The 2013 KFDC Guide to the Holidays in DC

See the Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting on December 3

See the Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting on December 3

Ready or not, the holidays and all their hoopla are about to hit DC. Starting as soon as this weekend, you can embrace the spirit at area events that have become annual traditions for Washington families and there will be more to come as the season rolls on — children’s theatre, train displays, light shows, holiday extravaganzas, and more! Here’s the KFDC 2013 Guide to the Holidays in DC to help you find it all.

Holiday Shows
Special Events
Model Trains
Light Displays

Holiday Shows


The Twelve Days of Christmas
Where: Adventure Theatre
When: November 15 – December 30
Tickets: $19 (look for a discount here)
Christmas celebrations are just around the corner and Shirley the Partridge has got some problems to solve! The French Hens are arguing, the six geese have flown to Florida for the winter and worst of all…someone has stolen the Five Golden Rings! What will happen to Christmas? Recommended for all ages.

A Christmas Carol
Where: Ford’s Theatre
When: November 21 – January 1
Tickets: $22-89
Join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future as they lead the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge on a journey of transformation and redemption. Originally conceived by Michael Baron, this music-infused production captures the magic and joy of Dickens’s Yuletide classic. Acclaimed Washington stage actor Edward Gero returns to play Scrooge.

The Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker
Where: Kennedy Center
When: November 27 – December 1
Tickets: $34-155

Boasting larger-than-life Victorian America scenery and costumes, entrancing storytelling, Tchaikovsky’s beloved score, and invigorating dancing that could only be found in a dream, The Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker “could easily melt an old-fashioned snowstorm with its unique combination of warmth, charm, grandeur, and superb performances” (The Chicago Sun-Times). Fresh from celebrating its 25th anniversary, this awe-inspiring version of the perennial classic from Chicago’s world-renowned company returns to dazzle and delight Washington audiences over the Thanksgiving holiday. The Joffrey’s “elegantly unified production” (The Washington Post) brings the magic of the season to life like no other Nutcracker, swirling with heroic toy soldiers, sword-fighting mice, the glittering Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, a giant Mother Ginger, and a journey to the Kingdom of Sweets. From start to finish, The Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker is one to cherish with the entire family–for the joy of its fairy-tale comforts, and for the excitement in discovering something new, every time.

The Nutcracker
Where: The Puppet Co.
When: November 29 – December 29
Tickets: $10

The Puppet Co.’s annual holiday treat! The Nutcracker is the festive story of Clara-Marie’s favorite toy and their adventures together in the land of the Sugarplum Fairy. Music from Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet blends with marionettes and costume characters to create this unique production. Don’t miss it! Recommended for children and K and up.

Nutcracker Fantasy
Where: The Puppet Co. Tiny Tots
When: November 29 – December 29
Tickets: $5

This marionette version of the holiday classic is geared toward the smallest of audience members. Tiny Tots shows are designed for theater patrons ages 0-4. They are shorter, the lights stay on, the doors stay open, and the show is set up on the floor.

The Washington Ballet: The Nutcracker
Where: THEARC Theater
When: November 30 – December 1
Tickets: $30/35/40

The Washington Ballet modifies Septime Webre’s critically acclaimed production a bit at the Anacostia theatre, making it more enticing for antsy little theatre-goers. The set is scaled-down, and performances are shorter. This version of The Nutcracker transports audiences back in time to historic Washington, DC, and stars George Washington as the heroic Nutcracker. Full of swirling snowflakes, magnificent sets and costumes and Tchaikovsky’s beloved score, the curtain rises and the stage bursts with waltzing cherry blossoms, dancing sugar plums and other enchanting adaptations that have made Webre’s Nutcracker a Washington tradition with raves from critics and sold-out crowds.

