Tag Archives: Season’s Greenings

Where to Play on the Weekdays: November 28 – December 2

All aboard the Play Express at Cabin John Regional Park

 

Monday – Take advantage of this relative heat wave and spend the day outdoors at a playground or park. The Meanest Momma has TONS of reviews of places where kids can climb, run, swing, and slide, mostly in Virginia, but a few in DC and Maryland as well.  And for even more ideas for recreation outdoors, this KFDC post is always a good reference.

Tuesday – Book it to Potomac Yard in Alexandria for Children’s Storytime at Barnes & Noble.  The free, weekly readings start at 11am around the charming little “stage” area in the kids’ section at the back of the store.  Arrive early or linger after for train play on the Thomas table and to browse the books and toys for potential holiday gifts. (Note: Storytime sessions take place at B&N stores all around the DC area on various days of the week.  Find more times and locations here.)

Wednesday – Catch one of the many kids flicks now showing in movie theaters:  The Muppets, Arthur Christmas, Puss in Boots, and Happy Feet Two are all current big screen options for children.

Thursday – Visit Season’s Greenings, the U.S. Botanic Garden’s seasonal exhibit. (I know this is a becoming a repeat recommendation, but it is deserving.) See the Garden Railway, easily one of the best train displays around. Stroll the festively adorned conservatory and admire replicas of DC landmarks built entirely from plant materials. Watch another model train zip around the lofty Christmas tree, one of the tallest indoor trees in the city . And, for some extra holiday magic and free entertainment, go in the evening for the first of many concerts that will take place on most Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout December.  This week, swingin’ jazz quartet Laissez Foure will liven up the Garden Court from 6-8pm.

Friday – Explore the history and customs of holiday traditions around the world through Discovery Theater’s Seasons of Light show. Performances are at 10:15am and 11:30am at the Smithsonian’s Ripley Center, and tickets are $3-9, depending on age and Smithsonian Associate membership. (Note: The show runs Monday-Friday through December 23 and usually sells out, so be sure to reserve your seats soon!)

 

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Where to Play on the Weekdays: November 21-25

Season's Greenings at the USBG opens Thanksgiving Day!

 

Monday – Visit Santa before the rest of DC does at Tyson’s Corner. Along with photo ops, get a free gift from St. Nick. And while you’re there, hit the National Geographic-sponsored play area on the third floor next to the food court.

Tuesday – Thanksgiving is the theme of story time at many public libraries this week.  Deanwood is hosting one at 10:15am, and Georgetown will read turkey day-inspired books at 3:30pm. Find a story time near you by checking out your local library — this early KFDC post contains links to DC-area county libraries.

Wednesday – Glide in the fresh air at an outdoor ice skating rink or practice your spins and axels at an indoor venue.  This post has all you need to know to get started.

Thursday – Experience Season’s Greenings at the U.S. Botanic Garden on opening day! Go while the turkey is cooking at home (with someone staying behind to watch it, of course) or head over for some post-feast holiday cheer.

Friday – Get into the holiday spirit at Christmas on the Potomac, the Gaylord National Resort’s spectacular season attraction. Enjoy the decor and festivities at the hotel, then head to the water for the kick-off of the Harbor Lights Festival, the National Harbor’ annual tree lighting and lights show, at 5pm.

 

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The KFDC 2011 Guide to DC’s Best Holiday Events

Season's Greenings at the U.S. Botanic Garden

 

DC doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the holidays. There are options galore for celebrating the season, many of them annual events that quickly become family traditions.  See model trains wind through miniature Christmas villages, drive through dazzling light displays in the woods, have a cool experience (literally) with interactive sculptures in ice. Some of the fun begins as soon as this weekend, so bookmark this page (along with this one featuring live entertainment) and start making some holiday plans.

Season’s Greenings
Where:U.S. Botanic Garden
When: November 24 – January 2
Admission: FREE
If my blog stats are any indication, this is easily DC’s most popular holiday attraction; searches for the Botanic Garden’s seasonal exhibit exceeded all other topics last year. And I can’t say I’m surprised. Season’s Greenings is an annual delight for all ages. The conservatory exhibit features Washington landmarks constructed from plant materials and one of the city’s largest Christmas trees. But the highlight, hands-down, is the garden railway, which never fails to impress and enchant with intricate, imaginative designs. This year, try to guess “Who Lives Here” in the whimsical animal houses along the mini-train route. For even more holiday magic at the garden, there are concerts most Tuesday and Thursday evenings in December, when the USBG stays open until 8pm.  For more on the seasonal favorite, read this KFDC review from last year.

Holiday on the Ellipse
Where: The Ellipse, President’s Park
When: December 1 – January 1
Admission: FREE
This should have a permanent spot on everyone’s DC holiday repertoire. The National Christmas Tree, the National Menorah, Santa’s Workshop, plus trains and displays representing all 50 states are a must-see during the season. Kids will especially love visiting Santa in his adorable little cottage for a peek at his operations and a photo op on his lap (read about our experience there last year), which is open at select times, usually through Christmas Eve. And the rest of it lit up at night with the White House and Washington Monument glowing in the distance makes for a dazzling holiday scene.

