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. For 2020, the tree will be lit nightly for guests to enjoy through January 1, 2021.
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.
For health safety, the least crowded times to visit the tree are generally early in December, on weekdays, and during the day. The tree is entirely in open-air and can also be enjoyed from a bit of a distance. As always, keep your personal safety in mind when visiting and wear a mask!
The National Christmas tree will be open to the public from December 1, 2020 to January 1, 2021. You can visit the tree during daytime hours but it will be lit at sundown nightly. The lights will shut off promptly at 10 pm Sunday to Thursday and 11 pm Friday and Saturday.
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.
Normally, I would also recommend leaving strollers and large backpacks at home so it is easier to move around in the crowds. However, there will likely be fewer crowds this year and more distance between people.
Take Public Transportation
Public transportation to The National Christmas Tree near the White House is usually the easiest way to go. However, due to COVID, there are fewer tourists on the National Mall. This makes parking a little bit easier to find if you are more comfortable traveling in a personal vehicle. That said, 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 (open daily until 7:30 pm). Carry out, delivery, and outdoor seating is available during December.
- Old Ebbitt Grill toward Metro Center is the city’s oldest saloon so this is a perfect occasion to try it out. Take out and indoor seating is available during December. Masks are required when not seated at your table.
- 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. Take out and indoor seating is available during December. Masks required.
- 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. Open daily until 10 pm. This can be an excellent take out option.
- Vapiano, a pizza and pasta restaurant in Dupont was previously on this list. They have been closed since March due to COVID.