PM to 8 PM between November 18th and December 23rd, and is a great place to find gifts for your loved ones or simply get into the holiday spirit.

  • Check Out the National Christmas Tree

One of the most famous destinations in DC during the holidays is the  National Christmas Tree  in President’s Park. The National Tree is also surrounded by other trees that are decorated with handmade ornaments from all of the U.S. states and territories. Additionally, there are nightly musical performances during the holiday season. Beginning December 1st, the display is open from 10 AM to 10 PM each day and is free to visit, and the National Christmas Tree is lit from 4:30 PM to 10 PM daily.

  • Experience the Lighting of the National Menorah

The  lighting of the National Menorah  takes place on December 18th in 2022 and is accompanied by musical performances, special guests, and celebrations, including the National Menorah Essay Contest. The lighting ceremony can also be watched online, and the National Menorah can be visited throughout all of Hanukkah.

  • Enjoy Beautiful Light Displays

Another great thing to do during the holidays in Washington, DC, is to enjoy the beautiful light displays located throughout the District.  DC Holiday Lights  turns some of DC’s most popular neighborhoods and corridors into dazzling holiday displays with lights and decor. Some of the main areas participating include Mount Pleasant, Logan Circle, Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, U Street and Woodley Park, Columbia Heights, and other locales. You can then vote for which display you liked best. Additionally, the historic Georgetown neighborhood puts on  Georgetown GLOW , which puts illuminated artworks on display through January 26th.

  • Visit the Smithsonian National Zoo

Speaking of holiday lights, the Smithsonian National Zoo hosts its  ZooLights! experience  each year through December 30th. The National Zoo is turned into a winter wonderland with environmentally friendly lights and glowing animal lanterns. The event also includes live music performances, holiday shopping, and winter treats.

  • Head to the Botanic Garden

The U.S. Botanic Garden offers a garden-wide “ Season’s Greenings ” display from November 24th through January 2nd. The display involves model trains, poinsettias, DC landmarks made out of plants, and other holiday decor.

  • Attend Enchant Christmas

Between November 25th and January 1st, Nationals Park hosts  Enchant Christmas —a winter wonderland that includes a light maze, ice skating trail, and Village featuring local vendors. This is a great outing for couples, families, and large groups, as there is something for everyone to enjoy.

  • Catch a Play or Musical

If being outside in the frigid weather isn’t for you, consider staying warm indoors while catching a play or musical. DC has many great productions to choose from during the holidays, like  Step Afrika ,  A Christmas Carol  at Ford’s Theatre, and more. 

Thompson-Markward Hall’s Impact

Thompson-Markward Hall (TMH) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the academic and professional success of young women. Located in the heart of Washington, DC, TMH offers safe, affordable, and convenient housing for women working, attending school, or interning in our nation’s capital. Included in the room and board rates are utilities, free high-speed Wi-Fi, breakfast and dinner, and a diverse, welcoming community.

In addition to offering a wonderful place to call home in DC, we provide useful information to residents and prospective applicants as a resource to help them become familiar with DC and be successful in all of their endeavors. Whether you’re currently looking for a place to stay in DC, planning for a potential future here, or simply looking to learn more about the DC area, TMH is here to help!

Learn more about our accommodations or to submit an application today to start enjoying all of the benefits of living at TMH! You can also make a donation to support the crucial work we do!

Experience TMH

What we offer, resident resources, get in touch.

Email:   [email protected]

Call us:   202-546-3255

235 Second St NE, Washington DC 20002

Young Woman’s Christian Home dba Thompson-Markward Hall. All Rights Reserved. Registered 501(c)(3). EIN: 53-0208365

visit washington dc christmas

Room and board is due on the first of every month. TMH does not issue payment notices. A $20.00 late fee is charged everyday beginning at 9:00 pm on the 5th day of the month until the room and board payment is received. If you are unable to make your monthly payment for any reason, please speak to management immediately.

Room and board includes the first day of the month until the morning of the last day of the month or until the morning of the day of check-out, whichever day comes first.

In the event that a resident does not stay the entire month, rent will be prorated within the same month. To view the pro-rated fee schedule and a list of other fees—click here: TMH Pro-Rated Fee Schedule 6-1-2022

Each resident is asked to abide by the TMH House Rules and Regulations stipulated here: House Rules and Procedures Rule-packet-Emergency-Procedures-Updated-12-2019 . Please read this document to become familiar with TMH policies and procedures such as guest policies, meal times, smoking areas, printer and copier use, Internet and telephone use, damage charges, and much more.

