Tag Archives: December 2021

Where to Go and What to Do Around DC During Winter Break 2021

Bike around the National Mall and memorials over the break


If you’re going to be in town over the Winter Break from school, you’ll likely be looking for activities to keep the whole gang happy (and that includes us parents)! Hence, I’m bringing back this guide once again, but with updated info and some new inspiration that reflects what’s going on now.

Many of these ideas are already on the blog, but sometimes a little guidance for what’s best at certain times helps. Among the recommendations are holiday activities that keep the spirit going a little longer, exhibits and shows that are hot tickets right now, outings that take advantage of the season, adventures to keep your gang active no matter what the weather, and places and experiences that kids who are in school all day can’t get to easily.

Of course, the rest of the blog is packed with suggestions if you want even more options. So, whether you’re enjoying a staycation or visiting from out of town, you should have no problem keeping the kids (and yourself!) entertained during the time off — or on, depending how you look at it. 😉  Happy Winter Break!


Holiday-Inspired Happenings

Special Exhibits & Museums

Must-See DC


Show Time

Indoor Action

See Some Sports

Day Trips

Extra Tips



Holiday-Inspired Happenings

Model trains are back at the Botanic Garden — outside!

Outdoor Train Display
Where: US Botanic Garden | Capitol Hill, DC
When: Through January 2
Admission: Free
The USBG’s wonderful annual model train exhibit is back after a hiatus last year, though outdoors in the gated National Garden.  Made up of farming scenes, it’s delightful as ever and once again all constructed from plant materials. Along with the model trains,  there are more festive adornments throughout the Garden, plus Patrick Doherty’s amazing stickwork sculpture that was installed in late 2019.

Search for Santa’s Helpers
Where: Potomac Overlook Park | Arlington, VA
When: December 18-22, 11am – 3pm
Admission: $5/child

Go on a scavenger hunt around Potomac Overlook Park to find Santa’s helpers so they can get back to the North Pole in time for the holidays.  No reservations are needed, but check in at the Nature Center  to begin.  The park in Arlington is a great place to hike around, even better when there’s an extra holiday adventure!  Get some background on Potomac Overlook in this KFDC post from awhile back — but pretty much still applicable now.

Enchant Christmas
Where: Nationals Park | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: Through January 2
Admission: $20-34/adult, $17-27/age 14-17, $15-25/age 4-13

Explore a 90,000 square foot Christmas Light Maze and help Santa find his reindeer before Christmas Eve. Held at Nationals Park, Enchant Christmas also features an ice skating trail, live entertainment, food and drink, a Play Place just for little ones,  a Christmas market and Santa and Mrs. Claus. Read a KFDC review of this DC holiday attraction from its 2019 run. Look for a discount here.

Christmas at Mount Vernon

Where: Mount Vernon Estate, Museum, & Gardens
When: Through December
Admission: $28/adult, $15/age 6-11, free/5 & under 

Christmas past meets Christmas present at George Washington’s estate.  During the day, tour the Mansion, watch historic chocolate-making demonstrations, and meet Aladdin the Camel. On select dates, there are some special evening holiday activities, too. Mount Vernon is open every day of the year, including Christmas Day and New Year’s. Look for a discount – $21/adult, $11.25/child.

Holiday Festival of Trains
Where: B&O Railroad Museum | Baltimore, MD
When: Through December 31
Admission: $18/adult, $17/senior, $12/age 2-12, free/B&O members

At a venue dedicated to locomotives, you know the holiday model train exhibit is going to be special. The whole Museum has been transformed into a wonderland of festive fun including Reindeer Railway train rides, photos ops with Santa and winter friends, Santa’s Village, live entertainment, and more!  And just opened is  a new Model Train Gallery featuring a specially crafted HO Scale model layout of Baltimore in 1997.

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

National Harbor goes all out during the holidays. While there’s no ICE! exhibit this year, there’s still plenty to do there to warrant a visit without the frozen entertainment. Much of it takes place in the Gaylord National Resort, which is transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with a spectacular glass Christmas tree, nightly lightings, indoor snowfalls, and more fun,, much of it free. (Read about a KFDC experience there during a Christmas season past.). For extra costs, there are ice slides and ice skating and holiday activities for kids.  There are also nightly tree lightings and lights show in the National Harbor outdoor plaza.

* Find even more holiday happenings in the KFDC Guide to the Holiday Season in DC!



Special Exhibits & Museums


Interact with language at Planet Word

Word Up
Where: Planet Word | Downtown DC
When: Thursday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Admission: Free

The museum all about language is full of fun and interesting exhibits, most of them interactive. There are elements that all ages will love, though tweens and older will get the most out of it, having more grammar lessons under their belts and generally better comprehension. Our whole family loves it! Admission is free, but you need to book tickets in advance. Right now, there are some available for dates over the break. And a limited number of day-of, walk-up passes are available on the half-hour.

Where: Arts & Industries Building | National Mall, DC
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Free

The Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building recently reopened — with a new, fascinating exhibition, to boot!  FUTURES spans 32,000 square feet inside, and it’s full of large-scale installations, displays, and interactives that are exciting, powerful, and thought-provoking as they offer a glimpse of future possibilities — and prompt us to wonder how we can contribute. It’s an exhibition for everyone and all ages, and one to put on your must-visit list! Get a glimpse of it here.

Laurie Anderson: The Weather
Where: Hirshhorn Museum | National Mall, DC
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Free

This exhibition at the Hirshhorn is fantastic!  Beautiful abstract paintings, captivating stories, interesting photography, original instruments, spoken word video sculptures, and an entire black and white gallery hand painted by Anderson with sketches, quotes, poems, and passages are among the collection of multimedia works. I’d recommend the exhibit for tween ages and up, though younger children could definitely tag along — there are visual elements that would appeal to them, too. (Plus, art can always be presented to them as something that was in someone’s imagination that they have made real… that is what I did, anyway, when my kids were younger and we encountered art that was over their heads.)

