Tag Archives: Fun with Kids in Northern Virginia

The 2022 KFDC Guide to Summer Around the DC Area

 

It’s time to bring back the annual guide to summer around the DC area!  I’ve mentioned before that this has always been one of my favorite posts to put together for a couple of reasons:  It reflects that wonderful shift from structured days to carefree time.  And it’s a reminder of all the summer fun to be had around the area, some of it back this year for the first time since the pandemic (and a few things still TBA so be sure to check back for updates).  Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial start of summer, so bookmark this post and start making plans. The 2022 KFDC Guide to the Best of Summer Around the DC Area has details and inspiration to help you get going.  Happy (almost) Summer!

 

* * * * *

Play in the Sprays
Outdoor Pool Season
Beaches
Waterparks
Big Screen Under the Stars
Summer Concerts
Festivals
Seasonal Exhibits
Special Entertainment
Mini Trains, Carousels, Mini Golf, & a Ferris Wheel
Summer Sports
Crab Feasts
Seasonal Experiences

 

Cool off in the sprays at Canal Park

PLAY IN THE SPRAYS
Kids can run through fountains and splash around at many of them around the area. Several are within the DC, MD, & VA Departments of Parks and Recreation, but some of the best are built right into the urban landscape, making the concrete jungle a cool place to hang out during the hottest months. Dates are TBD at some, but look for updates soon!

DC DPR Spray Parks will be open for the season daily starting Memorial Day Weekend, Saturday, May 28, through September 5, 10am – 8pm. Find locations — there are a bunch of them around the city — and see them all on a map on the DPR website.

Yards Park in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood is a favorite for water play in the city with two levels featuring Dancing Fountains up top and the Canal Basin and Waterfall below, plus a great scenic location on the Anacostia River in the Navy Yard.  Grassy areas for hanging out and lots of nearby eateries make it a perfect place to spend a summer day. Read more about the water features at The Yards here.

Canal Park in the Navy Yard is great for kids of varying ages with both a gentle, shallow fountain that is ideal for really little ones to enjoy, plus a bigger fountain with lots of sprays for more enthusiastic play where the ice rink is in the winter.

The Wharf in Southwest DC re-opened its in-ground fountain for the first time since the pandemic.  Kids can run through water shooting up from jets, play in mist spraying up in the center, and ride on waterproof rocking horses within all of it, all with the beautiful waterfront area as a backdrop.

Georgetown Waterfront Park, right next to the Washington Harbour, has a fountain with arcing sprays that makes for a fun, refreshing way to cool off on a hot, summer day.  The rest of the park’s pretty green space along the Potomac is a nice, relaxing place to hang out, too.

Lyon Village Park, Hayes Park, Virginia Highlands Park, and Drew Park, some of the area’s most popular spray parks, can be found in Arlington along with Penrose Square, which has an in-ground interactive fountain.

Our Special Harbor at Lee District Recreation Area in Alexandria gets raves for its Chesapeake-Bay themed sprayground complete with a spraying osprey nest, Chessie the sea serpent, misting sunflowers, and a lighthouse.  Open weekends Memorial Day – June 12, then daily June 13 – August 21, then only weekends again through September 5.

Potomac Yard Park, among the many city of Alexandria parks, has an interactive in-ground fountain that kids can play in — along th a couple of playgrounds and many other recreational features.  Even better, you can plan to do some shopping at he nearby Target while you’re out that way.

There’s an in-ground fountain on Capitol Hill at the C Street Plaza right across from Eastern Market. On most weekday afternoons during summer, there’s a small crowd of little ones playing in the gentle sprays.

 

That first jump into summer fun

OUTDOOR POOL SEASON
Nothing says summer like swimming under the sun, and there are plenty of public pools in the area where you can jump in for free or a small admission fee.

DC outdoor public pools will open on Memorial Day Weekend, Saturday, May 28. They’ll operate on a weekend-only schedule (Saturday & Sunday) through  June 26. Starting Monday, June 27, all outdoor pools will operate on individual summer schedules, six days a week.  Days and hours vary from pool to pool so be sure to check schedules before you go.

For outdoor swimming outside of the city, Montgomery County outdoor public pools will open May 28 through Labor Day — the Department of Recreation website has locations and hours.

In Northern Virginia, Arlington’s Upton Hill has a whole water park for guests to enjoy, and Alexandria has several places where the public is welcome to swim — check the City of Alexandria website for hours, as they vary by pool. But note that all outdoor public pools will open June 26.

 Swimply, an online service that started last year, lets you search for private pools to rent. You can find pools at residences all over and pay to use them by the hour.

 

Sand, swimming, and fossil hunting at the Purse Area in Charles County, MD

BEACHES
Summer and beach trips go hand-in-hand, so why not hit one with the kids? There are a bunch of places where you can get a nice dose of sand and surf that are within day trip distance from DC.

Calvert Cliffs State Park in Calvert County is known as a fossil hunting locale — as its cliffs erode, prehistoric remains of marine life are revealed — but it’s even better for beach fun, swimming, and hiking. To access the beach, you have to hike a couple of miles through woods (and there are even more trails if you’re up for it), but the walk is worth it for a dose of quintessential summer fun. Open daily sunrise – sunset, and admission is $8/vehicle.

Flag Ponds Nature Park, also in Calvert County, has a large sandy beach for playing and nice mellow waters for swimming.  It’s also a great spot for fossil hunting — look for shark teeth and other prehistoric remnants along the shores while you’re there, too.  Hours are 9am – 6pm on weekdays and 9am – 8pm weekends from Memorial to Labor Day (days/hours are reduced the rest of the year). Admission is $8/car. Be sure to read more about Flag Ponds for tips and get a glimpse here and here

Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis offers striking views of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge along with loads of beach fun.  At nearly 800 acres, it’s a big park with lots of recreational opportunities — swimming, picnicking, fishing, crabbing, hiking, and more. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, there are lifeguards on duty. And snack food and beach and picnic supplies are available. Hours are 6am – sunset. From May 1 through September, admission is $5/Maryland resident, $7/non-resident on weekend, and $4/ Maryland resident, $6/non-resident on weekdays.

The Purse Area within the Nanjemoy Wildlife Management Area in Charles County, MD, is best if your main purpose is fossil hunting — it’s a great place to go for it — and you want to get in some “beach” time, too. The beach is narrow, and you’re on a river, but you still get  to enjoy sand and water.  Wear swimsuits, bring a picnic, and be sure to check the tide table so you can make the most of your time there. Open sunrise to sunset, and admission is free.

Mayo Beach Park in Anne Arundel County is open for swimming in summer to enjoy some sand and surf. Passes to access the beach park must be reserved in advance.  Be aware of other beach rules like no grills or dogs allowed. Open Memorial Day – Labor Day on Friday 4-7pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am – 7pm.

Cape Henlopen State Park is a little over two hours from DC in Lewes, DE, but definitely doable as a day trip if you leave early, especially on a weekday when there is less traffic. We’ve done this and have had a fantastic day at the beach — packed up the car with a cooler and beach gear, got on the road early, and we were on the beach by 10:30am. Enjoyed dinner outdoors and ice cream in town before heading back, arrived home at 9:15pm. Totally worth the time in the car. Open daily, 8am – sunset, and admission is $8-10/vehicle. Get a glimpse here.

Dirty Dave’s Tiki Bar on Kent Island has a great beach area., where you can reserve spots on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays..  Don’t let the name fool ya, it’s family-friendly and very fun.  The beach is right behind Kentmorr, the excellent crab house, so if you plan well, you can make a day of it there with some beach time and a crab feast!  You can hang and enjoy fare from Dave’s. Be sure to read details — pricing, hours, rules, etc. — on the website.

They may not all be beaches, but this round-up of swim spots has a bunch more recommendations for places to take a dip around DC within day trip distance.

 

Make splash at Soak City in Kings Dominion

Make a splash at Soak City in Kings Dominion

WATERPARKS
Giant water slides, wave pools, waterfalls, sprays and splash pads…this is the stuff kids’ summer dreams are made of. There are some great water parks around the area offering many of these attractions, just about all of them opening Memorial Day weekend for limited hours, until they open daily a few weeks later. Here’s a quick list — visit the websites for more details.

* Ocean Dunes Waterpark at Upton Hill in Arlington, VA
* Great Waves at Cameron Run in Alexandria, VA
* Six Flags America in Bowie, MD
* The Water Park at Bohrer Park in Gaithersburg, MD
* The Water Mine in Reston, VA
* Atlantis Water Park at Bull Run in Centreville, VA
* Pirate’s Cove Waterpark in Lorton, VA
* Volcano Island Waterpark in Sterling, VA
* Splash Down Water Park in Manassas, VA
* Chesapeake Beach Water Park
* Soak City Water Park at Kings Dominion in Doswell, VA
* Water Country USA at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA

 

Sit back, relax, and enjoy a film outdoors at the Union Market Drive-in

BIG SCREEN UNDER THE STARS
Outdoor movies have become a DC summer tradition in the last few years with films al fresco in several neighborhoods. Even better, many of them are FREE! (*Before you make plans to enjoy any of the series, be sure to check schedules, as some movies may not be appropriate for children.)

Catch a flick on the big screen from the comfort of your car at the Union Market Drive-In Series, occurring monthly on Fridays throughout the summer, with several family-friendly films in the mix. This year, they are are skipping the dramas in favor of action, comedy and cult classics. Get there as early as 6pm and have a bite to eat in the Market or bring food back to your car. The film starts at 8:30pm. Admission is $20/car, free for walk-ins. Advance purchase is recommended. Runs through October.

National Harbor’s Movies on the Potomac series is back through the September 30. Every Sunday (family night) at 6pm and Thursday (date night) at 7pm, guests can see a free film on the big outdoor Plaza Screen right on the waterfront. .  Pack your chairs, grab food to go from one of the many eateries, and meet at the Plaza’s big screen for a FREE evening of fun and entertainment.

Adams Morgan Movie Nights  is back with free mnovies on Tuesday evenings from May 24 – June 21 with “The Road Less Traveled”  theme, showing movies that find the heroes on a quest. The program runs 8-11pm at Marie Reed Recreation Center’s soccer field (18th & California St, NW). Restaurants in the neighborhood will be offering special takeout meals that attendees can bring to the field.

Family Movies Nights take place on The Plaza at Tysons Corner Center monthly from May 27 – September 30.  They are free, and programming runs from 7-10pm.

Audi Field will transform into an outdoor cinema as Movies on the Pitch shows four films on the stadium’s jumbotron screen —  June 2, June 30, July 28, and August 25 — all of them family-friendly.

At the Navy Memorial Plaza (7th & Pennsylvania Ave NW) catch Movies on the Memorial on Thursday evenings June 2 – September 1.  The series of Navy-themed films pay tribute to our rich maritime heritage.

