The 2014 KFDC Guide to the Best Holiday Events in DC


DC doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the holidays. There are options galore for celebrating the season here, many of them annual events that are cherished family traditions for both locals and visitors. See the holiday spirit come alive on stage, let model trains entrance as they wind through miniature Christmas villages, drive or walk through dazzling light displays, experience the holidays in extraordinary ways at special events, shop for unique gifts at seasonal markets, and so much more. The 2014 KFDC Guide to the Best Holiday Events in DC, organized by category with events listed by starting date, will help you plan for it all.

Holiday Shows

Model Trains

Special Events


Light Displays

Holiday Markets


Holiday Shows


Tiny Tim’s A Christmas Carol
Where: Adventure Theatre
When: November 14 – January 1
Tickets: $19 (look for a deal on select dates here)
Tiny Tim longs to have his father home on Christmas day, but mean old Mr. Scrooge won’t give Bob Crachit the day off! There must be a way to change Scrooge’s mind – perhaps a ghost or two will set Scrooge right. Can this clever boy and his best friend Charlotte save Christmas and change the heart of the meanest man in town? This exciting world premiere story of a father and son is adapted by Broadway’s Tony-winning Ken Ludwig (Twas the Night Before Christmas) and his very own son, Jack. Get ready for the wildest ride you’ve ever had at Christmas!

A Christmas Carol
Where: Ford’s Theatre
When: November 21 – January 1
Tickets: $32-87
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).

The Nutcracker
Where: RoundHouse Theatre
When: November 26 – December 28
Tickets: $25-50 (look for a discount on tickets)

This captivating musical reinvents E.T.A. Hoffmann’s original tale, turning it into a brand new seasonal classic all ages can enjoy. After the loss of her Marine brother, young Clara’s crusade to save her grieving family (with the help of a remarkable nutcracker) comes alive with dazzling theatricality. It weaves together a delightful original score, riveting dialogue, and astonishing puppetry. Full of magic and hope, this contemporary retelling is a heartwarming yet hilarious story that shows the healing power of the imagination. It’s as tuneful and fun as it is poignant and touching. They provide a guide for parents to help you decide if it’s suitable for your child.

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

The Joffrey’s “elegantly unified production” (The Washington Post) brings the magic of the season to life like no other Nutcracker, swirling with heroic toy soldiers, sword-fighting mice, the glittering Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, a giant Mother Ginger, and a journey to the Kingdom of Sweets. From start to finish, The Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker is one to cherish with the entire family–for the joy of its fairy-tale comforts, and for the excitement in discovering something new, every time.

The Nutcracker
Where: The Puppet Co.
When: November 28 – December 30
Tickets: $10

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

Nutcracker Fantasy
Where: The Puppet Co. Tiny Tots
When: November 28 – 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.

Lightwire Theatre: A Very Electric Christmas
Where: Strathmore
When: November 29
Tickets: $25-42

Follow the story of a young bird named Max and his family, as they embark on their journey south for the winter. When Max gets blown off course and ends up at the North Pole… his adventure begins! Dancing toy soldiers, caroling worms and performing poinsettias, light up the stage in Lightwire Theater’s A Very Electric Christmas. Audiences of all ages will treasure this magical and captivating tale of family, friendship and hope set to timeless holiday hits, including Nat King Cole, Mariah Carey, and Tchaikovsky. Lightwire Theater is internationally recognized for their electroluminescent artistry, poignant storytelling and performs in complete darkness. Brighten your holidays this season with Lightwire Theater’s A Very Electric Christmas.

Angelina Ballerina, The Very Merry Holiday Musical
Where: BlackRock Center for the Arts
When: November 30, 1pm
Tickets: $14

Take a memorable and lively Thanksgiving weekend outing with family and friends! In this charming musical, Angelina and her friends plan an absolutely positively spectacular holiday dance pageant: the best in all of Mouseland! When plans go awry, they work together to save the show and discover the true spirit of the holidays. Recommended for ages 4 and up. Pre-show party before the show, with snacks and arts activities starting at noon. Meet Angelina and her friends after the show!