Alif Ba Exhibition
Where: National Children’s Museum | Downtown DC
When: December 18 – February 22
Admission: $15.95

A new visiting exhibit that explores the Arabic alphabet is coming to the National Children’s Musem. Named for the Arabic term for the “ABCs,” the Alif Ba Exhibition brings the Arabic alphabet and language to life with 28 hands-on letter displays in the Museum’s Creative Corner. The interactive experience invites Dreamers to touch and explore the letters, and listen to the sounds they make and the words they begin. Dreamers can also spend time practicing tracing and writing the Arabic alphabet. Of course, you can explore the rest of the Museum’s exhibits, too — read more about them here.

Life of a Neuron
Where: ARTECHOUSE | Southwest DC
When: Through January 2
Admission: $16-20/adult, $13-15/senior, $8-10/child

Art meets science in this new exhibit at ARTECHOUSE, taking us on an artistic journey inside the brain. Trippy, captivating scenes swirl around the walls and floors, and side galleries have some interactive elements. Read more about it in this recent review.

Mission: Fun
Where: International Spy Museum | Penn Quarter, DC
When: Daily, 10am – 6pm
Admission: $26.95/age 13+, $16.95/7-12, free/6 & under

If you haven’t been to the Spy Museum at the L’Enfant Plaza location, this is a great time to check it out! Go undercover to explore the intriguing world of espionage. Discover tricks of the trade, view gadgets used to keep secrets and disguises to hide identities, and learn about some of the most famous spies and their missions.

African American History & Culture
Where: National Museum of African American History & Culture
When: Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 5:30pm
Admission: Free with timed-entry passes

This phenomenal museum is a must-visit on the National Mall.  Timed entry passes are still required, and while they aren’t available to reserve in advance, you can try for same-day passes.  They are released daily starting at 8:15am and can be reserved here. Before you go to the museum, be sure to read the KFDC guide for visiting with kids.

* Of course, there are the rest of the Smithsonians — see hours and open days for them here — and more local museums to check out.


Must-See DC

A view of the Main Reading Room at the Library of Congress

A Local & National Treasure
Where: Library of Congress | Capitol Hill, DC
When: Wednesday – Saturday, 11am – 4pm
Admission: Free

Explore the largest library in the world and one of DC’s most iconic attractions. The Library of Congress is a trove of knowledge, art, history, and culture — and the public is welcome to enjoy it all, and for free!  Walk-ins are sometimes welcome, but it’s best to reserve free tickets in advance.

A Monumental Experience
Where: Washington Monument | National Mall, DC
When: Daily, 9am – 5pm
Admission: Free

The Washington Monument is super fun to tour — you can go up inside to check out interesting exhibits and take in DC views. Advance reservation tickets for the next day are available online for a nominal processing fee. Same-day, free tickets are also be available on a first-come, first-served basis daily starting at 8:30am at the Washington Monument Lodge, located on 15th Street NW, between Madison Drive NW and Jefferson Drive SW.  Get a peek of the experience from the inside here.

Abe’s Last Days
Where: Ford’s Theatre | Penn Quarter, DC
When: Daily, 9am – 4:30pm
Admission: Free – $3

Ford’s isn’t just a place to catch live entertainment. The site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination highlights its historic significance through exhibits about the president, the circumstances surrounding his assassination, and that fateful night at the theatre. The National Historic Site features a museum, theatre walk-throughs and a presentation, and guests are welcome to explore it all. Best for about ages 8 and up. Reserve tickets online in advance for $3 or get them at the Box Office for free.

Tour the Memorials
Where: National Mall & Tidal Basin, DC
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

Be a tourist in your hometown (unless you’re visiting, then just be a tourist). Take the opportunity to visit the many memorials on the Mall and around the Tidal Basin. Not only are the structures themselves marvel-worthy, there’s a lot to be gleaned from them, too. Learn about some of our country’s presidents and leaders — George, Abe, Tom, FDR, & MLK — from displays, park rangers, and in the Visitors Centers. And walk or bike among them all to add some exercise (and extra fun) to the venture!




Hike right in the city at Rock Creek Park

Ready, Set…Hike!
Where: Around the DMV
When: Ongoing
Admission: Varies by locale

If you agree with the saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing” like I do, there are no excuses for not getting outdoors during winter. And a great, easy way to do so is on a hike. Hit the trail in places with scenic views, tramp and explore history at interesting locales, and enjoy a day of active fun. This post has a a bunch of recommendations for good walks in the woods and other places with kids.

Ice It
Where: Around the DMV
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by rink

Enjoy a quintessential winter activity: Ice skating under the sky! Take in art as you skate at the Sculpture Garden; glide over the Potomac on The Wharf’s awesome rink; circle around Washington Harbour as you enjoy river views; meander along the Figure 8 path at Canal Park; or do some shopping then skate at Pentagon Row, Rockville Town Square, or Reston Town Center. This post has details on alfresco (and indoor) ice skating options in the area.

Fossil Hunting
Where: Calvert & Charles Conties
When: Varies by place
Admission: Varies by place
Just because it takes place along beach areas, that doesn’t mean it’s a warm-weather-only activity. As long as you’re dressed for it — waterproof boots are a must! — searching for millions-of-years-old fossils can be just as fun and compelling in winter as it is in summer. There are several places to go in the region, all about an hour drive from DC. This post has a round-up of spots to check out.

Two-Wheel Time
Where: Around the DC Area
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Free

Given all the unseasonably warm days we’ve had recently, there’s bound to be one great for a bike ride. (Though cold weather can be fun, too — just bundle up!) Cruise along paths lined with scenic surroundings, ride to destinations that offer even more fun, and get some exercise.  This post has a bunch of pedal-worthy recs, with something for riders of all levels, and this particular route is ideal for the whole crew.

