20 Christmas Things to Do in Washington, DC

It’s time to start planning those holiday festivities! We’ve got your list of 20 Christmas things to do in Washington, DC ready to go. If we missed anything, please share your holiday traditions in the comments!

This blog was originally posted in 2013 but has been updated to reflect 2018 dates.

Snowman Christmas Things to Do in Washington, DC

It’s time to start planning those holiday festivities! We’ve got your list of 20 Christmas things to do in Washington, DC ready to go. If we missed anything, please share your holiday traditions in the comments!

This blog was originally posted in 2013 but has been updated to reflect 2018 dates.

Favorite Tourist Attractions Dressed for Christmas in Washington, DC

The National Christmas Tree: Right outside the White House, The National Christmas Tree lights up the National Mall. You can also see the Pathway Of Peace – 1 miniature tree to represent each state and territory with ornaments made by local children. The tree will be open on November 28. Check our tips for visiting the tree.

The US Capitol Christmas Tree: Not to be outdone by the The National Christmas Tree, you’ll find another holiday tree on the Capitol lawn. Harvested from Williamette National Forest in Oregon, the tree has traveled across the country to Washington, DC. The Capitol Tree opens on December 5.

ZooLights: ZooLights is a huge display of holiday lights at the National Zoo. Admission is free but parking is expensive so take the metro to Woodley Park (red).  ZooLights is open nightly from November 23 to January 1 from 5 to 9 pm. Closed December 24-25 and 31. Read about our visit. 

Season’s Greenings at the Botanic Gardens: Join the Botanic Gardens to see models of the city’s famous landmarks made from natural materials. Plus, find a giant indoor Christmas tree, poinsettia display, and model train setup. Season’s Greenings runs from November 22 to January 1, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. including December 24-25. Free! Read about our visit. 

National Cathedral Christmas Concerts: Enjoy beautiful Christmas music at the National Cathedral. Hear Handel’s Messiah December 7-9 with an extra performance on December 8 for families  or attend The Joy of Christmas chorus concert December 15-16. Tickets available online.

Downtown Holiday Market: The Downtown Holiday Market will be set up daily from noon to 8 PM from November 23 to December 23 at 8th and F Streets. Over 150 vendors will be selling arts, crafts, jewelry, specialty items, and more!

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 nightly from November to January 6 with discounts on weekdays. There is also a holiday village open on select nights in December.

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 9 to January 6.  Purchase timed tickets online. Read about our visit.

A Christmas Carol: The Little Theatre of Alexandria presents A Christmas Carol November 30 to December 16. Enjoy the classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge as he travels with ghostly guides. Fun for the whole family. Purchase tickets online!

Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade: Head to the Alexandria Marina behind the Torpedo Factory on December 1 at 5:30 to see the boats dressed in their holiday best. Come early for dockside festivities, with Santa arriving by fireboat. Free!

Christmas at Mount Vernon: Mount Vernon is decorated for Christmas November 23 to December 31 (including December 24-25 ). During the day, enjoy the beautiful decorations and meet Aladdin the Camel. Plus, visit Mount Vernon by Candlelight for evening holiday fun. Separate admission.

Manassas Christmas Parade: Head to Manassas on December 1 at 10:00 a.m. to see over 2,000 participants including marching bands and balloons!

Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-A-Long: Wolf Trap will host a sing-a-long holiday concert on December 1 at 4:00 p.m. with the US Marine Band featuring Christmas and Hanukkah favorites. The event is free but has limited parking. Donations for Toys for Tots are welcome.

Christmas at Oatlands Historic House: Take a special tour during the Christmas season to learn the plantation’s history and see the decorations.  Dates to be announced. Plus, look out for Candlelight Tours November 24-26 and December 2. 

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 23 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. Discounts are available on weekdays.

Symphony of Lights: Symphony of Lights in Howard County is a beloved holiday light display in Maryland. Drive through the beautiful light displays from November 22 to December 30.  Open December 2 for a special night where guests can walking through the displays instead of drive.

Bethesda’s Winter Wonderland: Head to Bethesda on December 1 from 1 to 4 PM to kick off the holiday season. Enjoy an amazing ice sculpture demonstration, music, and a visit from Santa!

Holiday Festival of Trains: The Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad Museum presents the Holiday Festival of Trains December 1-31 (closed December 24-25)!

Baltimore Christmas Village: Head to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor November 22 to December 24 for a beautiful winter wonderland modeled after the traditional Christmas Markets in Germany. Enjoy a giant tree and hundreds of festive lights. Vendors will be selling ornaments, jewelry, art, holiday sweets, and more! Closed November 26, 27 and December 3, 4, 11, 12. Read about our visit. 

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 t his walking tour light show. It runs nightly from November 30 to January 1.

If you need even more ideas, check out 15 (more) holiday things to do in Washington, DC!

About Kelley Smith 72 Articles
I'm Kelley Smith and I love sharing tips on how to best explore Washington, DC. I love pretty much anything I can eat plus really good beer and whiskey served by story telling bartenders. I also like sassy museum guides, photogenic architecture, and colorful urban gardens.


    • Hi Joy!

      The Botanic Gardens are located at:

      100 Maryland Ave SW
      Washington, DC 20001

      There is some parking nearby but guests are encouraged to take the metro to Federal Center (orange and blue lines).

  1. Wqshington Temple Visitors Center –
    Free concerts at 6, 7 and 8 PM through January 1. Half a million Christmas light display in the Mormon Temple trees and gardens. All is free. 

  2. Also ice skating at the Sculpture Garden. Plus they have a great snack bar where you can sip hot chocolate and get warm.
    I second the Mormon Tabernacle’s light display and Meadowlark Garden’s display!

  3. Hello Kelly,

    Would like to share another Christmas event with you: The tree lighting ceremony of the Norwegian Christmas tree will take place at Union Station. Please email me back and I will provide you with a press release we have created.

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