Septime Weber’s The Nutcracker
Where: Warner Theatre
When: December 1-24
Tickets: $35-101

The Washington Ballet once again brings Septime Webre’s, The Nutcracker, to the historic Warner Theater in Washington. This adaptation of the beloved ballet tells the story of a little girl named Clara who is given a magical nutcracker at a Christmas Eve in her family’s 1882 Georgetown mansion. Later that evening she encounters a battle of Revolutionary War soldiers led by the frightful King Rat (King George III) and the Nutcracker (George Washington). After winning the battle, the Nutcracker, now a handsome prince leads her on a wondrous journey filled with the Snow Queen and King, Sugar Plum Fairy, cherry blossoms, Anacostia Indians, a frontiersman, cardinals and more. Read a KFDC review of the production from a couple of years ago.

Seasons of Light
Where: Discovery Theater
When: December 2-20
Tickets: $3-8

Joy, warmth, and community illuminate seasonal holiday celebrations the world over. Back for its 15th season, this signature Discovery Theater show celebrates the history and customs of Ramadan, Devali, Sankta Lucia, Chanukah, Los Posados, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and the First Nations’ tradition of the Winter Solstice in an interactive event that bridges communities and cultures. This show sells out early, so don’t wait to get your tickets! Recommended for ages 5-10.

Holiday Sing-A-Long
Where: Wolf Trap
When: December 7, 4pm
Tickets: Free

Wolf Trap’s Holiday Sing-A-Long is an annual musical celebration hosting a performance by the United States Marine Band and a Sing-A-Long of Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs with choir and vocal groups from the metropolitan Washington area. Admission is free, and no tickets are required. Parking is free, but limited, so please plan on arriving early. Bring along a new, unwrapped toy to donate to Toys for Tots, a bell for a “Jing-A-Long” during the singing of “Jingle Bells,” and a candle to join the tradition of exiting the Filene Center with a candlelight processional during the last verse of “Silent Night.”

Christmas Dreams from The Nutcracker
Where: National Theatre
When: December 7
Tickets: FREE

Saturday Morning at the National presents its annual holiday show, the Virginia Ballet Company and School’s selections from Tchaikovsky’s glittering confection. Snowflakes and Sugar Plum Fairies fill the air in a dazzling presentation full of lovely costumes, lively dances and elegant holiday cheer. Performances take place at 9:30am and 11am, and tickets are required for admission. Free tickets are distributed half an hour prior to the start of shows on a first-come first-served basis. Seating is limited, so get there early.

The Mini-Nut
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center
When: December 7-8
Tickets: $18/adults, $15/children 12 and under

Maryland Youth Ballet’s Mini-Nut is a delightful abbreviated version of their classic, award-winning, The Nutcracker, designed to introduce children to the magic of this family favorite. This beloved holiday tradition with soaring music by Tchaikovsky promises to hold the attention of even the youngest theatergoer. Watch the Nutcracker turn into a handsome Prince, the battle between the Nutcracker and the Seven Headed Mouse King, and the sparkling Snow Queen float through her kingdom. See the beautiful Sugar Plum Fairy and the magical residents of The Kingdom of Sweets! Suitable for all ages, this version is less than an hour and performed by cast members from MYB’s full-length production. A perfect holiday mini-treat!

Family Day at The Nutcracker
Where: Warner Theatre
When: December 8, 11:30am
Admission: $35-101

Ever wanted to get a peek behind the curtain into the magic of The Nutcracker? Now is your chance. On Sunday, December 8, the doors of the Warner Theatre will open at 11:30AM for all ticket holders for the 1PM performance of The Nutcracker. Everyone is invited to join Drosselmeyer and Clara for a reading of The Nutcracker, watch artistic director, Septime Webre, give the Revolutionary soldiers their marching orders, Company dancers pre-performance warm-ups, and the stage being set. Get a chance to meet costumed dancers, pose for photos, get autographs and more. This is a great opportunity to introduce children to the magic of theater and dance. Refreshments will be available as well as souvenirs from The Sugar Plum Shoppe including TWB’s NEW signature “George Washington” Nutcracker and The Nutcracker t-shirts. Tickets are limited. All patrons must have a ticket to enter.