Let There Be Lights
Where: Around the DC area
When: Evenings through
Admission: Varies by locale

Twinkling lights forming enchanting displays are a staple of the season. Visit one of many parks or corridors in the area that has transformed into a sparkling wonderland. Some you can walk through for an up-close experience, others you tour by car. Either way, expect to be dazzled.

* Find even more places for outdoor adventures.



Show Time

Enjoy a Disney classic at Olney Theatre


Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
Where: Olney Theater | Olney, MD
When: Through January 2
Tickets: $42-79

Be their guest this holiday season as the classic animated story comes to life on the Olney Theatre Mainstage. It’s a tale as old as time, but it gets a new look from Tony-nominated director Marcia Milgrom Dodge.  Olney’s biggest show of the year brings the whole family together for a magical and memorable musical about the redemptive power of love. Join Belle, Lumiere, Cogsworth, and the rest of the gang in the Beast’s cursed castle for an escape to a world where beauty is more than skin deep and happily ever after is just a rose petal away. Rated G.

Where: Synetic Theatre | Crystal City, VA
When: Through December 26
Tickets: $15-30

Cinderella is joining the Synetic family series repertoire and stepping into her own shoes! Led by an all-female team of Syneticons, this innovative take on the classic fairytale is a perfect fit for audiences of all ages.

Where: Imagination Stage | Bethesda, MD
When: Through January 24
Tickets: $28

We all need a friend, and Lisa is instantly drawn to the perfectly imperfect teddy bear on display at the department store. If only she can convince her stressed-out mother to buy Corduroy for her! Meanwhile, Corduroy is determined to find his missing button and become worthy of going to a real home. After the store has closed, he goes on a hilariously destructive search–with the Night Watchman in comical pursuit. Full of mischief and clowning, this story of unconditional love captures both the humanity and the merriment of the holiday season. Recommended for ages 3-9.

Once Upon a One More Time
Where: Sidney Harman Hall | Penn Quarter, DC
When: Through January 9
Admission: $82-145 | Find Discount

This fantastic show presented by Shakespeare Theatre Company undoes classic fairytales as it empowers the princesses in them — all to the tune of Britney Spears’ music! It’s a fun and funny, pop-fueled show with entertaining song and dance numbers, stellar performances, and a great message, to boot. And seeing it on the heels of Britney being freed from her conservatorship adds a little extra something. Its run has just been extended to January 9, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it sells out! I’d recommend the show for tween ages and up.

* See what else is on stages now (or coming soon), and find holiday-themed entertainment here.


Indoor Action

Climb the day away at The St. James

Super, Awesome, and Amazing Fun
Where: The St. James | Springfield, VA
When: Thurs-Fri, 3-8pm | Sat-Sun, 9am – 8pm
Admission: Starting at $15/hour 

The Super, Awesome, and Amazing (that’s what it’s called) 30,000 square foot activity center in the St. Jame sports complex is filled with all kinds of climbing structures, trampolines, and obstacle courses. Kids can don harnesses and clip onto wires to climb, rappel, and navigate walkways 20 feet above the ground. They can bounce, flip, and execute acrobatic moves. They can swing from bars and on large platforms and crawl through tunnels. Essentially, every element in the space is conducive to active fun, and there is something for kids from toddler to tween ages to enjoy. Admission is $15 Monday – Thursday before 3pm. After 3pm and on Friday & Saturday, they are $23/hour.

Reach New Heights
Where: ClimbZone | Laurel, MD
When: Daily, 10am – 8pm
Admission: $25/child, $12/toddler (find discount)

The enormous facility is filled literally floor to ceiling with colorful themed climbing walls and moon bounces. Climbers can ascend Mt. Rushmore, reach the Jolly Roger on a pirate ship, conquer a game of Tetris, shimmy up a giant guitar, scale Jack’s bean stalk, negotiate a rope wall, and experience peak fun on a variety of other climbing areas.

Play in the Zone
Where: ZavaZone | Rockville, MD & Sterling, VA
When: Daily, 10am – 6pm
Admission: Starts at $23.50

Guests have their pick of fun at this indoor adventure park for ages 5-105. There are ninja courses, ropes courses, trampolines, climbing challenges, zip lines, and more under one soaring roof. Usually just open in the afternoons during the week, morning time slots will also be available during Winter Break week.

Spring Time
Where: Flight Trampoline Park | Springfield, VA
When: Daily
Admission: Starts at $14

Kids of all ages can jump, play, even flip for joy at Flight Trampoline Park. The huge space resembles a skate park, with an industrial look of exposed pipes and cinder block walls sprayed with graffiti. But where you’d find ramps, rails, and concrete to facilitate skills and tricks, there are trampolines instead. Be sure to check the schedule for any special jumping times, and buy tickets/sign waivers in advance online to avoid a line there.

Tee Up
Where: Top Golf | National Harbor & Gaithersburg, MD
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Starts at $27/bay
Practice your swing, enjoy a bite, and have some indoor/outdoor fun.  At Top Golf, you drive balls from climate controlled (ie, heated) sheltered bays, so you can still enjoy fresh air and be comfy.   Plus, there ’s a full service restaurant and bar (for parents, obvi) to make a full experience of it.



See Some Sports

Cheer on our local teams!

Where: Capital One Arena | Penn Quarter, DC
When: December 26 & 30, January 1
Admission: Ticket prices vary

The Wizards have a few home games over the break, so catch some exciting action on the court. They host the  Philadelphia 76ers on December 26, Cleveland Cavaliers on December 30,  and Chicago Bulls on January 1.

All Caps
Where: Capital One Arena | Penn Quarter, DC
When: December 19, 27, & 29
Admission: Ticket prices vary (look for a deal)

Hockey fans can see the Caps play a few games. The Los Angeles Kings will be here on December 19, the Ottawa Senators on December 27, and the Nashville Predators on December 29.

