Tag Archives: DC Holiday Activities

The 2018 KFDC Guide to the Holiday Season in DC




The holiday season in DC really may be the most wonderful time of the year. You can embrace the spirit around the area with all kinds of festive experiences, many that have become family traditions for Washingtonians. Local stages come alive with holiday shows. Model trains wind through miniature Christmas villages. Light displays dazzle visitors as they stroll or drive among them. Special markets offer unique gifts along with a good time. And an array of events and extravaganzas, several at iconic locales, bring holiday cheer and activities that thrill and enchant kids — and the kid in all of us adults. This annual KFDC Guide to the Holiday Season in DC, categorized and listed by starting date, will help you plan for it all. Happy Holidays!

Holiday Shows

Chanukah

Tree Lightings

Model Trains

Special Events

Light Displays

Holiday Markets

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Have a stompin’ good time at Step Afrika’s Holiday Step Show!


HOLIDAY SHOWS
 
Elf the Musical
Where: Olney Theatre | Olney, MD
When: November 9 – January 6
Tickets: Start at $59 (look for a discount)

Based on the hit Will Ferrell movie, Elf the Musical has quickly entered the pantheon of holiday classics, and for good reason. This warm-hearted family musical tells the story of Buddy, a human accidentally transported to the North Pole as a baby who grows up believing himself to be an elf, despite his large size and sub-par toy-making. Upon learning the truth from Santa, Buddy journeys to New York to find his father and help the jaded city folk rediscover the wonder and joy of the Christmas season.

Grandma’s Thanksgiving Visit
Where: Discovery Theater
When: November 15-20
Tickets: $3-8

Grandma has arrived for the holiday—and that can only mean making puppets, cooking together, washing the car, and learning lots of fun new things! This musical play with a great big heart brings the whole audience into the family with singing, fingerplay, and call-and-response as we all give thanks for being together. Recommended for ages 3-7.

A Christmas Carol
Where: Ford’s Theatre | Penn Quarter, DC
When: November 15 – December 30
Tickets: $32-101

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. Recommended for ages 5 and up. Performance is two hours (including a 15-minute intermission).

Fancy Nancy’s Splendiferous Christmas
Where: Adventure Theatre | Glen Echo, MD
When: November 16 – January 6
Tickets: $19.50 (look for a discount)

What could be fancier than Christmas? Presents with elegant wrapping paper, festive decorations, Christmas cookies with sprinkles-and who could forget the tree? After all, there is no such thing as too much tinsel. Oohlala! This year, Nancy is especially excited. After selling some of her old gowns and accessories, Nancy has enough money to buy a brand-new sparkly tree topper. She can’t wait to decorate the Christmas tree. But when things don’t turn out the way Nancy planned, will Christmas still be splendiferous? Recommended for all ages.

Jingle ARRGH the Way!
Where: Gunston Arts Center | Arlington, VA
When: November 16-18 & November 30 – December 9
Tickets: $15/adult, $12/child (look for a discount)

Encore Stage & Studio’s presents this by kids for kids. A mysterious message left in the crow’s nest of their ship brings Captain Braid Beard and his pirate mates back to North Beach to seek out young Jeremy Jacob to help solve a riddle and find the Christmas treasure. Favorite characters, a rollicking story, great songs, and a trip to the North Pole to find “you know who” – makes Jingle ARRGH the Way! a wonderful holiday show for the whole family. Based on a story by Melinda Long, author of How I Became a Pirate. We recommend this musical for ages 4 and older. Recommended for ages 4+.

Children’s Series: Nutcracker
Where: Classic Ballet Theatre Studios | Herndon, VA
When: November 17-18
Tickets: $15

The Children’s Series is designed to be an introduction to the enjoyment of the art of ballet to the young and the young-at-heart alike. Every programs that we bring into the series are condensed ballet classics with all of their essence and costumes and enchantment of the originals. Make the Children’s Series a part of your tradition that you want to share with your loved ones.

A Christmas Carol
Where: Olney Theatre | Olney, MD
When: November 23 – December 30
Tickets: $40-50 (look for a discount)

Experience the unforgettable characters and vivid imagery as Charles Dickens originally intended – in his own words – and rediscover this timeless classic presented in a masterful solo performance. Adapted from Dickens’ original novella and reading tour, Morella’s solo version will transport you back to Victorian England and into the heart of this classic morality tale.

Virginia National Ballet’s The Nutcracker
Where: Hylton Performing Arts Center | Manassas, VA
When: November 23-24
Tickets: $37/adult, $25/child

Virginia National Ballet presents The Nutcracker — the first of the season! With beautiful sets, costumes, and special effects, the traditional choreography shines, as a stellar cast of professional award-winning, international dancers and the students of the Virginia National Ballet School enchant audiences. At family-friendly prices, this is an event no to be missed!

Tiny Tots: Nutcracker Fantasy
Where: The Puppet Co. | Glen Echo, MD
When: November 23 – December 30
Tickets: $6

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 Nutcracker on Strings
Where: The Puppet Co.| Glen Echo, MD
When: November 24 – December 30
Tickets: $12 (look for a discount)

The Puppet Co.’s annual holiday treat and Washington tradition for 30 years! 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. Recommended for children ages 5 and up.

The Nutcracker by The Washington Ballet
Where: THEARC Theater | Anacostia, DC
When: November 24-25
Tickets: $30-55, $15/Ward 7 & 8 residents

Join THEARC for DC’s perennial favorite and some holiday magic! The Washington Ballet modifies this critically acclaimed production a bit at the Anacostia theatre, making it more enticing for young theatre-goers. The set is scaled-down, and performances are shorter. This celebrated production is set in historic Georgetown with historical figures and whimsical touches. Replete with swirling snowflakes, cherry blossoms and historic characters including George Washington as the Nutcracker and King George III as the menacing Rat King! Join again with family and friends or start a new holiday tradition with loved ones.

The Nutcracker
Where: Ernst Community Cultural Center | Annandale, VA
When: November 24-25
Tickets: $35

The Classical Ballet Theatre performs this holiday favorite with a beautiful production that includes all the costumes, scenery, and magic to bring Clara’s dream to life. Join Clara on her magical journey with her Nutcracker Prince to the Kingdom of Sweets, where she is greeted by the majestic Snow Queen, the exquisite Sugar Plum Fairy, and other enchanted dancing characters in the Kingdom. Join them for this wonderful holiday tradition!

Septime Weber’s The Nutcracker
Where: Warner Theatre | Downtown, DC
When: November 29 – December 28
Tickets: $30-130 (look for a discount)

DC’s perennial favorite! Set in 1882 Georgetown, this gorgeous production showcases the grandeur of The Washington Ballet’s international roster of dancers and majesty of Tchaikovsky’s music. Replete with swirling snowflakes, cherry blossoms and historical characters, including George Washington as the heroic nutcracker, TWB’s The Nutcracker has become a tradition for generations of family and friends to celebrate the holidays. Read a KFDC review of the production from a few years ago. (And note that even though Septime Weber is no longer Artistic Director, they still perform his version.)

Holiday Sing-A-Long
Where: Wolf Trap | Vienna, VA
When: December 1, 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 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.”

MCYO of Strathmore: Symphonic Devotions
Where: Strathmore | Bethesda, MD
When: December 1, 2pm & 7pm
Tickets: $15-$25

The talented youth of the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestra perform beautiful music to bring joy to the holiday season. This concert features MCYO’s full orchestras performing works by Verdi, Schubert, Vivaldi, plus Cucchiara’s suite from Vanara (US premiere), Farr’s “Te Papa” for singers, Maori Chant, and orchestra (US premiere), and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 (Romantic).

Seasons of Light
Where: Discovery Theater | National Mall, DC
When: December 3-21
Tickets: $3-8


Joy, warmth, and community illuminate seasonal holiday celebrations the world over. Back for its 19th 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.

The Second City’s Love, Factually
Where: Kennedy Center | Foggy Bottom, DC
When: December 4-31
Tickets: $49-75

Cue the cue cards and carols! From the twisted minds at The Second City comes this fast-paced romp that mingles the classic movie’s most beloved (and despised) characters and moments in an original take sure to warm your icy heart. Love, Factually is a holiday satire that blasts the December holiday time of life and love. After experiencing this mashup of parody, original comedy, music, improv, and audience participation, we’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that funny actually is all around. Recommended for ages 13+.

Madeleine’s Christmas
Where: Creative Cauldron | Falls Church, VA
When: December 6-23
Tickets: $26/adult, $16/under 12

“In an old house in Paris, covered in vines, lived 12 little girls in two straight lines.” And with that familiar phrase, author and illustrator Ludwig Bemelmans sets in motion the adventures of the brave and resourceful Madeline! In this musical adaptation, Madeline’s schoolmates and tutor are all sick in bed on Christmas Eve, unable to go home for Christmas to be with their families. So it’s Madeline to the rescue! And with the help of a magical rug merchant she takes her friends on a Christmas journey they will never forget.

Candlelight Christmas
Where: Kennedy Center | Foggy Bottom, DC
When: December 7-22 (family show December 17)
Tickets: $18-75

It’s not Christmas without The Washington Chorus! Featuring brass, organ, sing-alongs, and the magnificent Candlelight Processional, A Candlelight Christmas includes your favorite songs such as The Dream Isaiah Saw, Hallelujah Chorus, and more Christmas favorites to fall in love with.

Christmas Revels: An Elizabethan Celebration of the Winter Solstice
Where: Lisner Auditorium | Foggy Bottom, DC
When: December 8-16
Admission: $12-60

Spend a festive holiday evening with the Queen — Elizabeth the First, that is! The year is 1599, England is swept up in a flowering of music and drama, and master Shakespearian actor and fool Will Kemp has become an overnight sensation by Morris dancing from London to the town of Norwich in just nine days! Queen Elizabeth herself is also on the way to Norwich, and the locals enlist Kemp’s help as they prepare a Winter play worthy of Her Majesty. But Elizabeth has left the trappings of court far behind — and she has much more rustic entertainment in mind. Mummers plays meet A Midsummer Night’s Dream in this boisterous blend of high and low, city and country, art and folk, along with timeless Revels favorites: rousing carol sing-alongs, dancing in the aisles, children’s singing games, the eerily hypnotic Abbots Bromley horn dance, and the glorious tones of the Washington Revels Brass.

Strathmore Children’s Chorus: Peace, Paz, Shalom
Where: Strathmore | Bethesda, MD
When: December 9, 4pm
Tickets: $15-25

More than 200 voices join together to pay homage to the world’s finest female composers through the annals of song. Strathmore’s Children’s Chorus (SCC) presents an eclectic program including a chant by German Benedictine writer Hildegard von Bingen, a Romantic-era piece by acclaimed pianist Clara Schumann, and contemporary works by American composers Victoria Ebel-Sabo, Emma Lou Diemer, Nancy Hill Cobb, and Andrea Ramsey.

The Mini-Nut
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center | Rockville, MD
When: December 8-9
Tickets: $23-25/adult, $18-20/10 & 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. 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!

The Hip Hop Nutcracker
Where: Strathmore | Bethesda, MD
When: December 12-13
Tickets: $30-60

This holiday mash-up for the whole family is back by popular demand! The Hip Hop Nutcracker reimagines Tchaikovsky’s classic score through explosive hip-hop choreography. A dozen all-star dancers, an on-stage DJ, and an electric violinist bring the traditional Nutcracker story to life in contemporary New York City.

Movie Screening & Sing-a-long: The Snowy Day
Where: Discovery Theater
When: December 12-14
Tickets: $3-8

Enjoy an exclusive screening of The Snowy Day, based on Ezra Jack Keats’ 1962 classic story, narrated by Laurence Fishburne and voiced by Regina King, Angela Bassett and Jamie-Lynn Sigler. The film follows young Peter’s magical, snowy walk to his Nana’s house to bring home their Christmas Eve dinner. One the way, he meets some new (and diverse) friends who come together to celebrate many traditions. To make the morning super-fun, Discovery Theater is adding sing-along holiday songs and a special host! To top it off, each family and classroom receives a copy of this beloved children’s book — donated to audiences by Penguin Random House. Recommended for ages 3-7.

Holiday Family Opera: The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me
Where: Kennedy Center | Foggy Bottom, DC
When: December 14-16
Tickets: $49-79

As the first Christmas nears, who among the animals can lead Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem? Fearsome Lion and graceful Unicorn are the top contenders—though it certainly won’t be Donkey, whose only humble gift is a small but sturdy back. But with the birth of a very special king on the horizon, Donkey soon discovers that miracles can happen anywhere!

Step Afrika’s Magical, Musical Holiday Step Show
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center | H Street NE, DC
When: December 14-30
Tickets: $25-45

Step Afrika!’s Magical Musical Holiday Step Show is the most vibrant holiday celebration in town! This fun, family-friendly performance will have you stomping your feet and clapping your hands to energetic beats from Step Afrika! and special guest, DJ Frosty the Snowman. Over the last six years, this internationally-renowned percussive dance company has created a contemporary holiday tradition at the Atlas, featuring friendly, furry characters, pre-show instrument-making workshops, photo ops, and even a dance party. Why celebrate the holidays sitting still when you can step with Step Afrika!

The Nutcracker
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center | Rockville, MD
When: December 14-23
Tickets: $34-38/adult, $27-32/12 & under (look for a discount)

There is something for everyone in the Maryland Youth Ballet’s fun and engaging version of The Nutcracker — a huge cannon that fires at the mice, a beautiful growing Christmas tree, whirling flakes in a snowstorm, cute little Ginger Snaps peeking out of a huge Mother Ginger skirt, a lovely Sugar Plum dancing with her handsome Cavalier, and extraordinary costumed characters from the Kingdom of Sweets.

Jazz Hip Hop Nutcracker
Where: Wilson High School | Northwest DC
When: December 15-16, 3pm & 7pm & Sunday, 3pm
Admission: $23/adult, $14/child

Momentum Dance Theatre, a Capitol-Hill based dance studio is presenting its nineteenth annual holiday show – the Jazz Hip Hop Nutcracker.  Momentum’s professional performers are joined by students as young as age 5 for this contemporary interpretation of the classic Nutcracker, set to music from Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite, plus hip hop, contemporary and classic pop, funk, and salsa . Not your mother’s nutcracker!

The Nutcracker
Where: GMU Center for the Arts | Fairfax, VA
When: December 16, 8pm
Tickets: $39-65

Experience this timeless holiday classic with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra and the Fairfax Ballet — a holiday tradition your family will always cherish. Enjoy a winter wonderland of dancing snowflakes, sugar plum fairies and epic battles between heroic toy soldiers and mischievous mice. A perfect holiday treat for the entire family!

Kwanzaa Celebration – Family Series
Where: Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre | Foggy Bottom DC
When: December 16
Tickets: $15-30, kids free with adult

Welcome the holiday season with Dance Place’s annual Kwanzaa Celebration! Gather family and friends to join Coyaba Academy, Coyaba Dance Theater and special guests celebrate the seven principles of Kwanzaa. *During the Family Series, reserve 1 free ticket for a child 12 & under with paying adult!

The Elves and the Shoemaker
Where: Keegan Theatre | Dupont Circle, DC
When: December 22-30
Tickets: $15 (look for a discount)

Eric, the lone shoemaker of Grimmsville, makes shoes that are miserably uncomfortable and impossible to walk in… leaving a lot of barefoot villagers and Eric without a means to provide for his family. While alone in the woods, his daughter Shannon is confronted by a stranger who offers her the deal of a lifetime: In exchange for her torturous pair of shoes, she is given a magical medallion that holds the charm of the elves. Wanting to help her family, Shannon tries the chant. Her words beckon a pair of elves that show up night after night at the shoemaker’s home creating the most fabulous shoes EVER! With his shoes now wanted throughout the land, Eric and his family have more gold than they can count. But they quickly begin to realize that all the money in the world doesn’t necessarily buy happiness.

The Washington Chorus Family Christmas
Where: GMU Center for Performing Arts | Fairfax, VA
When: December 23
Tickets: $66/adult, $20/12 & under (look for a discount)

Bring the entire family for a fun, festive afternoon! This 70-minute performance features everyone’s favorite carols, joyful sing-alongs, and a special appearance by Santa Claus.

A Family Christmas
Where: Kennedy Center | Foggy Bottom, DC
When: December 24
Tickets: $20-45 (look for a discount)

Bring the kids for an unforgettable holiday experience as the Choral Arts Chorus fills the concert hall with holiday classics just for them! We’ll take you on a merry tour of holiday sing-alongs and Christmas favorites that will have your family singing all the way home. Expect a visit from Santa, Frosty, and Rudolph! This one-hour concert is perfect for children ages 5 and up.

Celebrate Kwanzaa with with Harambee and Lesole Dance Project
Where: Anacostia Community Museum | Anacostia, DC
When: December 28
Admission: Free

Bring the entire family for the museum’s annual Kwanzaa celebration program. Enjoy energetic and interactive introduction to Kwanzaa with Harambee, Baba Ras D. Additionally there will be a rhythmic dance extravaganza by LeSole Dance Project. The audience participatory program includes dancers, singers, music, colorful costumes, and lively characters designed for young children and adults alike. During the performance and afterwards, kids can also enjoy making Kwanzaa-inspired arts and crafts from a variety of materials. Workshops will be led by artist/educators Brian Barber and Alma Robinson. Free fun for the entire family!


Come light the Menorah at the Ellipse on December 12

Come light the Menorah at the Ellipse on December 2


 
CHANUKAH
 

Menorah Workshop
Where: Home Depot | Northeast DC
When: November 18, 2:30-4:30pm
Admission: Free

Get into the Chanukah spirit at a Menorah Workshop with American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad). Kids can build and paint their very own Menorah at the Home Depot in Northeast DC. There will also be dreidel fun and gelt (chocolate coins). Space is limited so be sure to sign up in advance! RSVP to [email protected]

Hipster Hannukah Holiday Market
Where: Edlavitch DCJCC | Downtown DC
When: November 28
Admission: $6

Shop handmade goods from independent artists, from holiday cards to jewelry to baked goods. It’s Etsy IRL! Along with shopping, hang out in the lounge and enjoy musical performances, DIY crafts, a hot chocolate bar and doughnuts.

Chanukah Havdalah in Pajamas
Where: Berman Hebrew Academy | Rockville, MD
When: December 1, 6:30–7:30pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate Chanukah AND Havdalah in your pajamas with a festive singalong Havdalah service led by Rabbi Uri Topolosky, followed by stories, de-light-ful activities, crafts and snacks. Please bring a NEW pair of warm socks or gloves to be donated to people experiencing homelessness. They can be adult or child-sized. This program is a collaboration of PJ Library, Berman Hebrew Academy and Kehilat Pardes. Good for all ages!

Make Room for Latkes!
Where: Edlavitch DCJCC | Downtown DC
When: December 2, 10:30am – 12pm
Admission: $10/family in advance, $15 at door

Chanukah is coming and with it, eight nights of family fun! Join PJ Library, the Edlavitch DCJCC, the Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School of the Nation’s Capital, Federation’s Jewish Food Experience and the interfaith program, Love and Religion, for hands-on Chanukah activities including crafts, cooking, singing, candle lighting, latkes, a mitzvah (good deed) project and take-home goodies. It’s a perfect morning for Jewish and interfaith families with children ages 2 and older.

Tot Sized Taste of Chanukah
Where: Shaare Torah Early Childhood Center | Gaithersburg, Maryland 20878
When: December 2, 4:00–5:30 pm
Admission: Free

Join with Shaare Torah and PJ Library for an awesome fun afternoon learning and celebrating Hanukkah! This program is designed for children aged 0-6 and will feature crafts, treats and a special reading of Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas by author Pamela Ehrenberg. Open to the full community! Registration is free but requested in advance.

National Menorah Lighting
Where: President’s Park | The National Ellipse, DC
When: December 2, 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 order them in advance through the website.

First Night of Hanukkah
Where: The Wharf | Southwest DC
When: December 2
Admission: Free

Head to the District Pier at the Wharf as they light the first candle on the Menorah to celebrate the Festival of Lights. Extend your evening there with some ice skating, a bite to eat, and to stroll around and enjoy the riverside scene.

Menorah Lighting
Where: Bethesda Row | Bethesda, MD
When: December 2, 5-6:30pm
Admission: Free

Bethesda Lane will celebrate the start of the Festival of Lights with the Annual Chanukah Menorah Lighting in partnership with Chabad of Bethesda.

Chai Treasure Hunt
Where: Mansion on O Street | Dupont Circle, DC
When: Through December 31
Admission: $30

Celebrate life and be stumped finding clues for Jewish customs on this heartfelt down-memory-lane treasure hunt. Have fun searching for specific items donated to the O Museum in The Mansion. Includes self-guided tour through themed rooms and secret doors. Bring your own shopping bags — everything is for sale! See more about this wonderfully unique DC attraction this KFDC post.

Chanukah Festival
Where: The Lyceum | Alexandria, VA
When: December 4, 6:30pm
Admission: Free

Share in the joy and spirit of Chanukah at the Grand Chanukah Menorah Lighting in
Old Town Alexandria. Along with a giant menorah lighting, enjoy a free light stick for every child, latkes, gelt, dreidle, a free raffle, and lively music.

Be the Light: Helping Others on Chanukah
Where: Giant Food | Silver Spring, MD
When: December 4, 5-8pm
Admission: Free, just pay grocery donations

On Chanukah, we can spread the light of the holiday with others by giving back. Bring your family and your friends to purchase food to donate to Manna Food Center so they can help more families in need. We will have lists with suggested items for you and your family to select and purchase. Families can come any time during this program, and we will gather for snacks and a special candle-lighting at 6:15 pm and 7:45 pm. This is a program of Pop-Ups to Pop In, funded by the Phyllis Margolius Family Foundation.

Chanukah Playdate
Where: Gymboree | Woodley Park, DC
When: December 5, 3-4:30pm & 4:30-6pm
Admission: $10/Gymboree members, $15/non-members (per family)

Celebrate Chanukah with PJ Library, DC Gymboree, and the Edlavitch DCJCC! Come for an open gym session that will feature all your Gymboree and Chanukah favorites: Lots of bubbles, lots of play, music fun, parachute fun, stories, and crafts. Best for ages 5 and under. Register for the 3pm time slot here, and for the 4:30 slot here.

Chanukah Story Time
Where: Montgomery Mall | Bethesda, MD
When: December 6, 11am – 12pm
Admission: Free

Join The Story House – Bookstore on Wheels for a Chanukah celebration in lower level Nordstrom court. Enjoy a story time reading of the PJ Library books, The Queen of Hanukkah Dosas (read by author Pamela Ehrenberg) and Meet the Latkes, as well as a musical sing-along and an arts and crafts table. See’s Candies will provide complimentary kosher lollipops.

Annual Hanukkah Party
Where: National Museum of American Jewish Military History | Northwest DC
When: December 6, 6:30-8:30pm
Admission: Free

Join the Museum’s annual Hanukkah Party with latkes, jelly doughnuts, gelt, and song! Explore the museum and eat, play games, and sing. They’ll also look at the ways Jews in the American military have continued the tradition of the Maccabees. Go early to tour the museum at 6pm before the party begins at 6:30pm. BYO menorah for a group lighting.

Chanukah on Ice
Where: Pentagon Row Ice Rink | Pentagon City, VA
When: December 8, 6-8:30pm
Admission: $10-$13r

Celebrate Chanukah with a giant menorah lighting, holiday treats, raffles, and ice skating! Ice skate rentals are included, but food will be sold separately — hot latkes, Kosher hot dogs, and refreshments will be available.

