Get in the Holiday Spirit at These Events
The countdown is on to the holidays. Christmas and Chanukah will soon be here. To help get you in the holiday spirit, we have put together a list of some holiday light displays and events in the DMV. Most are free, although not all.
The Basilica of the National 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 more than 500 poinsettias and two manger scenes, one of which is nearly life size.
Dec. 18-Jan. 6 from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. daily at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 400 Michigan Ave. NE. Admission is FREE!
Bull Run Festival of Lights
Visit the Bull Run Festival of Lights, 2.5 miles illuminated by holiday light displays. Drive the festival route in the comfort of your car; turn out your headlights and follow the magical glow. After viewing the lights, take your family and friends to the holiday village to enjoy rides, refreshments, activities including coloring and writing letters to Santa, a rock wall, crafts and of course, photos with Santa Claus (holiday village open Nov. 29-Dec. 1 and Dec. 5-29, additional fee for rides).
Nov. 22-Jan. 5 from 5:30-9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5:30-10 p.m. Friday through Sunday as well as Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day at Bull Run Regional Park, 7700 Bull Run Drive, Centerville, Va. Admission is $20-$25 per carload.
Christmas at Mount Vernon
The holidays are full of delight during Christmas at Mount Vernon. During the day, tour the mansion, enjoy the decorations, watch historic chocolate-making demonstrations, make a dove of peace ornament and meet Aladdin the Camel. Special candlelight tours will be held Nov. 29 and 30 and Dec. 6, 7, 13, 14 and 22 beginning as early as 4:45 p.m. ($26 for adults, $18 for youth 6-11) and Christmas Illuminations with fireworks set to holiday music over the Potomac along with a bonfire will be held Dec. 20 and 21 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. ($36 for adults and $26 for youth with a mansion tour, $30 for adults and $20 for youth without tour).
Nov. 29-Dec. 31 including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Alexandria. Tickets are $20 for adults, and $12 for children 6-11. Children 5 and younger are FREE!
A Christmas Carol
Join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future as they lead the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge (D.C. 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 more than 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.
Nov. 21-Jan. 1 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday with additional weekday matinees at Ford’s Theatre, 511 10th St. NW. Tickets are $32-$124.
CityCenterDC, the upscale mixed-use development downtown with toney retailers like Burberry, Gucci, Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Ferragamo, and pricey restaurants like DBGB Kitchen and Bar and Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, hosts a dazzling 75-foot Christmas tree decked out in more than 150,000 lights and 4,500 ornaments, and two resident 25-foot reindeer on the Park at CityCenter facing New York Avenue. New this year is an ice maze built with 110,000 pounds of clear ice with 7-foot walls from Dec. 13-15 from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. An overhead lighting display with 400 snowflake ornaments and white lights hanging above the Palmer Alley pedestrian walkway also returns this year.
Nov. 30-Feb. 28 (snowflakes) at CityCenterDC, 825 10th St. NW. Admission is FREE!
Downtown Holiday Market
The 15th annual Downtown Holiday Market is centrally located at Eighth and F Streets NW, in front of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery. Scope out eclectic wares 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.
Nov. 22-Dec. 23 from noon-8 p.m. daily at Eighth and F Streets NW outside the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Admission is FREE!
Enchant, the 90,000-square-foot light maze billed as the biggest in the world, makes its home in D.C. at Nationals Park beginning Friday. When a mischievous little elf named Eddie accidentally sets Santa’s reindeer free, you have to help find them inside the luminescent land of larger-than-life of sculptures as snow gently falls around you. There are also ice skating trails (skate rental is $4.72 for kids and $9.43 for adults) and a large holiday market offering products from more than 40 vendors, including local businesses and international brands. Kids can visit Santa with their Christmas wishes and post to photos, plus there will be plenty of Instagram-friendly settings and holiday spirit. Then warm up with soup, chili from Ben’s Chili Bowl, raclette pretzels, treats from Maribeth’s Bakery, Capital Candy & Jar and Dog Tag Bakery. There is also a 40-foot bar with mulled wine, cider, cocktails, spiked coffees and local beers.
Nov. 22-Dec. 29 from 4:30-10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4:30-11 Friday and Saturday from Nov. 22-Dec. 12 and 4:30-11:30 p.m. from Dec. 13-30 at Nationals Park, 1500 South Capitol Street SE. Tickets are $14.99-$33.99.
Festival of Lights
Returning for its 42th 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.
Dec. 5-Jan. 4 from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. (lights illuminated at dusk) at the Washington D.C. Temple, 9900 Stoneybrook Drive, Kensington, Md. Admission is FREE, but tickets are required for concerts.