Monday-Friday hours / breakfast 7:00am-9:30am dinner 5:45pm – 8:00pm sat hours / breakfast 8:00 – 11:00am sun hours / brunch 8:00 – 11:00am dinner 5:00pm-7:00pm

Weekly Menu

Commuting:  Metro stops within walking distance are  Union Station , Capitol South, and Eastern Market. Refillable  SMARTRIP  cards are available for purchase at all metro stops. For more information on public transportation visit  WMATA .

Parking:  TMH does not offer parking and street parking is limited. Most areas offer 2 hour parking from 7:00am-8:30pm and unlimited overnight parking without a permit. However, if you do not have a Residential Parking Permit and your car is seen in the area repeatedly within a 30-day period you may be ticketed for not obtaining proper tags.

Union Station is the nearest public parking garage. There is generally a wait list for obtaining a parking space.  Click here  to visit their website to obtain up-to-date information.

Temporary Parking Permits:  DC offers Reciprocity Parking Permits in special situations.  Click here  to see if you qualify. If you meet the requirements, you can obtain a Proof of Residency form from the front office.

Registering Your Vehicle in DC:  If you do not meet the requirements for a temporary parking permit, you may choose to register your vehicle in DC.  Click here  for specific instructions.

Other Transportation Information:

  • Capitol Bike Share
  • DC Circulator
  • Taxis Online
  • Voting:  To become a registered voter in the DC area, visit the  Board of Elections & Ethics . Please note that you must unregister from your current voting state in order to register as a voter in DC.
  • DC One Card:  DC has a new initiative to incorporate multiple cards into one all-inclusive card. The DCOne Card is a library card, Metro card, and can grant access to Public Parks programs.  Click here  to register or get more information.
  • DC Plastic Bag Policy:  Washington DC’s  Skip the Bag, Save the River Initiative  requires a $0.05 fee per bag from businesses selling food and alcohol. Be sure to take reusable bags with you to the grocery store to avoid the fee.
  • DC Emergency Alerts:  The DC Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Response has an alert system to notify residents of severe weather, police activity, road closures, and school and government closings. Notifications can be received via email or text message and can be specified to neighborhoods or work areas. For text alerts sign up  here .
  • DC Metropolitan Police Resources:  DC Metro PD offers several resources as well as an anonymous tip line for security concerns. You can find the tip line number as well as other important emergency phone numbers  here .

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  • Christmas In Washington DC: A Handy Guide To Witness The Glory And Joy Of Festivities!

03 Jan 2022

Washington is one of the oldest and best-planned cities in the world. Classic, Contemporary and fusion are the words to describe Washington. The place appears gorgeous with the dusk of the evening times itself. Imagine the majestic look it would hold when it is lit with fairy lights during the Christmas season. Washington DC is an amazing choice to spend the Christmas eve.

You need to know about things to do in Washington DC on Christmas. You would book your tickets to Washington right away after reading this handy guide of things you can enjoy doing at this place with Christmas jingles all around.

1. National Christmas Tree and Nationalism

National Christmas Tree

Image Source The National Christmas Tree is situated across the White House. The main National Tree is surrounded by smaller trees representing the states that make up the United States of America. You can see this as an analogy to the stars in the National Flag. One can imagine the number of lights and the lovely picture it would portray when witnessed in real. Though you can find a lot of Christmas trees around Washington DC all beautifully decked up, there is something so special about the National Christmas tree. Not just the visitors, but also, the locals do not want to miss the chance of glancing at the National Christmas Tree.

Location: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500, USA

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2. Sip And Munch The Afternoon Holiday Tea

tea and cups

Image Source What’s more peaceful than sipping on different blends of tea on a Christmas weekend afternoon. There are a lot of cafes and lounges in and around Washington DC which have roped in some of the best brands to provide you with a great taste of selected tea types and brands. This tea is served along with rich cupcakes and other baked goodies. The softness of these gluttony guilts and the hot tea just melts in your mouth while you enjoy the cool afternoon. It is indeed a great way to spend the lazed afternoon with your loved ones this Christmas in Washington.

Must Read: 10 Hostels In Washington DC That Offer Luxury Without Burning A Hole In Your Pocket

3. Go, Market Hopping

Market Hopping

Image Source Christmas is the season when Washington DC throws up spaces for open market spaces. This could undoubtedly bag the right place in the list of things to do on Christmas in Washington DC 2022. Stalls of some of the best sellers and brands from all over Europe like Germany, Sweden are put up here. The cherry on the cake factor is that you can get some amazing discounts. Moreover, bringing everything under one single roof is possible only during the Christmas season. The sellers also showcase an array of products of people’s likes. There are many who save up just to shop during the Weekend.

4. Experience Wharf Christmas

large christmas tree

Image Source

If you are looking for a lovely ambiance with great music and food for a meet up with your longtime friend, then go to Wharf. Santa, Music, Princesses greet and what not. Every ingredient required to turn your Christmas greet is found in Wharf. The best part is that you do not need to spend a lot of money on entry and to access the other arrangements at the Place. It is indeed boring to follow the usual way of meeting your beloved in a restaurant. This idea of open air filled with fun and frolic will definitely feed your hearts and brains.