Golden Triangle BID will host GLDN+ CINEMA on Thursdays in Farragut Square (17th & K, NW),  June 2-23.  The family-friendly films begin at sunset.

Join the Rosslyn BID this summer for the Rosslyn Cinema Series to enjoy your favorite movies on the lawn in Gateway Park on Fridays in June!

Cinematery will take place monthly at Congressional Cemetery on Capitol Hill, on June 3, July 1, August 5, and September 2.

Films at the Stone hosts monthly screenings (June 16, July 21, & August 250 at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

Georgetown Sunset Cinema is back with movies on Tuesdays from August 2 – September 6 starting at 8:30-8:45 in the lovely Georgetown Waterfront Park, with the panoramic backdrop of the sunset, Potomac River, Kennedy Center, and Key Bridge.  Free and open to all.

 

Friday Night Concerts return to the Yards Park boardwalk this summer

SUMMER CONCERTS
Free music in the fresh air has become a staple of the season, and there are opportunities to enjoy just about every genre regularly at outdoor venues all around the DC-Metro.

Jazz in the Garden, the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden’s free concert series, is back. Experience live music amid art at every Friday from 6–8:30pm starting May 20, and there will be weekly shows through July22. Spread out a blanket, pack a picnic dinner or purchase food and drinks there, and enjoy the sounds of a variety of jazz artists. Note: Adult drinks are available from the pavilion; BYO alcohol is not permitted.

At the Bear Square Summer Concert Series at The Station at Riverdale, dance the night away and welcome the warmer season every Friday from 5-7pm from May 27 – June 24.

The U.S. Air Force Band’s Summer Concert Series brings outdoor concerts to National Harbor on Saturdays at 7pm and occasionally at other sites around the area.

The U.S. Navy Band returns for its summer Concert on the Avenue Series at the Navy Memorial on Tuesdays, May 31 – August 16 at 7:30pm. All performances are free and open to the public.

Wednesday at The Wharf will feature free weekly concerts on Transit Pier every Wednesday evening at 7pm. R&B, Americana, Motown, Jazz, Reggae, Go-go, Country, and your favorite pop covers will be among the sounds you can hear June 1 – August 31.

Friday Night Concerts at Yards Park will be back  for its 12th season from June 10 – July 29! The series will feature performances by popular local artists with cold beverages and  food available for purchase, lots of grassy space for hanging out, and the water features for kids to play in nearby to make it a bigger family evening out.

On weekends, head to Tysons Corner Center for Live at the Plaza, where you can enjoy music Fridays & Saturdays, 6-8pm,  and Sundays, 5-7pm, featuring acoustic music spanning a variety of genres or a DJ playing popular hits.

Enjoy music Live from the Lawn at Strathmore on Wednesday evenings from July 13 – August 24.  (They also have Cool Concerts for Kids on select Thursdays!)

Glen Echo Park’s 2022 Summer Concerts Series presents free live music in the historic Bumper Car Pavilion, featuring a variety of local bands and musical genres, from country to reggae, swing to Latin jazz, African to Cajun and blues. Dates/times TBA!

Enjoy music in Northern Virginia parks! The Fairfax County Park Authority presents their Summer Entertainment Series, a summer-long calendar of family-friendly shows, and concerts in local parks. Bring a picnic dinner, blankets, and lawn chairs to enjoy the best local and regional entertainers. There are many shows throughout the summer, so view the schedule here.

The Kennedy’s Center’s Millennium Stage  continues to present free live performances on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 6pm, occasionally outside on The REACH plaza.  While you’re there, plan for time to hang out at Victura Park and food and drinks, too.

 

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival will be back in person on the National Mall!

FESTIVALS & SPECIAL EVENTS
Several stand-out events are anticipated around the area this time of year, celebrating everything from music to art & culture to neighborhoods to food.  There are also a few smaller happenings to plan for in advance.

The 40th Annual Washington Folk Festival at Glen Echo Park June 4-5 showcases the diversity of traditional music in Washington. All of the artists hail from the DC area, but cultures from around the nation, as well as the world, will be represented through music, dance, crafts, and stories. The free festival that is renowned in the folk community and the public is welcome to enjoy it.

Celebrate Capital Pride during the month of June, especially June 11-12 at the annual parade and festival that culminates a week of gay pride events around the city. The Saturday parade is always a spectacular extravaganza of ornate floats, street performers, music and dancing, glitter and beads, and plenty of reveling. Sunday’s family-friendly festival, on Pennsylvania Avenue from 3rd to 7th Streets NW, features several stages of live entertainment, hundreds of exhibitors, and activities for all ages. It’s all a fun and fabulous opportunity to show support for the LGBTAQ community and join the celebration.

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival will be back in person this year (hurrah!) June 22-27 and June 30 – July 4.  Every summer (well, except for the past two), the National Mall becomes stomping grounds of folks from around the globe to celebrate living cultural heritage and community traditions at the annual event. Celebrating the United Arab Emirates and Earth Optimism this year, get ready for all kinds exhibits, demonstrations, live performances, talks, food, markets, and much more!

Attend one of the biggest summer barbeques around June 25-26 as the National Capital Barbeque Battle returns to pit some of the nation’s best barbequers against each other as they compete for big prizes. The reward for attendees: Samples from all the entrants (plus, more food), live music, cooking demos, kids’ fun, and more.

Independence Day in DC is a pretty big deal, the city being the nation’s capital and all, so the annual July 4th celebrations are pretty big. It starts with the National Independence Day Parade down Constitution Avenue — back for the first time in two years! Then, this year more festivities will take place at the Salute to America event by the Lincoln Memorial, the A Capitol Fourth concert at the U.S. Capitol, and fireworks at West Potomac Park.

The lotus and water lilies in full bloom at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are such a ravishing sight it calls for a celebration. Along with the spectacular display of flowers, the annual Lotus & Water Lily Festival  features traditional Asian and African dancing and drumming, gardening workshops, park tours, arts & crafts, and other family-friendly pursuits. Dates are still TBA, so check back for specifics soon!  View scenes from a previous bloom here.

It might run into fall, but it starts in August, so the Maryland Renaissance Festival counts among the summer fun. Plus, if you’ve been reading KFDC while then you know it’s one of my very, very favorite annual events. (More confirmation on  that herehere, herehereherehere, here, and here.) I take a lot of pride in the number of people I have turned into Ren Fest believers.  So, go!  I promise, it is the absolute best.

 

Make a wish at the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden

SEASONAL EXHIBITS
Extraordinary installations, lovely annual exhibits, and kids’ programs during the school break are some of the special experiences at our museums and galleries to take take advantage of over the summer.

While it’s not exclusively a summer exhibit, One with Eternity: Yayoi Kusama in the Hirshhorn Collection is a good one to catch during the season as kids are out of school, so there are more opportunities to take them.  Two infinity rooms, the yellow and black polka dot Pumpkin, and more artwork and elements about Kusama’s life are interesting, beautiful, and kinda trippy to experience.

In the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden,  Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree for Washington, DC, has returned once again. Through the summer, the public is welcome to write wishes on small cards and tie them to the tree’s branches. They’re collected regularly, then sent to Ono’s “Imagine Peace Tower” in Reykjavik, Iceland. Get a glimpse of past one here.

National Building Museum’s Summer Block Party started with indoor mini-golf, after that it was a giant maze, then came the super awesome Beach, followed by Icebergs, then Hive buzzed in, a couple of years ago we played in the Fun House, and in 2019 we hung out on the LAWN.  This year, Shakespeare joins the mix at The Playhouse. Presented in partnership with the Folger Shakespeare Library, it will feature an Elizabethan-inspired festival stage in the cool comfort of the museum’s Great Hall. From July 1 – September 5, guests will be able to enjoy Shakespearean activities like stage combat demos and hands-on fun during the day, and in the evenings, there will be performances of the enchanting A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (PS: If you think Shakespeare and kids don’t mix, think again! Read about some of our experiences with it here and here.)

Annmarie Sculpture Garden is enchanting any time of year, but it’s especially so in the summer when the fairy and gnome houses are on display. The adorable collection of little whimsical abodes for spritely creatures are just fantastic to view and find throughout the grounds. Created by all ages, individuals and groups, each one has a different theme, but together they are a brilliant showcase of imagination and craftiness. Read more about it and view scenes from a past exhibit here and here.

ARTECHOUSE, the destination in southwest known for fusing art and technology, invites you to “walk alongside African kings and queens as you explore timeless questions of identity, power, and belonging” at Aṣẹ: Afro Frequencies. Experience it June 11 – September 6. Admission is $16-20/adult, $8-10/12 & under.

Immersive cinematic exhibition at the National Geographic Museum’s Beyond King Tut, which takes visitors on a journey to one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time. The exhibition celebrates the 100-year anniversary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. It runs June 17, 2022 – February 6, 2023. Tickets are $20/adult, $12/age 2-12, $16/student, military, senior, & educator.

During the warm months, little ones can flex their green thumbs in the outdoor Children’s Garden at the U.S. Botanic Garden. Renovated a few years long ago, the adorable outdoor area features dirt to dig in, plants to tend to, and a cute play structure to romp in. The rest of the USBG is great to explore, too!

 

A setting as great as the entertainment at Children's Theatre in the Woods

Entertainment especially for kids at Wolf Trap’s Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods

Special Entertainment
From super cheap movies in local theaters to stay cool on hot days to live theatre at fun places, there are some great ways to keep kiddos entertained all season long.

The Regal Summer Movie Express presents flicks for kids on many Tuesdays & Wednesdays at 10am from May 24 – September 7. Admission is just $2! Be sure to check the website for the film schedule and theater locations, as it doesn’t run at all theaters every week.

From late June through early August, Wolf Trap presents the fantastic Children’s Theater-in-the-Woods, over 70 family-friendly performances at 10am Tuesdays through Saturdays. Amidst 117 rolling wooded acres and nestled in a shady grove, the stage is set for lively adventures in music, dance, storytelling, puppetry, and theater. All of the productions are recommended for children between Kindergarten and 6th grade, though I think kids even younger can enjoy them, too (mine did!). Read a KFDC review of the series from a past summer (it’s an old one, but still relevant!)

Starting June 18, Arts in the Parks, a free children’s entertainment series from Fairfax County Park Authority on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10am.  Catch shows at Burke Lake Park, Frying Pan Farm Park, EC Lawrence Amphitheater, Mason District, and Waterfield Park.

Tysons Corner Center will get little ones grooving on The Plaza  at the Kids Summer Concert Series on the second Wednesday of the month. These take place mid-mornings on June 8, July 13, Aug 10, and Sept 14.

The Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse is back and offering fun $1 films for kids every Wednesday from June 15 – August 3. Check the schedule to see what’s playing at a theater near you!

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (now in NoMa as well as Loudoun and Woodbridge!) welcomes families to Kids Camp, a movie series that is inexpensive ($5) and benefits local charities, to boot.