Giant Lego Menorah Build
Where: Northeast Neighborhood Library | Capitol Hill, DC
When: December 9, 3-4pm
Admission: Free

Join American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) for some Chanukah fun! Along with helping build a giant Lego menorah, guests can enjoy even more festivities, including Chanukah crafts, a photo booth, hot latkes and doughnuts, and a Lego dreidel to take home. RSVP to let them know you’re coming.


The bright and festive tree lighting at National Harbor


 
TREE LIGHTINGS
 
Tree Lighting Celebration & Street Party
Where: Downtown Silver Spring, MD
When: November 10
Admission: Free

The annual event in Downtown Silver Spring always includes the unveiling of a one-of-a-kind holiday tree on the Fountain Plaza. And this year’s tree, the “CommUNITY Tree,” is no exception! Embraces diversity and unity through visual harmony, four artists have come together to create an illuminated mural with images of a diverse congregation of people ringing the bottom half as prismatic energy organically flows from them and dances towards a mobile color sculpture at the top. Other fun festivities of the evening will include live entertainment, bites and drinks, art stations, games, and more!

Tree Lighting Ceremony
Where: National Harbor | Oxon Hill, MD
When: November 10, 12-7pm
Admission: Free

Join National Harbor for a full day of holiday fun, topped off by their annual tree lighting. Spend the afternoon with Santa at the Carousel and Capital Wheel. Catch a screening of Frosty’s Winter Wonderland. The tree lighting ceremony starts at 5:30pm — followed by fireworks!

2017 Light Up
Where: Fairfax Corner | Fairfax, VA
When: November 16
Admission: Free

Fairfax Corner is beginning the holiday season at their annual Light Up celebration. Festival goers will enjoy a Christmas tree lighting ceremony and holiday activities including a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, horse & carriage rides (donations encouraged!), live entertainment, balloon art, giveaways and more!

Rockville Tree Lighting
Where: Rockville Town Square | Rockville, MD
When: November 16,6-9pm
Admission: Free

Join Rockville Town Square for a tree lighting celebration! This free, family-friendly event includes the lighting of the Christmas tree, visits with Santa, live music, strolling entertainment, a live dance performance by Dawn Crafton Dance Connection, and more!

Reston Holiday Parade, Tree Lighting, & Sing Along
Where: Reston Town Center | Reston, VA
When: November 23
Admission: Free

Reston Town Center launches the festive season at the annual Reston Holiday Parade with Macy’s-style balloons, musicians, dancers, antique cars, characters, community groups, dignitaries, special guest emcees, and much more. The one-of-a-kind, one-hour, half-mile parade along Market Street also welcomes the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus in a horse-drawn carriage. The Clauses will return for the Fountain Square Tree Lighting and Sing Along at 6pm. Afterwards, on Market Street, horse-drawn carriage rides and more fun continues.

Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration
Where: The Park at CityCenter | Penn Quarter, DC
When: November 24
Admission: Free

CityCenterDC will kick off the holiday season with an exciting evening of celebrations, including a joyful music performance by The Washington Chorus and an official lighting ceremony and countdown emceed by NBC4’s Eun Yang. Families will be entertained with balloon artists, face painters, holiday activities and more. Enjoy the dazzling 75 foot holiday tree, our two resident 25-foot reindeer, and the return of our Palmer Alley overhead holiday display!

National Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: President’s Park | The Ellipse, DC
When: November 29
Admission: Free, but you must win tickets via lottery

To attend this lighting, you had to have entered a lottery to win admission. If you do, you get to be part of the National Park Foundation and National Park Service’s annual National Christmas Tree Lighting. Popular entertainers and a United States military band add to the celebratory evening when the President of the United States lights the National Christmas Tree.

Norwegian Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: Union Station | Capitol Hill Area, DC
When: November 29
Admission: Free

One of the most popular and often first of the major DC tree lighting ceremonies. The tree is always huge and beautifully adorned ad will be lit by the ambassador of Norway, a gift symbolizing both gratitude for the assistance Norway received during World War II and appreciation for the continued strong friendship between the two countries. The evening will also feature the Washington Performing Arts Children of the Gospel Choir, a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, and a holiday pop-up concert that showcases some of D.C.’s beloved hometown musical acts. There will also be a simulcast of Yo-Yo Ma performing Bach Cello Suites at the Washington National Cathedral.

15th Annual Tree Lighting
Where: Fairmont Washington | Georgetown, DC
When: December 4
Admission: Free

The Fairmont hotel welcomes the public to enjoy its annual tree lighting! Filled with tiny white lights and shimmering Christmas trees, the courtyard becomes a glittering crystal garden the perfect venue for a holiday celebration. Families can take the chill off with complimentary hot chocolate and cookies as they listen to the award-winning Georgetown Visitation Madrigals perform holiday classics. Children can enjoy decorating holiday cards, members of the United States Marine Corps Reserves will perform a presentation of colors, and Santa Claus and Rudolph will make a special guest appearance. All families are welcome to take a photo with Santa in his Winter Wonderland Suite. Sign up for free tickets here.

Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol | Capitol Hill, DC
When: December 5
Admission: Free

A great alternative to the National Christmas Tree Lighting if you don’t win tickets — or even if you do! 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, follow the tree as it journeys from Oregon, where it was harvested, to DC. It’s expected to arrive November 26, and the lighting will likely take place December 5. After the lighting, the tree will be lit every evening for all to enjoy until January 1.



The Season’s Greening train display is always full of wonder and whimsy!


 
MODEL TRAINS
 
Garden Railway Exhibit
Where: Brookside Garden | Wheaton, MD
When: November 16 – January 1
Admission: Free

Part of Brookside Garden’s annual Garden of Lights exhibition, the South Conservatory comes to life with a landscape in miniature, as trains and trollies wind their way through town and country scenes, past one-of-a kind models of the Brookside Gardens Conservatories, the Dentzel Carousel and the Chautauqua Tower of Glen Echo Park. Colorful plantings complement it all — winter may rule the outside landscape, but the conservatories will be bright with color and active with sound and motion to match the festive feeling of the season.

Season’s Greenings

Where:U.S. Botanic Garden | National Mall Area, DC
When: November 22 – January 1
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 is the garden railway, which never fails to impress and enchant with intricate, imaginative designs. This year, All Aboard! for a ride through America for a showcase of train stations! Plant-based recreations of iconic train stations from across the United States will be represented in the train room. Explore classic stations like New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, Detroit’s Michigan Central Station, Maui’s Lahaina Station, and many more, plus fantasy Dinosaur and North Pole stations. And 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. Get a glimpse of it all in this post with scenes from the exhibit. For more on the seasonal favorite, read this post and this one about some of our Season’s Greenings experiences.

Santa’s Suite
Where: The Fairmont | Georgetown, DC
When: Weekends starting November 24, 11am – 3pm
Admission: Free (Donation to Horton’s Kids suggested)

Sleigh bells will be ringing at The Fairmont when Santa checks into his DC residence bringing comfort and joy to all who believe in the magic of the holiday season. All naughty and nice children are invited to stop by Santa’s suite, with their parents to enjoy yummy treats and a holiday keepsake to commemorate the visit. Those writing a letter to Santa, while in his suite, will receive one back.

Magical Holiday Express
Where: B&O Railroad Museum | Baltimore, MD
When: December 1-31
Admission: $20/adult, $17/senior (60+), $12/ages 2-12, free/B&O members


This is a venue dedicated to locomotives, so you know the holiday model train exhibit is going to be special. Trains are magical during the holidays, and the museum invites all aboard the B&O’s Magical Holiday Express, a spectacular celebration in the B&O Roundhouse devoted to trains of all sizes and shapes, holiday festivities, and a winter wonderland of family fun and activities. There is something to see and do every day at this annual holiday event! Be sure to look for special events like North Pole Adventures, Winter Royal Adventures, Frosty Fest, and WinterFest Wonderland on the website.

Holiday Trains and Planes
Where: College Park Aviation Museum | College Park, MD
When: December 15 – December 22
Admission: $5/adults, $3/senior, $2/age 2-18, free/under 2

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 | Capitol Hill Area, DC
When: TBD
Admission: Free

Every year, DC’s grand train station hosts a wonderful Holiday Train Display, on view in the West Hall. Featuring a Norwegian landscape, the displays are intricate and fun to stop by and see if you’re at the station during the holiday season.


Frozen slides at the ICE! exhibit


 
SPECIAL EVENTS
 
Santa HQ
Where: Tyson’s Corner | McLean, VA
When: November 6 – December 24
Admission: Free, but portrait packages start at $30

The newly revamped Santa HQ experience will offer an immersive journey featuring state-of-the-art digital technology featuring two new experiences — the Magic Mirror that virtually allows visitors to try on the Santa HQ elves’ favorite holiday outfits and an Elf ID station where kids can create a personalized Elf Academy ID card. Along with these new enhancements, guests also will have a custom photo opportunity with Santa Claus and will enjoy pastime favorites by hopping on the Naughty or Nice O’Meter, exploring Santa’s Observatory with Elf-Ray Vision, and enjoying the synchronized holiday light show featuring over 10,000 individual lights orchestrated to the tune of Carol of the Bells.

Give Thanks Hunt
Where: Mansion on O Street | Dupont Circle, DC
When: Through November
Admission: $35

Give thanks and learn a bit about Thanksgiving traditions on this heartfelt treasure hunt. Have fun searching for Thanksgiving themed items found only at The Mansion. This includes a self-guided tour of the many themed rooms and secret doors. Bring your own shopping bags — everything is for sale! Read more about this wonderfully unique DC attraction in this KFDC post.

Santa Photo Experience
Where: Fashion Centre | Pentagon City, VA
When: November 9 – December 24
Admission: Free

Eager children and their families can experience the joy and magic of the holiday season with a visit to the Simon Santa Photo Experience at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City. Save time, avoid the line with Santa by Appointment. On December 2 from 9-11am, special needs children and their families have an opportunity to enjoy this time-honored holiday tradition through a sensory-friendly Caring Santa event in partnership with Autism Speaks. Reserve a FREE Caring Santa session here.

Christmas on the Potomac
Where: National Harbor | Oxon Hill, MD
When: November 16 – January 1
Admission: Free, though some activities cost extra

National Harbor goes all out during the holidays. ICE! might be the big attraction, but there’s also plenty 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.)

ICE!
Where: National Harbor
When: November 16 – January 1
Admission: Starting at $24/child & $32/adult, free/under 3

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’ve been a few times, and I recommended reading my reviews here and here before you go. I didn’t post a write-up after the last time we went a couple of years ago, but I’ll be honest: We were all underwhelmed. However, people seem to have varying opinions. This year is “A Charlie Brown Christmas” theme, and you walk through frozen holiday scenes depicting the story and slide down small ice slides — all kept at a very chilly 9 degrees. 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.

Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade
Where: Silver Plaza | Downtown Silver Spring, MD
When: November 17, 10am – 12pm
Admission: Free

The streets are being overrun with turkeys, dinosaurs, penguins, and reindeer! No, the zoo hasn’t opened their gates — it’s the Annual Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade! With marching bands an Latin dancing groups, floats, giant characters and balloons, and over 120 units, the Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade is the only Thanksgiving Parade in the metro DC area. Held in downtown Silver Spring, the exciting parade traditionally heralds the start of the holiday season. The parade steps off from Ellsworth Drive and Fenton Street and proceeds south on Georgia Avenue, ending at Silver Spring Avenue. It also is televised live on News Channel 8 and re-run on Thanksgiving Day.

Christmas Town
Where: Busch Gardens | Williamsburg, VA
When: November 17 – January 5
Admission: Start at $20/ages 3+

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

Ritz-y Celebrations
Where: Ritz Carlton | Pentagon City, VA
When: Throughout the holiday season
Admission: Varies by activity

The Ritz Carlton has a delightful holiday season planned with a variety of festive events on the calendar. Breakfast with Santa, Holiday Tea, Thanksgiving Brunch & Dinner, a Gingerbread House Workshop, Christmas Eve Brunch, and Christmas Dinner are just some of the ways you can celebrate at the luxury hotel.

Christmas at Mount Vernon

Where: Mount Vernon Estate, Museum, & Gardens
When: November 23 – December 31
Admission: Online – $18/adults, $9/ages 6-11, free/ 5 & under

Christmas past meets Christmas present at George Washington’s estate. Just as the Washingtons celebrated the holiday with family and friends, visitors can start a new tradition of visiting Mount Vernon this holiday season.
The holidays are full of delight at George Washington’s estate. During the day, tour the Mansion, watch historic chocolate-making demonstrations, and meet Aladdin the Camel. Mount Vernon is open every day of the year, including Christmas Day and New Years. So bring the entire family to the home of George and Martha Washington this holiday season. There are also Candlelight Tours on select dates, plus even more seasonal activities — visit the website for details.

Holiday Train Rides
Where: Western Maryland Railroad | Cumberland, MD
When: Weekends November 23 – December 23
Admission: Starts at $54/adult, $46/child (look for a discount)

Take a one-of-a-kind train ride through Winter Land aboard the Western Maryland. During this 3-hour expedition, you will meet Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the elves as you join in on reindeer games and more. Each child will have one-on-one time with the jolly guy and will enjoy some Christmas Treats, too! Dining guests will enjoy a traditional turkey dinner aboard one of the vintage dining cars, and a snack bar is available to all passengers.

Festival of Trees
Where: Maryland State Fairgrounds | Timonium, MD
When: November 23-25
Admission: $14/adult, $6/child, free/4 & under (look for a discount)

Kick off the holiday season by welcoming Santa Claus to a winter wonderland at the annual Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Festival of Trees! The East Coast’s largest holiday-themed festival will return to the Maryland State Fairgrounds with decorated trees, a gingerbread town, shopping, breakfast with Santa, endless holiday activities, and non-stop entertainment for children of all ages!

Winter on the Farm
Where: Ticonderoga Farm | Chantilly, VA
When: November 23 – December 23, Fri-Sun
Admission: $11.95/age 2+

The annual festival includes hayrides to the white pine fields with access to all of the farm attractions — swings, forts, slides, tunnels, and more. Fire pits are inviting to keep you warm and make some s’mores or roast hot dogs. Christmas trees directly from Sweet Providence Farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains will be available for purchase, too. (Note: No admission fee to purchase trees or greens!) Read more about the winter fun at Ticonderoga in this post about one of our experiences there.

Snowland Celebration
Where: Great Wolf Lodge | Williamsburg, VA
When: November 24 – January 4
Admission: Rates vary

Snowland welcomes your family to the winter holidays in proper north woods style. Great Wolf Lodge is transformed into a magical winter wonderland complete with spectacular decorations, visits with Santa, Snow ‘N’ Glow Dance Parties, North Pole University activities, and a life-size gingerbread house big enough to dine in! Bring joy to your family this holiday season with uninterrupted time together under the enchanting spell of Snowland’s twinkling lights, holiday trees, and indoor snow showers that melt into perfect 84-degree basking weather in our water park. Read about a KFDC stay at Great Wolf Lodge (though not during the holidays).

Winter WonderLandsdowne
Where: Landsdowne Resort & Spa | Leesburg, VA
When: Throughout the holiday season
Admission: Rates vary

The Resort and Spa in Leesburg will transform into a whimsical holiday experience celebrating the spirit of the season. Feast on Thanksgiving Brunch. Attend a tree lighting on November 24. Shop a special market modeled after the famous Chriskindl markets of Europe. Enjoy elf tuck-ins that include treats and a story. Bring Fido for the Santa Paws 5k. Participate in an Elf on the Shelf Scavenger Hunt. And even more. It’s a fun, festive, and convenient holiday getaway!

Holidays on the Ellipse
Where: President’s Park | National Ellipse, DC
When: November 28 – January 1
Admission: Free


This has a permanent spot on many a DC holiday repertoire. The National Christmas Tree, the National Menorah, plus trains and displays representing all 50 states are a must-see during the season. 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. There are often musical performances throughout the season, too. Unfortunately, the adorable Santa’s Workshop once again is not back this year (you might recall there was confusion about it in the past), but go enjoy everything else.

Shirlington Light Up The Village
Where:The Village at Shirlington, VA
When: November 29, 6pm
Admission: Free (donations for some activities)

The shopping center will kick off the holiday season with its ​2018 Light Up the Village Holiday Celebration​​. Festivities start with ​a holiday performance by the children’s ensemble of ​Billy Elliot​ by the ​Signature Theatre​​, followed by a tree lighting in the outdoor plaza. After the tree is lit, attendees are encouraged to stop in for pictures with Santa at Hardwood Artisans, and enjoy a performance by the Bishop O’Connell High School Choir. From horse and carriage rides (with monetary or non-perishable food item donations to Arlington Food Assistance Center) starting at 6:40pm, to a snowman photo board station, face painting, balloon twisting, strolling carol entertainment, to live musical performances and retail specials and promotions, the Light Up the Village Holiday Celeb​ration is a can’t miss celebration for the entire family.

Christmas in Middleburg
Where: Middleburg, VA
When: November 30 – December 2
Admission: Varies by activity

Christmas in Middleburg is a spectacular community event that includes a tree lighting, parade, Breakfast with Santa and Silent Auction, and the Middleburg Hunt Review creating a spectacular sight as 100 horses, riders in pink coats, and dozens of hounds come through the town. Throughout the day there are hayrides, choir performances, the Christmas in Middleburg Craft Show, the Middleburg Garden Club’s Christmas Flower & Greens Show at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, as well as shopping and dining in the town’s shops and restaurants. The Middleburg Christmas Parade begins is a highlight, with a unique assortment of floats, troops, and musical groups marching by. Santa brings up the rear riding on a beautiful horse drawn coach.

The Enchanted Forest
Where: Sheraton Tysons Hotel | McLean, VA
When: December 1-2
Admission: $15/child, $10/adult (look for a discount)

The Junior League of Northern Virginia’s annual Enchanted Forest returns! Stroll through the whimsical forest of theme decorated trees available for silent auction, while enjoying live entertainment, Kids in the Holiday Kitchen activities, visits from Santa, kids’ crafts, cupcake decorating, and more.

Santa’s Elves Hunt
Where: Mansion on O Street | Dupont Circle, DC
When: Throughout December
Admission: $35

Help Santa find special goodies found only at O Museum in The Mansion on this festive holiday treasure hunt. Explore the many themed rooms and search for secret doors. Bring your own shopping bags — the mansion essentially is a 30,000 square foot gift shop! Read more about this wonderfully unique DC attraction in this KFDC post.

Nationals Winterfest
Where: Nationals Park | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: December 1-2
Admission: $39/adult, $29/child (look for a discount)

The annual weekend-long festival featuring Nationals players, coaches, and front office staff, will return to Nationals Park as a celebration of baseball and the holidays. This year’s event will have both indoor and outdoor activities including autograph sessions, curling stations, interactive games, clubhouse tours, batting cages, and of course photo opportunities with your favorite Nationals mascots, the Bullpen Cart, and Santa! Enjoy these activities and more with s’mores, adult hot chocolate, and other specialty food items at the home of your Washington Nationals!

Holiday Ballet Family Day
Where: American Art Museum | Penn Quarter, DC
When: December 1
Admission: Free

Celebrate the holidays with SAAM and The Washington Ballet. Acclaimed Artistic Director Julie Kent gives an introduction of how the ballet of the nation’s capital puts on their annual performance of The Nutcracker before dancers perform excerpts from the charming holiday classic. Enjoy holiday crafts, a scavenger hunt, and tasty winter treats from the Courtyard Cafe.

Story Time with Santa
Where: Kramerbooks | Dupont Circle, DC
When: Saturdays in December, 10am – 12pm
Admission: $30/child

Make it a storybook holiday season this year and join Kramerbooks for Story Time with Santa! Gather ‘round to hear Santa tell your favorite festive holiday tales AND receive: Two Polaroid Instax mini photos of your child with Santa, a double-sided holiday ornament frame for each child, cider and hot chocolate for the kids (and nice parents), and spiked cider (for the naughty parents). This will take place every Saturday through December, and only 20 children’s tickets are available for each Saturday, so secure your spot now!

Deck the Halls: A Family at Christmas
Where: Tudor House | Georgetown, DC
When: December 1, 1-4pm
Admission: $10/child, $5/adult

Celebrate holiday traditions at Tudor Place, and discover ways the Peter family contributed to relief efforts after World War I, like Nannie Peter and her lady’s maid Miss Duvall continuing to knit socks to send to soldiers overseas. Enjoy an interactive open house, send cheer to a servicemember, join carolers in song, make a festive stocking ornament, and sample sweets from 100 years ago. In the spirit of the Peters’ postwar service, Tudor Place will be collecting Toys for Tots, and new, warm men’s crew socks that So Others Can Keep Striding will distribute to the homeless community.

Scottish Christmas Walk Parade
Where: Old Town | Alexandria, VA
When: December 1, 11am
Admission: Free

For the 48th consecutive year, the Scottish Christmas Walk Parade will showcase marching units filled with the magnificent tartans of Scottish Clans, the stirring sound of Scottish bagpipes and drums, Scottish dancers, reenactment groups, Scottie dogs, dignitaries, classic cars, Santa Claus, and more. The parade begins at St. Asaph and Wilkes Streets and concludes at Market Square with a massed band concert – rain or shine. There will also be other festive events throughout the weekend — see the website for details.

Bethesda’s Winter Wonderland
Where: Downtown Bethesda, MD
When: December 1, 1-4pm
Admission: Free, but concerts and events cost extra

Bethesda’s Winter Wonderland is back, turning Bethesda Row into an outdoor street bazaar. The celebration features holiday performances, a live ice sculpting presentation, and a visit from Santa Claus in Veterans Park.

Santa Fly-In
Where: College Park Aviation Museum | College Park, MD
When: December 1
Admission: $5

This will be an experience to remember as you watch Santa fly into the historic College Park Airport (it’s the world’s oldest continuously operating airport)! Make some holiday arts and crafts, then have your picture taken with Santa Claus after his big flight.

Holly TrolleyFest
Where: National Capitol Trolley Museum | Colesville, MD
When: December 1-23 + 29-30 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.

The District’s Holiday Boat Parade
Where: The Wharf | Southwest DC
When: December 1
Admission: Free

Celebrate the holidays and see the beautifully decorated boats pass by. Get into the spirit as you decorate cookies and craft your own boat. Warm up by the big fire pit and visit the lighted Christmas Tree. Take the kids ice skating, and adults can sample winter drinks at our Waterfront Wine & Beer Garden. Bring the whole fam to meet Santa and make memories during this annual DC tradition!

Alexandria Boat Parade of Lights

Where: Alexandria City Marina | Alexandria, VA
When: December 1
Admission: Free

Alexandria’s harbor will shine as dozens of brightly lit boats cruise the Potomac River at the historic waterfront for the 19th annual Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights. Enjoy festivities out on the dock 4-7pm, including a Letters to Santa postcard pop-up, a DIY holiday wood ornament craft activity from AR Workshop Alexandria, and a hot chocolate bar from Dolci Gelati. Parade-goers are invited to step into the Torpedo Factory Art Center, located at the Alexandria City Marina, for their annual holiday festivities from 2-8pm.