Suggested Read: 10 Museums In Washington DC For An Insight Into The American History

5. Christmas With The Flora At Botanic Garden

Flora At Botanic Garden

Image Source The US Botanic Garden at Washington is one of its kind in the entire world. Tourists never fail to make a visit to the Botanic Garden on their trip to Washington. The place is filled with exotic species of flora and occupies a prime position in history. The best part is that the Botanical gardens carve replicas of monuments in the USA out of real plants and displays it. These carvings are even more wonderful to look at with the colorful Christmas lights.

Location: 100 Maryland Ave SW, Washington, DC 20001, USA Timings: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

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6. Bring Out The Child In You By Ice Skating

 Ice Skating in snow

Image Source Ice Skating at Fairmont Washington is one exhilarating way to spend your Christmas in Washington DC. Washington is never snow-clad at any time of the year. So, Fairmont has created a space where you can skate in synthetic plastics and get the feel of skating on real ice. You can borrow the skates for less than $5 per hour and enjoy the time. There are many outlets which offer you fresh hot chocolate and other delicacies. A gulp of the creamy hot chocolate after skates is a heavenly feel.

Location: 3050 K St NW, Washington, DC 20007, USA Timings: 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM Entry fee: $5 per hour

Suggested Read: 10 Incredible Restaurants In Washington DC That Are Creating A Lot Of Buzz

7. Christmas At Union Station

Christmas At Union Station

Image Source Washington DC Christmas would turn out to be much memorable for the entire family if you decide to spend your time with family at Union Station. There is something for everyone in the family, which Durham Museum Union Station could offer. Santa to surprise the children with lovely gifts. A wonderful choir to sing sweet songs. The artifacts and other rare things in the museum which would interest the older people in the household.

Location: 50 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002, USA Timings: Monday – Saturday, 10:00 am – 9:00 pm, Sunday, Noon – 6:00 pm

8. Christmas At Zoo

Christmas At Zoo

Image Source Celebrating the Christmas eve at zoo definitely sounds interesting when you are at the Smithsonian National Zoo. It is an obvious fact that you won’t be able to spot animals late in the night, but you can definitely have a great time by enjoying the sight of figurines of animals. More than 500,000 LED lights are arranged to give you the dreamy feel. Concerts, great food add a new touch to the otherwise usual zoo. If you are in Washington DC for your Christmas, then never miss out on planning a trip to this zoo. This is one of the meticulously planned Washington DC events in December 2018.

Location: 3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008, USA Timings: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Entry fees: $16 for 3 hours and $22 for more than 3 hours

Suggested Read: 15 Best Places To Visit In Washington DC In 2022 That Will Take You Back In Time

9. Stroll Around Georgetown

Georgetown

Image Source There is a lot of difference between taking a tour around Georgetown in the normal days and busy days. Georgetown appears even more gorgeous during the Christmas season. Window Shopping while you munch on your favorite snacks is something you need to experience in Georgetown. There are a lot of events which happen in all corners of the place giving it a festive look.

Location: Washington, DC 20229, USA

10. Christmas Tree Lighting With Your Kids

Christmas Tree Lighting at night

Image Source You can light up the Christmas Tree with your entire family and enjoy the glow on the tree. This is a tradition followed by the people overages. Even outsiders can participate and get an experience of this ceremony. Every community based out of the USA has this event conducted to mark the Christmas eve. It is also one of the best ways to connect with your family.

Suggested Read: Shopping In Washington DC: 10 Incredible Places For The Best Retail Therapy!

Where To Stay In Washington DC

These are some of the best places to stay on your trip to Washington DC during the Christmas season.

1. Willard Hotel

Willard Hotel

Image Source Situated very near to Whitehouse, this hotel has space to conduct concerts and events to soothe your ears and soul. The place is also beautifully adorned with all the lights and gives more royalty to the appearance. Priced very nominally, it is one of the best hotels in Washington DC.

Location: 1401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. (202) 628-9100.

2. Ritz Carlton Hotel

Ritz Carlton Hotel outer view

Image Source The best Christmas tree décor can be found in this hotel in the entire city. The place also offers really tasty food. One can vouch that they can get to taste the best cookies and milk in the city in this place.

Location: 1150 22nd St NW, Washington, D.C. (202) 835-0500.

3. Gaylord National Resort

Resort outer view

Image Source If you are looking forward to enjoying your Christmas eve with a whole new different theme, then you need to head towards Gaylord National Resort. Every year, the resort comes up with a different theme to entice their visitors.