Hoops, NCAA-Style
Where: Universities around the DC Area
When: Throughout the break
Admission: Ticket prices vary

With so many universities in the area, there’s always some good college hoops action going on. Here’s where you can check out schedules and look for tickets:
University of Maryland (Go, Terps!)
George Washington University
Georgetown University
American University
Howard University
George Mason University
Catholic University



Day Trips

Spend a day on slopes within easy driving distance


Hit the Slopes
Where: Around the region
When: Through winter
Admission: Varies

A fun, active way to take advantage of winter: Skiing!  There are a bunch of resorts within a few hours’ drive that are great for young, newbie skiers (and veteran swooshers, too).  Some resorts to check out that are within day trip driving distance: Liberty, Whitetail, Roundtop, and Bryce.

Charm City, Hon!
Where: Baltimore, MD
When: Daily
Admission: Varies by locale

Zip up I-95 for some fun in our sister city, where there are lots of great places to spend a day off. Play the day away at Port Discovery. Explore the exhibits and loads of hands-on activities at the Maryland Science Center. See some of the quirkiest, coolest art around at the American Visionary Art Museum. Get an eyeful of the underwater world at the National Aquarium. Tour the historic ships moored at the Inner Harbor. Or learn about Baltimore’s early business days at the Museum of Industry. The KFDC Guide to Exploring Baltimore with Kids has info for all of these adventures, plus dining recs and more to explore!

Go Underground
Where: Luray Caverns | Luray, VA
When: Daily, 9am – 7pm
Admission: $32/adult, $16/ages 6-12, free/5 & under 

Behold the spectacular underground world of stalagmites, stalactites, and other amazing limestone formations in the massive cave system at Luray. Afterward, make your way through the Garden Maze or check out vintage rides in the Carriage and Caravan Museum. Admission does not include attractions beyond the cavern. KFDC Tip: Be sure to make a pit stop before going into the caverns, because it can be a long walk out to a restroom, and once you’re out, you may not be able to go back in.

Go East
Where: Annapolis and Eastern Shore, MD
When: hours vary by place
Admission: Varies by Place

Who says it has be warm to head out toward the Eastern Shore and enjoy adventures by the water? Drive over the Bay Bridge for a great hike at Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area on this side of the bridge at Quiet Waters. And while it’s not the best season for crabs, you can still enjoy yummy meals at places that are known for them. Try Kentmorr or The Jetty after Wye, Cantler’s or Mike’s closer in. Of course, you can also enjoy a day walking around the charming downtown area in Annapolis.

Art & Maritime Explorations
Where: Calvert County, MD
When: Daily, except Christmas
Admission: Varies by locale

Make a day of it in Calvert County, where you can visit a couple of places for fun, fascinating, hands-on adventures. Annmarie Sculpture Garden is full of artistic delights. Tour beautiful works, both indoors and out, play in the Fairy Lolly, and create some of your own art with inspiration from all you see there. Hours are 9am – 5pm in the gardens, and admission is a $5 suggested donation. Also out that way is the Calvert Marine Museum, where you can see interesting exhibits, including display cases full of fossils and artifacts, plus live fish and other creatures. There’s also a play area and a real lighthouse to tour. Hours are 10am – 5pm, and admission is $9/adult, $4/ages 5-12, free/4 & under.



Extra Tips
* Created especially for last year’s Covid Winter, this post has even more ideas for things to do, all of them outdoors.
* It didn’t fit into the above categories, but this is a great time to sign up for volunteering opportunities with kids.
* If you’re looking specifically for activities for foul weather days, see this list of indoor spots.
* And for where to enjoy time outside, check out The Best Places to Spend a Beautiful Day Outdoors with the Kids
* Sometimes you just need a place to hang out for awhile, so why not make it a stunning one?
* Look for deals and discounts on CertifiKid and Goldstar.

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Filed under 2021, 2022, All ages, DC, Maryland, Virginia, Winter

Five Things for Today: December 14, 2021


1. If you enjoy seeing Christmas trees at iconic sites around DC, don’t miss the one at the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building.  Set against the gorgeous backdrop of the Great Hall, one of our city’s most stunning spaces, it’s decorated with pretty lights and “book” ornaments representing each state.   Of course, the Library of Congress makes for a great outing anytime.  A local and national treasure, the largest library in the world and one of our city’s most fascinating places should be a staple on any DC must-visit list.  It’s currently open to the public Wednesday – Saturday, 10am – 4pm, and timed-entry tickets are needed. You can reserve them for free here.


2. If you have outstanding tickets for parking, photo enforcement, and minor moving violations in DC, take care of them before December 31!  Mayor Bowser’s Ticket Amnesty Program allows those tickets to be paid without the doubled penalty if they are past the due date; at the end of the amnesty period, all penalties will be added back to all tickets. 


3. Lit Hub’s 48 Favorite Books of 2021.  What were your favorite reads this year? (Share in the comments!)


4. The Washington Post shared ways to help survivors of the recent tornadoes in Kentucky, Illinois, and beyond.


5. An amazing, hilarious blog post about the worst meal ever — at a Michellin starred restaurant.


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Filed under 2021, DC, Five Things for Today

The Weekend Round-Up: December 10-12

The Downtown Holiday Market sparkles in the evening


Happy Weekend!

Go-to posts for all kinds of ongoing and seasonal local activities:
* KFDC Guide to the Holiday Season
Best Outdoors in the DC Area
* Local Hikes with Kids
* Indoor Outings
* Autumn Activities
* Ice Skating
* Bike Rides
* Peaceful Places
* Baltimore with Kids

Holiday Drive-In: The Muppet Christmas Carol
Where: Buzzard Point | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: Friday, 6:30-9pm
Admission: Free ($20/car donation suggested)

Catch a family holiday movie from the comfort of your car! The Capitol Riverfront BID is presenting a festive flick at the drive-in on Friday. See The Muppet Christmas Carol this week, and enjoy some holiday treats, too. (Love Actually next Friday Kilwins, one of the Wharf restaurants, will be onsite selling hot chocolate, popcorn, candy, and other goodies! These drive-in movies are free to attend with registration, but movie-goers are encouraged to make a $20 donation to DC Central Kitchen.