Annual Carol Sing
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 8, 4pm & 7pm
Tickets: Free, but must be reserved ($2 service fee)

An H Street holiday tradition is back! Sing along to your favorite holiday classics at the annual, free concert at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, in collaboration with Capital City Symphony the Congressional Chorus, the American Youth Chorus, and the Atlas.

Step Afrika!’s Magical, Musical Holiday Step Show
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 11-22
Tickets: $35.50/adult, $22/seniors, military, $15/ages 17 and Under (look for a discount here)

“Who wants to sit still and be quiet for the holidays?” Can Step Afrika! teach a polar bear to step? What about a penguin? This December, come make music with Step Afrika! and their furry friends from the Animal Kingdom in this new holiday tradition! Come ready to bring in the festive season with a bang featuring the electrifying artists from Step Afrika! and special guest DJ Frosty the Snowman. They’ll get you in the mood for the festive season.

Drumming with Dishes: Holiday Edition
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 11 – 15
Tickets: $8

Drumming with Dishes is back again for the holiday season! This gentle, playful adventure takes place in a special kitchen, where two friends cook up joyful music together. From a pasta-box Christmas tree to dreidels spinning on pots and pans, these friends (and their live guitar accompanist) bring many of your favorite holiday songs to life like you’ve never seen before! Recommended for ages up to 5.

Cathy & Marcy’s Blanket & Pillow Concert w/Justin Roberts
Where: Takoma Park Middle School
When: December 8
Tickets: $12 advance, $15 at door

Bring your blanket, pillow, stuffed animals and wear your PAJAMAS to Cathy & Marcy’s 28th Annual Winter Family Concert. The Grammy winners will share the stage with kids’ fave Justine Roberts. Justin has performed on The Today Show and he’s featured on Nick Jr. and Sprout TV. Justin has garnered kudos and raves from critics and fans alike.

The Lion, The Unicorn, and Me
Where: Kennedy Center
When: December 14-22
Tickets: $34-54

Washington National Opera presents the world premiere of a new holiday family opera: The Lion, The Unicorn, and Me, at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater this season. Based on Jeanette Winterson’s award-winning children’s book which tells the story of the Nativity from a donkey’s point of view. As the world’s first Christmas nears, an Angel is conducting a most important interview: who among all the animals can lead Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem? Will it be Lion, fearful ruler of the jungle? Or might it be Unicorn, graceful steed to lovely maidens? It’s certainly not Donkey, whose only humble gift is a small but sturdy back. But with the birth of a very special king on the horizon, and one bright star blazing the way to a crowded inn, Donkey soon discovers that miracles can happen anywhere—even right in front of his nose.

The Nutcracker
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center
When: December 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23
Tickets: $28/adults, $23/children in advance; $33/adults, $28/children at the door

This is the 22nd season of the Maryland Youth Ballets beloved, full-length classic. Performances will tale place at the Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center of Montgomery College in Rockville.

Joy of Christmas
Where: Washington National Cathedral
When: December 14-15
Admission: $25

Get into the holiday spirit with the Cathedral Choral Society (CCS), under Music Director J. Reilly Lewis as they present The Joy of Christmas at the Washington National Cathedral, a grand tradition of the Choral Society spanning nearly four decades. The December 14 noon performance is a family matinee and is designed for families with children.

Kwanzaa Celebration
Where: Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre
When: December 14, 8pm
Tickets: $25/adult, $12/child in advance | $30/adult, $15/child at door

Kick off the holiday season with Dance Place at the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre at George Washington University. Coyaba Dance Theater will host their annual Kwanzaa Celebration, displaying the excitement and vibrancy of the holiday with their work based around the seven principles of Kwanzaa. Experience this community of dancers in an exhilarating and inspiring performance experience for all ages.

Elf the Musical
Where: Kennedy Center
When: December 17 – January 5
Tickets: $25-150 (look for a discount here)

One of the most beloved Hollywood holiday hits of the past decade is born again! Elf The Musical is the hilarious tale of Buddy, a young orphan child who mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported back to the North Pole. Unaware that he’s actually human, Buddy’s enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth. With Santa’s permission, Buddy embarks on a journey to New York City to find his birth father, discover his true identity, and help New York remember the true meaning of Christmas. This modern day holiday classic is sure to make everyone embrace their inner elf.