Frost Fest
Where: Pentagon Row | Pentagon City, VA
When: December 2
Admission: Free

Join the holiday celebration featuring an on-ice firework display with a special Santa Claus appearance, live entertainment, music played by the popular DJ Har-V, food samples, a $500 shopping spree giveaway, and more.

Chocolate Binge Festival
Where: Downtown Annapolis, MD
When: December 2, 12-5pm
Admission: $5

Everyone loves chocolate and Annapolis will be celebrating by filling West Street with local chocolatiers ready to help chocoholics get through the holiday season. Prepare your sweet tooth with an afternoon of chocolate decadence as over 20 local and regional chocolatiers vend their specialies, plus make s’mores at a bonfire in the street, and enjoy hot cocoa from the popo. The Festival will also feature family friendly entertainment, holiday shopping, and the lighting of West Street’s BGE Holiday Light Canopy.

Winternational
Where: Ronald Reagan Building | Downtown DC
When: December 6, 11am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Explore the world and do some holiday shopping — all during the lunch hour! This lively midday festival is a celebration of international culture, travel, tourism and trade. It has the atmosphere of an international bazaar with each country showcasing their culture and traditions via visual arts displays, foods, handcrafts, as well as travel and tourism information.

Winter in Washington
Where: CityCenterDC | Downtown DC
When: December 7-9
Admission: Free

CityCenterDC is excited to bring to life the DC landscape in a dreamy winter wonderland! The installation features monuments towering over 12 feet high, built with over 50,000 pounds of ice. Washingtonians can fulfill their subzero dreams for a weekend. Follow along on social media with @CityCenterDC #CCDCHolidays for weather updates and more.

Christmas Village
Where: Leesburg Animal Park | Leesburg, VA
When: December 7-22 Fridays & Saturdays, 6-9pm
Admission: $9.95

Celebrate Christmas with the Critters at the Animal Park’s evening holiday event! Activities include photos with Santa Claus, themed arts & crafts, live animal encounters + holiday photos with them, a kids’ indoor play zone, bonfire & marshmallow roasting, pony rides, nativity scene, animal petting & feeding, and thousands of holiday lights. Christmas trees & wreaths will be available for purchase at the Farm Market, too.

Holiday Card Workshop
Where: National Postal Museum | Near Union Station, DC
When: December 8-9, 10am – 4pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate the holiday season by creating one-of-a-kind handmade cards. The National Postal Museum provides beautiful holiday stamps from all over the world, along with a variety of crafts supplies to both inspire your creativity and decorate your cards. We’ve attended this annual event several times, and its always very well organized and tons of fun. After making your cards, visit the museum’s stamp store to send the cards to your loved ones with a special Museum postmark. And plan to stay and tour the exhibits, many of them interactive and interesting for all ages. Read more about the museum in this KFDC post.

Winter’s Eve
Where: Glen Echo Park | Glen Echo, MD
When: December 8, 4-7pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate the holiday season at the Park’s annual Winter’s Eve event. Enjoy free activities including holiday crafts, sing-alongs, story-telling, open studios, and a hot chocolate bar. Browse and buy fine artworks at the Holiday Art Show and artist studios.

Russian Winter Festival
Where: Hillwood Estate | Upper Northwest DC
When: December 8, 10am – 5pm
Admission: $12-18/adult, $5/child, free/under 6

Celebrate Sviatki, the festive winter season, in traditional Russian style! Meet Grandfather Frost, Russia’s Santa Claus, and his granddaughter, the Snow Maiden in a fun family play, based on traditional Russian stories, produced by Flying V Theatre. Create and wear your own kokoshnik (lady’s headdress) or Russian gentleman’s winter hat to dress in the style of boyars (old Russian nobles). Join in the playful antics of mummers parading in animal costumes and discover what the new year has in store from fortunetellers strolling the estate, presented by Happenstance Theater. Enjoy lively music performed by Samovar Russian Folk Music Ensemble and festive dances performed by Kalinka Dance Ensemble.

Gifts That Give Hope Gift Fair
Where: Arlington Science Focus School | Arlington, VA
When: December 8, 10am – 2pm
Admission: Free

This Fair puts a new spin on gift-giving. The concept is simple: Make a donation to a locally-based nonprofits, personalize a Gifts That Give Hope greeting card for a loved one, and give that act of kindness as a gift. Thanks to generous shoppers, children with learning challenges are getting new books, a homeless shelter is getting fresh blankets, orphans in Haiti are getting formula, and dozens of other acts of kindness are happening around the world. This also includes a Children’s Fair with dance performances, sensory activity, interactive demos, and face painting.

WinterFest in Occoquan
Where: Historic Occoquan, VA
When: December 8, 4-7pm
Admission: Free

WinterFest in Occoquan is fun for the whole family! Visitors can enjoy heart-warming fire pits with marshmallow roasting, listen to the talented Dunbar Saxophone Quartet at the Town Hall, sing holiday carols with the Woodbridge Community Choir, sample free hot chocolate, and delight in a special visit from Santa Claus! Visitors are also invited to browse the town’s unique shops, boutiques, galleries, restaurants, and cafes to experience all that Occoquan has to offer. Many businesses will be open late for visitors to complete their holiday shopping!

Mistletoe Magic
Where: Parkridge Center | Mannassas, VA
When: Decemeber 8, 2-5pm
Admission: Free

It’s the second annual Mistletoe Magic holiday festival! This free, family-friendly event will feature a stationary hot air balloon, winter-themed games, crafts, holiday music, a festive train ride, s’mores, hot chocolate bar and a Meet and Greet with Mr. Claus himself!

Christmas Illuminations
Mount Vernon Estate | Mount Vernon, VA
When: December 14-15
Admission: $30-35/adult, $20-25/child

Kick off the holidays with an evening of family-friendly fun and fireworks choreographed to holiday music, with fireworks beginning around 8:30pm. Take a stroll through the estate while being serenaded by local choirs, visit with re-enactors from the First Virginia Regiment, and learn 18th-century dance moves from costumed guides. George and Martha Washington will also be on site to greet Mount Vernon’s holiday guests. Tickets: $35 adult/$25 youth with Mansion tour, $30 adult/$20 youth.

Christmas Caroling
Where: The Wharf | Southwest DC
When: December 22, 5-8pm
Admission: Free

Enjoy the sounds of the season, featuring the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, and join in as they sing holiday songs to spread the Christmas spirit all along the waterfront. While you’re there, treat yourself to s’mores at the fire pit and visit the lighted Christmas Tree.

Christmas Eve Breakfast Tour
Where: The Mansion on O Street | Dupont Circle, DC
When: December 24
Admission: $39

They deck the halls and fill the stockings with seasons greetings and holiday cheer that will create lasting memories for the entire family at the Mansion on O Street! Enjoy a delicious continental breakfast (sweet breads, yogurt, granola, fresh fruit hot coffee, hot tea, hot chocolate) then tour the wonderful themed rooms and search for secret doors. Be sure to bring your own shopping bags — everything is for sale! See more about this wonderfully unique DC attraction this KFDC post.

First Night Alexandria
Where: Old Town | Alexandria, VA
When: December 31
Admission: $25 ’til 11/30, $30 12/1-30, $35 on 12/31 free/12 & under
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!


Strolling through Brookside’s wonderful Garden of Lights


 
LIGHT DISPLAYS
 
LightUp Fest
Where: One Loudoun | Ashburn, Va
When: November 8 – January 2
Admission: $29.99/adult, $19.99/child (look for a discount)

LightUP Fest, a culture-rich lights exhibit that combines traditional Chinese lanterns with modern lighting technology, is making its debut in the Washington Metro area. With 77 stunning, differently-themed installations, it promises to be a magical experience for all. LightUP Fest will also feature daily performances from acrobats, dancers and musicians. An eclectic array of unique cuisines will also be available for purchase. And an interactive craft and art section will showcase the intricate culture and tradition of craftsmanship with hands-on activities such as sugar puppet making, calligraphy, portrait sketching and rice carving for all age groups to participate in.

Winter Walk of Lights

Where: Meadowlark Botanical Gardens | Vienna, VA
When: November 9 – January 6
Admission: $14/adult, $8/ages 3-12 (look for a discount)

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. Stroll by perennial favorites such as the animated Lakeside Lights, the Fountain of Lights, and the Holiday Nature Walk — and look for new displays this year, too. Round out your visit by roasting marshmallows and sipping on hot beverages by the fire (available for purchase at Light Refreshments concessions).

Garden of Lights
Where: Brookside Gardens | Wheaton, MD
When: November 16 – January 1, with noted exceptions
Admission: $25/car Mon-Thurs, $30/car Fri-Sun (look for a discount)

The Garden of Lights celebrates its 20th season as a DC area family holiday tradition! Step into a magical winter wonderland illuminated with more than one million dazzling colorful lights shaped into hand-crafted, original art forms of flowers, animals and other natural elements. Stroll from garden to garden enjoying twinkling tree forms, sparkling fountains, and whimsical winter scenes. Afterwards, warm up inside the Visitors Center — sip hot cocoa and listen to one of the nightly musical performances. KFDC tip: Go on a weekday if you can swing it to avoid crowds. View scenes from our visit there last year.

Lights on the Bay
Where: Sandy Point State Park | Annapolis, MD
When: November 17 – January 1
Admission: $15/car (look for a discount)

Head to the Chesapeake for some holiday fun! SPCA of Anne Arundel County presents the 24th annual Lights on the Bay light show that features a two-mile scenic drive along the Bay with 70 festive displays illuminating the roadway. Lights on the Bay has something for everyone in the family. Children can participate in a nightly scavenger hunt, challenging them to find items within the show, answer display-related questions and enter a drawing to win prizes. And Santa will make an appearance on Thanksgiving Day!

Symphony of Lights
Where: Symphony Woods at Merriweather | Columbia, MD
When: November 22 – December 30, Wednesdays-Sundays
Admission: $25/car

Called a “woodland wonderland,” this beautiful display of more than 100 all new 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. And the Symphony of Lights is the largest annual fundraising event benefiting Howard County General Hospital, the only hospital in Howard County.

Bull Run Festival of Lights
Where: Bull Run Regional Park | Centreville, VA
When: November 21 – January 6
Admission: Mon-Thurs $15/car, Fri-Sat $20/car(look for a discount)

Every year from Thanksgiving until just after New Year’s Day, you can experience the Festival’s 2.5 miles illuminated by holiday light displays. As you drive the festival route, turn off your headlights and just follow the magical glow. After viewing the lights, bring head to the holiday village to enjoy rides, refreshments, and of course, photos with Santa Claus (holiday village open select nights). The festival happens annually at Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville, Virginia. Avoid crowds and get a discount by going Monday through Thursday — look for a special online coupon here.

ZooLights
Where: National Zoo | Woodley Park, DC
When: November 23 – January 1, 5-9pm (Closed 12/24, 25, 31)
Admission: Free

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, a dazzling light show set to music, and snow-less tubing. Guests can also enjoy live entertainment, a special train ride for children, a whirl on the Conservation Carousel, special talks by animal keepers, Zoo-themed model trains displays, and more “wild” holiday fun. The Small Mammal House, Reptile Discovery Center and Think Tank are open every night. And new this year: A free, glow-in-the-dark play zone for children, Rides and parking cost extra.

Festival of Lights
Where: Watkins Regional Park | Upper Marlboro, MD
When: November 23 – January 1, 5-9:30pm nightly
Admission: $10/car, FREE on December 25


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

Winter Lights Festival

Where: Seneca Creek State Park | Gathersburg, MD
When: November 23 – December 31
Admission: $12/car Mon-Thurs, $17/car Fri-Sun (look for discount)

The 23rd Annual Winter Lights Festival is a glowing 3.5 mile drive through the enchanted setting of Seneca Creek State Park. The route takes you past more than 450 illuminated displays and beautifully lit trees that light up the night. Hours are Sunday-Thursday 6-9pm and Friday-Saturday 6-10pm. Closed on 12/25.

Festival of Lights
Where: Mormon Temple | Kensington, MD
When: November 29 – January 1
Admission: Free

Its official name is the Washington, DC Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but most Washingtonians know it as the Mormon Temple that you can see driving on the outer loop of the Beltway near Bethesda. During the holiday season the grounds glow with more than 650,000 LED lights that visitors are welcome to enjoy. There are also free nightly performances in an indoor theater, Christmas trees decorated in international themes, an exhibit of crèches from around the world, and a life-sized outdoor nativity.

Garden in Lights
Where: Annmarie Sculpture Garden | Solomons, MD
When: November 30 – January 1 (closed 12/3, 4, 24, 25)
Admission: $7, free/3 & under

This magical tour takes visitors on a beautiful trip through the glittering woods. As you stroll the protected path, you will be transported to a fantastical place of spectacular lights and amazing “light sculptures” depicting mythical beasts, wild animals, airplanes, pirates, princesses, circus performers, dinosaurs, and more. Don’t forget to ask for a “Holiday I Spy” program. After your walk, warm up in the Arts Building where you will find nightly entertainment, beautiful exhibits, great shopping, and a holiday cafe!

Georgetown GLOW
Where: Throughout Georgetown, DC
When: December 1 – January 6
Admission: Free

See Georgetown in a whole new gorgeous light — literally. Every evening through January 6, the neighborhood will sparkle with modern light art installations on exhibit throughout the bustling community, the region’s only curated outdoor public light art experience. Works of local, regional, and international artists will be on display in both public and privately-owned spaces, including M Street, along the C&O Canal, and more nearby places. Take the family to dinner, then go for a stroll to check them all out. Get a glimpse of a past light show here.

The District’s Holiday Boat Parade
Where: The Wharf | Southwest DC
When: December 1
Admission: Free

Celebrate the holidays and see the beautifully decorated boats pass by. Get into the spirit as you decorate cookies and craft your own boat. Warm up by the big fire pit and visit the lighted Christmas Tree. Take the kids ice skating, and adults can sample winter drinks at our Waterfront Wine & Beer Garden. Bring the whole fam to meet Santa and make memories during this annual DC tradition!

Alexandria Boat Parade of Lights

Where: Alexandria City Marina | Alexandria, VA
When: December 1
Admission: Free

Alexandria’s harbor will shine as dozens of brightly lit boats cruise the Potomac River at the historic waterfront for the 19th annual Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights. Enjoy festivities out on the dock 4-7pm, including a Letters to Santa postcard pop-up, a DIY holiday wood ornament craft activity from AR Workshop Alexandria, and a hot chocolate bar from Dolci Gelati. Parade-goers are invited to step into the Torpedo Factory Art Center, located at the Alexandria City Marina, for their annual holiday festivities from 2-8pm.

Light Yards
Where: The Yards | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: December 8
Admission: Free

For the or its fourth year, The Yards will shine during the holidays innovative light art, and this year there will be two installations: The Pool, by New York-based Jen Lewin Studio and Angels of Freedom, by Israel-based OGE Group. The Pool welcomes visitors to hop, skip, and jump across 106 interactive circular pads of light, and as multiple visitors play in it, their movements will come together to create a giant canvas of shifting and fading colors in mesmerizing patterns. Angels of Freedom aims to reveal the inner beauties of everyone by visually turning visitors angels, letting them pose with five giant, neon-colored wings and white halos.

The Downtown Holiday Market in Penn Quarter


 
HOLIDAY MARKETS
 
Museum Shop Around
Where: Strathmore
When: November 8-11
Admission: $10 suggested donation

This annual market brings the best of the area’s finest museum gift shops all to one place. At Strathmore’s Museum Shop Around you’ll find toys, jewelry, one-of-a-kind gifts — some handmade, all art-inspired — for yourself and everyone on your holiday list.

Christmas Bazaar
Where: St. Jane de Chantal | Bethesda, MD
When: November 10, 9am – 4pm
Admission: Free

Get started on holiday shopping at St. Jane de Chantal’s 13th Annual Christmas Bazaar, a fundraiser to benfit the school Kick off the Christmas season and shop local! Unique items from more than 40 vendors with jewelry, home decor, accessories, personalized gifts, and much more. There will also be a thrift shop, children’s book fair, food trucks, bake sale, raffles, and free pictures with Santa just in time for holiday cards. Located at 9525 Old Georgetown Rd, Bethesda.

Holiday Shops
Where: Dock5 at Union Market | Northeast DC
When: November 16-18
Admission: $5-50

Holiday Shops is more than a unique shopping experience; it is also one of the Junior League of Washington’s major fundraisers. Proceeds from the event support the League’s ongoing efforts to improve the Washington, DC, community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers and by awarding annual grants to local nonprofits. Each year, they welcome thousands of shoppers throughout the weekend. Merchants will help you find those special gifts for your family and friends, and with each purchase, you will know you are making a positive impact on the community.

A Crafty Way to Support Bethany House
Where: Bethany House | Alexandria, VA
When: November 17, 10am – 2pm
Admission: $5/adult

Join friends and supporters of Bethany House for coffee, tea, light refreshments, and an opportunity to purchase hand-crafted wooden items for holiday gifts or personal use. Bethany House will be hosting Tom Huber, a local woodturner, in a one man show of his hand made items. These items include a large array of bowls, platters, plates, boxes, pens, holiday ornaments, and kitchenware made from local hardwoods. One hundred percent of the proceeds of these items will be donated to the support of the Bethany House mission.

Mayfield Market Christmas Bazaar
Where: Connelly School of the Holy Child | Potomac, MD
When: November 17-18
Admission: Free

Holy Child’s 15th annual Mayfield Market Christmas Bazaar, always the weekend before Thanksgiving, is a shopping extravaganza you won’t want to miss. Start your holiday shopping early in a festive atmosphere with more than 60 vendors selling their jewelry, clothing, home décor, children’s presents, hostess gifts, personalized items, holiday decorations, and much more to make your shopping the easiest and best ever. Plan to stay for lunch from the food trucks.

Christmas Village
Where: West Shore Park, Inner Harbor | Baltimore, MD
When: November 22 – December 24,
Admission: Free weekdays, $5/adult on weekends

West Shore Park in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor will be transformed into a Christmas Village, an authentic German holiday market, that is full of fun for all ages. There’s kids entertainment all day long, photo ops with Santa, gingerbread house making, a bratwurst eating contest, and more. Plus, everyday there are more than 50 vendor booths to browse for gifts, food, entertainment, and lots of holiday fun to celebrate the season. (Note that it is closed on select dates — see the website.)

Downtown Holiday Market
Where: 8th & F Streets NW | Penn Quarter, DC
When: November 23 – December 23, 12-8pm
Admission: Free

This one, to me, is the holiday market in DC. It’s not even so much about the merchandise for sale (though there’s always a great variety of gift items — I never leave empty handed). There’s something about the usually bustling block in the middle of Penn Quarter transforming into an open air market for a few weeks that is so charming and kind of magical, making our big city feel like a small town. A bonus is the free live entertainment along with treats and coffee drinks available for purchase. And after you’ve done your shopping and enjoyed a snack and music, you can pop into the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum that are literally right next to the market.

Eastern Market
Where: Eastern Market | Capitol Hill, DC
When: Year-round Saturdays & Sundays
Admission: Free

The outdoor flea market at the centerpiece of the Capitol Hill community is practically a year-round weekend institution for locals. And during the holiday season, it’s a go-to for shoppers seeking unique gifts along with a fun outing. Over 100 vendors are there, selling everything from original artwork to fun T-shirts, to handmade jewelry and accessories, to home décor to custom-made and used furniture – and much, much more. If you’re cooking up a holiday meal, you can get fresh produce from farmers’ stalls outside and butchered meats, fancy cheeses, baked goods, pasta, fresh produce, and more inside the actual Eastern Market. Even more, there is often live music courtesy of buskers around the area, and if the kids want some play time afterwards, you can hit one of several parks or playgrounds in the neighborhood (Lincoln Park, at 11th and East Capitol, is the largest and most popular among them).

Bazaart Holiday Art Market
Where: American Visionary Art Museum | Baltimore, MD
When: November 23-24
Admission: Free

The Museum’s annual holiday art market returns! Shop hundreds of original creations by regional artists and craftspeople, including paintings, sculpture, paper crafts, metalwork, jewelry, textiles, mixed media, apparel, and other work that simply defies categorization! Shop local on #SmallBusinessSaturday and support these original makers! Entry is free, and the rest of the museum, the Sideshow gift shop, and the 3rd floor restaurant at AVAM, Encantada will be open (regular admission for those).

Christkindlmarkt
Where: Heurich House Museum | Dupont Circle, DC
When: November 30 – December 2
Admission: $10/ages 13+ and $2/ages 2-12

Do some shopping at Christkindlmarkt, an annual holiday artisan market and festive house tour, honoring the Heurich family’s German heritage by recreating a traditional outdoor German Christmas market in its Castle Garden. Dupont Circle’s only holiday market will feature goods from over 40 local artisans, including jewelers, ceramicists, chocolatiers, and makers of housewares, clothing, and more. Visitors will also have the opportunity to explore the seasonally decorated historic mansion on a self-guided tour. This year they are offering two new ticket options, in addition to general admission: An early access ticket that will give holiday shoppers a less crowded extra hour on Saturday or Sunday from 10-11am and a limited edition 2018 tote bag. Shoppers may also purchase a VIP ticket which also includes the tote.

Holiday Glow
Where: Torpedo Factory Art Center
When: December 1, 2-8pm
Admission Free

The Torpedo Factory Artists invite shoppers into their studios to find original gifts of art and enjoy festive activities, too. Enjoy the Holiday Boat Parade of Lights from the riverfront, then warm up inside the Art Center for more programming and after-hours art.

Holiday Maker’s Markets
Where: Annmarie Sculpture Garden | Solomons, MD
When: December 1, 8, 15, & 22
Admission: Free

Get a jump on holiday shopping with all things handmade, homemade, or homegrown! Ceramics, stained glass, hanging baskets, wood and leather crafts, organic skincare products, local distillery products, baked goods, batik and fleece clothing, handmade soaps and candles, herbal teas, ornaments, folk art, and more. Each market will feature a new set of vendors.

Gifts That Give Hope Gift Fair
Where: Arlington Science Focus School | Arlington, VA
When: December 8, 10am – 2pm
Admission: Free

This Fair puts a new spin on gift-giving. The concept is simple: Make a donation to a locally-based nonprofits, personalize a Gifts That Give Hope greeting card for a loved one, and give that act of kindness as a gift. Thanks to generous shoppers, children with learning challenges are getting new books, a homeless shelter is getting fresh blankets, orphans in Haiti are getting formula, and dozens of other acts of kindness are happening around the world. This also includes a Children’s Fair with dance performances, sensory activity, interactive demos, and face painting.

Sugarloaf Craft Festival
Where: Dulles Expo Center | Chantilly, VA
When: December 7-9
Admission: $8/advance, $10/at door, free/11 & under

This seasonal fair showcases works by more than 300 top artisans. Pottery, sculpture, glass, jewelry, fashion, home and garden décor, furniture and home accessories, and photography will be on display — and for sale. The best part is that the award-winning festival is a family affair. Parents can shop, and children can enjoy an interactive puppet theater and watch live-demonstrations of iron forging, papermaking, stone sculpting, and other media by the master craftspeople themselves. Not to mention, gourmet goodies hand-made by specialty food vendors always leave everyone wanting more. Tickets are good for all three days of the Festival.

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Holiday prep at home is super fun, too!

 
Know of a great DC holiday event that you don’t see here? Let us know in the comments below!