Victura Park Winter Holiday Market
Where: The REACH | Kennedy Center, DC
When: Friday, 4-9pm | Saturday & Sunday, 12-9pm.
Admission: Free

The grounds of The REACH at the Kennedy Center are always great for hanging out on weekends. Victura Park, the family-friendly wine and beer garden + cafe on premises, offers snack and sips that you can enjoy at picnic tables in pretty areas. This weekend it gets festive as they bring back the Holiday Market featuring a line-up of local artists, craftspersons, and other specialized vendors, including the Kennedy Center Gift Shop pop-up. Make a day of it shopping, noshing, sipping… and enjoying the gorgeous rounds including the KC Terrace and Plaza we well as the scenic river views!

More Market-ing
Where: Around the DC Area
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by market

Add some fun to your holiday shopping! What might be a stressful activity for many this time of year, can actually be good time for you and the kids — if you know where to go. Many local holiday markets offer more than the standard browse-and-buy. Live entertainment, yummy treats, fun activities, and the chance to shop outdoors in a festive atmosphere will keep your inner-Scrooge at bay as you pick out perfect gifts for all. Along with Victura Park, the Downtown Holiday Market, Old Town Christmas Market, and Eastern Market are a few running this weekend (and beyond), and you can find details for all of them in the KFDC Guide to the Holiday Season.

Story Time with Santa
Where: The Boro | Tysons, VA
When: Saturday, 11am – 1pm
Admission: Free, but register ahead

Santa Claus is coming to town to spread holiday cheer! He’ll be visiting The Boro to read some of your favorite holiday stories. Join to meet Santa, warm up with a Hot Cocoa Bar, and get in the spirit of the season. While you’re there, stop by the pop-up bookstore hosted by Turning the Page from 10am – 3pm to find perfect gifts for everyone! (PS: The Boro will be collecting toys to donate to Toys for Tots. Guests are invited to bring a toy to this event for donation.)

Happy Trails
Where: Around the DMV
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by locale

Warmer temps will make it a perfect time to hit the trail with the fam! Savor the time in nature, tramp in places with scenic views, hike and explore history at interesting locales, and enjoy a day of active fun. This post has a bunch of recommendations for great places to go with kids.  A few specific suggestions for this weekend: Riverbend to Great FallsPatapsco Valley State Park, drive out to Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area, or stay closer to home at Greenbelt Park.

The Polar Express Pajama Party
Where: Miracle Theater | Capitol Hill, DC
When: Saturday, 11am
Admission: $6

Sip some hot chocolate in your PJ’s while watching the holiday classic, The Polar Express. The film is an inspiring adventure based on the beloved children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg. A young boy embarks on a magical adventure to the North Pole on the Polar Express. During his adventure he learns about friendship, bravery, and the spirit of Christmas.

Holidays on the Stage
Where: Local theatres
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by venue

If you’re looking for holiday-inspired entertainment to get into the spirit, there is a lot to choose from! Courderoy opens at Imagination Stage.  Adventure Theatre and The Puppet Co. have performances especially for little ones. Washington Ballet’s The Nutcracker will enchant audiences of all ages.  Cinderella is sweeping across the Synetic Theatre stage. Get details on all of these shows and see what else is coming up soon in the KFDC Guide to the Holiday Season in the DC Area.

Step Afrika’s Magical, Musical Holiday Step Show
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center | H Street NE, DC
When: Through December 19
Tickets: $25-45 

This one deserves its own listing because it’s a fave: Step Afrika!’s Magical Musical Holiday Step Show is the most vibrant holiday celebration in town (and we know from many years’ experience!) 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. The internationally renowned percussive dance company has created a contemporary holiday tradition at the Atlas, featuring friendly, furry characters, fun photo ops, and a festive dance party.

Once Upon a One More Time
Where: Sidney Harman Hall | Penn Quarter, DC
When: Through January 9
Admission: $82-145 | Find Discount

This fantastic show presented by Shakespeare Theatre Company before it heads to Broadway undoes classic fairytales as it empowers the princesses in them — all to the tune of Britney Spears’ music! It’s a fun and funny, pop-fueled show with entertaining song and dance numbers, stellar performances, and a great message, to boot. And seeing it on the heels of Britney being freed from her conservatorship adds a little extra something. Its run has just been extended to January 9, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it sells out! I’d recommend the show for tween ages and up.

Nursery School Open House
Where: River Park Nursery School | Capitol Hill, DC
When: Saturday, 10am – 12pm
Admission: Free

Are you looking for the quintessential nursery school experience for your child? RPNS is a morning program for your 3-5 year old with a small teacher to student ratio. It is a warm and welcoming community. Bring your child to an Open House on Saturday to talk with current families, meet their amazing teacher Ms. Erin, and see the learning space. The RPNS program is designed to encourage individual growth, in a pro-social environment, and to foster exploration, creativity and good work habits through the experience of shared value and citizenship, all under the guidance of highly qualified professional instructors. Sign up in advance for an Open House time slot. (Note: There will also be one on January 15 from 10am – 12pm.)

A Little Christmas in The Little City
Where: Christ Crossman Church | Falls Church, VA
When: Saturday, 2-5pm
Admission: Free

Christ Crossman Church is once again hosting its annual holiday event that is fun for all and helps others. Family-friendly and outdoors, it features a live petting zoo, holiday craft stations, food trucks, and hot chocolate around fire pits.  Kids can participate in a service project assembling Power Packs for local students in need through Food for Others. Free and open to all! Christ Crossman Church is located at 384 N Washington Street in Falls Church.