Trains loop the National Christmas Tree

Christmas on the Potomac
Where: National Harbor
When: November 18 – January 8
Admission: FREE, though some activities cost extra
National Harbor goes all out during the holidays. ICE! might be the big attraction, but there’s way more to do there to warrant a visit without the frozen entertainment. Most of it takes place in the Gaylord National Resort, which is transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with a spectacular glass Christmas tree, nightly tree lightings starting November 25, the Potomac Express train offering rides for guests, photo ops with Santa, indoor snowfalls, fountain shows, and more. (Read about our experience there last year.) Afterward, shop the holiday market on American Way (open Saturdays & Sundays November 26 – December 18 or grab a bite at one of the Harbor’s many restaurants.

ICE!
Where: National Harbor
When: November 18 – January 8
Admission: Mon-Thurs $25/adult, $20/kids; Fri-Sun $35/adults, $25/kids; 3 and under are free. Get 50% off with this LivingSocial deal while it lasts!
Technically, this is part of Christmas on the Potomac, but it’s supposedly such a huge spectacle in itself, that it deserves its own write-up. And since I have yet to experience it myself (as explained in this post last year), here’s the description from the website: “Gaylord National’s popular ICE! winter holiday attraction returns with an all-new, hilarious theme: ICE! featuring DreamWorks’ Merry Madagascar. From Nov. 18 to Jan. 8, the DreamWorks Animation holiday TV special will be brought to life in an interactive world of colorful ice sculptures carved entirely from TWO-MILLION pounds of ice. Relive the story as you stroll through this amazing attraction featuring scenes such as how Santa and his reindeer crash-landed onto the island of Madagascar, and why Alex, Marty, Gloria, Melman and the wacky penguins must figure out how to save Christmas by delivering all the presents themselves. Even the mischievous lemur King Julien learns the true meaning of the holiday and manages to get himself off the “naughty list” once and for all. Tickets can be purchased in advance online, and there are timed entries are every half-hour.  Hours vary by day, so be sure to check the schedule when you plan to go.

National Menorah Lighting
Where: The National Ellipse
When: December 20, 4pm
Admission: FREE, but you must request tickets
As I noted in this post from last year, it’s tough to find family Chanukah events open to the public in the area. But they do happen, and this is a nice one.  Along with the lighting, there will be entertainment by the U.S. Marine Band as well as Dreidelman and the Macabees. If you don’t mind waiting in line afterward, stay for latkes and donuts. Tickets are free, but you need to request them in advance. Go here to get yours.

Come light the National Menorah

Christmas at Mount Vernon
Where: Mount Vernon Estate, Museum, & Gardens
When: November 25 – January 6
Admission: $15/adults, $7/ages 6-11, free for ages 5 and under
The special daytime holiday program at George Washington’s homestead includes 12 Christmas trees, a gingerbread Mount Vernon, historical chocolate-making demonstrations (and tastings!), and more.  Guests will also have the chance to tour the rarely opened third floor of the mansion to learn how the first First Family celebrated Christmas.  And outside, Alladin the camel will be on view to recall the camel ol’ George himself bought for 18 shillings in 1787 for his guests’ enjoyment at Christmas.

Holiday Train Show
Where: Union Station
When: November 22 – January 2
Admission: FREE
The Holiday Train Show located in the Main & West Halls features a new model train display for the first time at Union Station in 15 years. MTH Electric Trains, a leading model train manufacturer in Columbia, Md., is providing the locomotive exhibit that consists of model trains from every railroad era and includes trains from Europe and other parts of the world.

Holiday Festival of Trains & Toys
Where: B&O Railroad Museum
When: November 25 – December 31
Admission: $14/adults, $12/seniors (60+), $8/ages 2-12 free for B&O members
This is a venue dedicated to locomotives, so you know the holiday model train exhibit is going to be special. So much so, it changes throughout its run featuring new displays from various Model Railroad Exhibitors every few days. The exhibit opens the day after Thanksgiving with the arrival of Santa in the Roundhouse at 10:30am. On weekends through December 18, guests can enjoy train rides with Santa and Frosty the Snowman along with crafts and choral performances. Train rides are $2/adults, $1/children, free for B&O Members.

Holly Trolley Fest
Where: National Capitol Trolley Museum
When: November 26 – December 18, Saturdays & Sundays only
Admission: $7/adults, $5/ages 2-17 (includes unlimited rides)
Guests can ride with Santa on the street cars and enjoy the model garden railway and holiday village inside the museum. Of course the est of the museum, offering a glimpse into the history of street cars, including a Hall displaying different cars from around the region and Europe. Visit the website for directions museum.

ZooLights
Where: National Zoo
When: November 25 – December 11, December 16 – January 1
Admission: FREE
Every year, thousands of environmentally-friendly light and animal exhibits transform the Zoo into a holiday wonderland.  The highlights are dozens of animal light displays, and this year there will be an “iceless” skating rink (made of an eco-friendly synthetic skating surface) in the Picnic Pavilion Guests can also enjoy entertainment and a special train ride for children, special talks by animal keepers, Zoo-themed model trains displays, and the gingerbread habitat contest entries on display in the auditorium.  The Small Mammal House, Great Ape House, Reptile Discovery Center, Think Tank, and Kids’ Farm will be open every night. Skating and train rides cost extra: $5 to skate, $2 skate rentals, $3 train rides.