The Washington Ballet: The Nutcracker
Where: THEARC Theater
When: November 29 – December 30
Tickets: $30-50

The Washington Ballet modifies Septime Webre’s critically acclaimed production a bit at the Anacostia theatre, making it more enticing for antsy little theatre-goers. The set is scaled-down, and performances are shorter. This version of The Nutcracker transports audiences back in time to historic Washington, DC, and stars George Washington as the heroic Nutcracker. Full of swirling snowflakes, magnificent sets and costumes and Tchaikovsky’s beloved score, the curtain rises and the stage bursts with waltzing cherry blossoms, dancing sugar plums and other enchanting adaptations that have made Webre’s Nutcracker a Washington tradition with raves from critics and sold-out crowds. Expect some special surprises during this 10th anniversary of Weber’s production!

Seasons of Light
Where: Discovery Theater
When: December 1-19
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.

Snow Day
Where: Workhouse Arts Center & Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 3-14 & December 18-22
Tickets: $8, 12 months and under are free

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 world premiere production features live music and lots of wintertime fun, just in time for the holiday season. Recommended for children ages 2-6.

Septime Weber’s The Nutcracker
Where: Warner Theatre
When: December 4-28
Tickets: $35-101

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his highly-acclaimed production, Septime Webre is planning some special surprises for his celebrated all-American Nutcracker. 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.

BSO: Music Box – Jingle Bells
Where: Strathmore
When: December 6
Tickets: $15

Join the holiday edition of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s Music Box series at Strathmore! Celebrate the season with songs about winter, bells, and sleigh rides. Ideal for young audiences, the show runs 30 minutes and also includes musical and creative activities for little ones before the show.

It’s a Wonderful Life: Live From WVL Radio Theatre
Where: BlackRock Center for the Arts
When: December 6
Tickets: $32

Inspired by the classic American film of the same name, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is performed as a 1940s live radio broadcast in front of a studio audience. Five actors perform the dozens of characters in the radio play as well as produce the sound effects. A wonderful holiday tradition for all ages, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play premiered in 1996 at Stamford Center for the Arts in Stamford, Connecticut, and has since been produced around the country to critical acclaim.

Holiday Sing-A-Long
Where: Wolf Trap
When: December 6, 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.”

Virginia Ballet Company & School: Selections from The Nutcracker
Where: National Theatre
When: December 6
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.

Step Afrika!’s Magical, Musical Holiday Step Show
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 11-22
Tickets: $15-38 (look for a discount on tickets)

Step Afrika! is back to delight audiences young and old with their magical musical holiday step show. Audiences are invited to make music with DC’s internationally-known stepping company and their furry friends from the Animal Kingdom in this annual holiday tradition! Go ready to ring in the festive season with a bang, featuring the electrifying artists from Step Afrika! and special guest DJ Frosty the Snowman. Family Fun Pack are available for $88 and include 4 tickets, 1 snack and 1 drink each; minimum of 2 patrons must be between ages 2 and 16.

The Mini-Nut
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center
When: December 13-14
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!

Bright Star Theatre: Christmas with Santa
Where: National Theatre
When: December 13
Tickets: Free

Saturday Morning at the National presents this free production from Bright Star Theatre. Carols, Santa and musical comedy abound! Two hilarious elves have misplaced some of Santa’s presents and they go through many rollicking adventures to find them. When Santa arrives, he teaches the well-meaning elves that the family and friends we share the holiday with are the greatest gift of all. 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.

9th Annual Holiday Concert & Sing-Along
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 14, 4pm & 7pm
Tickets: Free, but must be reserved ($4 service fee)

An H Street holiday tradition is back! The Atlas Performing Arts Center is filled with holiday musical favorites performed by the full 50-member Capital City Symphony and sung by over 120 voices of the Congressional Chorus and American Youth Chorus. Not to be left out, audiences participate with a holiday favorites sing-along. The celebration continues with cookies and mingling in the Kogod Lobby following the performance. FYI: The 4pm show is a bit shorter, and geared more to families with younger kids. The 7pm show is a bit longer and includes a Hallelujah Chorus sing-along. Some guy in a red suit comes to both shows!

