Walk among “icebergs” at the Ragnar Kjartansson exhibit
Monday – Zip over to DC’s big train station to check out the little trains. Union Station’s annual Holiday Train Show is back in the West Hall, featuring an elaborate Norwegian mountain landscape. Plan to grab a bite to eat at one of many options there or pop over to the National Postal Museum next door for more fun. Admission is free to both the train exhibit and the Postal Museum.
Tuesday – Make your way up to Baltimore to visit the Maryland Science Center to explore a variety of neat hands-on exhibits, play in the Kids Room, build in the Science & Main area, and so much more. Hours are 10am – 5pm. Admission is $20.95/adults, $16.95/ages 3+, free for 2 and under. (I suggest checking out their membership options — if your family of 4 goes just twice in a year, it’s worth it. Plus, there’s reciprocity with other museums around the country.)
Wednesday – Head to the Hirshhorn to view the Ragnar Kjartansson exhibit. The must-see for modern art fans is a mix of performance art, video installations, paintings, dioramas, and more inspired works that are intriguing, moving, and visually stunning. After, treat kiddos to a ride on the carousel located on the Mall very close to the museum. Hours are 10am – 5:30pm, and admission is free.
Thursday – Watch the airplanes, kick a soccer ball, have a picnic, or just hang out at Gravelly Point. The park located right off the GW Parkway next to Ronald Reagan Airport is a great place to enjoy a nice day, offering views of the river and airplanes taking off or landing right overhead. (Warning: Some kids find that part exciting, others might be frightened by the loud noise and sight of an airplane coming right at them.) Admission is free.
Friday – Enjoy a little time trip back to the 18th century at Claude Moore Colonial Farm. The living history farm welcome visitors to explore the grounds, where there is a tobacco barn, farm house, garden, orchard, and animals. Guests can also interact with a family portraying life as it was back then. Hours are 10am – 4:30pm Wednesday through Saturday. Admission is $3/adults, $2/children ages 3 and up, free for 2 and under. Read about our first experience there in this post.
The Friday Night Concert Series at Yards Park, a perfect way to kick off the weekend
This round-up of events keeps the weekend’s honorees in mind, with picks that moms will, hopefully, enjoy just as much as the kids. (Plus, one that’s just for all the mamas.) Happy Weekend! And a very Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms!
Shortcut to Europe
Where: EU Embassies
When: Saturday, 10am – 4pm
Avoid the airfare and jet lag and explore The Continent from this side of the pond. Passport DC invites you to join European Union embassies and the EU Delegation for a day of international food, dancing, kids entertainment, exhibitions, vacation planning, and more. Get a rare behind-the-scenes look at the embassies, some of which are among Washington’s historic and architectural treasures. Free shuttle bus service will be available throughout the day, and some embassies are convenient to Metro for walking. Admission is free, but bring identification, as some embassies will conduct security checks. Get an idea of what to expect in this post about our experience at the Around the World Embassy Tour last weekend.
National Train Day
Where: Union Station
When: Saturday, 11am – 4pm
All aboard for National Train Day! Events celebrating the day will take place all around the country, and Union Station’s will feature free kids’ activities sponsored by Chuggington, interactive and educational exhibits, model train displays and giveaways. Visitors will have the chance to tour private luxury railcars, freight and commuter trains, as well as current Amtrak equipment.
Where: The Tabula Rasa
When: Saturday, 5-9pm
Admission: $10/person, $15/two people
Hey, Mamas (or Dads who are still looking for a way to treat Mom)! How about treating yourself to some fun and pampering in honor of YOU on Saturday? The Tabula Rasa on Barracks Row is hosting a “Hello Gorgeous” pop-up event. Indulge in hair, make-up, and mini-photo sessions with locally acclaimed photographer Elizabeth Dranitzke of Photopia; do a little (or a lot of) shopping, and enjoy sweet treats and bubbly. This post has all the details. See you there!
Carousel Grand Opening Celebration
Where: National Harbor
When: Friday, Saturday, & Sunday, 12pm
National Harbor is unveiling the newest addition to its expanding waterfront with a Grand Opening celebration all weekend long. The Carousel at National Harbor is a 36-foot Americana-themed carousel installed at the water’s edge. The area housing it also features a newly-built playground and picnic area for families looking to relax and soak up some sun at the harbor. Throw in the toddler play area and the view and it becomes a waterfront attraction with never-ending appeal! Grand Opening festivities start at 12pm each day and feature: live entertainment by Rocknocerus and The Great Zucchini; appearances by Slapshot, G-Wiz, Pinch, Peep and Fireball; Radio Disney hosting; Stella’s PopKern Truck, balloon art, and face painting. Visit the website for the detailed schedule.