Watkins' drive-thru light show

Festival of Lights
Where: Watkins Regional Park
When: November 25 – January 1, 5-9:30pm nightly
Admission: $5/car, FREE on December 25
This spectacular holiday drive-through event of more than one million twinkling lights has been dazzling holiday-goers for 25 years. This is great way to get into the holiday spirit from the comfort of your car – pop some holiday music into the CD player, turn on the seat warmers, and take in the illuminated scenes. New festival features include Santa flying a helicopter and driving a fire truck.

Symphony of Lights
Where: Symphony Woods, Merriweather Post Pavilion
When: November 21 – January 1, 6-10pm nightly
Admission: $20/car
Called a “woodland wonderland,” this beautiful display of more than 70 larger-than-life, animated and stationary light creations is a local holiday tradition for many. Cruise along the 1.4-mile route through the Symphony Woods in downtown Columbia and enjoy the twinkling lights as you go.

Garden of Lights
Where: Brookside Gardens
When: November 25 – January 8, with noted exceptions
Admission: $20/car Mon-Thurs, $25/car Fri-Sun
Visualize close to one million twinkling colorful lights shaped in imaginative displays throughout the gardens. Enjoy the four seasons illuminated as giant summer sunflowers, autumn leaves, winter snowflakes, spring flowers, rain showers, and more. Walk along the easily accessible paths and you’ll see what sets this light show apart from others; it’s the hundreds of wrapped trees and shrubs, beautifully lighted gazebos, cascading fountains, and the individually formed displays in the shapes of blooming flowers and wild animals. Look for moving displays such as a flock of geese, or an 11-foot giraffe covered with 9,000 lights. Open weekdays 5:30-9pm, with last car admitted at 8:30pm, weekends (Friday – Sunday) 5:30-10pm, with last car admitted at 9:30pm. Closed December 24 & 25, and January 2-5.

Alexandria Boat Parade of Lights
Where: Alexandria City Marina
When: December 3
Admission: FREE
Alexandria’s harbor lights up when more than 50 illuminated boats cruise the Washington Channel to the historic waterfront. Pre-parade festivities at the Alexandria City Marina begin at 4pm with Santa arriving by fireboat at 4:15pm. The boat parade begins at 6pm. The Marina is located at Cameron Street in Old Town.

Winter Lights Festival
Where: Seneca Creeek State Park
When: November 25-26, then nightly December 2-31
Admission: $12/car Tues-Thurs, $15/car Fri- Sun
The 16th Annual Winter Lights Festival will feature more than 380 illuminated vignettes and 65 animated displays in a 3.5 mile drive through beautiful Seneca Creek State Park. Theme areas include Winter Woods, Teddy Bear Land, Victorian Village, North Pole, Toyland, and Penguin Cove. Proceeds Benefit Local Charities.

Holiday Trains and Planes
Where:  College Park Aviation Museum
When: December 17 – December 23
Admission: 4/adults, $3/seniors, $2/ages 2-18, under 2 are free
During the holiday season the College Park Aviation Museum gets ready for the festivities as miniature trains, villages, tunnels, and depots spark the imagination and bring history to life. The National Capital Trackers bring a fascinating and constantly moving display of model railroads.

Holiday Entertainment
Take your pick of The Nutcracker productions, see Ebenezer Scrooge on stage, rock out or sing along to holiday tunes, discover celebrations around the world — there are shows to suit all theater preferences, ages, and wallets. See this recent KFDC post has details on live entertainment to be enjoyed this holiday season.


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Music in the Garden

Kids love the USBG trains

Season’s Greenings, the holiday exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden, is a seasonal favorite for many of us in the DC area.  Watching the model trains zip through the beautifully crafted display is a treat for all ages. Our family visited on the opening day, and we were all mesmerized by the mini-locomotives.  This year’s display is whimsical and worldly with famous landmarks from around the globe as centerpieces along Thomas the Tank and other model train’s routes.

While the trains are a huge attraction, they aren’t the only holiday spectacle to enjoy at the USBG. Their annual exhibit of Washington landmarks constructed completely from plant materials sprawls through the airy conservatory, with poinsettias and other holiday plants creating festive a atmosphere alongside the fountains and sitting areas.

Holiday frills in the Conservatory

Perhaps one of the best ways to enjoy it all is during one of the many concerts during the season.  On most Tuesdays and Thursdays from now until December 30, the Botanic Garden has extended hours and features live performances from 6 – 8pm.  Tonight, guests can enjoy the a Capella sounds of Downtown Quartet.  It’s the second show of the season, and there are six more to come.  It’s a lovely mid-week family activity, and even better, it’s free!  You can check out the schedule of performances on the USBG website.

The U.S. Botanic Garden is located at 100 Maryland Avenue SW.  The nearest Metro Station is Federal Ce

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