Lantern Walks
Where: Around the DC Area
When: Saturday & Sunday
Admission: Free

For nearly a decade, Tinkergarten families and friends have walked with homemade lanterns to welcome winter’s darkness. This inspiring and beloved tradition helps children learn to embrace change and remember that, when they are in community with the natural world and with one another, they have the strength and light to overcome any challenges. DC area Lantern Walk events are taking place this Saturday and Sunday. Register to attend your local Lantern Walk, find out how to make their own lanterns, or even order sweet lantern-making kits here.

Holiday Lights Scavenger Hunt
Where: Around DC
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Free

Fourteen commercial corridors in the city have teamed up to add a little extra holiday cheer to this holiday season! You can visit them to see all kinds of dazzling lights and participate in a citywide DC Holiday Lights Scavenger Hunt. Earn entries for each participating corridor you visit during December, as well as by completing other scavenger hunt tasks such as visiting murals on the corridors and finding secret codes at businesses across DC. The more entries you earn, the more chances to win one of the $5,000 in prizes available from local businesses all across the District!

Caroling Christmas Trees
Where: N & Half Streets SE | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: Saturday & Sunday, 6-9pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate Day 4 (& 5) of Capitol Riverfront’s “12 Days of Capriv” with festive fun. Head to Half Street on Saturdayfor Caroling Christmas Trees, featuring live carolers performing holiday classics and a can’t-miss “Letters to Santa” mailbox for kids and kids-at-heart to drop off their wishes. Post a photo in front of the illuminated trees on Instagram, and tag @capitolriverfront for the chance to win a $50 gift card to a neighborhood restaurant!

Capital Art & Craft Festival
Where: Dulles Expo Center | Chantilly, VA
When: Friday, Saturday, & Sunday
Admission: $10/advance, $12/at door, free/12 & under
Browse the works of over 200 local artisans and crafters and find unique holiday gifts  This festival features art in more than a dozen mediums — jewelry, paintings, prints, glass, leather, photography, pottery, wearable art, and wood, and more.  For safety, aisles are wider and masks required.  Visit the website for more details.

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

This has a permanent spot on many a DC holiday repertoire. The National Christmas Tree, the National Menorah, plus displays representing all 50 states are a staple 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.

Day Trip from DC
Where: Around the region
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by locale

Get out of dodge  for a day for some cool fun in areas that require a bit of a drive, but not an overnight stay (though you could consider it). Explore the spectacular underground world of Luray Caverns. Discover charm and awesome attractions of Baltimore.  Enjoy hiking and history at Harpers Ferry. Take an ice cream making museum tour at Turkey Hill in Lancaster, PA. Or venture out to the Calvert Marine Museum to experience fascinating exhibits that highlight the history of the Chesapeake Bay.

Night Lights
Where: Around the DMV
When: Friday, Saturday, & Sunday Evenings
Admission: Varies by locale

Twinkling lights forming enchanting displays are easily a holiday season favorite. Visit one of many parks or corridors in the area that has transformed into a sparkling wonderland. Some you can walk through for an up-close experience, others you tour by car. Either way, expect to be dazzled.

More Holiday Happenings
Where: Around the DC Area
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by activity

There’s holiday inspired fun to be had all over the area in all kinds of ways at every price point. See model trains buzz around model farms around the world at the US Botanic Garden. Experience Christmas on the Potomac at the National Harbor. Celebrate the season at Mount Vernon. Check out Light Yards, the annual illuminated installation at Yards Park. Find details on all of these events and many more are in the 2021 KFDC Holiday Guide.

* Looking for a great way to give back with kids? KFDC contributor Emily just shared about her experience volunteering at Comfort Cases with her 4-year-old daughter.
* If you’re still in need of holiday gift ideas, the KFDC guide has lots of good, DC-centric recommendations.
* The National Cherry Blossom Parade will be back this year, and seated grandstand tickets are now on sale. ( FYI, you can also stand along the route for free.)
* Washingtonian’s 6 Festive Holiday Destinations Within an Easy Drive of DC.
* Currently reading and really enjoying this book.
* How fun are these slippers? (We love the socks, too!)
* Best of 2021 – a bunch of ’em.


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Filed under 2021, DC, Holidays, Maryland, Virginia, Weekend

Five Things for Today: December 7, 2021

Get ready for winter recreation!


1. There’s snow in the forecast for tomorrow!  And while it’s highly unlikely there will be enough to close school or  zip down hills, it’s prompted a reminder to start planning for winter recreation like skiing, snow tubing, skating, and sledding. Read about one of our ski experiences at White Tail Resort, and find suggestions for even more places to ski and enjoy other seasonal activities.  For ice skating, check out this current round-up of rinks around the DC area.


2. DC’s annual EdFEST will be virtual this year. The event this Saturday, December 11, is a great opportunity to learn about DC’s public schools with representatives from 200+ DCPS and DC public charter schools showcasing their programs.  Great timing to help make informed school selections for the 2022-23 school year common lottery.


3. In case you missed it over the weekend, local author JoAnn Hill shared Five Interesting Sites & Stories for the Holiday Season in the DC Area.


4. TV recommendation: Colin in Black and White. The series about Colin Kaepernick during his adolescence (and narrated by him) is immensely captivating and moving — and a great show to watch with kids tween ages and up.  [Common Sense Media review here.]


5. Can’t help but smile (be sure to have your volume on).


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The Weekend Round-Up: December 3-5

Brighten up the weekend at Light Yards


Happy Weekend!

