How to Visit the National Christmas Tree Like a Local
There are a number of notable Christmas trees around The District to enjoy while you are exploring the city. Arguably, the most recognizable and most visited is the National Christmas Tree near the White House. But such a popular spot can get busy and crowded so how can you get the most out of your visit? Here’s our guide to getting the most out of your visit.
Plan Your Visit to the National Christmas Tree
Head to the National Christmas Tree Monday to Thursday evening to avoid the crowds. Plan about 30 to 60 minutes for your visit to give you enough time to see everything. You’ll want to snap pictures, visit the state and territory trees, and watch the miniature trains. Plus, I always like to linger at each state and territory tree to enjoy the ornaments made by the local children from that location.
The National Christmas tree will be lit on Thursday, December 5, 2019. You can visit the tree during daytime hours but it will be lit during evening hours – approximately 4:30 to 10 PM.
Dress for the Weather
December in DC is all kinds of unpredictable in terms of weather. However, one thing is for sure: The National Christmas Tree is out in the elements and is several blocks from an inside escape. Bundle up if it is particularly cold or those few blocks will feel like miles.
If you have little ones, you might consider leaving strollers at home. It can get very crowded at the National Christmas Tree especially if you visit on Friday or Saturday night. I have not visited the tree accompanied by a child but strollers and large bags seem difficult to maneuver through the crowds. Plus, you (and the kids!) will want the freedom to get close to the fence to see the train displays.
Take Public Transportation
The National Christmas Tree is located in front of the White House, making parking limited and expensive. You can find the tree a few short blocks away from a few metro stops:
- Metro Center – 13th and G St exit. Serves the blue, orange, silver, red lines. 10-minute walk to the tree.
- Farragut North – 17th Street exit. Serves the red line. 14-minute walk to the tree.
- Farragut West – 17th Street exit. Serves the blue, orange, and silver lines. 10-minute walk to the tree.
- Archives. Serves green and yellow lines. 16-minute walk to the tree.
Rack up those Instagram likes with all the classic photos: the National Christmas Tree, the Menorah, the tree representing your favorite state, and the White House. My nighttime pictures of the White House always turn out dark so consider also stopping by during the day if you want a picture of the White House. Face away from the White House to snap a cool shot of the tree with the Washington Monument.
Grab Dinner Nearby
Everyone knows food around the National Mall is can feel limiting if you don’t know where to go. However, there are plenty of spots for all tastes and budgets if you know where to look:
- Grilled Cheese DC is a grown-up twist on your favorite sandwich. Offering a full bar, loaded tots, and macaroni and cheese, there is something for the whole family here. It is right next to the White House but you should visit before you see the tree. It’s open until 9 on weekdays, 6 on Saturdays, and closed Sunday.
- Old Ebbitt Grill toward Metro Center is the city’s oldest saloon so this is a perfect occasion to try it out. Make a reservation ahead of time.
- The Hamilton is also toward Metro Center and another classic DC option. They have a pretty big menu and great happy hour. If you plan ahead, it can feel like a very special meal for not as much money as you think. Reservations recommended.
- Shake Shack offers widely recognized and beloved burgers, shakes, and fries. It is near Dupont Circle (and the Farragut metro stops) and is an inexpensive but delicious option.
- Vapiano serves pizza, pasta, and salad at affordable prices. These dishes will warm everyone after a visit to the tree. It is also located toward Dupont Circle.