Tag Archives: DC holidays with kids

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 shana@jewishwashington.com.

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.

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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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The 2014 KFDC Guide to the Best Holiday Events in DC

guide_capitol_xmas_tree

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

Chanukah

Light Displays

Holiday Markets

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Holiday Shows

nutcracker_warner

 
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.


Trains

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.)

ICE!
Where: National Harbor
When: November 14 – January 5
Admission:
$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!

Chanukah

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: Jennifer.DeAngelis@jccnv.org | 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 www.chabadAA.org 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 www.chabadAA.org 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.

ZooLights
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.


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The 2013 KFDC Guide to the Holidays in DC

See the Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting on December 3

See the Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting on December 3


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

Holiday Shows
Special Events
Chanukah
Model Trains
Light Displays

Holiday Shows

nutcracker_warner

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Trains

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

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

Season’s Greenings

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Events

Viewing holiday displays on the Ellipse

Viewing holiday displays on the Ellipse

 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas at Mount Vernon

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holly Trolley Fest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chanukah

Come light the Menorah on the Ellipse November 27

Come light the Menorah on the Ellipse November 27

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Holiday Lights

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

Winter Lights Festival

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

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

Alexandria Boat Parade of Lights

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

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

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

Winter Walk of Lights

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

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

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

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

 

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The KFDC 2012 Guide to DC’s Best Holiday Events

The Capitol Christmas tree

 

Now that the election is over, we can redirect our focus — to the holidays! It might seem early, but the folks behind some of the area’s best seasonal celebrations don’t think so, with many of them commencing in the next couple of weeks, and the rest starting shortly after. But no matter when you’re ready to embrace the holiday spirit, you’re in the right place. There are options galore in DC to celebrate the season, many of them annual events that are 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. And all kinds of events and extravaganzas, several at iconic locales,  present holiday cheer and activities that thrill kids (and the kid in all of us grown-ups). Here’s where you can find it all:

Holiday Shows
Model Trains
Events, etc.
Light Displays

Holiday Shows

Septime Webre's The Nutcracker. Photo: Courtesy Brianne Bland

 

A Christmas Carol
Where: Ford’s Theatre
When: November 16 – December 30
Tickets: $22-89
Join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future as they lead the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge on a journey of transformation and redemption. Originally conceived by Michael Baron, this music-infused production captures the magic and joy of Dickens’s Yuletide classic. Acclaimed Washington stage actor Edward Gero returns to play Scrooge.

A Little House Christmas
Where: Adventure Theatre
When: November 17 – December 31
Tickets: $19 (Look for a discount here)
The Ingalls are hosting some of their friends and relatives for a pre-Christmas dinner when a sudden storm threatens to cut off access to the town from which most of the guests have come. Come home for the holidays with this heartwarming adventure that shows that the simple things make living worthwhile as Mary and Laura learn the true meaning of Christmas. Recommended for ages 4 and up.

The Nutcracker
Where: The Puppet Co.
When: November 25 – December 31
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.  This is the 25th Anniversary of this wildly popular show. Recommended for kindergarten age and older.

The Washington Ballet: The Nutcracker
Where: THEARC Theater
When: November 24-25
Tickets: $30/35/40

The Washington Ballet modifies Septime Webre’s critically acclaimed production a bit at the Anacostia theatre, making it more enticing to 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.

Nutcracker Fantasy
Where: The Puppet Co. Tiny Tots
When: November 24 – 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.

Holiday Sing-A-Long
Where: Wolf Trap
When: December 1, 4pm
Tickets: Free

Kick off the holiday season with family and friends at Wolf Trap’s 2012 Holiday Sing-A-Long! This annual musical celebration hosts 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.

Septime Weber’s The Nutcracker
Where: Warner Theatre
When: December 1-24
Tickets: $34-101


The Washington Ballet celebrates the 120th anniversary of the first performance of The Nutcracker by bringing Septime Webre’s, The Nutcracker, to the historic Warner Theater in Washington. This adaptation of the beloved ballet tells the story of a little girl named Clara who is given a magical nutcracker at a Christmas Eve in her family’s 1882 Georgetown mansion. Later that evening she encounters a battle of Revolutionary War soldiers led by the frightful King Rat (King George III) and the Nutcracker (George Washington). After winning the battle, the Nutcracker, now a handsome prince leads her on a wondrous journey filled with the Snow Queen and King, Sugar Plum Fairy, cherry blossoms, Anacostia Indians, a frontiersman, cardinals and more.