Find ideas for all kinds of family activities with these quick links:
* KFDC Guide to the Holiday Season
Best Outdoors in the DC Area
* Local Hikes with Kids
* Autumn Activities
* Ice Skating
* Indoor Outings
* Bike Rides
* Peaceful Places
* Baltimore with Kids

Light Yards
Where: Yards Park | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: Nightly through January 1, 6-10pm
Admission: Free

The annual holiday light art installation is back at Yards Park! It’s free to see this year’s 22-foot illuminated tree sculptures and enjoy some festive holiday cheer at the park’s sun deck. Plan for dinner at one of the many nearby restaurants then stay to play and enjoy the lights (or vice versa) along with views of the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge. A few good family dining recs: Due South, Osteria Morini, and Agua 301 are right there, and All Purpose Pizza, The Salt Line, and El Bebe are closer to Nats Park. And, of course, Ice Cream Jubilee for sweet treats! Get a glimpse of Light Yards here.

Festival of Lights
Where: Watkins Regional Park | Upper Marlboro, MD
When: Throughout January 2, 5-9:30pm
Admission: $8-10/vehicle

We’ve been doing this one since the kids were babes… Watkins’ sweet holiday drive-through event of more than one million twinkling lights has been dazzling holiday-goers for over 25 years. It’s a great way to get into the holiday spirit from the comfort of your car — bring a thermos of hot chocolate, put on some holiday music, turn on the seat warmers, and take in the adorably festive illuminated scenes.  Purchase tickets in advance online and pay only $8. Even more, if you can snag a limited spot, they are also offering horse-drawn carriage rides for the first time ever this year. Extra cost, and preregistration required!  Also note the new entrance across the street from Riverdale Baptist School at 1133 Largo Rd.

Let There Be (Even More) Lights
Where: Around the DMV
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by locale

Even more parks and gardens in the area are brightening up the season with twinkling holiday light displays. Some you can walk through for an up-close experience, others you tour by car. Whatever you choose, you’re in for a dazzling good time.  See where you can enjoy them in the KFDC Holiday Guide.

Where: Heurich House Museum | Dupont Circle, DC
When: Friday, Saturday,  & Sunday
Admission: $10-16/ages 15+ and $2/ages 2-15

Huerich House’s annual holiday market and festive house tour is back in person this year.  Christkindlmarkt honors the Heurich family’s German heritage by recreating a traditional outdoor German Christmas market in its Castle Garden. Dupont Circle’s only holiday market will feature goods from over 40 local artisans, including jewelers, ceramicists, chocolatiers, and makers of housewares, clothing, and more. You can also take a self-guided tour of the mansion, which will be festively decorated for the season.

Winter Festival
Where: National Children’s Museum | Downtown DC
When: Saturday, 9am – 12pm
Admission: $30/adult, $15/child

Join the National Children’s Museum for a special holiday event with small bites, warm drinks, fun exhibits, and a photo opportunity with some holiday friends: a magical Snow Queen and Santa! Read more about the Museum and all of its STEAM-inspired exhibits in this KFDC post.

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

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

Holidays on the Stage
Where: Local theatres
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by venue

If you’re looking for holiday-inspired entertainment to get into the spirit, there is a lot to choose from!  Adventure Theatre and The Puppet Co. have performances especially for little ones, including Chanukah-themed shows. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical is at National Theatre.  Washington Ballet’s The Nutcracker will enchant audiences of all ages.  Cinderella is sweeping across the Synetic Theatre stage. Get details on all of these shows and see what else is coming up soon in the KFDC Guide to the Holiday Season in the DC Area.

Hike in the City
Where: Rock Creek Park | Northwest DC
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

This isn’t a new suggestion, but there is a brand new post from our most recent hike in Rock Creek Park. Our urban national park is a go-to anytime of year, but it’s especially lovely in the fall. And this weekend looks like it’ll be a great time to hit the trail there. See more about it here. And for more great walks in the woods with kids, see this popular KFDC post.

Check out an air taxi at FUTURES

Exhibit A… and B, C, D, & E
Where: Museums around DC
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Free
There are several great exhibits to experience right now at our local museum. The whole family will be fascinated by FUTURES at the Arts & Industries Building.  Laurie Anderson: The Weather at the Hirshhorn is a great one for tween ages and up.  The Gun Violence Memorial Project at the National Building Museum is powerful and ever-timely.  ARTECHOUSE just extended its immersive Life of a Neuron.  The Fossil Hall at the National Museum of Natural History is always an interesting one to explore.  And, of course, the rest of our Smithsonians have permanent collections that we never get tired of seeing.

Sock Monkey Saturday
Where: American Visionary Art Museum | Baltimore, MD
When: Saturday, 10am – 1pm
Admission: $5

Don’t let the holidays drive you BANANAS! Relax by making your very own Sock Monkey—a great last-minute gift, and just something fun to do with the family. AVAM’s huge sock monkey making extravaganza is smaller this year, and all materials — stuffing, sewing needles, thread, visionary baubles — will be provided. Bring a pair of fun, colorful socks if you’d like, but they’ll also have some available for you.  Plan to explore the whole wonderful American Visionary Art Museum — read all about it here.  And for more to do in Charm City, including resturant recs and other attractions, see this Guide to Exploring Baltimore with Kids.

The Miraculous Magical Balloon
Where: Highland Elementary | Wheaton, MD
When: Saturday, 11am & Sunday, 2pm
Tickets: Free!

InterAct Story Theatre presents this free performance for kids and families as part of the Wheaton Family Theatre Series! Synetic Theater’s The Miraculous Magical Balloon tells a wonderful story of a traveling actor and his magical trunk of tricks and toys. Recommended for all ages. Highland Elementary School is located at 3100 Medway Street, in Wheaton, MD.

