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 2022 season but please continue to stay safe and healthy throughout the season! 

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 2022 season are noted below.  

Favorite Tourist Attractions Dressed for Christmas in Washington, DC

The National Christmas Tree: This year, the National Christmas will be lit on TBD. 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. The Capitol tree is harvested from a different location each year. This year, it will travel from the National Forests in North Carolina. The Capitol Tree should arrive in DC on Friday, November 18 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 18 to January 8. 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 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 24 to January 2 from 10 am to 5 pm. 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. 

Georgetown Glow: Georgetown Glow is back this year with light displays throughout the neighborhood. These displays are not holiday themed but are a great way to enjoy the neighborhood after dark. Displays are lit nightly from November 26 to January 22. 

Victura Park Winter Holiday Market: Victura Park near the Kennedy Center is hosting a holiday market on December 10 to 11 and 17 to 18. Shop local vendors from noon to 6 pm. Plus, enjoy light snacks and a grilling station for hot food. You’ll also find beer, wine, and seasonal treats like spiked cider, hot chocolate, and a s’mores station. 

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

  • Handel’s Messiah: December 2 at 7:30 pm, December 3 at 12:00 (family-friendly) and 4:00 pm, December 4 at 4:00 pm. The December 4th performance will also be live streamed. 
  • Joy of Christmas: December 1o at 2:00 and 6:00 pm, December 11 at 4:00 pm. The December 11th performance will also be live streamed. 
  • Christmas Day Organ Recital Webcast: December 25 at 1:30 pm  

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. 

Winter Festival at the National Arboretum: On December 10 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.  

Downtown Holiday Market: The Downtown Holiday Market will be set up daily from noon to 8 PM from November 18 to December 23 at 8th and F Streets. (Closed Thanksgiving Day and December 5.) 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

Downtown Christmas Market Selfie
Downtown Holiday Market 2020

Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre: Catch the famous Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre from November 18 to December 31. This performance is infused with music and a cheery way to celebrate the season. The whole family is welcome at this 2 hour performance with one intermission. 

Ice Skating at the Sculpture Garden: Ice skating in the Sculpture Garden returns for the 2022 season! Enjoy the winter season from November 26 to March 5. Single sessions and season passes are available. Fees cover 2 45 minutes 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 2-4. 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 $14 (or $20 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 3. Holiday activities will run from 6 to 9 pm with fireworks at 8 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 8. Tickets are $30/car with discounts on select weekdays. The carnival is also open from November 11 to January 2 nightly. Find carnival rides, holiday shopping, and fire pits. Carnival rides require the purchase of ride tickets. 

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 8 including holidays. Tickets range from $16-$20. Advance tickets are required from December 9 to January 8. Read about our visit.

A Christmas Carol: The Little Theatre of Alexandria presents A Christmas Carol from December 3-17. Enjoy this classic holiday story in this cozy theater. Tickets will be on sale soon. Masks are still required for the 2022 season.

Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade: The Alexandria Boat parade is back for 2022. Head to the waterfront on December 3 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 16-17 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 10:00 am. Head to Downtown Manassas to enjoy Christmas floats, music, and Santa. Visit the night before on Friday, December 2 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 25 with a large parade and festive fun. More details coming soon but last year, guests could 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 3 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 3-4. 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 11 (free).

Leesburg Holiday Parade: Head to Leesburg on Saturday, December 3 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 25 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 October 12 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 28, December 8, and December 31.

Bethesda’s Winter Wonderland: Head to Downtown Bethesda on December 3 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 November 25-27, December 2-4, 9-11, and 16-19, 2022. 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 holiday concerts. Some big names include: 

  • Postmodern Jukebox Holiday Tour: December 13 at 8 pm 
  • Hip Hop Nutcracker: December 19 – 22 at 8 pm
  • Handel’s Messiah: December 17 at 8 pm and December 18 at 3 pm
  • The Washington Chorus in A Candlelite Christmas:  December 16 at 8 pm and December 23 at 11 am

Baltimore Christmas Village: The Baltimore Christmas Village will be back this year in the Inner Harbor. Join them November 19  – 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
Baltimore Christmas Village 2019

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 25 – January 1. (Closed November 28-29 and December 5, 6, 7, 24, 25.) Guests are encouraged to purchase tickets online. Free for members or $15 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 25-26, December 2-3, 9, 16-17, and 23. 

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

  • Cirque Nutcracker December 10-11 at 8:00 pm; December 10 at 3:00 pm)
  • Home Alone in Concert: December 16 at 8 pm and December 17 at 1:30 pm
  • Holiday Spectacular: December 17 at 8:00 pm; December 18 at 3:00 pm)
  • NYE BOS Fusion: 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 18 to January 1 except November 21-24 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 10 at 6 pm to see the boats dressed in festive lights!

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15 Responses

    1. Hi Sandi! The Baltimore Christmas Village is set up outside – similar to a farmer’s market – at the Inner Harbor.

  1. No Ice Skating at the Portrait Gallery? No Ice Skating on the Canal when it freezes? Both are classics.

    1. 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).

  2. 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. 

  3. 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!

  4. 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.