Seasons of Light
Where: Discovery Theater
When: December 3-21
Tickets: $3-8


Discovery Theater’s seasonal favorite captures the warmth of many holidays filled with light, in this joyous interactive celebration. Explore the history and customs of Devali, Ramadan, Sankta Lucia, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, Christmas, and the First Nations’ tradition of the Winter Solstice. Recommended for ages 5-10.

Annual Carol Sing
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 9, 1pm & 4pm
Tickets: Free, but must be reserved ($2 service fee)

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

Drumming with Dishes: Holiday Edition
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 11 – 16
Tickets: $8

Drumming with Dishes is back, this time with a holiday twist!  A young girl introduces her imaginary friend to what makes the holiday season the most wonderful time of the year. This gentle, whimsical adventure celebrates friendship and turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. Recommended for ages up to 5.

Step Afrika!’s Magical, Musical Holiday Step Show
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 12 – 23
Tickets: $35/adult, $20/seniors, military, $12/ages 17 and Under

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

Ballet West: The Nutcracker
Where: Kennedy Center
When: December 5-9
Tickets: $45-150


Ring in the holidays with America’s first full-length Nutcracker, when Utah’s Ballet West presents Willam Christensen’s beloved production. Hailed by New York Times dance critic Alastair Macaulay as “one of the best productions I’ve ever seen,” Ballet West’s The Nutcracker features Tchaikovsky’s timeless score, and a brilliant blend of costumes, sets, and choreography to create a magical storybook world. Performed with live orchestra, choir, and a host of young children from the area, this is the seasonal gift everyone deserves to receive.

A Charlie Brown Christmas
Where: BlackRock Center for the Arts
When: December 8
Tickets: $14

The classic television animated special will be shown on the big screen (without commercial interruption!), followed by a live performance of songs from Vince Guaraldi’s fabulous jazz score played by the Eric Byrd Trio. Think of it as the perfect opportunity to indulge in a little nostalgia while creating new family memories. Sure to be a highlight is Eric’s 9 year-old son, Jason Miles Byrd, singing the song “Christmas Time is Here.”

A Children’s Nutcracker
Where: Battlefield High School, Haymarket, VA
When: December 8
Tickets: $15-20

This production from the Gainesville Ballet School features local talent ranging from three years of age through adult professionals. The show presents the traditional dances, such as Snow Flake and Sugar Plum Fairy, plus some very special dances with the young ballerinas, such as Blue Bird and Angels.

The Mini-Nut
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center
When: December 8-9
Tickets: $18/adults, $12/children 12 and under


The Maryland Youth Ballet presents a sweet treat with a delightful, 50- minute, abbreviated presentation of their classic production. Performances takes place at Montgomery College’s Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus.

Christmas Dreams 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. Snowflakes and Sugar Plum Fairies fill the air in a dazzling presentation full of lovely costumes, lively dances and elegant holiday cheer. Performances take place at 9:30am and 11am, and tickets are required for admission. Free tickets are distributed half an hour prior to the start of shows on a first-come first-served basis. Seating is limited, so get there early.

Merry TubaChristmas!
Where: Kennedy Center
When: December 13, 6pm
Tickets: Free

One of the Millennium Stage’s free, holiday-themed performances will feature more than 100 tuba, sousaphone, and euphonium players putting a new spin on holiday classics.

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


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

 

Trains

Last year's train display at Union Station

 

Season’s Greenings

Where:U.S. Botanic Garden
When: November 22 – January 1
Admission: FREE

If my blog stats are any indication, this might be DC’s most popular holiday attraction; the Botanic Garden’s seasonal exhibit was among the most searched for 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, trains will zip through an imaginative Enchanted Forest, with fanciful fairy dwellings along the rail line, all created with plant materials. 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 a Season’s Greenings past.

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

Holiday Festival of Trains & Toys
Where: B&O Railroad Museum
When: November 23 – December 31
Admission: $16/adults, $14/seniors (60+), $10/ages 2-12, free for B&O members


This is a venue dedicated to locomotives, so you know the holiday model train exhibit is going to be special. So much so, it changes throughout its run featuring new displays from various Model Railroad Exhibitors every few days. The exhibit opens the day after Thanksgiving with the arrival of 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 $3/adults, $2/children, free for B&O Members.