Garden of Lights
Step into a magical winter wonderland illuminated with more than 1 million dazzling colorful lights shaped into hand-crafted, original art forms of flowers, animals and other natural elements at Garden of Lights. Stroll from garden to garden enjoying twinkling tree forms, sparkling fountains and whimsical winter scenes. The night wouldn’t be complete without a visit inside the conservatory to enjoy watching G-Scale model trains wind through a seasonal landscape. Afterward, warm up inside the visitors’ center while you sip hot cocoa and listen to one of the nightly musical performances.
Nov. 22-Jan. 1 (closed Nov. 25-28 and Dec. 24-25) from 5:30-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5:30-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Ave., Wheaton. Admission is $25 per car or van Sunday through Thursday and $30 on Friday and Saturday.
This stroll through D.C.’s most historic neighborhood will make you light up as you pass by unique, outdoor public light art installations at Georgetown Glow. A group of artists, from locally renowned to internationally celebrated, will display works in outdoor spaces throughout Georgetown. This year’s display, which features 11 exhibits, 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.
Dec. 6-Jan. 5 from 5-10 p.m. nightly in the business district along the waterfront, around the C&O Canal, along M Street and up Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown. Admission is FREE!
Holiday in the Park
Millions of twinkling lights, seasonal food, five holiday shows and 18 holiday-themed rides and characters make up Holiday in the Park 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. New this year is the all-new Firebird coaster, Maryland’s only floorless roller coaster. Kids will love the interactive experiences, stunning decorations, s’mores fire pits where you can roast your own s’mores and Christmas singalongs.
Weekends from 2-9 p.m. from Nov. 23-Dec. 23, then daily from Dec. 26-Jan. 1 at Six Flags America, 13710 Central Avenue, Bowie. Tickets are $42.99-$45.99 in advance or $50.99-$70.99 at the park.
This year’s annual Ice! installation at National Harbor features scenes from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Two million tons of ice were used to carve the ice sculptures by 40 artisans from Harbin, China, for the display. There are also four ice slides for adults and children as well as a crystal-clear ice sculpture of the Nativity. The self-guided walk-through takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. As part of Christmas on the Potomac, the Gaylord atrium is also transformed into a winter village with a free nightly indoor snowfall at 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m., more than 2 million lights that illuminate the glass atrium and outdoor garden areas, the free fountain show with the water and lights “dancing” to the music of the Christmas story at 7 and 9 p.m. and classical Christmas carols at 6 and 8 p.m. There is also a 60-foot-tall Starlight Christmas tree suspended from the center of the atrium. For additional fees you can go ice tubing down a 15-foot high “hill,” take in the Cirque Dreams Unwrapped show, decorate a gingerbread house, get a photo with Santa, ride the Christmas Village Express or dine with the Grinch.
Nov. 15-Dec. 30 from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (and Dec. 20-29), 1-9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Dec. 30 at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, 201 Waterfront St., Oxen Hill. Tickets are $25-$40.
Ice & Lights
New this year, experience the winter wonderland at Cameron Run in Alexandria. Ice & Lights transforms the waterpark into a winter village from mid-November through January with an ice rink that will remain open through February. There is a 20-foot walk-through tree, a lighted tunnel, fire pits, heated igloos, giants stars and snowflakes, beautifully lit trees and winter displays. You can also grab a slice of pizza or some doughnuts while you enjoy the winter village.
Nov. 15-Jan. 5 from 5-10 p.m. nightly then Jan. 6 through Feb. 29 (ice rink only) from 5-10 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Cameron Run Park, 4001 Eisenhower Ave., Alexandria. Tickets are $5 for everyone 2 and older, ice skating is $8 and skate rental is $4.
Light Yards is back for its fifth year. This year brings “Airship Orchestra,” an interactive light installation on the waterfront curated by international artists ENESS.
Dec. 6-24 from 6-10 p.m. at Yards Park, 355 Water St. SE. Admission is FREE!
Meadowlark’s Winter Walk of Lights
Be dazzled by Winter Walk of Lights at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna. Every year from mid-November until just after New Year’s Day, the garden is transformed into a half-mile, walk of lights. Revisit perennial favorites such as the animated Lakeside Lights, the Fountain of Lights and the Holiday Nature Walk, and look for new displays each year. Round out your visit by roasting marshmallows and sipping on hot beverages by the fire.
Nov. 8-Jan. 5 including Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year from 5:30-10 p.m.at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, 9750 Meadowlark Gardens court, Vienna. Tickets are $14.50 for adults and $8 for children 2-12 in advance or $17 for adults and $11 for children 2-12 at the door.