Nats vs. Cubs
Where: Nationals Park
When: Friday, Saturday, & Sunday
Admission: Ticket prices vary
The Nats are hosting the Cubs this weekend, with an evening game on Friday (7:05pm) and afternoon games on Saturday (4:05pm) on Sunday (1:35pm). Take advantage of the Harris Teeter Family Pack promo and stay after for Kids Run the Bases when children ages 4-12 can loop the in field after the final out. (Cross fingers that my unlucky streak ends tonight! If the Nats lose, I think we can officially say it’s my fault.)
Shag by the River
Where: Yards Park
When: Friday, 6:30-8:30pm
It’s going to be a perfect evening for a Yards Park Friday Concert. The series got off to a great start last weekend, and with the band Shag playing Brit pop tunes tonight, the fun is guaranteed to continue. Concessions will be available from Pepe, Jose Andres’ mobile sandwiches, and the BBQ Bus food truck. You can also BYO food and drinks (adult bevvies okay, too). As I’ve mentioned before, the fountains are not on right now, but there’s plenty of space for kids (and grown-ups) to frolic and dance on the boardwalk.
Maryland Faerie Festival
When: Friday 5pm, Saturday & Sunday, 10am – 6pm
Admission: $5/ages 3-12, $15/ages 12-99
Indulge little faerie dreams at the annual festival inspired by faerie folklore and literature. From what I hear, it’s kind of like Renn Fest on a much smaller scale with facets that will delight children, especially those who believe in the faeries. Treasure hunts, a May pole, craft projects, giant bubbles, and acrobats are some of the activities kids (and adults) will enjoy. Art, craft, and jewelry vendors, plus classes on gardening and cooking will appeal to the bigger faeries in the crowd.
Art & Asparagus Mother’s Day Weekend
Where: Great Country Farms
When: Saturday, 10am – 5pm
Admission: $8/child $10/adult
Forget the flowers for Mother’s Day this year and replace them with a unique – and tasty – bouquet of asparagus, fresh from the farm! The veggies will be at their peak, so Great Country Farms is offering them along with other special treat. Let dad take the kids out to the five- acre play area, while Mom enjoys shopping in the Farm Market stocked with jams & jellies, honey, local meats, baked goods and great gift ideas! Or just relax over lunch and a strawberry sundae in our Roosteraunt concession stand.
Where: Local Theatres
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by venue
Here’s the live entertainment on local stages this weekend:
– See a special Friday night concert by Johnny Juarez at Adventure Theatre at 7pm this evening.
– Catch a performance of Big Nate at Adventure Theatre.
– The Amazing & Marvelous Cabinets of Kismet, a special puppet show, will be at Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint.
– The Magic Finger & James and the Giant Peach are still on the Imagination Stage – shows have been extended through June 2!
– See the marionette version of Cinderella or a Tiny Tots show at The Puppet Co.
– Farmer Jason is playing the 10:30am show at Jammin’ Java on Saturday.
–Hello Dolly! is still on stage at Ford’s Theatre production.
Where: National Museum of the American Indian
When: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
I’ve found over the years that the American Indian Museum knows how to do a good festival, and it sounds like this one will follow suit. The Bolivian Festival celebrates the International Year of Quinoa with dance performances, storytelling, folk music, art demos, food, and more fun for all ages. The event is on now and running through Sunday. Be sure to stop by the imagiNATIONS family activity center on the third floor for programs especially for kids. Museum hours are 10am -5pm.
International Migratory Bird Day Festival
Where: Rock Creek Park Nature Center
When: Saturday, 9am – 3pm
Join the Rock Creek Nature Center and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center for guided bird walks, live raptor programs, children’s activities, performances from local schools as well as Latin American dance groups, a special planetarium program focusing on bird constellations, healthy Latin American food, and more. Get outdoors, learn about migratory birds and how they connect the Americas, and participate in bird conservation.