Location: 201 Waterfront Street National Harbor, MD (301) 965-4000.

Further Read: Nightlife In Washington DC: 9 Best Places To Go Crazy & Wild Like Never Before!

So are you ready to spend your Christmas vacations roaming around the streets of Washington DC? If yes, then keep this guide handy and plan and customize your USA vacations with us and let us cater the best services on your demand!

Disclaimer : Some images are for representation purposes only. TravelTriangle claims no credit for images featured on our blog site unless otherwise noted. All visual content is copyrighted to its respectful owners. We try to link back to original sources whenever possible. If you own the rights to any of the images, and do not wish them to appear on TravelTriangle, please contact us and they will be promptly removed. We believe in providing proper attribution to the original author, artist or photographer.

Please Note:  Any information published by TravelTriangle in any form of content is not intended to be a substitute for any kind of medical advice, and one must not take any action before consulting a professional medical expert of their own choice.

Frequently Asked Questions About Christmas In Washington DC

How is Christmas celebrated in Washington DC?

Christmas is one of the most vibrant and exciting festivals that is celebrated in Washington DC. One can witness this festival being celebrated in the following ways when in DC on Christmas: – National Christmas Tree Lighting – Christmas special flea markets in every nook – Ice Skating – Exchanging of gifts – Streets and Zoos being decorated with lights – Christmas music and other show performances

What do people eat during Christmas in Washington DC?

There are many famous dishes that people in Washington eat during the Christmas festivities including steak, turkey with stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, carrots, turnips, roast beef, ham, poultry, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, apple pie, fruitcake, raisin pudding, Christmas pudding, and more.

What is the temperature on Christmas Day in Washington DC?

The temperature during Christmas in Washington DC usually hovers around 6 to 7 degrees Celsius during the day and around -3 to -1 degrees Celsius during the night.

Where can I see Christmas lights in DC?

The top places where you can see the Christmas lights are National Zoo, The Wharf, Old Town Alexandria Marina, Mormon Temple, Seneca Creek State Park, Watkins Regional Park, Meadowlark Gardens, and many more.

Where can I see Santa in DC?

There are many places where one can see Santa in Washington DC including Aviation Museum, National Capital Trolly Museum, Waterskiing (Potomac), Kennedy Center, B&O’s Magical Holiday Express, ICE, and more.

Where does National Tree Lighting take place in DC?

The National Christmas Tree is a massive tree that is sitting in the northeast quadrant of the Ellipse. The lighting of the tree takes place in The Ellipse that is located in the vicinity of the President House a.k.a. The White House.

On which channel can I see the lighting of the Christmas tree?

If one misses out on lighting of the National Christmas Tree live, no worries. One can always witness the live broadcast of this event on the NBC Channel.

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The 30 best things to do in D.C. this weekend and next week

Some of the area’s top festivals and events return, including Smithsonian Solstice Saturday, Home Rule Music Fest, the Barbecue Battle and Shakespeare in the Parks.

This weekend sees the return of an array of festivals and special events. The Smithsonian’s Solstice Saturday celebrates the longest day of the year by keeping some museums open until midnight with special tours, events and even an arcade. Alexandria’s Portside festival gears up for the city’s 275th birthday with music, beer gardens and family fun. The Embassy of France opens its doors for the annual Fête de la Musique concert, but more than 40 other artists are performing across Georgetown. The 32nd Barbecue Battle brings irresistible aromas and catchy music to the streets of downtown. In new attractions, the Folger Shakespeare Library celebrates its grand reopening, and while timed-entry tickets have been claimed for Friday, the building is open throughout the weekend.

Editor’s note : This weekend’s dangerous heat wave has led to the postponement of some events, including the Boot ’N Scoot at Hi-Lawn . If you’re planning to enjoy an outdoor festival or other activity this weekend, check social media for updates, and stay cool and hydrated regardless.

Friday, June 21

Home Rule Music Festival

Wild to think that D.C.’s annual Home Rule Music Festival — which celebrates homegrown jazz and go-go traditions that date back generations — is only on its third summer. And to add to the time-warping fun of it all, this year’s fest unfolds in episodes. An opening-night gig will be followed by a full day of outdoor music in June. Then jump ahead a full month for another day-long dance party in July. Expect appearances from a spate of spiritual jazz heroes (Idris Ackamoor and the Pyramids; the New Doug Carn Sextet; Plunky and Oneness of Juju), plus a constellation of go-go troupes (Rare Essence; Black Alley; Be’la Dona). The outdoor events also promise family-friendly games, plus vendors peddling food, drinks and records. Friday at 7 p.m. at the Black Cat, $40-$50 ; Saturday at the Parks at Walter Reed, free-$150 ; July 20 at Alethia Tanner Park, free-$75 .