Shakespeare Theater Company is bringing back the brilliant Potted Potter – The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff , that condenses all seven Harry Potter books into one hilarious and clever show. It runs June 29 – July 17 at Sidney Harman Hall.  Tickets are $49.75-99.75.  Read a KFDC review of the show!

UniverSoul Circus, the world-class, live entertainment attraction is coming back to National Harbor June 30 – July 24.  The production celebrates the unique and familiar aspects of global cultures and ethnicities, blending circus arts, theater, and music — a fresh, cool, and hip approach to live family entertainment!  Tickets start at $27.50.

Strathmore is hosting Cool Concerts for Kids on Thursdays July 14, July 28 August 11 at 7pm.

See a Shakespeare play in the park! The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company is bringing back its annual Shakespeare in the Ruins at the picturesque Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park in Ellicott City, MD. Much Ado About Nothing will run July 17 – July 24.  Tickets are $54/adult, $27/age 19-25, and one kid is free with every adult.  Bring along a picnic to enjoy as you watch the play — there are no food vendors, but you can BYO fare, beer, and wine.

Shakespeare Theatre Company’s annual Free For All will, hopefully, return this summer. The Washington tradition offers free performances of a Shakespearean classic to the public, with tickets available through an online lottery or a limited number given out day-of.  Look for more info about it soon!

 

Give the National Harbor carousel an unlimited whirl!

MINI TRAINS, MINI GOLF, CAROUSELS, & A FERRIS WHEEL!
These extra delights bring even more fun to several parks around the area that are already great outdoor places to hang with the kids.

Watkins Regional Park opened its Antique Carousel and Miniature Train on a limited schedule in early May, but come Memorial Day weekend, they can be enjoyed for extended hours almost every day of the week. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10am – 7pm; Sundays 12–5 pm, closed Mondays except May 30 (Memorial Day), July 4 (closes at 4pm) & September  (Labor Day).  This along with all of the other fun features — Nature Center, Old Maryland Farm, and Wizard of Oz Playground!

Cabin John Regional Park opened its Miniature Train on weekends only back in April, and will run on weekends through September 10am – 6pm. Rides are $2.50. Plan to spend time at the wonderful Cabin John playground, too — read more about it here.

The Miniature Train and Ovid Hazen Wells Carousel at Wheaton Regional Park started taking guests for spins in early April on weekends and will be open through the summer. After Memorial Day, it’s open Thursday – Sunday, but hours vary, so be sure to check the website..  Rides are $2.50.  Plan to stay and play at the super fun Wheaton playground — read more about it here.

The beautiful historic Dentzel Carousel is celebrating its 101st season at Glen Echo Park. Plan to go for a spin before or after a show at Adventure Theatre or The Puppet Co. From May through August, it’s open Wednesday – Friday 10am – 2pm, and Saturday and Sunday 11am – 5pm. Tickets are $2/ride, $5/all-day pass.

The Clemyjontri carousel in McLean, VA, will be offering rides daily starting May 31 on weekdays 9:30am – 1pm and weekends 9:30am – 6:30pm. Cost is $3/weekdays, $4/weekends & holidays. Read more about Clemyjontri here.

National Harbor offers a couple of ways to go for a spin. Kind of like a London Eye of the U.S., The Capital Wheel is a great way to get a bird’s eye view of DC. The 42-gondola ride (all closed and climate-controlled with room for 8) soars 180 feet above the Potomac River waterfront, offering vistas of the White House and Capitol, the National Mall, Arlington Cemetery, and more amazing sites. Ticket prices start at $15. For an on-ground whirl,  The Carousel features a herd of whimsical creatures and the sparkling Potomac as a backdrop. It’s $7/ rider, and they can ride an unlimited number of times. Read about both rides and more National Harbor fun here.

Burke Lake Park’s Mini Train, Carousel, and Mini Golf are open daily from Memorial Day – Labor Day.  The train 11:20am – 5:40pm, the carousel 11:25am -5:25pm, and mini golf 11am – 8pm (last play 7pm). The park is free to access for Fairfax county residents. For non-county residents, the park is free on weekdays and has a $10 entrance fee on weekends/holidays for a car or large capacity van. Carousel rides are $3-4, train rides are $4-5, mini golf is $7-9.

Play Mini Golf in the District at East Potomac Park.  (Fun fact: It’s on the National Register of Historic Places listed as the oldest continually operating miniature golf course in the country!) Open Saturday and Sunday, 10am – 8pm. Admission is $6/kids and seniors, $7/adults. Read more about hanging out at East Potomac Park’s Hains Point.

Tee up at several NoVa Parks that have mini golf courses. Cameron RunUpton HillPohick Bay, and Algonkian Regional Parks all welcome guests to putt around.  Cost is $5/age 12 & under, $6/13+. Check websites for hours a each park.

Ride the Chesapeake Bay-themed carousel at Lee District Family Rec Area in Alexandria. Open daily through August 29 — hours are 11am – 6pm Monday/Tuesday/Thursday, 11am – 5pm Wednesday, and 9am – 6pm Saturday/Sunday.  Cost is $3 per ride on Fridays, $4 per ride weekends & holidays.

 

Show your Spirit for women’s soccer!

SUMMER SPORTS
Some of the season’s best action takes place in ballparks, stadiums, and arenas thanks to our local sports teams. Here’s where you can join the fan clubs.

A day at Nationals Park is all it takes to understand why baseball is America’s favorite pastime. Our family always enjoys catching a Nats game on a nice summer (or spring) day (or evening), anyway. The excitement extends well beyond the diamond with games and activities in the park, a playground for kids, the Racing Presidents, fun in the stands, and more. Before you go, check out these tips on doing a Nats game without breaking the bank. And I highly recommend the Jr. Nationals Kids Club for children 12 and under. Just $20 gets them membership, which includes Nats swag, plus a coupon book with all kinds of offers and discounts.

Whether or not you’ve got a little soccer fan in your fam, DC United matches are fun experiences for all ages, and Audi Field is a great venue for watching them. Plus, since games only last 90 minutes, they’re not too long if young spectators get antsy.

Women’s pro soccer team, Washington Spirit, will have several matches at Audi Field this season — and they are always very exciting to watch!

Can’t stand the heat? Head to the Entertainment & Sports Arena in southeast DC to see the Washington Mystics (w)hoop it up on the basketball court. Tickets start at $14.

Every summer, the Citi Open Tennis Tournament serves up exciting competition along with other fun activities for fans of all ages. See some of the sport’s top players in action and enjoy the thrills on and off the court at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center July 30 – August 7.

Swing up to Charm City to see the Baltimore Orioles play. Camden Yards is a beautiful ballpark, and you can head to the Inner Harbor before or after to make a day of it up north.

If the Nats or O’s aren’t in town, or you want to see baseball on a smaller but still fun scale, you’ve got several great options around the area. Take ’em out to the minors to see the Bowie Baysox, Potomac Nationals, or Aberdeen Ironbirds play. Summer collegiate team Bethesda Big Train is also very popular for non-majors baseball action.

The Breeze, DC’s Ultimate Frisbee pro team,  plays at Catholic University’s Carlini Field.  It’s fast-paced, fun to watch, and there’s a welcoming family vibe — plus, kids 8 and under get in free!

 

 

Maryland’s finest

CRAB FEASTS
Easily one of the best activities during summer in Maryland and neighboring areas (this is where I get non-DC-centric because I have to give credit where it’s due). Here are some suggestions for places to get ’em, though the “best” is always a subject for debate.

* Cantler’s is an Annapolis institution for many.
* Mike’s Crab House in Riva has a great tiki area if there’s a table wait.
* Enjoy great crabs and an awesome beach area at Kentmorr.
* The Jetty on Kent Narrows has crabs, scenic views, and a fun beachy vibe.
* In Baltimore, Bo Brooks on the Canton Waterfront is popular.
* Enjoy a feast in the District at Ivy City Smokehouse.
* Stay close to the city at Quarterdeck in Arlington.
* Eat crabs in the ‘burbs at Bethesda Crab House.
* Make it a day trip to Waterman’s in Rock Hall, MD.
* Pick up your own at The Fish Market at The Wharf. Buy them already steamed or get them while they’re still alive to cook at home.

 

Take to the high Chesapeake seas for a pirate adventure!

SEASONAL EXPERIENCES
Some particularly cool activities and offerings are only possible this time of year. Sure, you can say that’s most of this guide, but these experiences that fall into the “other” category shouldn’t be missed.

On Thursday evenings and some Saturdays during late spring and summer, the Anacostia Watershed Society hosts their free Discovery Series, which include boat tours, paddle tours, and wetland walks at a few local parks. Bladensburg Waterfront Park, Anacostia Park, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, and 11th Street Bridge Park are locations for these jaunts.

Public boat rides along the C&O in Georgetown recently returned. They are available throughout the day, Wednesday – Sunday at 10am, 12pm, 2pm, 4pm through October, offering one-hour guided historical tours along the first mile of the CC&O Canal National Historical Park. Cost is $15/adult, $10/senior, $8/child.

For other adventures on the water, a bunch of places around the area rent kayaks, canoes, rowboats, and stand up paddleboards. Fletcher’s Boathouse is a popular place to go and has a great riverside area to hang out and picnic when you’re off the water. You can also row from Ballpark Boathouse near Yards Park. Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis has paddling options along with lots of other outdoor recreation. This post has a whole round-up of even more places to go with the flow on local waterways.

Pick your own produce at local farms. While it starts in the spring with strawberries, it carries on through summer with even more delicious fruits — blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, plus veggies and more produce you can gather yourself. Find out where you can PYO around the DC area.

Join Anacostia Riverkeeper and Earth Conservation Corps on Friday evenings From July 9 – August 27 for Friday Night Fishing, their catch and release fishing program at the dock at Diamond Teague Park (located next to Yards Park). Rods, reels, bait, and instruction are free. No sign up is required.  Dates still to come — will keep you posted!

Aaaaaar, mateys! As the weather warms up and cruising conditions become more comfortable, pirate voyages are offered on local waters. In DC, take a Family Treasure Hunt Cruise on the Boomerang Pirate Ship. Head out to Annapolis for Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake. Or go for a jaunt with Urban Pirates in Baltimore.

Some of the most spectacular flower blooms occur during the summer. View a whole park bursting with pink, white, and peach-hued lotus flowers and water lilies. Fields upon fields of sunflowers are sure to brighten any day. Stop and smell the roses at a favorite National Mall spot. Get details on all of them in this post about our bloom town.

Get rolling in Southeast! The Anacostia Park Skating Pavilion, the only skating pavilion within a national park will officially welcome skaters daily from 9am – 5pm starting Memorial Day through Labor Day. Even better, both admission and skate rentals are FREE! (You can still BYO skates and roll around the rest of the year.) And along with skating, Anacostia Park offers all kinds of recreation, including large fields for sports and running around, tennis, fishing, basketball, biking, running, and three playgrounds. Read more about the park in this KFDC post.