Super Science Saturday
Where: 10am – 3pm
Admission: Free, but parking is $15
It’s Super Science Saturday at the Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center. Through demonstrations and hands-on activities, visitors of all ages will become immersed in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics topics related to aviation and space exploration. This month, learn about Astronomy.
Team America Rocketry Challenge
Where: Great Meadow in the Plains, Va.
When: Saturday, 9am – 4pm
The nation’s top 100 finalists in the world’s largest student rocket contest are competing for the national title, along with $60,000 in scholarships and a chance to compete in an international Flyoff in Paris this July. The top one hundred teams represent a diverse cross-section of Americans, with several all-girls and 4-H teams defying typical stereotypes and competing for the top-spot. Bring the family and cheer them on to share with your kids how fun science and rocketry can be! The Great Meadow in the Plains, Va. is located 5089 Old Tavern Road.
Potomac Overlook Open House
Where: Potomac Overlook Park
When: Saturday, 1-4pm
The park’s Open House is a springtime tradition, now in it’s 28th year. Enjoy a day full of fun activities and exhibits for all ages, including music, entertainment, food, community exhibits, games, a maypole dance, and much more.
Contemporary Portraiture Family Day
Where: National Portrait Gallery
When: Sunday, 2-5pm
Celebrate the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2013 with students from Ivymount Middle School in Rockville, Maryland. This special day includes an exhibition of artwork by Ivymount students, a musical performance by an Ivymount student, a tour of the the related exhibition, musical performances by Sean Lane and Bay Jazz, and hands-on art activities. Borrow a Portrait Discovery Kit to explore the museum.
Farewell Birds of Paradise
Where: National Geographic Museum
When: Through Sunday
Admission: $11/adults, $5 ages 5-11, free for kids under 5
This weekend is your last chance to see Birds of Paradise: Amazing Avian Evolution at the National Geographic Museum. The fantastic exhibit showcases the work of photographer Tim Laman and Ornithology scientist Edwin Scholes from their years-long partnership documenting the extraordinary avian species of New Guinea. Through the photographs and video and audio recordings from their 18 expeditions, the duo reveals the extravagant plumage, crazy courtship dances and bizarre behaviors of the birds, including 39 previously unknown species. Read more about the exhibit in this KFDC post.
Checking out one means of mail transportation at the National Postal Museum
Monday – Kids ages 3-5 can meet the trees that represent the season at Green Spring Gardens’ workshop, Garden Sprouts: Forever Evergreens. Guests will get an intro to the tree then create a related craft. Admission is $5/county residents, $7/non-residents, and you must register in advance. As this post goes up, there are still a few spots remaining in the class.
Tuesday – Head to the Building Zone at the National Building Museum for its Book of the Month Program. Readings of Gingerbread Baby begin at 10:30am and 11:30am. Don’t forget it’s now $3/person to play there, and timed entries begin on the hour. While you’re at the NBM, check out the Lego Architecture exhibit upstairs and let the kids create some masterpieces themselves at tables yielding thousands of the tiny plastic bricks. And the magnificent Great Hall is a perfect space to let the kids romp and enjoy an indoor picnic (BYO or buy it from the on-premises Firehook Bakery).
Wednesday – Visit the National Postal Museum, one I consider a local secret, since it’s often overlooked by tourists and overshadowed by its Smithsonian counterparts on the Mall. The atrium alone is quite a sight, showcasing various means of mail transportation — a mail truck, airplane, train car, tractor-trailer, and Pony Express horses and buggy replica are on display, and a couple of them are open for guests to climb aboard. And even more interesting exhibits await beyond the main hall. When you’re done there, head next door to Union Station to see the Holiday Train Show and grab lunch.
Thursday – See a marionette version of a holiday classic, as The Puppet Co. presents The Nutcracker at 10am and 11:30am. Tickets are $10 and available online — they often sell fast, so reserve yours soon!
Friday – Experience the best of the holidays in DC at one of the many seasonal activities happening around town. This post lists my faves, and I highly recommend experiencing them during the week when possible to avoid the weekend crowds.
Enjoying last weekend's superb weather at the Capitol Reflecting Pool, post-Botanic Garden visit.
Holiday activities dominate this weekend round-up, but there are a few non-seasonal recommendations for all the Scrooge types, too. See a family-friendly film about Andy Warhol, visit Santa in his workshop, jam to folk music for children, sing along to holiday songs. That’s just a small sample of all there is to do; read on for the rest. Happy Weekend!