The Nutcracker
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center
When: December 20, 21, 23, 26, 27, 28
Tickets: $30/adults, $25/children in advance; $35/adults, $30/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.

Family Joy!
Where: Washington National Cathedral
When: December 13
Admission: $25

Get into the holiday spirit with the Cathedral Choral Society (CCS), as they present The Joy of Christmas at the Washington National Cathedral, a grand tradition of the Choral Society spanning nearly four decades. This special matinee performance is designed for families with children. The 60-minute program includes the procession of the advent wreath, Christmas favorites and a kids-only sing-along.

Kwanzaa Celebration – Family Series
Where: Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre
When: December 14, 8pm
Tickets: $25/adult in advance, $30/at door, $15/ages 17 and under

Welcome the holiday season with Dance Place’s annual Kwanzaa Celebration! Gather family and friends to watch Coyaba Academy, Coyaba Dance Theater and special guests celebrate the seven principles of Kwanzaa. Experience this community of dancers in an exhilarating and inspiring performance experience for all ages. During this Family Series, reserve 1 free ticket for a child 12 & under with paying adult!

Holiday Family Opera: The Little Prince
Where: Kennedy Center
When: December 19-21
Tickets: $49-75

For its annual family-friendly opera over the winter holidays, WNO brings all the joy and wonder of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic illustrated storybook. 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, a dancing kazoo player, 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. Recommended for ages 8 and up.


Brookside Garden's light display isn't on this year, but the trains are still a delight to see!

Brookside Garden’s light display isn’t on this year, but the trains are still a delight to see!

Magical Holiday Express
Where: B&O Railroad Museum
When: November 22 – January 4
Admission: $16/adults, $14/seniors (60+), $10/ages 2-12, free for B&O members

This is a venue dedicated to locomotives, so you know the holiday model train exhibit is going to be special. The spectacular celebration in the B&O Roundhouse isdevoted to trains of all sizes and shapes, holiday festivities, a winter wonderland of family fun and activities, and a way to help local charities who help those in need this season. There is something to see and do every day at this event with all-new holiday decorations, hands-on crafts and contests, live entertainment, train rides, model train layouts, appearances by Santa, Mrs. Claus, Frosty, and LEGO Man and much more!

Season’s Greenings

Where:U.S. Botanic Garden
When: November 27 – January 4
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 theme “Exploration Along the Seas” will feature lighthouses to navigate the way through the scenic wonderland. 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 from last year and this one from the year before about some of our Season’s Greenings experiences.

Garden Railway Exhibit
Where: Brookside Garden
When: November 28 – January 11
Admission: Free

In Brookside’s 10th season of partnership with the Washington, Virginia & Maryland Garden Railway Society, the 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 13 – December 20
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 display are intricate and fun to stop by and check out you’re at the station during the holiday season.

Special Events

Season's Greenings at the Botanic Garden is a must-visit during the holidays

Season’s Greenings at the Botanic Garden is a must-visit during the holidays


Holidays on the Ellipse
Where: The National Ellipse
When: December 4 – January 1
Admission: Free

This should have a permanent spot on everyone’s DC holiday repertoire. The National Christmas Tree, the National Menorah, Santa’s Workshop, plus trains and displays representing all 50 states are a must-see during the season. Kids will especially love visiting Santa in his adorable little cottage for a peek at his operations and a photo op on his lap (read about one of our experiences there) which is open at select times, through Christmas Eve. And the rest of it lit up at night with the White House and Washington Monument glowing in the distance makes for a brilliant holiday scene. (Note: The National Christmas Tree Lighting is on December 4, but Santa’s Workshop does not open until the December 9, and hours are limited.)

Christmas on the Potomac
Where: National Harbor
When: November 14 – January 5

Admission: Free, though some activities cost extra
National Harbor goes all out during the holidays. ICE! might be the big attraction, but there’s 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.)