 

Have I left out anything really good? If you think so, let me know in the comments below!

 

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Filed under 2022, DC, Maryland, Seasonal, Summer, Virginia

Where to Go & What to Do During Spring Break 2022

 

Spring Break has begun in the DC area, so you may be in need of some extra reminders of all the great activities there are to do around the area to keep your kids entertained over the next few weeks — depending on when they’re off from school. And if some of this sounds familiar, that’s because a version of this post has been published in many previous years, but it’s been updated to reflect what’s going on now.

Many of the ideas here are already on the blog, but sometimes a little guidance for what’s best at certain times helps. Among these recommendations are special and seasonal activities,  exhibits and shows that are currently running, and outings that take advantage of the (usually) great spring weather.

And, of course, the rest of the blog is full of 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!) happy during the week off — or on, depending how you look at it. Happy Spring Break!

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Filed under 2022, DC, Maryland, Seasonal, Spring, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

Celebrate Black History Month Around the DC Area (2022)

A recent family visit to the National Museum of African American History & Culture

 

February is Black History Month, and there are so many great events and activities throughout the DC area to celebrate it. Museum programs (including an entire museum), special events, tours and exhibits, and more will be enlightening and fun for all ages. Here’s where many are happening over the next few weeks.

African American History & Culture
Where: NMAAHC | National Mall, DC
When: Ongoing | Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 5:30pm
Admission: Free

The National Museum of African American History & Culture may just be the best place to learn about Black history and culture in America, covering everything from early slave trading to modern day achievements by Black people.  If you’ve never been, this month is a great, meaningful time to go.  And if you have been, there is so much to be gleaned, teach to kids, contemplate, and celebrate, you can never visit too much — we’ve been many times over the years, most recently on MLK Day.  It’s a huge museum with a lot of exhibits to navigate, some of them very heavy and somber, so be sure to read the KFDC Guide to visiting the museum with kids before you go. Free, timed-entry passes are required, and they are available online here.  You can reserve in advance or try for same-day tickets — a limited number are released day-of beginning at 8:15am.

Museum & Memorial Tour
Where: African American Civil War Museum | Shaw, DC
When: Ongoing | Monday – Saturday, 11am – 4pm
Admission: Free

Take a tour of another museum dedicated to the contributions of more than 200,000 members of the United States Colored Troops. The African American Civil War Museum tells the stories of the historic roles these brave men played in ending slavery and keeping America united under one flag. A collection of artifacts and documents, plus primary sources and technology create a meaningful learning experience for visitors about the period from the American Civil War to Civil Rights and beyond. Be sure to stop by the nearby African American Civil War Memorial, too.

Hike the Underground Railroad Experience Trail
Where: Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park | Sandy Spring, MD
When: Daily, sunrise to sunset
Admission: Free

A great outing with kids during Black History Month (or anytime), this hike offers insight into the experience of enslaved peoples’ escape to freedom. The walk through woods and along edges of fields (with a map and explanation of the hike) is interesting and enlightening as well as an active, Covid-safe way to spend time outdoors.  On February 19, Woodlawn Manor will be hosting a special Black History Month Family Day, when you ca stop in the Visitors Center to pick up take-home activities for kids as well as a trail map (though you can also print that out at home if you go a different day).

Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words
Where: Library of Congress | Capitol Hill, DC
When: Ongoing | Wednesday – Saturday, 10am – 4pm
Admission: Free with timed-entry passes

This exhibit about Rosa Parks goes well beyond her famous stance of not giving up her seat on the bus. Learn about Parks’ early life and family as well as her activism and achievements through a variety of displays, including photographs, old documents, newspaper clippings, and rarely seen materials. Find it in the gallery just beyond the Thomas Jefferson Library on the second floor.

Library Programs
Where: Public Libraries throughout DC
When: Throughout February
Admission: Free

The DC Public Library proudly celebrates Black History Month during February with all kinds of offerings for kids of all ages. Pick up craft and STEM kits, coloring pages, and maps to help you explore Black history in DC.  Join virtual story times. Catch a flick in the Black Love Film Series (recommend for adults, but teens could likely join, too). Visit the website to see what activities are being offered at each library.

Visit BLM Plaza
Where: 16th Street NW | Downtown DC
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

The two blocks along 16th Street NW, between K Street and Lafayette Park just across from the White House, was emboldened with the giant yellow BLACK LIVES MATTER statement in the summer of 2020 as the BLM movement began to swell after the murder of George Floyd. It’s since been repainted and become permanent.  The pedestrian area is now a site of historic significance in DC, a meeting place and focal point of protests and other events, and a location providing good context for a conversation with kids about BLM.

Tour Memorials
Where: Several locations in DC
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

Tour some memorials around the city that highlight notable African Americans and related historic events. Head to the MLK Memorial at the Tidal Basin, where you can view the grand sculpture of Dr. King and read some of his most inspiring quotes engraved in surrounding walls. From there, head to the Lincoln Memorial, where even more MLK words, “I Have a Dream” are etched into the steps where he gave his famous speech. In the Shaw neighborhood, the African American Civil War Memorial honors the service and sacrifice of soldiers and sailors who served in the U.S. Army and Navy.  On Capitol Hill, the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial in Lincoln Park isa tribute to the civil rights leader.

Visit the Grounds of Frederick Douglass’ Estate 
Where: Frederick Douglass Historic Site | Anascostia, DC
When: Ongoing
Admission: $1

Visit the Frederick Douglass Historic Site in Anacostia.  While the Visitor Center and Cedar Hill remain closed, the grounds are open on Fridays and Saturdays for the public to explore.  Since no tours are currently being offered, get background on Douglass’ life and the estate before you visit to discuss with kids while you’re there.

Discover Women’s Landmarks
Where: Various locations around the DC area
When: Ongoing
Admission: Free

The Wander Women Project, which maps the HerStories of worldwide wonder women, has a round-up of places honoring pioneer black women in the DC area area (and slightly further). This includes museums, memorials, call boxes, and online exhibits — both indoor and outdoor sites, so there are plenty to visit without Covid worries.

Black History in Alexandria
Where: Throughout Alexandria, VA
When: Ongoing
Admission: Varies by activity

There are a few major projects and programs that highlight Black history experiences throughout Alexandria. Walk along the Duke Street Black History Trail. Or hop in the car for a Black History Driving Tour.  Manumission Tour Company also offers an Underground Railroad-themed tour.

Black History with PG Parks
Where: Sites around PG County, MD & Online
When: Through February
Admission: Varies by location

Celebrate and honor African American heritage with the PG County park system during Black History Month in February. From performances to history lessons to tours, there are a lot of exciting events and activities planned both in person at locations throughout Prince George’s County and online.

Celebrate with Dance
Where: Maryland Youth Ballet In Person & Online
When: Throughout February
Admission: Varies by event

To celebrate Black History Month, Maryland Youth Ballet is presenting virtual and in-person masterclasses, plus performances and talks led by black dance artists. It will bring together numerous dancers, choreographers, and teaching artists from throughout the metropolitan DC region as well as nationally to celebrate and recognize the culture and contributions of Black people in dance. Events will take place at various locations around the DC area and online — see the website for specifics.

African Americans at Walney Walking Tour
Where: Ellanor C. Lawrence Park | Chantilly, VA
When: February 5, 11am – 12pm
Admission: $8

The Fairfax County Park Authority regularly offers programs for families, and during February, there are a few that focus on Black History. During this one, hear the names and stories of many African American families who lived and worked at Walney. Learn about slave tenancy and hear stories of resistance and survival.

Black History in the Kid’s Room
Where: Maryland Science Center | Baltimore, MD
When: Throughout February
Admission: $19.95/age 3-12, $25.95/adult

All through February, the Maryland Science Center is celebrating Black History Month with activities to celebrate the achievements of black scientists in their Kid’s Room. This area of the children’s museum is dedicated to young children and learning through play. Check the Kid’s Room schedule on the door during your visit to see what activities are planned for the day. Read more about the Maryland Science Center in this recent post by KFDC writer Emily Moise and this one from when my kids were little.

The Slave Memorial
Where: Mount Vernon Estate | Mount Vernon, VA
When: Ongoing
Admission: $20/adult, $12/ages 6-11, free/5 & under

Make a point to see this on a visit to George Washington’s estate. The memorial is located approximately 50 yards southwest of George and Martha Washington’s tomb, on a bluff above the Potomac River. A gray, truncated, granite column which represents “life unfinished” is the center of three concentric brick circles. The three steps leading up to the column are inscribed, respectively, “Faith,” “Hope” and “Love” — the virtues that sustained those living in bondage.

Show What You Know: African American Inventors
Where: Port Discovery | Baltimore, MD
When:  February 5
Admission: $19.95

Head to the children’s museum in Baltimore for all kinds of kid play, including this fun game being offered during February: Test your knowledge in this museum floor game show. Match and learn about famous inventions from African American men and women throughout history. Play with others for the chance to win multiple prizes! Read more about Port Discovery in this recent post.

Young Portrait Explorers
Where: National Portrait Gallery Online
When: February 9, 16, & 23, 11-11:30am
Admission: Free

Join the National Portrait Gallery virtually for this program geared toward toddler and preschoolers up to age 5.  Learn about African Americans who have made significant contributions to society as you take a close look at their portraits — Michelle Obama on February 9, Barack Obama on February 16, and George Washington Carver on February 23,  Movement and art-making are part of the sessions, too! Register in advance for each session.

Black History Month Sneaker Exhibition
Where: Sole Wash | Capitol Hill, DC
When: February 19-20, 5-8pm
Admission: $35

Sole Wash “Sneaker Laundry” is hosting its Annual Sneaker Exhibit highligting the rise of sneakers within black films, sports, hip-hop music, fashion, and more. Make an evening of it if you go — the sneaker cleaning and restoration business is located on Barracks Row near a bevy of family-friendly restaurants.

 

*Do you know of a Black History Month event or activity that you don’t see listed here?  Feel free to share in the comments!

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

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

#OptOutside

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.

FUTURES
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!

 

 

#OptOutside

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.

Cinderella
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.

Corduroy
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!

Wizards
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

The 2021 KFDC Guide to the Holiday Season in the DC Area


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. Light displays dazzle visitors as they stroll or drive among them. Local stages come alive with holiday shows. 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.

A few local favorites unfortunately aren’t back this year due to Covid, but there still are more than plenty to make the season fun and festive for all.  This annual guide to the holiday season in the DC area, categorized and listed by starting date, will help you plan for it all. (Note: Details for some events have yet to be released, but I wanted to get this out, as some activities are starting very soon, plus tickets are on sale and there are some early bird discounts. Check back soon for more info and additional events.)  Happy Holiday Season!  [Note:  There have been some updates to the guide as more info and events are announced, and all are indicated.]