Merriweather Symphony of Lights
The Merriweather Symphony of Lights in Columbia, Md., which benefits Howard County General Hospital, is a dazzling display of more than 100 larger-than-life animated and stationary holiday light creations made up of approximately 300,000 bulbs. There is also a laser light show and 3-D holiday video, all set to music.
Nov. 27-Jan.1 from 6-10 p.m. weekendays including Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and 5-10 p.m. weekends at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 10476 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, Md. Admission is $20 per car.
National Christmas Tree
The National Christmas Tree will be lit on Dec. 5. Visiting the live tree is free throughout the season, and musical performances are held nightly. The Pathway of Peace surrounding the tree features 56 state and territory trees decorated with handmade ornaments that are unique to each tree.
Dec. 5-Jan. 1 from 4:30-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 4:30-11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday on the White House Ellipse, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Admission is FREE.
Chanukah kicks off with this lighting ceremony of the National Menorah — the world’s largest menorah — on the White House Ellipse, which greets all with hot latkes and doughnuts and menorah kits and dreidels. Music from Dreidelman & the Macabees and The United States Marine Band “The President’s Own” will add a soundtrack to the scene. As is the custom, a new candle is illuminated on each of the eight days of Chanukah.
Dec. 22-29 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 p.m.) on Dec. 22.
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. The curtain rises and the audience is transported back in time to a Georgetown mansion where party guests include Frederick Douglass, John Paul Jones, Harriet Tubman, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. It is equal parts history lesson, mischief and humor. With General Washington as the heroic Nutcracker and George III as the Rat King, the story comes to life with more than 100 dancers, intricate, stunning set designs and original costumes. Waltzing cherry blossoms, dancing cardinals and dancing sugar plums plus other enchanting adaptations make this unique production. You will be dazzled by an impressive roster of dancers and the beautiful Tchaikovsky score.
Nov. 30-Dec. 29 at 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the Warner Theatre, 513 13th St. NW. Tickets are $50-$185.
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. This year’s display showcases botanic gardens. Trains will chug around, below, through and above plant-based recreations of iconic botanic gardens from across Maine to Hawaii, including the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s red Japanese torii gate, Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens’ flamingo topiaries, Missouri Botanical Garden’s famous Climatron conservatory, Huntsville Botanical Garden’s Rocket Garden featuring NASA space nodes and rockets and many more. There are more than 3,000 blooms on display from exotic orchids to a showcase of heirloom and newly developed poinsettia varieties. On Dec. 4, 10, 12, 17, 19 and 26, the Conservatory will stay open until 8 p.m. to host live seasonal music.
Nov. 28-Jan. 5 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at United States Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Ave. SW. Admission is FREE!
U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree
This year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, or “The People’s Tree,” is a 68-year-old, 60-foot tall blue spruce from the Carson National Forest in New Mexico. 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. Ornaments made by New Mexico residents decorate the tree.
Dec. 4-Jan. 1 from dusk until 11 p.m. on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, Constitution and Independence Avenues NW. Admission is FREE!
Winter Lights Festival
The City of Gaithersburg welcomes visitors to the 24th annual Winter Lights Festival. The 3.5 mile drive through the enchanted setting of Seneca Creek State Park takes you past more than 450 illuminated displays and trees that light up the night. Themed areas include Winter Woods, Teddy Bear Land, Toyland, the North Pole and more.
Nov. 29-Dec. 31 except Christmas Day from 6-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 6-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Seneca State Park, 11950 Clopper Road, Gaithersburg. Admission online is $12 for cars, SUVs and min-vans Monday through Thursday and $17 Friday through Sunday, and $15 and $20, respectively, at the gate.
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 two dazzling laser light shows set to music. New this year, “Entre le Rangs” is a luminous field of lights that calls to mind a wheat swaying in the breeze. Also new, several large animal lanterns lit from within feature pandas, monkeys, zebras, elephants and more around the park. Enjoy food, holiday shopping and live music, too! ZooTubes, the giant tubes slides down the hill near the big cats exhibit returns this year. The Zoo Choo-Choo takes visitors on a merry tour on a trackless train around the Kids’ Farm and features views of the light displays. Take a break and thaw your paws in the visitor center, Panda Plaza gift shop, Mane Grill and Great Cats gift shop. All indoor animal exhibits will be closed.
Nov. 29-Jan. 1 except Dec. 24, 25 and 31 from 5-9 p.m. at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW. Admission is FREE!