Celebrate Christmas with These Events
If you are staining in the DMV for the holidays, there are plenty of things to fill your time – even Christmas Day – besides going to a movie. And, if you don’t want to cook, check out our list of area restaurants that will be serving Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals. There are even some events on Chrismtas Day after you have unwrapped the presents and stuffed yourself with turkey. And with Hanukah starting on Sunday, the National Menorah will be lit at a ceremony starting at 4 p.m. on the Ellipse beside the National Christmas Tree. Admission is free, but tickets are needed so scroll down and reserve yours if you want to attend.
Metro is giving us an early Christmas present with no work on the rails this weekend except on the Red Line from 8 p.m.-closing Saturday with single-tracking between Van Ness-UDC and Dupont Circle. All trains will run on regular weekend schedules.
Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker
The Moscow Ballet brings its unforgettable performance of the classic Russian tale the Great Russian Nutcracker to the DMV. The show features larger-than-life props, a 60-foot Christmas tree and authentic Russian costumes and sets. And of course, the Moscow Ballet is one of the most acclaimed in the world, meaning you’ll be able to witness master of the craft in the DMV.
Dec. 23 at 8 pm. at the Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, Md. Tickets are $68-$88.
Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
No visit to the Brookland neighborhood during the holidays is complete without a stop at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Mother Teresa, Pope Francis, Pope John Paul II and other religious figures have visited the Basilica. The largest Roman Catholic church in North America and the 10th largest in the world dresses up with more than 50 Christmas trees, over 65,000 lights, halls decked with 500-plus poinsettias and two manger scenes.
Daily through-Jan. 8 from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. at the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 400 Michigan Ave. NE. Admission is FREE!
Mistletoe at the Yards
For a dash of holiday romance and perhaps an Instagram-able moment, head to Mistletoe at the Yards. The Southeast waterfront area will feature eight giant mistletoe sculptures spread throughout the park and neighborhood. The larger than life custom designs include a java inspired mistletoe archway, a tower built from letters to Santa, an ice cream sundae sculpture complete with a cherry on top, a human-sized holiday themed dog house, wine corks and more, all featuring mistletoe. And there’s a map if you want to plan the perfect mistletoe walk. Enter to win gift cards to neighborhood restaurants by posting to social media using the hashtag #DeckTheYards.
Through Dec. 27 at Yards Park, 301 Water St. SE. Admission in FREE!
The annual Seasons Greenings holiday show at the United States Botanic Garden includes a collection of area landmarks made entirely from plant materials, including the U.S. Capitol Building, the Washington Monument and more. New for 2016: Inspired by the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, a model train will tour a landscape of iconic American places (Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon, the Gateway Arch, the Statue of Liberty, etc.) also crafted from plants. Seasons Greenings will also showcase a large indoor tree sporting ornaments from national parks. There are thousands of blooms on display from exotic orchids to a showcase of heirloom and newly developed poinsettia varieties. On select Tuesday and Thursday evenings in December, the Conservatory will stay open until 8 p.m. to hose live seasonal music.
Through Jan. 2 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at United States Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Ave. SW. Admission is FREE!
Explore the world this winter during the annual Ice! installation at National Harbor. Two million tons of ice were used to carve the ice sculpture for the “Christmas Around the World” theme, which takes visitors through icy illuminated interpretations of holiday traditions in Germany, Mexico, Britain and other countries. There are also five ice slides for adults and children as well as a parade of toys ice carving demonstrations.
Through Jan. 1 from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturdays, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays, 1-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, 201 Water St., Oxen Hill, Md. Tickets are $29-$36 for adults, $21-$29 for children 4-11 years old, $25-$t32 for members of the military, $17-$27 for military children and free for children 3 and younger. Ice! is closed Dec. 5-7.
Downtown Holiday Market
Friday is the last day to do your Christmas shopping at the Downtown Holiday Market this year. Centrally located at Eighth and F Streets NW, in front of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, you can pick up some last-minute eclectic gifts from dozens of pop-up tents with seasonal music performed live in the background. The holiday bazaar features more than 150 exhibitors throughout its run. You will find everything from funky t-shirts and area photography to handmade jewelry and soaps. At night, its bright lights bring Penn Quarter to life, providing a holiday spark to the neighborhood. Locally roasted coffee and crafted-before-your eyes mini-doughnuts inspire a cold-weather appetite, creating a holiday atmosphere you won’t find anywhere else in the DMV.