 

Light Displays

Holiday Shows

Special Events

Chanukah

Tree Lightings

Holiday Markets

*************************************************************


Enjoy a family stroll through Brookside’s magical Garden of Lights

LIGHT DISPLAYS

LuminoCity
Where: Roer’s Zoofari | Vienna, VA
When: Through January 2, 6-9pm
Admission: Start at $5-66 (look for discount)

The area’s newest light display is already open and immersing visitors in a world lit up with towering luminescent sculptures. Guided by Lumi, the LuminoCity mascot, see unicorns and other glowing characters and scenes throughout the experience. The event is all outdoors and timed-entry.

Winter Walk of Lights

Where: Meadowlark Botanical Gardens | Vienna, VA
When: November 11 – January 2
Admission: $16/online, $20/on site, free/2 & under

Bring your family and friends to be dazzled by the magical Winter Walk of Lights at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia. Every year from mid-November until just after New Year’s Day, the garden is transformed into a half-mile, walk of lights. Revisit perennial favorites such as the animated Lakeside Lights, the Fountain of Lights, and the Holiday Nature Walk – and look for new displays each year. Put on your walking shoes and bring the family to experience a Northern Virginia festive tradition. Round out your visit by roasting marshmallows and sipping on hot beverages by the fire. (Available for purchase at S’more Snacks Shop).

Bull Run Festival of Lights
Where: Bull Run Regional Park | Centreville, VA
When: November 11 – January 2
Admission: $30/car 

Opening earlier than usual this year, there’s a little more time to 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. And back this year is the holiday village and carnival with even more fun to accompany the lights show.  Avoid crowds more and get a discount by going Monday through Thursday and use the code LIGHT21 for a discount on those days.

DC Holiday Lights
Where: Around DC
When: November 19 – January 6
Admission: Free

Through the holiday season, Main Streets throughout the District are joining together to bring DC residents a spectacular holiday experience: DC Holiday Lights! Residents are invited to take a stroll down each of the participating corridors to experience a dazzling array of lights and decor, enjoy holiday promotions, and shop local. Visit the website to see where corridors are located and what to expect at each of them.

Ice & Lights
Where: Cameron Run Park | Alexandria, VA
When: November 19 – January 2
Admission: $9 just village, $22/with skating, free/under 2 

Glide across the ice at Ice & Lights, The Winter Village at Cameron Run in Alexandria, Virginia. The waterpark will be transformed into a winter wonderland with an ice rink, beautifully lit photo ops, music and more! Grab a slice of pizza, roast a marshmallow over the fire pits, and enjoy the winter village.

Garden of Lights
Where: Brookside Gardens | Wheaton, MD
When: November 19 – January 2
Admission: $10/person

The Garden of Lights is back this year and celebrating its 23rd season as a DC area family holiday tradition! (FYI: This is one of our faves!) 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 past visits there.

Lights on the Bay
Where: Sandy Point State Park | Annapolis, MD
When: November 21 – January 2
Admission: $20/car 

Head to the Chesapeake for some holiday fun! SPCA of Anne Arundel County presents the 26th 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!

Enchant Christmas
Where: Nationals Park | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: November 26 – 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 (from the last season it was here) of this newer-to-DC holiday attraction.

Symphony of Lights
Where: Symphony Woods at Merriweather | Columbia, MD
When:  November 25 – January 2
Admission: $20/vehicle

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. On November 28, December 2, walk through the lights + enjoy activities for the whole family.

Festival of Lights
Where: Watkins Regional Park | Upper Marlboro, MD
When: November 26 – January 12
Admission: $8/online, $10/on site, 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, put on some holiday music, turn on the seat warmers, and take in the adorably festive illuminated scenes. This has been one of our family traditions since the kids were babes!  For more about Watkins Regional Park, including all there is to enjoy during the day, see this KFDC post.

Winter Lights Festival

Where: Seneca Creek State Park | Gathersburg, MD
When: November 26 – December 31
Admission: $15/car Mon-Thurs, $25/car Fri-Sun

The 25th Annual Winter Lights Festival is a glowing 3.5 mile drive through the enchanted setting of Seneca Creek State Park. The 3.5-mile 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. Tickets must be purchased in advance online!

Garden in Lights
Where: Annmarie Sculpture Garden | Solomons, MD
When: November 26 – January 1 (closed 12/3, 4, 24, 25)
Admission: $7, free/3 & under

This annual holiday light show is keeping everything outside, so bundle up for a magical holiday experience. The grounds of Annmarie are transformed into an outdoor twinkling wonderland that will transport your family to an enchanted world where they will discover glowing “light sculptures” and wondrous light installations. Wild animals, wintery wonderlands, musical holiday scenes, deep sea treasures, magical creatures, glowing trees, and more are some of the sparkling scnes you’ll see.  An outdoor Holiday Market with shopping, music, fun holiday photo opps, and food and drink add to the seasonal cheer.

Georgetown GLOW
Where: A few alleys in Georgetown, DC
When: Through November 30
Admission: Free

This GLOW is actually an extension of the summer edition, which has been brightening up Georgetown since July.  See parts of the neighborhood in a whole new gorgeous light — literally. Every evening through November 30, a few alleys will sparkle with modern light art installations by four local artists. Take the family to dinner, then go for a stroll to check them all out. Get a glimpse of a past light show here.

Light Yards
Where: The Yards | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: December 1 – January 1
Admission: Free

This is the 6th year that the Yards is presenting a special light exhibition during the holidays, which always features large-scale illuminations that are interactive and really beautiful!  This season will be a whimsical, 22-foot glowing trees light installation from Amigo & Amigo, the same artists who created last year’s stars.  Trimmed top to bottom in holiday decor and festooned lights, they’ll cast The Yards’ Sun Deck with beautiful, colored patterns.  When you go, plan for dinner at one of the nearby restaurants then stay to play and enjoy the lights (or vice versa).  Get a glimpse of other previous Light Yards here and here.

The District’s Holiday Boat Parade
Where: The Wharf | Southwest DC
When: December 4
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: December 4
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. And stop in the Torpedo Factory were there will be a holiday festival, too.

 

Have a stompin’ good time at Step Afrika’s Holiday Step Show!

HOLIDAY SHOWS

Back to Thanksgiving
Where: Keegan Theatre | Northwest DC
When: November 6, 7, 13, 14
Tickets: $10 (look for discount)
When an experiment on the last turkey on earth goes awry, a chase through time begins. Can Doc and his ragtag team of assistants find the turkey in time to save Thanksgiving? Sure hope so! This hilarious one-hour play is sure to be fun for kids and parents alike.

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins
Where: The Puppet Co. | Glen Echo Park, MD
When: November 18 – January 2
Tickets: $15/age 2+

It’s Hanukkah on strings at The Puppet Co.! Hershel just wants to celebrate Hanukkah with the community, but the Queen and King of the Goblins have forbidden the lighting of the candles. Can Hershel save the day and lift the curse for this shtetl (village)?

Winterfest
Where: Adventure Theatre | Glen Echo Park, MD
When: November 19 – January 2
Tickets: $20.50

Adventure Theatre is celebrating the holiday season with three shows this year. Uri & Ora Light the Menorah focuses on Chanukah, Each year, siblings Uri and Ora look forward to Chanukah—gathering with friends and family, eating Bubbie’s latkes, and no homework! When things don’t go the way they want, will they be able to repair the holiday—and their relationship?Connection celebrates friendship builds bridges from the Philippines to America, and Cranky Penguin is a tale finds the fun in winter.

Enchanted Bookshop Christmas
Where: Gunston Arts Center | Arlington, VA
When: November 19 – December 5
Tickets: $15/adult, $12/child (look for discount)

Encore Stage presents this show by kids for kids… It’s four days before Christmas and Miss Margie, the scatterbrained owner of the shop, is thrilled to have two very special guests — her serious-minded sister Ellen and book-loving niece Annabelle. Ellen was recently laid off from her position as an astronomy professor, and she’s certain she’ll never find a job again. Her luck changes, however, when high-tech billionaire Philip Brantley stops in at the shop and Margie convinces him to hire Ellen for his new space project. With Ellen out shopping, Margie has a brainstorm to wrap the bookmark that Philip wrote his phone number on and give it to Ellen as a Christmas present. After all, what could possibly go wrong? Ha! When the present disappears, it’s up to our come-to-life book characters to solve the mystery of the missing bookmark and save the day for Ellen — all without giving away their magical existence.

A Christmas Carol
Where: Ford’s Theatre | Penn Quarter, DC
When: November 24 – December 27
Tickets: $36-124
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 actor Craig Wallace returns to play Ebenezer Scrooge. Recommended for ages 5 and up. Performance is two hours (including a 15-minute intermission).

Joy Around the World: The Virtual Holiday Scavenger Hunt for Kids
Where: Watson Adventures Online
When: November 26-27, 5-6:30pm | December 11-12, 7-8:30pm
Admission: $19

Wishing you could find a way to celebrate the holidays with far away friends and family? Join Watson Adventures on a virtual sleigh ride across the internet! This virtual scavenger hunt takes you to holiday markets and festivals, amazing museums and many scenic places around the world, in search of answers to fun, holiday-related questions. Whether it’s for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or even Boxing Day, it’s a fun game to unite families and friends. Guaranteed to delight any Grinch! For ages 10 and up. Teams of up to six can play together or remotely. Advance booking is required.

Virginia National Ballet’s The Nutcracker
Where: Hylton Performing Arts Center | Manassas, VA
When: November 27
Tickets: $35/adult, $25/child

Start your holiday season with NVB’s traditional and family-friendly production of The Nutcracker. Featuring guest artists and the international award-winning dancers of NVB/ARB, the performance includes exquisite costuming and Russian-produced sets.

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical
Where: National Theatre | Downtown, DC
When: November 23 – December 5
Tickets: $54-114 (look for discount)

In this holiday musical, sets and costumes inspired by Dr. Seuss’ original illustrations help transport audiences to the whimsical world of Whoville for thetimeless story of the true meaning of Christmas. Max the Dog narrates as the mean and scheming Grinch, whose heart is “two sizes too small,” decides to steal Christmas away from the holiday-loving Whos. It’s been a Broadway hit hailed as an “extraordinary performance” by the New York Times!

The Nutcracker on Strings
Where: The Puppet Co.| Glen Echo, MD
When: November 26 – January 3
Tickets: $15/age 2+

The Puppet Co.’s annual holiday treat and Washington tradition for 30 years is returning! 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.

A Christmas Carol 2021
Where: Olney Theatre | Olney, MD
When: November 26 – December 26
Tickets: $40-50 (look for discount)

Olney continues its Christmas tradition with this classic holiday show. 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.

Septime Weber’s The Nutcracker
Where: Warner Theatre | Downtown, DC
When: November 27 – December 26
Tickets: $48-137 

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 one of our experiences. (Note: Even though Septime Weber is no longer Artistic Director, they still perform his version.)