Model trains whiz through the garden railway at the U.S. Botanic Garden

Model trains whiz through the garden railway at the U.S. Botanic Garden

Season’s Greenings

Where:U.S. Botanic Garden
When: November 28 – January 5
Admission: FREE

If my blog stats are any indication, this is easily DC’s most popular holiday attraction; the Botanic Garden’s seasonal exhibit is always among the top searches that lead readers here. And I can’t say I’m surprised. Season’s Greenings is an annual delight for all ages. The conservatory exhibit features Washington landmarks constructed from plant materials and one of the city’s largest Christmas trees. But the highlight, hands-down, is the garden railway, which never fails to impress and enchant with intricate, imaginative designs. This year you can explore the “World’s Fair” and see many familiar creations that resulted from a long history of public exhibitions. For even more holiday magic at the garden, there are concerts most Tuesday and Thursday evenings in December, when the USBG stays open until 8pm. For more on the seasonal favorite, read this KFDC post about last year’s Season’s Greenings.

Holiday Festival of Trains & Toys
Where: B&O Railroad Museum
When: November 29 – December 31
Admission: $16/adults, $14/seniors (60+), $10/ages 2-12, free for B&O members

This is a venue dedicated to locomotives, so you know the holiday model train exhibit is going to be special. So much so, it changes throughout its run featuring new displays from various Model Railroad Exhibitors every few days. The exhibit opens the day after Thanksgiving with the arrival of Civil War Santa & Mrs. Claus Santa in the Roundhouse at 10:30am. On weekends through December 22, guests can enjoy train rides with Santa and Frosty the Snowman along with crafts and choral performances. Train rides are $3/adult, $2/children on the one-mile express train or $5/adults, $4/children to Mount Clare Museum. Both are free for B&O Members.

Garden Railway Exhibit
Where: Brookside Garden
When: November 29 – January 5
Admission: Free from 10am -5pm, Open with paid admission to Garden of Lights 5:30-8:30pm

Don’t be left standing on the platform for this very popular holiday attraction. The Washington Virginia Maryland Garden Railway Society constructs the ‘G’ scale train exhibit inside Brookside’s South Conservatory every year. Trains and trollies roll along their tracks through evergreens, boxwoods, poinsettias and other ornamental plants as they travel by town and country scenes, including a custom made, one-of-a-kind scale model of the outdoor Wheaton Ice Rink, complete with moving skaters and music. The Garden Railway opens with Garden of Lights, and both are dazzling holiday displays.

Holiday Trains and Planes
Where: College Park Aviation Museum
When: December 14 – December 21
Admission: $4/adults, $3/seniors, $2/ages 2-18, under 2 are free

During the holiday season the College Park Aviation Museum gets ready for the festivities as miniature trains, villages, tunnels, and depots spark the imagination and bring history to life. The National Capital Trackers bring a fascinating and constantly moving display of model railroads.

Holiday Train Show
Where: Union Station
When: TBD
Admission: FREE
Every year, DC’s grand train station hosts a wonderful model train display during the holidays. While this details of this season’s locomotive showcase have yet to be announced, in past years they have been on view in Main and West Halls, and they are always free for the public to see. Look for an update soon!



Viewing holiday displays on the Ellipse

Viewing holiday displays on the Ellipse


Holidays on the Ellipse
Where: The National Ellipse
When: December 6 – January 1
Admission: FREE

This should have a permanent spot on everyone’s DC holiday repertoire. The National Christmas Tree, the National Menorah, Santa’s Workshop, plus trains and displays representing all 50 states are a must-see during the season. Kids will especially love visiting Santa in his adorable little cottage for a peek at his operations and a photo op on his lap (read about one of our experiences there) which is open at select times, through Christmas Eve. And the rest of it lit up at night with the White House and Washington Monument glowing in the distance makes for a brilliant holiday scene. (Note: The National Christmas Tree Lighting is on December 6, but Santa’s Workshop does not open until the December 9 — be sure to check the schedule here.)