Where: National Harbor
When: November 14 – January 5
$27-34/adult, $20-28/child, $22-30 military, 2 and under are free (look for a deal on admission here)
Technically, this is part of Christmas on the Potomac, but it’s such a huge spectacle in itself, that it deserves its own write-up. We went a couple of years ago, and I recommend reading my review before you go. And since it features a new “Frosty the Snowman” theme this year, here’s the description from the website: “The Region’s must-see holiday attraction ICE! is back with an exciting new theme featuring Frosty the Snowman. Everyone’s favorite snowman is brought to life in more than two million pounds of colorful ice. Walk thru this classic Christmas story, slide down ice slides over two stories high and watch our artisans as they create these frozen marvels in our special bonus area – The Frostbite Factory – a LIVE ice carving zone. It’s all part of Christmas on the Potomac!” 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.

Santa HQ
Where: Tysons Coner
When: November 14 – December 24
Admission: Free, but portrait packages start at $30

A modern twist on the traditional visit to see Santa Claus! Experience the unparalleled wonder of Santa’s world in the modern and digital age. Santa HQ is technology-driven and incorporates fun features that guests can access through apps on their mobile devices. (If visitors don’t have their own device, Tysons Corner Center will provide tablets for them to use through their visit.) GUests can take an ELFIE selfie and star in their own holiday video, explore Santa’s Observatory using ELF-RAY Vision, test out the ‘Naughty O’ Nice Meter,’ and enjoy a memorable photo with Santa. Plan ahead by booking a reservation online.

Re-Imagining the Holidays
Where: Downtown Silver Spring
When: November 15, 6-8pm
Admission: Free

The 3nd Annual “Re-Imagining The Holidays” event is Downtown Silver Spring’s official Tree Lighting and Unveiling of Silver Symphony, an impressive 35-foot-tall public art installation comprised of chimes, bells, pinwheels and ribbons. Other festivities of the evening will include the a capella performances, and interactive music maker station with KID Museum, face painting, balloon artistry, strolling entertainment, giveaways, and more!

Christmas at Mount Vernon

Where: Mount Vernon Estate, Museum, & Gardens
When: November 28 – January 6
Admission: $17/adults, $8/ages 6-11, free for ages 5 and under

The holidays are full of delight at George Washington’s estate. Join for candlelight tours of the Mansion, a dazzling display of fireworks set to Christmas music, dancing, fire-side caroling, Aladdin the Christmas camel, and so much more! See the website for all of the holiday happenings at the historic home.

Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol
When: December 2, 5pm
Admission: Free

If don’t win lottery tickets to see the National Tree Lighting, consider going to this one at the Capitol. You might not be able to sit close up, but you can view festivities from right across the street, and it’s just as lovely from the area by the Reflecting Pool. For now, track the tree as it journeys from Minnesota, where it was harvested, to DC. It’s expected to arrive on November 21. After the lighting, the tree will be lit every evening for all to enjoy until January 1.

Smithsonian Holiday Festival
Where: Smithsonian Museums on the National Mall
When: December 6 & 7
Admission: Free

Celebrate the holiday season at the National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of American History, and Smithsonian Castle! The Holiday Festival will include concerts by the U.S. Air Force’s Max Impact, Silver Wings, and Celtic Aire; seasonal films, including The Muppet Christmas Carol; Mars Chocolate demonstrations; family holiday photo opportunities; trunk shows featuring apparel; jewelry and art; book signings; festive food; and hours of additional family-friendly entertainment.

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

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

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

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

Holly Trolley Fest

Where: National Capitol Trolley Museum
When: December 6-28, Saturdays & Sundays only
Admission: $7/adults, $5/ages 2-17 (includes unlimited rides)
Guests can ride with Santa on the street cars and enjoy the model garden railway and holiday village inside the museum. Of course the rest of the museum, offering a glimpse into the history of street cars, including a Hall displaying different cars from around the region and Europe. Note: Santa will not be there the last weekend. Visit the website for directions to the museum.

Gifts That Give Hope Gift Fair
Where: Calvary United Methodist Church
When: December 13, 10am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Instead of giving another tie or candle this year, how about boxing up hope and happiness? Gifts That Give Hope Arlington is holding their 4th annual Gift Fair, capturing the holiday spirit in a way that redefines the notion of meaningful, alternative gift giving. This year’s fair will feature 15 local and global nonprofit organizations, many of them based in Arlington. Shoppers will have the opportunity to peruse the tables hosted by each organization and purchase alternative gifts that will directly benefit the mission of those organizations. There will also be refreshments, face painting, and kids activities.