The Elf on the Shelf
Where: Capital One Hall | Tysons, VA
When: November 28
Tickets: Start at $32.95 (look for discount)

The Elf on the Shelf: The Musical is the thrilling spectacle of music and dance that transports audiences to the North Pole to glimpse the magical lives of Santa’s Scout Elves. Featuring an original story and score, dazzling sets and costumes, and heartfelt moments that will bring the family together, this joyous and uplifting celebration will leave audiences captivated by the splendor of the season.

A Very Electric Holiday [*new discount!]
Where: GMU Center for the Arts | Fairfax, VA
When: November 28
Tickets: $19 (look for discount)

Make your season bright with Lightwire Theater’s A Very Electric Holiday. Gather the whole family for this imaginative story cleverly told with cutting edge electroluminescent puppetry, live dancers, and a lively mix of classical, jazz, and pop music. Follow a young bird, Max, who gets separated from his flock while flying south for the winter during a snowstorm. Lost and alone in the North Pole, Max embarks on an odyssey to be reunited with his family, and along the way encounters dancing poinsettias, caroling critters, Nutcracker soldiers, mischievous mice, and an evil rat king. Treat the whole family to this breathtaking live production that will leave everyone in awe and filled with a sense of wonder. Recommended for ages 4-12.

Cinderella
Where: Synetic Theatre | Crystal City, VA
When: November 29 – December 26
Tickets: $15-35 (look for discount)

Just in time for the holidays, Cinderella joins Synetic’s family series repertoire — and she is stepping into her own shoes!  Productions at this theatre are always unique and very artistic with wonderful physical theater that mesmerizes and delights. This one sounds like it will follow suit!   Led by an all-female team of Syneticons, this innovative take on the classic fairytale is a perfect fit for audiences of all ages. Be sure to note Covid safety policies.

CSI: Christmas Scene investigators
Where: Gunston Arts Center | Arlington, VA
When: December 6-15
Tickets: $15/adult, $12/child

In this by kids for kids production by Encore Stage & Studio, Santa Claus is missing! During the last rehearsal for the annual Christmas Show, the action comes to a screeching halt when the cast discovers that the Santa Claus statue has been stolen! Mrs. Dickens calls in the Clue Club — a group of ambitious and eccentric students who take mystery and detection into the realm of science. Full of more surprises than a fruitcake, the Clue Club finds they have successfully fulfilled their duty as “Christmas Scene Investigators” when they discover the true meaning of Christmas. Recommended for ages 4+.

Family Concert: Handel’s Messiah
Where: National Cathedral | Woodley Park, DC
When: December 4
Tickets: $25

Join Washington National Cathedral for Handel’s beloved “Messiah,” and experience this Christmas classic in a space as Handel would have intended. The Cathedral’s soaring architecture and Gothic splendor offers a space unlike any other in Washington to experience Handel’s masterpiece. This matinee concert is an abbreviated performance of “Messiah” highlights, perfect for busy families with young children.

The Mini-Nut
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center | Rockville, MD
When: December 8-9
Tickets: $23/adult, $18/10 & 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 Christmas Angel
Where: Creative Cauldron | Falls Church, VA
When: December 9-19
Tickets: $35/adult, $20/child

Based on a little-known 1910 novel by Abbey Farwell Brown, this tale about an elderly spinster and her heartwarming transformation into the Christmas spirit echo Dickens and the journey of Ebeneezer Scrooge. Our award-winning creative team, Conner and Smith, put their signature stamp on what is sure to become another classic Christmas show!

Step Afrika’s Magical, Musical Holiday Step Show
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center | H Street NE, DC
When: December 9-19
Tickets: $25-45 (look for discount)

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.

Christmas Revels: An American Winter Solstice Celebration
Where: The Spanish Ballroom | Glen Echo Park, MD
When: December 10-12 & 17-19
Admission: $20-55
This Winter season, travel back to December 1870 and the elegant DC parlor of Senator Hiram Rhodes Revels — the first African American to serve in the U.S. Congress. The holidays have arrived and the Revels family has invited colleagues and friends for a party! With joyous carols, heartfelt spirituals and toe-tapping dances, guests gather to celebrate with joyful reunions, all sharing the hope that long years of national struggle are over. After months apart, celebrate the season with beloved traditions that bring us closer — Welcome Yule!

Courderoy
Where: Imagination Stage | Bethesda, MD
When: December 11 – January 23
Tickets: See website for ticket package prices

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.

Joy of Christmas
Where: National Cathedral | Woodley Park, DC
When: December 11, 2pm & 6pm
Tickets: $25

From all corners of Washington National Cathedral, voices rise, filling the arches with echoes of holidays past and the wonder of things to come. Surround yourself with feelings of comfort and warmth that come when the weather is cold and the music is bright. It’s time to restart the tradition of singing together in a space of beauty and community. Note: Link above is for the 2pm show; get tickets for 6pm here.

Cirque Dreams Holidaze
Where: Theatre at MGM Grand | Oxon Hill, MD
When: December 16-19
Admission: $32-99

Cirque Dreams Holidaze lights up the stage in this popular and dazzling family holiday spectacular. This annual tradition wraps a whimsical, Broadway-style musical infused with contemporary circus artistry into the ultimate holiday gift for the entire family.

Fairfax Symphony Orchestra & Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker
Where: GMU Center for Arts | Fairfax, VA
When: December 18-19
Tickets: $54-94 (look for discounts)

The Fairfax Symphony Orchestra joins the Fairfax Ballet in their sixth collaboration to present the timeless class holiday favorite, The Nutcracker. This production is unique in the Washington metropolitan region as one of few presented with live musical accompaniment. The Fairfax Ballet Company dances to Tchaikovsky’s score performed live by the Fairfax Symphony. Enjoy a winter wonderland of dancing snowflakes, sugar plum fairies and epic battles between heroic toy soldiers and mischievous mice. It’s the perfect holiday treat for the entire family!

The Hip Hop Nutcracker
Where: Strathmore | Bethesda, MD
When: December 20-22
Tickets: $34-68

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. It’s brought to life by a powerhouse cast of a dozen all-star dancers, a DJ, a violinist, and MC Kurtis Blow, one of hip hop’s founding fathers, who opens the show with a short set. Let all the dynamic performers of The Hip Hop Nutcracker take you on a journey that celebrates love, community and the magic of the holiday season.

An Irish Carol
Where: Keegan Theatre | Dupont Circle, DC
When: December 10-31
Tickets: $51/adult, $46/senior, $41/under 25 

Returning for its 10th season! An original work by Keegan company member Matthew J. Keenan, AN IRISH CAROL is an homage to Dickens’ classic – told as only the Irish can. This comic and touching play, set in a modern Dublin pub, follows one evening in the life of David, a wealthy pub owner who has lost touch with his own humanity in the interest of self-protection and material success. But on this Christmas Eve – challenged by a voice from the past, provoked by those in the present, and faced with the reality of a lonely future – David’s life may change forever.

Season of Hope
Where: The Theater at The MGM | National Harbor, MD
When: December 11 & 12
Tickets: Free

Celebrate this holiday season with The United States Air Force Band as they present “Season of Hope.” This concert will feature Air Force Band’s Concert Band and Singing Sergeants performing timeless renditions of holiday favorites and a visit from a special guest! Free and open to the public, but tickets required. Tickets will be available starting November 19 at 9am.

Candlelight Christmas
Where: Strathmore  | Bethesda, MD
When: December 16, 17, & 23
Tickets: $10-73

It’s not Christmas without The Washington Chorus! Featuring brass, organ, and special guests, delight in the signature candlelight processional; raise your voice in an audience carol sing-along; and leave humming with a candy cane and a heart filled with holiday cheer.

The Nutcracker
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center | Rockville, MD
When: December 17-27
Tickets: Coming soon!

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.

A Family Christmas
Where: Kennedy Center | Foggy Bottom, DC
When: December 18, 2pm & December 24, 11am
Tickets: $20-45 (look for discount)

Bring the kids for an unforgettable holiday experience as the Choral Arts Chorus fills the concert hall with holiday classics just for them!

 


Enchant Christmas is back at Nats Park this season!

SPECIAL EVENTS & ACTIVITIES

Outdoor Holiday & Train Display [*new listing]
Where: US Botanic Garden | Capitol Hill, DC
When: Through January 2
Admission: Free

Just when we thought the USBG’s wonderful annual model train exhibit would be on hiatus for another year, it’s coming back — but outdoors in the gated National Garden. It officially opens November 24, but some elements will be viewable earlier, as it’s installed. This one is made up of farming scenes, once again all constructed from plant materials. And, as always, so delightful!  Along with the model trains,  there will be more festive adornments, winterberries, lighted trees and shrubs, plus conifers and greenery placed throughout the Garden.

Christmas Town
Where: Busch Gardens | Williamsburg, VA
When: November 12 – January 1
Admission: Starts at $49

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!

Christmas Movies on the Potomac
Where: National Harbor | Oxon Hill, MD
When: Sundays, November 14 – December 12
Admission: Free

Bundle up to enjoy an outdoor holiday movie at National Harbor. Every Sunday at 2pm, a free film will be shown on the Plaza’s big screen. Pack your chairs, grab food from one of the many eatery’s there, and sit back to enjoy a family-friendly holiday classic.

Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade
Where: Silver Plaza | Downtown Silver Spring, MD
When: November 20, 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, Latin dancing groups, floats, giant characters and balloons, and more, the procession is the only Thanksgiving Parade in the DC Metro area. Held in downtown Silver Spring, it 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.

Tinsel!
Where: | Loudoun County, VA
When: November 19 – January 22
Admission: $28

This new event in the region out in Loudoun County is a fully interactive winter destination. Rekindle the sparkle and playful spirit of the season for this outdoor festival. Expect a unique and collection of light displays, entertainment and fun activities that appeal to one and all, and amazing food and drink from popular area food trucks and Loudoun County’s incredible wineries and breweries. A Washington Capitals experience.

Give Thanks Hunt
Where: Mansion on O Street | Dupont Circle, DC
When: Through November 30
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.

Enchant Christmas
Where: Nationals Park | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: November 26 – 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 newer-to-DC holiday attraction from its 2019 run.

Christmas on the Potomac
Where: Gaylord National Resort | National Harbor, MD
When: November 26 – December 31
Admission: Free, though some activities cost extra

The Gaylord National Hotel at National Harbor goes all out during the holidays. ICE! has always been the big attraction, but there has always been plenty to do there to warrant a visit without the frozen entertainment (and that’s not even happening this year — see below).. The atrium of the resort 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.) This year there will also be Ice Bumper Cars, a Snow Factory “Snowball Build & Blast,” The Greatest Story Stage Show, and the #LIT Holiday Light Show.

