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. Most events have reopened for the 2021 season but look out for local mask or proof of vaccine requirements. Many events also require advanced ticket purchases to avoid overcrowding.
I will do my best to update this post as often as possible but as health guidelines evolve, please refer to each event’s website for the most up-to-date information.
Favorite Tourist Attractions Dressed for Christmas in Washington, DC
The National Christmas Tree: This year, the National Christmas will be lit on Sunday, December 5. The ceremony will be on CBS but guests can still visit the tree in person throughout the season. 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. Harvested from Eureka, California, the tree will travel across the country to Washington, DC. The Capitol Tree should arrive in DC on Friday, November 19 and is usually lit in early December.
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 19 to January 6. Participating neighborhoods include U Street, Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant, Woodley Park, Cleveland Park, Dupont Circle, Lower Georgia Ave, and Logan Circle.
Season’s Greenings at the Botanic Gardens: The Botanic Gardens usually invites guests inside to see all the monuments made from plants. But to keep things safe this year, all of the displays will be outside in the front garden. The Botanic Gardens are located very close to the Capitol so you visit the gardens and the Capitol Tree in one visit. Read about our visit from past years.
National Cathedral Christmas Concerts: The National Cathedral will celebrate the season with virtual and in-person events this year. Register for concerts, Christmas services, and other events throughout the season on the website. Not particularly religious or Christian? The National Cathedral welcomes everyone and is a big voice in our local community from supporting the Nationals to fighting for racial justice and LGBTQ rights.
Peppermint Treats from Milk Bar: Tis the season for peppermint treats! Order peppermint bark cake, peppermint truffles, and cookies to complete your holiday celebrations this year.
Holiday Shopping in Adams Morgan: Head to Adams Morgan for local shopping and dining this season. At night, you’ll find holiday lights perfect for selfies. Plus, don’t miss carols on December 2 and 9 from 6 to 7:30 pm and December 11 and 18 from 12 to 1:30 pm.
Downtown Holiday Market: The Downtown Holiday Market will be set up daily from noon to 8 PM from November 19 to December 23 at 8th and F Streets. Vendors will be selling arts, crafts, jewelry, specialty items, and more! To ensure social distancing, two blocks will be shut down for this year’s market and guests will be limited. Read about our 2020 experience.
Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre: Ford’s Theatre is thrilled to welcome guests back this year. Catch the famous Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre from November 24 to December 27. Masks required by all as well as vaccine proof or a negative COVID test.
Ice Skating at the Sculpture Garden: Ice skating in the Sculpture Garden returns for the 2021 season! Enjoy the winter season from November 19 to March 6. Single sessions and season passes are available.
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. The market will highlight the historic revival of the Chr. Heurich Brewing Co.’s Senate Beer, with tastings, a mini outdoor exhibit, and newly released merchandise. Tickets are $13 (or $19 including a drink) at the door but look for a pre-sale discount on the site.
The District’s Holiday Boat Parade: The boat parade at The Wharf is back! Enjoy the boats decorated with holiday lights on December 4 at 7:00 pm. There will also be fireworks at 8:00 pm and live music until 9:00 pm. Get there early to snag a good seat.
Small business shopping at the Wharf: The Wharf can get crowded for special events. If you are trying to avoid the crowds, check out a few small shops including Politics and Prose and Shop Made in DC. Plus, enjoy a hot soap from the fish market while sitting by the Christmas tree.
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 11 to January 2. Tickets are $30/car with discounts on select weekdays. The carnival will also be back this year with details coming soon.
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 11 to January 2 including holidays. Times tickets are available online and range from $16 – $18. Read about our visit.
A Christmas Carol: The Little Theatre of Alexandria presents A Christmas Carol December 3-18. Tickets will be on sale soon. Masks required by all plus proof of vaccination or negative test.
Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade: The Alexandria Boat parade is back for 2021. Head to the waterfront on December 4 at 5:30 to enjoy the boats and small business shopping. (Note the parade continues to The Wharf – listed above.)
Christmas at Mount Vernon: Join Mount Vernon on December 17-18 at 5:30 for fireworks, a winter market, food, drinks, and decorations. Tickets range from $48 to $60 for adults depending on membership and if you choose a mansion tour.
Manassas Christmas Parade: The Manassas Christmas Parade is back this year on December 3 at 5:15. Head to Downtown Manassas to enjoy Christmas floats, music, and Santa.
Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-A-Long: The Wolf Trap sing-a-long will be virtual this year! Join the US Marine band in your living room for music featuring Christmas and Hanukkah favorites. December 4 and 18 at 4 pm. Free!
Reston Ice Skating & Holiday Fun: Reston Town Center will light its tree on November 26 with a large parade and festive fun. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride on Saturdays ($30/group up to 5 people) or a train ride on Sundays ($20/group up to 4 people). The ice rink is also open throughout the winter season.
Fairfax Festival of Lights and Carols: Head to Old Town Hall in Fairfax on December 4 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 4-5. 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 12 (free).
Leesburg Holiday Parade: Head to Leesburg on Saturday, December 4 from 4 to 6 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 26 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 range from $15 to $30 per car. Discounts are available on weekdays and if you advance purchase online. Tickets go on sale on November 1 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 25 to January 2. $20/car. Closed to cars on walkthrough nights on November 29, December 7, and December 31.
Bethesda’s Winter Wonderland: Head to Downtown Bethesda on December 4 from 1 to 4 pm for a winter wonderland! Enjoy ice sculpture, music, and more!
Holiday Festival of Trains: The Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad Museum will host their Holiday Festival of Trains from December 13 – January 3 (closed December 24-25). This event also includes a Santa Village and Santa photo opportunities.
Holiday Concerts at the Strathmore: Join the Strathmore on select dates throughout December for holidays concerts. Some big names include:
- Mannheim Steamroller: December 4 at 2 and 7 pm
- Hip Hop Nutcracker: December 20 – 22 at 8 pm
- Handel’s Messiah: December 18 at 8 pm and December 19 at 3 pm
- The Washington Chorus in A Candlelite Christmas: December 16-17 at 8 pm and December 23 at 3 pm
Baltimore Christmas Village: The Baltimore Christmas Village will be back this year in the Inner Harbor. Join them November 27 – December 24 for German-style treats and decorations plus shopping from local vendors. Read about our visit from 2021.
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 26 – January 1. (Closed November 29-30 and December 6, 7, 24, 25.) Guests are encouraged to purchase tickets online. Free for members or $10-$12 for non-members depending on the night.
Holiday Candlelight Stroll: Join the historic district of Annapolis for a 90-minute stroll by candlelight for the holiday season. Check back soon for 2021 dates.
Holiday Concerts with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra: The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is back with holiday performances this season!
- Family Concert: Winter Wonderland (December 4 at 11 am)
- Handel’s Messiah (December 8 at 7:30 pm)
- Cirque Nutcracker December 10-11 at 8:00 pm; December 12 at 3:00 pm)
- Leslie Odem Jr. The Christmas Tour (December 17 at 8:00 pm)
- Holiday Spectacular (December 18 at 8:00 pm; December 19 at 3:00 pm)
- NYE with the Doo Wop Project (December 31 at 8:00 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 19 to January 2 except November 22-25 and December 24-25. Advanced timed tickets are required for $10 per person over 3 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 11 at 6 pm to see the boats dressed in festive lights!