Portside in Old Town Summer Festival

July marks the city of Alexandria’s 275th anniversary, and this milestone is naturally part of the celebration during Old Town’s annual summer waterfront festival. Local brewery Port City Brewing Company is serving a commemorative hoppy IPA, dubbed ALX275, that was brewed with 275 pounds of hops. Port City beers are available, as well as drinks from Lost Boy Cider and Virginia’s Horton Vineyards, while local businesses like Rocklands Barbeque and Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana are slinging food. Saturday’s events have been canceled because of the heat, but Friday still brings the ALX Jazz Fest @ Portside, featuring verse from local poets in between sets by bands like the Lovejoy Group, Brandon Woody’s UPENDO and Kokayi. Try your hand at lawn games and art projects, including activities inspired by the 275th anniversary. 6 to 9 p.m. Free .

Clipper Race Fleet Week at the Wharf

After more than 10 months at sea, the teams from the Clipper Round the World yacht race arrive in Washington for Clipper Race Fleet Week at the Wharf. This marks the first time D.C. is serving as a port for the race, which covers 40,000 nautical miles while circumnavigating the globe, and this is the only East Coast stop for the 11 teams. The public is invited to a spate of free events, including yacht tours and live entertainment, and to learn what it takes to sail around the world. On Tuesday evening, the event concludes with the parade of sail and a fireworks display as the teams set off for Britain on the final leg of the race. Friday from 5 to 9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Tuesday from 7 to 10 p.m. Free .

Fête de la Musique at the French Embassy and throughout Georgetown

World Music Day, which originated in France four decades ago as a day to celebrate free, live music in communities, comes to the French Embassy and outdoor venues across Georgetown on Friday. At the embassy, three stages offer a variety of genres, plus dancing and drinks available for purchase. Highlights include the French Choir of Washington and German percussionist Christian Benning in the embassy’s auditorium, the Magnolia Hungarian Folk Band and Baltimore Swing Drop in the ballroom, and the alt-pop Smooth City and French DJ Escandaleux in the Place Charles de Gaulle. The embassy recommends arriving early and to expect lines. If the embassy is at capacity, you can still catch live music at Georgetown Waterfront Park, Book Hill Park, the Sandlot Georgetown and other venues throughout the neighborhood. 5 to 10 p.m. Free.

Midsommar at Electric Cool-Aid

Summer solstice festivals are a big deal in Nordic countries: When you’ve survived a dark, bleak winter, having daylight for 18 hours a day (or more) is a reason to celebrate. Electric Cool-Aid channels its best Swedish self to welcome the solstice, with flower crowns; Absolut vodka drinks; Swedish fish; and a playlist heavy on Robyn, Abba and songs produced by Max Martin (so Katy AND Taylor?) at the Shaw beverage garden. The fun begins “after sunset.” Free .

Atlas Brew Works arrives in Alexandria

The next step in Atlas Brew Works’ plans for regional beer domination begins this weekend, as the Ivy City-based brewery opens a 6,000-square-foot brewpub and taproom in Alexandria’s Carlyle Crossing development, a short walk from the Eisenhower Avenue Metro station. While actual brewing won’t begin for a few weeks, the taproom has 16 draft lines, pinball machines, a “sun-soaked patio” (per its press release) and a branch of the award-winning local Andy’s Pizza. Through Sunday, Atlas offers a free slice of pizza with the purchase of a pint of beer. Open at 11 a.m. daily.

Saturday, June 22

Smithsonian Solstice Saturday

This weekend brings the longest Saturday of the year, both in terms of the amount of daylight (14 hours, 53 minutes, 47 seconds) and the hours the Smithsonian is open. The annual Solstice Saturday is a chance to explore the museums after hours with free activities for visitors of all ages. Sally’s Night at the Air and Space Museum honors Sally Ride with planetarium shows, trivia challenges and hands-on science experiments until 11 p.m. (Tickets are required.) The Arts and Industries Building turns into a glow-in-the-dark arcade with classic games and immersive music until 11 p.m. Artists from across the European Union join forces for sound performances and interactive music at the Hirshhorn, where indoor exhibitions are open until 10 p.m. Little ones who can’t make it until midnight can visit American History during the day for a festival celebrating Latin music with story time and dance lessons. And at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, where no passes are required after 4 p.m., you can explore the “Afrofuturism” exhibit, which is scheduled to close Aug. 18. Closing times vary by museum. Free; some events require advance tickets .

Folger Shakespeare Library reopening weekend

The multiyear renovation of Folger Shakespeare Library’s historic building is finally complete: The Folger officially opens its doors to the public Friday at 1 p.m., and while timed entry passes for the first day have all been claimed, tickets remain available for this weekend and through the end of September. Extra gallery guides will be on hand during the opening weekend in the exhibition halls, Reading Room, theater and gardens to help visitors as they explore the revitalized museum and library. Other opening weekend festivities include games for kids, live music, and a live painting session with artist and scenic designer Matthew J. Keenan. Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. $15 suggested donation per person .