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Filed under 2018, All ages, Annual, Chanukah, Christmas, DC, Exhibit, Fall, Festival, Free, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Music, New Years, Outdoor, Seasonal, Shop, Special Event, Theatre, Trains, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

The 2017 KFDC Guide to the Holiday Season in DC



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The holiday season in DC really may be the most wonderful time of the year. You can embrace the spirit around the area with all kinds of festive experiences, many that have become family traditions for Washingtonians. Local stages come alive with holiday shows. Model trains wind through miniature Christmas villages. Light displays dazzle visitors as they stroll or drive among them. Special markets offer unique gifts along with good time. And an array of events and extravaganzas, several at iconic locales, bring holiday cheer and activities that thrill and enchant kids — and the kid in all of us adults. This annual KFDC Guide to the Holiday Season in DC, categorized and listed by starting date, will help you plan for it all. Happy Holidays!

Holiday Shows

Tree Lightings

Model Trains

Special Events

Chanukah

Light Displays

Holiday Markets

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Step Afrika’s Magical, Musical Holiday Step Show is a KFDC fave!


HOLIDAY SHOWS
 
Madeline’s Christmas
Where: Gunston Arts Center | Arlington, VA
When: November 10-19 & December 1-3
Tickets: $10 (look for a ticket discount)

Encore Stage & Studio’s presents this by kids for kids production based on the delightful book. Miss Clavel takes the 12 little girls on a series of adventures when disaster suddenly strikes as everyone gets the flu! Everyone that is, except for the ever-resilient Madeline. Saddened that they may not be able to go home for Christmas, the girls and Miss Clavel take to their beds. A jolly visitor in red appears who reminds Madeline and her friends about the magic of the holidays. Recommended for ages 4+.

Grandma’s Thanksgiving Visit
Where: Discovery Theater
When: November 15-17 & 21
Tickets: $3-8

Grandma has arrived for the holiday—and that can only mean making puppets, cooking together, washing the car, and learning lots of fun new things! This musical play with a great big heart brings the whole audience into the family with singing, fingerplay, and call-and-response as we all give thanks for being together. Recommended for ages 3-7.

A Christmas Carol
Where: Ford’s Theatre | Penn Quarter, DC
When: November 16 – December 31
Tickets: $32-92

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. Recommended for ages 5 and up. Performance is two hours (including a 15-minute intermission).

Frosty the Snowman
Where: Adventure Theatre | Glen Echo, MD
When: November 17- December 31
Tickets: $19.50 (look for a discount)

Do you want to build a snow man? How about watching him spring to life in front of you for one day of adventures before he melts away? In this merry wintertime romp, chock-full of chuckles and comic antics, Frosty dances into the hearts of kids and adults alike- even the heart of one near-sighted cop- through his uproarious antics.

Children’s Series “Nutcracker”
Where: Classic Ballet Theatre Studios | Herndon, VA
When: November 18-19
Tickets: $10

Introduce your young child to the performing arts with our Children’s Series Nutcracker! The Children’s Series Nutcracker is a condensed version of the popular holiday classic. This magical production with stunning costumes and beautiful choreography is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers as well as their families. Children delight in the approximately 40-minute performance followed by a short question and answer session and memorable photographs with dancers. Invite friends and bring your camera for after the show!

The Nutcracker on Strings
Where: The Puppet Co.| Glen Echo, MD
When: November 24 – December 31
Tickets: $12

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 ages 5 and up.

Tiny Tots: Nutcracker Fantasy
Where: The Puppet Co. | Glen Echo, MD
When: November 24 – December 30
Tickets: $6

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 Nutcracker by The Washington Ballet
Where: THEARC Theater | Anacostia, DC
When: November 25-26
Tickets: $30-50, $15/Ward 7 & 8 residents

Join THEARC for DC’s perennial favorite and some holiday magic! The Washington Ballet modifies this critically acclaimed production a bit at the Anacostia theatre, making it more enticing for young theatre-goers. The set is scaled-down, and performances are shorter. This celebrated production is set in historic Georgetown with historical figures and whimsical touches. Replete with swirling snowflakes, cherry blossoms and historic characters including George Washington as the Nutcracker and King George III as the menacing Rat King! Join again with family and friends or start a new holiday tradition with loved ones.

Virginia National Ballet’s The Nutcracker
Where: Hylton Performing Arts Center | Manassas, VA
When: November 24
Tickets: $15/under 12, $25/age 25-18 $35/adult (look for a discount)

Don’t miss this magical production with beautiful scenery, costumes, dancing, and choreography!Virginia National Ballet is one of Northern Virginia’s most exciting professional dance companies and its school (Gainesville Ballet) was voted Best Dance Studio 2017 in Northern Virginia Magazine. Their “The Nutcracker” sells out early every year, so be sure to get your tickets early!

Seasons of Light
Where: Discovery Theater | National Mall, DC
When: December 1-21
Tickets: $3-8


Joy, warmth, and community illuminate seasonal holiday celebrations the world over. Back for its 19th 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.

Snow Day
Where: Lab at Convergence & Atlas Performing Arts Center | Arlington, VA & H Street NE, DC
When: December 1-16 & December 17-19 & 27-30
Tickets: $9, free/under 1

Arts on the Horizon presents this winter show at two area theatres! One cold December morning, a young girl named Skip wakes up to find the entire neighborhood covered in a thick, dazzling blanket of white snow. A playful (if not a little mischievous) winter elf takes her on an adventure – showing her just how magical snow can be! Join Skip as she experiences all the excitement, joy, and wonder of her very first snow day. This nonverbal production features live music and lots of wintertime fun, just in time for the holiday season.

Septime Weber’s The Nutcracker
Where: Warner Theatre | Downtown, DC
When: November 30 – December 24
Tickets: $30-130 (look for a ticket discount)

DC’s perennial favorite! Set in 1882 Georgetown, this gorgeous production showcases the grandeur of The Washington Ballet’s international roster of dancers and majesty of Tchaikovsky’s music. Replete with swirling snowflakes, cherry blossoms and historical characters, including George Washington as the heroic nutcracker, TWB’s The Nutcracker has become a tradition for generations of family and friends to celebrate the holidays. Read a KFDC review of the production from a few years ago. Super Value Performances: December 6 at 7pm, December 12 at 7pm, & December 13 at 7pm – no seat higher than $53!

Hansel & Gretel
Where: Synetic Theatre | Crystal City, VA
When: December 1-23
Tickets: $20

During the bustle of holiday crowds, Gretel tries to keep her brother, Hansel, out of trouble while their unengaged babysitter leaves Gretel to fend for them both. As Hansel embarks on his own wonder-filled exploration of his everyday surroundings, he and his sister fall into a magical realm that takes them far away from home. In this wordless production, the well-beloved Grimm fairy tale embraces the fantastical through the eyes of those who see the world through a different lens. Recommended for all ages.

Madeleine’s Christmas
Where: Creative Cauldron | Falls Church, VA
When: December 1-23
Tickets: $15-25

“In an old house in Paris, covered in vines, lived 12 little girls in two straight lines.” And with that familiar phrase, author and illustrator Ludwig Bemelmans sets in motion the adventures of the brave and resourceful Madeline! In this musical adaptation, Madeline’s schoolmates and tutor are all sick in bed on Christmas Eve, unable to go home for Christmas to be with their families. So it’s Madeline to the rescue! And with the help of a magical rug merchant she takes her friends on a Christmas journey they will never forget.

Holiday Sing-A-Long
Where: Wolf Trap | Vienna, VA
When: December 2, 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 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.”

MCYO of Strathmore: Symphonic Devotions
Where: Strathmore | Bethesda, MD
When: December 2, 4:30pm
Tickets: $15-$25

The talented youth of the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestra perform beautiful music to bring joy to the holiday season. This concert features MCYO’s full orchestras performing works by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, and more!

Peter Pan
Where: Atlas Perfroming Arts Center | H Street NE, DC
When: December 2-3
Tickets: $12-20 (look for discount tickets)

This holiday season, Andrew Earle Simpson performs a fairy dust sprinkled original score for the beloved silent film, Peter Pan (Herbert Brenon, dir., 1924). Introduce your youngsters to the magic of classic cinema through this whimsical tale of Peter Pan and Wendy, the lost boys, and Captain Hook. Live actors will add to the magic of the tale by performing narration and dialogue.

The Second City’s Twist Your Dickens (KidFree Suggestion!))
Where: Kennedy Center | Foggy Bottom, DC
When: Dec 5-31
Tickets: $49-75

Experience Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol like never before with this holiday favorite from The Second City! The legendary comedy troupe brings its infamous improvisational skills and sketch comedy mastery to the timeless tale of Ebenezer Scrooge. For ages 16 and up.

Strathmore Children’s Chorus: Peace, Paz, Shalom
Where: Strathmore | Bethesda, MD
When: December 10, 4pm
Tickets: $18

Strathmore Children’s Chorus performs both sacred and secular selections from musical masters Sibelius, Britten, Engelhardt, and others to celebrate unity, peace, and holiday joy. ’Tis the season to celebrate with the chorus and their special guest artists.

Christmas Revels: A French-Canadian Celebration of the Winter Solstice
Where: Lisner Auditorium | Foggy Bottom, DC
When: December 9-17
Admission: $12-60

Journey with Washington Revels to Trois-Rivières, a charming town in southern Québec. In the late December chill, the glow of hearth fires warms the spirits of the villagers as they prepare for the time of celebration–le temps des Fêtes! The timber business is thriving and the Hudson’s Bay Company is paying good money for beaver pelts. A group of young men prepares to leave home to seek profit and adventure—to be voyageurs. They paddle a huge canoe across rivers and lakes, deep into the wild Canadian woods, singing as they go. This energetic Québécois winter celebration features carols, wild dancing, and foot-stomping instrumentals, blending old French traditions with New World ingenuity. Be prepared for a deal with the devil and a ride in a flying canoe!

The Gift of the Mad Guy
Where: Annapolis Friends Meeting House | Annapolis, MD
When: December 9-16
Tickets: $10/ages 3+

The Gift of the Mad Guy is the story of a gift-crazed child who believes that Christmas is about giving specifically to HIM until he is promised a REALLY big gift if he gives three of his gifts to others. Will Jack learn that the holidays are about more than getting? Join Building Better People Productions for a day of theater for the whole family and find out!

The Mini-Nut
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center | Rockville, MD
When: December 9-10
Tickets: $23/adult, $18/10 & under in advance | $20-25/at door


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. 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!

12th Annual Holiday Sing-Along
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center | H Street NE, DC
When: December 10, 4:30pm & 7pm
Tickets: $12-20

Join in the H Street tradition! Capital City Symphony, Congressional Chorus, and American Youth Chorus perform a variety of holiday favorites in this perennially loved performance that is fun for the entire family. Audience members are encouraged to join in the singing of classics like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Twelve Days of Christmas. Continue the celebration after the concert with complimentary cookies and good cheer in our Kogod Lobby.

Candlelight Christmas
Where: Kennedy Center | Foggy Bottom, DC
When: December 10-22 (family show December 17)
Tickets: $18-72 (look for discount tickets)

It’s not Christmas without The Washington Chorus! Featuring brass, organ, sing-alongs, and the magnificent Candlelight Processional, A Candlelight Christmas includes your favorite songs such as The Dream Isaiah Saw, Hallelujah Chorus, and more Christmas favorites to fall in love with.

The Hip Hop Nutcracker
Where: Strathmore | Bethesda, MD
When: December 12-13
Tickets: $28-58

This holiday mash-up for the whole family is back by popular demand! The Hip Hop Nutcracker reimagines Tchaikovsky’s classic score through explosive hip-hop choreography. A dozen all-star dancers, an on-stage DJ, and an electric violinist bring the traditional Nutcracker story to life in contemporary New York City.

The Little Prince, a Holiday Family Opera
Where: Kennedy Center | Foggy Bottom, DC
When: December 14
Tickets: $45-65

All the joy and wonder of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic illustrated storybook comes back to Washington National Opera! On his tiny home planet, a young boy spends his days protecting his only friend, a rose, from miniature volcanoes and ravenous baobab trees. When loneliness sets in, he begins a mystical quest across the cosmos to find new companionship. During his journey, he encounters several other intergalactic inhabitants–among them a delusional king, a rich businessman, and a wearied lamplighter–before meeting a pilot on Earth who has crash-landed in the Sahara. The two become unlikely friends, learning lessons from the desert’s many creatures until the prince realizes just how special his rose really is.

Movie Screening & Sing-a-long: The Snowy Day
Where: Discovery Theater
When: December 14-15
Tickets: $3-8

Enjoy an exclusive screening of The Snowy Day, based on Ezra Jack Keats’ 1962 classic story, narrated by Laurence Fishburne and voiced by Regina King, Angela Bassett and Jamie-Lynn Sigler. The film follows young Peter’s magical, snowy walk to his Nana’s house to bring home their Christmas Eve dinner. One the way, he meets some new (and diverse) friends who come together to celebrate many traditions. To make the morning super-fun, Discovery Theater is adding sing-along holiday songs and a special host! To top it off, each family and classroom receives a copy of this beloved children’s book –donated to audiences by Penguin Random House. Recommended for ages 3-7.

Step Afrika’s Magical, Musical Holiday Step Show
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center | H Street NE, DC
When: December 15-30
Tickets: $18-45

Step Afrika!’s Magical Musical Holiday Step Show is the most vibrant holiday celebration in town! This fun, family-friendly performance will have you stomping your feet and clapping your hands to energetic beats from Step Afrika! and special guest, DJ Frosty the Snowman. Over the last six years, this internationally-renowned percussive dance company has created a contemporary holiday tradition at the Atlas, featuring friendly, furry characters, pre-show instrument-making workshops, photo ops, and even a dance party. Why celebrate the holidays sitting still when you can step with Step Afrika!

The Nutcracker
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center | Rockville, MD
When: December 15-22
Tickets: $26-38

There is something for everyone in the Maryland Youth Ballet’s fun and engaging version of The Nutcracker — a huge cannon that fires at the mice, a beautiful growing Christmas tree, whirling flakes in a snowstorm, cute little Ginger Snaps peeking out of a huge Mother Ginger skirt, a lovely Sugar Plum dancing with her handsome Cavalier, and extraordinary costumed characters from the Kingdom of Sweets.

Sweet Spot Aerial Productions: A Circus Carol
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 16-17
Tickets: $25/adult, $15/child

It’s holiday pageant time at W.T. Dickens High School! Chaos reigns supreme throughout the school halls as teachers, administrators and students try to get it together in time for their annual holiday production. Watch as the circus atmosphere comes to life in A Circus Carol, as incredible aerial performances dazzle and bring our characters together to rise above (sometimes, literally!) the holiday madness. Appropriate for all ages.

The Nutcracker
Where: GMU Center for the Arts | Fairfax, VA
When: December 16, 8pm
Tickets: $39-65

Experience this timeless holiday classic with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra and the Fairfax Ballet — a holiday tradition your family will always cherish. Enjoy a winter wonderland of dancing snowflakes, sugar plum fairies and epic battles between heroic toy soldiers and mischievous mice. A perfect holiday treat for the entire family!

Earth Harp
Where: The Plaza at CityCenter | Penn Quarter, DC
When: December 16, 4-6pm
Admission: Free

The world’s largest harp is coming to DC. William Close, renowned for affixing 1,000-foot strings to skyscrapers, mountain peaks and canyon walls, will fill CityCenterDC with the magical musical stylings of his Earth Harp. Join for this surreal holiday musical performance in The Plaza at CityCenter.

How to Catch a Leprechan
Where: Keegan Theatre | Dupont Circle, DC
When: December 16-31
Tickets: $15

Based on the familiar Irish folktale, How To Catch a Leprechaun follows the comical adventures of the wistful minstrel Riley O’Really, who really wants to catch a leprechaun. She’s got everything she needs for her trap: a pair of sharp eyes, a good Irish folk song in her heart and, most importantly, an irresistible pitcher of green lemonade. The wee leprechaun who Riley catches seems more than willing to give up his pot of gold – but is his offer a leprechaun trick or a leprechaun treat?

A Gift For Andrés / Un Regalo Para Andrés
Where: Kreeger Auditorium, Bender JCC | Rockville, MD
When: December 17
Tickets: $20-40

Join 123 Andrés, Christina, and the full band for a magical holiday story! Sing and dance at their last concert of 2017 and support a very important cause – the Greater DC Diaper Bank. The organization provides over 100,000 free diapers a month to over 3,600 low-income families in the DC metro area. In the past 8 years they have donated nearly 5 million diapers, and the number keeps growing. Our goal: Donate $5,000 for diapers – that’s over 40,000 diapers!

Kwanzaa Celebration – Family Series
Where: Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre | Foggy Bottom DC
When: December 17, 4pm
Tickets: $15-30, kids free with adult

Welcome the holiday season with Dance Place’s annual Kwanzaa Celebration! Gather family and friends to join Coyaba Academy, Coyaba Dance Theater and special guests celebrate the seven principles of Kwanzaa. *During this Family Series, reserve 1 free ticket for a child 12 & under with paying adult!

Community Sing: Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming
Where: Folger Theatre | Capitol Hill
When: December 17, 4pm
Admission: Free

Folger Consort musicians will lead audience members in learning holiday songs from the medieval to the baroque. Enjoy singing and visiting the Folger during this festive holiday time. This community sing is for all ages and skill levels!

The MeshugaNutracker!
Where: Cinemas Around the DMV
When: December 19
Tickets: Vary by theater

Note: This is a cinematic production, not live! “The MeshugaNutcracker!” is a full-length musical comedy that features the wonderfully silly sensibilities of the folklore of Chelm (a fictional town of fools) underscored by an invigorating Klezmer-ized orchestration of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite,” including original lyrics that celebrate Chanukah. Judah Maccabee’s triumphant saga and accounts of perseverance during the Holocaust as well as the celebration of the first Chanukah in the new state of Israel emerge with a genuine sense of wonder as the Chelmniks tell eight stories that pay tribute to the holiday. Add in dancing dreidels, singing sufganiot, and surprise guest stars and you have the perfect recipe for a holiday outing! Jews and non-Jews alike will delight in this original musical celebrating all things Chanukah.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Where: Kennedy Center | Foggy Bottom, DC
When: December 22-31
Tickets: $25-30

In the small town of Stillwater, painter and decorator Mr. Popper is a pleasant, practical, predictable person who periodically pines for polar adventures. But when a peculiar package on the Poppers’ porch produces a penguin, chaos waddles into their lives. Soon, the Poppers open their home and hearts to not one, not two, but a bunch of boisterous black-and-white birds. With catchy songs and penguin puppets aplenty, this fresh and funny musical adaptation of Richard and Florence Atwater’s popular book—also made into a Hollywood film starring Jim Carrey—will leave you chirping with cheer. Recommended for ages 3+

Kwanzaa Celebration with Nana Malaya Rucker, The Dancing Diplomat & Nubian
Where: Anacostia Community Museum | Anacostia, DC
When: December 26
Admission: Free

This exciting family program combines the masterful skills of dance, music, storytelling and more by Nana Malaya Rucker, “The Dancing Diplomat,” with plenty of audience participation and African percussive instruments. The program includes introducing the audience to the history of Kwanzaa, its seven guiding principles and associated symbols, songs, dances and customs. This program is free and open to everyone!


Up close at the U.S. Capitol tree


 
TREE LIGHTINGS
 
Tree Lighting Celebration & Street Party
Where: Downtown Silver Spring, MD
When: November 11
Admission: Free

The 6th Annual event in Downtown Silver Spring always includes the unveiling of a one-of-a-kind holiday tree on the Fountain Plaza. And this year’s tree, the “Good Energy Tree,” is no exception! Focusing on the power and possibilities of the bicycle, visitors can light the tree by peddling bicycles provided by Capital Bikeshare at the tree’s base. The bikes are connected to a 300-watt generator which can provide power to a USB port and also allow visitors to charge their cellphones. Other fun festivities of the evening will include food tastings, live entertainment, ice sculptures, and more!

Tree Lighting Ceremony
Where: National Harbor | Oxon Hill, MD
When: November 12, 12-7pm
Admission: Free

Join National Harbor for a full day of holiday fun, topped off by their annual tree lighting. Spend the afternoon with Santa’s Frosty Follies, participate in Card Making for Our Deployed Troops, watch a holiday movie, take dog pictures with Santa, and enjoy chances to meet Santa at the Carousel. The Radio King Orchestra plays at 5:30pm, and the tree lighting ceremony starts at 6:30pm — followed by fireworks!

2017 Light Up
Where: Fairfax Corner | Fairfax, VA
When: November 17
Admission: Free

Fairfax Corner is beginning the holiday season at their annual Light Up celebration. Festival goers will enjoy a Christmas tree lighting ceremony and holiday activities including a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, horse & carriage rides (donations encouraged!), live entertainment, balloon art, giveaways and more!

Tree Lighting Celebration
Where: RIO Washingtonian | Gaithersburg, MD
When: November 17
Admission: Free

Rio Washingtonian will begin the holiday season with their annual Tree Lighting celebration on the Lakefront Plaza. Festival goers can enjoy cheerful activities including a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus (arriving at 6:0pm and leaving promptly at 8pm), strolling holiday entertainment, horse and carriage rides, a vehicle display, store giveaways, and more!

Rockville Tree Lighting
Where: Rockville Town Square | Rockville, MD
When: November 18, 5-8pm
Admission: Free

Join Rockville Town Square for a tree lighting celebration! This free, family-friendly event includes a DJ, strolling entertainment, a performance from Dawn Crafton Dance Company, and a visit with Santa! Enter a drawing for a gift card giveaway and enjoy merchant food and drink specials. Check out the interactive holiday tree scheduled for the first performance at 5:50pm.

Reston Holiday Parade, Tree Lighting, & Sing Along
Where: Reston Town Center | Reston, VA
When: November 24
Admission: Free

Look on with thousands of spectators as Santa and Mrs. Claus make their way down Market Street to the holiday tree in Fountain Square. Join the crowd in a Reston tradition to wish upon the star as Santa lights the tree. With lights twinkling, snag a songbook and sing along with The Reston Chorale and a brass quintet to the tune of “O’Christmas Tree,” kicking off a half-hour holiday songfest after the lighting.

Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration
Where: The Park at CityCenter | Penn Quarter, DC
When: November 25
Admission: Free

The Park at CityCenter will tout one of the largest trees in the city, a dazzling 75-foot tree that will be decked with more than 150,000 lights and 4,500 ornaments. The lighting will be a joyous celebration, emceed by NBC4 Anchor Eun Yang and including performances by Baltimore’s viral sensation, Cardinal Shehan School Choir and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington.

Norwegian Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: Union Station | Capitol Hill Area, DC
When: November 29, 6pm
Admission: Free

One of the most popular and often first of the major DC tree lighting ceremonies. The tree is always huge and beautifully adorned, and will be lit by the ambassador of Norway, a gift symbolizing both gratitude for the assistance Norway received during World War II and appreciation for the continued strong friendship between the two countries. Rumor has it Santa will agin make an appearance, and guests can enjoy a Norwegian Christmas Concert.

14th Annual Tree Lighting
Where: Fairmont Washington | Georgetown, DC
When: November 28
Admission: Free

The Fairmont hotel welomes the public to enjoy its 14th Annual Tree Lighting! Filled with tiny white lights and shimmering Christmas trees, the courtyard becomes a glittering crystal garden the perfect venue for a holiday celebration. Families can take the chill off with complimentary hot chocolate and cookies as they listen to the award-winning Georgetown Visitation Madrigals perform holiday classics. Children can enjoy decorating holiday cards, members of the United States Marine Corps Reserves will perform a presentation of colors, and Santa Claus and Rudolph will make a special guest appearance. All families are welcome to take a photo with Santo in his Winter Wonderland Suite.

National Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: President’s Park | The Ellipse, DC
When: November 30
Admission: Free, but you must win tickets via lottery

To attend this lighting, you had to have entered a lottery to win admission. If you do, you get to be part of the National Park Foundation and National Park Service’s annual National Christmas Tree Lighting. Popular entertainers and a United States military band add to the celebratory evening when the President of the United States lights the National Christmas Tree.

Light Up the Wharf
Where: The Wharf | Southwest DC
When: December 1, 5-8pm
Admission: Free

Kick off the holiday season at The Wharf with the official lighting of the Christmas Tree. Treat yourself to hot chocolate, enjoy s’mores at our fire pit, do some holiday crafts, and listen to live music for a bright and merry experience along the waterfront.

Community Tree Lighting
Where: Monroe Street Market
When: December 1, 6-8pm
Admission: Free

Join friends and neighbors to celebrate the splendor of season at Monroe Street Market’s second annual Tree Lighting! Enjoy festive holiday performances, kids activities, free photos with Santa (for pets, too!), and food & drink from onsite retailers before helping count down to the tree lighting at 8pm. The tree was voted one of the best in the city by Curbed DC last year, so be sure to join and check it out for yourself!

Tree Lighting & Seasonal Fun
Where: Cathedral Commons
When: December 2
Admission: Free

Kick off the holiday season with a flurry of holiday activities at Cathedral Commons’ annual Holiday Tree Lighting! Join neighbors and friends on Newark Street for live performances, free giveaways, and food & drink from neighborhood restaurants. Santa will be joining us again this year for free holiday photos with the family (including cats and dogs) before leading the countdown to the tree lighting at 8pm.

Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol | Capitol Hill, DC
When: December 6
Admission: Free

A great alternative to the National Christmas Tree Lighting if you don’t win tickets —
or even if you do! 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, follow the tree as it journeys from Montana, where it was harvested, to DC. It’s expected to arrive late November, and the lighting will likely take place December 7. After the lighting, the tree will be lit every evening for all to enjoy until January 1.



The Season’s Greenings train display at the U.S. Botanic Garden is an annual delight!


 
MODEL TRAINS
 
Season’s Greenings

Where:U.S. Botanic Garden | National Mall Area, DC
When: November 23 – January 1
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, take a trip across America with a Roadside Attractions theme! Trains will chug around, below, through, and above plant-based recreations of iconic sights from across the United States, like Texas’ Cadillac Ranch, Colorado’s hot-dog-shaped Coney Island Hot Dog Stand, South Dakota’s Corn Palace, New Jersey’s Lucy the Elephant, and many more. And 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 post and this one about some of our Season’s Greenings experiences.

Magical Holiday Express
Where: B&O Railroad Museum | Baltimore, MD
When: December 1-31
Admission: $18/adult, $17/senior (60+), $12/ages 2-12, free/B&O members


This is a venue dedicated to locomotives, so you know the holiday model train exhibit is going to be special. Trains are magical during the holidays, and the museum invites all aboard the B&O’s Magical Holiday Express, a spectacular celebration in the B&O Roundhouse devoted to trains of all sizes and shapes, holiday festivities, and a winter wonderland of family fun and activities. There is something to see and do every day at this annual holiday event! Be sure to look for special events like North Pole Adventures, Winter Royal Adventures, Frosty Fest, and WinterFest Wonderland on the website.

Garden Railway Exhibit
Where: Brookside Garden | Wheaton, MD
When: November 24 – January 1
Admission: Free

Part of Brookside Garen’s annual Garden of Lights exhibition, the South Conservatory comes to life with a landscape in miniature, as trains and trollies wind their way through town and country scenes, past one-of-a kind models of the Brookside Gardens Conservatories, the Dentzel Carousel and the Chautauqua Tower of Glen Echo Park. Colorful plantings complement it all — winter may rule the outside landscape, but the conservatories will be bright with color and active with sound and motion to match the festive feeling of the season.

Holiday Trains and Planes
Where: College Park Aviation Museum | College Park, MD
When: December 16 – December 23
Admission: $5/adults, $3/senior, $2/age 2-18, free/under 2

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 | Capitol Hill Area, DC
When: November 24 – January 1
Admission: Free

Every year, DC’s grand train station hosts a wonderful Holiday Train Display, on view in the West Hall. Featuring a Norwegian landscape, the displays are intricate and fun to stop by and see if you’re at the station during the holiday season.


Frozen slides at the ICE! exhibit


 
SPECIAL EVENTS
 
Santa HQ
Where: Tyson’s Corner | McLean, VA
When: November 11 – December 24
Admission: Free, but portrait packages start at $30

Discover holiday wonderment in this immersive and innovative experience with visual elements that transport you straight to the North Pole. Enter the HQ to be scanned by the digital Naughty or Nice O’Meter, snap an “Elfie Selfie” in Santa’s workshop and star in your own holiday video. Then onto the North Pole Observatory to experience Elf-Ray Vision in a 3D environment…all before meeting Santa himself!

Christmas on the Potomac
Where: National Harbor | Oxon Hill, MD
When: November 18 – January 1
Admission: Free, though some activities cost extra

National Harbor goes all out during the holidays. ICE! might be the big attraction, but there’s also plenty 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.)

ICE!
Where: National Harbor
When: November 18 – January 1
Admission:
Starting at $26/child & $32/adult, free/under 3
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’ve been a few times, and I recommended reading my reviews here and here before you go. I didn’t post a write-up last year, but I’ll be honest: We were all underwhelmed. However, people seem to have varying opinions. This year has a “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” theme, and you walk through frozen holiday scenes depicting the story and slide down small ice slides — all kept at a very chilly 9 degrees. 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.

Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade
Where: Silver Plaza | Downtown Silver Spring, MD
When: November 18, 10am – 12pm
Admission: Free

The streets are being overrun with turkeys, dinosaurs, penguins, and reindeer! No, the zoo hasn’t opened their gates — it’s the Annual Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade! With marching bands an Latin dancing groups, floats, giant characters and balloons, and over 120 units, the Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade is the only Thanksgiving Parade in the metro DC area. Held in downtown Silver Spring, the exciting parade traditionally heralds the start of the holiday season. The parade steps off from Ellsworth Drive and Fenton Street and proceeds south on Georgia Avenue, ending at Silver Spring Avenue. It also is televised live on News Channel 8 and rerun on Thanksgiving Day.

Give Thanks Hunt
Where: Mansion on O Street | Dupont Circle, DC
When: November 18-24
Admission: $35

Give thanks and learn a bit about Thanksgiving traditions on this heartfelt treasure hunt. Have fun searching for Thanksgiving themed items found only at The Mansion. Prizes additional. Includes self-guided tour of our themed rooms and secret doors. Bring your own shopping bags — everything is for sale! See more about this wonderfully unique DC attraction this KFDC post.

The Enchanted Forest
Where: Westin Tysons Corner | McLean, VA
When: November 18-19
Admission: $15/child, $10/adult (look for a discount)

The Junior League of Northern Virginia’s annual Enchanted Forest returns! Stroll through the whimsical forest of theme decorated trees available for silent auction, while enjoying live entertainment, hands on cooking demonstrations, and Kids in the Holiday Kitchen activities, a visit from Santa, a model train display by Capital Trackers, kids crafts, gifts for purchase, premium events for adults and kids, and much more. Proceeds benefit the JLNV’s community initiatives through the Kids in the Kitchen programming. By supporting The Enchanted Forest you are helping the JLNV empower families to make healthy eating and active living a priority, and supporting the development of women who will build better communities for years to come.

Santa Photo Experience
Where: Fashion Center | Pentagon City, VA
When: November 18 – December 24
Admission: Free

Eager children and their families can experience the joy and magic of the holiday season with a visit to the Simon Santa Photo Experience at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City. Save time, avoid the line with Santa by Appointment. On December 3 from 9-11am, special needs children and their families have an opportunity to enjoy this time-honored holiday tradition through a sensory-friendly Caring Santa event in partnership with Autism Speaks. Reserve a FREE Caring Santa session here.

Ritz-y Celebrations
Where: Ritz Carlton | Pentagon City, VA
When: Throughout the holiday season
Admission: Varies by activity

The Ritz Carlton has a delightful holiday season planned with a variety of festive events on the calendar. Holiday Tea, Thanksgiving Brunch & Dinner, a Gingerbread House & Train Workshop, Nutcracker Tea, Christmas Eve Brunch, and Christmas Dinner are just some of the ways you can celebrate at the luxury hotel.

Christmas at Mount Vernon

Where: Mount Vernon Estate, Museum, & Gardens
When: November 24 – January 6
Admission: Online – $18/adults, $9/ages 6-11, free/ 5 & under

The holidays are full of delight at George Washington’s estate. During the day, tour the Mansion, watch historic chocolate-making demonstrations, and meet Aladdin the Camel. Mount Vernon is open every day of the year, including Christmas Day and New Years. So bring the entire family to the home of George and Martha Washington this holiday season.

Holiday Train Rides
Where: Western Maryland Railroad | Cumberland, MD
When: Weekends November 24 – December 23
Admission: Rates start at $45 (look for a discount)

Join Santa on a train ride through scenic western Maryland for a special seasonal adventure. Western Maryland Railroad offers the Holiday Limited train ride on Friday and Saturday afternoons and the Christmas Wonderland Express on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoon — all come with either lunch or dinner and a lovely round-trip excursion from Cumberland to Frostburg and back.

Festival of Trees
Where: Maryland State Fairgrounds| Timonium, MD
When: November 24-26
Admission: $13/adult, $6/child, free/4 & under

Kick off the holiday season by welcoming Santa Claus to a winter wonderland at the annual Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Festival of Trees! The East Coast’s largest holiday-themed festival will return to the Maryland State Fairgrounds with decorated trees, a gingerbread town, shopping, breakfast with Santa, endless holiday activities, and non-stop entertainment for children of all ages!

Christmas Town
Where: Busch Gardens | Williamsburg, VA
When: November 24 – January 1
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!

Winter Days and Nights on the Farm
Where: Ticonderoga Farm | Chantilly, VA
When: November 24 – December 23, Fri-Sun
Admission: $11.95/age 2+

The annual festival includes hayrides to the white pine fields with access to all of the farm attractions — swings, forts, slides, tunnels, and more. Fire pits are inviting to keep you warm and make some s’mores or roast hot dogs. Cut down your Christmas tree while you’re there or buy one from the lot. (Note: No admission fee to purchase trees or greens!) Read more about the winter fun at Ticonderoga in this post about one of our experiences there.

Snowland Celebration
Where: Great Wolf Lodge | Williamsburg, VA
When: November 26 – January 1
Admission: Rates vary

The popular family resort with the indoor waterpark hosts its annual Snowland celebration, transforming into a winter wonderland complete with indoor snow showers, spectacular decorations, visits from Santa Clause, “Polar Wolf” Walks, festive activities at North Pole University, a Great Clock Tower Howl-iday Show, and a spectacular life-size dine-in gingerbread house, where families are invited to celebrate the magic of the season by dining inside.Guests can opt to stay in festive Snowland Suites, complete with twinkling lights, glimmering garland, a fully decorated tree, oversized snowflakes and a copy of Great Wolf Lodge’s story book, “Unique as a Snowflake.” As a special treat, Wiley and Violet the Wolf hand deliver cookies and milk to each Snowland Suite nightly to help guests end the day with a super sweet surprise.

Holidays on the Ellipse
Where: President’s Park | National Ellipse, DC
When: November 30 – January 1
Admission: Free


This has a permanent spot on many a DC holiday repertoire. The National Christmas Tree, the National Menorah, plus trains and displays representing all 50 states are a must-see during the season. 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. Bonus: there will also be musical performances throughout the season this year. Unfortunately, the adorable Santa’s Workshop once again is not back this year (you might recall there was confusion about it in the past), but go enjoy everything else.

Ice Lounge
Where: The Park at CityCenter | Penn Quarter, DC
When: December 1-3
Admission: Free

Plastic igloos are popping up all over the world, and this holiday season CityCenterDC will take it to the next level with a modern Igloo – Ice Lounge, made entirely of 36,000lbs of ice. Styled with plush interiors by Joseph Ireland of JD Ireland Interior Architecture + Design, this one-of-a-kind, frozen structure will allow Washingtonians to fulfill their subzero dreams for a weekend. Follow along on social media with the hashtag #CCDCHolidays. It’s sure to be an Insta-hit.

Christmas in Middleburg
Where: Middleburg, VA
When: December 1-3
Admission: Varies by activity

Christmas in Middleburg is a spectacular community event that includes a tree lighting, parade, Breakfast with Santa and Silent Auction, and the Middleburg Hunt Review creating a spectacular sight as 100 horses, riders in pink coats, and dozens of hounds come through the town. Throughout the day there are hayrides, choir performances, the Christmas in Middleburg Craft Show, the Middleburg Garden Club’s Christmas Flower & Greens Show at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, as well as shopping and dining in the town’s shops and restaurants. The Middleburg Christmas Parade begins is a highlight, with a unique assortment of floats, troops, and musical groups marching by. Santa brings up the rear riding on a beautiful horse drawn coach.

Family Gingerbread Workshops
Where: National Building Museum | Judiciary Square, DC
When: December 2-3
Admission: $75/house

Start a new family tradition with the National Building Museum’s annual family gingerbread workshop! Using “builder-grade” gingerbread, royal icing, and lots of edible decorations, create a sweet, sweet house to take home to display (or eat) over the holidays. We provide the supplies, you bring the creativity. The cost of this program is per-house. A group of 4 can comfortably work on one house together. FYI: Members get first dibs! (And note the link above is for a 12/2 workshop, bu there is also one on 12/3.)

Smithsonian Holiday Festival
Where: National Museum of American History | National Mall, DC
When: December 2-3
Admission: Free

The Smithsonian will host its annual free, two-day festival at the National Museum of American History to kick off the holiday season. A great selection of festive events, entertainment, exhibits, activities, and seasonal décor will be available throughout the day, including musical performances by U.S. Air Force Band High Flight and Sounds of Faith. Other highlights include chocolate sampling during a demo by Mars Heritage Chocolate, and the Children’s Television Holiday display showcasing popular childhood characters sand more. Visitors can also enjoy a variety of treats at the museum cafe.

Deck the Halls: A Family at Christmas
Where: Tudor House | Georgetown, DC
When: December 2, 1-4pm
Admission: $10/child, $5/adult

Bring the family and celebrate the festive season at Tudor Place! Explore the historic mansion as a History Detective, finding decorations and clues to Christmas celebrations past. Nibble on cookies, write a letter to Santa, sing with carolers, make yuletide crafts, and enjoy refreshments throughout an afternoon of warm merriment.

Scottish Christmas Walk Parade
Where: Old Town | Alexandria, VA
When: December 2, 11am
Admission: Free

For the 47th consecutive year, the Scottish Christmas Walk Parade will showcase marching units filled with the magnificent tartans of Scottish Clans, the stirring sound of Scottish bagpipes and drums, Scottish dancers, reenactment groups, Scottie dogs, dignitaries, classic cars, Santa Claus, and more. The parade begins at St. Asaph and Wilkes Streets and concludes at Market Square with a massed band concert – rain or shine. There will also be other festive events throughout the weekend — see the website for details.

Bethesda’s Winter Wonderland
Where: Downtown Bethesda, MD
When: December 2, 1-4pm
Admission: Free, but concerts and events cost extra

Bethesda’s Winter Wonderland is back, turning Bethesda Row into an outdoor street bazaar. The celebration features holiday performances, a live ice sculpting presentation, and a visit from Santa Claus in Veterans Park.

Santa Fly-In
Where: College Park Aviation Museum | College Park, MD
When: December 2
Admission: $5

This will be an experience to remember as you watch Santa fly into the historic College Park Airport (it’s the world’s oldest continuously operating airport)! Make some holiday arts and crafts, then have your picture taken with Santa Claus after his big flight.

Frost Fest
Where: Pentagon Row | Pentagon City, VA
When: December 2
Admission: Free

Join the holiday celebration featuring an on-ice firework display, live entertainment, music by a live DJ, special promos, and more. The grand finale fireworks show will take place on the ice at 7:30pm.

Holly TrolleyFest
Where: National Capitol Trolley Museum | Colesville, MD
When: December 2-23 & 30 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.

Chocolate Binge Festival
Where: Downtown Annapolis, MD
When: December 3, 12-5pm
Admission: $5-10

Everyone loves chocolate and Annapolis will be celebrating by filling West Street with local chocolatiers ready to help chocoholics get through the holiday season. Prepare your sweet tooth with an afternoon of chocolate decadence as over 20 local and regional chocolatiers vend their specialies, plus make s’mores at a bonfire in the street, and enjoy hot cocoa from the popo. The Festival will also feature family friendly entertainment, holiday shopping, and the lighting of West Street’s BGE Holiday Light Canopy.

Light Up the Season
Where: Four Seasons Hotel | Georgetown, DC
When: December 3
Admission: Starts at $50

Presented by the Children’s Health Board, his special holiday family-friendly event is a fundraiser for Children’s National Health System. It will feature decorated trees, wreaths, mantelpieces, and a menorah, each piece a unique collaboration between patients of Children’s National and notable area designers and businesses. Afternoon festivities will also include musical performances, youth entertainers, visits from Santa and the Children’s National mascot, Dr. Bear, a silent auction, ornament making, and cookie decorating.

Winternational
Where: Ronald Reagan Building | Downtown DC
When: December 6, 11am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Explore the world and do some holiday shopping — all during the lunch hour! This lively midday festival is a celebration of international culture, travel, tourism and trade. It has the atmosphere of an international bazaar with each country showcasing their culture and traditions via visual arts displays, foods, handcrafts, as well as travel and tourism information.

Holiday Card Workshop
Where: National Postal Museum | Near Union Station, DC
When: December 9, 10am – 4pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate the holiday season by creating one-of-a-kind handmade cards. The National Postal Museum provides beautiful holiday stamps from all over the world, along with a variety of crafts supplies to both inspire your creativity and decorate your cards. We’ve attended this annual event several times, and its always very well organized and tons of fun. After making your cards, visit the museum’s stamp store to send the cards to your loved ones with a special Museum postmark. And plan to stay and tour the exhibits, many of them interactive and interesting for all ages. Read more about the museum in this KFDC post.

Winter’s Eve
Where: Glen Echo Park | Glen Echo, MD
When: December 9, 4-7pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate the holiday season at the Park’s annual Winter’s Eve event. Enjoy free activities including holiday crafts, sing-alongs, story-telling, open studios, and a hot chocolate bar. Browse and buy fine artworks at the Holiday Art Show and artist studios.

“Yes, Virginia” Reading & Visit with Santa
Where: Newseum | Judiciary Square, DC
When: December 2, 1-2:30pm
Admission: FREE for kids (details below), $19.50/adult

Celebrate the season with a reading of the heart-warming editorial, Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus. Afterward, the One-and-Only Santa Claus will make a special guest appearance to read “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” and pose for photos with good boys and girls. The Figgy Puddings Holiday Carolers from the Washington National Opera will perform throughout the Newseum. Kids 18 and younger will receive FREE ADMISSION to the Newseum that day if they bring a letter to put in the Macy’s Believe Box. (There will also be a table outside the Newseum where youth can write a letter on the spot.) Macy’s will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish® for every letter collected. For more about the museum, see this KFDC post.

Gifts That Give Hope Gift Fair
Where: Discovery Elementary School | Arlington, VA
When: December 9, 10am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Instead of giving another tie or candle this year, how about boxing up hope and happiness? At a Gifts That Give Hope event, you can support the community and find unique and meaningful gifts for loved ones, co-workers, teachers and holiday hosts. Learn more about 17 locally based nonprofit organizations, enjoy festive holiday music and refreshments, visits with Santa, face painting, and other children’s activities. Shoppers of all ages are making GTGH an annual tradition, and young shoppers in particular come back each year to learn the true meaning of giving by participating in the Children’s Gift Fair.

Family Christmas Sing Along
Where: St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church | Bethesda, MD 20816
When: December 9, 5pm
Admission: Free

Learn the Christmas Story and sing songs to celebrate the holiday. Enjoy a free chili supper and photos with Santa, too. All are welcome! St. Dunstan’s is located at 5450 Massachusetts Avenue in Bethesda.

Hot Chocolate Happy Hour
Where: Hamilton Hotel | Downtown DC
When: December 11-22, 4-6pm
Admission: Free!

Hamilton Hotel hosts happy hour for all ages this holiday season! Savor two special kinds of hot chocolate for free in the evening during the 12 Days of Christmas celebration. Sip on the classically decadent Creamy Hot Chocolate or indulge in a cup of Caribbean Hot Chocolate, inspired by Alexander Hamilton’s hometown of Charlestown.

Nationals Winterfest
Where: Washington Convention Center | Mount Vernon Square, DC
When: December 16-17
Admission: $35/adult, $25/child (by 11/15)

The annual festival is full of interactive holiday and baseball activities for fans of all ages. Join clinics with Nationals players and coaches, watch a Homerun Derby featuring the Nationals mascots, make a snow fort, take batting practice, hear a winter or baseball themed story read by a Nationals player, ride down The Slider – a giant slide reminiscent of a sledding hill, and more. Guests can also meet and greet their favorite Nationals players and mascots, take a photo with Santa, strike a pose at the life-size snow globe photo station, and donate a toy to a child in need. Note: Admission is $35/adult, $25/child if purchased by November 15, after $39/adult, $29/child).

Christmas Caroling
Where: The Wharf | Southwest DC
When: December 23, 5-8pm
Admission: Free

Enjoy the sounds of the season, featuring the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, and join in as they sing holiday songs to spread the Christmas spirit all along the waterfront. While you’re there, treat yourself to s’mores at the fire pit and visit the lighted Christmas Tree.

Christmas Eve Breakfast Tour
Where: The Mansion on O Street | Dupont Circle, DC
When: December 24
Admission: $39

They deck the halls and fill the stockings with seasons greetings and holiday cheer that will create lasting memories for the entire family at the Mansion on O Street! Enjoy a delicious continental breakfast (sweet breads, yogurt, granola, fresh fruit hot coffee, hot tea, hot chocolate) then tour the wonderful themed rooms and search for secret doors. Be sure to bring your own shopping bags — everything is for sale! See more about this wonderfully unique DC attraction this KFDC post.

First Night Alexandria
Where: Old Town | Alexandria, VA
When: December 31
Admission: $20 until 12/10, $30 after, free/12 & under
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!


Come light the Menorah at the Ellipse on December 12

Come light the Menorah at the Ellipse on December 12


 
CHANUKAH
 
Chai Treasure Hunt
Where: Mansion on O Street | Dupont Circle, DC
When: Through December 31
Admission: $30

Celebrate life and be stumped finding clues for Jewish customs on this heartfelt down-memory-lane treasure hunt. Have fun searching for specific items donated to the O Museum in The Mansion. Includes self-guided tour through themed rooms and secret doors. Bring your own shopping bags — everything is for sale! See more about this wonderfully unique DC attraction this KFDC post.