Virtual Nutcracker Celebration
Where: Online
When: Saturday, 10am
Admission: Free

Celebrate the magical winter wonderland of The Nutcracker with the Smithsonian American Art Museum and The Washington Ballet! This virtual ballet experience is designed for fun at home with the whole family. Join former Radio City Rockette DeMoya Watson Brown for a story time reading of the beloved holiday classic. Follow along with Clara, her Nutcracker Prince, and the Sugar Plum Fairy on their remarkable adventures. Then, jeté into an interactive ballet master class led by The Washington Ballet School instructor Margaret Williamson

Christmas Village
Where: Capital Turnaround | Capitol Hill, DC
When: Saturday, 10am – 1pm
Admission: Free

Usher in the Christmas season with this free event for kids and their families in a newly-renovated historic space in DC! National Community Church is hosting a few hours of festive activities including a Santa train, a skate-less indoor rink, Christmas movies, picture with Santa, craft stations, and a hot cocoa and cider bar. Open to everyone — invite your friends and neighbors! Te Capital Turnaround is located at 770 M St SE.

Follies Winter Workshop
Where: Halcyon Arts Lab | Northwest DC
When: Saturday, 3-6pm
Admission: Free

Bring your family to a free special holiday event featuring STEM activities and festive crafts with the award winning Follies toy. It’s family fun and holiday cheer at the beautiful studio space in Georgetown as you get creative with a holiday inspired STEM workshop, snacks and music. Featuring the DC made, award winning (and Toy of The Year nominated) Follies Playset, guests can also enjoy exclusive discounts, Follies fan packs, and giveaways. Spots are limited so RSVP before it’s too late. Note: Those over 12 should bring proof of vaccination and all should wear masks.

Winter Boroland
Where: The Boro | Tysons, VA
When: Saturday, 4-6pm
Admission: Free (registration requested)

Get in the spirit of the season at a snow day party! At this Après Ski-themed event, The Boro will be snow in the air (yes, REAL snow!), light its giant snow globe installation, and welcome guests to an afternoon of crafts and fun holiday cocktails. Plus, get in the spirit of giving with a toy drive benefiting Toys for Tots!

The District’s Holiday Boat Parade
Where: The Wharf | Southwest DC
When: Saturday, 6-9pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate the holidays at The Wharf and see the beautifully decorated boats cruise by on the Potomac along with more activities. Decorate ornaments to get into the spirit, go ice skating (the rink will be back!), plus warm up by the big fire pit and visit the lighted Christmas Tree. Bring the whole fam to meet Santa and make memories during this annual DC tradition!

Alexandria Boat Parade of Lights

Where: Alexandria City Marina | Alexandria, VA
When: Saturday | Parade, 5:30pm; Dockside Festivities, 2-8pm
Admission: Free

Alexandria’s harbor will shine as dozens of brightly lit boats cruise the Potomac River at the historic waterfront for the 20h annual Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights. Enjoy festivities out on the dock 2-7pm, including a Letters to Santa postcard pop-up, a hot chocolate bar from Dolci Gelati, and a beer garden from Port City Brewing Company.

Family Chanukah Party
Where: EDCJCC | Northwest DC
When: December 5, 10-11am
Admission: $25/family

Join the EDCJCC for a fun morning celebrating Hanukkah. We will have arts and crafts, music, science and a community service opportunity. This program will take place in the JCC parking lot and inside the building. All visitors over the age of 12 entering the EDCJCC’s building are required to show proof of vaccination.

Chanukah at Glen Echo
Where: Glen Echo Park | Glen Echo, MD
When: Sunday, 2:30-5:30pm
Admission: Varies — see below

Glen Echo Partnership is teaming up with Adventure Theatre, the Puppet Co. and the Chabad of Bethesda for a Chanukah Celebration on Sunday. Both theaters are presenting Chanukah themed shows, and between showings of the two productions, there will be a Chanukah Party with refreshments, festive music, and arts & crafts for all ages, and the lighting of the menorah. It will be held outside in the Park’s Cuddle Up Pavilion.  Families can enjoy both shows and the Chanukah Party for $30/person, just one show for $15-20/person, or just the party, which is free with a suggested donation of $5.

Chocolate Binge Festival
Where: Downtown Annapolis, MD
When: Sunday, 12-5pm
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 local and regional chocolatiers vend their specialties. The Festival will also feature family friendly entertainment, holiday shopping, and the lighting of West Street’s BGE Holiday Light Canopy – have your cameras ready for that at 5pm! Purchase tickets in advance; only a limited number will be sold at the event.

Holiday Craft Workshop & Elf on the Shelf Scavenger Hunt
Where: Tanger Outlets | Oxon Hill, MD
When: Sunday, 2-2:45pm
Admission: $10

Join Tanger Outlets National Harbor and Kidcreate Studio Alexandria for an afternoon of holiday crafting plus a magical scavenger hunt featuring The Elf on the Shelf! Bring little explorers and imaginations to a workshop for a special craft, then head out into the shopping center to look for the Scout Elves and receive a Holiday Pop It! For just $10, they’ll provide each child with a craft and refreshments plus The Elf on the Shelf activity and clue book for the scavenger hunt. Space is limited so reserve a spot soon! (Note: This also takes place 12/11-12 and 12/18-19.)

More Holiday Happenings
Where: Around the DC Area
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by activity

There’s holiday inspired fun to be had all over the area in all kinds of ways at every price point. See model trains buzz around model farms around the world at the US Botanic Garden. Visit the National Menorah and Christmas Tree on the Ellipse or the one at the US Capitol. Experience Christmas on the Potomac at the National Harbor. Take a street car ride with Santa at the Holly Trolley Fest. Check out Light Yards, the annual illuminated installation at Yards Park. Find details on all of these events and more are in the 2021 KFDC Holiday Guide.

* There’s a new giveaway for a chance to win a Family 4-Pack of tickets to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at Olney Theatre!
* Don’t forget about the KFDC Holiday Gift Guide if you’re looking for ideas for presents, especially local adventures and experiences.
* The 100 best songs of 2021 (NPR)
* Where to go in 2022, according to AFAR.
* This would be a nice stocking stuffer (ie, I want one).
* McSweeney’s pretty much nails it.
* Get ready to smile: Darcy’s 10 Happy Things for December!

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Filed under 2021, DC, Holidays, Maryland, Virginia, Weekend