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.

 

Events, etc.

A peek inside Santa's Workshop

 

Holiday on the Ellipse
Where: The National Ellipse
When: December 8 – 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 a couple of years ago) 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. (Note: The National Christmas Tree Lighting is on December 6, but Santa’s Workshop does not open until the December 8 — be sure to check the schedule here.)

Ice Palace
Where: Fair Oaks Mall
When: November 8 – December 24
Admission: Free
Journey through the Ice Palace, a 30-foot ice dome with falling snow, a light show and, new this year, the beloved prehistoric herd from the family film Ice Age: Continental Drift. The adventure continues with a visit to Santa and photo ops on the Ice Throne.

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 , the Potomac Express train offering rides for guests, photo ops with Santa, indoor snowfalls, fountain shows, and more. (Read about our experience there a couple of years ago.)

ICE!
Where: National Harbor
When: November 16 – January 6
Admission: $23-30/adult, $19-26/seniors, $16-23/kids, 3 and under are free (look for a LivingSocial deal 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 last year, and I recommend reading my review (and getting the LivingSocial deal) before you go. And since it features a new theme this 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’ Shrek the Halls… The animated holiday TV special will be brought to life in an interactive world of colorful ice sculptures and incredible 20-feet tall ice slides carved entirely from TWO MILLION pounds of ice. Relive the heartwarming story as you stroll through this amazing attraction featuring your favorite characters: Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, Gingy and Puss in Boots as they celebrate Christmas in their own special way. When Shrek tries to plan the “perfect Christmas” for Fiona and the kids, his plans are disrupted by chaos and commotion. But, in the end, Shrek learns the true meaning of the holiday.” 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.

Christmas at Mount Vernon

Where: Mount Vernon Estate, Museum, & Gardens
When: November 23 – 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.

Harbor Holiday Festival
Where: National Harbor
When: November 30 – December 1
Admission: $15/adults, $29.99/Family Weekend Pass (see below)
The magic of the holidays will come alive at the National Harbor’s new seasonal festival.This fantastic, fun-filled, family fest offers something for everyone — handmade crafts, unique one-of-a kind gift items, great holiday décor, wonderful wines and foods, magical entertainment, costumed merri-makers, kids activities, and so much more. There is an admission charge for ages 15 and up.  A nice deal is the Family Weekend Pass, which includes admission for two adults and two children, a souvenir shopping bag, complimentary hot chocolate, and a tasting flight pass — look for a LivingSocial deal here.

Holiday Card Workshop
Where: National Postal Museum
When: December 1, 11am – 3:30pm
Admission: Free
Kids can get creative and into the holiday spirit at this special workshop hosted by the National Postal Museum every year. Artist Thalia Doukas provides stamp-centric inspiration and mailable ornaments that guests can use as they make two holiday cards – one to bring home and give away, and one to send to the troops. We went to this last year, and the kids had a blast designing cards for their friends and members of the military overseas for the holidays.

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

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

Christmas Town
Where: Busch Gardens
When: December 1-31
Admission: $27/ages 3 and up

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

Holly Trolley Fest

Where: National Capitol Trolley Museum
When: December 1 – 23, 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. Visit the website for directions museum.

Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol
When: December 4
Admission: Free

Another big tree lighting ceremony in DC takes place at the Capitol, and the public is invited to watch it. You can track the tree as it journeys from Colorado, where it was cut down to, DC. It’s expected to arrive on November 26. After the lighting, the tree will be lit every evening  for all to enjoy until December 26.

The Chanukah Experience
Where: TheSHUL
When: December 2-3
Admission: $9/person or $30/family

Get the Chanukah celebration started early with activities for all ages — themed arts and crafts, food, a Chanukah movie theater, an olive press exhibit, and a performance by comedian juggler Michael Rosman! TheSHUL is located at 2110 Leroy Place NW, 5 blocks north of Dupont Circle.