Ice Palace
Where: Fair Oaks Mall
When: November 7 – December 24
Admission: Free
Be transported to a winter wonderland when you step inside the spectacular holiday Ice Palace, presented by Microsoft Windows. Marvel at the larger-than-life snow globes, leave an icy handprint, sit on the chilly Ice Throne — and of course, no trip would be complete without a visit to Santa.

Christmas on the Potomac
Where: National Harbor
When: November 15 – January 5

Admission: FREE, though some activities cost extra
National Harbor goes all out during the holidays. ICE! might be the big attraction, but there’s way more to do there to warrant a visit without the frozen entertainment. Most of it takes place in the Gaylord National Resort, which is transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with a spectacular glass Christmas tree, nightly tree lightings , the Potomac Express train offering rides for guests, photo ops with Santa, indoor snowfalls, fountain shows, and more. (Read about a KFDC experience there during a Christmas season past.)

Where: National Harbor
When: November 15 – January 5
$27-34/adult, $19-27/child, $22-30 military, 2 and under are free
Technically, this is part of Christmas on the Potomac, but it’s such a huge spectacle in itself, that it deserves its own write-up. We went a couple of years ago, and I recommend reading my review before you go. And since it features a new theme this year, here’s the description from the website: “See Ma in her kerchief, Pa in his cap, and Saint Nick with his eight reindeer. You’ll marvel at colorful, life-size ice sculptures depicting the classic holiday poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, all brought to life in amazing detail and artistry. Be amazed by hand-carved ice sculptures standing more than 20-feet high, and take a ride down a two-story-tall ice slide. It’s all part of the fun as you stroll through ICE! presented by Pepsi – our award-winning holiday attraction.” Tickets can be purchased in advance online, and timed entries are every half-hour. Hours vary by day, so be sure to check the schedule when you plan to go.

Re-Imagining the Holidays
Where: Downtown Silver Spring
When: Saturday, 6-8pm
Admission: Free

The 2nd Annual “Re-Imagining The Holidays” event is Downtown Silver Spring’s official Tree Lighting and Unveiling of Playtime Jubilee, a holiday art installation created by Karl Unnasch. The work features a metal tree armature structure standing 30 feet tall adorned with hundreds of indoor and outdoor toys and youth sporting goods of all shapes, colors and sizes. Other festivities of the evening will include the National’s Racing Presidents, live music, entertainment, photo station, games, food tastings, a beer garden, merchant activities, and contests and prizes.

Christmas at Mount Vernon

Where: Mount Vernon Estate, Museum, & Gardens
When: November 29 – January 6
Admission: $17/adults, $8/ages 6-11, free for ages 5 and under

Mount Vernon decks the halls with themed Christmas trees on the estate and festive greenery in the Mansion. Tour the rarely-open third floor of the Mansion and get a glimpse of how the Washingtons might have decorated and entertained during the holiday season. Other special activities to enjoy: Watch chocolatiers produce chocolate using 18th-century techniques. Learn dances and hear stories about Christmas at Mount Vernon from costumed friends and family of the Washingtons. Meet Aladdin the Camel and see the National Thanksgiving Turkey after its official “presidential pardoning” at the White House.

Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol
When: December 3
Admission: Free

If don’t win lottery tickets to see the National Tree Lighting, consider going to this one at the Capitol. You might not be able to sit close up, but you can view festivities from right across the street, and it’s just as lovely from the area by the Reflecting Pool. For now, track the tree as it journeys from Colorado, where it was cut down, to DC. It’s expected to arrive on November 25. After the lighting, the tree will be lit every evening for all to enjoy until January 1.

Christmas Spirit at Union Station
Where: Union Station
When: December 4
Admission: Free

The Royal Norwegian Embassy presents the 16th Norwegian Christmas at Union Station. Listen to The Children’s Chorus of Washington sing Christmas carols and let the whole family find the Christmas Spirit as Under Secretary of the Navy Robert O. Work flicks the switch to the 20,000 lights on the Christmas tree at Union Station.Santa Claus will be on hand with treats for the children in attendance. Marines and representatives of the Embassy will also be present to accept donations to this year’s Toys for Tots campaign, which distributes toys to needy children throughout the region. Please consider donating a new, unwrapped toy. Checks made out to “Toys for Tots” are also welcome. The tree will be on display through December.

