Find ideas for all kinds of family activities with these quick links:
* KFDC Guide to the Holiday Season
* Best Outdoors in the DC Area
* Local Hikes with Kids
* Autumn Activities
* Ice Skating
* Indoor Outings
* Bike Rides
* Peaceful Places
* Baltimore with Kids
Where: Yards Park | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: Nightly through January 1, 6-10pm
The annual holiday light art installation is back at Yards Park! It’s free to see this year’s 22-foot illuminated tree sculptures and enjoy some festive holiday cheer at the park’s sun deck. Plan for dinner at one of the many nearby restaurants then stay to play and enjoy the lights (or vice versa) along with views of the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge. A few good family dining recs: Due South, Osteria Morini, and Agua 301 are right there, and All Purpose Pizza, The Salt Line, and El Bebe are closer to Nats Park. And, of course, Ice Cream Jubilee for sweet treats! Get a glimpse of Light Yards here.
Festival of Lights
Where: Watkins Regional Park | Upper Marlboro, MD
When: Throughout January 2, 5-9:30pm
We’ve been doing this one since the kids were babes… Watkins’ sweet holiday drive-through event of more than one million twinkling lights has been dazzling holiday-goers for over 25 years. It’s a great way to get into the holiday spirit from the comfort of your car — bring a thermos of hot chocolate, put on some holiday music, turn on the seat warmers, and take in the adorably festive illuminated scenes. Purchase tickets in advance online and pay only $8. Even more, if you can snag a limited spot, they are also offering horse-drawn carriage rides for the first time ever this year. Extra cost, and preregistration required! Also note the new entrance across the street from Riverdale Baptist School at 1133 Largo Rd.
Let There Be (Even More) Lights
Where: Around the DMV
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by locale
Even more parks and gardens in the area are brightening up the season with twinkling holiday light displays. Some you can walk through for an up-close experience, others you tour by car. Whatever you choose, you’re in for a dazzling good time. See where you can enjoy them in the KFDC Holiday Guide.
Where: Heurich House Museum | Dupont Circle, DC
When: Friday, Saturday, & Sunday
Admission: $10-16/ages 15+ and $2/ages 2-15
Huerich House’s annual holiday market and festive house tour is back in person this year. Christkindlmarkt honors 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. You can also take a self-guided tour of the mansion, which will be festively decorated for the season.
Where: National Children’s Museum | Downtown DC
When: Saturday, 9am – 12pm
Admission: $30/adult, $15/child
Join the National Children’s Museum for a special holiday event with small bites, warm drinks, fun exhibits, and a photo opportunity with some holiday friends: a magical Snow Queen and Santa! Read more about the Museum and all of its STEAM-inspired exhibits in this KFDC post.
Scottish Christmas Walk
Where: Old Town | Alexandria, VA
When: Saturday, 11am
The Scottish Christmas Walk will be back this holiday season! Once again, the parade will be a showcase of 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.
Holidays on the Stage
Where: Local theatres
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by venue
If you’re looking for holiday-inspired entertainment to get into the spirit, there is a lot to choose from! Adventure Theatre and The Puppet Co. have performances especially for little ones, including Chanukah-themed shows. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical is at National Theatre. Washington Ballet’s The Nutcracker will enchant audiences of all ages. Cinderella is sweeping across the Synetic Theatre stage. Get details on all of these shows and see what else is coming up soon in the KFDC Guide to the Holiday Season in the DC Area.
Hike in the City
Where: Rock Creek Park | Northwest DC
This isn’t a new suggestion, but there is a brand new post from our most recent hike in Rock Creek Park. Our urban national park is a go-to anytime of year, but it’s especially lovely in the fall. And this weekend looks like it’ll be a great time to hit the trail there. See more about it here. And for more great walks in the woods with kids, see this popular KFDC post.
Exhibit A… and B, C, D, & E
Where: Museums around DC
When: Throughout the weekend
There are several great exhibits to experience right now at our local museum. The whole family will be fascinated by FUTURES at the Arts & Industries Building. Laurie Anderson: The Weather at the Hirshhorn is a great one for tween ages and up. The Gun Violence Memorial Project at the National Building Museum is powerful and ever-timely. ARTECHOUSE just extended its immersive Life of a Neuron. The Fossil Hall at the National Museum of Natural History is always an interesting one to explore. And, of course, the rest of our Smithsonians have permanent collections that we never get tired of seeing.
Sock Monkey Saturday
Where: American Visionary Art Museum | Baltimore, MD
When: Saturday, 10am – 1pm
Don’t let the holidays drive you BANANAS! Relax by making your very own Sock Monkey—a great last-minute gift, and just something fun to do with the family. AVAM’s huge sock monkey making extravaganza is smaller this year, and all materials — stuffing, sewing needles, thread, visionary baubles — will be provided. Bring a pair of fun, colorful socks if you’d like, but they’ll also have some available for you. Plan to explore the whole wonderful American Visionary Art Museum — read all about it here. And for more to do in Charm City, including resturant recs and other attractions, see this Guide to Exploring Baltimore with Kids.
The Miraculous Magical Balloon
Where: Highland Elementary | Wheaton, MD
When: Saturday, 11am & Sunday, 2pm
InterAct Story Theatre presents this free performance for kids and families as part of the Wheaton Family Theatre Series! Synetic Theater’s The Miraculous Magical Balloon tells a wonderful story of a traveling actor and his magical trunk of tricks and toys. Recommended for all ages. Highland Elementary School is located at 3100 Medway Street, in Wheaton, MD.