32nd annual Giant Barbecue Battle

More than 150 free food samples await at the 32nd annual Barbecue Battle, a festival and Washington tradition that turns Pennsylvania Avenue into a massive block party. All sorts of brands from Oscar Mayer to Takis set up shop, doling out food and product samples from multiple pavilions, while crowds can watch pitmasters from across the country compete in various barbecue competitions. (In a nod to local cuisine, there’s even a contest crowning the best mumbo sauce.) Other entertainment throughout the weekend includes a Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog eating contest; BMX and skateboarding freestyle exhibitions; and live performances from musicians including DuPont Brass Band, the Chuck Brown Band, Jimmie’s Chicken Shack and White Ford Bronco. Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. $20-$225 .

Out and About Festival at Wolf Trap

Ever go to a music festival just to hear one song? I did once. It was the Trillectro festival in 2018 to hear Sheck Wes do “Mo Bamba.” Fun experiment, for sure. How will three minutes of music stand against a whole day of it? If this sounds like your idea of a good time, get yourself a ticket to the Out and About Festival, where Sonic Youth co-founder Kim Gordon will almost certainly perform “Bye Bye,” a noisy new rap-like anthem so artful, so intense, so important-feeling, she played it twice during her set at the Black Cat in March. And there are plenty of other good reasons to attend Out and About. Billed as “a celebration of LGBTQ+ talent and allies,” the festival will also host performances from Brittany Howard, Jenny Lewis, Lawrence, Tiny Habits, Quinn Christopherson, Okan and Be Steadwell. 3 p.m. $49-$89 .

Annapolis Juneteenth Parade

The fourth Juneteenth Festival in Annapolis starts with a parade from St. John’s College down West Street to Maryland Hall, with floats, marching bands, and groups passing performances at multiple locations, including the People’s Park and Westgate Circle. The festival begins at 1 p.m. at the Bates Athletic Complex, with plenty of live music — gospel, smooth jazz, R&B, go-go — on multiple stages, games, food vendors, and a fireworks show. Noon to 9 p.m. Free .

Songbyrd Summer So(u)lstice Celebration

The NoMa venue marks the longest Saturday of the year with a six-hour free show that stretches from day to night. Catch local performers like headliners the Crystal Casino Band and Makeup Girl, and stick around for the ticketed after-party — Nordista Freeze is DJing a set of ’90s alternative from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. Tickets to the after-party are $13. 5 to 11 p.m. Free .

Caribbean Culture Concert at Freedom Plaza

In honor of Caribbean American Heritage Month, this seven-hour celebration on Freedom Plaza includes calypso by the Image Band, reggae from Baltimore’s Strykers Posse, the Pan Masters Steelband Organization, dance performances, poetry and storytelling. 2 to 9 p.m. Free .

Pride Family Day at Glen Echo Park

Glen Echo’s fourth Family Pride Day features free carousel rides (while supplies last), live music for all ages by Rachel Eddy and Em Hammond, hands-on arts and crafts activities, temporary tattoos, and a backdrop for family portraits. Discounted tickets for the park’s aquarium and theaters are also available. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free; $10 suggested donation .

Alexandria Pride Bar Crawl

Seven Old Town Alexandria bars offer discounted drinks and food Saturday evening to raise money for Safe Space NOVA, a nonprofit supporting LGBTQ+ youth in Northern Virginia. Check in at Alexandria Bier Garden between 4 and 6 p.m., then get crawling to bars including Hen Quarter ($8 cocktails and frozen margaritas, $12 sliders, wings and other snacks), the Light Horse ($5 woo-woo shots and beers), and Augie’s Mussel House ($11 cocktails, $2 off beers). The after-party at Chadwicks begins at 10 p.m. with $5 green tea shooters and cans of Three Notch’d hazy IPA. Twenty percent of ticket sales benefit charity. 4 p.m. to midnight. $20-$25 .

Splash Into Pride Pool Party at Generator Hotel

The Pride parade and festival are over, but celebrations continue in Dupont Circle. The Generator hotel-slash-hostel hosts an afternoon-long party with a DJ on its private pool deck. Tickets include two drinks. Noon to 8 p.m. $25 .

Chinatown Park Festival

The Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs organized this lunchtime festival in Chinatown Park, promising live music and dance performances, martial arts demonstrations, face painting, hands-on arts and crafts, a clothing swap, and other activities to celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free .