Annual Hanukkah Party
Where: National Museum of American Jewish Military History | Northwest DC
When: December 14, 6:30-8:30pm
Admission: Free

Join the National Museum of American Jewish Military History at their annual Hanukkah Party for latkes, jelly doughnuts, gelt and song! Explore the museum and eat, play games, and sing. Explore some of the facts and myths about Hanukkah and look at the ways Jews in the American military have continued the tradition of the Maccabees.
We’ll be collecting winter coats for veterans in need.

Make Room for Latkes!
Where: Edlavitch DCJCC | Downtown DC
When: December 3, 10:30am – 12pm
Admission: $10/family in advance, $15 at door

This Chanukah make room for latkes AND dosas!Meet Pamela Ehrenberg, author of the new PJ Library book, The Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas, and enjoy hands-on activities, crafts, cooking, singing, food, a mitzvah (good deed) project and take-home goodies. It’s a perfect morning for Jewish and interfaith families with children ages 3 and older.

Chanukah Celebration
Where: Edlavitch DCJCC | Downtown DC
When: December 10
Admission: $23-25/family

Grab your socks and your yarmulke, it’s time to bounce for Chanukah! This year’s rockin’ Chanukah party will feature a moon bounce, games, crafts, treats and plenty of fun for the whole family.

National Menorah Lighting
Where: President’s Park | The National Ellipse, DC
When: December 12, 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 order them in advance through the website.

First Night of Hanukkah
Where: The Wharf | Southwest DC
When: December 12
Admission: Free

Head to the District Pier at the Wharf as they light the first candle on the Menorah to celebrate the Festival of Lights. Extend your evening there with some ice skating, a bit to eat, and to stroll around and enjoy the scene.


See the neighborhood in a whole new light at Georgetown GLOW


 
LIGHT DISPLAYS
 
Winter Walk of Lights

Where: Meadowlark Botanical Gardens | Vienna, VA
When: November 10 – January 7
Admission: $13/adult, $8/ages 3-12

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. Stroll by perennial favorites such as the animated Lakeside Lights, the Fountain of Lights, and the Holiday Nature Walk — and look for new displays this year, too. Round out your visit by roasting marshmallows and sipping on hot beverages by the fire (available for purchase at Light Refreshments concessions).

Lights on the Bay
Where: Sandy Point State Park | Annapolis, MD
When: November 18 – January 1
Admission: $15/car (look for a discount)

Head to the Chesapeake for some holiday fun! SPCA of Anne Arundel County presents the 24th annual Lights on the Bay light show that features a two-mile scenic drive along the Bay with 70 festive displays illuminating the roadway. Lights on the Bay has something for everyone in the family. Children can participate in a nightly scavenger hunt, challenging them to find items within the show, answer display-related questions and enter a drawing to win prizes. And Santa will make an appearance on Thanksgiving Day!

Symphony of Lights
Where: Symphony Woods at Merriweather | Columbia, MD
When: November 21 – January 1, Tuesdays-Sundays
Admission: $20/car, $25 on Saturdays

Called a “woodland wonderland,” this beautiful display of more than 100 all new 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. And the Symphony of Lights is the largest annual fundraising event benefiting Howard County General Hospital, the only hospital in Howard County. (Note that it’s closed on December 31.)

Bull Run Festival of Lights
Where: Bull Run Regional Park | Centreville, VA
When: November 22 – January 7
Admission: Mon-Thurs $15/car, Fri-Sat $20/car (look for a discount)

For more than 14 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.

Garden of Lights
Where: Brookside Gardens | Wheaton, MD
When: November 24 – January 1, with noted exceptions
Admission: $25/car Mon-Thurs, $30/car Fri-Sun (look for a discount)

The Garden of Lights celebrates its 19th season as a DC area family holiday tradition! Step into a magical winter wonderland illuminated with more than one million dazzling colorful lights shaped into hand-crafted, original art forms of flowers, animals and other natural elements. Stroll from garden to garden enjoying twinkling tree forms, sparkling fountains, and whimsical winter scenes. Afterwards, warm up inside the Visitors Center — sip hot cocoa and listen to one of the nightly musical performances. KFDC tip: Go on a weekday if you can swing it to avoid crowds. View scenes from one of our visits there.

ZooLights
Where: National Zoo | Woodley Park, DC
When: November 24 – January 1, 5-9pm (Closed 12/24, 25, 31)
Admission: Free

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, a dazzling light show set to music, and snow-less tubing. Guests can also enjoy live entertainment, a special train ride for children, a whirl on the Conservation Carousel, special talks by animal keepers, Zoo-themed model trains displays, and more “wild” holiday fun. The Small Mammal House, Reptile Discovery Center and Think Tank are open every night. And new this year: A free, glow-in-the-dark play zone for children, Rides and parking cost extra.

Festival of Lights
Where: Watkins Regional Park | Upper Marlboro, MD
When: November 24 – January 1, 5-9:30pm nightly
Admission: $10/car, FREE on December 25


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

Winter Lights Festival

Where: Seneca Creek State Park | Gathersburg, MD
When: November 24 – December 31
Admission: $12/car Mon-Thurs, $15/car Fri-Sun (look for discount)

The 22nd Annual Winter Lights Festival will feature more than 380 illuminated vignettes and 65 animated displays in a 3.5 mile drive through beautiful Seneca Creek State Park. Themed areas include Winter Woods, Teddy Bear Land, Victorian Village, North Pole, and much more. Hours are Sunday-Thursday 6-9pm and Friday-Saturday 6-10pm. Closed on 12/25.

Georgetown GLOW
Where: Throughout Georgetown, DC
When: December 8 – January 7
Admission: Free

See Georgetown in a whole new gorgeous light — literally. Every evening through January 7, the neighborhood will sparkle with modern light art installations on exhibit throughout the bustling community. Works of local, regional, and international artists will be on display in both public and privately-owned spaces, including M Street, along the C&O Canal, and more nearby places. Take the family dinner, then go for a stroll to check them all out. Get a glimpse of last year’s light show here.

Garden in Lights
Where: Annmarie Sculpture Garden | Solomons, MD
When: December 1 – January 1 (closed 12/4, 5, 24, 25)
Admission: $6, free/3 & under

This magical tour takes visitors on a beautiful trip through the glittering woods. As you stroll the protected path, you will be transported to a fantastical place of spectacular lights and amazing “light sculptures.” Guests will be surrounded by mythical beasts, wild animals, airplanes, pirates, princesses, circus performers, dinosaurs, and more. Because all the “light sculptures” are made at Annmarie, the designs are one-of-a-kind; nothing in this show is commercially available. It is all made just for visitors to Annmarie Garden In Lights! Enjoy the “Holiday I Spy Game,” nightly entertainment, special discount nights, sweet treats, and other fun activities.

Festival of Lights
Where: Mormon Temple | Rockville, MD
When: November 30 – December 31
Admission: Free

Its official name is the Washington, DC Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but most Washingtonians know it as the Mormon Temple that you can see driving on the outer loop of the Beltway near Bethesda. During the holiday season the grounds glow with more than 650,000 LED lights that visitors are welcome to enjoy. There are also free nightly performances in an indoor theater, Christmas trees decorated in international themes, an exhibit of crèches from around the world, and a life-sized outdoor nativity.

The District’s Holiday Boat Parade
Where: The Wharf | Southwest DC
When: December 2
Admission: Free

Join The Wharf to celebrate the season and see the beautifully decorated boats pass by. Get into the spirit with the guaranteed first snow of the season and decorate your own boat. Sip hot cocoa and make s’mores at the fire pit. Visit the lighted Christmas Tree and enjoy other fun activities, including live music, skating on the new ice rink, and sampling winter drinks at the Waterfront Wine & Beer Garden.

Alexandria Boat Parade of Lights

Where: Alexandria City Marina | Alexandria, VA
When: December 2
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. Before and after the parade, stop in to the Torpedo Factory Art Center’s Holiday Open House between 2-6pm to enjoy performances by the Alexandria Choral Society plus gift shopping in open artist studios.

The Downtown Holiday Market in Penn Quarter


 
HOLIDAY MARKETS
 
Museum Shop Around
Where: Strathmore
When: November 9-12
Admission: $10 suggested donation

This annual market brings the best of the area’s finest museum gift shops all to one place. At Strathmore’s Museum Shop Around you’ll find toys, jewelry, one-of-a-kind gifts — some handmade, all art-inspired — for yourself and everyone on your holiday list.

Christmas Bazaar
Where: St. Jane de Chantal | Bethesda, MD
When: November 11, 9am – 4pm
Admission: Free

Get started on holiday shopping at St. Jane de Chantal’s 12th Annual Christmas Bazaar, a fundraiser to benfit the school Kick off the Christmas season and shop local! Unique items from more than 30 vendors with jewelry, home decor, accessories, personalized gifts ,and much more!  Plus there will be a thrift shop, children’s book fair, food trucks, bake sale, and raffles! Get free pictures with Santa just in time for holiday cards and enjoy storytime with Mrs. Claus. Located at 9525 Old Georgetown Rd, Bethesda.

Bethany House Holiday Bazaar
Where: First Baptist Church | Alexandria, VA
When: November 17-18
Admission: $5/adult

Get an early start on your holiday shopping at this bazaar benefiting Bethany House, a domestic violence shelter in Northern VA that serves women and children survivors of domestic violence. The bazaar features regional artisans, crafters, and unique businesses. Browse international gift items, such as jewelry, paintings, essential oils, home décor, and more.

Holiday Shops
Where: Dock5 at Union Market | Northeast DC
When: November 17-19
Admission: $5-50

Holiday Shops is more than a unique shopping experience; it is also one of the Junior League of Washington’s major fundraisers. Proceeds from the event support the League’s ongoing efforts to improve the Washington, DC, community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers and by awarding annual grants to local nonprofits.
Each year, they welcome thousands of shoppers throughout the weekend. Merchants will help you find those special gifts for your family and friends, and with each purchase, you will know you are making a positive impact on the community.

Mayfield Market Christmas Bazaar
Where: Connelly School of the Holy Child | Potomac, MD
When: November 18-19
Admission: Free

Holy Child’s 13th annual Mayfield Market Christmas Bazaar, always the weekend before Thanksgiving, is a shopping extravaganza you won’t want to miss. Start your holiday shopping early in a festive atmosphere with more than 60 vendors selling their jewelry, clothing, home décor, children’s presents, hostess gifts, personalized items, holiday decorations, and much more to make your shopping the easiest and best ever. Plan to stay for lunch from the food trucks.

Christmas Village
Where: West Shore Park, Inner Harbor | Baltimore, MD
When: November 23 – December 24,
Admission: Free weekdays, $5/adult on weekends

West Shore Park in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor will be transformed into a Christmas Village, an authentic German holiday market, that is full of fun for all ages. There’s kids entertainment all day long, photo ops with Santa, gingerbread house making, a bratwurst eating contest, and more. Plus, everyday there are more than 60 booths to browse for gifts, food, entertainment, and lots of holiday fun to celebrate the season. Hours are Sun-Thur 11am – 7pm, Fri-Sat 11am – 8pm, Thanksgiving and Christmas 11am –
5pm. Note that it will be closed the first three Tuesdays.

Downtown Holiday Market
Where: 8th & F Streets NW | Penn Quarter, DC
When: November 24 – December 23, 12-8pm
Admission: Free

This one, to me, is the holiday market in DC. It’s not even so much about the merchandise for sale (though there’s always a great variety of gift items — I never leave empty handed). There’s something about the usually bustling block in the middle of Penn Quarter transforming into an open air market for a few weeks that is so charming and kind of magical, making our big city feel like a small town. A bonus is the free live entertainment along with treats and coffee drinks available for purchase. And after you’ve done your shopping and enjoyed a snack and music, you can pop into the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum that are literally right next to the market.

Eastern Market
Where: Eastern Market | Capitol Hill, DC
When: Year-round Saturdays & Sundays
Admission: Free

The outdoor flea market at the centerpiece of the Capitol Hill community is practically a year-round weekend institution for locals. And during the holiday season, it’s a go-to for shoppers seeking unique gifts along with a fun outing. Over 100 vendors are there, selling everything from original artwork to fun T-shirts, to handmade jewelry and accessories, to home décor to custom-made and used furniture – and much, much more. If you’re cooking up a holiday meal, you can get fresh produce from farmers’ stalls outside and butchered meats, fancy cheeses, baked goods, pasta, fresh produce, and more inside the actual Eastern Market. Even more, there is often live music courtesy of buskers around the area, and if the kids want some play time afterwards, you can hit one of several parks or playgrounds in the neighborhood (Lincoln Park, at 11th and East Capitol, is the largest and most popular among them).

Christkindlmarkt
Where: Heurich House Museum | Dupont Circle, DC
When: December 1-3
Admission: $10/ages 13+ and $2/ages 2-12

Do some shopping at Christkindlmarkt, an annual holiday artisan market and festive house tou, honoring the Heurich family’s German heritage by recreating a traditional outdoor German Christmas market in its Castle Garden. Dupont Circle’s only holiday market will feature goods from over 40 local artisans, including jewelers, ceramicists, chocolatiers, and makers of housewares, clothing, and more. Visitors will also have the opportunity to explore the seasonally decorated historic mansion on a self-guided tour.

Alexandria’s Holiday Market
Where: Carlyle District | Alexandria, VA
When: December 1-23 (but not everyday, see the website)
Admission: Free

This annual signature event transforms the Carlyle District into a lively European Festival similar to the infamous Christmas Markets taking place in Germany or France. Shop for unique art and craft items, and enjoy live entertainment, traditional European food and sweets, hot wine, and hot cocoa. Be sure to visit the children’s corner for kid’s activities to learn more about European traditions and culture. The Market is located at 300 John Carlyle Street in Alexandria.

Holiday Festival & Art Market
Where: Torpedo Factory Art Center
When: December 2, 2-6 pm
Admission Free

The Torpedo Factory Artists invite shoppers into their studios to find original gifts of art. Handmade jewelry and ornaments, original ceramics, couture finds, objet d’art, and other fine works will be available to browse and buy. Special holiday promotions and discounts will be available from dozens of artists and galleries. The afternoon will also feature a children’s scavenger hunt, live music with the Alexandria Choral Society and Braddock Brass, and a visit from Santa.

Holiday Maker’s Markets
Where: Annmarie Sculpture Garden | Solomons, MD
When: December 2, 9, & 18
Admission: Free

Get a jump on holiday shopping with all things handmade, homemade, or homegrown! Ceramics, stained glass, hanging baskets, wood and leather crafts, organic skincare products, local distillery products, baked goods, batik and fleece clothing, handmade soaps and candles, herbal teas, ornaments, folk art, and more. Each market will feature a new set of vendors.

Carpe Noctem
Where: St. Jerome Academy | Hyattsville, MD
When: December 2, 5-9pm
Admission: $5/adult, free for kids

Seize the Night while you sip and shop, perusing the aisles for beautiful, unique gifts. The event supporting the students of St. Jerome Academy features two levels of shopping fun. In addition to many talented vendors and live music throughout the evening, Carpe Noctem has various dinner options, wine, beer, tasty desserts, and warm drinks for kids available for purchase. Children can enjoy face-painting, a photo op with St. Nicholas, and coloring activities.

40th Annual Holiday Arts and Crafts Show
Where: Audrey Moore Recreation Center | Annandale, VA
When: December 2, 9am-4pm & December 3, 10am-3:30pm
Admission: $2, free/12 & under

Experience one of Northern Virginia’s longest running arts and crafts show with plenty of great gifts to choose from. Top-quality handmade arts and crafts will be offered by nearly 100 of the area’s finest artisans. Door prizes will be awarded, too! Audrey Moore RECenter is located at 8100 Braddock Road in Annandale.

CWP Annual Holiday Bazaar
Where: Children’s Weekday Program | Arlington, VA
When: December 2
Admission: Free, though some activities cost extra

Join us for seasonal treats, a fabulous silent auction, great holiday gifts from crafters and local vendors, fun children’s activities, and even a visit with Santa. This event in our Great Hall offers a festive jumpstart for your holiday shopping. From handcrafts to thoughtful all-in-one gift baskets, you’ll find something perfect for everyone on your holiday list. This year we’ve got great items from the Nationals, the Spy Museum, the Boomerang Pirate Ship, and so much more! The Children’s Weekday Program is an independent, non-profit preschool and parents’ day out program in Arlington, VA.

Gifts That Give Hope Gift Fair
Where: Discovery Elementary School, Arlington
When: December 9, 10am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Instead of giving another tie or candle this year, how about boxing up hope and happiness? At a Gifts That Give Hope event, you can support the community and find unique and meaningful gifts for loved ones, co-workers, teachers and holiday hosts. Learn more about 17 locally based nonprofit organizations, enjoy festive holiday music and refreshments, visits with Santa, face painting, and other children’s activities. Shoppers of all ages are making GTGH an annual tradition, and young shoppers in particular come back each year to learn the true meaning of giving by participating in the Children’s Gift Fair.

Sugarloaf Craft Festival
Where: Dulles Expo Center | Chantilly, VA
When: December 8-10
Admission: $8/advance, $10/at door, free/11 & under

This seasonal fair showcases works by more than 300 top artisans. Pottery, sculpture, glass, jewelry, fashion, home and garden décor, furniture and home accessories, and photography will be on display — and for sale. The best part is that the award-winning festival is a family affair. Parents can shop, and children can enjoy an interactive puppet theater and watch live-demonstrations of iron forging, papermaking, stone sculpting, and other media by the master craftspeople themselves. Not to mention, gourmet goodies hand-made by specialty food vendors always leave everyone wanting more. Tickets are good for all three days of the Festival.

* * * * *


Getting ready for the holidays at home is always fun, too 🙂

 
Know of a great DC holiday event that you don’t see here? Let us know in the comments below!

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Where to Play on Thanksgiving Day

The Air & Space Museum and all of the Smithsonian Museums remain open on Thanksgiving!



How about a side of recreation to go with your Thanksgiving turkey? If you’re going to be in town for the holiday and looking for pre- or post-feast activities, here are some ways to complement the main event of the day. Happy Thanksgiving!

* Visit a Smithsonian museum or the National Zoo. They are all open on Thanksgiving from 10am – 5:30pm, except for the American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery which are open 11:30am – 7pm. The National Gallery of Art (which is not part of the Smithsonian, just a neighbor on the Mall) is open, too, from 10am – 5pm.

* Experience Season’s Greenings at the U.S. Botanic Garden on opening day! Get an idea of what to expect in this post with scenes from last year’s exhibition.

* Hang out at a playground. Hains Point, Clemyjontri, Watkins Regional Park, Beauvoir, Cabin John Regional Park, Wheaton Regional Park, plus loads of DC Parks and Rec locations, and many more in NoVa and Maryland are great places to play while you’re waiting for the feast.

* Get gliding and enjoy some active fun. You can skate under the sky at one of several ice rinks in the area that are open on the holiday. Find info for them here.

* Bundle up and enjoy a holiday hike. For those who like to get out, even on chilly days — it’s going to be a cooold Turkey Day this year — Rock Creek, Great Falls, Roosevelt Island, Huntley Meadows, Prince William Forest, Riverbend, and Turkey Run are all great parks for family tramping. This post has details on all of them along with even more recs for local walks in the woods.

* Go bowling. Pinstripes in Georgetown hosts Kids Bowling from 10am – 12pm, when ages 12 and under bowl for just $6 (and parents bowl free!). You can also hit the lanes at Lucky Strike in Penn Quarter, Bowlmor in Bethesda or Rockville, or Bowl America in several NoVa locations.

* Get into the holiday spirit at Christmas on the Potomac, the Gaylord National Resort’s spectacular seasonal attraction.

* Dance off the turkey dinner at the Kennedy Center. The evening’s free Millennium Stage performance features their annual Thanksgiving Day Swing Dance Party with music by Pittsburgh’s Dr. Zoot and swing dance instruction and performances by Gottaswing. This all takes place from 6-9pm, and admission is free.

* Take an evening drive or stroll through a holiday light display — several in the area have started dazzling visitors with twinkling wonderlands.


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Filed under All ages, Animals, Annual, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Free, Holidays, Indoor Play, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Music, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Seasonal, Virginia, Weekdays

The 2016 KFDC Guide to the Best of the Holidays in DC

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Embrace the holiday spirit at these area events, many that have become family traditions for Washingtonians. Local stages come alive with holiday shows. Model trains wind through miniature Christmas villages. Light displays dazzle visitors as they walk or drive among them. Special markets offer unique gifts along with good time. And all kinds of events and extravaganzas, several at iconic locales, bring holiday cheer and activities that thrill and enchant kids — and the kid in all of us adults. This KFDC Guide to the Best of the Holidays in DC, categorized and listed by starting date, will help you plan for it all.

Holiday Shows

Tree Lightings

Model Trains

Special Events

Chanukah

Light Displays

Holiday Markets

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Holiday Shows

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A Christmas Carol
Where: Ford’s Theatre
When: November 17 – December 31
Tickets: $22-92
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. Recommended for ages 5 and up. Performance is two hours (including a 15-minute intermission).

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
Where: Imagination Stage
When: November 19 – January 15
Tickets: $10+

Celebrate the 25th anniversary of this beloved film by attending the live performance at Imagination Stage this holiday season! Packed with memorable tunes like “Be Our Guest”, “Human Again”, and “Beauty and the Beast”, this holiday musical has something for the entire family! Once upon a time, in a French provincial town, Belle is the bookish daughter of a hapless inventor. She narrowly avoids the amorous advances of the bully Gaston only to find herself imprisoned in the castle of a terrible Beast. While the servants Cogsworth, Lumiere, Mrs. Potts and Chip conspire to make Belle fall in love with their bewitched master, she gradually wins over his heart by virtue of her kindness and patience. Excitement builds as Gaston gathers a mob to rid the community of the ugly Beast and to claim Belle for himself alone. Needless to say, after much high drama, silly laughter, exuberant singing and dancing, love wins the day!

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Where: Adventure Theatre
When: December 2-31
Tickets: $19.50 (Enter to win a Family 4-Pack!)
Join Adventure Theatre for this snowy, holiday classic featuring just a two-person cast! Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are sent to live in the countryside home of professor Digory Kirke. As Lucy explores the house, she discovers a secret portal to a magical world called Narnia. With an evil White Witch ruling the kingdom, can Lucy, her new friend Mr. Tumnus, and her family band together to save Narnia?

The Nutcracker
Where: The Puppet Co.
When: November 25 – December 30
Tickets: $10 (look for discount tickets)

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 ages 5 and up.

Nutcracker Fantasy
Where: The Puppet Co. Tiny Tots
When: November 25 – December 30
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.

Virginia National Ballet’s The Nutcracker
Where: The Hylton Performing Arts Center
When: November 25
Tickets: $20-35

Virginia National Ballet/Gainesville Ballet are excited to announce two performances of The Nutcracker this season! The full-length ballet features Virginia National Ballet’s outstanding roster of American and international dancers, special guest Nurlan Abougaliev, and the students of Gainesville Ballet School. This Nutcracker is the first in the region, starting on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and is the perfect way to kick off the holiday season

The Washington Ballet presents: Septime Webre’s The Nutcracker
Where: THEARC Theater
When: November 26-27
Tickets: $30-50, $15/Ward 7 & 8 residents

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 celebrated production has become a DC perennial holiday favorite, set in historic Georgetown with historical figures and whimsical touches. Replete with swirling snowflakes, cherry blossoms and historic characters including George Washington as the Nutcracker and King George III as the menacing Rat King! Join us again with family and friends or start a new holiday tradition with your loved ones.