Dec. 23 from noon-8 p.m. at Eighth and F Streets NW outside the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Admission is FREE!
The Washington Ballet pulls out all the stops for this classic Christmas tale of The Nutcrakcer that features a D.C. twist. The Russian ballet goes local thanks to a Nutcracker Prince in the likeness of George Washington and cherry blossom set designs. Set in historical Georgetown, you will be dazzled by an impressive roster of dancers and the beautiful Tchaikovsky score.
Dec. 23 at 2 and 7 p.m. and Dec. 24 at 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. at the Warner Theatre, 513 13th St. NW. Tickets are $25-$140.
Holiday in the Park
Millions of twinkling lights, seasonal food, seven shows and 26 holiday-themed rides and characters make up Holiday in the Park, a new Christmas event at Six Flags America. Running during weekends and select days this winter, make the drive to enjoy the thrills of Six Flags accompanied by plenty of holiday cheer. Kids will love the interactive experiences, stunning decorations and Christmas singalongs.
Daily through Jan. 2 except Christmas Day from 2-9 p.m. at Six Flags America, 13710 Central Avenue, Upper Marlboro, Md. Tickets are $32.99-$55.99 online or $65.99 for adults and $45.99 for children under 48 inches tall at the gate.
The annual tradition, the http://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/event/MRHFM Messiah Sing-Along, is back at the Kennedy Center. The Concert Hall event features conductor Nancia D’Alimonte leading the orchestra, soloists, a large chorus — and you! — through Handel’s holiday masterpiece. This is a reserved seating event, but free tickets (maximum two per person) will be distributed beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Friday in the Hall of Nationals.
Dec. 23 at 6 p.m. at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Concert Hall, 2700 F St. NW. Admission is FREE!
CityCenterDC, the upscale mixed-use development downtown with toney retailers like Burberry, Gucci, Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Ferragamo, and pricey restaurants like DBG Kitchen and Bar and Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, is a winter wonderland with snowflakes and white lights hanging above the Palmer Alley pedestrian walkway. A dazzling 75-foot Christmas tree and two resident 25-foot reindeer on the Park at CityCenter facing New York Avenue.
Through Jan. 1 at CityCenterDC, 825 10th St. NW. Admission is FREE!
National Christmas Tree
Pay a visit to the National Christmas Tree, one of the city’s time-honored traditions. Visiting the live tree, which is draped in red, white and blue lights and sprinkled with stars and sugar plum ornaments, is free throughout the season, and musical performances are held there nightly. The Pathway of Peace surrounding the tree features 57 state and territory trees decorated with handmade ornaments that are unique to each tree.
Through Jan. 1 from 4:30-10 p.m. on the White House Ellipse, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Admission is FREE!
Festival of Lights
Returning for its 39th year, the Festival of Lights celebration at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints visitor center along I-495 includes a display of international Christmas trees and creches from around the world, and a life-size outdoor Nativity scene. A different performing artist or group is featured in concert twice each night, including bell ensembles, choirs, orchestras and more. Visitors can wander the temple grounds while trying to figure out how to take good pictures of more than 650,000 lights with an iPhone.
Through Jan. 1 from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. (lights illuminated at dusk) at the Washington D.C. Temple, 9900 Stoneybrook Drive, Kensington, Md.; through Jan. 1, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Admission is FREE, but tickets are required for concerts.
This stroll through D.C.’s most historic neighborhood will make you light up as you pass by unique, outdoor public light art installations. Georgetown Glow has proven to be such a hit that it is now a month-long celebration. A group of artists, from locally renowned to internationally celebrated, display works in outdoor spaces throughout Georgetown. This year’s display, which features eight exhibits, up from five last year, encourages contemplation of, and interaction with, the natural environment. Each work has an element of interactivity allowing the viewer to walk in, on and around the piece, while others ask the viewer to become part of the artwork. Afterwards, wander through a winter wonderland at The Washington Harbour, one of our favorite places to ice skate in the District.
Through Jan. 1 from 6-10 p.m. nightly along the waterfront, around the C&O Canal and up Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown. Admission is FREE!