Bethesda’s Winter Wonderland
Where: Downtown Bethesda
When: December 6-7
Admission: Free, but concerts and events cost extra

Celebrate the season in downtown Bethesda with a variety of performances, an ice sculpting presentation, a visit from Santa Claus, and more. See the website for the schedule of events over the two-day festival.

Holly Trolley Fest

Where: National Capitol Trolley Museum
When: December 7-29, Saturdays & Sundays only
Admission: $7/adults, $5/ages 2-17 (includes unlimited rides)
Guests can ride with Santa on the street cars and enjoy the model garden railway and holiday village inside the museum. Of course the rest of the museum, offering a glimpse into the history of street cars, including a Hall displaying different cars from around the region and Europe. Note: Santa will not be there the last weekend. Visit the website for directions to the museum.

Gifts That Give Hope Gift Fair
Where: Calvary United Methodist Church
When: December 14, 10am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Instead of giving another tie or candle this year, how about boxing up hope and happiness? Gifts That Give Hope Arlington is holding their 3rd annual Gift Fair, capturing the holiday spirit in a way that redefines the notion of meaningful, alternative gift giving. This year’s fair will feature 15 local and global nonprofit organizations, many of them based in Arlington. Shoppers will have the opportunity to peruse the tables hosted by each organization and purchase alternative gifts that will directly benefit the mission of those organizations. There will also be refreshments, face painting, and kids activities.

Winter’s Eve
Where: Glen Echo Park
When: December 14, 6-9pm
Admission: Free

Get into the holiday spirit at Glen Echo Park’s annual Winter’s Eve celebration. It’s free, open to the public, and visitors of all ages can enjoy performances, open studios, and a hot chocolate bar before strolling through the Park or joining the swing dance in the Spanish Ballroom. Browse and buy fine artworks at the Holiday Art Show and artist studios. Kids and adults can create gifts to share in our holiday-themed craft activities.

Breakfast with Santa
Where: Old Town Boutique District
When: December 23-24
Admission: $13.50/child (age 3-12),$22/adult

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be visiting Old Town before leaving for the big night! And you can have breakfast with them. Breakfast is table-service and the menu will include some all-time favorites like Eggs Benedict and Belgian Malted Waffles. There will be six seatings starting at 8:30am and every half-hour through 11am both days. Cost includes breakfast, milk, soda, coffee, tea, tax, gratuity, and, of course, a visit with Santa and the Missus.

First Night Alexandria
Where: Old Town Alexandria
When: December 31
Admission: $15 until 12/17, $20 after, kids 12 and under are free
The largest family-focused and alcohol-free New Year’s Eve event in the region. See more than 100 performances on indoor stages throughout Old Town Alexandria. Entertainers include blue grass musicians, honky-tonk bands, clowns, magicians and classical musicians. End the evening with a spectacular fireworks display on the Potomac River at the foot of King Street!

Christmas Town
Where: Busch Gardens
When: November 22-31
Admission: $27/ages 3 and up

Go big on a treat for your family at this holiday celebration at the Williamsburg amusement park. Enjoy spectacular light shows, rides, live entertainment, the Mistletoe Marketplace,visits from Santa, live penguins, and more!


Come light the Menorah on the Ellipse November 27

Come light the Menorah on the Ellipse November 27

Create Your Own Chanukah Party
Where: Congregation Or Chadash
When: November 19, 6:30-8pm
Admission: Free

Join a hands-on PJ Library workshop where you can make decorations for your own Chanukah party. We’ll learn more about Chanukah and enjoy tasty treats! Contact and RSVP to [email protected] Congregation Or Chadash is located at 24800 Kings Valley Road in Damascus.