‘Tis the Season – The holiday season is in full swing, and DC is chock full of fun ways to celebrate it. A few special events are mentioned below, and this post listing DC’s best has even more recommendations. Think holiday train displays; festivities at the Botanic Garden, and at the National Harbor; light shows; a boat parade; and even more.
Holidays on Stage – Enjoy the ultimate holiday classic The Nutcracker performed by the Washington Ballet at Warner Theatre or catch a tot-friendly version at The Puppet Co. Join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future as they lead Scrooge on A Christmas Carol journey at Ford’s Theatre. Get details on these live shows and others at local theaters this season in this post about holiday entertainment.
Santa on the Ellipse – The National Christmas Tree was illuminated by the First Family last night, so festivities at President’s Park have officially begun. See the tree, a model train zipping around it, the Yule Log, and holiday displays representing all 50 states. But the biggest thrill for kids, by far, will be Santa’s Workshop, which is an actual little cottage on the Ellipse grounds, just down the path from the tree. There, guests can check out St. Nick’s “operations,” complete with a Naughty & Nice meter, letters to Santa stacked up on desks and posted on walls, sketches of toys, and a conveyor belt loaded with presents to be distributed to kids around the world. This is all there for kids to peep as they wait in line to meet Santa himself and sit on his lap for a photo op. It’s open this Saturday and Sunday from 12:30-4:30pm then again from 5:30-9:30pm. Beware that the line can get long — I’ve heard of waits up to 40 minutes — so plan accordingly. Read about our experience there last year.
Bethesda Winter Wonderland – Celebrate the holiday season in downtown Bethesda with a variety of free performances, a live ice sculpting presentation in Bethesda’s Veterans Park, and a visit from Santa Claus. Festivities kick off this evening with a concert at 8pm, and continue tomorrow with ice sculptures in Veterans Park (located at the corner of Woodmont & Norfolk Avenues) from 1-2pm, then a student concert and visit from Santa from 2-4pm. Admission is free.
Scribble, Art, Pop! – Kids can explore art through filmat The National Gallery of Art’s monthly film program. This weekend they’ll present a series of animated shorts that celebrate the qualities that make artists. Guests can get a glimpse into the life and art of Andy Warhol in the fun and gentle film Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists: Andy Warhol, a family-friendly biography of Warhol and an introduction to pop art, along with a few other animated shorts about art, all of the kid-friendly variety. Sessions are at 10:30am on Saturday and 11:30am on Sunday in the East Building Auditorium. The program is free, and seating is offered on a first-come, first-seated basis. Recommended for ages 4 and up.
Renwick Holiday Festival – Celebrate the holiday season in presidential fashion at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery. Go on a scavenger hunt through the exhibit Something of Splendor: Decorative Arts from the White House, where you might spot Grace Coolidge, Dolly Madison, and Teddy Roosevelt; enjoy a family day filled with music, crafts, and activities inspired by the exhibition. Create your own presidential china patterns, make holiday ornaments, and warm up with some hot apple cider. The event takes place on Saturday from 11am – 2pm. Admission is free.
Folk Jam for Kids – Boston roots musician and family entertainer Alastair Moock will perform an all–ages concert at Jammin’ Java on Saturday at 10:30am. The concert celebrates the release of Moock’s new CD entitled “These Are My Friends,” which just won a 2011 NAPPA Gold Award. The show is part of the venue’s ongoing family concert series. Tickets are $10 and available online or at the box office.
DIY Holiday Cards – Kids can exercise their creativity and get into the holiday spirit at a special Holiday Card Workshop hosted by the National Postal Museum on Saturday, from 12 – 3:30pm. Artist Thalia Doukas will provide stamp-centric inspiration and mailable ornaments that guests can use as they create two holiday cards. Be sure to make time before or after to explore the museum, which is full of interesting exhibits, many of them interactive.
Holidays Around the World: Kwanzaa – This holiday season, the National Children’s Museum Launch Zone is celebrating winter holidays around the world. On Saturday from 11am – 4pm, drop in to learn all about Kwanzaa, a holiday focusing on the values of African culture. Kids can make family tree place mats and mishumaa, traditional Kwanzaa candles. Admission is free. The Museum is located at National Harbor, so you can combine it with a visit to the Gaylord National Resort for Christmas on the Potomac.
Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-A-Long – Belt out the season’s most popular tunes at Wolf Trap’s annual gathering on Sunday at 4pm. Along with the opportunity to sing Christmas Carols and Hannukah songs along with choir and vocal groups from the metropolitan Washington area, you can enjoy a performance by the United States Marine Band. While admission to the event if free, Wolf Trap will be participating in Toys for Tots by collecting new, unwrapped toys at the entrance to the Filene Center before the Sing-A-Long. Donations are strictly voluntary and not a requirement. Parking is also free, though limited, so plan on arriving early.
Annual Holiday Sing at the Atlas – The annual free Holiday Concert at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, in collaboration with Capital City Symphony the Congressional Chorus, and the American Youth Chorus, is an H Street holiday tradition. Shows take place on Sunday at 4pm & 7pm. I checked the status of tickets on the website, and while it’s sold out, a note says to “Please come the day of the performance to join the waiting list. In years past, everybody has got in.” Hey, it’s worth a try. And if you don’t get in, you can grab a bite at one of the many eateries along the corridor or head up the street to Union Station to check out the Holiday Train Show.
DC doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the holidays. There are options galore for celebrating the season, many of them annual events that quickly become family traditions. See model trains wind through miniature Christmas villages, drive through dazzling light displays in the woods, have a cool experience (literally) with interactive sculptures in ice. Some of the fun begins as soon as this weekend, so bookmark this page (along with this one featuring live entertainment) and start making some holiday plans.
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; searches for the Botanic Garden’s seasonal exhibit exceeded all other topics last year. 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, try to guess “Who Lives Here” in the whimsical animal houses along the mini-train route. For even more holiday magic at the garden, there are concerts most Tuesday and Thursday evenings in December, when the USBG stays open until 8pm. For more on the seasonal favorite, read this KFDC review from last year.
Holiday on the Ellipse Where: The Ellipse, President’s Park When: December 1 – 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 our experience there last year), which is open at select times, usually 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 dazzling holiday scene.
Trains loop the National Christmas Tree
Christmas on the Potomac Where: National Harbor When: November 18 – January 8 Admission: FREE, though some activities cost extra
National Harbor goes all out during the holidays. ICE! might be the big attraction, but there’s way more to do there to warrant a visit without the frozen entertainment. Most of it takes place in the Gaylord National Resort, which is transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with a spectacular glass Christmas tree, nightly tree lightings starting November 25, the Potomac Express train offering rides for guests, photo ops with Santa, indoor snowfalls, fountain shows, and more. (Read about our experience there last year.) Afterward, shop the holiday market on American Way (open Saturdays & Sundays November 26 – December 18 or grab a bite at one of the Harbor’s many restaurants.
ICE! Where: National Harbor When: November 18 – January 8 Admission: Mon-Thurs $25/adult, $20/kids; Fri-Sun $35/adults, $25/kids; 3 and under are free.Get 50% off with this LivingSocial deal while it lasts!
Technically, this is part of Christmas on the Potomac, but it’s supposedly such a huge spectacle in itself, that it deserves its own write-up. And since I have yet to experience it myself (as explained in this post last year), here’s the description from the website: “Gaylord National’s popular ICE! winter holiday attraction returns with an all-new, hilarious theme: ICE! featuring DreamWorks’ Merry Madagascar. From Nov. 18 to Jan. 8, the DreamWorks Animation holiday TV special will be brought to life in an interactive world of colorful ice sculptures carved entirely from TWO-MILLION pounds of ice. Relive the story as you stroll through this amazing attraction featuring scenes such as how Santa and his reindeer crash-landed onto the island of Madagascar, and why Alex, Marty, Gloria, Melman and the wacky penguins must figure out how to save Christmas by delivering all the presents themselves. Even the mischievous lemur King Julien learns the true meaning of the holiday and manages to get himself off the “naughty list” once and for all. Tickets can be purchased in advance online, and there are timed entries are every half-hour. Hours vary by day, so be sure to check the schedule when you plan to go.
National Menorah Lighting Where: The National Ellipse When: December 20, 4pm Admission: FREE, but you must request tickets
As I noted in this post from last year, it’s tough to find family Chanukah events open to the public in the area. But they do happen, and this is a nice one. Along with the lighting, there will be entertainment by the U.S. Marine Band as well as Dreidelman and the Macabees. If you don’t mind waiting in line afterward, stay for latkes and donuts. Tickets are free, but you need to request them in advance. Go here to get yours.