Guided tour: African Americans at Congressional Cemetery

Graves at the historic Congressional Cemetery tell the story of African Americans in Washington, from weathered markers remembering men and women born into slavery to the final resting place of “Mayor for Life” Marion Barry Jr. Join a cemetery docent for a guided walking tour of the graves of Black Washingtonians from all walks of life, dating back before the Civil War. 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. $5 .

Happy Daze Clothing Swap at Dock 5

Union Market’s warehouse space is the venue for a massive clothing swap, where you can find secondhand vintage clothing and accessories while sustainably clearing your own closet. Bring up to 20 items (note: no event T-shirts) to display while you shop. Leftover clothing will be donated to So What Else, a Maryland nonprofit. Noon to 3 p.m. Free.

Shaed at the Atlantis

Shaed is its own community in microcosm, a family band that pairs twins Max and Spencer Ernst with vocalist Chelsea Lee (who is married to Spencer). The D.C.-born band whistled its way from a MacBook commercial to streaming and chart success with the moody electro-pop hit “Trampoline,” but after a pandemic and the birth of Chelsea and Spencer’s daughter, it’s refocused on the forthcoming “Spinning Out.” From the early singles, the trio’s sophomore album promises breezy ballads and bops and plenty of sun-kissed, streamlined pop. 6:30 p.m. $30 .

Sunday, June 23

Shakespeare in the Parks opening night

This is a big weekend for Shakespeare: The Folger Shakespeare Library celebrates its grand reopening on Friday (see Saturday’s listing), and the annual Shakespeare in the Parks begins its annual tour through Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. New artistic director Randy Snight directs a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which runs for two hours, including intermission. After opening in Bowie’s Fairwood Community Park , performances move to the historic Ridgeley Rosenwald School in Capitol Heights (Tuesday) and Greenbelt Park (Thursday). Brookside Gardens and Fort Washington Park are among sites hosting Theseus, Hippolyta and the fairies before the season wraps up at the Publick Playhouse on July 14. Picnics and lawn chairs are welcome. Most shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Locations vary. Free .

Nikole Hannah-Jones at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

In honor of Juneteenth weekend, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Nikole Hannah-Jones is in conversation about the 1619 Project, which launched five years ago. She’s joined by author and Well-Read Black Girl founder Glory Edim. The ticket price includes a signed book copy. 3 to 4:30 p.m. $29.

American Outlaws Copa Am é rica viewing party at Astro Beer Hall

We’re in the midst of the “Summer of Soccer,” with European powerhouses battling in the European Championship and the best teams in North and South America set to square off in the Copa América. The United States is hosting the latter tournament , and its first match is against Bolivia in Texas on Sunday evening. In the D.C. area, the best place for American fans to watch is downtown’s Astro Beer Hall, home of the drum-banging, always-chanting American Outlaws supporters group. Arrive early to make sure you have a beer in hand at kickoff. 6 p.m. Free .

Parallax Scrolls at Galaxy Hut

Live music was a staple at Galaxy Hut before the pandemic, but everyone’s favorite cozy Arlington watering hole has been focused on vegan food and delicious craft beers instead of live entertainment over the last few years. That changes this weekend: Sundays will now be given over to “experimental/electronic-type stuff,” according to a post on the Hut’s social media. Fittingly, the first artist featured is Parallax Scrolls, the synthwave/8-bit project by Galaxy Hut owner Lary Hoffman. Older D.C. fans might remember Hoffman’s group the Aerialist; Parallax Scrolls is definitely more toward the vintage electronic end of the spectrum, sometimes veering into frenetic chiptune. ( Take a free listen to the album on Bandcamp.) Stay tuned: DJs and indie rock bands could return to the bar “at some point.” 9 p.m. $10 .

Storybox Comics Fair at Third Hill Brewing Co.

More than a dozen DMV-based comics artists are bringing their work to the Silver Spring brewery for an afternoon celebrating local art and artists. Grab a beer while touring their booths, or join a workshop or craft session hosted by artists. Noon to 4 p.m. $10.

Pride Party at Morris American Bar

DJ Alex Love and drag queen Petya are featured at Morris American Bar’s Pride Party, which promises to put the focus on themed cocktails. Reservations are suggested. 5 p.m. to midnight. Free .

Tuesday, June 25

A Toast to the Boogie: Art in the Name of Funk(adelic)

George Clinton’s Parliament popularized the term “Chocolate City” with its 1975 album of the same name, a tribute to D.C. that used a nickname coined by local DJs . D.C. still loves Clinton, and the feeling is mutual. The founder of P-Funk is honored with a new exhibit at the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanity’s gallery near Canal Park, titled “A Toast to the Boogie: Art in the Name of Funk(adelic).” Works by 20 local artists, including Mingering Mike, Auguster Williams, Anna U Davis and Ronald “Stozo” Edwards are featured alongside original memorabilia and pieces inspired by funk and futurism. Clinton will be at the gallery for the opening reception, where entry is on a first-come, first-served basis. 7 to 9 p.m. Free .