Chanukah on Ice
Where: Pentagon Row Ice Rink
When: November 26, 6-8:30pm
Admission: $10 in advance, $12 at the door

Celebrate Chanukah with a giant menorah lighting, holiday treats, raffles, and ice skating! Ice skate rentals are included, but food will be sold separately. Purchase advance tickets online at or call 703-370-2774.

National Menorah Lighting
Where: The National Ellipse
When: November 27, 4pm
Admission: Free, but you must request tickets

This is the Jewish counterpart to the National Christmas Tree Lighting. Every Chanukah, the National Menorah is lit in a ceremony on the Ellipse. Along with the lighting, there will be live entertainment, plus menorah kits and dreidels to take home. And if you don’t mind waiting in line afterward, you can stay for latkes and donuts. Tickets are free, but you need to request them in advance through the website.

Chanukah Night Lights
Where: Westfield Montgomery Mall
When: November 27 – December 4
Admission: Free

Join PJ Library and our community partners for a nightly candle lighting and activities at Westfield Montgomery Mall. This will run every night except for Thanksgiving. See details for each night online. All ages are welcome.

Light the Night
Where: Cabin John Shopping Center
When: December 1, 4-5:30pm
Admission: Free

The highlight of Chabad Shul of Potomac’s Chanukah celebration will be Eric Energy’s Chanukah Science Spectacular, a showcase of science experiments about the festival of lights. A Laser light show, vortex fog rings, and a voice changer are all part of the show. And a giant menorah lighting, magic tricks and balloons, music and dancing, latkes, and jelly doughnuts, will be part of the celebration.

Chanukah Festival
Where: Crowne Plaza Hotel in Alexandria
When: December 1, 5pm
Admission: Free
Celebrate the third night of Chanukah with a giant menorah lighting, free light stick for every child, latkes, donuts, a raffle, and music! The lighting will take place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Old Town Alexandria located at 901 N Fairfax Street. For more info, go to or call 703-370-2774.


Holiday Lights

One of many brilliant twinkling scenes at Brookside's Garden of Lights

One of many brilliant twinkling scenes at Brookside’s Garden of Lights


Symphony of Lights
Where: Symphony Woods, Merriweather Post Pavilion
When: November 25 – January 4, 6-10pm nightly
Admission: $20/car (look for a deal on Certifikid)

Called a “woodland wonderland,” this beautiful display of more than 70 larger-than-life, animated and stationary light creations is a local holiday tradition for many. Cruise along the 1.4-mile route through the Symphony Woods in downtown Columbia and enjoy the twinkling lights as you go. (Note that it’s closed on December 31.)

Where: National Zoo
When: November 29 – January 1, 5-9pm
Admission: FREE

(Note: Be sure to visit the website for the schedule, as this is not open every day!) Every year, thousands of environmentally-friendly light and animal exhibits transform the Zoo into a holiday wonderland. The highlights are dozens of animal light displays, and this year there will be “Zoo Tubing” on Lion/Tiger (hey, does that make it Liger?) Hill on two 150-foot snow tracks. Guests can also enjoy entertainment, a special train ride for children, a whirl on the Conservation Carousel (a new feature this year!), special talks by animal keepers, Zoo-themed model trains displays, and the gingerbread habitat contest entries on display in the auditorium. The Small Mammal House, Great Ape House, Reptile Discovery Center, Think Tank, and Kids’ Farm will be open every night. Rides and parking cost extra.

Festival of Lights
Where: Watkins Regional Park
When: November 29 – January 1, 5-9:30pm nightly
Admission: $5/car, FREE on December 25

This spectacular holiday drive-through event of more than one million twinkling lights has been dazzling holiday-goers for 25 years. This is great way to get into the holiday spirit from the comfort of your car – pop some holiday music into the CD player, turn on the seat warmers, and take in the illuminated scenes.