U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree
This year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, or “The People’s Tree,” is an 80-foot Engelmann spruce from the Payette National Forest in Idaho. Speaker of the House John W. McCormack (D-Mass.) was the first to place a live Christmas tree, which lived three years, on the Capitol lawn in 1964. Since 1970, the U.S. Forest Service has provided a tree from a different U.S. forest. More than 6,000 handmade ornaments representing the state symbols of Idaho including Appaloosa horses, Cutthroat Trout, garnets, huckleberries, Monarch Butterflies and Mountain Bluebirds with a “re-use and recycle” theme made by Idaho children decorate the tree.
Through Dec. 28 (it has to come down a bit early this year to make way for inaugural preparations) from dusk until 11 p.m. on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, Constitution and Independence Avenues NW. Admission is FREE!
ZooLights decks the National Zoo out in more than 500,000 environmentally friendly LED lights that transform the zoo into a winter wonderland complete with a dazzling light show set to music. Take a break and thaw your paws in the animal exhibit buildings and see the nocturnal critters in the Small Mammal House, Reptile Discovery Center and Think Tank. The Zoo Choo-Choo takes visitors on a merry tour through the zoo on a trackless train around the Great Cats exhibit and features views of the light displays. There is also snow-less tubing on 150-foot long tracks and the solar-powered carousel will be giving rides. Ride tickets are $3 each at the zoo or $20 for eight tickets.
Through Jan. 1 except Dec. 24 and 25 from 5-9 p.m. at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW. Admission is FREE!
A Christmas Carol
Join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future as they lead the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge (acclaimed actor Craig Wallace) on a journey of transformation and redemption in A Christmas Carol. This lavish Victorian-style musical production has been a tradition in the DMV for 35 years. Scrooge’s riveting journey alongside the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future is a joy even if you have experienced it a hundred times before – especially in one of the world’s most historic theaters.
Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. with additional Monday and weekday matinees through Dec. 31 (no shows Dec. 24 or 25) at Ford’s Theatre, 511 10th Street NW. Tickets are $22-$105.
Water Skiing Santa
Since 1986, a man dressed as Santa Claus has strapped on skis and hitched a ride on the Potomac River on Christmas Eve, waving to cheering onlookers along the Alexandria waterfront. In the three decades since, the Water Skiing Santa spectacle has grown to include wakeboarding reindeer, flying, acrobatic elves on boards and water scooters, Frosty the Snowman, Jack Frost, Christmas tunes and Dr. Seuss’s mean Mr. Grinch, whipping his watercraft like his cartoon dog. The characters all come on shore in Old Town Alexandria for photographs and merriment afterward.
Dec. 24 at 1 p.m. between Founders and Waterfront parks, King and Oronoco Streets, Alexandria. Admission is free.
A Choral Arts Christmas
The Choral Arts Society of Washington comes to the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall for an A Choral Arts Chirstmas, an afternoon of classic Christmas carols. Fill your Christmas Eve with beautiful chorale music, as well as gospel arrangements of Go Tell It on the Mountain. The song list also includes Angels We Have Heard on High, Joy to the World and Welcome All Wonders.
Dec. 24 at 1 p.m. at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St NW. Tickets are $15-$77.
National Menorah Lighting
Hanukah kicks off with this lighting ceremony of the National Menorah — the world’s largest menorah — on the White House Ellipse, which greets all with latkes and doughnuts and menorah kits and dreidels. Music from the National Menorah Orchestra and The Three Cantors will add a soundtrack to the scene. As is the custom, a new candle is illuminated on each of the eight days of Hanukah.
Dec. 25-Jan. 1 from 4:30-10 p.m. nightly on the White House Ellipse, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Admission is FREE, but tickets are required for the lighting ceremony at 4 p.m. (gates at 3:15 p.m.) on Dec. 25.
All-Star Christmas Day Jazz Jam
If the presents are unwrapped and the dishes washed, head over to the Kennedy Center for its 18th annual All-Star Christmas Day Jazz Jam. A group of Washington musicians will help you wind down with swinging holiday hits. The show features host and vibraphonist Chuck Redd, pianist Robert Redd, bassist James King, drummer Lenny Robinson, trumpeter Tom Williams and singer Delores Williams.
Dec. 25 at 6 p.m. at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St. NW. Admission is FREE!
Editor-in-Chief Mark Heckathorn is a journalist, movie buff and foodie. He oversees DC on Heels editorial operations as well as strategic planning and staff development. Reach him with story ideas or suggestions at dcoheditor (at) gmail (dot) com.