The Second Shepherds’ Play
Where: Folger Shakespeare Library
When: November 27 – December 21
Tickets: $29-60

This magical retelling of the Nativity story combines beautiful music and a moving story for the holiday season. Revived by Folger Consort from its 2007 production, which the Washington Post called “a lovely seasonal surprise,” this engaging medieval mystery play and its festive English music of the period beautifully weaves together the stories of the shepherds, a sheep thief and his cunning wife, and the miracle in a humble manger in Bethlehem.

Seasons of Light
Where: Discovery Theater
When: November 30 – December 20
Tickets: $3-8


Joy, warmth, and community illuminate seasonal holiday celebrations the world over. Back for its 16th 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.

Adventures with Mr. Bear
Where: The Lab at Convergence & Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 1-17 & December 18-30
Tickets: $9, 12 months and under are free

Arts on the Horizon presents this winter show at two area theatres! The wonder and magic of a child’s imagination are brought to life in this charming world premiere. One cozy winter afternoon, a young girl and her favorite stuffed animal, Mr. Bear, play a game of hide and seek which evolves into a series of exciting adventures. Together, they embark on a journey of endless possibilities – all from the comfort of her playroom! Cuddle up with your favorite stuffed animal friend and join us for a delightful holiday production. Recommended for children ages 2-6.

Septime Weber’s The Nutcracker
Where: Warner Theatre
When: December 1-24
Tickets: $35-101 (look for discount tickets)


Set in 1882 Georgetown, this gorgeous production showcases the grandeur of The Washington Ballet’s international roster of dancers and majesty of Tchaikovsky’s music. Replete with swirling snowflakes, cherry blossoms and historical characters, including George Washington as the heroic nutcracker, TWB’s The Nutcracker has become a tradition for generations of family and friends to celebrate the holidays. Read a KFDC review of the production from a few years ago. (Note: Family Day is December 6, with an hour pre-performance activities before the 1pm show.)

A Christmas Carol Memory
Where: Creative Cauldron
When: December 1-20
Tickets: $15-30

A young orphan girl being raised by a warm but eccentric aunt is spending a tender first Christmas without her parents. While searching the attic for ornaments to decorate her aunt’s tree, she discovers a theatrical trunk once used by her puppeteer grandfather. When the extended family gathers on Christmas Eve, the contents in the trunk reawaken memories and spur the renewal of a long forgotten family tradition—the re-enactment of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. A production that breathes fresh new life into a timeless holiday classic.

A Fairy Tale Christmas Carol
Where: Gunston Arts Center
When: December 2-4
Tickets: $10

In Encore Stage & Studio’s remake of a Christmas classic, your favorite fairy tale characters bring to life the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge’s magical Christmas Eve. Mother Goose lends her talents to narrate the story as the Big Bad Wolf takes on the humbugging lead role. Cinderella, the Three Little Pigs, Old King Cole, and many more help create a new twist on the traditional Dickensian story told every December. Recommended for ages 4 and up.

Holiday Sing-A-Long
Where: Wolf Trap
When: December 3, 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 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.”

Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras of Strathmore: Enchanted Visions
Where: Strathmore
When: December 4, 4:00pm
Tickets: $15-$25

The region’s top young musicians perform classics and holiday music for all to enjoy, featuring the Philharmonic playing Prokofiev’s Cinderella & Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty. Revelers will also enjoy Dvořák plus holiday chorus music with the Symphony, the Chamber Ensemble with Britten’s Simple Symphony, and Young Artists with Gliere and more Tchaikovsky.

Into the Woods
Where: Kennedy Center
When: December 6 – January 8
Tickets: $45-175 (look for discount tickets)

Venture back Into The Woods, a unanimously acclaimed, Tony Award(r)–winning musical classic by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine . This witty and wildly theatrical re-invention is Into The Woods as you’ve never seen it before! Mind the wolf, heed the witch, and honor the giant in the sky in this extraordinary musical about the power of wishes–and what really happens after they come true. Recommended for ages 6 and up.

Strathmore Children’s Chorus: This Shining Night
Where: Strathmore
When: December 6, 7:30pm
Tickets: $16

Make this extraordinary annual event your family’s holiday tradition. Join the astonishingly talented Strathmore Children’s Chorus—the cream of the pre-professional musical crop—in concert with guests the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School Choirs for a concert that celebrates the joys of the season in song.

Sleeping Beauty
Where: Synetic Theatre
When: December 7 – January 8
Tickets: $15-55

Synetic’s award-winning ensemble takes on the classic tale of a princess, an evil sorceress, and a centuries-long sleeping curse in this darkly elegant adaptation of one of the Grimm Brothers’ most beloved stories. Recommended for ages 7 and up.

The Nutcracker
Where: George Mason University Center for the Arts
When: December 9, 8pm
Tickets: $39-65 (Save 10% with code SAVE10)

Experience the magic of the season as the Fairfax Ballet Company joins forces with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra to present a special Nutcracker at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts. Tchaikovsky’s timeless masterpiece brings you on a journey through a winter wonderland of dancing snowflakes, sugar plum fairies, and an epic battle between heroic toy soldiers and mischievous mice. It’s the perfect holiday treat for the entire family!

The Second City’s Twist Your Dickens (KidFree Suggestion!))
Where: Kennedy Center
When: Dec 9-31
Tickets: $39-69 (look for a discount tickets)

The Second City parodies Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol for an interactive experience that Scrooge–and the audience!–will never forget. The legendary comedy troupe brings its improvisational skills and sketch comedy mastery to “the night before Christmas.” For ages 16 and up.

Christmas Revels: A Nordic Celebration of the Winter Solstice in Music, Dance & Drama
Where: Lisner Auditorium
When: December 10-18
Admission: $12-60

Join the Washington Revels on a journey into the wonders of Nordic winter traditions! As our families from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden gather to celebrate the season, let the haunting melodies, breathtaking dance, epic folk legends, and joyful carols get you into the holiday spirit! Discover mythic drama from Finland’s epic Kalevala. As the moon lights the snow, watch the spirited Icelandic Vikivaki as a mysterious stag looks on. Celebrate the Swedish “bringing of the light” by Sankta Lucia with her crown of candles. Watch dancers twirl in the hypnotic Telespringar and thrill to the spectacular leaps of Norway’s Tom Løvli in the Halling dance. Be enchanted by the songs and dances of our children, and participate in their retelling of a beloved Norwegian fairy tale. Delight as the tree is decorated with traditional woven hearts and raise your voice in festive Danish toasts and carols. *December 16 is Family Friday — get 25% off youth tickets

The Gift of the Mad Guy
Where: Annapolis Friends Meeting House
When: December 10
Tickets: $8/online, $10/door, free for 2 and under

The Gift of the Mad Guy, the story of a gift-crazed child who believes that Christmas is about giving specifically to HIM until he is promised a REALLY big gift if he gives three of his gifts to others. Will Jack learn that the holidays are about more than getting? Join Building Better People Productions for a day of theater for the whole family and find out!

Virginia Ballet Company & School: Selections from The Nutcracker
Where: National Theatre
When: December 10
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. Visions of snowflakes and sugarplums dance through the air and gingerbread soldiers triumph over the evil Rat King as you follow Clara into the land of sweets and 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.

Family Joy!
Where: Washington National Cathedral
When: December 10
Admission: $25/adult, $15/child, $765/family 4-pack

Join the Cathedral Choral Society at the Washington National Cathedral,for a special Christmas Concert. This one-hour program has something for all ages, including a kids-only sing-along. Bring the whole family and get swept up in the sounds of the season. To receive the discount on a Family 4-pack (2 adults and 2 children), use code SAVE at check out.

The Mini-Nut
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center
When: December 10-11
Tickets: $20/adults, $15/10 and under in advance | $20/at door


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. 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!

11th Annual Holiday Sing-Along
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 11
Tickets: $8.50

Join in the H Street tradition! Enjoy holiday favorites at the Atlas performed by the Capital City Symphony and sung by the Congressional Chorus and American Youth Chorus. Join in the singing during an audience sing-along.

The Lion, the Witch, the Wardrobe
Where: Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo Building in Woodbridge, VA
When: December 11, 12, 18, & 19
Tickets: $12/adult, $8/4-13, free for 3 and under

Homeschool Theatre Troupe presents this dramatization of C.S. Lewis’ classic. Set in the land of Narnia, the show recreates the magic and mystery of Aslan, his struggle with the White Witch, and the adventures of four children who inadvertently wander from an old wardrobe into the exciting, never-to-be-forgotten Narnia. The supporting characters are also here: Tumnus the faun, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, the Unicorn, the Centaur and other forest animals, as well as Father Christmas. This is a story of love, faith, courage and a triumph of good over evil.

Candlelight Christmas
Where: Kennedy Center
When: December 11-22 (family show December 17)
Tickets: $18-72

Each year, The Washington Chorus delights DC audiences with its Candlelight Christmas concerts — resplendent affairs comprisin (Family night December 17)g a candlelight processional, brass, organ, and audience sing-alongs. This year’s concerts will feature star tenor and DC native Carl Tanner as soloist. Also joining TWC are the Northwest High School Chamber Singers and the H-B Woodlawn Chamber Singers as part of the Side-by-Side program. *The December 17 concert will be a B.Y.O.Baby Night, with discounted tickets for families, designated seating and baby play areas, a pre-concert backstage tour, and other treats for the whole family.

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical
Where: National Theatre
When: December 13-31
Tickets: $48-128 (look for discount tickets)

Discover the magic of Dr. Seuss’ classic holiday tale as it comes to life on stage. Featuring the hit songs “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas,” The Grinch discovers there’s more to Christmas than he bargained for in this heart-warming holiday classic. Max the Dog narrates as the mean and scheming Grinch, whose heart is “two sizes too small,” decides to steal Christmas away from the Whos, an endlessly cheerful bunch bursting with holiday spirit. Celebrate the holidays with the show The New York Times calls “100 times better than any bedside story!”

Wicked
Where: Kennedy Center
When: December 15 – January 8
Tickets: $99-349

The Broadway sensation looks at what happened in the Land of Oz… but from a different angle. Long before Dorothy arrives, there is another young woman, born with emerald-green skin–smart, fiery, misunderstood, and possessing an extraordinary talent. When she meets a bubbly blonde who is exceptionally popular, their initial rivalry turns into the unlikeliest of friendships… until the world decides to call one “good,” and the other one “wicked.”

Holiday Singalong with Rocknoceros
Where: Discovery Theater
When: December 15-16
Admission: $3-8

Who’s having a holiday party? Coach, Williebob, and Boogie Bennie, that’s who! The area’s favorite kid-rock band has a great big musical present for you. Join them as they lead audiences in seasonal songs and Rockno classics. It’s a bash you just can’t miss!

Step Afrika!’s Magical, Musical Holiday Step Show
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 15-30
Tickets: $18-40

A new take on the holiday season! DC’s internationally-known percussive dance company invites you to celebrate the holidays with clapping, stomping, and all around fun for all ages featuring their furry friends from the Animal Kingdom, and a special dance party with DJ Frosty the Snowman! Taking the whole family to Step Afrika! Magical Musical Holiday Step Show? Get the Family Fun Pack: Four Tickets, Four FREE Snacks, Four FREE non-alcoholic drinks, all for $100!

The Hip Hop Nutcracker
Where: Strathmore
When: December 16
Tickets: $29-54

A holiday mash-up for the whole family, The Hip Hop Nutcracker re-imagines Tchaikovsky’s classic score through explosive hip-hop choreography. A dozen all-star dancers, an on-stage DJ, and an electric violinist bring the traditional Nutcracker story to life in contemporary New York City.

Shine a Light: A Solstice Circus
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 17-18
Tickets: $25/adult, $15/ages 11 and under

In the darkest winter days, one young man discovers that he has the power to bring light and inspire joy in even the most surprising places. This holiday show is an uplifting, delightful spectacle that will amaze the whole family. Featuring acrobats, aerialists, jugglers, and other dazzling performances – the spirit is sure to be contagious! Start a new and unique holiday tradition by coming to the circus! Appropriate for all ages.

A Family Christmas Concert
Where: Kennedy Center
When: December 17
Tickets: $20-45

Songs of Santa, Frosty the Snowman, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer fill the Concert Hall with the joy of the season. This one-hour, highly participatory concert is a holiday treat for the whole family. Perfect for children age 5 and older… and don’t forget the grandparents!

Kwanzaa Celebration – Family Series
Where: Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre
When: December 18, 4pm
Tickets: $25/adult in advance, $30/at door, kids free with adult

Welcome the holiday season with Dance Place’s annual Kwanzaa Celebration! Gather family and friends to join Coyaba Academy, Coyaba Dance Theater and special guests celebrate the seven principles of Kwanzaa. *During this Family Series, reserve 1 free ticket for a child 12 & under with paying adult!

The Nutcracker
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center
When: December 16-27
Tickets: $31/adults, $26/children in advance; $36/adults, $31/children at 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.

Annual Kwanzaa Day Celebration: Kujichagulia Live with Culture Queen!
Where: Fort Stanton Recreation Center
When: December 27-28
Admission: Free

Anacostia Community Museum invites you to join Culture Queen (Jessica Smith) as she brings to life the Kwanzaa principle Kujichagulia which means “self determination” through live music, interactive movement and storytelling the whole family will enjoy!



Tree Lightings

The National Tree from a Christmas past.

The National Tree from a Christmas past.

Tree Lighting Ceremony
Where: National Harbor
When: November 13, 12-7pm
Admission: Free

Join National Harbor for a full day of holiday fun, topped off by their annual tree lighting. They’ll have tons of holiday activities, including the opening of the holiday market, card-making for the Troops, a holiday movie on the Plaza, live entertainment, Santa at the carousel, fireworks, and more!

Light Up 2016
Where: Fairfax Corner
When: November 18
Admission: Free

Fairfax Corner is beginning the holiday season at the annual Light Up 2016 celebration. Festival goers will enjoy a Christmas tree lighting ceremony and holiday activities including a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, cookie decorating with Cupcakes Actually, a performance by The Oaktones, and store giveaways.

Merry & Bright Holiday Tree Lighting
Where: RIO Washingtonian
When: November 18
Admission: Free

Rio Washingtonian will begin the holiday season with their annual Merry & Bright Holiday Tree Lighting celebration. Festival goers will enjoy cheerful activities including a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus (arriving at 6:0pm and leaving promptly at 8pm), strolling holiday entertainment, horse and carriage rides, carousel rides presented by Adventist Health Care Shady Grove Medical Center, and store giveaways.

Reston Holiday Parade, Tree Lighting, Sing Along
Where: Reston Town Center
When: November 25
Admission: Free

Kicks off the festive season at the 26th annual Reston Holiday Parade with Macy’s-style balloons, musicians, dancers, antique cars, characters, community groups, dignitaries, special guest emcees, and much more. The one-of-a-kind, one-hour, half-mile parade also welcomes the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus in a horse-drawn carriage. The day also includes Gingerbread Man Mile races for kids, visits and photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, mini-train rides, ice skating, and street entertainment. The tree lighting and sing-along is an evening highlight.

Norwegian Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: Union Station
When: November 30, 6pm
Admission: Free

One of the most popular and often first of the major DC tree lighting ceremonies. This year’s tree will be adorned with hundreds of custom made polar bear ornaments and will be lit by the ambassador of Norway. Santa will be on hand with presents for the kids and The Carolers of Greater Washington (CGW) will perform.

National Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: President’s Park, The Ellipse
When: December 1
Admission: Free, but you must win tickets via lottery

This is easily one of the holiday season’s hottest tickets in DC, but you had to have entered the lottery to win admission. If you do, you get to be part of the National Park Foundation and National Park Service’s 95th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting. Popular entertainers and a United States military band add to the celebratory evening when the President of the United States lights the National Christmas Tree and brings a message of peace to the nation and world.

Community Tree Lighting
Where: Monroe Street Market
When: December 2, 6-8pm
Admission: Free

Monroe Street Market will host its inaugural community Tree Lighting event, bringing a Winter Wonderland to Brookland with a flurry of activities sure to ripen your holiday spirit! As sounds of the season fill the air, mingle through a variety of family-friendly activities, including a performance from Only Make Believe at 6pm. Other festivities include performances by Catholic University’s acapella group “Take Note” and DC’s own “Word of Mouth” acapella group, free photos with Santa (pets are welcome, too!), face painting, crafts, and delicious holiday flavors you don’t want to miss. Event will take place on the Cornerstone Plaza, located in front of Busboys & Poets. The countdown to the tree lighting starts at 8pm.

Tree Lighting & Seasonal Fun
Where: Cathedral Commons
When: December 3
Admission: Free

Cathedral Commons, a mixed-use development located on Wisconsin Avenue, will kick off the holiday season with its second annual Holiday Tree Lighting Event. Join Santa along with festive holiday music performed by Lafayette Elementary School children and Thomas Circle Singers. There will be food from the fabulous array of Cathedral Commons restaurants. Santa will be available for free photos with families including the four legged family members (cats and dogs only), and children will receive a FREE festive giveaway. The event will culminate with the official lighting of the 24’ foot holiday tree at 7pm in front of Giant Food.

Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol
When: December 6
Admission: Free

If you don’t win lottery tickets to see the National Christmas 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, follow the tree as it journeys from Idaho, where it was harvested, to DC. It’s expected to arrive in a couple of weeks, and the lighting will take place December 6. After the lighting, the tree will be lit every evening for all to enjoy until January 1.



Model Trains

Season's Greenings

Trains whiz through the always delightful Season’s Greenings display



Season’s Greenings

Where:U.S. Botanic Garden
When: November 24 – January 2
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’s National Parks and Historic Sites theme will feature mini trains chugging through the Grand Canyon, Old Faithful Inn, the Gateway Arch, Mount Vernon, the Statue of Liberty, and many more. And 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 post and this one about some of our Season’s Greenings experiences.

Magical Holiday Express
Where: B&O Railroad Museum
When: December 3-31 & January 2
Admission: $18/adults, $16/seniors (60+), $12/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. Trains are magical during the holidays, and the museum invites all aboard the B&O’s Magical Holiday Express, a spectacular celebration in the B&O Roundhouse devoted to trains of all sizes and shapes, holiday festivities, and a winter wonderland of family fun and activities. There is something to see and do every day at this annual holiday event! Be sure to look for special events like North Pole Adventures, Winter Royal Adventures, Frosty Fest, and WinterFest Wonderland on the website.

Garden Railway Exhibit
Where: Brookside Garden
When: November 28 – January 3
Admission: Free

Brookside’s South Conservatory will come to life with a landscape in miniature, as trains and trollies wind their way through town and country scenes, past one-of-a kind models of the Brookside Gardens Conservatories, the Dentzel Carousel and the Chautauqua Tower of Glen Echo Park. Colorful plantings will complement it all — winter may rule the outside landscape, but the conservatories will be bright with color and active with sound and motion to match the festive feeling of the season.

Holiday Trains and Planes
Where: College Park Aviation Museum
When: December 17 – December 23
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 Holiday Train Display, on view in the Main Hall. Featuring a Norwegian landscape, the displays are intricate and fun to stop by and see if you’re at the station during the holiday season.


Special Events

Last year's ICE! exhibit at Christmas on the Potomac

Last year’s ICE! exhibit at Christmas on the Potomac

 

Positivi-Tree Lighting and Street Fest
Where: Downtown Silver Spring
When: November 12, 6-8pm
Admission: Free

The 5th Annual event is Downtown Silver Spring’s official Tree Lighting and Street Fest. And this year it will feature the lighting of Positivi-Tre, an impressive 35-foot-tall public art installation comprised of hundreds of illuminated and multi-colored umbrellas! Other fun festivities of the evening will include food tastings, live entertainment, ice sculpting, and more!

Santa HQ
Where: Tyson’s Corner
When: November 14 – December 24
Admission: Free, but portrait packages start at $30

Discover holiday wonderment in this immersive and innovative experience with visual elements that transport you straight to the North Pole. Enter the HQ to be scanned by the digital Naughty or Nice O’Meter, snap an “Elfie Selfie” in Santa’s workshop and star in your own holiday video. Then onto the North Pole Observatory to experience Elf-Ray Vision in a 3D environment…all before meeting Santa himself!

Christmas on the Potomac
Where: National Harbor
When: November 19 – January 1
Admission: Free, though some activities cost extra

National Harbor goes all out during the holidays. ICE! might be the big attraction, but there’s also plenty 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.)

ICE!
Where: National Harbor
When: November 19 – January 1
Admission:
$28-35/adult, $20-28/child, 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’ve been a couple of times, and I recommended reading my reviews here and here before you go. This year has a “Christmas Around the World” theme, and you can delight in the celebration of cultures through holiday scenes and travel to the North Pole to see Santa and his elves. Experience the magic of more than TWO MILLION pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures and slide down two-story ice slides — all kept at a chilly 9 degrees! 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.

Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade
Where: Silver Plaza, Downtown Silver Spring
When: November 19, 10am – 12pm
Admission: Free

The line-up of over 100 parade units features an inflatable penguin and turkey, a massive dinosaur, a portable skating rink, and more colorful dancing groups than you have ever seen. Emcee ABC 7 Meteorologist Brian van de Graaff will introduce glittering floats, a wide variety of high school, college, and professional marching bands; beauty queens; clowns; fire engines; and performing dog and rescue animal groups. As always, the Parade will end with Santa’s float playing holiday music and showing the smiling, rosy cheeked man in a red suit who loves to hang out with elves and give out candy canes. Be sure to get a family photo: Right next to the ice rink, you can take a pic with a Frozen inflatable Elsa, a 10-foot tall turkey, or with Hanukkah or Christmas décor.

The Enchanted Forest
Where: Westin Tysons Corner
When: November 19-20
Admission: $15/kids, $10/adults (look for a ticket discount)

The Junior League of Northern Virginia’s annual Enchanted Forest returns! Stroll through the whimsical forest of theme decorated trees available for silent auction, while enjoying live entertainment, hands on cooking demonstrations, and Kids in the Holiday Kitchen activities, a visit from Santa, a model train display by Capital Trackers, kids crafts, gifts for purchase, premium events for adults and kids, and much more. Proceeds benefit the JLNV’s community initiatives through the Kids in the Kitchen programming. By supporting The Enchanted Forest you are helping the JLNV empower families to make healthy eating and active living a priority, and supporting the development of women who will build better communities for years to come.

Christmas at Mount Vernon

Where: Mount Vernon Estate, Museum, & Gardens
When: November 25 – January 6
Admission: Online – $17/adults, $9/ages 6-11, free 5 and under
 (look for discount tickets

The holidays are full of delight at George Washington’s estate. During the day, tour the Mansion, watch historic chocolate-making demonstrations, and meet Aladdin the Camel. Mount Vernon is open every day of the year, including Christmas Day and New Years. So bring the entire family to the home of George and Martha Washington this holiday season.

Festival of Trees
Where: Krieger Institute
When: November 25-27
Admission: $15, adult, $7/child, free for 4 and under

Kick off the holiday season by welcoming Santa Claus to a winter wonderland at the annual Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Festival of Trees! The East Coast’s largest holiday-themed festival will return to the Maryland State Fairgrounds with decorated trees, a gingerbread town, shopping, breakfast with Santa, endless holiday activities, and non-stop entertainment for children of all ages!

Christmas Town
Where: Busch Gardens
When: November 25 – January 2
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!