I Love Christmas Movies
Where: Gaylord National Resort | National Harbor, MD
When: November 26 – December 31
Admission: Starts $25/child & $33/adult, free/under 3 (look for discount)

The annual ICE! exhibition at the Gaylord isn’t happening this year because travel restriction are preventing the ice artisans from coming here.  Instead, the Gaylord is presenting an “I Love Christmas Movies” interactive experience:  Walk through the most iconic scenes from your favorite Christmas films in their multi-sensory exhibition! Experience moments with the characters and sets you know and love while interacting with more than 13 fully-immersive scenes, complete with replicas of film props, audio, and more. I Love Christmas Movies features five beloved films, including: The Polar Express, Elf, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, and The Year Without A Santa Claus.

The Polar Express Train Ride
Where: Western Maryland Railroad | Cumberland, MD
When: November 26 – December 23, mostly weekends
Admission: Starts at $35

Take a one-of-a-kind train ride through Winter Land aboard the Western Maryland.  The 90-minute family-friendly expedition includes  singing, dancing, and a reading of The Polar Express, plus hot chocolate and cookies served by friendly and entertaining chefs and a visit from the Big Man himself!  Upon arrival at the North Pole, Santa will present the first gift of Christmas. On the return trip, everyone will receive a silver sleigh bell.  Passengers are encouraged to wear their favorite pajamas and join in on the magic.

Jingle Journey
Where: Online & Del Rey | Alexandria, VA
When: November 27 – December 31
Admission: TBA

Arts on the Horizon, the wonderful theatre company for the youngest audiences, invite you and your little one(s) to join them for a magical scavenger hunt through the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria! Find clues, visit new places, and piece together the story of their newest holiday adventure: Jingle Journey, an online video to set you on a real-life adventure. Featuring vibrant imagery and playful choreography, the nonverbal scavenger hunt production is underscored by whimsical original music. ​Solve each of the clues and you’ll find the way home! Each clue will take you to a new location where you can engage your senses and get the clue for the next Jingle Journey video! ​Best for children ages 3-6 and their families.

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.

Christmas at Mount Vernon

Where: Mount Vernon Estate, Museum, & Gardens
When: November – December
Admission: $20/adult, $12/age 6-11, free/5 & under (look for discount)

Christmas past meets Christmas present at George Washington’s estate.  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 (November 26-27, December 3-4, 10-11, & 19) fireworks (December 7-18) on select dates, plus even more seasonal activities — visit the website for details.

Winter in Washington
Where: National Capitol Trolley Museum | Colesville, MD
When: November 27 – January 30
Admission: $7/adults, $5/ages 2-17 (includes unlimited rides)
The annual holiday event at the museum is a little different this year, but you can still check out Winter in Washington, a special exhibit celebrating the season with street cars in the Nation’s Capital.  Trolley rides will also be offered, and who knows… maybe Santa will make an appearance, too.

Vienna Holiday Stroll
Where: Church Street | Vienna, VA
When: November 29
Admission: Free

Historic Vienna Inc. and Church Street businesses celebrate the merriest season of the year and welcome Santa to Vienna. Enjoy favorite holiday tunes performed by school choruses and others as well as s’mores, children’s activities, and more. Among the activities will be an open house by the Northern Virginia Model Railroader — a chance to see the model train display at the historic train depot in downtown.

Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend
Where: Old Town | Alexandria, VA
When: December 3-4, 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.

Christmas in Middleburg
Where: Middleburg, VA
When: December 3-4
Admission: Varies by activity

Christmas in Middleburg is back, and  it’s the perfect setting for evoking the Christmas spirit — tree lighting, a Christmas parade, shopping, caroling, and so much more. Stay at one of the picturesque inns or the incomparable Salamander Resort & Spa. Relax in the countryside without missing a moment of the Christmas magic.Join one of the most fun-filled family festivals of the year in Middleburg with activities, special events, great eats, the famous Middleburg Hunt Review, a mile-long Christmas parade. Afterwards, experience a Middleburg evening in our bistros, cafes, pubs, and restaurants joining in the Spirits of Middleburg. See the schedule of events for details.

Holiday Train Show
Where: Union Station | Capitol Hill Area, DC
When: TBA
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.

Winter Festival [*new listing]
Where: National Children’s Museum | Downtown DC
When: December 4
Admission: $30/adult, $15/child

Join the museum for a special holiday event featuring festive refreshments, a photo opportunity with Santa, plus other holiday friends and cheer!

The District’s Holiday Boat Parade
Where: The Wharf | Southwest DC
When: December 4
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: December 4
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.

Holiday Festival 2021
Where: Torpedo Factory | Old Town Alexandria, VA
When: December 4, 2-8pm
Admission: Free

Torpedo Factory Art Center joins the fun on Alexandria’s most festive weekend of the year! Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive by fire boat around 3:30pm on the Waterfront. Music fills the halls and the Waterfront, beckoning people to browse three floors of open artists’ studios. Santa will even take a spin on the famous Torpedo Bike. Masks are required for all visitors over the age of 2, regardless of vaccination status.

Lantern Light Tour
Where: Tudor Place | Georgetown, DC
When: December 7, 9, 14, & 16
Admission: $25/non-members, $15/members

Celebrate the holiday season at Tudor Place! Alongside friends and family, explore the Historic House by candlelight to discover celebrations of winters past. Then, journey through the lantern-lit gardens on a guided-tour as you learn about the Peter family’s Christmas traditions. Capacity is limited and pre-registration is required. (Note that Kids Night is December 16!)

Lantern Walks
Where: Around the DC Area
When: December 11 & 12
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 will take place December 11-12 this year. Families can register to attend their local Lantern Walk, find out how to make their own lanterns, or even order sweet lantern-making kits here.

Holidays at the Willard
Where: Willard InterContinental | Downtown DC
When: Throughout the season
Admission: Varies by activity (some free)

The Willard InterContinental is a popular DC stop during the holiday season. The elegant garland-wrapped columns outside lure visitors to take in the stately, festive lobby decor and snap a photo by the tree glittering with ornaments. Music, aromas, events, and traditions offered at the hotel are a nice break from the bustle of the city and season outside its doors.  Holiday meals, tea time, and caroling are some of the ways to enjoy more holiday time thee.

Christmas Illuminations
Mount Vernon Estate | Mount Vernon, VA
When: December 17-18
Admission: $48-60/adult, $26-38/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.

Winter Village
Where: The PARC | Tysons, VA
When: December 28
Admission: Free

The PARC, a community event venue in Tysons, will be transformed into a festive winter village. It will feature a local holiday market, an iceless skating rink, and other snowtastic activities for the whole family to enjoy!

Christmas Caroling
Where: The Wharf | Southwest DC
When: December 21, 5-8pm
Admission: Free

Enjoy music from strolling Christmas carolers and a meet-and-greet with Santa and one of his elves! While you’re there, treat yourself to s’mores at the fire pit and visit the lighted Christmas Tree. More info to come.

Waterskiing Santa
Where: Old Town Waterfront | Alexandria, VA
When: December 24
Admission: Free

Watch Santa have some fun before his big night out, as he water skis his way up the Potomac along with knee boarding reindeer, flying elves, the jet-skiing Grinch, and Frosty the Snowman in a dinghy! You can view it all for free from the waterfront in Old Town Alexandria starting at 1pm sharp — the best viewing spots will be from the Torpedo Factory to Point Lumley Park.

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 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!

 


The National Menorah Lighting from a Chanukah past

CHANUKAH

Hanukkah Hub
Where: PJ Library Online
When: Throughout the season
Admission: Free

Hanukkah comes early this year, starting on November 28 through December 6. PJ Library, a non-profit program that delivers more than 630,000 books to kids around the world (including Russia!) each month, has tips and resources to help you plan for and celebrate the holiday. Their Hanukkah Hub has child-friendly versions of the Hanukkah story along with craft ideas, recipes, and lots of educational and fun printables. You can also listen to their podcasts for kids and broswe their shop on Amazon.

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins
Where: The Puppet Co. | Glen Echo Park, MD
When: November 18 – January 2
Tickets: $15/age 2+

It’s Hanukkah on strings at The Puppet Co.! Hershel just wants to celebrate Hanukkah with the community, but the Queen and King of the Goblins have forbidden the lighting of the candles. Can Hershel save the day and lift the curse for this shtetl (village)?

Uri & Ora Light the Menorah
Where: Adventure Theatre | Glen Echo Park, MD
When: November 19 – January 2
Tickets: $20.50

Adventure Theatre is celebrating this holiday season with Winterfest, a series of three shows (for the price of one!), including Uri & Ora Light the Menorah… Each year, siblings Uri and Ora look forward to Chanukah — gathering with friends and family, eating Bubbie’s latkes, and no homework! When things don’t go the way they want, will they be able to repair the holiday—and their relationship?

National Menorah Lighting
Where: President’s Park | The National Ellipse, DC
When: November 28, 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, there should be latkes and donuts. Tickets are free, but you need to reserve them in advance through the website — they will be available staring October 28.

Chanukah Festival
Where: The LYCEUM | Old Town Alexandria, VA
When: November 28, 5:30pm
Admission: Free

CHANUKAH FESTIVAL – Old Town Alexandria
Experience the festival of lights with Chabad Lubavitch of Alexandria-Arlington on the first night of Chanukah. Along with the liighting of a giant 6-foot Menorah, there will be other fun festivities and treats. Hot potato latkes, hot cocoa, donuts, get, dreidels, lights sticks for kids, and lively Chanukah music. The event is free, but register in advance.

The Wharf Lighting of the Menorah [*updated info!]
Where: The Wharf | Southwest DC
When: November 28 – December 6, 5-6pm
Admission: Free

The Wharf  continues their annual tradition of lighting the menorah in District Square for each night of Hanukkah — join them to celebrate the Festival of Lights!  Plan to enjoy an evening stroll along the beautiful waterfront while you’re there and maybe even go for a spin at the ice rink!

Kensington’s Annual Menorah Lighting
Where: Kensington Town Hall | Kensington, MD
When: November 28, 5-6pm
Admission: Free

Kensington is celebrating the first night of Chanukah with its annual Menorah Lighting at the Kensington Town Hall. All are welcome to join. Check back on the website for any updates on festivities.

Light Up Arlington
Where: Chabad Alexandria-Arlington | Clarendon, VA
When: November 30, 5:30pm
Admission: Free

Join Chabad Lubavitch of Alexandria-Arlington to celebrate Chanukah! After they liht the 9-foot menorah, enjoy delicious Latkes, hot cocoa, donuts and lively music. There will also be chocolate gelt and dreidels for all. Register in advance.

Chanukah Firetruck Parade & Menorah Lighting
Where: Around Olney & Sandy Spring, MD (see details below)
When: November 30, 5:30pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate the third night of Chanukah with a Firetruck Parade and Menorah Lighting! The procession will stops in Norbeck Grove, Olney Mill, and Fair Hill Shopping Center, culminating at Sandy Spring Volunteer Station 4 (17921 Brooke Road in Sandy Spring). There, enjoy the Menorah Lighting along with refreshments.