Holiday Open House
Where: Decatur House
When: December 14, 10am – 3pm
Admission: Free

The White House Historical Association opens its doors for a Holiday Open House celebrating the holiday traditions of the White House and President Harding. Hop on board to learn more about President Harding’s love of trains and their significance during the holiday season. The public is welcome to attend this free event that features family-friendly activities, including holiday crafts, story-telling, and self-guided tours of Decatur House.

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

Christmas Town
Where: Busch Gardens
When: November 22-31
Admission: $27/ages 3 and up (look for a deal on Certifikid)

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


Come light the Menorah on the Ellipse December 16

Come light the Menorah on the Ellipse December 16

Make Room for Latkes
Where: Washington DCJCC
When: December 7, 10:30am – 12:30pm
Admission: $10/family in advance, $15 at door

Chanukah is coming and with it, eight nights of family fun! Get ready with PJ Library and the DCJCC with a variety of hands-on activities, including arts and crafts to decorate, a delicious cooking project, stories and singing, learning or practicing the blessings over the menorah, and more. It’s a perfect morning for Jewish and interfaith families with children ages 3 and older. Of course, there will be latkes to eat, plus lots of take-home information and recipes to make your Chanukah even happier. Registration fee covers all food, supplies and activities.

Chanukah Lights and Legos!
Where: JCC of Northern Virginia
When: December 7, 1-4pm
Admission: $15/non-members, $10/members

Chanukah is here — it’s time to light up the night! Join the JCC of Northern Virginia to get ready for the holiday by building your very own Lego® menorah to take home and use. SPace is limited,, so register early by emailing or calling: | 703-537-3045

National Menorah Lighting
Where: The National Ellipse
When: December 16, 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 on Ice
Where: Pentagon Row Ice Rink
When: December 18, 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 or call 703-370-2774.

Chanukah Festival
Where: Crowne Plaza Hotel in Alexandria
When: December 1, 5pm
Admission: Free

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


Holiday Lights

Take a drive through the Festival of Lights at Watkins Regional Park

Take a drive through the Festival of Lights at Watkins Regional Park

Winter Walk of Lights

Where: Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
When: November 14 – January 5
Admission: $13/adult, $8/ages 3-12 (look for a deal on Certifikid)

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

Symphony of Lights
Where: Symphony Woods, Merriweather Post Pavilion
When: November 17 – January 4, 6-10pm Weds-Mon
Admission: $20/car (look for a deal on Certifikid)

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

Bull Run Festival of Lights
Where: Bull Run Regional Park
When: November 19 – January 4
Admission: Monday- Thursday $15/car, Friday-Saturday $20/car (look for a deal on Certifikid)

For more than 13 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.

Where: National Zoo
When: November 28 – 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 “Zoo Tubing” on Lion/Tiger Hill (they should just call it Liger Hill) on two 150-foot snow tracks. 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 the Gin-Grrr-Bread Habitat Competition. 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 28 – January 1, 5-9:30pm nightly
Admission: $5/car, FREE on December 25

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

Winter Lights Festival

Where: Seneca Creek State Park
When: November 28 – December 31
Admission: $12/car Mon-Thurs, $15/car Fri- Sun

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 4 – January 1
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 ground 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.

Alexandria Boat Parade of Lights

Where: Alexandria City Marina
When: December 6, 5:30pm
Admission: Free

Experience one of the region’s most beloved holiday traditions! At sundown on the day of the Scottish Christmas Walk parade, Alexandria’s harbor lights up when more than 50 illuminated boats cruise the Potomac River at the historic waterfront, led by Alexandria’s fireboat Vigilant and Washington, DC’s fireboat John Glenn. Before and after the parade, stop in to the Torpedo Factory Art Center’s Holiday Open House between 4 and 7 p.m. to enjoy performances by the Alexandria Choral Society plus gift shopping in open artist studios.