Garden of Lights
Where: Brookside Gardens
When: November 29 – January 5, with noted exceptions
Admission: $20/car Mon-Thurs, $25/car Fri-Sun

It’s the 16th season of this festive light show, that is a popular family tradition in the DC area, attracting nearly 40,000 visitors each winter. Why? It is absolutely spectacular! Visualize close to one million twinkling colorful lights shaped in imaginative displays throughout the gardens. Enjoy the four seasons illuminated as giant summer sunflowers, autumn leaves, winter snowflakes, spring flowers, rain showers, and more. Walk along the easily accessible paths and you’ll see what sets this light show apart from others; it’s the hundreds of wrapped trees and shrubs, beautifully lighted gazebos, cascading fountains, and the individually formed displays in the shapes of blooming flowers and wild animals. Look for moving displays such as a flock of geese, or an 11-foot giraffe covered with 9,000 lights. Open Sunday – Thursday 5:30-9pm, with last car admitted at 8:30pm, and Friday/Saturday 5:30-10pm, with last car admitted at 9:30pm. View scenes from our visit there last year.

Winter Lights Festival

Where: Seneca Creeek State Park
When: November 29 – December 31
Admission: $12/car Mon-Thurs, $15/car Fri- Sun (look for a deal on Certifikid)

The 18th Annual Winter Lights Festival will feature more than Winter Lights features more than 365 illuminated vignettes and 65 animated displays in a 3.5 mile drive through beautiful Seneca Creek State Park. Theme areas include Winter Woods, Teddy Bear Land, Victorian Village, North Pole, Toyland, and Penguin Cove. Proceeds Benefit Local Charities. Hours are Sunday – Thursday 6-9pm and Friday-Saturday 6-10pm.

Alexandria Boat Parade of Lights

Where: Alexandria City Marina
When: December 7, 5:30pm
Admission: FREE

Experience one of the region’s most beloved holiday traditions! At sundown on the day of the Scottish Christmas Walk parade, Alexandria’s harbor lights up when more than 50 illuminated boats cruise the Potomac River at the historic waterfront, led by Alexandria’s fireboat Vigilant and Washington, DC’s fireboat John Glenn, featuring a special appearance by Santa. Friends and families bundle up and come to the docks and waterfront parks of Alexandria to cheer on their favorites. The boats are dressed to impress a panel of judges who will award prizes in a dozen categories including Best in Show, Thinking Outside the Christmas Box, and Hardiest Souls. Come early for dockside festivities starting at 3pm.

Parade of Lighted Boats
Where: Southwest Waterfront
When: December 7, 5:30-8pm
Admission: Free
On the other end of Alexandria’s boat parade, the Washington Waterfront Association and Old Dominion Boat Club will host the Parade of Lighted Boats along the Southwest Waterfront. So, it’s actually the same parade, just different festivities on the DC side.

Winter Walk of Lights

Where: Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
When: November 15 – January 5
Admission: $13/adult, $8/ages 3-12 (look for a deal on Certifikid)

Imagine the beauty of Meadowlark’s renowned gardens as over 500,000 LED lights and displays bring the gardens to life and transform it into a winter wonderland. Marvel at the two-story animated fountain, stroll past the Gingerbread Village, and explore the beauty of nature like you’ve never seen it. This event is sure to be the highlight of your holiday season!

Bull Run Festival of Lights
Where: Bull Run Regional Park
When: November 20 – January 5
Admission: Monday- Thursday $15/car, Friday-Saturday $20/car (look for a deal on Certifikid)

For more than 12 years the Bull Run Festival of Lights has drawn thousands of visitors to the park to delight in its winter wonderland. Get a sneak preview of it on the website, where a video of Santa’s Enchanted Lights, with over 40,000 animated lights set to music, is merely a fraction of what you’ll find there. For a fun and active way to enjoy the lights, race through them in The Snowman Stampede: Light up the Night 5k taking place on December 7.


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Filed under All ages, Annual, Chanukah, Christmas, DC, Exhibit, Festival, Free, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Music, Outdoor, Parade, Park, Seasonal, Theatre, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

One Response to The 2013 KFDC Guide to the Holidays in DC

  1. Excellent work, some very good tips! I truly appreciate you penning this editorial and the rest of your web site is top notch!

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