Virtual Nutcracker Celebration
When: Saturday, 10am
Celebrate the magical winter wonderland of The Nutcracker with the Smithsonian American Art Museum and The Washington Ballet! This virtual ballet experience is designed for fun at home with the whole family. Join former Radio City Rockette DeMoya Watson Brown for a story time reading of the beloved holiday classic. Follow along with Clara, her Nutcracker Prince, and the Sugar Plum Fairy on their remarkable adventures. Then, jeté into an interactive ballet master class led by The Washington Ballet School instructor Margaret Williamson
Where: Capital Turnaround | Capitol Hill, DC
When: Saturday, 10am – 1pm
Usher in the Christmas season with this free event for kids and their families in a newly-renovated historic space in DC! National Community Church is hosting a few hours of festive activities including a Santa train, a skate-less indoor rink, Christmas movies, picture with Santa, craft stations, and a hot cocoa and cider bar. Open to everyone — invite your friends and neighbors! Te Capital Turnaround is located at 770 M St SE.
Follies Winter Workshop
Where: Halcyon Arts Lab | Northwest DC
When: Saturday, 3-6pm
Bring your family to a free special holiday event featuring STEM activities and festive crafts with the award winning Follies toy. It’s family fun and holiday cheer at the beautiful studio space in Georgetown as you get creative with a holiday inspired STEM workshop, snacks and music. Featuring the DC made, award winning (and Toy of The Year nominated) Follies Playset, guests can also enjoy exclusive discounts, Follies fan packs, and giveaways. Spots are limited so RSVP before it’s too late. Note: Those over 12 should bring proof of vaccination and all should wear masks.
Where: The Boro | Tysons, VA
When: Saturday, 4-6pm
Admission: Free (registration requested)
Get in the spirit of the season at a snow day party! At this Après Ski-themed event, The Boro will be snow in the air (yes, REAL snow!), light its giant snow globe installation, and welcome guests to an afternoon of crafts and fun holiday cocktails. Plus, get in the spirit of giving with a toy drive benefiting Toys for Tots!
The District’s Holiday Boat Parade
Where: The Wharf | Southwest DC
When: Saturday, 6-9pm
Celebrate the holidays at The Wharf and see the beautifully decorated boats cruise by on the Potomac along with more activities. Decorate ornaments to get into the spirit, go ice skating (the rink will be back!), plus warm up by the big fire pit and visit the lighted Christmas Tree. 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: Saturday | Parade, 5:30pm; Dockside Festivities, 2-8pm
Alexandria’s harbor will shine as dozens of brightly lit boats cruise the Potomac River at the historic waterfront for the 20h annual Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights. Enjoy festivities out on the dock 2-7pm, including a Letters to Santa postcard pop-up, a hot chocolate bar from Dolci Gelati, and a beer garden from Port City Brewing Company.
Family Chanukah Party
Where: EDCJCC | Northwest DC
When: December 5, 10-11am
Join the EDCJCC for a fun morning celebrating Hanukkah. We will have arts and crafts, music, science and a community service opportunity. This program will take place in the JCC parking lot and inside the building. All visitors over the age of 12 entering the EDCJCC’s building are required to show proof of vaccination.
Chanukah at Glen Echo
Where: Glen Echo Park | Glen Echo, MD
When: Sunday, 2:30-5:30pm
Admission: Varies — see below
Glen Echo Partnership is teaming up with Adventure Theatre, the Puppet Co. and the Chabad of Bethesda for a Chanukah Celebration on Sunday. Both theaters are presenting Chanukah themed shows, and between showings of the two productions, there will be a Chanukah Party with refreshments, festive music, and arts & crafts for all ages, and the lighting of the menorah. It will be held outside in the Park’s Cuddle Up Pavilion. Families can enjoy both shows and the Chanukah Party for $30/person, just one show for $15-20/person, or just the party, which is free with a suggested donation of $5.
Chocolate Binge Festival
Where: Downtown Annapolis, MD
When: Sunday, 12-5pm
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 local and regional chocolatiers vend their specialties. The Festival will also feature family friendly entertainment, holiday shopping, and the lighting of West Street’s BGE Holiday Light Canopy – have your cameras ready for that at 5pm! Purchase tickets in advance; only a limited number will be sold at the event.
Holiday Craft Workshop & Elf on the Shelf Scavenger Hunt
Where: Tanger Outlets | Oxon Hill, MD
When: Sunday, 2-2:45pm
Join Tanger Outlets National Harbor and Kidcreate Studio Alexandria for an afternoon of holiday crafting plus a magical scavenger hunt featuring The Elf on the Shelf! Bring little explorers and imaginations to a workshop for a special craft, then head out into the shopping center to look for the Scout Elves and receive a Holiday Pop It! For just $10, they’ll provide each child with a craft and refreshments plus The Elf on the Shelf activity and clue book for the scavenger hunt. Space is limited so reserve a spot soon! (Note: This also takes place 12/11-12 and 12/18-19.)
More Holiday Happenings
Where: Around the DC Area
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by activity
There’s holiday inspired fun to be had all over the area in all kinds of ways at every price point. See model trains buzz around model farms around the world at the US Botanic Garden. Visit the National Menorah and Christmas Tree on the Ellipse or the one at the US Capitol. Experience Christmas on the Potomac at the National Harbor. Take a street car ride with Santa at the Holly Trolley Fest. Check out Light Yards, the annual illuminated installation at Yards Park. Find details on all of these events and more are in the 2021 KFDC Holiday Guide.
***MORE GOOD STUFF***
* There’s a new giveaway for a chance to win a Family 4-Pack of tickets to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at Olney Theatre!
* Don’t forget about the KFDC Holiday Gift Guide if you’re looking for ideas for presents, especially local adventures and experiences.
* The 100 best songs of 2021 (NPR)
* Where to go in 2022, according to AFAR.
* This would be a nice stocking stuffer (ie, I want one).
* McSweeney’s pretty much nails it.
* Get ready to smile: Darcy’s 10 Happy Things for December!