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

The Royal Norwegian Embassy presents the 15th Norwegian Christmas at Union Station. Listen to The Children’s Chorus of Washington sing Christmas carols and let the whole family find the Christmas Spirit as Under Secretary of the Navy Robert O. Work flicks the switch to the 20,000 lights on the Christmas tree at Union Station.Santa Claus will be on hand with treats for the children in attendance. Marines and representatives of the Embassy will also be present to accept donations to this year’s Toys for Tots campaign, which distributes toys to needy children throughout the region. Please consider donating a new, unwrapped toy. Checks made out to “Toys for Tots” are also welcome. The tree will be on display through December.

National Menorah Lighting
Where: The National Ellipse
When: December 9, 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.

Light the Night
Where: Cabin John Shopping Center
When: December 9, 4-5:30pm
Admission: Free

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

Chanukah on Ice
Where: Pentagon Row Ice Rink
When: December 9, 6-8:30pm
Admission: $10 in advance, $12 at the door

Celebrate the second night of 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.

Chanukah Festival
Where: Crowne Plaza Hotel in Alexandria
When: December 10, 6:30pm
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 www.chabadAA.org or call 703-370-2774.

 

Holiday Lights

Cruising through the Festival of Lights at Watkins Regional Park

 

Symphony of Lights
Where: Symphony Woods, Merriweather Post Pavilion
When: November 19 – January 6, 6-10pm nightly
Admission: $20/car (get a LivingSocial discount here)


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.)

ZooLights
Where: National Zoo
When: November 23  –  January 1
Admission: FREE

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

Festival of Lights
Where: Watkins Regional Park
When: November 23 – 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.

Garden of Lights
Where: Brookside Gardens
When: November 23 – January 6, with noted exceptions
Admission: $20/car Mon-Thurs, $25/car Fri-Sun


It’s the 15th season of this festive light show, that is a popular family tradition in the DC area, attracting nearly 40,000 visitors each winter. Why? Visualize close to one million twinkling colorful lights shaped in imaginative displays throughout the gardens. Enjoy the four seasons illuminated as giant summer sunflowers, autumn leaves, winter snowflakes, spring flowers, rain showers, and more. Walk along the easily accessible paths and you’ll see what sets this light show apart from others; it’s the hundreds of wrapped trees and shrubs, beautifully lighted gazebos, cascading fountains, and the individually formed displays in the shapes of blooming flowers and wild animals. Look for moving displays such as a flock of geese, or an 11-foot giraffe covered with 9,000 lights. Open Sunday – Thursday 5:30-9pm, with last car admitted at 8:30pm, and Friday/Saturday 5:30-10pm, with last car admitted at 9:30pm.

Winter Lights Festival

Where: Seneca Creeek State Park
When: November 23-24, then nightly November 30 – December 31
Admission: $12/car Tues-Thurs, $15/car Fri- Sun

The 17th 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.  Hours are Sunday – Thursday 6-9pm and Friday-Saturday 6-10pm.

Alexandria Boat Parade of Lights

Where: Alexandria City Marina
When: December 1
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.

Parade of Lighted Boats
Where:Southwest Waterfront
When: December 1, 5:30-8pm
Admission: Free
On the other end of Alexandria’s boat parade, the Washington Waterfront Association and Old Dominion Boat Club will host the Parade of Lighted Boats along the Southwest Waterfront. So, it’s actually the same parade, just different festivities on the DC side. In addition to the magical display of decorated boats sailing from Alexandria to Washington, DC, the festival will include a surprise snow fall, lighting of the waterfront Christmas Tree, complimentary photos with Santa Claus, and live holiday music.

Winter Walk of Lights

Where: Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
When: November 16 – January 6
Admission: $13/adult, $8/ages 3-12 (get a Certifikid deal here)

Experience  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. Be enchanted by a flowing stream of softly glowing lights, marvel at the two story animated fountain, stroll past the Gingerbread Village, and explore the beauty of nature like you’ve never seen it.

Bull Run Festival of Lights
Where: Bull Run Regional Park
When: November 21 – January 6
Admission: Monday- Thursday $15/car, Friday-Saturday $20/car

For more than 12 years the Bull Run Festival of Lights has drawn thousands of visitors to the park to delight in its winter wonderland. Get a sneak preview of it on the website, where a video of Santa’s Enchanted Lights, with over 40,000 animated lights set to music, is merely a fraction of what you’ll find there.

 

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