Lights & Ice” Hanukkah Skate Night [*new listing!]
Where: Canal Park | Capitol Riverfront, DC
When: December 2
Admission: Regular skate cost

Celebrate the Festival of Lights at the Canal Park Ice Rink with the Capitol Riverfront BID! It’s a special night of skating around the Canal Park menorah. The first 100 attendees get free skate rentals, plus there will be a live DJ, fried donuts, and giveaways.

Chanukah on Ice
Where: Pentagon Row Ice Rink | Pentagon City, VA
When: December 2, 6-8pm
Admission: $10-13

The Chanukah celebration returns to the ice at Pentagon Row this year! Celebrate the holiday with a giant menorah lighting, holiday treats, raffles, and ice skating! Ice skate rentals are included, but a kosher dinner will be sold separately for $5 and includes hot latkes, Kosher hot dogs, donut, and water. Prepay by November 25, admission is $10, after it’s $13.

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

Join us at 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.

Community Menorah Lighting
Where: Mosaic District | Fairfax, VA
When: December 5, 5-7pm
Admission: Free

The JCC of Northern Virginia is bringing the celebration to you on the last night of Chanukah. Join for the menorah candle lighting, sing songs, enjoy entertainment, spin the dreidel, and more! This will all take place at Strawberry Park in the Mosaic District.


The US Capitol tree is lit nighty during the holiday season

TREE LIGHTINGS

National Harbor Nightly Tree Lighting
Where: National Harbor | Oxon Hill, MD
When: November 13 – DEcember 31
Admission: Free

Watch the 54-foot tree come to life nightly with a breathtaking light show in the heart of the Waterfront District. The show runs on the half an hour from sunset to 9pm.

Holiday Tree Lighting
Where: Tysons Corner Center | Tysons, VA
When: November 19, 6pm
Admission: Free

Tysons Corner Center will bring the community together to join Santa in kicking off their 2021 Holiday Season. Programming will include Santa lighting the Holiday tree, community performances, complimentary s’mores and hot chocolate station, kids crafts, specialty market featuring our retailers, holiday beverages by Barrel + Bushel, festive music, giveaways, and more.

Holiday Tree Lighting [*new listing!]
Where: Mosaic District | Fairfax, VA
When: November 25
Admission: Free

‘Tis the season for holiday cheer! Join the Mosaic District to welcome the arrival of the holiday season with a merry and bright tree lighting. Bring your family and friends to experience the Jolly Man’s arrival on a firetruck, a Santa meet and greet, and catch a screening of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Light Up The Wharf [*updated info!]
Where: The Wharf | Southwest DC
When: November 26, 6-8pm
Admission: Free

Kick off the holiday season at The Wharf as they officially light the Christmas tree and transform the waterfront into a winter wonderland with thousands of twinkling lights. Make an evening of it and have a family dinner at one of the many eateries there, too.

Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration [*new listing!]
Where: CityCenter | Downtown DC
When: November 27, 6pm
Admission: Free

Join the 8th Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration was the 75-foot tree, one of the largest in the city and decorated with more than 150,000 lights and 4,500 ornaments, is illuminated to kick off the holiday season. Other festivities will include live entertainment, face painting, balloon art, sweet and savory treats, and a few surprises along the way that will have everyone dreaming of a whimsical snow-filled holiday.

Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol | Capitol Hill, DC
When: December 1 (to be confirmed!)
Admission: Free

A great alternative to the National Christmas Tree Lighting if you don’t win tickets — or even if you do! While you can’t get close to the lighting ceremony,  you can view festivities from right across the street, and it’s just as lovely from the area by the Reflecting Pool. Until then, you can follow the tree as it journeys from  the Six Rivers National Forest in California, where it was harvested, to DC. It it expected to arrive November 19, and the lighting will likely take place December 1. After the lighting, the tree will be lit every evening for all to enjoy until January 1.

Tree Lighting Benefiting Horton’s Kids
Where: Fairmont Washington | Georgetown, DC
When: December 1
Admission: Free

The Fairmont hotel welcomes the public to enjoy its annual tree lighting! The lobby and courtyard will be filled with tiny white lights and shimmering Christmas trees, becoming the perfect venue for a holiday celebration. Enjoy holiday classics performed by the Georgetown Visitation Madrigals.  Kids can decorate holiday cards,and  families will be entered to win prizes. Santa will make a special appearance along with the hotel’s Canine Ambassador, and families are invited to take a photo with him. This free event benefits Horton’s Kids, and all families and guests are encouraged to bring a popular toy such as Legos, basketballs, footballs dolls, books, games or arts and crafts to help spread holiday cheer to over 500 children, ages 5 – 18.

National Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: President’s Park | The Ellipse, DC
When: December 2
Admission: Free, but you must win tickets via lottery

This year will be the 99th National Christmas Tree lighting! Historically, to attend this lighting you have to enter a lottery to win admission. If you do, you get to be part of the National Park Foundation and National Park Service’s annual ceremony that takes place on the Ellipse, just beyond the White House. 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. (Note: Details are still to come… this may be all virtual again due to Covid, and there likely will be vaccination requirements if it is in person.) 

Norwegian Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: Union Station | Capitol Hill area, DC
When: December 3
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. The evening will also feature performances by The String Queens, whose members have collaborated with artists such as Ledisi, Janelle Monáe, and Common, and the Washington Performing Arts Children of the Gospel Choir.

Festival of Lights & Carols
Where: Old Town Square | Fairfax, VA
When: December 4, 12-6pm
Admission: Free

Kick off the Christmas season in Fairfax with a festive day at Old Town Square. There will be live holiday music, s’mores treats, and hot cider all day. The tree lighting and caroling begins at 5:30pm.

 

Shopping and a little seasonal magic at the Downtown Holiday Market

HOLIDAY MARKETS

Czech Christmas Market
Where: Embassy of Czech Republic |
When: November 6, 9:30am – 6pm
Admission: Free

start your holiday shopping at the Embassy of the Czech Republic — all are invited to enjoy the magic of the season in person at the annual Czech Christmas Market. Browse stands filled with beautiful handcrafted ornaments, Bohemian crystal, exquisite bead and glass jewelry, fine art, Moravian wines and traditional liquors. Savor the taste and smell of mulled wine as well as an assortment of delicious Czech pastries and gingerbread, and savory cuisine. Adore an array of live animals from the Nativity scene for selfies. There’s entertainment, too — hear the children of American Sokol Washington, DC, and Slavic American Sokol performing Czech Christmas carols and live music by the folk band Orchester Praževica.

Museum Shop Holiday Market
Where: Strathmore | Bethesda, MD
When: November 11-13, 10am – 6pm
Admission: Suggested donation of $10
Start your holiday gift shopping at DC’s museums. Strathmore’s Museum Shop Holiday Market brings together the area’s best museum and cultural shops for three festive days. Every present is part of a larger purpose as your purchase supports nonprofit museums and arts organizations in our community. Find unique gifts from the shops at Strathmore, Brookside Gardens, the Supreme Court Historical Society, Hillwood, The Phillips Collection, GWU Museum & The Textile Museum, Jewish Museum of Maryland, and International Spy Museum.

Lucketts Holiday Open House
Where: Lucketts Store | Leesburg, VA
When: November 11 – December 12
Admission: $25

Join Lucketts for their fabulous Holiday Design House and decked out Store. A magical holiday event filled with Christmas shopping, fun holiday murals + photo vignettes, Vanish wine garden and more. In order to have a safe and cozy shopping experience, this is a fully ticketed season. Your ticket gets you entry to the Design House, a 19th century farmhouse that Lucketts transforms into a winter wonderland. All decor inside is available for purchase and additional surprises will take place throughout each weekend.

28th Northern Virginia Christmas Market
Where: Dulles Expo Center | Chantilly, VA
When: November 12-14
Admission: $8/age 13+, free/12 & under

This award-winning holiday show features 225 fine artisans from more than 20+ states. They offer a diverse selection of fine arts, pottery, jewelry, stained glass, wood, photography, fiber arts, vintage re-creations as well as thousands of one-of-kind Christmas collectibles. Select specialty food vendors will offer gift-packaged gourmet fare, and the tasty homemade goodies are ideal for creating gift baskets, loading up Santa’s stockings, and gathering those hard-to-find executive gifts. A major food drive benefiting the Capital Area Food Bank is held during this event each year as well.

Downtown Holiday Market
Where: 8th & F Streets NW | Penn Quarter, DC
When: November 19 – 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 an excellent 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.

Victura Park Winter Holiday Market
Where: The REACH | Kennedy Center, DC
When: December 10-12 & 17-19
Admission: Free

Victura Park, the family-friendly wine garden on the grounds of The REACH at the Kennedy Center, will once again transform into a festive Holiday Market, featuring a line-up of local artists, craftspersons, and other specialized vendors, including the Kennedy Center Gift Shop pop-up shop. Support small businesses by purchasing gifts, prepackaged treats, and one-of-a-kind artworks for the perfect holiday celebration!  Sip on seasonal classics such as spiked cider and hot cocoa or choose from the signature menu of beer and wine, light snacks, and delicious food hot from the grill.

Outdoor Holiday Market
Where: BlackRock Center for the Arts | Germantown, MD
When: November 20, 10m – 10pm
Admission: Free
Join BlackRock Center for the Arts at its all day (and evening) outdoor holiday market plucked right out of a European folktale!  Even better, it will be followed by a live indoor concert of jazzy holiday standards with the Eric Byrd Trio at 8pm. Food, games, photos with Santa, holiday music, crafts, games, and surprises, this festive season kickoff only needs one thing — your family — to complete its winter wonderland magic.

Christmas Village
Where: West Shore Park, Inner Harbor | Baltimore, MD
When: November 25 – December 24
Admission: Free weekdays, $5/adult weekends, kids free

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, a carousel and ferris wheel, live performances, 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 for specifics.) An for more to do in Charm City see the KFDC Guide to Exploring Baltimore with Kids.

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, including one  at 8th and Pennsylvania just across from the Metro.

Christkindlmarkt
Where: Heurich House Museum | Dupont Circle, DC
When: December 3-5
Admission: $10-16/ages 15+ and $2/ages 2-15

Huerich House Museum’s annual holiday artisan 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. Visitors will also have the opportunity to explore the seasonally decorated historic mansion on a self-guided tour.

Old Town Alexandria Christmas Market & Holiday Craft Show
Where: Carlyle Square | Old Town Alexandria, VA
When: December 11
Admission: Free

Just in time for the holidays, check off your shopping list at the market in Old Town! From arts and crafts to jewelry and baked goods, to body and hair care, vendors have items galore that will make for great gifts for love ones. Register online.

Gifts That Give Hope Gift Fair
Where: Online
When: Through the holiday season
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, Gifts That Give Hope is supporting acts of kindness around our community and the world this holiday season.

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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 2021, All ages, DC, Fall, Holidays, Maryland, Virginia, Winter