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


This has a permanent spot on many a DC holiday repertoire. The National Christmas Tree, the National Menorah, plus trains and displays representing all 50 states are a must-see during the season. 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. Bonus: there will also be musical performances throughout the season this year. Unfortunately, the adorable Santa’s Workshop once again is not back this year (you might recall there was confusion about it in the past), but go enjoy everything else.

Christmas in Middleburg
Where: Middleburg, VA
When: December 2-4
Admission: Varies by activity

Christmas in Middleburg is a spectacular community event that includes a tree lighting, parade, Breakfast with Santa and Silent Auction, and the Middleburg Hunt Review creating a spectacular sight as 100 horses, riders in pink coats, and dozens of hounds come through the town. Throughout the day there are hayrides, choir performances, the Christmas in Middleburg Craft Show, the Middleburg Garden Club’s Christmas Flower & Greens Show at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, as well as shopping and dining in the town’s shops and restaurants. The Middleburg Christmas Parade begins is a highlight, with a unique assortment of floats, troops, and musical groups marching by. Santa brings up the rear riding on a beautiful horse drawn coach.

Smithsonian Holiday Festival
Where: Smithsonian Museums on the National Mall
When: December 3 & 4
Admission: Free

Celebrate the holiday season at the National Museum of American History, National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History, Sackler Gallery, National Museum of the American Indian, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Museum of African American Art, and The Smithsonian Castle! They’ve got special events galore to help you get in the holiday spirit, including musical performances, book signings, trunk shows, activities for kids, and more!

Deck the Halls: A Family at Christmas
Where: Tudor House
When: December 3, 1-4pm
Admission: $10/child, $5/adult

Bring the family and celebrate the festive season at Tudor Place! Explore the historic mansion as a History Detective, finding decorations and clues to Christmas celebrations past. Nibble on cookies, write a letter to Santa, sing with carolers, make yuletide crafts, and enjoy refreshments throughout an afternoon of warm merriment.

Scottish Christmas Walk Parade
Where: Old Town Alexandria
When: December 3, 11am
Admission: Free

For the 46th consecutive year, the Scottish Christmas Walk Parade will showcase marching units filled with the magnificent tartans of Scottish Clans, the stirring sound of Scottish bagpipes and drums, Scottish dancers, reenactment groups, Scottie dogs, dignitaries, classic cars, Santa Claus, and more. The parade begins at St. Asaph and Wilkes Streets and concludes at Market Square with a massed band concert – rain or shine. There will also be other festive events throughout the weekend — see the website for details.

Bethesda’s Winter Wonderland
Where: Downtown Bethesda
When: December 3, 1-4pm
Admission: Free, but concerts and events cost extra

Bethesda’s Winter Wonderland is back, turning Bethesda Row into an outdoor street bazaar. The celebration features holiday performances, a live ice sculpting presentation, and a visit from Santa Claus in Veterans Park.

Santa Fly-In
Where: College Park Aviation Museum
When: December 3
Admission: $5

This will be an experience to remember as you watch Santa fly into the historic College Park Airport (it’s the world’s oldest continuously operating airport!). Make some holiday arts and crafts, then have your picture taken with Santa Claus after his big flight.

Frost Fest
Where: Pentagon Row
When: December 3
Admission: Free

Join the holiday celebration featuring an on-ice firework display, live entertainment, music by the popular DJ Saucee, a shopping spree giveaway, food samples, and more. The grand finale fireworks show will take place on the ice at 7:30pm.

Family Gingerbread Workshop
Where: National Building Museum
When: December 3-4
Admission: $75/house

Get in the holiday spirit and construct your own gingerbread house with your family and friends! Turn gingerbread walls and royal icing into a delicious masterpiece. One house is appropriate for a group of 2-4 people. Members can register online beginning November 7 at 10am. General registration opens on November 14, and space is limited, so it may sell out.

Holly Trolley Fest
Where: National Capitol Trolley Museum
When: December 3-18, 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.

Winternational
Where: Ronald Reagan Building
When: December 7, 11am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Explore the world and do some holiday shopping — all during the lunch hour! This lively midday festival is a celebration of international culture, travel, tourism and trade. It has the atmosphere of an international bazaar with each country showcasing their culture and traditions via visual arts displays, foods, handcrafts, as well as travel and tourism information.

Winter’s Eve
Where: Glen Echo Park
When: December 10, 4-7pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate the holiday season at the Park’s annual Winter’s Eve event. Enjoy free activities including holiday crafts, sing-alongs, story-telling, open studios, and a hot chocolate bar. Browse and buy fine artworks at the Holiday Art Show and artist studios.

Nationals Winterfest
Where: Washington Convention Center
When: December 10
Admission: $33/adult, $23/child, under 2 are free

The annual festival is full of interactive holiday and baseball activities for fans of all ages. Join clinics with Nationals players and coaches, watch a Homerun Derby featuring the Nationals mascots, make a snow fort, take batting practice, hear a winter or baseball themed story read by a Nationals player, ride down The Slider – a giant slide reminiscent of a sledding hill, and more. Guests can also meet and greet their favorite Nationals players and mascots, take a photo with Santa, strike a pose at the life-size snow globe photo station, and donate a toy to a child in need.

Italian Holiday Festival
Where: Smithsonian American Art Museum
When: December 10, 11:30am – 3pm
Admission: Free

There’s no place like SAAM for the holidays. To celebrate the vibrant culture of Italy, Simona Rodano returns as The Italian Fairy to engage kids with the beauty of her native language. Along with Nutcracker ballet and winter-themed crafts, this festival will have all the music and Italian flair you’ll need to get in the spirit of this joyful season.

“Yes, Virginia” Family Day
Where: Newseum
When: Saturday, 1-4pm
Admission: FREE for kids (details below), $19.50/adult

Celebrate the season with the Newseum at its 18th annual “Yes, Virginia” Family Day. Join for a reading of the heart-warming editorial, Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus. Afterward, the One-and-Only Macy’s Santa Claus will make a special guest appearance to read “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” and pose for photos with good boys and girls as Figgy Puddings Holiday Carolers from the Washington National Opera provide entertainment. Kids 18 and younger will receive free admission that day if they bring a letter to put in Macy’s Believe Mailbox. (There will also be a table outside the Newseum where youth can fill out a letter on the spot). Macy’s will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish® for every letter collected. For more about the museum, see this KFDC post.

Gifts That Give Hope Gift Fair
Where: Discovery Elementary School in Arlington
When: December 10, 10am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Instead of giving another tie or candle this year, how about boxing up hope and happiness? At a Gifts That Give Hope event, you can support the community and find unique and meaningful gifts for loved ones, co-workers, teachers and holiday hosts. Learn more about 16 locally based nonprofit organizations, enjoy festive holiday music and refreshments, visits with Santa, face painting, and other children’s activities. Shoppers of all ages are making GTGH an annual tradition, and young shoppers in particular come back each year to learn the true meaning of giving by participating in the Children’s Gift Fair.

Holiday Cookie Decorating
Where: The Watergate
When: December 10 & 17, 11am – 1pm
Admission: $20/child

Chef Celia from Kingbird will demonstrate cookie decorating with the kids and then help them decorate cookies of their own! Each child will also receive their own Toque Blanche or chef’s hat that they will decorate, too. Food and beverages will be offered along with a parent’s buffet. RSVP to [email protected] or 202-716-9308.

Winter Festival
Where: Ticonderoga Farm
When: December 11-13 & 18-20
Admission: $9.95

The annual festival includes hayrides to the white pine fields with access to all of the farm attractions — swings, forts, slides, tunnels, and more. Fire pits are inviting to keep you warm and make some s’mores or roast hot dogs. Cut down your Christmas tree while you’re there or buy one from the lot. Read more about the festival in this post about one of our experiences there.

Culinary Kids: Holiday Cookies & Treats
Where: Hill Center
When: December 17
Admission: $49 & $65

Sign the kids up for a cooking class to make some holiday goodies with Jake and Sara Addeo, professional chefs who have worked in renowned restaurants in DC, Hong Kong, New York, San Francisco and Italy. Along with having some holiday fun, they’ll learn some useful kitchen skills! Tho programs are being offered: Cookie Exchange is for ages 6-8, and Holiday Treats for 9-12.

Cookies & Cocoa with Santa
Where: Topgolf Alexandria
When: December 17, 9-11am
Admission: Free

Santa Claus is coming to town and this year he’s bringing Cookies & Cocoa! The free event for families with children 12 and under will feature cookies to snack on, a hot chocolate bar, a holiday-themed gift, and kids’ activities. Santa will be present for complimentary photos with the children, and all pictures taken will be available for download on the Topgolf Alexandria Facebook page after the event.

Christmas Eve Breakfast Tour
Where: The Mansion on O Street
When: December 24
Admission: $39

They deck the halls and fill the stockings with seasons greetings and holiday cheer that will create lasting memories for the entire family at the Mansion on O Street! Enjoy a delicious continental breakfast (sweet breads, yogurt, granola, fresh fruit hot coffee, hot tea, hot chocolate) then tour the wonderful themed rooms and search for secret doors. Be sure to bring your own shopping bags — everything is for sale! Read more about the Mansion on O in this KFDC post.

Christmas Eve Service
Where: Waterfront Church
When: December 24, 6-7:15pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate Christmas and sing a few carols as you join with others on Christmas Eve for a candlelight service at 6pm. All are welcome and childcare will be provided for children 3 and under. Waterfront Church is located at 1000 New Jersey Ave. SE.

First Night Alexandria
Where: Old Town Alexandria
When: December 31
Admission: $20 until 12/12, $30 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!


Chanukah

Come light the Menorah on the Ellipse December 6

Come light the Menorah on the Ellipse December 6



Sunday at the Studio: Make Your Own Menorah
Where: Gary Rosenthal Collection
When: November 13
Admission: $22.50/family

Get ready for Chanukah with glass artist Gary Rosenthal! Get a fascinating tour of Gary’s studio (he’ll show how the glass is made!); make your own dreidel, menorah, mezuzah, candlesticks or tzedakah box; learn a bit with PJ Library’s own Sarah Rabin Spira; and enjoy a tasty snack. Gary’s studio is located at 4218 Howard Avenue in Kensington.

Make Room for Latkes!
Where: Edlavitch DCJCC
When: December 4, 10:30am – 12pm
Admission: $10/family in advance, $15 at door

Chanukah is coming and with it, eight nights of family fun! Join PJ Library, the DCJCC, InterfaithFamily/DC, the Jewish Primary Day School, the Jewish Food Experience, the Jewish Social Service Agency, (JSSA) and the interfaith program, Love and Religion, for hands-on Chanukah activities including crafts, cooking, singing, candle lighting, latkes, a mitzvah (good deed) project and take-home goodies. It’s a perfect morning for Jewish and interfaith families with children ages 3 and older. Cost: $10 per family in advance; $15 at the door.

Chanukah Celebration
Where: Edlavitch DCJCC
When: December 18
Admission: $25/family

Grab your socks and yarmulke, it’s time to bounce for Chanukah. This year’s rockin’ Chanukah party will feature a moon bounce, games, crafts, treats, and plenty of fun for the whole family!

Chanukah on Ice
Where: Pentagon Row Ice Rink
When: December 21, 6-8:30pm
Admission: $10 in advance, $13 at 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 www.chabadAA.org or call 703-370-2774.

National Menorah Lighting
Where: The National Ellipse
When: December 25, 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 Festival
Where: Crowne Plaza Hotel in Alexandria
When: December 25, 5pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate Chanukah a day early 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 www.chabadAA.org or call 703-370-2774.

Family Chanukah Party
Where: Congregation Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim
When: December 25
Admission: Free

Spin a dreidel, eat latkes and applesauce, have your children do arts and crafts, spend time with community and learn how to dance… Israeli style. Whether you are 2 or 92, be a part of this family Chanukah celebration! The Congregation is located at 1840 University Blvd. W. in Silver Spring.

Community Chanukah Candle Lighting
Where: Edlavitch DCJCC
When: December 28
Admission: Free

Come light the Menorah in the EDCJCC’s Jack and Ina Kay Community Hall! Join us as we light the candles, and then celebrate wtih latkes, donuts, dreidel games, music, crafts, and more! Celebrate with all ages, levels of religious observance, sexual orientations/gender identities, and abilities — part of the Inclusion & Disabilities programming at the Edlavitch DCJCC.


Light Displays

A stroll through Brookside's Garden of Lights

A stroll through Brookside’s Garden of Lights



Winter Walk of Lights

Where: Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
When: November 18 – January 8
Admission: $13/adult, $8/ages 3-12

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!

Symphony of Lights
Where: Symphony Woods, Merriweather Post Pavilion
When: November 23 – January 4, 6-10pm Weds-Mon
Admission: $20/car, $25 on Saturdays (look for discount tickets)

Called a “woodland wonderland,” this beautiful display of more than 100 all new 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. And the Symphony of Lights is the largest annual fundraising event benefiting Howard County General Hospital, the only hospital in Howard County. (Note that it’s closed on December 31.)

Bull Run Festival of Lights
Where: Bull Run Regional Park
When: November 23 – January 8
Admission: Monday- Thursday $15/car, Friday-Saturday $20/car (look for discount tickets)

For more than 14 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.

Garden of Lights
Where: Brookside Gardens
When: November 25 – January 1, with noted exceptions
Admission: $20/car Mon-Thurs, $25/car Fri-Sun
 (look for discount tickets)

This spectacular, festive light show is back after a break last year. 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 5:30-10:30pm, with last car admitted at 9:30pm. View scenes from one of our visits there.

ZooLights
Where: National Zoo
When: November 25 – January 1, 5-9pm (Closed 12/24, 25, 31)
Admission: Free

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, a dazzling light show set to music, and snow-less tubing. Guests can also enjoy live entertainment, a special train ride for children, a whirl on the Conservation Carousel, special talks by animal keepers, Zoo-themed model trains displays, and more “wild” holiday fun. 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 25 – 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 over 25 years. This is great way to get into the holiday spirit from the comfort of your car – bring a thermos of hot chocolate, pop some holiday music into the CD player, turn on the seat warmers, and take in the adorably festive illuminated scenes.

Winter Lights Festival

Where: Seneca Creek State Park
When: November 25 – December 31
Admission: $12/car Sun-Thurs, $15/car Fri-Sat

The 19th Annual Winter Lights Festival will feature 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. Special prism glasses to are available for $2 to heighten the experience. Proceeds Benefit Local Charities. Hours are Sunday – Thursday 6-9pm and Friday-Saturday 6-10pm.

Festival of Lights
Where: Mormon Temple
When: December 3 – January 3
Admission: Free

It’s official name is the Washington DC Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but most Washingtonians know it as the Mormon Temple that you can see driving on the outer loop of the Beltway near Bethesda. During the holiday season the grounds glow with more than 600,000 LED lights that visitors are welcome to enjoy. There are also free nightly performances in an indoor theater, Christmas trees decorated in international themes, an exhibit of crèches from around the world, and a life-sized outdoor nativity.

Georgetown GLOW
Where: Georgetown neighborhood
When: December 2 – January 1
Admission: Free

See Georgetown in a whole new light – literally. Every evening through January 1, the neighborhood will sparkle with modern light art installations on exhibit throughout the bustling community. Works of local, regional, and international artists will be on display in both public and privately-owned spaces, including M Street, along the C&O Canal, and more nearby places. Take the family dinner, then go for a stroll to check them all out.

Garden in Lights
Where: Annmarie Sculpture Garden
When: December 2 – January 1 (closed 12/5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 24, 25)
Admission: $6, free for ages 3 and under

This magical tour takes visitors on a beautiful trip through the glittering woods. As you stroll the protected path, you will be transported to a fantastical place of spectacular lights and amazing “light sculptures.” Guests will be surrounded by mythical beasts, wild animals, airplanes, pirates, princesses, circus performers, dinosaurs, and more. Because all the “light sculptures” are made at Annmarie, the designs are one-of-a-kind; nothing in this show is commercially available. It is all made just for visitors to Annmarie Garden In Lights! Enjoy the “Holiday I Spy Game,” nightly entertainment, special discount nights, sweet treats, and other fun activities.

Alexandria Boat Parade of Lights

Where: Alexandria City Marina
When: December 3
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. Before and after the parade, stop in to the Torpedo Factory Art Center’s Holiday Open House between 4-9pm to enjoy performances by the Alexandria Choral Society plus gift shopping in open artist studios.


Holiday Markets

The Downtown Holiday Market in Penn Quarter

The Downtown Holiday Market in Penn Quarter



Museum Shop Around
Where: Strathmore
When: November 10-13
Admission: $9

This annual market brings the best of the area’s finest museum gift shops all to one place. At Strathmore’s Museum Shop Around you’ll find toys, jewelry, one-of-a-kind gifts — some handmade, all art-inspired — for yourself and everyone on your holiday list.

Bethany House Holiday Bazaar
Where: First Baptist Church Alexandria
When: November 18-19
Admission: $5/suggested donation $10/family

Get an early start on your holiday shopping at this bazaar benefiting Bethany House, a domestic violence shelter in Northern VA that serves women and children survivors of domestic violence. The bazaar features regional artisans, crafters, and unique businesses. Browse international gift items, such as jewelry, paintings, essential oils, home décor, and more.

Merry & Bright Shopping Preview
Where: Mosaic District
When: November 12, 4-9pm
Admission: Free

Get your gift shopping started at the Northern Virginia center. Many stores and restaurants in the Fairfax community are offering discounts and other specials to help patrons ring in the the holiday shopping season.

Downtown Holiday Market
Where: 8th & F Streets NW
When: November 25 – December 23, 12-8pm
Admission: Free

This one, to me, is the holiday market in DC. It’s not even so much about the merchandise for sale (though there’s always a great variety of gift items – I never leave empty handed). There’s something about the usually bustling block in the middle of Penn Quarter transforming into an open air market for a few weeks that is so charming and kind of magical, making our big city feel like a small town. A bonus is the free live entertainment along with treats and coffee drinks available for purchase. And after you’ve done your shopping and enjoyed a snack and music, you can pop into the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum that are literally right next to the market.

Eastern Market
Where: 7th Street SE, between South Carolina & Penn Aves.
When: Year-round Saturdays & Sundays
Admission: Free

The outdoor flea market at the centerpiece of the Capitol Hill community is practically a year-round weekend institution for locals. And during the holiday season, it’s a go-to for shoppers seeking unique gifts along with a fun outing. Over 100 vendors are there, selling everything from original artwork to fun T-shirts, to handmade jewelry and accessories, to home décor to custom-made and used furniture – and much, much more. If you’re cooking up a holiday meal, you can get fresh produce from farmers’ stalls outside and butchered meats, fancy cheeses, baked goods, pasta, fresh produce, and more inside the actual Eastern Market. Even more, there is often live music courtesy of buskers around the area, and if the kids want some play time afterwards, you can hit one of several parks or playgrounds in the neighborhood (Lincoln Park, at 11th and East Capitol, is the largest and most popular among them).

Christkindlmarkt
Where: Heurich House Museum
When: December 2-4
Admission: $10/ages 13+ and $2/ages 2-12

Do some shopping at Christkindlmarkt, an annual holiday artisan market and festive house tou, honoring the Heurich family’s German heritage by recreating a traditional outdoor German Christmas market in its Castle Garden. Dupont Circle’s only holiday market will feature goods from over 40 local artisans, including jewelers, ceramicists, chocolatiers, and makers of housewares, clothing, and more. Visitors will also have the opportunity to explore the seasonally decorated historic mansion on a self-guided tour.

Alexandria’s Holiday Market
Where: Carlyle District in Alexandria
When: December 3-22 (but not everyday, see the website)
Admission: Free

This annual signature event transforms the Carlyle District into a lively European Festival similar to the infamous Christmas Markets taking place in Germany or France. Shop for unique art and craft items, and enjoy live entertainment, traditional European food and sweets, hot wine, and hot cocoa. Be sure to visit the children’s corner for kid’s activities to learn more about European traditions and culture. The Market is located at 300 John Carlyle Street in Alexandria.

Holiday Bazaar
Where: Children’s Weekday Program
When: December 3, 9am – 12pm
Admission: Free

Enjoy and shop a family-friendly bazaar featuring local craft and gift vendors, a chance for children to visit with Santa, a silent auction, children’s activities, a bake sale, cake walk, and much more. The event is on the second floor in the great hall. New packages of diapers will be collected for the D.C. Diaper Bank. Children’s Weekday Program is located at 716 S. Glebe Road in Arlington.

Holiday Festival & Art Market
Where: Torpedo Factory Art Center
When: December 3, 2 – 6 pm
Admission Free

The Torpedo Factory Artists invite shoppers into their studios to find original gifts of art. Handmade jewelry and ornaments, original ceramics, couture finds, objet d’art, and other fine works will be available to browse and buy. Special holiday promotions and discounts will be available from dozens of artists and galleries. The afternoon will also feature a children’s scavenger hunt, live music with the Alexandria Choral Society and Braddock Brass, and a visit from Santa.

Carpe Noctem
Where: St. Jerome Academy in Hyattsville, MD
When: December 3
Admission: $5/adult, free for kids

Seize the Night while you sip and shop, perusing the aisles for beautiful, unique gifts. The event supporting the students of St. Jerome Academy features two levels of shopping fun. In addition to many talented vendors and live music throughout the evening, Carpe Noctem has various dinner options, wine, beer, tasty desserts, and warm drinks for kids available for purchase. Children can enjoy face-painting, a photo op with St. Nicholas, and coloring activities. Customers will receive a complementary drink with their paid

Gifts That Give Hope Gift Fair
Where: Discovery Elementary School, Arlington
When: December 10, 10am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Instead of giving another tie or candle this year, how about boxing up hope and happiness? At a Gifts That Give Hope event, you can support the community and find unique and meaningful gifts for loved ones, co-workers, teachers and holiday hosts. Learn more about 16 locally based nonprofit organizations, enjoy festive holiday music and refreshments, visits with Santa, face painting, and other children’s activities. Shoppers of all ages are making GTGH an annual tradition, and young shoppers in particular come back each year to learn the true meaning of giving by participating in the Children’s Gift Fair.

Rosslyn Holiday Market
Where: Gateway Park
When: December 9-10
Admission: Free

Hosted by the Rosslyn Business Improvement District, the market will boast more than 25 local boutique vendors selling everything from handmade jewelry and clothing to pottery and chocolate. The Friday schedule is geared towards an adult crowd, and Saturday will feature activities kicking off with the Great Chocolate Race, a 5-mile scenic run through Rosslyn. There will also be storytelling, free pictures with Santa Claus, and gingerbread house workshops for the whole family.

Sugarloaf Craft Festival
Where: Dulles Expo Center
When: December 9-11
Admission: $8/advance, $10/at door, free for 11 and under

This seasonal fair showcases works by more than 300 top artisans. Pottery, sculpture, glass, jewelry, fashion, home and garden décor, furniture and home accessories, and photography will be on display — and for sale. The best part is that the award-winning festival is a family affair. Parents can shop, and children can enjoy an interactive puppet theater and watch live-demonstrations of iron forging, papermaking, stone sculpting, and other media by the master craftspeople themselves. Not to mention, gourmet goodies hand-made by specialty food vendors always leave everyone wanting more. Tickets are good for all three days of the Festival.

How we do the holidays in our house

How we do the holidays in our house



Know of a great DC holiday event that you don’t see here? Let us know in the comments below!


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