Come light the National Menorah
Christmas at Mount Vernon Where: Mount Vernon Estate, Museum, & Gardens When: November 25 – January 6 Admission: $15/adults, $7/ages 6-11, free for ages 5 and under
The special daytime holiday program at George Washington’s homestead includes 12 Christmas trees, a gingerbread Mount Vernon, historical chocolate-making demonstrations (and tastings!), and more. Guests will also have the chance to tour the rarely opened third floor of the mansion to learn how the first First Family celebrated Christmas. And outside, Alladin the camel will be on view to recall the camel ol’ George himself bought for 18 shillings in 1787 for his guests’ enjoyment at Christmas.
Holiday Train Show Where: Union Station When: November 22 – January 2 Admission: FREE
The Holiday Train Show located in the Main & West Halls features a new model train display for the first time at Union Station in 15 years. MTH Electric Trains, a leading model train manufacturer in Columbia, Md., is providing the locomotive exhibit that consists of model trains from every railroad era and includes trains from Europe and other parts of the world.
Holiday Festival of Trains & Toys Where: B&O Railroad Museum When: November 25 – December 31 Admission: $14/adults, $12/seniors (60+), $8/ages 2-12 free for B&O members
This is a venue dedicated to locomotives, so you know the holiday model train exhibit is going to be special. So much so, it changes throughout its run featuring new displays from various Model Railroad Exhibitors every few days. The exhibit opens the day after Thanksgiving with the arrival of Santa in the Roundhouse at 10:30am. On weekends through December 18, guests can enjoy train rides with Santa and Frosty the Snowman along with crafts and choral performances. Train rides are $2/adults, $1/children, free for B&O Members.
Holly Trolley Fest Where: National Capitol Trolley Museum When: November 26 – December 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 est of the museum, offering a glimpse into the history of street cars, including a Hall displaying different cars from around the region and Europe. Visit the website for directions museum.
ZooLights Where: National Zoo When: November 25 – December 11, December 16 – January 1 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, and this year there will be an “iceless” skating rink (made of an eco-friendly synthetic skating surface) in the Picnic Pavilion Guests can also enjoy entertainment and a special train ride for children, special talks by animal keepers, Zoo-themed model trains displays, and the gingerbread habitat contest entries on display in the auditorium. The Small Mammal House, Great Ape House, Reptile Discovery Center, Think Tank, and Kids’ Farm will be open every night. Skating and train rides cost extra: $5 to skate, $2 skate rentals, $3 train rides.
Watkins' drive-thru light show
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 25 years. This is great way to get into the holiday spirit from the comfort of your car – pop some holiday music into the CD player, turn on the seat warmers, and take in the illuminated scenes. New festival features include Santa flying a helicopter and driving a fire truck.
Symphony of Lights Where: Symphony Woods, Merriweather Post Pavilion When: November 21 – January 1, 6-10pm nightly Admission: $20/car
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.
Garden of Lights Where: Brookside Gardens When: November 25 – January 8, with noted exceptions Admission: $20/car Mon-Thurs, $25/car Fri-Sun
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 weekdays 5:30-9pm, with last car admitted at 8:30pm, weekends (Friday – Sunday) 5:30-10pm, with last car admitted at 9:30pm. Closed December 24 & 25, and January 2-5.
Alexandria Boat Parade of Lights Where: Alexandria City Marina When: December 3 Admission: FREE
Alexandria’s harbor lights up when more than 50 illuminated boats cruise the Washington Channel to the historic waterfront. Pre-parade festivities at the Alexandria City Marina begin at 4pm with Santa arriving by fireboat at 4:15pm. The boat parade begins at 6pm. The Marina is located at Cameron Street in Old Town.
Winter Lights Festival Where: Seneca Creeek State Park When: November 25-26, then nightly December 2-31 Admission: $12/car Tues-Thurs, $15/car Fri- Sun
The 16th 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. Theme areas include Winter Woods, Teddy Bear Land, Victorian Village, North Pole, Toyland, and Penguin Cove. Proceeds Benefit Local Charities.
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.
Take your pick of The Nutcracker productions, see Ebenezer Scrooge on stage, rock out or sing along to holiday tunes, discover celebrations around the world — there are shows to suit all theater preferences, ages, and wallets. See this recent KFDC post has details on live entertainment to be enjoyed this holiday season.