Parade of Lighted Boats
Where: Southwest Waterfront
When: December 6, 6-8pm
Admission: Free
On the other end of Alexandria’s boat parade, the Washington Waterfront Association and Old Dominion Boat Club will host the Parade of Lighted Boats along the Southwest Waterfront. (So, it’s actually the same parade, just different festivities on the DC side.) Family activities will include photo with Santa, cookie decorating, a tree lighting, s’mores and hot chocolate, and holiday lighting of the boats docked on the SW Waterfront.

Holiday Markets

The Downtown Holiday Market in Penn Quarter

The Downtown Holiday Market in Penn Quarter

Museum Shop Around
Where: Strathmore
When: November 13-16
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.

Merry & Bright Shopping Night
Where: Mosaic District
When: November 15, 4-9pm
Admission: Free

Start the holidays off right with giveaways, treats, and other Mosaic surprises. 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 28 – December 23, 12-8pm

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

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. Nearly 200 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).

Harbor Holiday Market
Where: National Harbor
When: Weekends November 15 – December 21

National Harbor invites you to deck the halls with ideas from their Holiday Market, located on American Way, featuring handmade holiday ornaments and decorations, tasty holiday treats such as cookies and roasted chestnuts, and much more. Regional vendors will be offering holiday goods and specialty foods every weekend throughout the holiday season.

Smithsonian Holiday Festival
Where: Smithsonian Museums on the National Mall
When: December 6 & 7
Admission: Free

The Holiday Festival offering a weekend of family fun will include opportunities to shop for holiday gifts with trunk shows featuring apparel, jewelry, art, and more. The bonus is all of the fantastic activities for you and the kids can enjoy. The Festival is taking place at the National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of American History, and Smithsonian Castle. See the events section of this guide or visit the website for more details.

Parcel Market
Where: Canal Park
When: December 12-14
Admission: Free

Canal Park in the Capitol Riverfront will be transformed into a festive winter wonderland with the best independent retailers, craftsmen, and cuisine in DC. Parcel Market will feature ice skating at the Canal Park Ice Rink and creative retail that showcases local small businesses, artists, and designers. Vendors will include Be Clean, DeNada, Matine, Mutiny, Native Danger, TCI Letter Press, Winthrop Clothing Co. for pets, and more! A dining lounge will feature DC foodie favorites and warm drinks in a relaxed atmosphere complete with fire pits. Live music from local DJS and performers will also fill the air.

Sugarloaf Craft Festival
Where: Dulles Expo Center
When: December 12-14

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 $10/adults at the door $8 in advance online (free for children under 12), and are good all three days of the Festival.

Gifts That Give Hope Gift Fair
Where: Calvary United Methodist Church
When: December 13, 10am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Instead of giving another tie or candle this year, how about boxing up hope and happiness? Gifts That Give Hope Arlington is holding their 4th annual Gift Fair, capturing the holiday spirit in a way that redefines the notion of meaningful, alternative gift giving. This year’s fair will feature 15 local and global nonprofit organizations, many of them based in Arlington. Shoppers will have the opportunity to peruse the tables hosted by each organization and purchase alternative gifts that will directly benefit the mission of those organizations. There will also be refreshments, face painting, and kids activities.


Filed under All ages, Animals, Annual, Art, Chanukah, Charity, Christmas, DC, Deal, Eats, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Festival, Free, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Movies, Museums, Music, Nature, New Years, Outdoor, Parade, Park, Seasonal, Shop, Theatre, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

7 Responses to The 2014 KFDC Guide to the Best Holiday Events in DC

  1. Kelly O'Brien

    Linda – this list is amazing!! Thank you!!

  2. Katherine

    I agree – thanks so much!!

  3. Amy

    Awesome list – thanks! Will you also be posting a list of santa appearances like you did last year?

  4. Julia

    There’s also a new European-style holiday market in Alexandria this year:

  5. Sylvia

    Great list! Also see the Anacostia Community Museum’s December events calendar – lots of fun activities for Kwanzaa.

  6. Julia

    New Alexandria Holiday Market this year:

  7. Jeff

    Thank you – this was well utilized this season. My only critique is we heard after the fact the “ZooLights” had a model train display. The zoo listing is under “Light Displays” but should have also been listed under “Model Trains” if that was the case.

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