Pride Drag Bingo at Starr Hill

Starr Hill’s biergarten-in-the-sky in Tysons is usually the kind of place you go to drink beers and listen to Americana or cover bands ( see Saturday’s schedule ) after work or a round of mini-golf. But this week, to celebrate Pride, Starr Hill brings Logan Stone and Crimsyn to host an all-ages edition of drag bingo. Early arrival is suggested. 6 p.m. Free .

Wednesday, June 26

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

We know, we know. The brutality of the summer heat and the density of the tourist throng are two formidable strikes against this absolute gem of a festival, but year after year, Folklife’s celebration of “contemporary living cultural traditions” remains worth the sweat. This year’s theme is Indigenous Voices of the Americas, and it includes an exciting slate of musical performances — the Mi’kmaw music traditions of Sons of Membertou, Mixtec group Pasatono Orquesta, Guatemalan singer-songwriter Sara Curruchich and more. Yes, it’ll most likely be hot, and, yes, it’ll probably be crowded, but you will hear the world differently. Daily through July 1. Free .

Pizza Time and Gin Mare Cocktails at the Betsy

What goes together as well as a refreshing gin cocktail and a slice of pizza? Find out at the Betsy, the rooftop “gin garden” above Belga Cafe on Barracks Row. This tasting features Spain’s Gin Mare, created with Spanish olives, basil and thyme for a taste profile that’s more herbaceous and less juniper-forward than some popular American and English gins. Cocktails by a Gin Mare brand ambassador are paired with pizza from Belga Cafe chef (and Betsy owner) Bart Vandaele. 6 to 8 p.m. $67 .

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    Warm up your morning with a visit to one of Washington, DC's many Smithsonian museums on the National Mall. ... Each evening, the National Christmas Tree is lit on the White House Ellipse, creating a holiday atmosphere that cannot be beaten. You can view and visit the tree for free throughout the day (the tree is lit up for the night at ...

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    Watch The Holiday Boat Parade At The Wharf. R. Kennedy for Visit Alexandria. This one-of-a-kind D.C. event puts a spin on the classic Christmas parade by taking the celebrations out to sea. The Holiday Boat Parade features more than 60 boats covered from bow to stern in colorful Christmas lights.

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    8. ZooLights at the National Zoo. One of the classic family-friendly DC traditions for the holiday's is ZooLights at Smithsonian's National Zoo. There is plenty to enjoy at ZooLights including LED lights, dozens of animal lanterns, live music, and much more. 9. Filomena. Photo by @foodfitnessflights.

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    Photo Credit Metro Center. The most iconic neighborhood in Washington DC is the Metro Center area, which is close to the National Mall, the White House and a lot of the biggest attractions.. Staying in this area of the city offers visitors the chance to walk to the White House, admire the Christmas tree and stop by the Willard Hotel for a drink at the famous Round Robin bar where the Mint ...

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    What to Do in DC on Christmas Day. Smithsonian Museums are open 364 days per year (barring a government shutdown, pandemic or weather emergency). In other words, every day except this one. The same goes for the National Gallery of Art and most other museums. Likewise, the Capitol and Library of Congress will be closed, as will many other ...

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    1. Visit the Library of Congress - FREE activity to do in Washington DC at Christmas Time. The Library of Congress is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. It officially serves the United States Congress and is also one of the top tourist destinations in Washington DC. Although the Library of Congress is absolutely ...

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    This is a great way to experience Christmas in Washington DC like one of the elite, without paying the price tag. Last year's gingerbread house was a recreation of Mount Vernon! Christmas at the Willard Info: Address: 1401 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004. Holiday events calendar: Click here.

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    6. Christmas at Mt. Vernon. A short drive from Washington, D.C, visitors come to Mt. Vernon all year to immerse themselves in the history of George Washington's famous home and estate. During the holidays, Mt. Vernon provides a winter wonderland of activities full of history and fun.. Guests can take a fascinating step back in time touring Mt. Vernon by candlelight during the holidays and ...

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    The National Theater is a live stage production venue in Washington, D.C. Broadway musicals, concerts, lectures, opera, ballet, seminars, and receptions are all held at the Theater. Beetlejuice - The Musical, Hadestown, and Aladdin are among the events scheduled for the National Theater in 2023.

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    Beginning December 1st, the display is open from 10 AM to 10 PM each day and is free to visit, and the National Christmas Tree is lit from 4:30 PM to 10 PM daily. Experience the Lighting of the National Menorah. The lighting of the National Menorah takes place on December 18th in 2022 and is accompanied by musical performances, special guests ...

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