20+ Christmas Things to Do in Washington, DC

We’ve spent most of 2020 looking for creative ways to keep in touch with friends and enjoy our favorite things. Luckily, a lot of our favorite holiday things are already pretty safe to enjoy by COVID-19 standards. We’re talking drive-thru light shows, outdoor Christmas trees, and neighborhood holiday lights. 

Bundle up this year to celebrate the holiday season in the DVM and see how your favorite events are keeping us all safe this year. I will do my best to update this post as often as possible but as health guidelines change, 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 Thursday, December 3. The ceremony will be streamed from the website and will be available on-demand to enjoy throughout the season. Guests can still visit the tree in person but masks and distancing are still encouraged. 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 Uncompaghre Plateau in Colorado, the tree will travel across the country to Washington, DC. The Capitol Tree should arrive in DC on November 20 and is usually lit in early December. 

ZooLights: ZooLights is a huge display of holiday lights at the National Zoo. Due to COVID, ZooLights won’t be held at the National Zoo. However, each Friday and Saturday night, a decorated bus will visit one ward to bring holiday cheer to our neighborhoods. The schedule is as follows:

  • Friday, Nov. 27 | Ward 1
  • Saturday, Nov. 28 | Ward 2
  • Friday, Dec. 4 | Ward 3
  • Saturday, Dec. 5 | Ward 4
  • Friday, Dec. 11| Ward 5
  • Saturday, Dec. 12 | Ward 6
  • Friday, Dec.18 | Ward 7
  • Saturday, Dec.19 | Ward 8


BrewLights has been canceled due to COVID but is expected to return next year.  Read about our visit from 2016. 

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. 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 features models of the city’s famous landmarks made from natural materials with trains and a giant holiday tree in December. The indoor gardens have been closed for months but Popville recently reported the model monuments will be on display in the windows for people to enjoy. Admission inside is still not permitted. Read about our visit from past years. 

National Cathedral Christmas Concerts: The National Cathedral usually holds a number of holiday concerts to celebrate the season. This year, join them online for special holiday services all month long. Register for a monthly pass to get updates. Free but donations welcome. 

  • Sundays at 6 pm: Avent Service
  • December 18 at 6 pm for Gospel Christmas
  • December 20 at 3 pm for Joy of Christmas concert
  • December 23 at 7 pm for Lessons and Carols – scripture readings and popular Christmas hymns
  • December 24 at noon and 8 pm for a Christmas service. The noon service is geared more toward families with younger children. 
  • December 25 at noon for an organ concert featuring beloved Christmas music.
     

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. 

Downtown Holiday Market: The Downtown Holiday Market will be set up daily from noon to 8 PM from November 20 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

Ice Skating at the Sculpture Garden: Ice skating in the Sculpture Garden is closed this year due to COVID-19. They plan to be back in 2021!

Christkindlmarkt at the Heurich House Museum: Get started on your Christmas shopping at the Hoptimist Christmas market by the Heurich House Museum and DC Brau. This year, the event will be online but will still feature local artists selling jewelry, ceramics, chocolate, and more.  The market website will be live from Black Friday to December 11. Look for early bird access tickets online. 

Georgetown GLOW: Georgetown BID shared that GLOW will be moved to the spring and summer of 2021. 5 pieces of art will be on display from April 2 to June 27 and 3 art displays will dress up Georgetown’s alleys from July 2 to September 26. GLOW will primarily feature lights but the art can be enjoyed day or night. 2020 holiday events will be announced before Thanksgiving. 

The District’s Holiday Boat Parade: The boat parade at The Wharf is canceled for the 2020 season. 

Holiday Movie Night at The Wharf: The Wharf is playing holiday movies on select dates through December. Purchase a fire pit for up to 4 people to ensure social distancing during the movie. Fire pits are $60 (works out to $15/person if you have a group of 4) and snacks will be available for an additional cost. Groups larger than 4 will need to purchase extra fire pits. 

Light Up the Wharf: Celebrate Hanukkah with Light the Menorah on December 10 at 6 pm. 

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 6 to January 10 with discounts on weekdays and before December 10. Due to COVID-19, the holiday village is still open but many activities including Santa visits are canceled. The village is open November 19 to January 1 with limited hours.

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 3 including holidays. Meadowlark has always sold timed tickets for this event but tickets per time are limited this year for social distancing. Masks required. Read about our visit.

A Christmas Carol: The Little Theatre of Alexandria presents an updated performance of A Christmas Carol December 4 – 19. Performances are free but donations are encouraged to help with ongoing costs to keep the theatre open. Audience sizes will be limited and performances will be 60 minutes featuring a limited cast. 

Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade: The Alexandria Marina held behind the Torpedo Factory has been canceled due to COVD-19. 

Christmas at Mount Vernon: Join Mount Vernon on select dates in November and December for a special holiday celebration. Enjoy outdoor lights, shopping, and historical figures on the grounds. Plus, Aladdin the Camel is back for a visit! Tickets are $40 for adult members and $45 for adult non-members. 

Manassas Christmas Parade: The annual Christmas parade in Manassas is canceled this year but Santa is still spreading his cheer! Join the city of Manassas virtually on Friday, December 4 at 6 pm to watch a Christmas tree lighting. Plus, Santa will be visiting multiple neighborhoods on Saturday, December 5 to wave to children. The city will post a map with times closer to the event so families can plan to wave from their yards. 

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 5 and 19 at 4 pm. Free!

Reston Ice Skating: Ice skating will be back on November 6 with COVID-19 restrictions in place. Advanced tickets will go on sale on October 30. $10/adults, $9/kids, and $7/skate rental. Reston is also offering horse-drawn carriage rides (max 5) on Saturdays through December 19. Tickets are $30 and benefit locals impacted by COVID.

Fairfax Festival of Lights and Carols: Head to Old Town Hall in Fairfax on December 5 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 5-6. $25 per ticket lets 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 13 (free).

Manassas Holiday Craft Show: Join Downtown Manassas for their holiday craft show on Saturday, December 12. Find locally made gifts for everyone on your list. 

Leesburg Holiday Parade: Head to Leesburg on Saturday, December 5 at 6 pm for the holiday parade! Lights, food samples from local restaurants, and Santa.

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 27 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 $12 to $20 per car. Discounts are available on weekdays and if you advance purchase online. Tickets go on sale on November 1 and it is highly recommended to purchase tickets in advance.

Merriweather Symphony of Lights: Drive through the Symphony of Lights in Columbia to see thousands of holiday lights! Open nightly through January 2. $20/car. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Howard County General Hospital. 

Bethesda’s Winter WonderlandCanceled for 2020. From 2019: Head to Bethesda on December 7 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 has a number of holiday events from breakfast with Santa to Raindeer Holiday Train night. Get tickets in advance to ensure social distancing. 

Baltimore Christmas Village: Due to COVID-19, the Baltimore Christmas Village will not be hosting in-person guests this year. You can still support many of the regularly featured vendors by purchasing gifts like crafts, treats, and toys from the virtual holiday market.  Some of our favorite vendors like Cynful Bliss (alcohol-infused desserts), Art of Words, and Nut Roasters are back this year.  Read about our visit from 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. It runs nightly from November 27 to January 1. Guests are encouraged to purchase tickets online. Free for members or $8-$10 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. Available Saturdays and Sundays in December. $23/adults and $23/child.

Holiday Concerts with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra: The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has canceled all in-person performances through June 2021. However, you can enjoy and support the BSO through $10 pay per view online concerts or $20 for a monthly all-access pass. All concerts have a premiere date and will be available on-demand throughout the season. For the holidays, check out BSO Sessions: Holiday Pops with Jack Everly. Some free concerts including Holst’s The Planets are also available. 

Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens: Canceled for the 2020 season. From 2019: Head to Brookside Gardens in Wheaton for a stroll through the Garden of Lights! Afterward, warm up in the Conservatory with hot chocolate and enjoy the holiday model train display. Garden of Lights is open from November 22 to December 31 except November 25-28 and December 25-26.

Annapolis Lights Parade: Recently canceled due to growing concerns around COVID-19. From earlier this year: 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 12 at 6 pm to see the boats dressed in festive lights!

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Sandi
Sandi
6 years ago

Where exactly is the Baltimore Christmas Village located?

Gordon
Gordon
6 years ago

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

Joy
Joy
6 years ago

where is the botanic gardens located?

Susan
Susan
6 years ago

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. 

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[…] so many to choose from in DC, Maryland, and Virginia – we had no trouble finding them for our list of holiday fun! So last Wednesday we headed to Vienna, Virginia to check out Meadowlark’s Winter Walk of […]

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[…] together 15 more things to do during the Christmas season. I always update the old post (go check it out!) with this year’s dates but here’s even more holiday cheer for your social calendar. If […]

Debbie in Virginia for 50+ years
Debbie in Virginia for 50+ years
4 years ago

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!

Maggie
3 years ago

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.

Jo
Jo
2 years ago

Do any churches do Christingle services in DC please